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February 11, 2014

Home sweet home at Purdue

Local college director gives vision for campus

NEW ALBANY — He probably wouldn’t have a hard time finding a place to stay or a job in Hawaii — away from this season’s colder-than-usual weather and closer to some of his family.

But Andrew Takami, director of the Purdue University College of Technology in New Albany, said he stays in Southern Indiana because he’s got lots of reasons to like it.

“This is my home,” Takami said. “I was born here. I love it here. I love four seasons. My father was born and raised in Hawaii. That’s a great place to be from, it’s still a great place to live.”

In April, Takami will complete his first year as the director of the campus. This is the third college he’s worked for in Clark and Floyd counties in the last decade. His background in raising charitable funds at both IU Southeast and Ivy Tech Community College of Southern Indiana follow him to his current position.

As he looks to move Purdue’s presence in the region closer to the forefront, Takami said philanthropy will play a major role in the success of his campus, but it’s not his only focus.

“We’re starting to get more and more prominence,” Takami said. “I think more people know that we’re here and that the opportunities to get a Purdue degree locally exist.”

The college offers four bachelor degree programs — electrical engineering technology, mechanical engineering technology, graphic arts technology and organizational leadership and supervision.

With enrollment at about 240 students, Takami said the goal for his campus is to double that in the next five years. To accomplish that, he said it’ll have to expand its degree offerings, make partnerships with business to train employees and forge a number of other connections outside of his campus.

To make sure its programs stay relevant in the area, Takami said it’s planning on adding two more bachelors programs in construction management and aviation.

He said the campus is also examining the possibility of adding masters programs, but it’s still working out what makes the most sense.

By adding these programs and pushing their existing science, technology, engineering and math programs, it can become a powerhouse for higher education in the region and reach its enrollment goal.

“We believe we can do it,” Takami said. “We teach the STEM subjects. These subjects are highly needful in our region. As more and more companies come here and we’re thinking about innovation, it’s our graduates that they’re hiring.

But linking up with business is going to be a crucial part of that. He said partnering with industry won’t just give students a chance to find jobs once they graduate — though he said many already have an employer before they collect their diplomas — it will increase the college’s relevance in the region.

Those partnerships, he said, could include offering certifications for those incoming workforces or even training them all the way up to bachelor’s degrees.

As development for industry looks to ramp up with the completion of the Ohio River Bridges Project, Takami said more companies will look to his university to prepare their employees.

“As a university, we want to be relevant to this community, to the families, the businesses,” Takami said. “The way to be relevant is to educate. As our enrollment grows, we’re able to impact more students, more families, more businesses. We will continue to have that as the No. 1 focus, but all of these actually relate.”

Which, he said, leads to philanthropy. After working as the executive director of college advancement at Ivy Tech and other fundraising positions, he said he realizes how much a role the giving of others plays in the success of a university.

He said hopefully the college can create some endowments or professorships through charitable donations, but gifts from others have already done so much for the campus.

He said from securing the site the school sits on to equipping its labs with cutting-edge technology, the Blue Sky Foundation and the Ogle Foundation have both contributed a lot to the university.

He said making sure donors feel like they’re an integral part of the campus’ success is the key to bringing them in.

“There’s an adage, if you ask, you shall receive,” Takami said. “There’s another adage — if you ask a philanthropist for money, they’ll give you advice. But if you allow them to be a part of the conversation, they’ll want to be a part of the success.”

Though bringing in money is helpful, he said he hopes the tradition of philanthropy he wants to start at Purdue extends beyond donors with deep pockets.

“There are so many different ways people can be connected, to give their time, their talent, their treasure,” Takami said. “We’re very much dependent on the community and we believe the community is very much dependent on higher education.”

After spending his entire career in Southern Indiana, Takami said he hopes he can continue to bring more attention to the region. Ultimately, he said, maybe he’ll have a story to tell like so many others he’s met.

“It’s a really great region, but it’s home for me,” Takami said. “There’s a great quality of life, I see it getting better every year and I’m always interested when I talk to people who aren’t from here but want to retire here. People have been successful because in the last 10, 20 years, you have more people who want to stay here.”

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