“Change is good—you go first.” —Anonymous
It is not easy to embrace a culture of innovation, which we claim as a goal in IIT’s vision statement*, because it implies significant change on a continuous basis. Change takes us out of our comfort zone and challenges us to look at what we are doing in different ways, with the possibility that we should be doing something else staring us in the face. Very few people enjoy this exercise, but it is a critical precursor to advancement. I find students much more amenable to the idea of change; in fact, they often demand such a culture. One of the most enjoyable facets of teaching is addressing the students’ constant insistence on change—in what we teach and how we teach it. I am very pleased to report that our faculty members are also embracing the concept with very good results.
Some indicators that change at IIT is indeed occurring include:
- Faculty research is at its highest level: Research awards have more than doubled in dollar value this year compared to two years ago and, for the first time in an academic year at IIT, research awards have surpassed $50 million.
- New developments in undergraduate education are progressing: Faculty and students have been working together to update our IPRO/EnPRO experience to version 2.0, and faculty groups are reviewing our generaleducation offerings and considering the adoption of a comprehensive first-year experience for undergraduates.
- New facilities are supporting educational initiatives: Due to the efforts of Vice President David Baker, we will have the first incarnation of the Idea Shop on campus. This new space, which will be a home for the IPRO experience, will host entrepreneurial endeavors and will be available for use starting this summer.
- Student retention is improving: First-to-second year retention has improved to 89 percent (our highest ever) due to faculty and staff outreach to students and the efforts of our retention task force.
- Educational and research themes across the university are being developed: Multidisciplinary projects in energy, design, sustainability, and improving the quality of life are underway.
- The financial strength of the university is being restored: We have instituted Responsibility Centered Management and, for the first time, our colleges are responsible for both income and expenses. The operating budget for next year will show a deficit of only 1.5 percent, the lowest since the early 1980s, and the budget will be balanced the year after.
What’s ahead? We are looking forward to continued faculty leadership as we work to achieve our plan. Perhaps design across the curriculum or a new definition of general electives will be developed and implemented. Maybe we will establish research teams that combine legal principles and social issues with scientific discovery—pertinent today because of the question of the patentability of genetic manipulation, for example. Thinking out of the box while building on our strengths will lead to changes that positively transform the university.
The way to distinguish yourself is to go first. IIT has that philosophy. You will hear more about change in the years ahead.
John L. Anderson
* IIT will be internationally recognized in distinctive areas of education and research, using as its platform the global city of Chicago, driven by a professional and technology-oriented focus, and based on a culture of innovation and excellence.