Dear colleagues and friends of Indiana University:

This time of year offers a natural opportunity to pause and reflect upon the accomplishments and progress of the past 12 months. In that spirit, I wanted to take just few moments to share some highlights from what has been an exciting and productive 2014 for all of us at Indiana University.

Plotting a strategic course to IU’s third century

A major highlight of the year occurred this month when the Board of Trustees approved the final version of the Bicentennial Strategic Plan for Indiana University. The plan, which was more than a year in the making, addresses all of IU’s Principles of Excellence and is based on the various campus strategic plans and those of other university units.

The final plan, which will serve as our roadmap for the next five years, is the result of extensive and outstanding input from faculty and staff across all our campuses. It features eight strategic initiatives that deal broadly with student success, academic offerings, faculty development, medicine, economic development and international engagement that will collectively help to ensure IU is remains one of the world’s great universities at the beginning of its third century.

As well as the hundreds of faculty, staff and students across the university who contributed in various ways to the plan, I especially want to thank and congratulate Executive Vice President for University Academic Affairs John Applegate and SPEA Professor and Director of University Strategic Planning Michael Rushton for their outstanding work in leading its development.

Now the hard works begins to implement the plan over the next five years, which will culminate in IU’s Bicentennial in 2020. This will be an extensive effort involving numerous members of the university community, and it will occur in full accord with the traditions and practice of shared governance at Indiana University.

Unwavering commitment to student success

Another highlight of the year was the incoming freshman class, which was among the most academically accomplished in the university’s history. A number of our campuses recorded large gains in average SAT scores for the incoming class as well as sharp increases in the number of Indiana 21st Century scholars. At IU Bloomington, which enrolled its largest freshman class ever, more than one-third of our new students finished in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class.

Once on campus, our students continue to excel in the classroom, as well. A full list of honors received by IU students in the past year would fill multiple computer screens, but our students were, once again, among recipients of some of the most prestigious undergraduate and graduate scholarships and fellowships.

Among the extremely competitive awards given to IU students were four Goldwater scholarships for undergraduate study, a Truman scholarship for undergraduate and graduate school work, and a Mitchell scholarship, which funds two years of graduate study in Ireland. In addition, several IU students received awards from the National Science Foundation to attend graduate school.

The affordability of an IU education remains an essential priority of the university. But despite a large increase in institutional aid over the past several years, which has kept average net cost of attendance at all IU campuses competitiveindeed, IU Bloomington has the lowest average net cost of attendance in the Big Ten—we understand that for many students, taking on debt is the only feasible way to earn a college degree.

With that in mind, the university has launched a series of initiatives, such as the MoneySmarts program, over the past two years designed to help students better understand their finances and the implications of taking on student debt. These efforts have paid immediate dividends in the form of sharply lower rates of borrowing. In fact, both the number of students borrowing and the total amount borrowed fell by 11 percent in the most recent academic year—far greater than the national average.

The innovative and effective nature of these initiatives has received considerable national attention, and we have been informed that IU is to receive a major award from the prestigious American College Personnel Association for MoneySmarts. Many of these initiatives were developed by the office of IU Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer MaryFrances McCourt, who just a few weeks ago was named 2014 CFO of the Year among nonprofit organizations by the Indianapolis Business Journal, reflecting again the emphasis that IU puts on administrative excellence.

Award-winning scholars and researchers

A university is only as strong as the faculty members who educate students and perform valuable research, and our IU faculty had an outstanding year by almost any measure. IU faculty members accounted for $535 million in research expenditures in the most recent fiscal year, playing a critical role in sustaining IU’s position as an engine for intellectual and economic development in the state of Indiana.

And our faculty continues to earn individual recognition, too. Richard DiMarchi, distinguished professor of chemistry at IU Bloomington and one of the university’s most prolific researchers, was named to the National Inventors Hall of Fame and a National Inventors Fellow this year. In addition, three IU faculty members were elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences last month, bringing the number of AAAS fellows associated with IU to 89. Those elected were:

  • Edward J. Berbari, Chancellor’s Professor and chair of the biomedical engineering department at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
  • P. Sarita Soni, professor emerita in the School of Optometry at Indiana University Bloomington.
  • Thomas Sterling, professor of computer science in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University Bloomington.

Researchers across many fields at IU are collaborating in an increasingly interdisciplinary fashion to push the boundaries of discovery in the sciences, humanities and arts. For example, IU established the Network Science Institute this fallone of the nation’s first interdisciplinary centers in this new and dynamic fieldwhile October's opening of the IU Neuroscience Research Building in Indianapolis, in tandem with the adjacent IU Health Neuroscience Center clinical facility, creates one of the largest concentration of neuroscience researchers and practitioners in the country.

A year of change and progress on IU regional campuses

IU’s regional campus, which educate nearly 40,000 students each year, continue to play a vital role in increasing educational attainment levels in Indiana, as well as serving as important community partners in their home regions. Many are adding new academic programs designed to meet the economic needs of their regions, and the state and university continue to invest in new facilities, such as the Louise E. Addicott and Yatish J. Joshi Performance Hall, which opened this year at IU South Bend, and the new Student Events and Activities Center at IU East, for which ground was broken just last month.

The past year also has seen leadership changes at several of our regional campuses with the installation of three new chancellors: Kathryn Cruz-Uribe at IU East; Susan Sciame-Giesecke at IU Kokomo; and Ray Wallace at IU Southeast. All three have hit the ground running and are deeply committed to IU’s regional campus mission of education and community development.

New facilities changing campus landscapes

Just as IU continues to grow in terms of academic and research prowess, we remain committed to providing top-tier facilities for students and facultythanks in large part to the generosity of our donors and strong support from the state of Indiana. In particular, the Bloomington campus is in the midst of a facilities renewal, highlighted this year by the opening of a new education and practice space at the Jacobs School of Music and the magnificent Hodge Hall addition to the Kelley School of Business undergraduate facility.

In addition, work continues on the new School of Global and International Studies building, which is scheduled to open next fall; and design plans are well underway to renovate venerable Assembly Hall and turn Franklin Hall into a state-of-the-art learning facility for the recently opened Media School.

At IUPUI, the new University Hall building, which will house the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the IU School of Social Work as well as various other units, is close to completion and will open in the heart of campus in the spring; while the new Regenstrief building will be the first major medical facility to open next year on the site of the former Wishard Hospital, which IU plans to transform into a thriving medical and health sciences campus over the next few years.

Taking steps toward a more globally engaged university

As I have said on numerous occasions in the past, virtually every aspect of today’s increasingly interconnected worldfrom commerce to education to research to culturehas a global element to it, requiring institutions such as ours to strengthen their efforts to turn out more globally educated graduates. I am extremely proud of IU’s standing as one of the top 10 universities in the United States in terms of students studying abroad, and we have plans to greatly increase opportunities for our students to study outside the United States in the future as part of the Bicentennial Strategic Plan for IU.

Additionally, we have built on the work done in previous years and have continued to develop partnerships with well-regarded universities around the world. This will increase opportunities for both study abroad for students and research for our faculty. In the past year, that work has been highlighted by the opening of our first two IU international gateway offices, in China and India. Those facilities will serve as IU’s “front door” in these important countries and will be joined by other similar offices over the next few years in other countries and regions of the world that are important to IU.

These are just some of the headlines in what has been an extremely eventful and successful year across the university. I’m confident that I speak for everyone at IU when I say we are looking forward to a bit of time this holiday season to catch our breath and enjoy the company of family and friendsbut that we already are excited about the challenges and opportunities ahead of us next year.

Please accept my deepest thanks for all that you do to keep Indiana University strong every day. Likewise, my wife Laurie and I offer our very best wishes for a safe and wonderful holiday season.