At Rose-Hulman, we have a tradition of leadership in higher
education that is alive and well in 2012. We are in the midst of
The "Great" Debate, a yearlong conversation on the future
of our school. Within this debate we will chart the path from
"best" to "great."
Your input is needed in The "Great" Debate. You, the
alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and friends of Rose-Hulman are
among the smartest, best educated, and most innovative people in
the world. Your ideas will help us continue to lead the way
in teaching engineering, science, and math at the undergraduate
We are wrestling with how best to prepare our students for the
challenges and opportunities their future holds. We are reconciling
the difference between our aspirations and our realities at
Rose-Hulman, and we are studying the leading edge of engineering,
science, and math education to ensure we continue to lead the
If we can tap your collective wisdom, ideas, and experiences, we
can envision a future for Rose-Hulman that will be truly great for
our students and will enhance the impact our alumni have on the
In the Fall issue of Echoes, I recalled for you some
previous plans that guided our school through times of tremendous
change-The Institute Commission on Self Study, conducted
in the '70s, and the Commission on the Future of
Rose-Hulman, in the early '90s. We are all grateful to those
of you who participated in crafting those plans. Your vision
steered this little engineering school in Terre Haute through past
waves of change and challenge, and earned us national recognition
as the best undergraduate engineering school in America for 13
But, in today's world, 13 years is a very long time. Thirteen
years ago technology's dot com bubble was intact; the Twin Towers
dominated their skyline; my cell phone was a clam shell; Congress
was contemplating a surplus; unleaded gasoline cost a dollar a
gallon . . .
You get the idea.
Innovation, globalization, and hyper-connected networking have
changed our lifestyles. Disruptive technology, disrupted markets,
soaring oil and gold prices, and raging deficits have played
significant roles in the way we do business, and the BRIC (Brazil,
Russia, India, and China) countries have emerged as major economic
competitors and partners. Our country has changed the way it
handles calamity, fights disease, communicates news, delivers
value, socializes, plays games, learns information, and how it goes
to college. Yet demand for what we do at Rose-Hulman continues to
increase. We have seen another record number of applications for
admission this year. Those applications come from addresses and
computers throughout the world.
So, we have to understand, as best we can, the major shifts
taking place in the world around us. Today, we are witnessing a
change in higher education-distance learning, online education,
inverted classrooms, dual-degree programs with global partner
schools, e-books, peer-to-peer learning, for-profit universities,
and problem-based learning. Colleges and universities that will be
strongest tomorrow will assess the ever changing landscape and
improve what they are doing today.
There is no question in my mind that we are entering a period of
disruption in the business model of higher education. But, I am
less concerned about that than I am about our students and how the
education we provide will serve them going forward.
In order to gain insight into the world into which our students
will graduate, and to inform The "Great" Debate with the
reality of just how much change we can anticipate, I have asked our
faculty, staff, and trustees to read That Used To Be Us,
by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. I hope you will read it
too. I have found Thomas Friedman to be an intelligent, relatively
unbiased reporter with unparalleled access to thought leaders
across the world. Through our reading of a common book, we can all
enjoy a common vocabulary in The "Great" Debate, and we
can all better discuss the future of the education we believe our
world demands that we teach.
So far in The "Great" Debate, we have reviewed
thousands of pages of research on the current state of the art in
engineering, science, and math education. We have also read
publications developed by numerous engineering and scientific
organizations about the future of engineering. We have met with
alumni in three cities (Naples, Los Angeles, and Dallas) so far,
with several other meetings planned during the next few months. We
have met with more than 280 of our faculty and staff, dozens of
students, and parents, and we have analyzed surveys of more than 20
percent of our alumni. There are many ways to get involved and
impact the future of your school by sharing your experiences and
ideas. We are determined to reach a majority of our constituents.
Please join The "Great" Debate by attending one of our
upcoming events. (See the list of cities inside the front cover
page of this issue.)
Rose-Hulman is our school. As alumni, we have a great
responsibility to ensure that our students of today, and tomorrow,
benefit from a Rose-Hulman education as much as we have.
Let's make it happen. Make it fun.
President Matt Branam is a 1979 Rose-Hulman alumnus.