Transformational Change

New Strategic Growth Initiative addresses need for more engineers
Purdue's College of Engineering is embarking on a period of unprecedented growth. With support committed by the president, provost and Board of Trustees, the college expects to increase the size of the faculty by as much as 30 percent and the staff by 28 percent over the next five years. Growth on this scale is an opportunity for transformational change.

Leah H. Jamieson, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering, says faculty growth hasn't kept up with other growth in the college.

"From fall 2006 to fall 2011, our undergraduate enrollment grew by 17 percent; our graduate enrollment by 28 percent; and our research enterprise, as measured by annual research expenditures, by 79 percent," she says. "As a result, we have developed a five-year plan for strategic growth that will add up to 107 faculty members."

That will grow the faculty from the current 358 to 465, a 30 percent increase.

With the additional faculty, undergraduate enrollment will have grown by 10 percent from 2011 to 2016, and will represent a 27 percent growth from 2006 to 2016. Graduate enrollment also will grow by 30 percent, from 750 to 3,500 through 2016.

"We will help meet the need for more engineers while giving students the education they need to succeed in well-paying and challenging jobs," Jamieson says.

Timothy Sands, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, says the additional faculty will allow the college to grow enrollment and expand the breadth and depth of its research efforts.

"This move will provide an economic benefit to the country as we educate more engineers with the Purdue credentials that are highly valued by industry, government and academia," he says.

"The U.S. Council on Jobs and Competitiveness has called for an additional 10,000 engineers a year. We're stepping up to this challenge. We want to add to our pool of highly qualified students, especially Hoosiers, at a time when the nation is demanding more engineers," says Sands, an engineer himself, who contributed to the development of LED lighting.

Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO of GE, agrees that there is a need for more engineers. "A critical sustainable competitive advantage for a company or a country is its technology base, and I applaud Purdue University and its leadership's commitment to educating more world-class engineers," he says.

World-class education bolsters economy

The National Science Foundation says that jobs in engineering and science pay more, even when compared with jobs requiring similar amounts of education and experience. Half of workers in engineering and science jobs earned at least $73,290 in 2010, more than double the $33,840 median income of the total U.S. workforce.

And those engineers coming out of Purdue will have a world-class education, Jamieson says.

"Faculty growth of this magnitude has the potential to shape how we educate our students, particularly in developing hands-on, team-oriented classes," she says. "We know from our graduates and from our industry partners that in the real world, engineers work in teams. With a team-based classroom approach — which a lower faculty-to-student ratio will allow — our graduates are better prepared to make the transition from school to career."

The growth also has potential to shape how the college connects with the world through research, engagement, economic development, community partnerships, K-12 outreach, entrepreneurship, industry partnerships and global activities.

While the pace of growth will be unprecedented for Purdue, it also will be transformational. "With more research and outreach, Purdue will be able to continue the valuable work it does in addressing the enormous global challenges we face, from fighting diseases to creating alternative fuels and safer buildings," Jamieson says.

She adds that details on disciplines and areas that would see an increase in the number of faculty are still to be worked out, but two areas seem logical for additions.

In May 2013, the college awarded its first bachelor's degrees in environmental and ecological engineering. EEE is a division within the College of Engineering, which means it draws faculty from throughout the college.

"This is a perfect example of how we are merging traditional disciplines with newer ones that tackle modern challenges head on," she says.

She also notes that growth in jobs in environmental and ecological engineering is second only to biomedical engineering. The University already is in the process of hiring in the area of integrated imaging, which combines sensor science, information processing and computer systems. The imaging is used in medical diagnosis, remote sensing and nanotechnology, among others. Disciplines involved are electrical and computer engineering, biomedical engineering, biological sciences and chemistry.

"Hiring a cluster of faculty from the different colleges and schools will pull it all together for advances that can't be done in a single discipline alone," she says.

The themes of strategic growth and the ongoing strategic plan will combine to form the new framework for "Extraordinary People, Extraordinary Growth, Extraordinary Impact."

"We have begun to execute plans that will shape the future of the college," Jamieson says. "On an even greater scale, we will be known for our impact on the world.

"Purdue is investing over $150 million in the first five years of this expansion. Our goal is to raise an additional $150 million in gifts to support scholarships, fellowships, professorships, and new and enhanced space."

Funding for the additional faculty will come from the Office of the Provost, revenue from a fee that engineering students pay, redirecting funds within the college, and from fund-raising among alums and friends of the college.