Dear Friend of Indiana University,

Indiana University has, for nearly two centuries, played a uniquely critical role in the education and well-being of the state of Indiana and its residents. In many ways IU and the state have grown up together, with the university reflecting the finest values of Indiana residents—hard work, innovation, integrity, compassion, and a constant thirst for knowledge among them.

Our graduates and faculty members continue to make life-changing discoveries, pioneer lasting societal change, and contribute in myriad ways, large and small, to the quality of life in the Hoosier state as well as to the world beyond our borders.

As stewards of a great public trust, all of us at Indiana University have a responsibility to leave the institution stronger than when we came to it, which is why we already have begun thinking about how IU will look and operate when it begins its third century as a public university in the year 2020.

In fact, starting now we intend to use the university’s bicentenary as a milestone to drive a broad-based strategic planning initiative, as well as other high-profile programs, designed to ensure IU’s place among the most eminent universities in the country.

I had the privilege of lifting the curtain on the first of our bicentenary plans in my annual State of the University address this month. This speech, my seventh as president of IU, is one of the highlights of the year for me because it allows me to both reflect on the successes of the previous year and look forward to what I believe is an extremely bright future for the university.

Fittingly, given these dual goals of the State of the University address, I unveiled a major new initiative aimed at dramatically expanding IU’s store of digital information and knowledge—IU’s digital library—through the digitization and preservation of IU’s vast holdings of recorded music, video, and film. This new $15 million Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, to be complete by the bicentenary, will make this material, much of it unique and irreplaceable, accessible to the whole IU community and beyond, and in perpetuity.

It will join IU’s already extensive digital holdings that are based on items accumulated over 200 years including works of art, books, documents and other scholarly material, and more recently enormous amounts of digital scientific data—generated by many of the scientific and cutting-edge information technology tools for which IU is renowned. All of this speaks to one of the great and central missions of universities over the 25 centuries they have existed—the preservation of knowledge. To this end I called for the preparation of a Digitization Master Plan that would describe a road map for the systematic digitization and preservation of all scholarly and research collections at IU.

This initiative, which we feel can serve as a model for other universities attempting to preserve and share similar collections, is just one part of a broad-based university strategic plan aimed at providing a roadmap for IU’s continued success between now and our bicentenary.

The university strategic plan, which I intend to present to the Board of Trustees next summer, will encompass ideas and initiatives from all of our campuses and will build upon the work already done over the past six years that is reflected in the Principles of Excellence, the New Academic Directions report, and the Blueprint for Student Attainment, which addresses the roles and responsibilities of our regional campuses.

The goal of the Strategic Plan for the Bicentenary is as simple as the execution of it will be ambitious: To create clear-cut goals for the university that will enable IU to enter its third century of existence in 2020 as one of the leading public universities in the world. The process, as is our practice, will be an inclusive one with broad representation from the faculty and staff across our campuses.

Even as we are focusing our energies squarely on the future, it is important that we take the time to acknowledge our recent successes. The past 12 months have been, in many ways, remarkable ones for IU. Here are just some of the highlights I shared during my State of the University address:

  • We have taken major steps forward in our continuing effort to make an IU education an even better value by holding tuition increases to their lowest levels in nearly a half-century while freezing tuition for juniors and seniors who are on track to graduate in four years.
  • We launched a comprehensive effort to revamp career and academic advising across our campuses in an ongoing effort to provide greater support to our students, both as they establish and work through their programs of study and as they prepare to enter the workforce after graduation.
  • We have continued the remarkable academic transformation started nearly three years ago with the approval of the New Academic Directions report, which has led to the establishment of five new schools during that time. Most recently, we celebrated the dedication of our new School of Informatics and Computing, formed from a merger of the previous Schools of Informatics, and of Library and Information Science. And this week the IU Board of Trustees will vote on a proposal for a new Media School that will combine IU’s highly regarded School of Journalism and our strong departments of Telecommunications and of Communication and Culture, to create a new cutting edge school covering the whole spectrum of integrated media and communications.

Through this work, and other efforts aimed at improving our facilities, creating greater operating efficiencies, dramatically increasing financial aid to our students, growing our international presence and more, we are working every day to create a university that is responsive to the demands of students looking to IU as their bridge to success in the rapidly changing global world of the 21st century.

For my part, I have never been more bullish on IU’s future and I am excited to begin sharing with you our plans for the university’s bicentenary and beyond, starting with the launch of the bicentenary strategic planning process and the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative.

If you would like more details about our recent activities and future plans as laid out in my recent address, I encourage you to visit our State of the University web page.

Thanks, as always, for your continued support for Indiana University.

Yours sincerely,

Michael A. McRobbie