Why we Polytech
The Purdue Polytechnic Institute has been introduced and described using many different qualifiers and metaphors. It was designed as the zero-gravity space for faculty to unleash their creativity, to dream big, and to implement their most daring and promising educational ideas. It's a sandbox, a laboratory, an incubator, an educational startup. It is the center for Educational and Research Development in the College of Technology and beyond. It is an engine of innovation and a new culture of teaching and learning. However we describe it, it is led by one of the most committed and most enthusiastic group of faculty, administrators, and staff I have ever had the privilege to work with. Seeing their passion, energy, and sense of higher mission has been such a source of inspiration for me and for all of us.
So, what is driving us? What is leading us to invest all we got into Polytech? I asked my colleagues to write a few sentences in answer to this question: "Why do you 'polytech'?" Here is a sample of the answers I received.
Gary Bertoline, Dean, College of Technology, Executive Director: “Purdue Polytechnic Institute is our opportunity to create a rich learning environment for all our students. Students will be first in the classroom as well as in the hearts and minds of the faculty and staff.”
Michael Smith, Professor of English, Faculty Fellow: "Purdue Polytech appeals to me because of the freedom and innovation it offers. I'm interested in exploring the cross-sections of different disciplines and seeking a more complex view of education as a web of interactions. I believe that Polytech fosters the individual. It does not offer a blanket view of the teaching process but instead advocates a personalized and organic teaching structure. In regards to both scholarship and teaching, it is a fountain of unique opportunities and possibilities.”
Gozdem Kilaz, Professor of Aviation Technology, Faculty Fellow: "Personally, I am doing this because I am the mother of a child who learns differently, and as a mentor, I know he will succeed wonderfully if he is trained without the boundaries of a conventional education system. We are dedicated to bring the best in every student through transformational methods and this inspires me every day. Purdue Polytech is the most unique opportunity and it is very close to my heart. I would enroll my child to our program in a second!”
Sorin Matei, Professor of Communication, Faculty Fellow: "I am a member of the Polytech community because I believe that higher education has become more and more bureaucratized and formalized. We do not serve our students if we "go with the flow" and accept that checking boxes and regurgitating information can be called learning. We test to learn, not learn to test. Every student can get excellent results without creating grade inflation if we teach competencies, not abstract learning goals. Learning by doing is what generates each successful high-tech start-up. Failure is an opportunity to learn and should be embraced. Learning is an upward moving spiral; we could go over the same skills again and again without feeling trapped in a rut. Learning should be a just-in-time process; knowledge should be delivered when is needed because it is needed. Learning three different ideas from three different fields in their natural connection is better than learning them in isolation at great distance in time and space from each other. One day our students will change the world; in fact, each generation does it and demands it.”
Jeff Evans, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Faculty Fellow: “[I applied for and joined Purdue Polytech] because I wish to help people find and nurture their element, and to help develop their ability to adapt and improvise through self-disciplined practice. By providing balance in their learning experiences perhaps they can attain balance in their life.”
Stephanie Schmidt, Administrative Assistant: “I joined Purdue Polytech to work with wonderful, innovative people and students and because it was new and innovative. I like the idea of project-based work and enjoy working with a large group of people with different backgrounds coming together for one idea. I am especially excited to see the students learn and excel in this program.“
Mark French, Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology, Faculty Fellow: “I am involved in Purdue Polytech because I think Higher Education needs to devote more time to our undergraduates. In becoming a highly ranked R1 school, I think we have let our commitment to research displace our commitment to teaching. I think Purdue Polytech may be a way of restoring ourselves as an organization focused on undergraduate teaching.”
Marisa Exter, Professor of Education, Faculty Fellow: “I think there is a better way to prepare students not only for the technical parts of their jobs, but for the professional skills they will need: communication, project management, and, most importantly, critical thinking and problem solving. Students who have these skills will be ready for the challenges they will face in a 21st century workplace. For me personally, I want to be a part of shifting our education system in the direction it needs to go to prepare students in a way that is more engaging and more appropriate to what they really need on the job.”
Bob Herrick, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology, Faculty Fellow: "Purdue Polytech provides a fantastic opportunity for students and for me. I have a real passion for education, really a life's mission. I love teaching but I have a greater love for empowering students by providing a rich educational environment that is student-centered and is based on experiential learning in areas that interest the student. What an extraordinary opportunity where faculty are coaches and mentors working alongside students as guides in the student's learning journey that is more self-directed by the student in an environment that integrates technology, culture, communications, global challenges, and much, much more along with student's own special interests. Wow. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Esteban Garcia, Professor of Computer Graphics Technology, Faculty Fellow: “Initially, I was intrigued by the idea of collaborating with faculty from diverse disciplines to design a new student-driven academic experience combining elements from STEM, arts, and humanities. In the process, I learned about what 'student-driven learning' meant and how to implement it. Now I am mostly excited about co-teaching a new seminar called Digital Narratives in collaboration with faculty from English, Communication and Engineering Technology. I hope that our first-year students enjoy the experience that we have designed for them.”
Mark Shaurette, Professor of Building Construction Management, Faculty Fellow. "For me, college education has been important but frequently was missing something. I rushed through undergraduate education so I could begin to do 'real work' as soon as possible, then realized I missed the many learning opportunities of college. Returning for a Master of Science degree after a few years was disappointing because it lacked a connection to the true-to-life problems I had seen in the work world. It took over 20 years before I felt the urge to return to college study for a PhD. I do Polytech to help students experience the stimulation of learning with real-world connections that I found missing until exposed to self-directed PhD research.”
Davin Huston, Clinical Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology, Faculty Fellow: “I am a part of Purdue Polytech because I it is an experience that I wish I could have had when I was in school. To be able to interact with my peers and the faculty intensively on real world projects would have been a dream for my undergraduate self. I want to help the current and future generations of students have that dream come true.”
We are, after all, in the business of questioning assumptions, asking questions, and seeking more answers and better approaches. There is no better ground for our inquiry than that of learning and nurturing young minds and souls. This is precisely the mission of our Purdue Polytechnic Educational Research and Development team.