From the Dean: April 2020

Dear Purdue Engineering Community,

My practice with these monthly emails has been to highlight a few recent accomplishments and then to reflect on a specific challenge or opportunity for the college. This month’s email follows the same format, but we’re in a much different place now than one month ago. For the rest of my term and Mung’s, we’ll be dealing with a whole new set of challenges, but some interesting new opportunities as well. As President Daniels said today, “We’re all in this together, and we’ll get through it together.”

Looking back on the past two weeks, who would have thought that we could move all instruction and most of our work online in such a short time? After that enormous effort, we should take a deep breath and be sure that we’re taking care of ourselves, our families and our students. We’ll need to pace ourselves as we address the near-term, mid-term, and long-term future of our College.

Through April, we’ll be helping our students complete spring semester and helping our research students continue their work. We’re conducting a large-scale experiment as we learn to teach and work remotely. Let’s use the rest of the semester to learn how to do both, really well.

But it’s also time to start thinking about summer. We’ll know very soon whether there will be any summer programs on campus, but it would be prudent now to start planning for a summer with no on-campus programs. Our summer programs are mission critical – they help current students progress, they help prepare the incoming fall semester class, and they develop our pipeline of future students. How can we operate these critical programs online and do it in a special way?

Fall semester will be here before we know it. Will we be back to normal in the fall? Who can say, but it seems unlikely. Our students and prospective students are still absorbing what has happened. What can we do to help our students continue their education on the Purdue campus? What can we do to make Purdue the school of choice for prospective students? What can we do for out-of-state students who may not be able to afford an out-of-state education now, even though we are the most affordable program in the top 10? What can we do for international students who can’t get visas in time for fall? In short, how can we best get through a challenging AY 2020-21 and be back to full strength for AY 2021-22?

Answering these questions and planning in these uncertain times is difficult, but we must start now and take the necessary steps quickly. The university has suffered a severe financial blow and will likely suffer more. Cutting expenses, retaining revenue, and raising new revenue will be high priorities. Redeploying existing resources toward our high priorities will be key.  

As we take steps to address immediate challenges, our goal will be to come through these challenging times as THE example of excellence at scale for a college of engineering.

Although we’ll be dealing with the challenges of this shock for some time, I’m not at all discouraged. I know the people of this college, and I know that we are up to the challenge. With your hard work and creative ideas, we will come through. In the process, we will become an even stronger college. Before too long, we will look back on this period in our history and be proud of what we accomplished.

Finally, the epidemiological models say that April will be the peak of the pandemic. So, as we continue the work of the college, please be very careful for you and your families.

Boiler Up!


Mark S. Lundstrom
Acting Dean of the College of Engineering
Don and Carol Scifres Distinguished Professor
of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Purdue University