Dear Friend of Indiana University,

In late April, I had the honor of speaking in front of more than 300 Evansville community members at a Rotary Club luncheon — the largest attendance for a luncheon that this chapter has had in its 100-year history. They had come to hear about IU’s plans to create a major medical education center in the heart of downtown in the state’s third-largest city.

What started as a single event, turned into a full day of activities that included multiple media stops, a meeting with the university’s key stakeholders in the region and a tour of the site for the $69 million campus that will house IU’s medical school in the city as well programs from the University of Evansville, the University of Southern Indiana and Ivy Tech Community College.

A few weeks later, I traveled north of Indianapolis to Tipton to be part of the opening of Chrysler’s massive new Tipton Transmission Plant, presided over by our newest honorary doctorate recipient, Chrysler Group Chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne who is also CEO of Fiat and widely regarded as one of the most dynamic and successful leaders in the automotive industry. While there, I got to see first-hand the close working relationship between the company and IU Kokomo.

The enthusiasm for IU’s renewed commitment to Evansville, which was evident everywhere our group traveled that day, and the strong ties between IU and another of the state’s major employers in Chrysler, both served as powerful reminders that IU — while a national university of international standing — is first and foremost one of Indiana’s most important and treasured institutions.

That fact shines through when one considers the scale of IU’s footprint in the state:  from the over 100,000 Hoosier residents enrolled for IU degrees during the most recent academic year to the fact that almost half of IU’s 600,000 living alumni reside in the state to our more than 40,000 full and part time employees across Indiana. In fact, when combined with our partners at IU Health, we are collectively the largest employer in the state and the two institutions combine to contribute an estimated $11 billion in economic activity in Indiana each year.

With that level of scale comes a significant responsibility on the part of all of us at IU to focus our mission in ways that not only prepare our students for a meaningful life in a 21st global society, but that also strengthen the economic, social and cultural fabric of our home state.

My regular travels across the state, which will include a daylong visit in August to Bedford and the nearby NWSC Crane facility, with which IU has a strong educational and research partnership, are invaluable opportunities for me to see the impact that IU is having on our partners and in communities across the state.

They also afford me the chance to learn how IU can do an even better job of supporting the needs of our home state, and I look forward to sharing details of my future visits across the state in the months to come.

Engaging Indiana through economic development

Promoting the state’s well being is a responsibility we all share at IU, but nowhere is that mission more front-and-center than in the Office of the Vice President for Engagement (OVPE), led ably by Bill Stephan and his strong team. Working under the Innovate Indiana banner, OVPE essentially acts as IU’s economic development agent in the state, collaborating with faculty, other IU administrators, peer universities and a wide range of business and governmental agencies to enhance Indiana’s economic prospects.

As an example of the outstanding advocacy work being done by OVPE, I am pleased to say that just today IU was awarded an important designation as an “innovation and economic prosperity university” by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. This accolade is in recognition of IU’s commitment to playing a leadership role in economic develop in Indiana and beyond, a role spearheaded by OVPE.

OVPE’s efforts manifest themselves in myriad other ways. The IU Research and Technology Corporation actively works with faculty members to transform IU’s intellectual capital into products and services that create jobs and improve the lives of Hoosiers, such as Angel Learning an innovative academic software company formed from research done by IUPUI faculty member Ali Jafari, which was sold to Blackboard in 2009.

OVPE also plays a vital role in helping fledgling faculty entrepreneurs get a toehold in the marketplace by providing financing through our Innovate Indiana Fund. This investment fund, seeded with $10 million, has helped launch 12 companies with strong ties to IU in the last three years alone. Additionally, the IURTC’s “Spin-Up” program, which provides technology commercialization assistance to early stage companies, has allowed more than 20 IU faculty members to get their firms off the ground.

As the state’s largest public research university, IU also is making significant contributions to some of the state’s most dynamic knowledge-based industries, in particular the life sciences. In fact, IU is the leading university partner in the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, a non-profit organization launched just over a year ago that brings together universities, corporations and government to pursue the singular goal of growing Indiana’s already burgeoning life sciences sector.

The primary aim of IBRI is to attract local and national scientific leaders to Indiana to lead teams of scientists and partner with industry and universities on research projects. These teams will consist of experts across a spectrum of competencies, including bioengineering, bioinformatics, nanotechnology and agriculture.

It is envisioned that these cross-functional teams will share resources and research laboratories at the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, which we hope will eventually be located on the IUPUI campus near the IU School of Medicine and IU’s other health science related facilities, and which also will work onsite at industry and research university labs with academic and industry scientists. As a show of our commitment to IBRI and the life sciences, IU and IU Health have contributed $1 million in start-up funding to the initiative, and Bill Stephan represents IU on the IBRI board.

“Glory of Old IU” alive and well in Hoosier state

As borders continue to fall, revealing an increasingly international world, we are committed to keeping IU at the forefront of global education through pursuing strategic partnerships with leading universities around the world. These efforts, which I have spelled out in some detail in previous updates, serve both to enhance IU’s reputation and more importantly to create valuable study abroad opportunities for our students and global research opportunities for our faculty.

No matter how far IU extends its reach, however, the heart of our mission is to serve the residents of the state of Indiana. We take great pride in ensuring a quality college education to tens of thousands of state residents each year. Likewise, I am extremely proud of IU’s unwavering commitment to the economic prosperity of our communities, our work to improve the health of Hoosiers and the pure joy and entertainment that our athletic teams and cultural offerings bring to fans of all ages.

As always, my deepest appreciation goes out to all of our friends and supporters across Indiana — and around the world. Your generosity and commitment to IU make a positive impact every day.

Yours sincerely,

Michael A. McRobbie