Purdue University Northwest: A Regional Powerhouse

By: Leigh Morris Last Updated: May 3, 2017

Leigh-MorrisNorthwest Indiana is blessed with great institutions of higher education, including Indiana University Northwest, Valparaiso University, Calumet College of St. Joseph, and IVY Tech, but the 2016 unification of Purdue Calumet and Purdue North Central created a regional powerhouse. Purdue University Northwest (PNW) is the state’s fifth largest public university, offering nearly 70 undergraduate and 18 graduate programs of study for an enrollment of over 15,000 with students from 35 states and 53 nations.

When you review the PNW colleges and schools that provide degree programs, it is clear that there is a very broad scope of academic offerings. They include Business, Engineering & Sciences, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences, Nursing, Technology, Education & Counseling and Hospitality, Tourism & Management and the Graduate School. The PNW Honors College fosters academic excellence and critical thinking by providing opportunities for eligible students to engage in advanced coursework, community outreach, substantive research, study abroad, cultural and social activities, and regular interaction with the university’s most outstanding students and professors.

As important as these degree programs are, I believe PNW makes an even greater contribution to the economic vitality and quality of life in Northwest Indiana in several “outside the classroom” initiatives. Three examples:

1. The Center for Innovation Through Visualization and Simulation (CIVS) has been globally recognized as a multidisciplinary center that combines advanced simulation techniques with 3-D visualization and virtual reality technologies.  Its integrated and application-driven approaches utilize state-of-the-art simulation and virtual reality visualization technologies that provide innovative solutions to solve various university research problems, industry issues, as well as education and community problems. Through close partnerships with more than 90 external organizations, CIVS projects have provided substantial educational and economic impact, resulting in more than $38 million dollars in savings for companies.

2. The Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center has a dual focus. The first phase of the Center’s development was on manufacturing excellence, providing the region with a valuable resource in product and prototype development, as well as advanced manufacturing opportunities and related training for manufacturing companies of all sizes. The Commercialization component provides a path to economic development by leveraging the applied research aspects of the university with the region’s industrial base. Employers have eagerly sought out students working on projects at the Center particularly for positions in industrial and development engineering and prototype development for commercially-viable products.

3. The Water Institute at Purdue University Northwest is an interdisciplinary academic research institute where researchers are actively engaged in the developing and evaluating advanced water technologies, such as opto-chemical sensors and membrane systems, to address regional, national and global water challenges. These technologies help to secure the public water infrastructure, protect the environment and promote economic development.

PNW also has impact on the quality of the region’s K-12 public education. For example, the Quarknet program acquaints teachers and students from an expanding group of high schools in the region to gain insights into particle physics and identifies ways to enhance overall physics education.

The Purdue Research Park and Technical Center in Merrillville is currently home to over 75 companies that employ over 850 people. There is another 175 acres that is ready for development.

Having PNW in our region provides a huge economic development advantage. We can demonstrate to potential new or expanding employers that we have a major university focusing on preparing men and women for 21st century jobs, and we can show that the majority of PNW graduates stay within our region after graduation. Chancellor Thomas Keon has stressed that “PNW’s commitment to experiential learning through hands-on discovery across all academic boundaries prepares our students to become graduates who hit the ground running and make immediate contributions in response to the current and emerging challenges our region must address to move forward.”

PNW is indeed a regional powerhouse!