One year ago today I took up my new assignment as your Purdue colleague. I did so with the deepest respect for Purdue’s great history and traditions, but also in the knowledge that we have entered a period of momentous change for all of higher education, with predictions in many quarters of upheaval or even widespread failure of long-standing institutions. Fortunately, one of Purdue’s strongest traditions is that of constant innovation, of continuous improvement, of steadily striving to build “one brick higher.”
In August, after months of consultation with faculty and other campus leadership, we announced a series of actions aimed at propelling our university further forward in both its teaching and discovery missions, and to addressing head-on many of the challenges now confronting all of higher education. Before I or anyone could devise a catchy label for the ten selected initiatives, an informal colloquialism stuck, and they have become known as the Big Moves. As a slogan, it may be pedestrian, but the ambition it embodies is not: Successful implementation would stamp Purdue as a global leader in areas that we believe fit our historic land-grant mission, and matter most to the society of today.
The Morrill Act, which Abraham Lincoln signed in 1862, committed the nation to construct new colleges with two principal goals: to throw open the doors of higher education to a much wider swath of the population, and to promote technological progress in “agriculture and the mechanical arts.” At its sesquicentennial, the act’s purposes are at least as relevant as at its inception. One study after another informs the nation that economic success requires thousands more engineers, scientists, and technologically adept citizens.