From the Dean: October 2018

Dear Purdue Engineering Community,

Scale presents fundamental challenges and unique opportunities for us. To attain the Pinnacle of Excellence at Scale, our College needs to maximize the leverage of scale: the "1+1=3" effect of collaboration, comprehensive coverage of research areas, higher chance of having a few volunteers to pilot experiments, and a more sizable social network of alumni. We also need to mitigate the risks of scale, typically manifested in the separation among silos and a lower speed of innovation.

With this year’s surprise jump in yield rate and the largest freshman class of any college in Purdue’s history, our undergraduate program is becoming the largest among the top 10 in the US. With 13 Schools/Divisions, more than a dozen Programs, and about 60 Centers/Institutes/Preeminent Teams, resource per unit is often strained. We take great pride in the span of our land-grant mission. We also must ensure that quality and individual attention are not diluted. Moving forward, our principles are threefold: (1) controlled enrollment growth where the “slope" is carefully planned, (2) commensurate resources to accompany such growth, and (3) a long-term plan with a target steady-state, before the College “phase-transitions” into a different kind of institution. We have been in very productive discussion with the University. In particular, approval of multiple major buildings/facilities, new faculty lines, and additional advisor/TA budgets have been provided to the College over the past few months. We anticipate further support, and we continue to seek everyone’s input.

Part of the long-term planning concerns space and facilities. As mentioned when announcing the Pinnacle of Excellence at Scale plan in summer, we have been working on the accompanying Space Master Plan. Next Monday, the College's 10-year Space Plan will be unveiled by Professor Robert Frosch, Senior Associate Dean of Facilities and Operations. This plan for 2017-2027 follows the University’s 50-year plan described two weeks ago. I am excited to share the summary in the attachment below.

Among the many new constructions and major renovations planned are the Gateway Complex and Zucrow Lab District, two extensive and pivotal projects that will enable us to innovate at scale in learning and in research, respectively. With the goals of "purpose-driven, student-centered, collaborative and efficient,” a number of projects have already started, and details of the future ones will be determined as each receives approval and funding. What each project re-imagines is not only physical space, but also places for people and programs to create our future.

Space is always in shortage, and we will do all we can to swiftly seize any opportunity, large or small. As an example, this month, Aeronautics and Astronautics is moving into its new space on the second floor in Armstrong Hall of Engineering. We appreciate the flexibility of the Dean’s office staff in enabling this arrangement for AAE’s rapidly growing enrollment. The so-called “Dean’s Tower” is no more, and in that elevator of Armstrong we will run into more Boilermaker students.


Mung Chiang
John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering
Purdue University