2007 Convocation Speech

Chancellor Howard Cohen Chancellor Howard Cohen

“Ever Raising the Quality of Purdue Calumet”

A State of Purdue University Calumet Address

delivered by Chancellor Howard Cohen
at the Faculty & Staff University Fall Convocation
August 22, 2007

Achieving distinction

Welcome back for the 2007-08 academic year.

We have accomplished a great deal since we gathered here last year, and we have great plans for the year ahead.

Purdue Calumet has much to be proud of

As you know, we have been simultaneously raising our admission standards, increasing our enrollment, and maintaining the diversity of our student body. Last year, we demonstrated this can be done at Purdue Calumet, and that trend is continuing in 2007-08.

All of our efforts to achieve distinction as a high-quality regional campus begin with motivated and committed students.

In 2006-07 we took an important step of distinguishing ourselves by establishing the Experiential Learning requirement for all baccalaureate students entering in Fall 2008. Many faculty and staff have had a hand in making this happen, and I want to acknowledge particularly the Faculty Senate, Professor Lee Artz and Assistant Vice Chancellors Beth Pellicciotti and Ron Kovach.

I am especially gratified by this curricular innovation, because it addresses directly the relationship between our students’ academic and employment lives. I want to return to this relationship later in my remarks.

Key accomplishments of 2006-07

We saw other big accomplishments as well over the past year. Let me remind you of some of them:

  • Approval of our next phase of student housing.
    Under the leadership of Student Housing Director Chanda Hott and Assistant Director Abbas Hill, The University Village is at full residency and dealing with demand it can not meet. The Purdue Board of Trustees has approved Phase 2, a 369-bed housing unit, which we expect to open in Fall 2009.
  • Approval of the architectural and engineering authority and money for the Emerging Technologies Building.
  • Permission to plan the Hammond Urban Academy – a charter school for students in grades 6-12 that will serve as a professional development site for our Teacher Education program.

    This project is a joint effort with the City of Hammond and the Purdue University College of Education. It will offer state of the art science and technology curriculum developed through our Purdue Calumet Center for Science and Technology Education. School of Education Dean Bob Rivers has worked especially hard to move this forward.

  • AQIP accreditation. The successful visit by AQIP (Academic Quality Improvement Program) in April was a major campus milestone.

    Preparation for that visit turned a corner on campus involvement in continuous improvement.
    I want to thank Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Nabil Ibrahim, the Steering Committee, all the individuals who were part of the committee structure and the entire campus for its willingness to “dress up” for the visiting team.

  • “OnePurdue.” We have successfully implemented the financial and human resources software over the past year. I say successfully – it may not have felt that way “on the street” – but as these massive software changes go,

    Purdue managed the transition about as well as any university ever has.
    Thanks to Assistant Vice Chancellor for Business Services & Comptroller Linda Baer, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Mary Beth Rincon, Director of Budget & Payroll Tom Ryan and their staffs, along with CTIS (Computing, Technology & Information Services) and Resource Management for all their efforts in getting us through this tremendous change.

  • Grants & contracts. 2006-07 was a banner year for grants and contracts. The campus attracted more than $5.5 million in external funding.

    In this regard, I also want to acknowledge our path breaking Faculty Research Abroad program that supported 18 faculty members working with colleagues in Taiwan this past spring to create proposals for collaborative international research.

  • More international students. In 2006-07 we had 300 international students enrolled in classes on campus; we are beginning the Fall 07 with more than 400.

    I want to thank Jorge Roman-Lagunas for building the program and welcome Kathy Tobin as the new director.
    I also wish to acknowledge Professor and Department Head Chenn Zhou for the ETIE (English Training in Engineering) program and Mohammad Errihani for the well-developed ESL (English as a Second Language) program

  • Successful capital campaign. We completed our capital campaign June 30, raising $17,528,537. When we began this effort consultants said we would be fortunate to raise $3 million.

    I want to thank Vice Chancellor for Advancement Judith Kaufman, her staff and all the faculty members who helped make our case for this very gratifying success. This is a demonstration of how much our alumni and friends want to be a part of the great things that are happening at Purdue Calumet.

  • Supporting NW Indiana economic development. We have continued to build our capacity to support economic development in Northwest Indiana.

    We have a stronger relationship with the Purdue Technology Center of Northwest Indiana, the Advisory Board of which I chair.
    We have executed our contract with the City of Hammond to manage the Hammond Business Incubator, hiring Greg Boyan as its first director.
    We have accepted responsibility for supervision of the Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center.
    Purdue Calumet is a leader in diversifying the economy of Northwest Indiana.

  • Multi-cultural Campus Committee. Purdue Calumet has created a strong Multi-cultural Campus Committee (MCCC) that has responsibility for programming and strengthening the campus climate for diversity. During 2007-08, the MCCC will oversee a campus climate study, designed to help us identify our progress and our priorities for improvement. In 2007-08 the MCCC will be working on a “grow your own” program to help the campus diversify our faculty.
  • Student Affairs. I also want to express my appreciation to our colleagues in Student Affairs who have made such a concerted effort to expand campus life. In case you are keeping track, we held 463 programs on campus and 27 programs off campus serving nearly 17,000 participants.

    It’s fair to say that there is now plenty to do at Purdue Calumet.

  • Athletics restructuring. Last December we had a “melt down” of our men’s basketball program, but thanks to campus and community support – and especially to retired athletics director John Friend, who stepped in to help us put our program back on track, we are beginning 2007-08 with a new Assistant Vice Chancellor for Fitness, Wellness and Sports; new head coaches for our men’s and women’s basketball programs; and a rigorous eligibility oversight program. These changes will bring a strong focus on academics and, I think, reasons for optimism about success on the court.
  • Clerical salary improvement.
  • Last year, we identified clerical salaries as significantly below market. In an effort to recruit and retain a strong cadre of clerical support we invested $100,000 in salary upgrades.
  • Chancellor’s Scholars. This scholarship covering full tuition and fees, a book stipend and help with student housing costs is reserved for valedictorians and salutatorians of regional high schools. I believe it is a sign of our growing attractiveness to good students that we have enrolled 23 new Chancellor’s Scholars this fall.
  • Textbook costs. Textbook costs are a significant issue for our students. In some cases these costs are a limiting factor in the number of credits a student takes in a semester. Last year we looked very carefully at the issues related to high cost and inconsistent availability of course materials. I am pleased to report that one of our colleagues, Professor Vyto Damusis, has agreed to work with academic departments to meet the challenges of providing timely and cost effective materials for our students.
  • Supervise for Success. We took an organizational step forward last year with the introduction of this program to help supervisors be more effective. Thanks to Associate Director of Staff Training Colleen Robison who designed and delivered the program. Thanks to all participants who devoted so much time to developing their supervisory skills.
  • Emergency Preparedness. Purdue Calumet has become a regional leader in emergency preparedness. I want to thank Assistant Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Mike Kull and Professor Dean Larson, particularly, for organizing this effort. Over the past two years we have been working on crisis response plans and conducting monthly exercises on a variety of imagined scenarios. Because September is Emergency Preparedness Month, you will very shortly have the opportunity to learn more about how the campus can respond to unforeseen incidents. Doing this well requires that our response systems are widely understood, so I urge you to take some time in September to become familiar with how the campus can deal with crises.

Looking toward 2007-08

I hope you have a sense that 2006-07 will be a tough act to follow. Nevertheless, I believe we have the talent and the motivation to do even more to raise the quality of Purdue Calumet in 2007-08.

New Purdue President
We begin our new academic year with a new Purdue President. France Cordova joined Purdue on July 16. Some of you met her when she visited our campus Aug. 7. She has expressed a strong interest in the issues facing regional campuses. She has a deep commitment to student success – improving retention and graduating our students. She is concerned about the rising cost of education, the availability of financial aid, and the high cost of textbooks and course materials. All campuses face these issues, but they are particularly pressing at regional campuses like ours.

Student success
Student success has been a strategic focus for us – and we have made progress. Yet there is much more to do. We are better, but we are still underperforming in relation to our expectations. If we are to become dramatically better, we must take on the elephant in the room – the working lives of our students.

Working students / academic performance dilemma
Last year, I talked to you about the Indiana Project for Academic Success (IPAS), a research project conducted through Indiana University that has been studying the impact of our students’ employment on their academic performance. The subjects of this study are students at Purdue Calumet, Indiana University Northwest and Ivy Tech State College.

Initial findings indicate that 77 percent of our students work 20 or more hours a week, and about one-third of our students work full-time. We also learned that only a quarter of these students believe that work has a negative impact on their academic pursuits.

The IPAS has continued to analyze the data it gathered from our Northwest Indiana campuses and in June issued additional findings:

  • The majority of traditional aged students work 21-40 hours a week while enrolled.
  • Younger students (under 21) tend to take heavier course loads than older students, even when they work 20 or more hours a week.
  • Most of our students report that they have highly structured routines with almost all waking hours assigned to work, school or family responsibilities.
  • Students work to pay bills, but they also work because they value self-reliance and personal independence. In other words, our students value work (as they value being a student). Work is more than a means to an end – it is a competing end. So when a student must choose between work and academics it is not a “slam dunk” – it is a true dilemma.

Understanding this, our challenge at Purdue Calumet is to create and provide to students a high quality academic experience that, to the greatest extent possible, acknowledges the reality of their lives and their values. Our students want an education, but they also want “a real job.” That is, they want the kind of work that defines who they are.

How can we help our students have a rich and rewarding academic experience in the context of their working lives? What can we do to reduce the dilemma between academics and employment?

To take this on, we will need to resolve a dilemma of our own. That is the dilemma between predictability and flexibility. Our students need both.

It often seems that increasing the one requires decreasing the other. And it is certainly not obvious how these opposing qualities can be resolved. That is our challenge, and I believe we are creative enough to make the kind of progress that will improve our students’ academic performance.

The case for experiential learning
We already have taken a major step in this direction through the introduction of the Experiential Learning graduation requirement. What is so important about experiential learning done well is that it integrates academic discipline into the workplace context. Experiential learning at its best illuminates what makes a job a “real job.” Experiential learning, in the short run, may add burdens to students’ already overscheduled lives. In the longer run, however, it will open doors to work that is highly compatible with, and reinforcing of, academic study.

More predictable course schedule
Another step we are beginning to take is the creation of a more predictable course schedule. I want to commend departments that now have published a full academic year schedule and urge you on to a published, rolling two-year schedule.

To have such a schedule (and to hold to it) is perhaps the next most important (structural) thing we can do to help our students succeed academically.

Options within expectations
Where does the flexibility come in?

Here we need to think about options within expectations.

Technology in the form of web-based learning tools can be a great way to accomplish this. To the extent that courses can be offered entirely or partly “on line,” they provide students some choice about when in their day or week they turn to learning.

The campus has adopted WebCT for this purpose and provides help for those who want to integrate this software into their instruction. Many faculty already use this learning tool to make portions of their courses available “asynchronously.”

This does not mean that these courses have no structure or deadlines – rather, it means that there are ranges of options that students can select to minimize conflicts with other elements of their lives.

What else?
Are there other ways we can be more flexible within predictable structures?

There are creative opportunities here.

  • At some universities multi-sectioned introductory courses have been converted to open environment, mastery learning structures. Students are still assigned to a section and an instructor who grades the student and has primary responsibility for the student’s learning. However, instructors share coverage of an extended hours learning environment where students may come at other than assigned hours to work on the curriculum. They can receive help from whichever instructor happens to be on staff at the time. For that matter, they can arrange to go in groups and work with instructors or supplemental instructors by pre-arrangement or on a drop in basis. Common learning objectives and a common curriculum makes this process possible.

Let your imaginations work on this problem.

  • What about an advisors lounge where departmental advisors and faculty hold office hours at coordinated scheduled times in a common, comfortable, location? Students who could not meet an advisor at one time could meet another advisor at another time. This would be a little like seeing one of your doctor’s colleagues when your doctor is not in the office. Space for private conversations would be necessary, of course, but I have no doubt that a department could work out the logistics in ways that would improve access for students and be more efficient for faculty and advisors. Students could predict that someone would be available to help them as long as we are all flexible about who that might be.

What are your students’ greatest logistical problems? What are the things that make it hardest for them to devote time and attention to their studies?

I hope you will ask them. Or better, enter a dialogue about what options within your range of requirements would promote their learning.

Public higher education’s most important issue?
If we can take on this reality of our students’ lives and make it a hallmark of the learning process at Purdue Calumet, we will have made progress on what I believe is the most important issue public higher education has yet to address.

The American system of higher education has done a great job at creating a model for broadly accessible residential education and for the education of full time undergraduates at research universities.

Those models presume that the university has the student’s full time attention.

Regional public universities should not be part-time versions of those models. We need to find better ways to intellectually engage our students without denying the reality of their working lives.

We can become great when we master teaching and learning in that environment.

Purdue Calumet has started down that road, and I am optimistic that we will make real progress again this year.

Thank you for your attention, and know that you have all my best wishes for a spectacular year.