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Trustees approve Pratt expansion, new dorm

The Pratt School of Engineering will expand its undergraduate enrollment by 200 students incrementally over four years beginning in fall 2005 under a plan that gained final Board of Trustees approval this weekend.

The Trustees also approved the construction of a new dormitory on East Campus to accommodate the extra engineering students and others. The 138-bed $13.8 million residence hall should be completed by the time first crop of 50 additional students arrive on campus in two years. Fifty more students will be added each year until total Pratt population has increased from about 889 to 1,089.

With the Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences set to open next summer and with admissions statistics indicating that an expansion will not hurt the quality of the admitted pool, University officials said the time is now right for the move.

"It was important that there be clear strength in the admissions pool, so that by admitting more undergraduates we wouldn't dilute the quality measured by our reading-writer sums of the people who were coming," said President Nan Keohane. "That means that the quality of the admissions pool had to come up first from an already high base and that happened."

The SAT scores for the middle 50 percent of Pratt members of the Class of 2006 ranged from 1,440 to 1,540, record highs, officials said.

When it opens, CIEMAS will provide a state-of-the-art 322,000 square feet of labs, classrooms, research facilities, offices and meeting space for the students and Pratt's 90 faculty--up from 70 just four years ago.

"As part of the academic plan, we've increased by something like 20 faculty in engineering, so even with the increase of the 200 students, the student-faculty ratio will in fact be lower," said Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations John Burness.

Pratt Dean Kristina Johnson said a major impetus for the expansion is to meet a growing national need for more engineers. In 1985, there were more than 80,000 graduates from all engineering and technical schools in the U.S., she noted.

"Today, there are fewer than 60,000 degrees conferred annually, yet there are thousands of technology jobs vacant in the country," Johnson said in a statement. "Increasing the enrollment of the Pratt School will enable Duke University to educate more engineering leaders and contribute to meeting this national need."

The new East residence hall will be constructed in between Randolph Dormitory and Broad Street, framing one side of the pedestrian pathway that runs from the all-freshmen campus toward Ninth Street via Perry Street. Burness said current proposals call for making the pathway a "second entrance" to the campus, creating a more distinct and elegant link between the campus and surrounding community.

The dorm's size is meant to alleviate the current space crunch elsewhere on East.

"We're building it deliberately larger than what we need to just house the 50 new engineers so that some of the rooms in Blackwell and Randolph--which, when [they were] built [had] the wonders of air conditioning and many beautiful things about [them], but the rooms... in retrospect, many of them were smaller than we would design if we were designing today," Keohane said.

The new dorm will feature rooms similar in size to those of the West-Edens Link.

IN OTHER BUSINESS: The Trustees gave final approval to the $55 million expansion of Perkins Library, as well as a general go-ahead for the construction of an addition to the Sanford Institute for Public Policy.

Keohane said that the necessary funding is completely in place for Perkins, but construction for Sanford is still contingent on the procurement of one last substantial gift, which has been in the works but is not yet finalized.

"We are hopeful that the gift will come in soon. We were asking permission to begin construction once funding is completed," Keohane said.

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