Dear Friend of Indiana University,

We just closed the door on an extremely busy year at IU, one filled with notable achievements designed to provide our students with an even stronger academic experience, make an IU education more affordable and position this university to tackle the changing and significant challenges facing higher education today and well into the future.

And although we have barely turned the calendar to 2013—indeed spring semester classes have just begun at most of our campuses—we are off-and-running into what should be another challenging, but exciting, year for IU.

As many of you may know, this is a so-called long session of the Indiana General Assembly, during which time state appropriations for the next two years will be determined. Over the next four months we will be working very closely with members of the state legislature, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and the governor’s office to determine state funding for IU for the next biennium, which, in turn, will play a critical role in the decisions the university and our Board of Trustees will make regarding tuition for the next two years.

IU is fortunate to be represented at the Statehouse by an extremely talented state government relations team that has built strong relationships with members of both political parties and in both chambers of the General Assembly. Their ongoing work ensures that IU’s priorities and views get a full and fair hearing by members of the legislature, who have the difficult task of allocating scarce state resources.

Likewise, I continue to be active in our efforts to ensure that IU’s interests are vigorously represented at the Statehouse, and I am pleased to say that the tenor of the discussion regarding higher education funding has been considerably more upbeat in the early days of this legislative session than in previous recent sessions.

All of us at IU are grateful for the strong message of support sent by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education last month, when it recommended that state funding for higher education be increased by 3.5 percent for the next budget cycle. Additionally, I am very appreciative that the state’s leadership has warmly received IU’s efforts over the past year to lower tuition costs and encourage on-time degree completion.

While there is reason for optimism in this legislative session, we still have a responsibility to prepare our budget for next two years in a manner that assumes very conservative funding growth—both in terms of state funding and from tuition.

We have worked extremely hard over the past four years to become more efficient in our operations, and that work will continue this year and beyond. At the same time, as I pledged in my State of the University address last October, I intend to present a tuition recommendation to the Board of Trustees this spring that recognizes the financial challenges facing many of our students and their families today.

Growing a vibrant life sciences environment

Last November, Eli Lilly Chairman and CEO John Lechleiter penned a persuasive column for the Indianapolis Star on the need for Indiana to do more to retain its leadership role in the life sciences. In his piece, Lechleiter articulated the “bold idea” of creating an applied research institute in Indiana that would leverage the collective strengths of the state’s life sciences industry, leading research universities and the state government for the benefit of Indiana’s economy as well as the health of people around the world.

IU is uniquely positioned to be a driving force of such a research initiative given our well-regarded School of Medicine, our broad strength in life sciences-related disciplines and our leading-edge information technology capabilities. In fact, since that column ran, I have had the pleasure of sitting down with Lechleiter and new Purdue President Mitch Daniels to discuss how such an idea might become a reality.

Though still a germ of an idea, the notion of a broad public-private collaboration to advance the life sciences industry in Indiana has powerful implications for the future well-being of the state, and IU is prepared to support such an initiative in any way possible. For now, I am confident that these discussions will continue, and I hope to be able to share more details in future updates.

Recent recognition

IU ended 2012 on a high note with several remarkable achievements for our faculty, athletic teams and the university itself:

  • Twelve IU faculty members, a record for a single year, received the distinction of being named fellows to the American Association for the Advancement of Science for their scholarly achievement. These new fellows bring the total of IU-affiliated faculty members in AAAS to 81.
  • Eight IU faculty members, six from IU Bloomington and two from IUPUI, were among the inaugural class of fellows inducted by the American Mathematical Society. The society is the world’s most influential organization dedicated to mathematical research and scholarship.
  • The American Academy of Optometry recognized two professors from the IU School of Optometry for their unique contributions to the study of vision, science. Dr. Larry Thibos was awarded the Charles F. Prentice Medal, considered the most prestigious honor given by the academy and Dr. Sarita Soni was honored with the William Feinbloom Award for her contribution to clinical excellence. 
  • IU’s commitment to international study was highlighted again this year in the most recent “Open Doors” report by the Institute for International Education. According to the report, IU Bloomington now ranks No. 7 in the total number of students studying abroad in 2011, up from No. 8 the previous year, and 11th in the number of international students enrolled on the campus. We are now clearly among the top 10 most international universities in the United States.
  • For the sixth consecutive year, IU Bloomington was named one of the 100 “best values” in public education by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. The campus came in No. 39 on the list, up one spot from last year and fourth among Big Ten universities.
  • The IU men’s soccer team won its eighth national championship and its first since 2004, with a dramatic 1-0 victory over Georgetown in December. Congratulations to coach Todd Yeagley and the entire team for an outstanding and memorable season.

Welcome to what I think is going to be another outstanding year for Indiana University, and thank you for your continued support of IU.

Yours sincerely,

Michael A. McRobbie