Fall 2011 Convocation

(Delivered by Chancellor Thomas L. Keon at the Fall 2011 Faculty & Staff Convocation)
Aug. 17, 2011

Thomas L. Keon

An Opportunity for Excellence

After a planning retreat with the Vice Chancellors and an opportunity to meet more of the campus community, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you four goals for shaping our future thinking and actions of Purdue Calumet.

These goals will help guide our thinking for revising our campus strategic plan, specifics of which should be written this academic year. It is my intention to use multiple techniques to engage the entire campus community in this revision process. With your help, the revisions we make should extend the strategic plan for at least five more years and help move Purdue Calumet further in the already strong direction it has been traveling.

The Four University Goals on which I want us to focus are:

  1. Academic Excellence
  2. Learning through Engagement
  3. Inclusivity
  4. Community and Business Partnerships

Each of these goals has multiple dimensions, some of which I will suggest through illustration. It will be through our collaborative efforts in our strategic planning process that will help refine and create a specific framework for the needs and advancement of Purdue Calumet. Let’s review each of these goals and outline some of the areas that may be addressed under each goal.

Academic Excellence

First, Academic Excellence, which, of course, is the foundation for all we do. It could be our sole objective if we wished to reduce to only one goal.

  1. Faculty Development and Scholarship is certainly a key factor in achieving academic excellence. Our faculty must be “on the cutting edge.”  This requires constantly providing state of the art teaching methods and keeping current with changes in our faculty members’ fields of study.
  2. Student Enrollment Management is critical to retention and attracting the best students that we can bring to Purdue University Calumet. This is a process with many steps which will require looking into recruiting, screening, and accepting students. Once a student is enrolled, we want to offer required courses, have an inviting and attractive campus, and provide various safety nets for those who are especially challenged by the transition to college. This also means that when students complete their degrees, we help with placement—whether in the world of work or graduate school. A successful enrollment system starts with finding and recruiting students, bringing them to degree completion and helping them reach their end goals.
  3. Assessment is required and essential as a tool to monitor the degree to which we are successfully providing students with needed data, theories, skills and an ability to think independently.
  4. Placement, as mentioned earlier, is our investment in helping graduates achieve their goals. If we are successful with alumni placement, whether it is work or graduate school, we will attract a greater number of desirable students.
  5. Appropriate and Attractive Facilities have become a competitive advantage for some universities. Quality classrooms, up to date residence halls, opportunities for quality recreation, and a SAFE campus are “musts” for the modern campus.

Learning through Engagement

Learning through Engagement has been a strategic differentiator and focal point of Purdue University Calumet programs.

This goal does not need a lengthy description because all of you have been involved with:

  1. Student Research
  2. Experiential Learning
  3. Internships

The results have been extremely positive and should continue as we move forward.  However, we should not overlook: Student learning by participating in student organizations.

Our students can learn a tremendous amount from the time, energy, and role played in student organizations.  For me, the time spent engaging in student government, fraternity leadership, and various aspects of my undergraduate school provided me a foundation for a life time of community involvement and leadership.


Inclusivity, which is a giant step beyond diversity, must be an important goal for all of us. It is easy to be diverse; it is significantly more difficult to be inclusive. By inclusive I mean that all individuals feel a part of the university community. We must learn to respect the views of others and their right to those views, although we may disagree.

An inclusive campus is like a tapestry woven of different people with diverse ideas, religions, and colors. It is important that we are not like water and oil, sometimes mixed, but always separating and distinguishing each other by differences.

  1. University Governance provides an opportunity for representation of all members of the university community. This process allows for the opportunity to easily and freely have input to decisions, to be available to evaluate suggestions, and to develop guidelines for the future success of the community.
  2. Individual Equality needs no explanation, but does need to be exercised through the acceptance of all community members and their ideas and ideals.
  3. Sharing of Ideas openly and freely. While not all of the community may embrace these ideas, they should be allowed to be discussed and maybe debated.
  4. Cultural Development is inherent in a rich melting pot of those with whom we live, work and play here in Northwest Indiana and Purdue Calumet. It is time for us to continue to embrace the richness of culture on our campus and within our region and use this as a true advantage. Our campus population looks more like what the U.S. population will look like in 25 years. We can use this to lead higher education and become cutting edge in our educational processes and in our strength in community by adopting inclusivity.
  5. Internationalization is the world today. If the U.S. stock market tumbles, so does the world. Our world is often described as smaller due to the speed of information flow.  But we have moved far beyond information movement, the world has become increasingly interdependent. It is no longer possible, as a leader, to think only of NW Indiana. Today’s leaders must constantly understand their surroundings and the impact they have on the world, rather than the impact the world has on them. A continued momentum to promote internationalization through education, to attract students from around the world, and to provide opportunities for student to study abroad is essential.

Community and Business Partnerships

Community and Business Partnerships provide our university with an opportunity to engage with the world beyond campus. These partnerships may take many forms and help, not only those with whom we partner, but also faculty, students, and staff.  Partnerships, as the word implies, are two-way relationships.

As a campus we should always be looking for ways in which to extend a benefit to another organization, institution, government, business and the world if there is a perceived equal benefit to Purdue University Calumet.

  1. Student Engagement can take many forms, but we do want our students to become good future citizens and understand that there are times when “giving back” to our community, society or our institution is the right thing to do.
  2. Partnerships, as discussed above, should provide mutual benefit. We may be involved with a school system or business that is willing to hire our students, use students as interns, or engage with a research center or contract a needed specialization from our campus. Additionally, we want to have partnerships with graduate schools that will accept our graduates.  There are also many universities throughout the world that can engage with us in many forms of exchange relationships and partnerships.
  3. Economic development is an important part of what we do. As providers of educated individuals who have developed skills and talents, we foster economic growth via student innovations. There are many ways in which a university is a driver of economic activity and growth, but among the most significant is the possibility of fostering new ideas that can create businesses in our community. The entrepreneurial spirit of the youth of our country is a basis for sustained economic value. Today everyone points to the economic growth of Austin, Texas that has been fueled by graduates who have advanced ideas to the market and have built Austin into an economic hub. On a smaller scale, Columbia, Missouri has doubled in population over the last 20 years, again, because of the strength of University of Missouri graduates.
  4. Athletics is a means by which we can engage the community and reach out to the public beyond our campus borders. It is essential that citizens of NW Indiana learn more about Purdue University Calumet. Athletics is one way of enabling the university to be a partner in social activity and further developing our community presence.
  5. Fund Raising and Friend Raising is essential in moving Purdue Calumet to the next level. State funds and tuition can only support basic campus needs for the delivery of courses and programs. If we want to excel in other areas, we must garner outside financial support. Keep in mind, this does not suggest that we use outside funds for operations, but rather that we use outside funds to enhance operations and to build excellence. To do so, we must be in the business of identifying, finding and cultivating friends of the university. This is an activity for all of us, not just the alumni association or fundraisers. It is our duty to show a great return on investment for those who support us; we must be constantly developing good community and business partners.