Purdue is positively thriving in Richmond
Senior Ashley Bates epitomizes the positivity of what’s happening at Purdue Polytechnic Richmond.
The 23-year-old who lives in Dublin, Ind., is considered a model student as she works toward a bachelor’s of science degree in computer graphics technology.
Bates picked Purdue Richmond after visiting campuses from the Midwest, to Florida and to the East Coast. Her choice came down to a comfort level with “the staff, the curriculum and my own drive (to succeed),” she says. “I want to be able to grow as an artist. I can do that here.”
In its quietly effective way, the Purdue University satellite is in a growing mode, too. Its primary focuses for many decades were on engineering and management programs.
But, the school has stepped up its high-tech footprint in response to the needs of students — and the work world in Wayne County and the surrounding region over the last 50 years. “We are making a difference for students as well as the community,” says Purdue Richmond director Michael Swain.
The university offers seven degree programs and is getting ready to expand by two more. The first degree program offered in 1966 was an associates in mechanical engineering technology.
The satellite Purdue campus was conceived as part of a land-grant mission “to deliver technical degrees to communities that could use them,” Swain says.
In that realm, Purdue Richmond plays a strong role in workforce development. Swain estimates that well over 1,000 graduates are working in Richmond or the immediate areas.
Those students all teamed up with local businesses through apprenticeships, internships and class projects during their undergraduate work.
Bates’ path toward a degree combines several strengths of Purdue Richmond: a flexible curriculum that allows learning in a variety of areas, hands-on experiences and a strong sense of connectedness with instructors and fellow students.
She has a strong interest in fine arts, which she may pursue some day for a master’s degree.
The computer graphic technology program is designed to prepare graduates for careers in entertainment and media design. “It’s a portable degree,” boasts Michele Walker, lecturer in computer graphics technology. “You could work in web design or an advertising agency. You could even work from home.”
Bates has dreamed for a long time about being a concept artist. Workers in that field — also called visual development — create illustrations that convey ideas in areas such as animation, comic books, movies and video games, according to Wikipedia.
The exclusive job starts at an average salary of about $55,000. Purdue Richmond materials indicate that the average graduate of its computer graphic technology program will start at a salary of $47,786.
Those figures are well above average for those with bachelor’s degrees in eastern Indiana and western Ohio.
That degree program reflects major changes in the computer and business worlds. “It started as technical graphics — computer drafting, modeling and desktop publishing,” Swain says about the early years of computer graphics technology.
That program and the others at Purdue Richmond are increasingly succeeding with motivated students and teachers that enjoy working in close-knit ways. “We have a tremendous group of people here,” Swain boasts. “Everybody contributes and is good at what they do. They genuinely care about the students. They are choosing to be here. That’s what their passion is.”
It’s a strength — and a modern mission — for Purdue Richmond to adjust programs to match the needs of students and the community businesses that will be hiring them. That means the university is available to work with new manufacturers in designing programs that meet their workforce needs. “It’s having good, practical degrees,” Swain says. “We are the place where all disciplines are applied.”
Besides flexibility, Purdue Richmond has a variety of other advantages over bigger universities. They include smaller class sizes (an average of 13) and lower travel and housing expenses. Purdue Richmond was considered a best value in a recent study reported by the Princeton Review.
There are many other advantages: “We are providing a world-class education closer to home,” Walker says. “The students can graduate job ready with a lot less debt.”
As an illustration, Swain tells the success story of a recent graduate in industrial technology who immediately went to work in a great job with an automotive transmissions manufacturer in Kokomo. He had done an internship there. “He originally was headed to a bigger campus,” Swain says. “He told me that he graduated with no debt.”
The large majority of graduates — about 85 percent — live in Richmond and the immediate region served by Purdue Richmond. Students in 14 Ohio counties can attend the school on in-state tuition.
About half the students tend to be older. That makes them more mature, responsible and committed, say Walker and Swain. “Some already have families and other obligations (such as jobs),” Swain says. “We are able to work around those.”
Purdue Richmond now offers bachelor’s of science degree programs in computer graphics technology, engineering technology, industrial engineering technology, mechanical engineering technology, robotics engineering technology, organizational leadership and supply management technology.
Several of the programs offer associate degrees and work certifications.
“We offer Purdue degrees that focus on several aspects of mechanical design, engineering and automation, along with degrees that focus on quality and methods improvements,” Swain says.
The school also is planning to start BS programs in computer animation and computer gaming. Those two programs will certainly increase the numbers of students like Bates. “They grew up around them (computers),” Swain says. “They expect to be active that way.”
Bates realizes she might have to work for a while at a job that isn’t in her dream field. But, she believes she is prepared for many jobs because of the multidimensional tools she has learned — and test-driven — at Purdue Richmond. She is given a wide latitude to use high-tech printers and other equipment in Tom Raper Hall (which also serves Indiana University East). In that realm, she designed posters for a spring event that drew wide praise.
She’s earned the opportunities, Walker says: “She’s a hard worker. That gives her the experiences. She’s a great example of a student who has excelled.”
Now, Bates is glad to tell others about pursuing excellence at Purdue Richmond: “I’ve encouraged several people to come here. This is a good place to be.”
For more information:
Phone: (765) 973-8228
Address: Tom Raper Hall, Room 140
2325 Chester Blvd.
Richmond, IN 47374