WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University senior Austin Haberly doesn't want Purdue Polytechnic Institute on his degree.
So he started a petition opposing the university's decision to change the College of Technology. He is asking Purdue University to at least allow students enrolled at the time of the rebranding to graduate with College of Technology degrees.
"I do believe that's important, based on the feedback of my peers," Haberly told the Journal & Courier. "Everybody is desiring that title that we've been expecting for the last three years. This was really just dropped in our laps, and we didn't really have a choice in the matter."
The transformation has been in the works for the past two years, said Gary Bertoline, dean of the new Purdue Polytechnic Institute. Focus groups consisting of students, faculty and industry were interviewed before the name change was proposed and reaction has been positive, he said.
The board of trustees approved the new name in May to reflect a changing mission of serving the 21st-century workforce. Several new majors, a competency-based degree, and an emphasis on liberal arts integration and project-based learning are part of the rebranding, Bertoline said.
"One of the motives behind the change of the name is we want to express to people how transformational this effort is, and to stay with the same name I think would not do justice," he said.
But some students and alumni are concerned the name change could be confusing, implying they graduated from a regional campus or trade school connected to Purdue. The word "polytech" was also a major point of contention among students.
"The word 'polytech' has a negative connotation that people associate with a lower quality performance and output compared to a university," Ryan Rumble, a senior studying computer information technology, said.
But Bertoline noted Virginia Tech, which has the formal name of Virginia Polytechnic and State University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are well-known, prestigious institutions.
"If you look more deep into this, I think that you'll find that the word 'polytechnic' actually has pretty high regard," he said.
Still, Haberly said it will take time for employers and industry leaders to catch on.
"During that transition, it's going to be harder for students to get recognized from companies because the companies aren't going to be familiar with the new school," Haberley said. "Companies already have a great idea of what the College of Technology is and they have for years."
Bertoline said the college's enrollment has declined in the past decade. He said with the focus on innovative education, the institute's graduates will be more sought after.
"When our graduates go out and they become highly successful and recognized because they have this different kind of skill set, people will look at the 'polytechnic' in a light that is going to be much greater than I think anyone can even imagine," he said. "So the product is actually what's going to define the name."