December 2014

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From the Dean

Jay AkridgeIf you were in the classroom this semester, I hope your finals week is going well! For everyone else, I hope your year is beginning to wind down. I am sure everyone’s world is plenty hectic, as we always seem to sprint to the end of the year. I started to recap our College’s 2014 accomplishments in this month’s column - there was plenty to recap! But, we try to keep you posted on the great things our faculty, staff, and students do throughout the year in InFocus. So, I decided to unpack those accomplishments a bit and acknowledge the thousands of actions—some above and beyond, some part of the day-to-day, most unsung—by deeply committed faculty, staff, and students, that make those headlines happen.

As we close another very successful year for the College, let’s celebrate:

  • Student organization advisors (faculty and staff) who spend time after hours and on weekends to attend meetings and help with student events.

  • Pre-award office staff who regularly work minor miracles to hit grant deadlines.

  • Faculty and staff who put together award nominations for their peers or write multiple letters of recommendation in support of their students for jobs or graduate school.

  • Purdue Agricultural Center staff who deal with all the challenges of farming as they support the more than 400 research projects that were conducted last year.

  • Faculty who develop and deliver ridiculously creative, experiential learning opportunities – and other faculty who support them in delivering the course.

  • Staff who jump in to help with whatever is needed to pull off a special event, arrange a high-level visit, support study abroad, or fill in gaps to make sure everything gets done - well.

  • Graduate students who share their research with visitors, no matter how busy they are.

  • Instructors who answer student email questions at all hours to help them understand class material, solve problems, prepare for exams.

  • Faculty who juggle reading multiple theses so graduate students meet graduation deadlines.

  • Extension educators who spend night after night at the county fair, and find a way to stay positive and encouraging (even during those times when not everyone else is).

  • Development officers who will drive 500 miles in a day or travel all weekend if that is what it takes to meet with donor prospects.

  • Undergraduate students who meet every week to plan an event that will celebrate the College and agriculture, and help the broader campus understand who we are and what we do.

  • Ag Comm writers who turn around a story overnight to make sure it gets out before a holiday.

  • Faculty and staff who are passionate about the ideas of diversity and inclusiveness and invest their time and creative energy in helping us get better.

  • Associate and Assistant deans and Department Heads whose selfless, servant-leader attitude is nothing but humbling.

Obviously, my list could go on and on.  As we close the year, I just want to say thanks to each of you for the thousands of small acts and actions that happen every day that make us who we are.  Beyond the headlines, we are a College that cares, a College that does what it takes to do things the right way, a College working to make a difference.

I wish and every one of you the best of the holiday season!

All the best,


Purdue Agriculture People


Ag Research Spotlight: Maria Marshall

Maria MarshallThe 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. Our spotlight for November is on Maria Marshall, Agricultural Economics, whose work underscores the theme, “Facilitating informed decision making to improve economic and social well-being.”

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Graduate Research Spotlight: Raymond Red Corn 

Raymond Red CornThe Graduate Research Spotlight highlights graduate students and their work. This month’s spotlight is on Raymond Red Corn, interdisciplinary Ecological Sciences and Engineering; advisor Abigail Engelberth.

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Dooley named vice provost for teaching and learning

Frank DooleyFrank Dooley, Agricultural Economics, has been named vice provost for teaching and learning, effective immediately. Dooley, who had been serving as interim vice provost, will report directly to Deba Dutta, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. In this position, Dooley will work closely with Beth McCuskey, interim vice provost for student life, and Pam Horne, associate vice provost for enrollment management and dean of admissions, to ensure the smooth integration of programs and initiatives for the new Division of Student Academic Affairs. He will provide leadership for undergraduate education, academic planning, program evaluation, and general academic policy development and implementation. He also will review academic budgets and serve as a liaison between colleges for curricular changes affecting multiple colleges.

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Jennifer Dennis named distance education director

Jennifer DennisJennifer Dennis, Associate Professor of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture and Agricultural Economics, has been named the first Director of Distance Education for the College of Agriculture, effective immediately. She will retain her faculty appointments in HLA and AGEC. As Director of Distance Education, Dr. Dennis is responsible for building a support team and developing a strategic plan, business model and appropriate administrative processes to grow the distance education program in our College. She will work closely with Associate Deans Marcos Fernandez and Jason Henderson to identify high impact areas of programming, and she will work with faculty and staff across the College to develop, launch, and deliver distance programming. Dr. Dennis will lead the development of a branded identity for Purdue Agriculture distance education courses as well as lead a distance education advisory group. Any faculty and staff who are interested in serving on this advisory group should contact Dr. Dennis at


Boilers claim first national livestock judging championship since 1978

Livestock Judging TeamThe Purdue Livestock Judging Team won the top prize in November at the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, KY. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team,” said Matt ClaeysPurdue Extension beef specialist and coach of the judging team for 16 years. “It’s exciting for me just to see all of the hard work they put in all year pay off in Louisville.” Team members, all seniors in the College of Agriculture, are Josh Streitmatter, Logan Rinehold, Brenna Lawyer, Callie Edie and Mark DeGolyer.


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Purdue animal welfare team brings home intercollegiate title

Animal Welfare TeamThe Purdue Animal Welfare Judging Team earned 1st place at the 14th annual International Animal Welfare Judging/Assessment Contest held at Michigan State University. The Purdue "Gold" Team took top honors, with members Nicole Chapel, Christopher Byrd, Amber Sizelove and Melissa Voigt. Individually, Byrd placed 2nd, Chapel placed 6th, and Voigh placed 7th overall. The Purdue "Black" Team was made up of members Gabriela Morello, Christopher Muegge, Jiaying Yan, and Amy Robinson-Junker. Muegge placed 8th overall. The teams were coached by Maja Makagon.

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2 Extension educators honored for service to rural Indiana

Hovde AwardTwo Purdue Extension county educators with 83 years of combined service are the 2014 co-recipients of the Frederick L. Hovde Award of Excellence in Education Service to the Rural People of Indiana. Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross, health and human sciences educator in Elkhart County, and Lonnie Mason, agriculture and natural resources educator in Jefferson County, received the award Dec. 12 at the Indiana Farm Bureau convention in French Lick. The award honors Purdue University staff with a record of outstanding achievement and service to rural communities. The Hovde Award is sponsored by Indiana Farm Bureau and carries with it a monetary prize. It is named for Purdue's longest-serving president, who led the university from 1946 to 1971.

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New web resource available to aid graduate students

Purdue AgShawn Donkin, Assistant Dean and Associate Director for Agricultural Research and Graduate Education, recently announced a new web resource to help College of Agriculture graduate students get the most from their graduate experience. This resource is designed to address the unique needs for career planning and professional development for graduate students. The site contains resources and/or links to resources that help students Identify their strengths and deficiencies; start important conversations with advisor(s); set goals for graduate studies and beyond; create an individual development plan (IDP) that is specific to their goals and needs; and track achievements for research, teaching, extension, and service activities Resources and links are provided for faculty mentors and advisors as well. Visit to learn more.



Agriculture Student Government Senators recap the semester

College of Agriculture Student Senators Cory Harris and Grace Wildhaber have written a letter to the Agriculture student body summarizing the work that has been accomplished in Purdue Student Government this semester. The letter is available here to update the entire College of Agriculture faculty and staff.


Events set to commemorate Diversity Awareness Week in CoA

MLK weekThe Diversity Action Team in Agriculture (DATA) has organized four days of activities to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Awareness Week, January 20-23, 2015, sponsored by the Colleges of Agriculture, Health and Human Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine. Following the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday on Monday, January 19, faculty and staff are invited to participate in activities each day to educate and raise diversity awareness. Activities include the film "Dear White People" and discussion on January 20; a guest panel from the National Diversity Council on January 21; and the keynote address by Michael Fossberg on January 22. More information on events will be distributed in January.


Purdue Parents Network a resource for Purdue employees with kids

kidsThe Purdue Parents Network (PPN) is a resource created by parents (and their concerned friends) for parents. The group's goal is to provide an avenue for parents within Purdue University to network, share information, and find support within the Purdue community. All Purdue employees with families (and those thinking of starting a family) are invited to join the Purdue Parent Network.

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Training modules available for faculty and staff

Risk Management, in collaboration with the Office of the Vice President for Ethics and Compliance and the Office of the Vice President for Human Resources, announces the availability of the Risk Management Employment Claims Initiative education program. The program helps employees and supervisors understand employment-related issues such as discrimination, harassment, disability awareness and accommodations, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), overtime rates, and other university leave policies. Participants will complete four training modules and corresponding certification quizzes: 1) Equal Opportunity; 2) Americans with Disabilities Act; 3) Wage and Hour Issues for Employees and Supervisors; and 4) Family and Medical Leave Act and University Leave Policies.

The training modules and instructions for accessing the certification quizzes are located on the Purdue Employee Portal. Each training module is approximately 20 to 25 minutes long. Training on the Americans with Disabilities Act and Equal Opportunity will also fulfill College of Agriculture requirements for civil rights training as required by the USDA. All faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to complete these training modules. Faculty and staff participation in these training modules impacts the College's share of insurance costs.

Awards and Recognitions


Jay AkridgeDean Jay Akridge was one of two Hoosiers honored by Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock for special service to Farm Bureau and to Indiana agriculture during IFB’s 2014 annual convention. He received the 2014 President’s Award for Outstanding Leadership. “Since becoming dean in 2009, he has truly guided Purdue’s mission of a land grant college in serving the needs of Indiana’s citizens,” Villwock said.




Bo BeaulieuLionel "Bo" Beaulieu, Assistant Director of Purdue Extension, Economic and Community Development Program Leader, and Director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development, received the Secretary’s Honor Award for External Partnerships Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in a ceremony held in Washington, DC in November. The Honor Awards recognize distinguished employees and other individuals who have made outstanding contributions that support USDA's mission and goals. It is the highest recognition an individual or group can receive from the Secretary of Agriculture. Bo’s award was based on his years directing the RIDGE Center for Targeted Studies, first while at Mississippi State University and now at Purdue University.  Since its inception in 1998, the RIDGE Centers at Purdue/Mississippi State University and the University of Wisconsin have funded more than 275 food and nutrition assistance studies conducted by more than 200 researchers at over 100 educational and research institutions.

Bo also received the George Washington Carver Public Service Hall of Fame Award from the Professional Agricultural Workers Conference. The award is given in recognition of individuals whose work mirrors the philosophy of the world-recognized scholar, George Washington Carver. Public Service is viewed as significant accomplishments in the areas of teaching, and outreach designed to improve the quality of life for the rural clientele served by the 1890 Land-Grant Universities and Tuskegee Institute.


Sylvie BrouderSylvie Brouder, Agronomy, has been invited to join the Environmental Protection Agency's chartered Science Advisory Board. Her term will run through September 2017. The Science Advisory Board is charged to review the quality and relevance of the scientific and technical information being used by the EPA or proposed as the basis for Agency regulations; review EPA research programs and plans; provide science advice as requested by the EPA Administrator, and advise the agency on broad scientific matters.


Mark DiekmanMark Diekman, Animal Sciences, received the Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Advising in the Academic Advising Administration role at the annual NACADA conference that was held in Minneapolis, MN in October. NACADA promotes student success by advancing the field of academic advising globally and provides opportunities for professional development, networking, and leadership for its diverse membership.



Allan GrayAllan Gray, Agricultural Economics, received one of three faculty engagement awards from Purdue's Office of Engagement. The awards honor faculty members who combine scholarship and community partnerships to have a positive impact beyond campus. He received the Faculty Engagement Fellow Award, given to a full professor whose work has led to a strong record of engagement.




IvantysynovaMonika Ivantysynova, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, has been inaugurated into the Purdue Innovator Hall of Fame for her work in designing efficient hydraulic systems, specifically the development of an energy-saving steer-by-wire system and the technical advancements made in decreasing the fuel consumption of construction machinery. She was awarded a plaque for her patent (US Patent 8474254) on the “System and method for enabling floating of earthmoving implements.” 




Kevin McNamaraThe Afghanistan Agricultural Extension Project received a 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary’s Honor award in the Global Food Security category. The award citation reads: “For enhancing food security and improving the quality of life for thousands of farmers by building capacity in Afghanistan’s agricultural extension system.”
Michael McGirr, national program leader from NIFA’s Center for International Programs and James Hill, associate dean for International Programs, UC-Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences are the group leaders. Dr. Kevin McNamara heads Purdue Agriculture's Afghanistan initiatives.


Nicole WidmarNicole Olynk Widmar, Agricultural Economics, received one of three faculty engagement awards from Purdue's Office of Engagement. The awards honor faculty members who combine scholarship and community partnerships to have a positive impact beyond campus. She received the Faculty Engagement Scholar Award, given to an assistant or associate professor with an outstanding record of early achievement and a strong indication of future contributions to engagement.



Sean RotarSean Rotar, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, has been appointed Chair of the Committee on Education of the American Society of Landscape Architects. The ASLA Committee on Education advises the society on education policy, growth and maintenance of landscape architecture programs, and monitors education and employment trends. Sean’s two-year term began in November and will end in November 2016.



Fred WhitfordFred Whitford, Botany and Plant Pathology, received the Fellow Award from the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators. The AAPSE Fellow Award is the highest recognition bestowed by AAPSE. Fellows are nominated because of their superior service to AAPSE and achievement in education, certification, public service, research, personal achievement, and recognition.



 Five Purdue Agriculture faculty members were honored by the Purdue Research Foundation  at its tenth annual Inventors Recognition Reception in November: Bruce Hamaker, Food Science; Marshall Porterfield, Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Jenna Rickus, Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Andy Tao, Biochemistry; and Bernard Tao, Agricultural and Biological Engineering


Kristi TrimbleKristi Trimble, Biochemistry, was selected as the recipient of the 2014 Eudoxia Girard Martin Staff Award. This annual University-level award recognizes a staff member, preferably a woman, who is a full-time administrative assistant or level five secretary. Selection is based on the degree to which the recipient, in service to the University community, demonstrates those qualities of heart, mind and spirit that evince a love for and helpfulness to students, faculty and staff.  It consists of a medallion, a framed description of the life of Eudoxia Girard Martin and a $1,000 honorarium. Kristi is pictured here with her boss, Dr. Clint Chapple.


Sam EbenkampSam Ebenkamp, a junior majoring in agricultural economics with a farm management concentration, won the Indiana Farm Bureau Collegiate Discussion Meet held at Purdue. The Discussion Meet simulates a committee meeting. Once presented with the topic, contestants are evaluated on their ability to exchange ideas, offer constructive criticism, cooperate and communicate while analyzing agricultural problems and developing solutions. In addition to $500 in scholarship money, Sam receives a trip to Nashville, Tenn. in February to compete in the national contest at the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Conference.


WilsonA team made up of Agricultural and Biological Engineering graduate students David Wilson (pictured here) and Jeremy Robison claimed second place for its low-cost multipurpose utility vehicle for sub-Saharan Africa farmers at USAID's Student Innovation Marketplace competition, an event that drew student teams from across the country. The Purdue Practical Utility Platform vehicle, or PUP, is designed to pull small field implements for planting and cultivation. The engine can power mechanical attachments in sub-Saharan Africa, where a lack of resources can hinder transportation and agricultural processes.

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Purdue Agriculture in the News


FFA top official to deliver keynote address at Purdue Fish Fry

Dwight ArmstrongThe head of the National FFA Organization will be the featured speaker at the 2015 Purdue University Ag Alumni Association Fish Fry. W. Dwight Armstrong, chief executive of the Indianapolis-based group that serves 610,240 student members in all 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, will give the keynote address at the Feb. 7 event. It will be held in the Blue Ribbon Pavilion on the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis beginning at 11:30 a.m. EST. Armstrong has a wide range of experience in agriculture, from growing up on a small farm in Kentucky to serving as a faculty member, an agribusiness executive and now as CEO of one of the world's largest youth leadership development organizations, noted Dean Jay Akridge.

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Purdue ag economists conduct survey on expected holiday spending

Nicole Olynk WidmarMost people who responded to a Purdue survey expected to spend about the same or more on holiday meals, gifts and travel this year compared with last year. The researchers - agricultural economics associate professor Nicole Olynk Widmar and doctoral student Elizabeth Byrd - asked respondents to report their intended spending for the 2014 holiday season relative to last year. Twenty-one percent of the participants indicated they would spend more on holiday meals this year, 20 percent said they would spend more on holiday gifts, and 12 percent planned to spend more on holiday travel. Across all three spending categories, about 60-65 percent of respondents indicated they would spend about the same amount as last year.

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Purdue to offer online course in 'Agronomy Essentials'

Bruce EricksonPurdue's Department of Agronomy is offering a distance education course to give farmers and agribusiness professionals a comprehensive baseline understanding of agronomy and agronomic practices. Agronomy Essentials aims to expand agribusiness professionals' knowledge of crop production to enhance communication and effectiveness with farmer clients. The inaugural course runs from Jan. 14 through April 8 and will be offered twice more in 2015. The course was designed by Bruce Erickson, Purdue's agronomy education distance and outreach director, who teaches the course along with some of his colleagues. It includes six units with multiple modules taught with reading materials, graphics and recorded videos. A test at the end of each module will confirm comprehension and retention of the material.

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Purdue energy economist: Gasoline prices could continue to fall

Wally TynerHow low can they go? We're talking gas prices here. Plummeting gasoline prices over the past couple of months are expected to remain low through at least the spring, signaling generally good fortunes for the nation's economy, said Agricultural Economics energy economist Wally Tyner. How much more prices will fall is difficult to predict; it will depend on the cost of a barrel of crude oil. Running about $105 for the past couple of years, it was below $59 last week. "And it is likely to go even lower," Tyner said. "On balance, this decrease in gasoline prices is quite good for the economy." He noted that crude oil prices have fallen $45 over the past few months - enough to increase the U.S. gross domestic product about 1 percent. That is significant considering the GDP - the value of the nation's goods and services - is increasing by a rate of 3 percent annually. 

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Study: Invasive species can dramatically alter landscapes

Songlin FeiInvasive plant and animal species can cause dramatic and enduring changes to the geography and ecology of landscapes, a study from Purdue University and the University of Kentucky shows. A review of studies on how life forms interact with and influence their surroundings concluded that invasive species can alter landscapes in myriad ways and with varying degrees of severity. These changes can be quick, large-scale and "extremely difficult" to reverse, said study author Songlin Fei, a Purdue associate professor of quantitative ecology. "Invaders can change a landscape in long-lasting ways," Fei said. "If we do not keep an eye on them, they could cause serious problems that can have impacts for decades or centuries."

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U2U tool helps farmers with nitrogen application decisions

U2U logoThe Purdue-led Useful to Usable climate initiative is offering a new online tool to help farmers and farm advisers better manage the application of nitrogen fertilizer for maximum crop yields and minimum environmental damage. The free tool, called Corn Split N, combines historical weather data and fieldwork conditions with economic considerations to determine the feasibility and profitability of completing a post-planting nitrogen application for corn production. Now available for use in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas, it will be expanded in 2015 to include seven North-Central states - Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio and Michigan. Farmers traditionally have applied nitrogen fertilizer to the soil in a single pass, either in the fall or in the spring before planting. But Ben Gramig, Corn Split N project team member and Purdue associate professor of agricultural economics, said agronomic recommendations are to "split-apply" the nitrogen twice - once in the spring at planting and then a second time after the corn plants have emerged from the ground so that they can use the fertilizer most effectively.

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Entomology showcases robot digitizing insect collection

Entomology bug eyeThe Department of Entomology showcased a robot that can digitize insects and collection data as part of the department's 2 million-specimen collection on Dec. 5 in an event billed as "Labelpalooza." The robot, called BugEye, is an automated camera that is used to scan drawers of insects in Purdue’s Entomological Research Collection by 3-D imaging. The system was designed and funded through the National Science Foundation project "InvertNet - An Integrative Platform for Research on Environmental Change, Species Discovery and Identification." Although a small portion of the collection has already been scanned as part of this project, 1,500 drawers housing more than 1 million specimens still must be digitized.

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Another good year for Indiana Christmas trees

Cassens treeAn abundance of rain and cool temperatures this year that helped Christmas trees in Indiana develop well bid good tidings for shoppers wanting a fresh tree for their home, Purdue wood products specialist Dan Cassens says. The drought of 2012 was a challenge for the industry because of the stress it caused trees, with many dying. “We thought we could lose all the trees,” said Cassens, who owns a tree farm in West Lafayette. “But the stronger trees prevailed, and last year the trees looked good by the time Christmas season came around.” Trees continued to get strong this year because the weather favored healthy growth. “This year, with the rain and cooler weather, the trees just grew beautifully,” Cassens said. “They were just really doing the best that they absolutely could.”

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University News

Attention to security urged at end of semester

As we near the end of the 2014-2015 fall semester, Provost Deba Dutta requests that you refresh and redouble your level of vigilance on the safety and security of campus facilities. With classes ending, and with students and faculty leaving the campus, it is important to increase your attention to security and report any suspicious behavior to the Purdue Police department. 

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Undergraduate research website launches


Purdue has launched a new website designed to help undergraduate students engage in research activities. Created by the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research and Partnerships, the site includes searchable lists of opportunities, learning resources for students and faculty, an option for faculty members to add new research opportunities, and information about the annual undergraduate research symposium. The website is located at The new site leverages previous efforts, led by the Honors College, to create a central website for undergraduate research.

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Report ranks Purdue as leader in global student body, campus experience


Purdue continues to attract one of the largest international student populations as the university has the second-largest number among U.S. public universities and fifth largest when private universities are included, according to a report released Monday (Nov. 17) by the Institute of International Education. The 2014 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange is based on the 2013-14 academic year, and it reports Purdue had 9,988 international students. This number is larger than Purdue's reported 8,702 for Fall 2013 because the institute includes recent graduates who obtained employment eligibility in the United States and who are still affiliated with their universities. The Open Doors report shows an increase of 479 while Purdue's records show a jump of 140.

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Planned child care center to open by fall 2016


A child care facility with capacity for 116 children will open on the west side of Purdue's West Lafayette campus by fall 2016, President Mitch Daniels announced. Daniels said the facility will be a public-private partnership involving Purdue, the Purdue Research Foundation and a center operator, which will be determined later. The facility will represent a 63 percent increase in the campus' full-time child care capacity slots, bringing Purdue to the midpoint of child care capacity available at other Big Ten and peer institutions. In addition to the full-time child care slots it will offer, the facility will include a school-age classroom that will provide a variety of camps and drop-in days for children ages 6-12 when their school is not in session. The classroom will have the capacity to accommodate 24 children at a time.

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Human Resources encourages supervisors to use new employee orientation

The Office of the Vice President for Human Resources implemented University-wide orientation for new employees in 2012. The goal of this program is to support new staff members in assimilating quickly and successfully into the Purdue culture and to offer a foundation of knowledge regarding mission, organizational structure and functions. New employee orientation is offered weekly on Mondays. Supervisors should register new employees for orientation at the time an open position is filled. The success of this program depends on supervisors' registering employees to take part. Participation is highly encouraged, and feedback is welcome. To register for new employee orientation or new supervisor training, go to tools, including onboarding assistance, an agenda for orientation, parking information and upcoming dates and locations, are available online at Questions about new employee orientation may be directed to Teresa Rohler at 49-41679 or