James C. Conwell, PhD, PE, addressed a few topics in an interview with national technology and business journalist Carolyn Duffy Marsan. Here are excerpts from that recent conversation:
Q: What attracted you to the job of Rose-Hulman president?
A: I’ve been on the front lines of engineering innovation for the last 17 years, and it is clear there’s an education crisis in America. Our country is simply not educating enough scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, and our industry is suffering. There are around 15,000 engineering and technical jobs in Michigan alone that can’t be filled today because of a shortage of qualified applicants. In terms of a higher personal purpose, I have an interest in being part of the solution for our industry and for our country’s place in the world. What interested me specifically about Rose-Hulman as an institution are the incredible personal relationships that the faculty and staff form with the students, the focus on undergraduate education, and the great concern the institute has for making sure students are capable of handling the challenges that are facing our society and our world.
Q: What are the best attributes of a Rose-Hulman education that you want to nurture during your tenure as president?
A: Rose-Hulman’s best attribute is the personal connection that the entire institute—-the faculty, staff, and its leaders—-has with the students. Every single person on campus takes an interest in the students. The culture of caring that exists throughout the institute is something that I want to protect and preserve. Also, Rose-Hulman students leave still curious, with the ability to be lifelong learners, to understand technology, and to address the challenges of a global society. I want to make sure we nurture that.
Q: Students, parents, and government leaders are putting pressure on higher education to hold down costs and demonstrate a return on investment for their degrees. What plans do you have for increasing the affordability of a Rose-Hulman education?
A: Education is one of the best investments you can ever make. I feel an unaffordable education is one that doesn’t help you land a good job upon graduation. More than 90 percent of our students have a job, have been accepted to graduate or medical school, or have been commissioned to military service by graduation. Companies who hire our graduates recognize the high-quality value of a Rose-Hulman education. That said, our strategic plan calls for Rose-Hulman to be an affordable institute of choice for students who are passionate about science, engineering, and mathematics. We will be studying costs as well as our ability to increase financial and merit aid.
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