Pratt plans renovations, increase in faculty hiringsThe Pratt School of Engineering has planned a number of significant changes to guide the school’s progress over the next five years.
Starting in 2015, Pratt aims to strengthen faculty and graduate programs in addition to beginning a number of renovations. The changes range from expanding engineering buildings and labs such as Teer Building and Hudson Hall, to increasing the number of Ph.D. and master's students on campus.
“The point is to continue to improve in stature and reputation as a top-notch research university,” said Linda Franzoni, associate dean for undergraduate education at Pratt. “In that way we can provide the best educational experience for all of our students.”
To put together their plan, Dean of Pratt Tom Katsouleas and his team analyzed metrics such as quality of student applications, graduation statistics and faculty recognition in order to identify ways to achieve Pratt's goals. Projected changes were also discussed with faculty, students and administration.
Many of the listed goals involve creating growth in the graduate departments, such as strengthening Ph.D Plus—Duke’s Ph.D degree preparation program—and increasing the number of Ph.D fellowships overall. Additionally, Pratt plans to increase the number of students in master's programs from 436 to 600.
Other projected changes include expanding academic programs, such as the Grand Challenge Scholars and the Bass Connections programs.
Pratt has plans to increase faculty size by one or two new professors per year, with a special focus on retaining good professors to ensure top-quality education and research with incentives such as seed grants. Plans are being made to create a Duke Engineering Research Institute, allowing collaboration with industry and government partners.
Undergraduate reception to the changes has been generally positive, but some students feel left out by the focus on graduate students and faculty.
“I appreciate that Pratt is taking measures to retain qualified faculty members,” said sophomore Jared Alosio. “But aside from that, I’m not really affected by a lot of this.”
Katsouleas indicated, however, that undergraduates were not being neglected or ignored, and that many of the changes would have a direct impact on current students.
“The intention is for all of these priorities to benefit undergraduates,” Franzoni said. “By increasing the number of graduate students [and faculty], our undergraduates will have access to more mentors, collaborators, advisers, and role models.”
Katsouleas also noted that the creation of the new engineering building and the renovations planned would provide important space used by undergraduates daily.
“We are approved to begin a renovation of the Gross Hall basement into about 7,000 square feet... to support Pratt clubs and teams as well as Trinity and other students,” Katsouleas said.
However, some students have misgivings towards the scope of the new future plan. Sophomore Joshua Wu cited the current West Union renovations as a similar long-term project, one he would graduate too early to appreciate.
“Right now, as a Duke student, the school is implementing so many changes that the student experience seems unstable – things change so suddenly that nothing feels concrete,” Wu said.