Dear Friend of Indiana University,

In my 2010 State of the University address, I announced the establishment of the New Academic Directions committee charged with the ambitious goal of strengthening the academic core of IU’s two major research campuses, in Bloomington and Indianapolis, through a critical assessment of their academic structures.

I charged the committee with examining these structures to identify ways to improve the overall quality of our academic offerings, the efficiency with which we educate our students, and our responsiveness to the trends and challenges that are transforming higher education today.

I noted at the time that we had an obligation as a university, in particular as the state of Indiana’s flagship public university, to ask these sorts of questions, especially given that we aspire to be one of the finest universities of the 21st century.

The committee presented me with its report, early in 2011. I subsequently approved it, and it was also endorsed by our Board of Trustees. Faculty, staff, and administrators on both campuses should be commended for their outstanding contributions to this report and for asking the tough questions about our academic structures, their overall effectiveness, and the inefficiencies that accumulate in any organization over time.

Less than three years after its submission, I am very pleased to say that the recommendations of the New Academic Directions report have led to major changes on an unprecedented scale at both the IU Bloomington and IUPUI campuses. Many of those changes were summarized in an update at the recent Board of Trustees meeting, and I want to share these far-reaching developments with you as well.

The report will enable IU to effectively preserve and strengthen the university’s core missions of excellence in education, research, and engagement in the life of our state. It will allow us to pursue new ideas, innovations, and community collaborations that will greatly enhance our state’s economy and the quality of life of all Hoosiers. And it will serve as an important reminder that it will always remain vital for IU to provide its students with a liberal education of quality, breadth, and depth, as well as the knowledge and skills they need to lead successful lives after graduation.

One outcome of this report has been the creation of a number of new schools. It also identified programs that needed to be merged, reinvented, or eliminated in response to the changing needs of our students and the shifting demands of the national and global economy. 

Indeed, the breadth of the academic transformation spurred by New Academic Directions is concrete proof that higher education — at least at Indiana University — can be nimble, completely belying the misconception that universities are somehow indifferent to the ever-changing educational and economic environment in which we operate.

The major new academic developments that have grown out of the New Academic Directions report are extremely impressive and include the creation of the following six new schools:

  • The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. This is the nation’s first school of philanthropy, and it supports the education and training of new generations of leaders for philanthropy and nonprofit organizations. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its academic, research, and international programs.
  • The Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI. This school focuses on education and research on issues related to urban health, health policy, biostatistics, and epidemiology. With its strong connections to the IU School of Medicine and the other health sciences schools on the campus, it is helping to build a collaborative and community-based approach to improved public health.
  • The School of Global and International Studies at IU Bloomington. Late last year we announced the appointment of former U.S. Ambassador Lee Feinstein as the school’s founding dean. The school brings together IU Bloomington’s broad and remarkable strengths in global and international studies, including more than 350 full-time research faculty, more than 70 language programs, and the largest number of international area studies centers of any university in the U.S.
  • The School of Public Health-Bloomington at IU Bloomington. The school is one of the largest on the Bloomington campus and is focused on health promotion and disease prevention, with an emphasis in rural areas that make up much of the state of Indiana.
  • The Media School at IU Bloomington. The school commences on July 1 this year. It has been formed from the merger of programs in journalism, telecommunications, communication and culture, and film. The school aspires to become a pre-eminent national center for education and research on the modern media in all of its increasingly diverse forms. A search will soon be starting for a new dean of this school.
  • The School of Informatics and Computing. This school has been formed from the merger of the School of Informatics with the School of Library and Information Sciences. The school is one of the largest and broadest of its kind in the country, offering an extensive range of programs in informatics, computer science, library science, and information science geared toward giving students the knowledge and skills they need to innovate in and widely apply information technology.
Other major new academic initiatives include:
  • Creation of the Integrated Program in the Environment, bringing together programs and courses from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Launch of IU Online to accelerate the development and delivery of online courses and programs from IU campuses statewide.
  • Closing of the School of Continuing Studies and assignment of its programs to other units.
  • Development of new programs in areas such as health communication, global health, auto sports and energy engineering, international studies, and design.
  • Creation of a University Transfer Office to facilitate student transfer.
  • Changes in graduate education, with most oversight of graduate studies decentralized to campus administration.
  • New administrative structure for the College of Arts and Sciences with divisions in natural and mathematical sciences, arts and humanities, and social and historical sciences.

This sweeping transformation of the academic structure at IU Bloomington and IUPUI will bring greater visibility and resources to some of the longstanding existing strengths at these campuses, such as the study of philanthropy at IUPUI and our nearly unmatched array of internationally focused programs at IU Bloomington. Others, such as the creation of the Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI and its counterpart, the School of Public Health-Bloomington, speak directly to a serious need in the state of Indiana for improved population health indicators. 

Additionally, we have taken steps to strengthen smaller but well-regarded programs such as journalism and library sciences by merging them with related disciplines, thus providing greater opportunities for education and research in these fields, achieving greater visibility for them, providing increased opportunities for new collaborations, and allowing them to continue to thrive well into the future.

We have also made less visible, but still important, changes that will enhance collaboration among our faculty members by reducing administrative barriers that sometimes discourage them from working together in innovative ways.

When taken together, the changes driven by New Academic Directions will, I am confident, transform IU Bloomington and IUPUI in ways that will help ensure our education and research programs will flourish for decades to come and reaffirm IU’s place among the very best public universities in the country.  

This transformation, when coupled with changes occurring at our regional campuses as a result of our Blueprint for Student Attainment initiative, will also provide an invaluable foundation as we build strategic plans at the university and campus levels this year that will guide the university’s efforts through our bicentennial year in 2020.

These are times of unprecedented changes — in scale, scope, and speed — for higher education in the United States. To remain vital, robust, and relevant, institutions must be willing to scrutinize every aspect of their operations in a clear-eyed search for improvements in teaching, scholarship, and administration.

Through the outstanding work done by faculty and staff that led to New Academic Directions and their subsequent enthusiastic embrace of the changes advocated in this report, Indiana University is charting a bold course as we prepare to enter our third century as the state of Indiana’s flagship public university.

I also want to thank our trustees for their strong and enthusiastic support for these changes as well as their continued and ongoing efforts to guard and care for the welfare of our institution. And finally I want to thank our generous alumni and friends around the world for your unwavering support and commitment to Indiana University.

Yours sincerely,

Michael A. McRobbie