Truth in Numbers
Rankings. Most of us love to hate them. As academics, we struggle with whether they are an accurate indicator of real quality or just advertising. One can argue that those at the top of the list may tend to appreciate the results of the rankings algorithm more than those at the bottom of the list—whether they agree with the actual algorithm or not.
I would like to share with you some of the numbers that have mattered to me most as dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering for the past 16 years. I believe these numbers are more direct indicators of the success of our students and faculty than rankings.
5,343: The number of students who applied for the 320 available engineering seats in the Class of 2016, illustrating our growing national and international reputation and visibility.
34: The percentage of women studying in our undergraduate programs—roughly twice the national average. Diversity in our classrooms adds to the richness of the education we provide.
81: The current number of tenured/tenure-track faculty in the school. Hopefully, this number will grow to 100 for the Vanderbilt School of Engineering to have the depth and breadth needed for greater impact in engineering education, scholarship and research, as well as to reduce our student–faculty ratio to a level that provides more effective instruction and mentoring for our students.
28: The number of National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program awards received by tenure-track faculty since 2000—indicating the school’s ability to attract creative, high-potential faculty members.
12: The number of endowed chairs in engineering. We need the generosity of our alumni to add more chairs if we want to continue to attract and retain the absolute best faculty talent.
$63 million: The total externally funded research expenditures of the School of Engineering in fiscal year 2011. This number is up 400 percent over the past 10 years, illustrating the talent and the drive of our faculty.
This is just a sample of the numbers that matter to me. These numbers are direct indicators of how well we are accomplishing our mission of education and research, and indicate what we should be working to improve.
As I write to you in Vanderbilt Engineering for the last time, let me express my gratitude for the opportunity to serve as your dean. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you, our faculty and Vanderbilt in this position.
Kenneth F. Galloway