Fall 2010 Convocation Speech

Chancellor Howard Cohen Chancellor Howard Cohen

Purdue Calumet Progress Report: Fall Semester 2010

Welcome back to another exciting year at Purdue Calumet.

We have come off a year of great progress on our annual goals, progress that continues to build a base from which to accomplish our strategic vision of being Northwest Indiana’s high-quality, full-service regional university.

Attaining this vision is part of our on-going work of continuous quality improvement – a commitment we signal with our participation in the AQIP (Academic Quality Improvement Program) accreditation process.

2009-10 year successes

We took some big steps along this path during 2009-10, and I would like to acknowledge some of our successes.

Let me begin with enrollment. We achieved a high-water mark of 10,133 students last fall. The growth came primarily from increases among graduate students and international students.

  • Our graduate enrollment exceeded 1,000 students constituting 11 percent of our student body.
  • Our international student population of about 570 students accounted for almost 6 percent of our student body.

These students enrich the quality of our university, and enrollment growth in these categories helps keep us out of more serious financial difficulties posed by the state’s reduction in our budgeted allocation.

Experiential Learning
Our signature academic program, Experiential Learning, is developing according to plan. Over the past year:

  • we expanded to offer 107 experiential learning courses;
  • all academic departments have experiential learning options for students.
  • more than over 1,400 students registered for experiential learning courses last year.

Undergraduate research
Undergraduate research, a component of experiential learning and another defining characteristic of learning at Purdue Calumet, grew impressively to more than 800 students. Our faculty understands the value of engaging students in their own learning and makes the extra effort to extend this opportunity to a significant portion of the student body.

On-line programs
Our on-line programs also took a big step forward last year. Nursing inaugurated its on-line RN to BSN program. Today, it has about 180 admitted students with an expectation of rapid continuing growth.

On-line programs at the master’s level in teacher education have been approved at West Lafayette and are now before the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. These programs are critical for the enrollment growth and associated revenue that will provide stability in an uncertain political environment.

Let me also mention in this context our faculty’s broad commitment to web-based learning. Nearly half of our courses actively integrate Blackboard with face-to-face instruction. We are providing our students with the tools and experience they will need as continuous learners. Our faculty commitment to doing this well is admirable. Our peer-managed certification program has been completed by 61 of the 97 faculty who have participated in the program to date.

High-performance computing
Additionally, high-performance computing arrived at Purdue Calumet this year with the installation of the 512-node, Miner high-performance computing cluster. Funded as part of the Northwest Indiana Computing Grid project, Miner provides us with local, high-performance computing power as well as a connection to the larger world of research computing through high-speed networking facilities at Purdue West Lafayette.

Student success & retention
Our focus on student learning and student success is helping us on the retention front. Last academic year, we reached a fall-to-fall retention rate of 68 percent—not yet where we want to be, but great progress from where we were previously. We also hit a high water, fall-to-spring retention mark of 90 percent. This is important progress.

Academic program external support
Two of our academic programs have attracted significant levels of external support over the past year. The hospitality and tourism management program received $5 million from the Dean & Barbara White and Bruce & Beth White Family Foundations to create an appropriate physical facility, to add two named professorships and to support “future leader” scholars.

Our mechatronics program in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering Technology attracted more than $800,000 in industrial gifts.

Academic advising restructuring
I also would like to express my appreciation to all of our academic advisors for participating in a restructuring of their responsibilities. Advisors are critical to retention and student success, and we need to support their efforts to stay focused on these goals. Vice Chancellor Rogers has been working with the advisors to clarify their responsibilities and to provide the tools, such as Degree Works, that are essential for their effectiveness. This has not been an easy transition, but it is of critical importance to the campus.

Summer school
Summer school scheduling and funding was another one of those areas in need of attention that we were able to address over this past year. For the first time in a long time, we offered a set of summer courses that balanced enrollment and funding.

Our goal was to offer courses that our students needed, and to do so on a “break even” basis. Thanks to a hard-working committee, we were able to develop a set of sound practices that will serve us well into the future.

Student housing
Last fall, we opened University Village Phase 2 of student housing. Phase 2 has nearly doubled the number of students living on campus, helping us achieve a critical mass for developing campus life.

Military veterans program
Through our program for military veterans, From Boots to Books, we are actively recruiting and supporting returning veterans to Purdue Calumet. Last year we served 82 of 157 veterans on campus.

Intercollegiate athletics
Turning to intercollegiate athletics, we took a big step toward growing our athletics program working the past year to add men’s and women’s tennis, men’s golf and women’s volleyball teams to our intercollegiate program this current academic year.

Along with men’s and women’s basketball, we now offer six sports, half way to our goal of 12. The strategic purpose of building athletics is to make Purdue Calumet competitive in recruiting high-performing, well-rounded student-athletes throughout the Northwest Indiana area.

In the past, many, very good, local high school students who wished to continue competing in sports in college did not consider Purdue Calumet. We must change that roadblock to expand the academic quality of our student body.

Campus development & renovations
Despite our failure to obtain a new academic building from state funding, we are managing to expand and reposition spaces on campus to build our learning environment.

  • East of campus, we completed renovations at the building on Schneider Ave., moving some administrative functions there to capture more space for student-oriented offices at the campus core.
  • We have completed the third phase of the Gyte Learning Commons to provide more inviting study space for students and to relocate some library and computing help-desk services to that location.
  • We are about to open bids to convert the Calumet Conference Center at the south end of campus into the home of the Purdue University Calumet White Lodging Services Center for Hospitality & Tourism Management. This is an exciting development in the evolution of the program.
  • We are also opening bids for our Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation, an extension of the Powers Building. This Center also will be the home of our developing master’s degree program in this field of advanced simulation and 3-D visualization and virtual reality technologies.
  • This year, we completed a major renovation of the public space within the University Library. We added more than 60 new computers, improved five group study rooms and established a combined service desk for assistance in research and computing resources.

Partnership role with Hammond Academy for Science and Technology
Another truly innovative major project that came to fruition last year is the Hammond Academy for Science and Technology, which offers an innovative, science-focused, project-based curriculum. This charter school, Hammond’s first, initially has opened this fall in temporary quarters while its new building is under construction downtown. Our Center for Science and Technology Education is the consulting partner, leading curriculum development, professional development for teachers and providing student teachers. This is a very positive addition to the educational options available to the citizens of Hammond.

Dual credit with Crown Point High School
Along these lines of helping to produce qualified students who are prepared to have successful college careers, I want to acknowledge our dual credit program with Crown Point High School. Purdue Calumet has set the standard for dual credit programs in Indiana by providing faculty engagement with, and professional development for, the high school teachers who would teach our courses; by setting common standards of achievement; and by grading student performance in the high school and on campus collectively.

Grants & contracts
Let me mention, finally, that we have enjoyed a banner year for both grants and contracts (more than $14 million) and for private giving (more than $6 million). Our faculty and staff have done an extraordinary job of developing compelling grant proposals and seeking out corporate and individual gifts to support our work.


2009-10 also a year of challenges

These successes have been strategic, in the sense that they are building blocks of a high-quality, full-service regional university. They have moved us forward despite difficult economic circumstances that have taken their toll on the State of Indiana.

Last year was a year of losses as well as gains.

  • We were unable to secure funding for our proposed Emerging Technologies Building.
  • We were unable to provide salary increases for the second year in a row.
  • We lost approximately $1.7 million in state funding.
  • We expect to lose slightly more than $2 million again this year.

Consequently, we have deferred some important repair and rehabilitation work. We also have trimmed our budgets and, in some selective cases, have reduced positions.

Planning for continued economic scarcity
I expect that we will be living with economic scarcity on the state side for years to come. Therefore, it is my position that we must plan as if there will be no recovery. It is very likely that the reality for public higher education in Indiana will be flat state appropriations, at best, and very limited tuition increases. This will mean some further reductions in positions and limited salary increases.  Likewise, the prospects for new state funds for capital projects are not good.

We are working hard to offset these losses by the creative acquisition of space and by seeking out new sources of revenue. Our budget cuts were softened because we have been growing enrollment and changing our student mix to include more graduate students and out-of-state students—including international students. These students are not subsidized by the state, and so we are able to retain their full tuition when our budgets are cut.

On-line education a key revenue source
We are using the “one-time” revenue from enrollment growth and change in mix to address some of our facilities issues. In the future, on-line education will become an important supplemental source of revenue.

Our financial models for on-line education suggest that we will be able to bring significant funds to the departments that offer these programs. Because we are in the early stages of these efforts, their true promise is not yet fully known. These developments are good for the university financially, but the academic impact of changing the student mix and expanding our on-line learning environment is even more important to our status and stature as a university.

We ARE attracting quality students who come to us by choice because of our faculty and our programs. We ARE developing “gold standard” on-line courses that will be at the forefront of educational effectiveness for the next decade.


Becoming a full service, regional university

I want to turn, finally, to the context of our work…a context that both supports and bounds our efforts to become a full-service, regional university. That context is the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s (ICHE) Policy on Regional Campus Roles and Missions.

Purdue Calumet does not exist in a vacuum. We are, among other things, an agency of the State of Indiana, located in this region and funded — with expectations. As we continue to develop our strategic agenda, it is important that our faculty and staff understand what is expected of us by the State of Indiana.

ICHE initiatives for regional campuses
Here are the key elements of the ICHE policy paper on regional campuses:

  • We are to serve both recent high-school graduates and adults.
  • We are to focus on baccalaureate degree programs and applied master’s programs that meet regional needs.
  • We are to give up associate degree programs, leaving them to the community colleges.
  • Rather, we are to focus on transfer and articulation agreements.
  • We are to use the Core 40 curriculum as an admission requirement.
  • Remedial work is to be left to the community colleges.
  • Scholarly activity should be related to teaching responsibilities, and research should be related to regional needs.
  • Campus residential life should be limited to 10 percent of the student body.
  • We are expected to improve significantly student degree completion.
  • We are to put affordability at the forefront of resource decisions.
  • We are to put local economies at the forefront of our success agenda.

Most of these points are congruent with our strategic agenda. Where we beg to differ, I think, the differences are more a matter of degree than of kind. Here are the lessons I draw from my understanding of this policy paper. I invite you to engage in this exercise as well.

Differentiating from community colleges
First, ICHE is trying to differentiate regional campuses from community colleges. Remember that the community college “system” in Indiana is only about half a dozen years old. It was created by the state legislature out of Ivy Tech and Vincennes University. Vincennes was later pushed out of the picture, and Ivy Tech became the Community College of Indiana.

The state is in the process of growing that dimension of Ivy Tech and pressuring us to shed the community college role we played prior to 2004. We have already shed the remedial function; and we are in the process of shedding our associate degrees. This is VERY IMPORTANT for us. When you compare us to other regional universities nationally, you will see that we are an outlier in the area of associate degrees awarded. To conform to the profile of a regional university, we need to eliminate our community college vestiges, particularly and especially the associate degrees.

We also need to be sure that we provide multiple avenues of transfer from the community colleges through articulation agreements. Purdue Calumet and Ivy Tech Northwest have been very active in this area, to the benefit of both of our institutions. Ivy Tech needs to increase the number of its students who complete associate degrees, and we benefit by enrolling students who have a proven record of persistence. The state of Indiana regards this path as an efficient and cost-effective means of providing higher education to its citizens.

Role of research on our campus
Second, ICHE is trying to establish bright lines that distinguish regional campuses from community colleges on one side and from research universities on the other.  An implication of this is that ICHE does not want to fund research on our campuses.

This is an economic concern on their part, and a concern about “mission creep.” Research, in the view of ICHE, is associated with doctoral programs, and doctoral programs are very expensive. ICHE does not want regional campuses to grow in that direction.

We have some work to do in helping ICHE understand the importance of our scholarship and our research as, first, crucial for quality undergraduate learning. What distinguishes us from community colleges and “for profit” universities is our faculty’s commitment to keeping up-to-date on developments in their fields.

Our role is to help students understand how new knowledge is acquired, and how it is critically assessed. The construction of knowledge, and not merely its presentation, is the core work of scholars and the hallmark of higher learning.

What’s more, our research tends to be applied, and its application is designed to address significant societal challenges. It is our faculty’s research that drives the value of our outreach Centers and Institutes to our regional partners in industry, health care, education, social services, and more. We simply could not meet our regional service obligations without a strong applied research dimension of faculty work. This work is valued by our partners precisely because of its high quality.

We have managed, and we will continue to manage, our scholarship and research agenda without a special state appropriation for that purpose. Our ability to attract federal and private funds to support these efforts is testimony to the quality of what we produce. As long as we continue to provide great value, we will continue to be supported in these ways.

Degree completion
Third, we need to pay more attention to degree completion. Our federal government and our state government have made a commitment to producing significantly more college degree holders over the next 15 years or so. Our governments understand that our workforce is undereducated, particularly in relation to the kinds of jobs that will be in demand over the next decade or two.

I believe that we have made some progress in moving the conversation from “graduation rates” to “degree completion,” but we have a long way to go when it comes to helping our students finish their degrees. We need to understand, better than we do now, why some students with 100 or more credits are not making progress to finish. This will be a challenge for us in the coming year. We will need all of your creativity to find ways to bring these students to complete their degrees.

‘Performance-based’ state funding formulas
Finally, I want to remind you that Indiana, in recent years under ICHE’s guidance, has moved a portion of our state funding to “performance-based” formulas that supplement the traditional enrollment-based allocation.

The performance criteria are:

  • Successfully completed credit hours
  • Dual credit hours
  • Increase in degrees granted
  • Time to degree
  • Low income degree completion

This is a more sophisticated set of performance criteria than simple retention and graduation rates. Improvements in these areas are achievable by regional universities. I think it is important to be aware of these factors as we shape our methods of improving student success. We can help our students and help ourselves if we pay attention to these measures and find ways to improve on them.

Realizing our vision
We can all take pride in Purdue Calumet’s ability to stay focused on student success and on our strategic goals, despite the financial difficulties of our state and our nation. This is a time to take an honest look at what we are doing with the resources we have so we can assure that we are using those resources in the best ways to serve students and our region and to maintain a learning environment that is efficient and effective. We have projects and opportunities in abundance for 2010-11. Let’s take them on with enthusiasm so we can continue to realize our vision of high quality and full service.


Thank you.