10 Sep 2016 19:07 IST

Purdue’s STEM core is a big draw for international students

Strong India cohort among 9,000 foreign students, says Bryant Priester, Director, Intl Admissions

In 1862, American President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Land Grant Act, which turned public lands over to any state that agreed to use the land sale proceeds to maintain a college teaching agriculture and the “mechanic arts.”

The Indiana General Assembly chose the Lafayette area for the new institution and accepted a $150,000 gift from wealthy American industrialist John Purdue, as well as $50,000 from the Tippecanoe County and 100 acres from local residents. The legislature named the new school Purdue University. Classes began in 1874, with six teachers and 39 students. Now, 142 years later, the university has over 39,000 students from all 50 states in the US and from 124 other countries. About three-fourths of these are undergrads, who can choose from about 200 majors, while the rest are pursuing graduate and professional courses.

International students

With 9,230 foreign students (23 per cent of its student body), Purdue also boasts the second highest number of international students among all American public colleges and universities. Of these, the Chinese are the largest cohort, while 1,700 Indian and Indian-origin students, form the next largest international group, many of them degree-seeking under-grads.

It was as part of a trip to address prospective students, and their parents, in India that Bryant Priester, Director, International Admissions and Recruitment, visited Chennai recently.


“The university believes in engaging with the parents so they have a clear idea of what the course is about, its scope, duration, the credits required, how many breaks there will be, and so on,” he said.

Highlighting the University’s specialty areas, Priester said: “The most popular courses are in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), in which area Purdue records the highest enrolment of international students compared with any other American university. Architecture and industrial management are becoming popular too, with the University’s Krannert School of Management allowing students to opt for a combination of disciplines.” Apart from MBA, the School awards Master’s degrees in industrial relations, human resource management and related disciplines. (Read interview with Krannert’s Director of MBA Programmes, Karthik Kannan here )

Digital facilities

Purdue is changing the way courses are taught, with an increasing focus on faculty-student interaction, and a wider use of technology in teaching courses ranging from engineering and pharmacy to business and agriculture, with the use of digital models and learning videos set to go up once the Wilmeth Active Learning Centre comes up next year.

Its expansive, 3,000-acre campus is a standalone community in itself, with world-class facilities and resources that include more than 400 research labs and one of the fastest supercomputers in the world.

“Purdue even has its own airport, and offers courses in aviation. It also boasts the first physical Amazon store on any campus. More than 10,000 staff work to keep this ‘univercity’ functioning smoothly and the students safe,” said Priester.


The university houses state-of-the-art research and learning spaces across its campus. Discovery Park, which sits on 40 acres on the edge of campus, houses interdisciplinary facilities, cutting-edge equipment and shared spaces to encourage collaborative projects in life and health sciences; drug discovery and development; energy, climate change, water, the environment and food security; information technology, homeland security, and simulation and modelling new materials; nanotechnology, bio-nanotechnology and nano-medicine; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning; and other areas.

India connection

Purdue has partnered with India to develop smart cities, breakthrough manufacturing, and inclusive entrepreneurship.  The University also has partnerships with institutions in India such as IIT Madras, IIT Hyderabad, and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.  

Noted Purdue alumni in India are chemist CNR Rao, Professor Emeritus at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and a Bharat Ratna; Dr Habil Khorakiwala, Chairman, Wockhardt Ltd, Ritu Nanda, a partner with Alok Nanda Company and Sanjay Reddy, Vice-Chairman, GVK Industries Ltd.

More recently, popular Malayalam movie star Dulquer Salman graduated from the Krannert School of Management.  

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