Following are excerpts from an interview INSIGHT Editor Wes Lukoshus conducted with Chancellor Howard Cohen, who reflected on his 10 years of leading Purdue Calumet. To view and listen to the entire interview, visit:
Q: What have been your primary objectives as Chancellor, and how successful do you feel you have been in addressing them?
HC: My primary objective was strategic, which was to take Purdue Calumet from where I thought it was…a university known for convenience— for being local and accessible—and moving it to a high-quality, full service, regional university…
Q: During your administration, Purdue Calumet developed student housing, introduced an innovative experiential learning program, increased admission requirements, attracted record enrollment, including more than 600 international students, and broadened university involvement in ways that have advanced Northwest Indiana. Explain the significance of these advancements.
HC: I would say they are all integrated; all of them are parts of this idea that we were going to become more of a full service, regional university. In order to do that, we needed residential students. We needed… excellent students who wanted to be here. We needed faculty who were engaged in their research—who were willing to bring students into their research—and we needed a curriculum that would help our students, not only learn their subject matter while they were here, but prepare them for the work they would be doing and for the lives they would be living once they graduated.
Q: Effective strategic planning has been a cornerstone of your administration. What Purdue Calumet strategic achievement over the past 10 years do you consider most important and why?
|He considers establishment of Centers and Institutes of applied research—such as the Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation—a key strategic achievement of his administration.|
HC: I don’t think I could name (just) one, but let me name (two or three). I would say that experiential learning was certainly critical, because as a requirement for our bachelor’s level students in all majors, we sent a message that we were concerned, not only with our students as they were here at the university, but with their transition out of the university into their work and their lives. It was also a message to the community that we wanted our students to be engaged with the community, and we wanted the community to assess their quality, as well as having the faculty assess their quality…
I think another critical thing we did was to create the Centers and Institutes around applied research… that brought together the talents of our faculty, opportunities for our students and the needs of our community…
And, third, I would say, (are) the very visible things that we did to improve the recognition of student quality. Among them I would count the Chancellor’s Scholars—students who (were) valedictorians and salutatorians (of their high schools). I would count the Honors Program, which we created to bring in other really excellent students. And of course (we have brought in) very talented international students…All that sends a message…that students who have choices want to be here…
Q: Throughout your administration, you have placed a high priority on student success— that is, students earning their degree. What do you believe to be the key to student success?
HC: I would say (the keys are) preparation and persistence. If students come in who are not well prepared, they’re going to have a very difficult time getting themselves up to the standard it’s going to take to graduate. Students who are well prepared, but don’t really devote themselves to their education, we (tend to) lose…the first time they have a significant bump in their lives…
Q: What has been most rewarding and most challenging about being the Chancellor of Purdue Calumet?
HC: The most rewarding thing, of course, is Commencement, where you see all these wonderful students who’ve achieved their degree… You know their lives are changed dramatically for having put in that work and time and now have been recognized with a university degree. The challenging part, I think, is just keeping everything going. There are so many moving parts to a university…
Q: How do you feel about the future of Purdue Calumet?
HC: I think it’s only glowing! We’re in an area that’s kind of coming back as a region, both economically and socially. The university is just rock solid in terms of the quality of people who are working here and the goals that they have. I think we are well aligned with national goals. People seem to want to work together to improve the university. I have nothing but optimism about Purdue Calumet.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
HC: Well, my plan is to take some time off to prepare myself to teach philosophy, preferably, “Introduction to Philosophy” and “Introduction to Ethics,” on a part-time basis (at Purdue Calumet), and then to do some other work in relation to higher education.
‘People seem to want to work together to improve the university. I have nothing but optimism about Purdue Calumet.’
Filed under Chancellor.