PUC becoming hometown university
Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 21:08
With a year under his belt, PUC Chancellor Thomas Keon feels the campus community is making strides toward becoming the “hometown university” he envisioned.
Since being appointed chancellor on April 7, 2011, and officially beginning his duties on July 1, 2011, Keon has spent much of the first year getting acquainted with the campus community and the surrounding area.
“One of the things that I really like about the campus is that it’s almost like an oasis,” Keon said, describing how he feels entering campus from the neighboring residential areas. “All of a sudden, you come to campus, and there’s a sense of being in almost a different world.”
The chancellor’s wife Nancy Keon is very dedicated to her husband’s career, as well as to the campus community. Last spring, the Keon hosted an evening of dinner and conversation with members of the PUC SGA at the Kuiper House.
Aside from enjoying the campus atmosphere, over the past year Keon has come to enjoy several aspects of living in Northwest Indiana that remind him of growing up in Massachusetts. Keon said heenjoys the close proximity of the dune-laden coast of Lake Michigan, which he finds similar to the shores of Cape Cod, Mass. Another likeness Keon appreciates is the regional diversity.
“The part of Massachusetts that I grew up [in], there were a lot of ethnic centers geographically, and so that’s one of the things that I like about Northwest Indiana. There’s a lot of different ethnic areas,” Keon said.
Also crucial during the first year, Keon said, were collaborative assessments he made with faculty members concerning PUC’s strengths and weaknesses. These evaluations helped Keon shape revisions to the strategic plan originally set in place by PUC’s former chancellor, Howard Cohen. He has also spent time over the past year, not only cultivating ideas and efforts to bolster each of the four goals in the plan, but also nurturing his vision of PUC as a hometown university.
“The sense is that people who live in the area, when they’re thinking about a university, they’re thinking about their hometown university – Purdue Calumet,” Keon said.
The basis for the chancellor’s vision consists of PUC interacting and working with the surrounding community. Keon says that he has found PUC’s student athletes to be exemplary models of his vision.
“Last year, their average GPA was 3.08, higher than the student body as a whole. Almost all of our student athletes are also very involved in volunteer projects in the community,” Keon said.
Keon also added that he has been impressed with the engagement of the SGA on campus. Together, Keon and the SGA were able to re-establish December commencement, generate support for a state-of-the-art recreation and fitness facility, as well as reevaluate ways to improve campus life through student affairs. Former SGA President Jessie Martin, who was a member of the Chancellor Search Committee and worked extensively with Keon, said that Keon’s commitment made his job more enjoyable.
“From the very beginning, Chancellor Keon has been very receptive to the SGA and our ideas. I’m sure he would like nothing more than to see SGA continue to grow, develop and become an even greater force on campus that can channel the voice of the student body,” Martin said.
Other projects Keon has been committed to in the past year include securing outside funds to build various outdoor athletic fields in Hammond’s Dowling Park, as well as looking into building a commercialization center for the campus.
“A commercialization center is a place where faculty, students and staff that think they have an idea that could be turned into a business could go and get help and get space to work on the project,” Keon said.
While continuing to work on his current endeavors, Keon hopes to see the campus community continually evolve.
“I’m hoping that in the next year, we see some new projects developing and a new and exciting atmosphere being created,” Keon said.