November 2013

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From the Dean

jay akridgeIt has been just over two months since President Daniels announced Purdue University support for our Plant Science Research and Education Pipeline Purdue Moves initiative.  Launching an initiative this broad and ambitious is, frankly, a task of herculean proportions. But, the foundation has been laid for a successful launch thanks to the leadership of Senior Associate Dean Karen Plaut and her team. Here is what has been accomplished over the past two months:

Two town hall-style meetings were held that drew more than 100 faculty, staff, and students (from our College as well as others across campus) to begin the process of building the working groups that will be instrumental in developing the core elements of the initiative – everything from the Center for Molecular Agriculture (working title), to industry engagement, to curriculum development.

Dr. Mitch Tuinstra has been appointed Scientific Director for the initiative.  Mitch will have responsibilities for providing overall scientific and technical guidance for the project.

A position description has been circulating for the Director of the Center for Molecular Agriculture (again, working title). This new Center will play a key role in coordinating faculty input on the 10 new plant biology positions as well as helping to build a community for our fundamental plant biologists.

A Project Manager position is in the process of being filled.This individual will be responsible for managing and coordinating the overall details of the initiative, including working group meetings, facility meetings, and communications.

Timelines and initial planning have begun for facility upgrades and repurposing projects. These projects must hit a series of milestones for state approval before any work can begin, so it has been critical to map them out now and begin developing outlines of project scope for each of the upgrade/repurpose projects.

A website has been launched that will serve as the communications hub for the project.

Multiple meetings have been conducted with potential corporate partners to provide them with a baseline understanding of the initiative and to begin conversations on how they can engage.

Getting to this point without adding any additional staff has been challenging (no one’s day job went away). Going forward, getting the project manager in place will allow us to more fully develop the  initiative, as well as more fully engage the faculty, staff and students who are part of the working groups. As we have stated on many occasions, this initiative demands the active engagement of our faculty, staff, and students – we need your insights and ideas, as well as energy, to help us realize the full potential of this investment. 

We have also said on many occasions that this is a ‘platform’ investment – this initiative is something for us to build on, not a project with a limited set of objectives to be delivered on in five years. I have really been encouraged by some of the conversations I have had with faculty and staff who are thinking about where Extension fits, how to lever this investment into an expanded footprint in precision agriculture, how to connect this initiative with the recently announced Department of Computer Sciences expansion, and much more.

I appreciate your patience and engagement as we work together to move this initiative forward. Over the next few months, we will be framing up an internal communication plan to keep you informed as to progress and, just as importantly, to keep you apprised about opportunities for you to engage. You will find that some aspects of the plan need to be developed right away, while other aspects may not be active until next year. We appreciate all you will do to bring the Plant Science Research and Education Pipeline to life. Again, I want to thank Karen and her staff, Wendy Madore, John Frigo and Christy Burden, for all they have done to get this initiative launched and moving forward. 

All the best,


Purdue Agriculture People


October Ag Research Spotlight: Tomas Höök

tomas hookThe Ag Research Spotlight shines each month on an individual whose work reflects our commitment to the six strategic themes that guide Agricultural Research at Purdue. The October spotlight is on Tomas Höök, Forestry and Natural Resources, whose work underscores the theme “Strengthening ecological and environmental integrity in agricultural landscapes.” 

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November Ag Research Spotlight: Catherine Hill

Catherine HillThe November Ag Research spotlight is on Catherine Hill, Entomology, whose work underscores the theme "Utilizing molecular approaches to expand the frontiers of agriculture and life sciences."

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Graduate Research Spotlight: Christie Eissler

christie eisslerThe Graduate Research Spotlight highlights graduate students and their work. This month’s spotlight is on Christie Eissler, Biochemistry; advisor Mark Hall.

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Number of Farm Kids Enrolled in Ag at Purdue Shrinking

marcos fernandezOver the past decade, the College of Agriculture has seen an increase in enrollment that has led to a shift in the background of the student population. It is becoming increasingly common for students that have little or no rural background to pursue a degree in agriculture. Associate Dean and Director of Academic Programs Marcos Fernandez talked to Indiana Prairie Farmer about the change in the Oct 21 online issue. "The number of students with a traditional agriculture background is declining," said Dr. Fernandez. "When I started in 2011, 37% of the students in the College of Agriculture had a farm background. That has dropped to about 32% and it has been gradually declining for some time. Today, about 1 in 3 students come from a farm and another 20% have rural experience." He says interest in ag careers is attracting non-farm students to Purdue College of Agriculture.

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Hertel delivers Research and Scholarship Distinguished Lecture 

Thomas HertelThomas Hertel, Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics, presented the Research & Scholarship Distinguished Lecture on Nov. 18 as part of his selection as winner of the inaugural 2013 Purdue University Research & Scholarship Distinction Award, Purdue's most prestigious research honor outside the natural sciences. The title of Hertel's talk was "Global Change and the Challenges of Sustainably Feeding a Growing World." The Purdue Research and Scholarship Distinction Award was established by Purdue in recognition of faculty whose recent research and scholarship have made a major impact on their field in disciplines outside the domain of the natural sciences. It is based on nomination by colleagues and selection by faculty representatives and the University's president.


Agricultures highlights research farm activities

on farm researchPurdue Agriculture faculty and staff conduct more than 400 research projects on 40-plus different crops and animal species at the Purdue Ag Centers (PACs) each year. Field research targets local production problems, providing solutions to area farmers. The Fall 2013 issue of Agricultures spotlights how research done at the Purdue farms translates directly into benefits and help for farmers and others in the food and agriculture industry.

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Friends of Extension recognized for their service to 4-H

John and Carolyn Beck of Boone County and the program manager and staff of Shakamak State Park in Greene and Sullivan counties have been chosen as the 2013 Friends of Extension for their longstanding service to 4-H. The awards by the Indiana Extension Educators Association were given Nov. 7 during a luncheon at Purdue Extension's annual conference. John (Wes) Beck has completed 42 years of service to 4-H clubs. He also has spent the past several years serving as a state and county fair judge. Carolyn Beck had a key role in designing and implementing the 4-H Microwave Cooking project in Boone County in the late 1980s and served as the microwave cooking leader for about eight years. She was a co-leader of Fashion Revue in Boone County was a junior leader adviser for several years. The Shakamak State Park, near Jasonville, has been home to 4-H camps since 1931. Park Manager Robb Hogg "is attentive to details that affect our campers and works to resolve problems quickly," Rena Sheldon, association president, said in a nominating letter. Sheldon also praised Hogg for giving the group first choice of dates each year and for providing excellent value for the 4-H camp.

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zipTrip educates students on plant sciences

ziptripsOn November 13, the zipTrip "Plant Science: The Green Machine" went out to 117 schools across the country and over 3,000 students. Watch the show here:


MANRRS hosting clothing drive

manrrs logoThe Purdue Chapter of MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences) in partnership with the Heifer International Purdue Chapter are sponsoring a clothing drive that will run through December 6, 2013.  Drop box locations are in Ag Administration, the Black Cultural Center, the Native American Education and Cultural Center, University Residences, and more. Look for the flyer on the boxes and at the MANRRS Facebook page:  All new and gently used clothing and supplies are welcomed.


Agriculture staff rise to recent challenges

Recent weeks have brought sudden, urgent challenges across Purdue Agriculture: fire destroyed a combine at the Agronomy Center for Research and Education; storms wreaked damage on high tunnels as well as other facilities at the Throckmorton PAC and Meigs Farm; and a data center outage caused problems in IT systems on campus as well as in several counties. Our gratitude and thanks go out to all those individuals across Purdue Agriculture who have stepped up beyond the scope of their normal duties to help solve problems, repair damage, and keep the work of our College going, often working long hours to do so. Among many others, thanks to ACRE staffers Bryan Gretencord and Jacob Cory; to the crew from Throckmorton PAC who supplied a replacement combine for ACRE; to Jeff Fields and the Animal Sciences Farm crew who assisted with the biomass harvesting at ACRE; to Jay Young and the entire crew at Throckmorton PAC who have worked to clean up storm damage there; to the entire staff of AgIT, especially Kevin Stevens and Brad Clayton.  In addition, our thanks to everyone across the College who has been or continues to be involved in helping the people of Indiana through this challenging time.

TEAM Award nominations invited

Since 1995, Purdue Agriculture has recognized an outstanding collaborative effort within our programs and across the university. Nominations are invited for the 2014 Purdue Agriculture TEAM Award. The 2014 TEAM Award will be presented at a ceremony in May, and the winning team will be awarded $10,000 for program support. Nominations must be sent electronically to Becky Rice at by December 4, 2013.

TEAM Award guidelines and required nomination cover sheet:

Awards and Recognitions


Design Intelligence logoIn the recently-released 2014 Design Intelligence rankings for U.S. Landscape Architecture programs, Purdue was identified as the 3rd-ranked Landscape Architecture program in the United States, up from #7 in 2013.  "This reinforces the positive momentum for an excellent program," said Horticulture and Landscape Architecture department head Bob Joly. "The high ranking of the Purdue University Landscape Architecture program reflects the high level of technical skill, creativity and professionalism shown by graduates of our program. It also reflects the dedication, quality, and resourcefulness of our faculty and support staff."


Jay AkridgeDean Jay Akridge has been appointed Chair of the Administrative Heads Section (AHS) and Advocacy Chair of the Budget and Advocacy Committee for the Policy Board of Directors, Board on Agriculture Assembly (BAA).  The BAA is a unit of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (A۰P۰L۰U). As Chair of AHS, Jay will represent the Deans of US Colleges of Agriculture to APLU.  As Advocacy Chair, he will work with the national Council of Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching (CARET) organization, our national network of grassroots advocates.


Joe AndersonJoe Anderson, head of the Department of Agronomy, has been accepted for the Fall 2013 Food Systems Leadership Institute (FSLI), an executive leadership development program for academia, industry, and government. The FSLI enhances personal and professional development by emphasizing leadership competencies, skills for organizational change, and a broad, interdisciplinary perspective of food systems. The FSLI experience prepares scholars for upper-level leadership roles in food system programs, and to assume broader leadership responsibilities within their organizations.


scott downeyScott Downey, Agricultural Economics, has been named associate director of the Purdue Center for Professional Selling in the Department of Consumer Science. Scott teaches AGEC courses in sales and marketing, and he also is associate director of the Center for Food and Agricultural Business. The Purdue Center for Professional Selling serves students from all majors across campus who are interested in careers in professional sales.



Gebisa EjetaDistinguished professor of agronomy and World Food Prize laureate Gebisa Ejeta has been appointed to the U.N. secretary-general's newly created Scientific Advisory Board. The appointment by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon places Dr. Ejeta as the only agricultural scientist on the 26-member board, which is composed of internationally renowned scientists representing various fields of natural, social and human sciences. The board will provide advice on science, technology and innovation for sustainable development to the secretary-general and executive heads of relevant United Nations organizations. Some key objectives will be to strengthen the link between science and policy and to ensure that the latest scientific findings are reflected in high-level policy discussions within the U.N.

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suzanne nielsenSuzanne Nielsen, Food Science, has been appointed a 2014 Global Affairs Fellow by Suresh Garimella, Purdue's Chief Global Affairs Officer. Global Affairs Fellows conduct studies, analyses and other assigned activities in an area of strategic focus for the Office of Global Affairs. Dr. Nielsen's project will be to develop details of a program to partner with educational, business, private sector and government institutions in Latin America, with a focus on Colombia and Central America, in Purdue's effort to develop future leaders in these sectors.



David UmulisDavid Umulis, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, was one of 13 faculty members inducted into the Purdue University Teaching Academy on October 9. The Teaching Academy was developed in 1996 to provide a means to elevate teaching and learning at Purdue, and to recognize outstanding faculty and staff who contribute to the learning environment. Since 1997, more than 200 faculty and instructors have been recognized and inducted into the Teaching Academy.


InventorsDaniel Cassens, Forestry and Natural Resources, Monika Ivantysynova, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and Marshall Porterfield, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, were among 54 Purdue faculty and staff whose discoveries were patented during the 2012-2013 fiscal year. They were recognized at the Purdue Research Foundation's annual Inventors Recognition reception on November 20. During 2012-2013, PRF officials reported 314 invention disclosures, 491 patent applications worldwide, 106 issued patents worldwide and the creation of eight startup companies from Purdue-licensed technologies.

Five Purdue Agriculture faculty members will be inducted into the Purdue University Book of Great Teachers on December 2: Freddie Barnard, Agricultural Economics; Larry DeBoer, Agricultural Economics; Dale Forsyth, Animal Sciences; Marshall Martin, Agricultural Economics; and Martin Okos, Agricultural & Biological Engineering. The Book of Great Teachers honors outstanding teaching faculty who have demonstrated sustained excellence in the classroom. The nomination process for the book occurs every five years.

Twenty-four Agriculture researchers were recognized by the university at the Excellence in Research Awards dinner on November 18. The researchers were recognized for having received a grant for $1 million or more during Fiscal Year 2013. They are:

Bruce Applegate, Food Science
Dieudonné Baributsa, Entomology
Arun Bhunia, Food Science
Clint Chapple, Biochemistry
Brian Dilkes, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
Otto Doering, Agricultural Economics
Natalia Doudareva, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
Ricky Foster, Entomology
Ben Gramig, Agricultural Economics
Peter Hirst, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
Gurmukh Johal, Botany and Plant Pathology
Bill Johnson, Botany and Plant Pathology
Paul Jones, Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Lisa Mauer, Food Science
Renée McKee, Youth Development and Agricultural Education
Kevin McNamara, Agricultural Economics
Dev Niyogi, Agronomy
Linda Prokopy, Forestry and Natural Resources
Torbert Rocheford, Agronomy
Mitch Tuinstra, Agronomy
Cliff Weil, Agronomy
Kiersten Wise, Botany and Plant Pathology
Charles Woloshuk, Botany and Plant Pathology
Jian-Kang Zhu, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture and Biochemistry


natalie van hooseNatalie van Hoose, research writer in Agricultural Communication, won the Booth Tarkington Award in Fiction and the Budd and Betty Knoll Award for the Best Entry of the 82nd Literary Awards Contest sponsored by the Purdue Department of English. Natalie, who earned her MFA in creative writing from Purdue, authored a short story called Blood Brothers.




elaina grottElaina Grott, a senior majoring in Entomology from Mt. Prospect, Illinois, was featured as one of "5 Students Who Move the World Forward". Elaina says she is especially passionate about the issue of affordable housing. She is the president of the Purdue chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Elaina also rode 4,250 miles across the country last summer with an organization called Bike & Build to raise money and awareness for affordable housing.

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NAFB studentsThree Purdue Agricultural Communication students – (L-R) Carlee Glassburn, Kokomo; Lauren Taylor, Russiaville; and Armenda Boyer, Kirklin – attended the annual conference of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) Nov. 13-16 in Kansas City. Taylor was among a select group of agricultural communication students nationally who served as inaugural members of the NAFB Trade Talk Social Media Corps. As a part of her duties, Taylor used social media as a field reporter during the Nov. 14 Trade Talk. Established in 1944 as the National Association of Radio Farm Directors, NAFB has more than 600 members and is the major professional organization for agricultural radio and television professionals.


Myriam Bounaffa, graduate student in Agricultural Economics, and Neha Ganesh, an undergraduate Agronomy major, have been named Purdue Global Ambassadors by Suresh Garimella, Chief Global Affairs Officer. As Global Ambassadors, Myriam and Neha will interact with the Global Affairs Strategic Advisory Council and other visitors to the Purdue campus, and serve as student representatives for the Office of Global Affairs.


Purdue Extension educators honored with annual awards

The Indiana Extension Educators Association presented annual awards Nov. 7 to county educators during a luncheon at the Purdue Extension's Professional Development Conference. For a complete list of awards and recipients, click here:


Nutrition program earns Purdue Extension Hancook Award

A program that inspires child care providers to promote healthy meals and snacks, nutrition education and role modeling for children throughout Indiana has received the Purdue Cooperative Extension Specialists Association's top award. The Hancook Award, recognizing Extension educators and specialists who jointly develop programs focusing on families, was presented Nov. 7 at the annual Purdue Extension Professional Development Conference. The RECIPE for Growing Healthy Children program, an effort between Purdue Extension and the Indiana Department of Education, implements training for child care food service staff on planning and preparing meals and snacks to comply with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

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Outstanding service recognized by Purdue Extension

Purdue Extension honored individuals for the exceptional service they have provided to their profession, the university and the people of Indiana during the Professional Development Conference. Honorees were: Bruce Bordelon, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture; Roy Ballard, Extension educator in Hancock County; Former Purdue Extension Directors Dave Petritz and Hank Wadsworth, and Karen Plaut, senior associate dean for research and faculty affairs in the College of Agriculture.

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Purdue Agriculture in the News


Purdue team heading effort to create ag research data system

sylvie brouderPurdue University researchers are leading an effort to develop a nationwide, unified system for storing and making available to the public the abundance of research data that could help the agricultural industry and policymakers not only now but also many years in the future. Sylvie Brouder, professor of agronomy, and five other Purdue agricultural and library sciences faculty and staff members organized a meeting in Potomac, Md., Oct. 10-11 to identify concrete steps for developing an online system for open-access agricultural data. The Smarter Agriculture workshop was held in the Washington, D.C., suburb in part to involve federal agencies. The Obama administration has mandated that the direct results of federally funded scientific research be made available to the public digitally. That would promote greater and easier access to data that could be used to help drive innovative breakthroughs in areas including health, energy, the environment, national security and agriculture.

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Device speeds concentration step in food-pathogen detection

ladisch and grad studentsResearchers led by Michael Ladisch, distinguished professor of agricultural and biological engineering, have developed a system that concentrates foodborne salmonella and other pathogens faster than conventional methods by using hollow thread-like fibers that filter out the cells, representing a potential new tool for speedier detection. The machine, called a continuous cell concentration device, could make it possible to routinely analyze food or water samples to screen for pathogens within a single work shift at food processing plants. "This approach begins to address the critical need for the food industry for detecting food pathogens within six hours or less," said Ladisch. "Ideally, you want to detect foodborne pathogens in one work shift, from start to finish, which means extracting the sample, concentrating the cells and detection."

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Indiana pumpkin production good, even with '2 seasons'

pumpkinsIndiana pumpkin producers overall were happy with production yield and prices this year, even with "two seasons" of drastically differing weather during the summer, plant pathologist Dan Egel says. He said it was an average year for pumpkin production, with the first half of the season wet and the second half dry. "The first half of the summer was good for providing moisture for the pumpkins, and most pumpkins are not irrigated," Egel said. "In the second half of the season, some of the pumpkins on well-drained land lost yield because of the dry weather."

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Turkey prices, food price inflation lower this holiday

Thanksgiving dinnerHoliday shoppers can expect less-expensive turkeys and moderate price increases on other Thanksgiving staples this holiday season, says Corinne Alexander, Purdue Extension agricultural economist. In the U.S., average annual food price inflation is about 2.5 percent, but this year grocery food prices are running just 1 percent higher than 2012 prices. "There's a lot of good news out there for the consumer. Food price inflation is very low this year," Alexander said. "We're expecting the overall Thanksgiving meal to be roughly the same price as last year and, potentially depending on what sort of in-store specials are being offered, you might even spend less this year than you did last year on Thanksgiving."

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Corn crops expected to set record, but not as large as anticipated

cornThe U.S. corn crop is projected to reach record production this year but won't be quite as large as initially expected because heavy spring rain in parts of the country prevented some acres from being planted, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's crop production report, released on November 8. Indiana's corn crop also is expected to set a record. The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service is projecting that corn production will reach 14 billion bushels, up nearly 1 billion bushels from the record set in 2007. While a record, Purdue Extension agricultural economist Chris Hurt said production won't be as high as some expected, which is good news for farmers.

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Purdue 'Grapevine' series presents wine-buying how-to

wine labelPicking out a bottle of wine to go with that holiday dinner you are attending or hosting is a task made simple if you follow advice offered in the final two parts of a Purdue University online series on Indiana's wine grape industry. Part 9 of the "Through the Grapevine," released Nov. 5, takes the mystery out of wine tasting and helps shoppers pick out the right bottle of wine for their hosts, guests or just for themselves. They also will become more "label literate" by learning what terms such as "reserve" and "estate" on the label mean. The final installment, Part 10, will helps novice wine shoppers know how to properly serve and store wine.

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Plant pathologist: Growers should be aware of new soybean virus

soybean leafSoybean vein necrosis virus has been confirmed in Indiana for the second consecutive year as plant pathologists continue to study the relatively new disease to determine how it might affect the plants and their yields.Soybean vein necrosis virus, or SVNV, has now been detected in 16 states across the southern and north-central regions of the United States. "This is a new disease, so we're learning about what potential impact it might have on yield," said Kiersten Wise, Purdue Extension plant pathologist. "It's important for growers to be aware of this disease because it can look like many other common diseases that we see in soybean fields."

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Conservation easements preserve land for agriculture

harrisonLandowners who to want preserve their agricultural land and prevent future development can consider granting a conservation easement. A conservation easement is the gifting of the development rights on a piece of land to a land trust, which is a private, nonprofit organization that works to conserve land. In doing so, the landowner not only ensures the land can never be commercially developed, even if sold, but also receives federal income tax deductions. "Conservation easements on farmland are authorized by Indiana law," said Gerry Harrison, Purdue Extension agricultural economist. "The grantee, or charitable entity, has the responsibility under the law to see that the land is not developed for anything other than the landowner's retained purposes: agricultural production and perhaps a homestead."

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University News


Recap of University Senate's Nov. 18 meeting

Here is a recap of the University Senate meeting:

Undergraduate Studies Program's name changes to Exploratory Studies

The academic program formerly known as the Undergraduate Studies Program has been renamed as Exploratory Studies, a name that its director says is more consistent with the program's mission. Exploratory Studies adopted its new name this spring. The first students started matriculating under the new name this fall, says Susan Aufderheide, the program's director. Exploratory Studies is geared toward students who want to explore all their academic options before they choose a Purdue major. Students in Exploratory Studies take one common course focused on academic self-discovery and career planning along with other classes that help them make progress in several majors they're considering.

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Early faculty users praise Purdue’s new Conte supercomputer, now open to campus researchers

Purdue’s new Conte cluster is now ready for use by campus researchers. With 77,520 processing cores, including Intel’s Xeon Phi accelerator technology, Conte is by far the most powerful Purdue research supercomputer yet. Find more information at: Email questions to:


Purdue's international student population ranks 2nd for public schools, 3rd overall

Purdue University continues to have the second-largest international student population among U.S. public universities and is third overall, according to a report released Nov. 11 by the Institute of International Education. The 2013 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange is based on the 2012-13 academic year, and it reports Purdue had 9,509 international students. This number is larger than Purdue's reported 8,562 for Fall 2012 because the institute includes recent graduates who are still affiliated with their universities. The Open Doors report shows an increase of 946 while Purdue's records show a jump of 628.

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Procedures for adverse weather conditions

On an ongoing basis, but particularly as we enter the winter months, existing and predicted weather conditions are carefully evaluated by Environmental Health and Public Safety and Physical Facilities to ensure the health and safety of the members of our campus community. In accordance with Purdue University Adverse Weather Conditions policy IV.A.6, dated November 18, 2011, special procedures pertaining to classes, operations, parking, pay and/or attendance will become effective for the West Lafayette Campus should action pertaining to adverse winter weather conditions become necessary.

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Report Hate and Bias

report hate cardPurdue University is a community where diversity is valued and incidents of hate and bias are not tolerated. Students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors who feel that they have been the victim of a bias related incident (or who have witnessed a bias related incident) are encouraged to report it online at or to contact the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities at 765-494-1250. Your report can remain anonymous if you wish. Remember, if it is an emergency situation that requires immediate medical or emergency services attention, please call the Purdue University Police Department at 911 or 765-494-8221.