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New Rose-Hulman president talks about future plans, challenges in his new role

He's no stranger to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, or its campus, but he is new to the title.

Posted: Jan 31, 2019 2:27 PM
Updated: Jan 31, 2019 6:44 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - He's no stranger to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology or its campus, but he is new to the title.

"What I'm doing now is spending time in areas where I haven't spent as much time," said President Rob Coons.

Coons was officially named the college's president in November 2018. That's after Former President Jim Conwell resigned. Coons, who was vice-president at the time, served as the acting president during the resignation.

With 30 years of service to the Rose-Hulman campus, you'd think there would not be much left to explore. However, that's not the case for Coons.

For decades, Rose-Hulman has managed to hold the ranking as the top engineering school, via U.S. News and World Report. 

The school prides itself on its rigorous academics and extensive support system. Both are not only attractive but expensive qualities.

"Folks believe that because our tuition is fairly high, which it is, that that really covers the bill," said Coons.

For Coons, one of his challenges is helping to provide an affordable education. He says he plans to do more fundraising to grow the school's endowment, which would help support more scholarships and financial aid opportunities.

"We are purely focused on undergraduate instruction and teaching is why most of our faculty are here," he said, "and so we don't have a significantly large research component, and as a result, our revenue is very narrowly focused. So part of my efforts going forward will be to look for ways to broaden our revenue opportunities and support for this school."

One way, Coons says, is by continuing to grow the school's curriculum.

Recently, Rose-Hulman added a new Engineering Design major, which was made available to students in the fall. It's part of the plan to aggressively cater to students needs.

"Part of the driver for those types of activities is to continue to find ways to help the curriculum be more flexible for students," said Coons, "Students are demanding more flexibility in the curriculum at all levels. Flexibility in scheduling, the pricing structures, those types of things and so we're beginning to look at ways in which we can do that, and at the same time, preserve the academic rigor we've become known for."

Outside of academics, Coons is also pushing for more involvement in the community from Rose-Hulman.

"A lot of our faculty and staff are very actively engaged in the community today," he said, "but I think we've gone through a period where we haven't been as focused locally, and I think there's probably some opportunities where Rose could play a larger role perhaps."

"We're just beginning to look at those types of things," he added, "but we are very concerned about the community and the state of the economy in the community. Of course, where it is appropriate, I think it makes sense for Rose-Hulman to have a role to play there."

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