Thursday, March 27, 2008

New Provost On Improvements at Purdue

Woodson, currently the dean of the College of Agriculture at Purdue, will take over as provost May 1. Provost is the top academic officer at the university.

Among the topics Woodson wants to discuss are a core curriculum and the idea of admitting students without assigning them to a school or college right away.

"I fundamentally believe that Purdue University, as a globally engaged university, ought to have some common aspirations for our students. We can get there by having a core curriculum, or we can get there by having a set of shared values," Woodson said. "A Purdue education ought to have some common themes across all colleges."

One of the major goals Woodson plans to accomplish as provost is to find ways to increase student retention and graduation rates.

According to the Purdue Data Digest, 71 percent of Purdue students entering the university in the 2001-02 academic year graduated within six years. After the 2003-04 academic year, 85 percent of first-year students returned to Purdue.

"I've made no bones about saying ... Purdue's graduation rates are not high enough for a university of our distinction," Purdue President France Córdova said. "And obviously you don't graduate unless you're retained."

Córdova also wants to see more faculty members in groups such as the National Academy of Sciences, an area in which Purdue has been lacking.

Woodson said his strategy for that is to show people what Purdue has to offer. He said Purdue should be seen as a place to go for answers to research and academic questions.

"We have an outstanding faculty here, and we need to put them in a better position to be in a better national standing," Woodson said.

Vic Lechtenberg, who is serving as interim provost until Woodson takes over, said Woodson will have to work on making sure students are prepared for Purdue before they get there.

"The student challenges ultimately involve working closely with schools across Indiana to increase the educational aspirations and achievement of high school graduates," Lechtenberg said. "There are tremendous opportunities to build partnerships with schools and significantly improve the preparation of students in science and technology, in mathematics and in communications skills. All of these skills are critical to success at Purdue, or any other top university."

Jennifer Jackson, president of Purdue's chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, said she wants to see the new provost focus on opportunities for minority students and add tutors for more difficult classes.

Hmm... Ambitious aspirations.

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