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On Academic Polls and What They REALLY Say

I am now well into my third year as Dean of the college. As a goal-oriented person, my most significant goal is to improve the College of Engineering & Technology’s academic standing versus other engineering colleges in the United States. While it is not the only poll, one poll that does not rank us extraordinarily high is the U.S. News & World Report, which appears each September. Last year we were once again not ranked in the top 75 institutions in engineering, while Iowa State, Kansas State, Colorado State, Kansas, Iowa, and several others in the region were. I have spent a significant amount of time trying to determine the cause of this, and there is one thing of which I am relatively certain—we are better than the polls show!

There are a number of objective indicators one can look at, such as students per FTE, degrees granted per FTE, and research funding per FTE, all of which show we are quite competitive with the schools listed above. This would seem to indicate we are under-marketing our product. I want you to know we have embarked on an ambitious program in the college to improve our image, especially in this region of the country.

There is also another way to improve our standing: to actually get better! Anyone can see this part of the problem is far more difficult than the marketing part. However, I am just as committed to this part of the solution, perhaps more so. Over the past year and a half, we have been involved in an integrated effort to improve our standing by getting both bigger and better. We are actively engaged in a systematic program to recruit more and better international graduate students. Of course, this cannot be accomplished without more funding for students, so we have undertaken several activities to increase our resource base for students. We are seeking more endowment for graduate fellowships, as well as more external research funding.

Of course, these objectives cannot be met without also increasing and improving our faculty. In this area I am happy to report we have made the most progress of all. In the past 18 months we have hired 15 new faculty in the college. Five of whom are endowed chairs who came to us from prestigious institutions such as The University of Michigan and Virginia Tech. Furthermore, we are continuing this trend, with another eight positions in the process of being filled.

I am confident the efforts we are making will have profound results as we move forward over the next two to three years. It is an exciting time to be in engineering at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

– David H. Allen