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Rose-Hulman takes pride in top college ranking

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Rose-Hulman's No. 1 ranking in U.S. News and World Report — again — is a source of pride for Adam Janeira, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering.

"It's one of the reasons why people come here," said Janeira, who is from Newburgh. "It's such a great inspiration to know the school you are going to is achieving so much . and you're getting a top-notch education."

For the 14th year in a row, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology has been ranked the nation's top undergraduate engineering college in the U.S. News & World Report 2013 college guidebook, the Tribune-Star reported.

The school in Terre Haute, about 75 miles west of Indianapolis, is first among colleges that offer the bachelor's or master's degree as their top degrees in engineering.

Greg Bollivar, a freshman from Normal, Ill., said he first learned about Rose-Hulman a few years ago from a cousin who attended the college and gave him a shirt proclaiming its No. 1 ranking.

His brother also attends Rose. "I guess as a family we realize that it's a really good school," he said Wednesday, the day the 2013 rankings became public. The ranking reinforces what he already knows — that he's getting a really good education that will ultimately lead to a really good job.

Interim president Robert Coons says the college focuses on providing a quality undergraduate education for its 1,900 or so students, not a ranking.

But there are many benefits to that No. 1 ranking. "It puts us on the map globally" and brings students from as far away as China and Japan, Coons said.

The ranking instills a sense of pride among Rose alumni, he said. As of 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, he had received 30 emails from alumni "thrilled" about the continuing record of success.

Coons also believes the continued No. 1 ranking provides continuity in a year of transition as far as college leadership. "I think it helps reassure the community that the institution is solid, stable and moving forward," he said.

He's also been made aware the ranking serves as a good promotional tool for Terre Haute.

Next week, Coons will present to the Rose-Hulman board of trustees a five-year strategic plan that outlines how it will maintain and improve upon its record of academic and teaching excellence.

Andy Zehnder, a 1998 Rose-Hulman alumnus, was on campus Wednesday as part of a General Electric networking event. He is an engineering manager at GE Aviation in Cincinnati and regularly visits Rose-Hulman to recruit students.

The ranking "speaks volumes," he said. The ranking "is something that really helps me prove to my company that this is a place we need to go and get more and more engineers."

Engineers from Rose-Hulman "are by and far the best," Zehnder said, perhaps showing a little bit of bias.

Phil Cornwell, Rose-Hulman's vice president for academic affairs, taught at the college 22 years before stepping up to administration.

He came to Rose because its focus was on teaching and undergraduate education — and that's where the focus remains.

He believes that's the key to its consistent No. 1 ranking.

Some schools say teaching is important, but the reward system for faculty is based more on research and how much money they bring in, he said.

"Here, the reward system is really how good of an educator you are," Cornwell said. "We want you to stay intellectually growing and we want you to be experts in your field, but ultimately, are you a good educator?"

He frequently tells faculty that one of the primary measures of success is the success of students. "That's why we're here," he said.

The focus will remain on educating students, not on obtaining a ranking, he said.

Among faculty, "There is a certain amount of skepticism as far as what does it actually mean. We all like it. We all think it's wonderful. But ultimately, we're doing what we're doing because we believe we're helping students be successful."

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  • Where do they really rank?
    Being first among colleges that "offer the bachelor's or master's degree as their top degrees in engineering" is a great acheivement, and their focus on teaching is an obvious plus, but it would be nice to know where they rank among all schools. I have friends from Penn, Purdue and Rose, all of whom have great jobs/carrers, and there is a good humored argument as to which is the best. Personally, I think they are all excellent, and it varies among engineering specialties and with the individual's personality.

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