Dear Friend of Indiana University:

As I write to you today, we are nearing the conclusion of a busy, exciting and productive fall semester at Indiana University, one that brought continued successes in advancing our mission of excellence in education and research. These successes underscore IU’s commitment to our state and to the citizens whose tax dollars have supported that mission for nearly 200 years.

Over the last several months, we have set new records at IU in, among other key areas, the number of IU graduates, the academic quality and diversity of our student body, external research funding, private philanthropic giving and innovation, all of which illustrate just how active and engaged IU students, faculty and staff continue to be year-round in their pursuit of excellence in and out of the classroom.

All of these outstanding achievements reflect how Indiana’s flagship university continues to fulfill the promise of serving our state, which has proudly celebrated its bicentennial this year. Indeed, ours continues to be a strong and steadfast commitment to expanding and enriching the civic, cultural, social and economic life of Indiana and helping Hoosiers attain their goals and ambitions.

This is why our core campuses in Bloomington and Indianapolis have established eight new schools and innovative programs, and restructured other academic programs, to ensure that IU continues to vigorously meet the evolving needs of Hoosier students and our state’s economy.

Our regional campuses are working together as efficiently and effectively as at any time in the university’s history to bring an excellent IU education to nearly every part of the state, with all the impacts and benefits this brings to the university and the communities where the campuses are located.

And the strength and vigor of the health sciences at IU is projected from the School of Medicine in Indianapolis, incidentally the largest school in the U.S., all over our state through eight different medical education centers that concentrate the medical resources and skills of their communities.

We are living in a time when our contributions to our state are at an all-time high and when Indiana is actively engaging the expertise and resources at IU to enhance educational attainment, cultural enrichment and economic innovation.

Here are just a few of the many ways we are working to improve the quality of life of Hoosiers and strengthen the economic vitality of our state, as reflected in the priorities of IU’s ambitious Bicentennial Strategic Plan, which is preparing IU for a third century of excellence. And though it will not officially commence until the 2019-20 academic year, planning is well underway for IU’s bicentennial celebration. Earlier this fall, we announced the launch of the first of several new programs concerning the preservation, enhancement and recognition of IU’s heritage. In fact, one of those progams, a university-wide Historical Marker Program that will document people, places, events and organizations of historical significance to IU, is modeled after the state of Indiana’s popular historical markers.

A commitment to student success

Central to IU’s nearly two-centuries-old heritage are our efforts to educate Hoosiers at the highest levels of quality. Indeed, student success has and will always be at the core of our mission.

In recent years IU has established a large number of new schools and academic programs, all designed to meet the evolving needs of our students and provide them with clear pathways to careers within the context of a strong traditional liberal arts education. These efforts have spanned new and emerging areas of importance to students — and also to Indiana employers — including, but not limited to, art and design, intelligent systems engineering, international studies, media, philanthropy and public health.

Ultimately, student success is measured by more Hoosiers students earning valued IU degrees that prepare them for successful lives and careers after graduation. Currently, more than 250,000 IU graduates live and work in Indiana and they include 58 percent of the state’s physicians, 75 percent of lawyers, 40 percent of nurses, 36 percent of teachers, 64 percent of optometrists and 90 percent of dentists.

Recent figures indicate that IU is leading the state in responding to the call by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and the state legislature to produce more Hoosier graduates. During the 2015-16 academic year, IU conferred a record 21,000 four-year and graduate degrees at its campuses across the state, far more than any other institution in the state.

This year’s student body, which come from all 92 Indiana counties, numbers more than 114,000 and represents one of the most accomplished and diverse student bodies in IU history. Given that more than 80 percent of currently enrolled degree-seeking undergraduates are in-state students, IU will be by far the largest producer of Hoosier graduates annually in Indiana for the foreseeable future.

Keeping IU affordable and accessible

Providing an environment in which students have every opportunity to succeed requires that we ensure that an IU education remains affordable, that we adopt practices and policies that encourage students to persist to graduation and complete their degrees on time, and that the university’s schools and programs provide a relevant education of lasting value.

IU has responded to this need by keeping tuition increases to historically low levels and has frozen tuition for Indiana resident students at our Bloomington campus for this and the previous academic year.

The university has also given the highest priority to raising private funds to increase institutional financial aid to Hoosier students.

Last year, we launched the public phase of the For All Bicentennial Campaign for Indiana University with a goal of raising $2.5 billion by the end of 2019 — the most ambitious fundraising goal in IU’s history, and one of the largest ever in the country at a public university. A major part of the campaign involves a university match for gifts to establish undergraduate and graduate scholarships, which help to keep IU affordable and accessible, especially for minority students and students from low-income backgrounds. The response has been extremely strong and the original goals have already been significantly increased — for example, from 500 to 1,500 for undergraduate scholarships at IU Bloomington, and 200 to 400 for undergraduate scholarships at the IU regional campuses.

Through the success of our fundraising efforts, IU has increased financial assistance provided to Indiana resident undergraduate students by a remarkable 260 percent in the past decade, resulting in more than $102 million in financial aid. 

IU’s “Finish in Four” initiative continues to provide a financial incentive for students to complete their degree on time by freezing their tuition for their junior and senior years. Additionally, this past summer IU initiated a new Completion Summer Scholarship Program to provide financial assistance to resident undergraduate students who are short of 30 credit hours for the academic year and, as a result, face reduced or eliminated state financial assistance.

Furthermore, as I shared in an update earlier this fall, borrowing by IU students has been reduced by nearly $100 million in the four years since the university began an extensive financial literacy program and initiated vigorous policies to increase student financial assistance and promote on-time graduation. This translates directly into $100 million less debt for our students over this period. These are remarkable figures, and they clearly underscore the fact that IU leads the nation in the area of student debt reduction — an area of great concern nationally and one of enormous demonstrable benefit to our students.

Improving Hoosier health

IU’s health profession schools — encompassing medicine, dentistry, optometry, nursing, public health, social work and rehabilitation sciences — continue to graduate more students who enter clinical practice than any other institutions in Indiana. Most of these graduates practice their profession in Indiana, improving access and health care for Hoosiers.

Researchers at these schools study health-related issues that are of the utmost importance to Hoosier lives, from prenatal treatment to palliative and hospice care, seeking better patient outcomes, new drugs and medical devices, and improved overall health for current and future generations of Indiana residents.

We also continue to engage in numerous successful partnerships and new initiatives toward the goal of enhancing innovation in both clinical education and patient care and health science research.

IU Health and the IU School of Medicine work together to train physicians, pursue breakthrough research and treatments, and deliver the highest quality patient care. Each year, more than 1,000 residents and fellows receive training in IU Health hospitals. This fall, the School of Medicine completed a multi-year initiative to increase its annual class size by 30 percent in order to meet a looming physician shortfall in Indiana due to the impending retirement of baby-boomer generation doctors and an increased demand for medical services by Indiana’s aging population. In conjunction with this expansion initiative, programs at each of our eight centers for medical education around the state expanded from two-year to four-year programs, offering clinical experiences the final two years within the region they serve.

In 2015, IU, IU Health and IU Health Bloomington Hospital announced an agreement to create a regional academic health campus on the northeastern edge of the IU Bloomington campus. This new campus, which will include the largest collection of academic health programs anywhere in the state outside of Indianapolis, will help address the state’s growing shortage of medical and health science professionals by allowing us to produce more graduates in these much in-demand professions. It will also attract investment and enhance economic development for Bloomington and south-central Indiana. In fact, we are already working with biotech and health sciences companies who are interested in co-locating facilities with the hospital.

Later in 2015 we broke ground on the new Multi-Institutional Academic Health Science Education and Research Center in downtown Evansville. The new center, which will encompass approximately 149,000 gross square feet and expand the IU School of Medicine’s center in the city, will help ensure that southwest Indiana has sufficient physicians and additional health care professionals to meet the health needs in Evansville and across southwestern Indiana.

Building a prosperous and innovative Indiana

IU’s Innovate Indiana initiative continues to channel the university’s resources to advance economic development and technology commercialization in the state. This effort encompasses a range of major activities, including:

  • transforming faculty innovations into new products, services and treatments;
  • investing in new start-ups and companies; and
  • connecting IU to the business community in Indiana, the nation and the world.

By forging a strong connection between IU’s extensive intellectual resources and outside capital providers and companies who want to license those discoveries, the IU Research and Technology Corporation is ensuring IU’s most innovative work can be harnessed for the benefit of Hoosiers. These relationships create new jobs and opportunities for Indiana, and they also provide critical revenue for teaching and research during a time of economic uncertainty.

As I also reported in a previous update, in the most recent fiscal year, IURTC enjoyed tremendous success in commercializing IU faculty-generated successes, resulting in a record of more than $7 million in licensing revenue, 150 invention disclosures, 165 global patents that were issued 43 licenses and four new start-up companies.

Since its founding almost two decades ago, IU research has generated more than 2,700 inventions resulting in more than 4,100 global patent applications being filed by IURTC. These discoveries have generated more than $135 million in licensing and royalty income, including more than $112 million in funding for IU departments, labs and inventors.

Through its $10 million Innovate Indiana Fund, the IURTC has provided early-stage capital to companies with a meaningful IU connection and assisted them with technology assessment, market analysis and planning, management recruitment, product development and other services. The Innovate Indiana Fund has invested more than $3 million in Indiana start-ups, enabling these companies to create over 50 jobs and secure over $20 million of additional venture funding.

Enriching our state through exceptional education and research

Central to so many of the successes I have just described is IU’s unwavering commitment to excellence in education and research.

Our world-class faculty enrich the lives of their students every day through exceptional teaching in our classrooms, laboratories, concert halls, theater stages, design studios and more.

And in the area of research, their efforts have been truly spectacular. Last academic year IU faculty received a record $614 million in external funding to support their research and other activities, the highest total of external grant funding obtained by any public research university in the state during the last academic year.

IU has achieved record success in this highly competitive arena because the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and other funding agencies, foundations and endowments continue to recognize both the quality of the research conducted at IU and the impact our faculty are making in improving our state, nation and world, and transforming people’s lives.

At the same time IU faculty set new records with external funding support for their research, IU, as part of its Bicentennial Strategic Plan, has massively expanded its commitment to direct support of IU researchers. Through our Grand Challenges Research Program, we will invest, in the years leading up to IU’s Bicentennial, $300 million in three to five major multi-investigator, multidisciplinary research projects aimed at finding solutions to the “grand challenges” of our time, solutions that will provide major improvements in the quality of life for the citizens of the state of Indiana.

All of us are excited by the work already being performed by the recipient of the first round of funding, the Precision Health Initiative. Under the leadership of principal investigator Anantha Shekhar, an associate dean and professor at the IU School of Medicine, the Precision Health Initiative has set lofty but very clear goals of curing at least one cancer and one childhood disease, as well as finding ways to prevent one chronic illness and one neurodegenerative disease.

Raising IU’s and Indiana’s reputation

This fall, IU students and faculty earned several major honors and distinctions, which, in turn, have added mightily to IU’s and our state’s continually growing reputation as a leader among the nation’s centers of education, research and innovation in the 21st century.

In October, Bernice A. Pescosolido, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at IU Bloomington and a leading expert on the stigma associated with mental illness, was elected a member of the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine. She is the 11th IU faculty member and the second from the IU Bloomington campus to be selected for membership in the prestigious organization. Richard D. DiMarchi, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at IU Bloomington, was elected in 2015.

In November, two IU faculty members, Volker P. Brendel, a professor in the Department of Biology at IU Bloomington and the IU School of Informatics and Computing, and Kenneth P. Mackie, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, were named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a distinction that recognizes outstanding contributions to the progress of science and research. Their election brought the number of AAAS fellows affiliated with IU to 94.

Also in November, it was announced that former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, a Distinguished Scholar and professor of practice in the IU School of Global and International Studies and one of our nation’s finest and most respected statesmen, had received the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding. The major honor recognizes those who have brought about significant lifetime achievements in international understanding, peace and security.

And finally, Morgan Mohr, a senior at IU Bloomington studying political science, history and feminist policy, was recently named a 2017 Rhodes Scholar. Morgan, the valedictorian of the Class of 2013 at Kokomo High School in Indiana, is one of 32 U.S. college students, and the only student from a Big Ten university, to receive the prestigious academic award.

Your energy and support

All of the activities and initiatives I previously described, which have involved thousands of faculty and staff, have had a major effect on strengthening our state’s economic competitiveness, offering a wide range of learners access to the best educational opportunities and improving the health and quality of life of all Hoosiers. 

But they would not be possible without the ideas, energy and dedication of IU’s ever-growing and never-daunted network of alumni and friends who share a common vision for excellent education that is responsive and relevant for Hoosier students throughout the state, new inventions and investment, breakthrough medical discoveries and new high-wage jobs for Hoosiers.

With your continued support, we will continue to realize that vision, uncover new opportunities for statewide collaboration and make Indiana a better place for all who call it home.

I look forward to expressing my appreciation to many of you in person during my continued travels around our state, and to congratulating, later this week, our soon-to-be-newest IU alumni at IU Bloomington’s annual winter commencement ceremony, which will include an address by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Linda Greenhouse.

And to all, my very best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season.

With thanks as always,

Michael A. McRobbie
Indiana University