“We want to be clear that this campus will offer students the quality academic experience that is behind the Purdue name while, at the same time, stressing our community partnership and commitment to making a positive impact on Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana,” Mike Berghoff, chairman of Purdue University's board of trustees, said in an April 2017 news release announcing Purdue University Fort Wayne as the name for the flagship university's Fort Wayne program.
Community partnership and positive impact weren't original ideas, however. IPFW delivered both in the 50-plus years Purdue and Indiana University were joined on the Coliseum Boulevard campus. And when Indiana legislative leaders pushed for a split in 2015, a report from a working group suggested the universities, once separated, would “commit to enhancing the educational and research opportunities in Fort Wayne.”
Officials with Indiana University Research and Technology Corp. last week announced plans to lease spacein Electric Works' innovation district. A companion announcement from Purdue would be a welcome sign both universities will fulfill pledges made in the wake of IPFW's division. A bold commitment to a redevelopment project northeast Indiana residents have enthusiastically embraced will go a long way in easing concerns that our region was left with a lesser higher education option than it had in IPFW.
The $248 million project at the former General Electric complex is a perfect match for Purdue.
RTM Ventures has modeled its Electric Works plans on the successful American Tobacco Campus in Durham, North Carolina, where Duke, North Carolina State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are among partners in a collaborative workspace for entrepreneurs and investors creating opportunities in technology, health care and other cutting-edge fields. Purdue, with nearly a century of experience in using academic research to develop private-sector solutions, is well positioned to become a partner in the innovation space at Electric Works.
In addition to West Lafayette's Purdue Research Park, the university has business incubators in Merrillville, Indianapolis and New Albany. Why not Fort Wayne?
Few have ever doubted IU and Purdue are committed to maintaining first-rate academic programs on the Coliseum Boulevard campus.
IU's Electric Works plan is a promising sign the university is embedding itself in the community at large, as the University of Saint Francis has done with its downtown campus. A strong Purdue presence at Electric Works could help northeast Indiana become one of the economic strongholds where 21st century jobs are created.
IPFW alumni and supporters, along with the region's business, health care, education and nonprofit leaders, would welcome a Boilermaker addition to the mix.