Purdue advances initiatives for student success

As Krannert’s new leadership programs underscore, Purdue University is becoming a leader in, well, leadership.

A unique partnership of visionary administrators, educators, University stakeholders, philanthropists and, most notably, students have united in purpose and action to initiate student-driven projects and programs designed to better ensure student success.

Two of those initiatives — the Center for Student Excellence and Leadership (CSEL) and the Leadership Engagement Experience (LEE) — are premised on a redefinition of leadership that is independent of formal authority or position. In this context, leadership can be practiced by anyone interested in making a difference in any arena of life.

The Center for Student Excellence and Leadership (CSEL)is already underway thanks to a $10 million gift for center dedicated to student excellence and success.  CSEL is destined to be the cornerstone of the Student Success Corridor, which creates a “bridge” between residential and academic life.


An artist's rendering of the planned Center for Student Excellence and Leadership (CSEL), which is expected to open in late 2013 or early 2014. (Image provided)

The four-story, 50,000-square-foot center is being constructed at Vawter Field at the corner of Martin Jischke Drive and Third Street. It is scheduled to open in late 2013 or early 2014.

The gift, from an anonymous donor, is being used as a match to generate a total of $20 million for the building. The gift also will be used to help raise funds for a new $8 million endowment fund to support the long-term maintenance of this building. Purdue Athletics also is contributing $12 million through Big Ten Network revenue toward the total cost of the $30 million facility.

The Leadership Engagement Experience (LEE) is the programmatic linking of classes and activities to develop leadership skills and to connect all undergraduate students to a leadership experience of their choosing for authentic practice. According to LEE policy statements, the intent is for all students to recognize that they possess leadership skills and abilities that will enable them to respond to a call for leadership anytime, anywhere.

Both these initiatives are in direct response to the “Launching Tomorrow’s Leaders” pillar of the New Synergies strategic plan, says Tim Sands, Purdue’s provost.

“Purdue University has the enviable reputation of providing a rigorous undergraduate academic experience with very little grade inflation over the past 30-plus years," Sands says. “Our graduates have a global reputation for their work ethic, their deep domain knowledge and their extraordinary ability to reduce data to actionable information.”

“Not satisfied, we seek to add to that reputation by including leadership development as a core component of the Purdue experience for every student. Leadership is not just about being the president of a student organization — it is about learning how to build an effective team, developing cultural competencies, ethics and integrity.

“Many of our graduates have gone on to be successful leaders of all types of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies. Yet we think more of our graduates have the potential to lead. We aim to open up the full range of possibilities to our students so that they realize their own potential.”

Dale Whittaker, vice provost for undergraduate academic affairs, champions embedding leadership opportunities in all aspects of student life, from the core curriculum to extracurricular activities. “We believe every student is a leader. To our way of thinking, ‘leadership’ is a verb. It’s about actions and activity,” he says.

Whittaker says CSEL and LEE initiatives, though new in approach, fit Purdue’s culture and legacy of leadership.

“There’s something special about a Purdue graduate, beyond their discipline," he says. "Everywhere, Purdue people are leading their communities. These programs ensure that Purdue students today will be able to make an impact the way previous generations of Purdue people did.

“This is our vision: We want this generation of Purdue students to be ready to lead.”