I’ve seen a number of television and newspaper stories the last couple of weeks that talk about ISU’s and St. Mary of the Woods’ graduation ceremonies. Although you may not know it, Rose-Hulman is one of the relatively few schools in the country that still uses an academic quarter system. So, our commencement, which we traditionally hold the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend (May 26 this year), is still a couple of weeks away and will cap an incredibly busy month. As we wrap up the academic year, I thought this would be a good time to talk about some of the things happening on our campus – on the east side of Terre Haute.
To start, alumnus Jim Umpleby—the chief executive officer of Caterpillar—has graciously agreed to be our commencement speaker this year. Caterpillar is experiencing a strong upturn in business and Jim is looking forward to imparting to our graduates some of the skills he thinks are necessary for successfully managing a complex, capital-intensive business like Caterpillar. I am certainly looking forward to hearing what he has to say to our graduates.
We also just completed our Spring Career Fair. One of the Rose-Hulman constants is that our graduates remain in strong demand, and this year is certainly no different. We entered May with 80 percent of our graduating seniors having already accepted a full-time position. Typically, this time of year our normal level is about 70 percent. The number of companies and professional opportunities available for our students to explore also was up. Our Fall and Winter career fairs set records for not only the number of companies participating, but also the number of new companies. Our Graduate School Fair exceeded our expectations with more than 50 different schools from across the country trying to attract Rose-Hulman students to pursue post-baccalaureate education.
We are in the final phase of completing our Union renovation and will be dedicating the renovated facility the Friday night before commencement as part of the Senior Celebration that we hold each year. The lead donors for this project, Mike and Linda Mussallem, will be on hand to help us commission this remarkable facility. Mike is a 1974 chemical engineering alumnus, trustee, and chairman and CEO of Edwards Lifesciences. Through their generosity, Rose-Hulman students have the opportunity to eat healthy, have a more social lifestyle and interact with our support and student services in a professional setting. I hope that we will continue to be able to host a number of events within the Union building that will allow the Terre Haute community to also enjoy the great meeting and presentation spaces that are now available with the totally redone Union.
May is also a busy meeting time for me and much of the campus. We hold our Board of Trustees meetings on the Thursday and Friday before Commencement and as you might expect, a large amount of planning and preparation goes into making these meetings successful. Our trustees live all across the U.S., and to have them together in a room for two straight days is both difficult to schedule and challenging to ensure that ample opportunity is provided to gain their collective insights and thoughts. Together, they are an incredibly talented group of women and men who are dedicated to seeing Rose-Hulman be successful—today and well into the future.
Through the summer, you’ll also see some big changes coming to the Rose-Hulman campus. We will be constructing a building we call “The Bridge” – a bridge between our co-curricular activities and our academic core. This building will provide high-quality laboratory space, hands-on and maker spaces and some additional classrooms to further enhance student opportunities. As you drive by campus, you should be able to see construction activities – further indications of a Rose-Hulman campus striving to provide the world’s best STEM education.
Dr. James C. Conwell is the president of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.