PNW Pridecast: A Conversation with Chancellor Keon

December 7, 2022

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Episode Script

Greetings, Purdue Northwest colleagues!

Welcome back to the PNW Pridecast, your internal faculty and staff news podcast, for one more installment to close out the fall 2022 semester.

I’m Kale Wilk, Communications Specialist in the office of Marketing and Communications, and we have a special edition this time. I was able to spend some time with Chancellor Keon and asked him to reflect upon 2022. Also in this episode, I highlight of some of the ways our faculty are continually enhancing students’ experiences in the classroom.

A conversation with Chancellor Keon

Our team sat down with Chancellor Tom Keon to reflect on the calendar year and the exciting ongoing developments at Purdue Northwest. To start, we wanted to know in Chancellor Keon’s words, how he would describe our metropolitan university:

Chancellor Keon: “As I think about a metropolitan university, I think about a university that is in an urban setting that has a reasonable amount of mass. In our situation in Northwest Indiana we have the second-largest population in the state. As such, we really have a lot of responsibilities to Northwest Indiana — the biggest of which, I personally think, is our role in economic development.

Of course, the No. 1 strategy is always to educate the population. Beyond educating the population I think it’s really important for us to take steps as a university to engage with economic development so we that can ensure that our graduates have jobs when they graduate as well as years to come. A lot of economic development has to do with what is going to happen 10 or 15 years from now. We want to make sure that that is something we are adding to as opposed to just simply adding more to the labor market.

Now with that said, we are not just as narrow as economic development. The whole idea of economic development is the university really playing a part with the community. As we are playing a part with the community there are multiple facets that are important to us. We are in a very diverse part of the state, and frankly we are one of the most diverse universities in the state. So we have an obligation to make sure in particular that our minority communities are being served appropriately. What it means is that we embrace them and we make them part of the university. And probably more importantly we try to set up success for them when they come to us.

As I talk about being a metropolitan university, it is really about that integration with Northwest Indiana.”

A significant facet of Purdue Northwest is the increasing diversity of our student body. We asked Chancellor Keon what stands out to him with the big picture of PNW’s student demographics.

Chancellor Keon: “There are a lot of things I think are important about our student body. Much of it has to do with how it has changed since I arrived 12 years ago.

One of the big changes is our undergraduate student body is now 91% full-time, which is very, very different. I do not think people are as aware of the fact that that has happened at the university. Of course, it has a lot of impact for us not only in scheduling classes but also what our campus looks like, what rooms are available, what space is available because we now have individuals who are here all day. They are not driving in, taking a class, and driving away. They are here for the day and we need to make sure our facilities are appropriate for them.

The students are getting younger and more like what people think when they think about a traditional university. These are people who are choosing to come here because they want to and because we are, I hope, providing them with some excellent opportunity.

Probably one of the things that has been of most interest to me this year is that our freshman class was 55% first-generation. Historically, we used to run about 70% first-generation. At 55% what that means is that 45% of our freshmen are coming from a home where one or both of their parents went to college, and that is a lot different. It used to be that if your parents went to college they were not going to send you to Purdue Northwest. But now, we are not seeing that. We are seeing, yes, parents want their children to come here. That has a lot of long-term, significant implications for us. And with a shrinking number of high school students coming over the years, I think it is really important that people view us as a quality opportunity for higher education.

Another reason this is important, and I didn’t talk about this yet with respect to our undergraduate population, and in particular freshman class, is that it is very diverse. We have finally hit 25% Hispanic students to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution, and our African American population is still running at about 12%. Not only are we seeing an expanded Honors College, we are seeing an Honors College that is extremely diverse. The Honors College is a reflection of our university. It is a great mix of our wonderfully diverse population of students.”

We also asked the importance of continuing serving and recruiting first-generation students, and offered Chancellor Keon the chance to reflect on his own experience as a first-generation student and graduate.

Chancellor Keon: “This goes back to the whole notion of a metropolitan university. One of the things I learned as a first-generation student is that I did not know what I was doing, and my parents knew less about what I was doing than I did. Truth be known, at least for me, I didn’t realize how limiting it is to start and not know anything about what you are getting into. More importantly, what you are doing can have such a huge impact on your future life.

There are two pieces to this, and this is what I think we are working on. One is that outreach piece — what do we do as a university to help parents who have not gotten to go to college to get a better understanding of what college is about and what their children are going through? And that goes to that whole metropolitan emphasis of having an impact on the community.

But then also we have to do a lot with mentoring. The students themselves need help. Sometimes it is advice, sometimes it is stronger than advice. Hopefully some of our faculty are doing that in the classroom. And I do know because of our retention efforts there is a lot being done to guide students so that they do not go astray.”

In regard to academics, PNW continues to make strides with expansions in its programs, with particular attention to new and upcoming applied doctoral programs in Technology and Psychology, respectively.

Chancellor Keon: “It turns out that our first doctoral program, the Doctor of Nursing Practice, is much broader in terms of the population we serve. While it will always have an impact on Northwest Indiana, it may not have exactly the same impact as the other two — one that is in place and one that is in the working process.

The newest in place, as of a month ago, is our Doctor of Technology (DTech). Our Doctor of Technology I think in the long run could have a very, very significant impact on Northwest Indiana. My expectation is that we will have a number of individuals go through that doctoral program. The doctoral program is applied in nature — it’s not theoretical. So any work that these students do while they are here, particularly on what will be their final project or dissertation, is very likely to be something that could be commercialized. As a result of that, it is my hope that over the years that if we could have just one graduate each year commercialize a project they are working on into a product, then we could spin off a lot of businesses that could live and stay in Northwest Indiana.

Our doctorate in Psychology, which is clinical psychology, is, again, applied — it’s a PsyD. This has a different type of impact on Northwest Indiana. Northwest Indiana has a number of issues related to psychological behavior and things like drug addiction. We have some other issues in the community that are related to poverty. So this will allow people who have an interest in getting this doctorate in counseling psychology to become educated right here at a reasonable cost as opposed to going into Chicago, and clearly an opportunity to stay and practice here. In regard to short-term benefits, it is very likely our students as they go through the program will serve in clinics throughout Northwest Indiana as part of their practicum. As a result of that, we will have direct impact on a number of individuals in the community that need psychological help.”

We concluded our talk with Chancellor Keon by asking him his favorite thing from a calendar year full of highlights.

Chancellor Keon: “One of the things coming out of the pandemic that was important to us was to develop a stronger relationship between our students and our university. One of many things that have happened over the last 12 months have been activities that bring students to campus, back to campus, or staying on campus. But most importantly, getting a feeling of belonging as part of the campus.

Now, there are some related pieces to that, like our bell tower, our fight song, and our alma mater. These are all things that did not exist a year ago. Now we are seeing them become part of the fabric of the university, which is truly of significance.

Of course, there were a lot of other things that happened this year. But as I think about the most important, it’s that building tradition, building relationships to and with our students, which, in turn, I think will help retention and will help us remain as a strong cornerstone of higher education in Northwest Indiana.”

We turn now to a highlight of some of the ways our faculty are continually enhancing students’ experiences in the classroom.

Study demonstrates ACUE’s effectiveness

Purdue Northwest’s Center for Faculty Excellence for five years has helped lead faculty members in the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) course in Effective Teaching Practices.

Over 135 faculty and staff members have participated, which are responsible for completing modules that rethink effective course delivery and promote active learning techniques for higher order instruction. All cohort members are additionally responsible for implementing an evidence-based teaching practice in their own courses to study its effectiveness with their students.

A recent meta-analysis conducted by Elizabeth Tipton, a professor at Northwestern University, in cooperation with ACUE’s research team, studied faculty members’ effectiveness across partnering colleges and universities, including Purdue Northwest. The study found the average effect of ACUE-certified faculty members increases average course grades and decreases course withdrawals.

The ACUE course in Effective Teaching Practices challenges PNW faculty to reimagine their approach in the classroom in line with being a student-ready university. As today’s college students bring new skills, perspectives, and methods to the higher education realm, a growth mindset-oriented approach helps faculty to meet students where they are. Here’s Emily Hixon, director of the Center for Faculty Excellence and professor of Education, with more.

“The students we are teaching today are not the students that were here 20, 10, 5 years ago,” said Hixon. “We are teaching different students all the time. We can’t always expect them to change to work the way we do, we have got to also think about how we can change to meet them where they are.

“We have admitted you, we are committed to your success, let us support you in developing those skills and being successful. It’s not on you, it’s on us, like a collective responsibility for helping all of our students to be successful. But it’s a change, right? It’s a change for a lot of people, including myself. I’ve talked with a lot of faculty who are trying to reconcile this notion of higher education in their brains. Higher education was an elite thing — only select people did it and only select people would be successful at that, and that’s kind of the mindset that they have. So it’s a shift to think about how we can help all of our students. We really want to see every single one of them be successful, it’s just a different way of thinking about higher education than we may have engaged with before.”

To learn more about ACUE and the Center for Faculty Excellence, you can visit

Recent news

To wrap up as we close out the semester, we have a few highlights and reminders to share:

Fall 2022 Commencement

PNW’s fall commencement exercises take place on Saturday, Dec. 10 at John Friend Court inside the Fitness & Recreation Center on the Hammond campus. Two ceremonies will take place — the first at 11 a.m. with graduates from the colleges of Business and Nursing, and the second at 3 a.m. featuring the colleges of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences, Engineering and Sciences, and Technology.

A total of 833 candidates are eligible to receive their diplomas, including 638 earning baccalaureate degrees, 193 earning master’s degrees, and two earning their doctoral degrees.

Jim Dedelow, colloquially known as JED, will deliver the keynote address. Dedelow is the co-owner and a host on WJOB radio in Hammond. This is likely the first time a commencement keynote speaker is also earning a degree, as Jim is receiving his Master of Business Administration from the College of Business. It may also be the first time a pair of spouses have delivered the keynote address, as Jim’s wife, the Honorable Alexis Dedelow, who is also a PNW alumna, gave the spring 2018 keynote speech.

Founders Day Nominations

  • Founders Day nominations are open! By visiting you can submit your nominations for different recognitions, which honor several categories for outstanding PNW faculty, staff, and students. The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m. on Jan. 13, 2023.

Also, mark your calendars for the 2023 Founders Day celebration, which will take place on March 3, 2023 in Alumni Hall on the Hammond campus.

Thank you very much for listening! That’ll do it for this installment. We appreciate you following along during this first run of the PNW Pridecast. We will resume again in January with more information for faculty and staff. And, of course, we welcome your feedback and ideas, which you can share with us by visiting

This is Kale Wilk signing off, and I will see you in the spring semester.