Business Scaling

Purdue’s Big Plans For Business Education

Purdue University Board of Trustees chairman Mike Berghoff talks about the new Purdue School of Business at the Purdue President’s Council dinner in September. Berghoff is an undergraduate alum of the business school, and four of 10 of Purdue’s trustees graduated from the business school. Courtesy photo

To put Purdue University’s ambitious plans to expand and reshape its business education in context, think about it in four big buckets, says David Hummels, dean of the Krannert School of Management.

The first is Purdue’s long held philosophy of “excellence at scale,” the idea that to have true impact on the world, you need to reach enough people to enact it. In this regard, the business school plans to further increase its student enrollment (which is already up 33% since 2019 at the undergraduate level), hire more faculty and staff (up 50% in the last decade), and double its facility size in about four years.

The second bucket is to continue its focus on STEM-oriented degrees, building upon the success of its Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE) degree launched in fall 2021. And the third is centering the classical liberal approach in Purdue’s Cornerstone program as a way to think about business problems.

Finally, the new Purdue School of Business, as it is now called, will greatly expand its experiential and project-based learning so that it’s something all students can deeply engage in, not just the top 10% of superstars. Think undergraduate research opportunities, corporate consulting, and more.

“We want these to be things that all of our students experience,” Hummels tells Poets&Quants.

A BUSINESS SCHOOL REIMAGINED

David Hummels

On September 23, Purdue announced its “next big move,” a reimagined, re-engineered business program with a new name: the Purdue School of Business. The announcement was timed as the last big initiative to be unveiled under university president Mitch Daniels’ decade-long tenure, though conversations have been ongoing for several years. Mung Chiang, Purdue University’s president-elect, dean of engineering, and executive vice president of strategic initiatives will take the reins of Purdue University effective January 1, 2023.

The reimagining will come with substantial university investment along with a major fundraising effort that will bring new renaming possibilities in the coming months for the program as a whole. Graduate programs will continue to use the Krannert moniker, Hummels says.

The new school will build upon the success of a series of recent cap feathers, including a highly-ranked business analytics program, its new Dean V. White Real Estate Finance program, and a $10-million gift from Marshall and Susan Larsen for its innovative Larsen Leaders Academy.

“The analogy I’ve been using, and one that I may be way too in love with, is if you look at the Fortune 500 in 1962 when Krannert was founded, it was steel firms, oil firms, plastics and cars, and industrial conglomerates. Very few of the firms that are at the top of the Fortune 500 today even existed in 1962,” says Hummels.

“So, as we think about preparing students, the challenge is that we have no idea what the most important firms will look like 20 or 30 or 40 years from now. We are preparing students for industries that don’t even exist. The answer to doing that lies with preparing students to be problem solvers who can operate between STEM and business disciplines.”

Poets&Quants spoke with dean Hummels to learn more about the major changes coming for business education at Purdue University. Our conversation, presented below, has been edited for length and clarity.

Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management

What is the timeline for this rollout? Has the name officially changed, or is this the start of a longer rollout?

The Krannert name that we’ve been using was originally tied to a gift in 1962 for the Graduate School of Industrial Administration, and it never covered undergraduate programs or the larger effort. Sometime in the mid ’80s, the dean at the time decided that, for the sake of simplicity, to call everything Krannert. So, we’ve just used that even though, technically speaking, our undergraduates are not Krannert management grads.

The way this is going to work is that there will be a named overall school of business under which there will be Krannert graduate programs and then undergraduate programs. It’s possible that there may be some additional naming, both for the overall school as well as the undergraduate programs, and I anticipate that will probably be settled sometime around the February timeframe.

So graduate programs will still be under the Krannert School of Management?

Yes. Krannert School of Management within a larger Purdue School of Business.

I read you’re also looking to double the size of the business school facility itself. Tell us more about that.

The first piece of this is that we’ve grown pretty significantly in terms of our enrollment and our staff and faculty. Our faculty headcount in the last decade is up about 50%, and our student enrollments on the undergraduate side have gone from 2,400 to 3,100 in the last few years. Moving forward, we’re going to take the undergraduate enrollments up to something like 4,000 majors, and our goal is for one out of every five Purdue students from outside the business school to graduate with a minor with us. That’s on the order of another 2,000 students.

A rendering of expansion and renovation plans for the new Purdue School of Business. (Illustration by Ayers Saint Gross)

As for grad programs, when they were entirely residential, they were something on the order of 400 students a year. Now that we offer online programs we’re around 1,100 to 1,200 graduate students. Our goal is to take that north of 2,000 students.

So if you think about all of that enrollment growth, we will add a very substantial number of staff and faculty. What we like to talk about at Purdue is excellence at scale: You don’t have any sort of impact in the world if you have an excellent program that serves 10 people.

The facility will house a lot of that activity, but it will also be very focused on modern active learning pedagogies, innovation labs, a lot unique spaces that create interactivity – both student to student and student to faculty, and also interactions with external partners, whether that’s other units on campus or corporate partners.

And what is the timeline for this facility expansion?

In the announcement made last month, we referenced the fact that over the 10 years that Mitch Daniels has been president at Purdue, we have launched a number of major initiatives that we call Purdue’s Big Moves. These were dramatic expansion moves around things like Data Science and Engineering, plant science, transformative education, and so on. This is, in some sense, the last major move that President Daniels will engage in over his decade-long tenure.

In terms of timeline, we hope to have the new facility online probably by fall of 2026. So some of the enrollment in faculty and staff growth has to be tied a little bit to the new space. But, I’ll tell you, if we have the same amount of growth in our student enrollments that we’ve had the last few years, we’ll hit those numbers in probably four to five years.

NEXT PAGE: How Purdue’s business school has bucked national enrollment trends

Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management

It’s interesting to see your undergraduate numbers rise so dramatically, because we’ve done some reporting, as have others, that demand for higher education at the undergraduate level is softening somewhat. Not necessarily in business education, and not necessarily at school’s with more national reputations, like Purdue. But does that trend factor in at all to your enrollment projections, particularly has college education has become so much more expensive and students look to alternatives?

I think there are a few pieces to this. Even as universities come up on the demographic cliff of a declining number of 18-year olds — and the fraction of those 18-year olds who go to college has been dropping for the last few years — we’ve been bucking that trend in a very significant way. In the last four years, we’ve almost doubled the number of applications to our business school.

The reason for that is probably three things. First, as everybody else’s tuition keeps going up, Purdue’s tuition has been frozen for a decade now. We are increasingly competitive as an out-of-state destination with a number of in-state tuition rates.

Second, I think that the overall reputation of the Purdue brand has been growing, and some of this is connected to the tuition freeze. We have a lot of top rankings for the university – most trusted, most innovative, these kinds of things – which I think have really helped to attract extremely strong application growth into the university as a whole.

The third piece, which is very specific to what we are doing in the business school, is that where we have launched these new STEM-oriented degrees – the intersection of business and engineering in one, and business and science in the other – we have seen just explosive growth in the applications into those programs. As an example, I want to say maybe a third of our applicants this last year were into just those two majors. And the students that we admitted into the programs have SATs scores like 100 points higher than our typical students. So huge volume, great interest from extremely high quality students coming from all over the country into these programs. We don’t see anything that would prevent us from continuing that winning streak.

Will you be looking at more of these kinds of STEM degrees as part of this move?

We will. I think the next piece is that the two programs I just mentioned in the undergraduate programs will grow pretty substantially, but we’ll start doing a number of new things on the graduate side. As an example, we’ll be launching a new PhD program in data science and business applications. The notion is to train students who are deep in data science methodologies, but who are applying that in the context of business problems.

The idea both feeds a growing demand among universities for faculty who can, for example, apply advanced machine learning techniques to investigate problems in finance, marketing, or accounting, as well as the huge demand in industry for people who are trained in that way. We will also be working to collaborate with our College of Engineering on some new programs, connected to things like managing disruptive technologies, leading innovation, and those kinds of things.

Anything at the executive level?

This is one I probably can’t name names on, but we have been working with some companies where a great deal of the workforce are engineers and scientists. They are deeply skilled in their fields, but lack some of the financial acumen that companies need for them to succeed. Whether it’s sort of connecting the science pieces to a P&L (Profit & Loss) statement or understanding how to lead people, there are lots of business skills that scientists and engineers need to be highly successful in a corporate context. So we have two or three major contracts with technology oriented, science and engineering companies because of the work we’re doing at the intersection of engineering.

 

How long has this Big Move, to use Purdue’s phrasing, been in the works?

In some sense, the roots of this are from the earliest days of the Krannert Graduate School of Industrial Administration. The school was founded back in 1962 as essentially a finishing school for engineers. The main product offering we had was a one-year MS program for scientists and engineers, and we gave them this incredibly intensive crash course on business fundamentals. Those folks went on to extraordinary careers, an amazing number of CEOs and founders have come out of that program.

Over the ensuing 50-something years, we sort of went increasingly in the direction of doing what everybody else is doing – offering residential MBAs and the full suite of the usual kind of business functional degrees. Over the last five years or so, we’ve had conversations with our Board of Trustees about recapturing some of the early magic that really made the school so special. It fits so well with what Purdue does as a university. My colleagues in engineering like to joke that they’re the No. 4 ranked undergraduate engineering program in the country, and they’re bigger than the top three combined.

So that’s this excellence at scale piece. There’s always been this sense of, as the business school on a STEM oriented campus, how do we take advantage of those assets? Perhaps the biggest catalyst in this was Mung Chiang, the president elect, who was the engineering dean for the last five years. He was really instrumental in working with us to make a meaningful collaboration. We were able to accomplish a level of collaboration in curricular design and now increasingly in joint hiring of faculty that really integrates those disciplines.

So, we are sort of recreating the essence of what made the school great 60 years ago, but in a way we see as being incredibly relevant and important for today’s companies.

What do you think distinguishes Purdue’s business programs, or will distinguish them, from other programs that are trying to be more interdisciplinary and integrated?

You know, we’ve looked pretty hard at other schools that do things jointly with engineering programs, for example. We don’t know of anyone who is integrated as deeply as we are or on the scale that we’re operating on. Some schools will operate pretty small, very high quality cross disciplinary programs, but we intend for this to be something like 40% of our undergraduate population. I think that’s one thing that’s really pretty distinctive.

There’s another piece of this that is going to be very important. There’s a program that our liberal arts college launched a number of years back called Cornerstone. The idea was to substantially upgrade a classical liberal arts experience for undergraduates at Purdue by using transformative texts. So, as students taking their English or their communications class, for example, they’re using texts that, from antiquity to modernity, are particularly relevant to the disciplines they study. Every school has an undergraduate core curriculum that covers liberal arts, but ours will be a lot more intentional and focused in order to significantly upgrade our students’ abilities to write well, speak well, and interact well, but doing it in the context of texts that are really foundational to the role of business in society, how the markets function, the roles of shareholders and stakeholders in businesses, and all these kinds of questions. The Cornerstone program within liberal arts is a nationally award winning program, and we’re taking the best parts of that and applying it in our context.

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