Phil Cornwell had to borrow a tie for his formal interview to
become Rose-Hulman's Vice President for Academic Affairs this
summer. He had no need for the neck garment during his 22 years as
a mechanical engineering professor.
"When I was a professor I always told my students that ties were
evil and somehow cut off the creative thought processes in the
brain," he jokes, taking time to playfully tug at his necktie that
now has become a part of his campus wardrobe.
Cornwell is Rose-Hulman's academic visionary and cheerleader,
hoping to bring support and creative ideas from alumni,
corporations, foundations, and academic organizations to ensure the
college remains on the cutting edge of educational innovation.
Although Rose-Hulman has taken one of its most dynamic teachers
out of the classroom, it has become significantly stronger through
Cornwell's leadership skills, attention to detail, charm and
appreciation for the educational process.
"Phil's passion for our mission will become instrumental as we
develop a better understanding of Rose-Hulman's place in the
dynamically changing environment of higher education," says
President Matt Branam of Cornwell's appointment in July.
Cornwell hit the ground running. He has enjoyed learning about
the many exciting things happening in all academic departments
across campus, contributing to the college's administrative
leadership, and helping set a course for an exciting future.
"I don't know of any other college that has a clearer focus on
its mission-educating its students-than we do. My job is to ensure
that we always have a great mission, great faculty, and great
students," Cornwell says. "The primary measure of Rose- Hulman's
success should always be the success of its students."
Cornwell is one of a select group of Rose- Hulman professors to
have earned the Dean's Outstanding Teacher Award and the Board of
Trustees Outstanding Scholar Award. He has had the best paper and
presentation in the mechanics division at five American Society of
Engineering Education annual conferences. He also is a former
recipient of the Society of Automotive Engineers' Ralph R. Teetor
Education Award as an outstanding young engineering educator, and
he received the Rose-Hulman Triangle Fraternity's Teacher of the
"I miss teaching and the first day of classes this year was a
sentimental time for me," he says. "However, I am ready and looking
for a new challenge.
"Becoming vice president seemed to be a great opportunity to
help the school in a larger role. I'm committed to keeping us on
the cutting edge of educational horizons and being a leader in
engineering education," he says.
Cornwell believes that the college needs to have a broader
impact on undergraduate engineering, science, and math education
through innovation, cross-disciplinary projects, sustainability
awareness, and leadership development.
"We produce excellent engineers, mathematicians, and scientists.
But the world is changing. Our students need to have a better
understanding of the global economy and the international nature of
business," he said. "We need to help our students be those
innovators that make a difference in the future. So, while the
basic technical skills that we teach are always going to be
important, there are other aspects of a Rose-Hulman education such
as international experiences and business acumen that we need to
"One of our key challenges as educators is to help our students be
lifelong learners. We teach our students a lot of subjects, and we
give them lots of great handson and project experiences. However,
we need to be more deliberate in how we teach them how to learn. We
also need to help them develop even stronger communication and
leadership skills than we already do for them to be successful in a
highly competitive marketplace," he says.
Cornwell is encouraged by the state-ofthe- art products being
developed at Rose- Hulman Ventures. He sees the opening of the
Student Innovation Center and the Home for Environmentally
Responsible Engineering program as new initiatives that will help
pave the way for Rose- Hulman's bright future.
"There's a lot of excitement about the future on campus," he said.
"If you're interested in undergraduate engineering, science and
math education, this is The Best place to be in the whole world.
This is the place where things are happening. If anyone can figure
out how to do things better, it will be us." ■