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President Jim Conwell gives a speech at a campus event.

Speeches & Opinions

In addition to speaking on the Rose-Hulman campus and in the Terre Haute community, President Conwell addresses various groups and offers his perspective on STEM education through op-eds in various media. If you would like to request that the president speak at your event, contact the president's office.

President’s Perspective: Olio of Opportunity

(First published in the Spring 2017 issue of Echoes)

When I talk to prospective parents and students about Rose-Hulman, I’m dismayed when their first questions are about jobs and salaries after graduation. Not that those aren’t relevant questions. But the truth is, all engineering schools in this day and age should be placing students in great jobs with strong starting salaries.

What I would rather the conversation be about are all of the intangible elements that make a Rose-Hulman education so exceptionally valuable.

As the cover of this issue of Echoes illustrates, our graduates move through life well equipped to maneuver through the twists and turns they encounter on life’s journey, navigating past roadblocks, changing career direction, if desired, and even blazing new paths through invention and research. The foundation has been laid for you to follow whatever route you choose.

As each of you discovered, Rose-Hulman students get prepared for life—not just for a job—through rigorous courses that don’t simply build knowledge, but also teach the rewards that come from hard work. Those lessons are broadened through faculty mentoring and guidance that encourage students to look for creative approaches to problems, take intellectual risks, and pursue unconventional lines of inquiry.

The rich variety of curricular and co-curricular experiences offered at Rose-Hulman, including service projects and study abroad opportunities, instill time management and discipline as they provide important professional growth and enrichment.

And then there is the incredible value of networking. Between the relationships faculty members have developed with industry professionals and the ongoing involvement of our alumni, coupled with career development services that are available beginning in the first year, students have many opportunities to grow their skills and connections over the course of four years.

It is difficult to explain these qualities to prospective students and parents in just a few minutes. That’s especially true of the immense value added by alumni who share their time and expertise speaking to classes, advising competition teams and clubs, leading or assisting on Engineers Without Borders projects, and recruiting students for internships and jobs—to name just a few of the substantive, personal interactions that don’t happen elsewhere to the degree they occur here.

The opportunity to network with professionals is, of course, valuable when it comes to securing a position after graduation, but significant personal interactions along the way help students make critical connections between their education at Rose-Hulman and its practical application. Working alongside professionals further helps students learn appropriate professional behavior, etiquette and dress. Internships, co-op experiences, volunteer service, competitions and senior projects are just a few of the myriad opportunities to absorb important interpersonal and leadership skills that aren’t taught in a classroom.

You might call all of these factors I’ve just enumerated Rose-Hulman’s “olio of opportunity.” Whatever you call it, it is a very special mix that helps Rose-Hulman students become successful alumni, even when they steer away from their chosen path in engineering, science or math to pursue a new professional direction.

Whatever road you are traveling today and whatever detour you take in the future, I hope each of you continues to find great pleasure and reward along the way, and that from time to time you return to Rose-Hulman to say hello and connect with this special place where your journey began.

President's Perspective - September 2016

President's Perspective: Creating Disruptive Graduates

Fortune recently ran an article on the McKinsey Global Institute’s “disruptive dozen” trends that will transform our world in very short order—everything from energy storage and advanced robotics to full-scale development of the Internet of Things.

Higher education also is undergoing an upheaval. Online courses are encroaching on face-to-face instructional delivery, exerting more pressure on colleges to demonstrate the value of liberal arts programs and high-touch education.

At Rose-Hulman, we always have integrated so-called “hard” and “soft” skills—indeed, it is a key factor in our students’ success. History, the arts and social sciences, communication, and synthesis of ideas are a vital part of the engineering, math, and science curriculum here—not an add-on. Every student is required to complete a core of humanities and social science courses. We have a rich music and theater scene also—a fact that surprises many who visit.

Our graduates leave us knowing how to create value for their organizations and their communities. We prepare them to analyze problems, develop solutions, work in teams, present their findings, and—this is key—understand the broader context in which they are operating. These attributes combined with their technical skills ensure successful alumni, which is why Rose-Hulman is cited among the top institutions in the nation for return on investment and value-addedness.

At Rose-Hulman, we cultivate “entrepreneurial-mindedness,” which is not about start-ups—though it often leads to them. Being entrepreneurially minded is about analyzing a problem from new angles, envisioning creative solutions, and initiating new products and processes. It is about adding value to an organization. It is the framework for developing disruptive technology.

Our involvement in the Kern Entrepreneurial Education Network is giving us additional resources to further develop inquisitive, entrepreneurially minded scholars who will go out and disrupt the world.

And, facilities such as our Micro-Nano Device and Systems Lab and Branam Innovation Center are enabling students to experiment and explore emerging technologies while developing leadership skills and learning to work in interdisciplinary teams.

PARTNERING WITH EMPLOYERS

Given the intensifying competition for the best and brightest math, science and engineering graduates—each of our seniors receives an average of three job offers—we’re enabling employers to sponsor activities that give them access to a targeted group of students. They also are offering internships early to cultivate their talent pipeline. Elite companies recruit at Rose-Hulman because they find our students well-rounded and well-grounded, and because we build relationships with employers to help them make the best matches for their talent needs.

POSITIONING FOR THE FUTURE

Our Strategic Plan calls upon us to become more diverse and globally connected, and to continue to support and recognize excellence in teaching, learning, innovation, and intellectual growth. To ensure ongoing institutional relevance for students and industry, we are re-examining all aspects of what we do, from academic offerings to instructional scheduling and delivery methods, so that our students remain highly competitive in the market and our graduates continue to distinguish themselves. We call this process Rose Reimagined, and it already has generated a plan for a multidisciplinary, experience-based program in engineering design that is in development this year.

For the last two years we have been making many calculated investments, particularly in personnel and professional development, to position ourselves for a new era of growth in accordance with our strategic plan. We aren’t looking to become larger. With internal structures in place, we are ready for transformational change. We are poised to become the global leader in engineering education.

Commencement Address to the Class of 2016

Responsibilities by Degree

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, the faculty, and the staff, let me begin by saying “congratulations” to the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Class of 2016! We at Rose-Hulman are grateful and honored that you entrusted us with the privilege of helping you build your future. As John F. Kennedy once observed, “with privilege goes responsibility.” Walking with you these past four years has been a responsibility that we’ve taken very seriously, and we trust that we have fulfilled that responsibility in a manner that has met all of your needs and expectations.

But the truth is, you carried an even greater responsibility during this journey—a responsibility to take advantage of the many growth and development opportunities that our time together has presented, a responsibility to put forth extraordinary effort and exhibit an exceptional work ethic, a responsibility to exercise and grow your ability to create solutions and build strong working relationships. A Rose-Hulman degree with your name on it is a symbol of how brightly you have shined as you’ve delivered on your responsibilities. This is an accomplishment worthy of hearty celebration.

I don’t want to rain on that parade, but I am compelled to tell you that your responsibilities are far from complete. Your Rose-Hulman degree is not only a well-deserved trophy recognizing your success in meeting the responsibilities of your educational career. It’s also a ticket to the next level of responsibilities that you’ll face once you leave our campus.

In fact, your greatest responsibilities are on the path forward. That’s because, as you move into the world, your actions will have an even greater impact on others. From this point forward, that great big world out there is counting on you to accept your responsibilities.

So, here is Responsibility #1, and it’s a big one. As educated people, you now have a responsibility to solve society’s ever-increasing problems. The list of needs is long, too long to list here, and the challenges facing our world are daunting. The important point is that the world needs you, your passion, your intelligence, your creativity and your work ethic. And the good news is that you are arriving on the scene very well equipped to answer the call and fulfill this responsibility.

For one thing, many problems today have technological solutions, and I am right now addressing a gathering of some of the most technologically gifted minds in the world. You are, together, an absolutely extraordinary collection of individuals, and there is really no limit to what you can achieve through your skills and your intellect.

But what you’ve learned here at Rose-Hulman goes far beyond technology. You are taking with you into the world a well-developed ability to transcend current thinking, to problem-solve in divergent ways, to collaborate and innovate and create a unique path forward that will truly serve humanity. Your professionalism is inspiring, your commitment to excellence is unmatched, your ethical guideposts are solid. You have a big responsibility, but if the Rose-Hulman Class of 2016 can’t meet the challenge, who can?

Here’s Responsibility #2. The fact that you are here today is evidence of how successful you have been. You have a responsibility to recognize what you will need to continue to be successful. Together over the past four years we have crafted an excellent set of tools that will serve you well when you leave here. But never forget that those tools need to be continually sharpened, or to employ a more current metaphor, your apps need to be frequently updated. Your degree is complete, but your learning is not over. You must be a lifelong learner, and it’s your responsibility to be ever mindful of ways to build upon the great foundation you have built here, ever on the lookout for opportunities to improve.

What you may not yet fully appreciate is that while you were filling your mind with vast amounts of knowledge these past four years, you were also exercising and building your ability to learn even more. You were not only learning—you were learning how to learn. The world is expecting great things from you, and it’s your responsibility to continue to prepare for the unknowns that lie ahead.

And here is Responsibility #3. You have the responsibility of appreciation. Let’s begin with family and friends who supported your journey, both emotionally and financially. There are also the benefactors whose scholarships helped make your time here possible. There are the educators in your past who paved the way for your admission to Rose-Hulman, and who ensured that you were ready to succeed here.

And then there are the people here at Rose-Hulman. Please remember to express your appreciation for our faculty and staff, and recognize all they have done to make possible your life-changing experience here on campus. They have given generously of their time and energy, and in many cases have passed up opportunities for greater wealth or a brighter spotlight… all because they believe so strongly in supporting future generations and, by extension, the great works you will do after you leave here.

There are so, so many people who lent support and made sacrifices that have been instrumental in making this day possible. I encourage you to demonstrate that appreciation in every way you can. Of course, you can thank them and applaud for them now, but please also show your appreciation by continuing to pursue an inspiring path in the years ahead.

Indeed, what you do with your life and your career after today is a part of that responsibility of appreciation for Rose-Hulman. The great things you achieve after graduation will be a strong reflection on our institution, and your accomplishments will increase the value of your degree as well as the reputation of Rose-Hulman. When you are an effective leader in society, you’re also an invaluable ambassador for Rose-Hulman.

You also can fulfill that responsibility for appreciation by staying closely connected with us, wherever you may land. Past alumni of Rose-Hulman have been instrumental in making possible what you have just experienced. They have made countless contributions of time and talent, helping to shape our curriculum, to counsel our students on career opportunities, to employ them in internships and full-time jobs, to recruit future generations of students. Their generosity also has provided resources for improving our facilities and expanding our programs—a great example is the student union expansion and renovation project for which we broke ground just yesterday.

We need a strong connection with you, going forward, because we need your insights into how the world is changing, and how we can better prepare tomorrow’s graduates. We need you to help open doors for future generations of Rose-Hulman students and graduates, just as those alumni before you have done for you. We need you to be ever mindful about how you can impact Rose-Hulman and help us succeed for generations to come. It’s a circle of support that has made our institution great, and your responsibility is to keep that circle thriving.

So, to the Class of 2016, congratulations once again! We are so proud of your accomplishments these past few years, and the inspiring way in which you stepped up to meet your responsibilities! We also know that this is not an ending, just a transition to the next chapter of your story. Just as you’re not finished meeting your responsibilities, we know that we’re far from done being proud of how you will succeed. The future is in your hands, and we will continue to watch with excitement and anticipation!

Spring Commencement - May 30, 2015

Reflect Rose-Hulman as you make your mark, make a difference

I am thrilled to be among the first to congratulate you, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Class of 2015, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, the faculty and the staff. This is a day brimming with emotions: excitement, pride, anticipation, trepidation, relief, happiness, and perhaps even a bit of sadness mixed in.

For me, near the top of the list is gratitude. I’m thankful to you, the Class of 2015, for entrusting us with the remarkable task of helping you shape your future. For me, and for all of the educators and supporters who are part of the Rose-Hulman faculty and staff, it has been a privilege to share in these chapters of your story. Thank you for allowing us to play these rewarding roles.

And I hope that you, too, will take the opportunity to express YOUR gratitude—to say “thank you” to all of those people who have helped make this experience possible. Please say “thank you” to your parents and other family supporters, “thank you” to the benefactors who provided your scholarships and many of the facilities we have here, and also “thank you” to the educators at Rose-Hulman. They made a choice to pursue a career here on our campus, often turning down much more lucrative opportunities, choosing instead to be your mentors, to help you learn and grow. As Thomas Jefferson once declared, “The reward of esteem, respect, and gratitude is due to those who devote their time and efforts to render the youths of every successive age fit governors for the next.”

As we celebrate the completion of your studies here at Rose-Hulman, I hope that you agree with my belief that you’ve just received the best education in the world. That’s a bold statement, I know, but I truly believe that here in Terre Haute, Indiana, we have built something very special--an exceptional educational experience that has prepared you for a journey of greatness and fulfillment. The question is, how do we maintain and build upon the best education in the world?

Notice that I said, “How do WE maintain and build upon the best education in the world?” When I say “WE,” I’m including YOU, the Rose-Hulman Class of 2015. Of course, as president, the future of Rose-Hulman is my job. But as alumni of Rose-Hulman, that job belongs to you, too. How do you fulfill that responsibility?

First of all, by going into the world and being amazing at what you do. Whether you’re moving into a job in science, technology, engineering, math, or a completely different field--or whether you’re entering military service or continuing your education--the work you do every day has the potential to increase the value of your degree, and the value of the degrees that future Rose-Hulman graduates will earn. Please, go show the world the knowledge, experience and expertise you gained here. I promise you, the world will be as impressed with you as I am, and they will be impressed with your alma mater, as well.

But knowledge and skills are just the beginning. I challenge you to also show the world the other, less tangible but equally important characteristics that were part of your experience here. Show the world your professionalism, your commitment to excellence, your powerful work ethic, and your dedication to ethical decision-making. As a Rose-Hulman graduate, display those values as a badge of honor. By being an example, you’ll be turning heads and enhancing the value of a Rose-Hulman degree.

Another way you can play your part in helping us deliver the best education in the world--share with us what you learn after you leave here. We thrive on the feedback we receive from our alumni who are now practicing on the cutting edge of science, technology, medicine, and engineering. We need you to tell us what future graduates must know, what skills and preparation they require. In a dramatically changing world, we need your eyes and ears and ideas to help us continue to develop and deliver exceptional educational experiences, to continue to remain relevant in a changing world. Your feedback also will help us build the kinds of lifelong learning opportunities that we hope will continue to nourish your growth and keep you connected to Rose-Hulman.

It is both humbling and inspiring to look out across this gathering of graduates and think about the possibilities. In front of me, I see an extraordinary collection of individuals. When you leave here today, you’re heading in countless different directions, heading off to touch countless different parts of the world in ways that we can hardly begin to imagine. What I feel certain about is this: spectacular things are going to happen.

I know that, because I know you’re leaving here feeling an obligation to achieve, to use the skills you learned here and the experiences you had, so that you can bring value to everything you touch. Whatever direction you choose, your task is to deliver the value that you are uniquely capable of adding. As John F. Kennedy famously observed, “of those to whom much is given, much is required.” JFK could have been speaking directly to you—much has been given to you in your years here, and the world expects much from you. Indeed, the world NEEDS great things from you.

I realize that sounds dramatic, and that from your current vantage point at the beginning of your next chapter, it may be difficult to envision what kinds of great things lie ahead. Just remember that every great thing begins small, and the smaller steps that are in your near vision still have major significance. For example, think about the times you’ve interacted with young Rose-Hulman alumni who have returned to campus to share lessons from their early-career experiences—now it’s YOUR turn to be those guideposts. You’ll soon have more wisdom to share than you may realize.

That kind of interaction is one part of what we envision when we speak of “Forever Rose.” You’re among the first to graduate under the banner of “Forever Rose,” so you have the opportunity to help us define just what that means. Within moments, you’ll be graduates of Rose-Hulman, and though for most of you, that means your time as a student is complete, you are forever connected to this institution. You have a key role in the future of Rose-Hulman—how we educate tomorrow’s graduates, how we connect them to their future careers, how we move ahead from a position of strength, how we’re perceived in the world. And Rose-Hulman has a key role in your future—as you pursue lifelong learning, as you create opportunities with Rose-Hulman on your resume, as you make your mark in the world. “Forever Rose” means you’re not closing a book today, but simply turning to the next chapter. The page before you is blank right now—“Forever Rose” means we’re in this together as you write a story that will make all of us proud.

Thank you again, for sharing these years with us, and congratulations!

Terre Haute Rotary Presentation - April 2, 2015

Terre Haute South Rotary Club - 2015

Thank you for inviting me to be a guest speaker for the Terre Haute South Rotary Club.

On behalf of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, thank you for your long history of dedication to service in our community.

Service to others is at the very core of what we do. Rose-Hulman’s Vision Statement says, in part:

“Rose-Hulman graduates will be inspired and prepared for lives of purpose and success, defining and solving the problems of a complex global society.”

To that end:

We have some of the best faculty in the nation, as recognized by the Princeton Review

We’ve been ranked No. 1 in undergraduate engineering by U.S. News and World Report for 16 years straight.

We are known for our rigorous coursework that gives our graduates a foundation for success.

Because of all of these things, we attract the best students from around the globe.

We equip and expect our graduates to be the future leaders and doers who make a difference in the world.

But at Rose-Hulman we also feel strongly about the importance of contributing to the community in which we live and work.

I would like to share with you today some of the ways in which our campus community has helped make Terre Haute and the Wabash Valley a better place.

Each year, four days a week, from September through May, 150 Rose-Hulman students staff the phone lines—and provide an academic lifeline—to students across Indiana.

In the late 1980s, local industry leaders expressed a need for a better educated hiring pool, particularly within the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Rose-Hulman’s Homework Hotline began as a response to that need. In 1991, the hotline began providing free math and science tutoring sessions to middle and high school students in Vigo County.

Surrounding counties took notice. Soon, the program expanded.

With the help of the Lilly Endowment, The Homework Hotline has grown to service the entire state of Indiana.

Since 1991, Homework Hotline tutors have conducted more than 500,000 sessions overall.

Christmas is a little brighter each year for hundreds of disadvantaged youth, thanks to the Bikes for Tykes program. The program partners Rose-Hulman with Terre Haute’s Chances and Services for Youth to provide new bicycles to needy Terre Haute youngsters.

More than 200 volunteers, including Rose-Hulman’s Greek organizations, athletic teams, and other student groups, along with the faculty and staff, assemble the bikes each year.

In 2014, participants built 400 bikes in less than three hours.

Each bike receives a thorough safety inspection after assembly, courtesy of Rose-Hulman’s Human Powered Vehicle team and the student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Since 2000, the Rose-Hulman community has built 5,250 bicycles.

Rose-Hulman’s quarterly blood drives help ensure that adequate blood supplies are available for patients suffering from illness, injury, or accident.

Our campus community has donated 28,110 units of blood donated since 1977.

That is equal to 12,650 liters. With the potential to save 84,330 lives.

Over the past several years, Rose-Hulman has partnered with the Terre Haute Children’s Museum through outreach programs and student projects.

Most recently, a multidisciplinary team of four students designed and built a new interactive exhibit featuring a miniature race track to help get local kids excited about science and technology.

The exhibit uses motion sensors—as opposed to a joystick—to move a model car around the track. Players use buttons on the machine to replenish virtual fuel and tires, rev the engine, and cause the crowd to do the wave.

Our campus community supports the local agencies that are making a difference daily in our community. We do this with time and talent, but also through monetary giving.

Examples of this generosity include:

Rose-Hulman employees have given $254,896 since 2010 to United Way.

The Cecil T. Lobo student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers organizes an annual golf outing that raises more than $2,000 each year for Habitat for Humanity.

And since 1989, the Rose-Hulman community has donated nearly $50,000 to Tribune-Star Christmas Basket Fund.

Biomedical Engineering students have used their senior design projects to meet real-world challenges for local people.

Last year, a student team created assistive solutions for enhancing equine therapy sessions, which helped make the therapy safer and more effective.

Another design team created a solution for empowering disabled persons to overcome employment barriers with a device for Development Services, Inc. that assists in measuring and packaging cornstarch.

Each October, students, faculty and staff spread out across the city to lend a helping hand at schools, churches, libraries and other organizations and community agencies in our annual Day of Service.

Last fall, 378 students, plus faculty and staff, served 30 organizations during this event. They hammered, painted, hauled, raked, and met other various needs at 33 sites across the Terre Haute area.

Rose-Hulman’s chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha raised $300 and partnered with the international Help Portrait organization to provide a photo shoot with residents of the Terre Haute Light House Mission.

Volunteers offered pre-photo hair and make-up sessions for the participants to help them look their best.

More than 30 individuals and family groups had a professional portrait taken.

Our students may live here only a short time, but they are making an impact on the community that will last for years to come.

Civil Engineering students designed a new city park in a former brownfield area at 500 Maple Avenue. The park includes a stocked lake, picnic shelters, a walking trail and parking area.

Another civil engineering team is helping revitalize the riverfront with plans for a Wabash River Promenade and Downtown Terre Haute Gateway.

Over the past 5 years, the Rose-Hulman community has given more than 10,000 hours of volunteer service.

Using equations developed by the non-profit advocacy organization Independent Sector, that time translates into $215,600.

At Rose-Hulman, our culture of service isn’t just about giving dollars, or even giving time.

It’s about building and nurturing community partnerships, one student, one team, one project at a time.

Investment in K-12 STEM education could pay big dividends - Published in The Indianapolis Star February 28, 2015

Investment in K-12 STEM education could pay big dividends

We’ve heard a great deal in recent years about the growing importance of preparing students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math—known as STEM fields.  The demand for STEM graduates has been well documented, but less may be understood about how to get Indiana students excited about these careers.

As president of an engineering college, I see both ends of the supply-and-demand pipeline. On the front end, Rose-Hulman and other engineering and technical institutions seek a diverse group of students with a strong foundation in math and science, in order to prepare them for careers in science, information technology and engineering. Then, at the other end, employers look for a diverse candidate pool of new professional graduates.

That may seem fairly straightforward, but ensuring a diverse student body and, in turn, a diverse STEM workforce, compels a great deal of groundwork well before students are of college age. Exposing youngsters to STEM areas in the early grades, keeping that interest alive through exceptional teaching, and ensuring that students take rigorous high school courses, are important strategies for increasing the number of students who will be drawn to STEM professions.

The importance of kindergarten-through-grade 12 STEM preparation is why I spoke to the Indiana House Education Committee in January in favor of a bill that would have created and sustained a STEM Pathway Network to strengthen K-12 STEM education statewide. Under House Bill 1222, which did not survive the budget process, networks would have been established throughout the state to provide curricular materials, training, and support to teachers and schools, and evaluation of the success of STEM education in Indiana.

The National Science Foundation reports that minorities account for fewer than 20 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded in science and engineering, and even lower percentages of master’s and doctoral degrees. Women have been gaining ground in much of the STEM workforce, especially in biosciences, but are still underrepresented in engineering, computer sciences and physics.

Women and minorities inspired to pursue STEM careers stand to benefit financially as well as professionally. A 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report concluded: “STEM occupations…are viewed as having some of the best opportunities for job growth in the future. Currently, they make up more than one out of every 10 jobs in the United States and have wages that are approaching nearly twice the U.S. average.”

Each year, more than 400 companies recruit at Rose-Hulman, and a recurring lament is the nationwide shortage of STEM workers, particularly women and minorities. Yet, we as a state and nation may not be able to improve those numbers if we do not tackle the issue at its roots. Investing in elementary and secondary STEM education has the potential to pay great dividends later.

Spring Commencement - May 31, 2014

Presidential address for Commencement 2014

It is my great honor to offer my congratulations to you—the Class of 2014—on behalf of the Board of Trustees, the faculty, and the staff. Your accomplishments have been remarkable. But what astounds me even more is my realization that this experience was just an opening act for you, a brief glimpse into a future that I am certain will be shaped by your creativity, passion, and innovation. As proud as I am right now of your achievements, I can only imagine how I’ll feel when I witness what you do next in your careers and your lives.

Looking back on your educational experience here, where do I even begin? There are far too many highlights to list them all. I could speak of countless awards you have earned and the competitions you have won. I could talk about the real-world—sometimes even lifesaving—innovations that you as students have helped bring to market, here on campus and as student interns at Rose-Hulman Ventures. I could share details of the dazzling senior design presentations that I’ve seen. I know you’ve fine-tuned your special brand of inventiveness and collaboration from our world-renowned faculty, our caring staff, and your fellow classmates. The greatness that is within you has left its mark in many places, and you’ve only just begun a path to a rewarding future.

What I want to add is that such greatness brings with it a duty. Think back over your lifetime, and back further, many more generations. The great advances humanity has enjoyed, the positive change… they have, for the most part, been driven by gifted people educated in the sciences, in technology, in engineering, in mathematics. These people have filled their intellect with the building blocks of greatness, and have then ventured out and solved the problems of their day. They have made the world a better place for us today.

You share that same duty as you leave here now. You have a gift that the world needs. The problems that humanity faces are ever-more complex, and the solutions ever-more critically important to discover and create. The knowledge and abilities you have developed here belong to you, but the world will be a much more wonderful place if you share them generously. Be proud of what you’ve learned, what you’ve become—but please, don’t keep it to yourselves.

The great things you achieve from here on out will also benefit Rose-Hulman. The diploma you have earned has tremendous value, and much of that value is a reflection of the exceptional works of our alumni who experienced commencement, just like you this afternoon. Just like the members of the Class of 1964 whom have joined us today to receive and celebrate their 50-year commemorative degrees.

Consider this—we have had a record number of employers visit us here this year, attending our career fairs—in this very space—because they wanted to meet you. They have seen what Rose-Hulman graduates have done in the past, the accomplishments of the alumni who ventured into the world before you—those helped to open the doors of opportunity through which you’re about to walk.

Thanks to your drive and your accomplishments, but also in part to the examples set by our distinguished alumni, the vast majority of you have by now either been accepted into prestigious graduate schools or been offered exciting jobs… many of you have multiple offers from which to choose. These aren’t just any jobs, either… they have excellent potential for growth, plus pay scales that rank our degrees among the nation’s highest educational return-on-investment.

I ask you to consider the role you will play in continually building Rose-Hulman’s reputation and keeping that pipeline of opportunity open. Like the alumni who have walked across this stage in the past, what you achieve will help create the opportunities for Rose-Hulman’s great minds of the future.

You also can help maintain the value of your Rose-Hulman diploma by staying connected. I hope that you’ll be there when a Rose-Hulman student needs an internship or a real-world career mentor. I hope that you will help us seek out and recruit the next generation of exceptional students. I hope that you will lend whatever support you can as we move forward, implement our strategic plan, and advance Rose-Hulman yet again to an even higher level of excellence.

Today marks the completion of my first school year as president of this great institution, and what I have seen over the past year confirms what a great choice I made in accepting the invitation. I wanted to be part of a place that would constantly challenge you and me alike, to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday, to make a difference every day, in every way that we can.

I found that place right here, and know that I made the right choice. I trust that you feel the same sense of satisfaction about the choice that you made… and I truly hope that the challenge to constantly grow and improve follows you wherever your career path leads you.

I know the greatness that I see as I look across this talented Class of 2014 right now. And if you maintain that passion to be better tomorrow than you were yesterday… I know that the future is in great hands.

Thank you, and congratulations!

Ready to begin: New Rose-Hulman president helps students move in – August 30, 2013

Ready to begin: New Rose-Hulman president helps students move in

Incoming freshman Thomas Dil had no idea that a VIP would help him move into the Bauer-Sames-Bogart residence hall Friday afternoon.

He soon learned that the guy helping him and others carry in boxes, luggage and musical instruments was none other than James Conwell, the new president of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, who began his tenure May 1.

Of course, the small media entourage accompanying Conwell might have tipped people off.

The president, who has a down-to-earth style and a quick sense of humor, soon put Dil at ease. When Dil, a Tampa, Fla. resident, told the president he played the violin, Conwell shared, “I can play the radio.”

Of course, family took photos of Dil and his Brazilian (South America) roommate, Georges Adam, with the college president.

“It’s been nice to meet you,” the president said as he left the room in search of more freshmen, and more stuff to carry.

As Conwell began his work in sweltering heat that registered about 94 degrees, he joked with those nearby, “Where do the cars with the light stuff stop?”

Later, he said, “I love work. I could watch it being done all day.”

Adam, commenting on the president’s hands-on approach to move-in day, said one thing that prompted him to choose Rose-Hulman was the family-like atmosphere. “Everyone is family here,” he said.

His mother, Elena, said that is reassuring to her as she prepares to return home to South America. “It’s good to know everybody supports him,” she said. “I’m sure he will have a great time here and learn a lot.”

Adam said the school’s No. 1 ranking by U.S. News and World Report also caught his attention. For years, Rose-Hulman has been ranked the No. 1 undergraduate engineering college in the nation. 

Dil’s mom, Barbara, was pleasantly surprised that the college president helped her son move in. “I can’t believe he was here,” she said, smiling.

Conwell also helped freshman James Broughton with move-in.

Broughton’s father, John, was impressed. “I like a guy who rolls up his sleeves, and on a 90-plus degree day,” he said. They are from Libertyville, Ill.

Friday was move-in day for Rose-Hulman freshmen, and as usual, it’s a group with some pretty impressive credentials.

  • The Median SAT and ACT scores are the highest in more than a decade.
  • One in 11 freshmen students has a perfect math score on either the SAT or ACT.
  • 93 of the 334 incoming students graduated first, second or third among high schools that rank in class.
  • The median weighted high school GPA was 3.97.

The freshmen class also includes a record number of women (125); students from 34 states and nine countries; and a record number of international students, with the largest group from China (48 students).

Others are attending from India, Thailand, Russia, Brazil, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Canada.

The 561 freshmen and 15 transfer students represent the second largest number of new students in the institute’s history, officials say. That success, plus returning students, means Rose-Hulman will start the academic year with record enrollment.

Total undergraduate and graduate enrollment will be about 2,250, said James A. Goecker, vice president for enrollment management.

The freshmen moving in “are not one dimensional kids,” Goecker said. About half were involved in high school athletics, and many others were involved in music or drama.

The incoming class was selected from a record total applications (5,046).

Campus housing is at 102 percent of capacity, Goecker said, with some tripling of rooms. “Students like being on campus,” Goecker said.

National Road Interpretive Panel Dedication - June 13, 2013

National Road Interpretive Panel Dedication

Thank you, Rob. Welcome everyone, and thank you for joining us this afternoon.

As Rob mentioned, I'm Jim Conwell and soon I will be reaching my second full month as serving as Rose-Hulman's president.

I've been in a period of grand discovery here at Rose-Hulman. Every day I am learning and exploring new areas around campus, and I was interested to hear about this little gem in our history.

I am happy we are taking a few moments today to dedicate the Historic National Road, Interpretive Panel Project here at the site of Coffee Cottage. Executive Director Joe Frost will tell you a little bit more about that project in a moment.

Before coming to Rose-Hulman, I was a practicing engineer for 17 years in industry. And like most engineers, part of my personal drive is fixing and solving problems—and with any luck, leaving the world in a better place as a result.

Making a real impact and leaving a legacy are parts of the Rose-Hulman culture. This is actively demonstrated within our students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Now consider this wonderfully picturesque Coffee Cottage, and its symbolism to us. We can easily envision this structure in the 1930s as an early Texaco gasoline station—when gas was a mere 17 cents a gallon.

We can imagine the stories this cottage could tell as it serviced thousands of travelers along the highway for the next 50 years.

As engineers, we can appreciate the innovations to the auto industry in those 50 years and how this structure has seen those evolutions.

This building's story gets even more interesting when you think that it was spared demolition. Thanks to the attention and generosity of Bill and Trish Eccles, the couple had the cottage moved to our Rose-Hulman property in 1999 and restored it to how travelers would have seen it during the early days of the National Road.

Since then, the cottage has served not only as a charming focal point, but also as a practical concession stand for athletic events here.

In true Rose-Hulman fashion, Bill and Trish make an inspiring partnership of giving back. They both were instrumental in the creation of the Indiana National Road Association.

For years, Trish has been a high-energy activist and environmentalist in the Terre Haute community making a real and lasting difference, including projects with Trees, Inc.

And Bill has served our institute as a professor of electrical and computer engineering until his recent retirement. Bill was also a faculty advisor to our "Solar Phantom" solar car program—inspiring our students to innovations in transportation.

Bill and Trish, you both were already a part of our rich Rose-Hulman history—and today, with this dedication, the Coffee Cottage will be a lasting symbol of your legacy here.

Thank you, Bill and Trish Eccles, for your care and concern to this part of American and Wabash Valley history.

And in the future, we will welcome tourists and history buffs who will stop and visit this part of the Historic National Road Interpretive Panel Project.

On behalf of the faculty and staff at Rose-Hulman, I know I share their pride at our special location on the National Road. And our pride in Rose-Hulman's role in American history by providing hundreds of engineers who helped to build the transportation systems for the Crossroads of America, and beyond.

Thank you.

Spring Commencement - May 25, 2013

Commencement 2013 Remarks

Thank you, Chairman Fenoglio. I am excited to be here today and offer my greetings to everyone in the Rose-Hulman family gathered here. To the Class of 2013, congratulations on your accomplishments! Whatever the next stop in your journey might be, I am confident that you’ll make a remarkable contribution.

We’ve been talking about transitions today, and I, too, am making an exciting transition. I’m returning to the world of education following a fulfilling career in the business of engineering. For those of you in the Class of 2013 who are preparing to enter that world, I can tell you that the knowledge and problem-solving skills you bring with you are very much in demand. For those of you who plan to spend a little more time in the academic world, I am thrilled to be joining you!

While we’re on the subject of transitions, I want to offer special recognition and thanks to the leader who directed this great institution through a difficult period of transition. Rob Coons has served Rose well as interim president following the passing of President Branam just over a year ago. Rob’s steady hand guided the Rose-Hulman family through this very sad and challenging time, and he helped the institution to not only stay on track, but also to make great strides toward our future through a successful and inspirational strategic planning process.

Thank you for your dedication, and know that your service has made Rose-Hulman a better and stronger institution.

I am grateful for the opportunity to lead this amazing institution, and look forward to offering many more students the chance to experience the happy transitions that members of the Class of 2013 are celebrating today. Thank you for the warm welcome, and once again, congratulations to today’s graduates!