Dear Friend of Indiana University:
Over the past 12 months, I have had the opportunity to crisscross our state and experience first-hand Indiana University’s extraordinary educational reach. That reach extends to every part of the state of Indiana through our vibrant regional campuses, prospering medical educational centers, economic development partnerships and engaged alumni.
Beginning in October 2015, a series of statewide tours—which we informally referred to as “McRobbie on the Move”—took me and several of my colleagues to each region of the state where IU has a campus, offering us opportunities to learn more about the university’s successes in these communities, as well as the challenges they face.
IU’s regional campuses provide an education that is innovative, flexible, relevant and accessible to all qualified learners in these areas. They have become an indispensable part of the fabric of their communities and their regions. Today, they provide an excellent education to more than 25,000 students a year, the vast majority of whom are Hoosiers, and many of whom are nontraditional or first-generation students. And they are increasingly a first choice for some of the best and brightest high school students in the state.
Beyond serving as an integral part of IU’s broad mission to educate students from Indiana, our regional campuses also serve as invaluable economic and community development catalysts in their regions. In almost all cases, these campuses are also among the largest employers in their regions, and they are at the forefront in helping the state achieve its goal of substantially increasing the number of Indiana residents with college degrees.
My travels around the state—and my meetings with students, faculty, alumni, and business and government leaders—underscored the powerful ties that bind IU’s regional campuses and the communities they serve. They also underscored the countless ways—large and small—in which our campuses contribute to the civic, economic and cultural life of their regions and help to advance IU’s strategic goal of building a prosperous and innovative Indiana.
Among the many highlights of our tours, which concluded last month, were:
- The groundbreaking, just over a year ago, of the new Multi-Institutional Academic Health Science Education and Research Campus in downtown Evansville, Ind. This building will bring together the expertise of the IU School of Medicine, the IU School of Dentistry, the nursing and occupational therapy programs of the University of Southern Indiana, and the health science programs of the University of Evansville. In doing so, it will dramatically increase medicine- and health-related educational opportunities for students in southwestern Indiana and northwestern Kentucky, and have an enormous impact on this region for many years to come. Our trip to southwest Indiana also included a productive discussion with members of the Southwest Indiana Chamber about the important connections between IU and southwest Indiana and how we can collaborate more effectively to meet workforce needs in the region. We hope to address these needs through a number of existing relationships, such as our longstanding partnership with the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Crane Division, and new educational offerings, including what we hope will be a vibrant engineering program that draws upon existing strengths at IU, particularly our School of Informatics and Computing and our capabilities in networking and network science.
- A November trip to meet with community leaders and IU affiliates in Northwest Indiana, during which we toured the Ports of Indiana and learned more about our nation’s premier inland port operation and its economic impact on the state. We also visited the IU Northwest campus for a meeting with several outstanding students who shared their recent philanthropic initiatives; a discussion with business and industry representing 10 regional chambers of commerce; and IU Northwest’s annual Chancellor’s Medallion Celebration. The celebration offered an occasion to reflect upon the many ways the campus contributes to the economic development and health of the community it serves. IU Northwest is the only IU regional campus with a medical school on campus, and this offers enormous potential for partnerships between the campus and health care professionals, hospitals and other facilities in the region.
- Meetings in late January in east-central Indiana with representatives of the local community and our IU East campus in Richmond, Ind. IU East has experienced remarkable success in recent years, including a string of eight consecutive years of enrollment growth through 2015. It is the only IU campus that can make this claim. Much of this success can be attributed to the campus’s path-breaking work in developing a robust online education program. While in Richmond, I had the honor of speaking at a dinner hosted by the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, where I highlighted the ways IU is engaged in the Richmond area and how we might partner more closely in the future. We also toured the spectacular new Student Events and Activities Center, which I formally dedicated during a return trip to IU East in August. This central hub of academic and recreational life on campus is already furthering the spirit of community, scholarship and fellowship at IU East, and it almost certainly will help IU’s fastest-growing campus continue to attract and retain outstanding students.
- A trip in March to Southeast Indiana, where we met with area business leaders and government officials, as well as with students at our IU Southeast campus and alumni and friends of IU. Our tours of Samtec Inc. in New Albany, Ind., and the River Ridge Commerce Center in Jeffersonville, Ind., highlighted the substantial business innovation taking place in this region and provided us with valuable insights into the type of workplace skills area employers will require of our students. We also met with several student representatives at IU Southeast who talked about their studies and activities on campus and their goals after graduation. At the conclusion of this event, the students presented us with a resolution that recognized the university’s support of students and their success. All of us came away from the day impressed by the caliber and character of our students and the potential for even greater collaboration between our campus and the local community.
- The dedication in April of the renovated IU Kokomo Main Building, which has been transformed into a state-of-the-art learning space that will help the campus continue its traditions of exceptional teaching and learning and community engagement in Kokomo, Ind., and the larger north central Indiana region. The $14 million renovation, fully funded by the Indiana General Assembly, included the addition of a splendid new limestone façade, the transformation of the former science labs into high-tech classrooms, the addition of a new student lounge and study area, and updated classrooms and offices. While in Kokomo, we were given a tour of Kokomo Opalescent Glass, America’s oldest glass manufacturer, by owner and IU alumnus John O’Donnell. We also met with a group of studentsto learn more about their internships, research collaborations with faculty and study abroad experiences. Indeed, IU Kokomo has fully embraced the university’s mission to prepare our students for success in today’s global marketplace. This year, 65 students participated in study abroad, the highest number in IU Kokomo’s history.
- The groundbreaking, late last month, for the renovation of IU South Bend’s Riverside Hall, which will house clinical spaces, health science programs and an expanded campus Health and Wellness Center. When completed in fall 2017, the renovated Riverside Hall will serve as the hub of IU South Bend’s health sciences programs and classes, while also providing health care for students, faculty, staff and the community. Additionally, it will help us address major risks to individual health and the declining measures of public health in our state. Our itinerary included a tour of South Bend’s Renaissance District, where about 35 IU graduates are employed and where the city’s former Studebaker plant is being transformed into the largest mixed-use technology campus in the Midwest. It also included meetings with several IU South Bend students and the director of the campus's honors program, as well as a tour of a laboratory at the IU School of Medicine-South Bend where researchers are studying the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness known to cause certain types of birth defects.
At each stop in our statewide tour, we outlined the progress we have made toward achieving the goals of IU’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan, which includes a major focus on student success, catalyzing research and global engagement; research and education aimed at improving the state and nation’s health; and building a prosperous and innovative Indiana.
We demonstrated how we are fulfilling our promise to our state, including providing a first-rate education that remains affordable and accessible to Indiana’s best students and allows them to realize their greatest hopes and aspirations.
We delivered updates on several major IU initiatives that reflect our enhanced commitment to our core missions in education, research and service to our state. They include our $300 million Grand Challenges Program, a bold initiative to focus IU’s vast research enterprise on critical needs facing the people of Indiana and work in close partnership with industry, government and community organizations. They also include our pioneering MoneySmarts program, which is helping our students make informed financial management decisions and decrease overall student debt. As I reported earlier this fall semester, student borrowing at IU has been reduced by nearly $100 million since IU began its multifaceted financial literacy program four years ago. Not surprisingly, institutions across the nation have begun to emulate our MoneySmarts program, which has been called one of the “5 genius ways colleges are tackling the student debt crisis” by Yahoo! Finance and a “Model of Excellence” by University Business Magazine.
Finally, we laid out our vision for our state and the communities we serve. Ours is an Indiana with more jobs with better pay, enhanced educational and cultural opportunities, and a wider range of career opportunities. We also aspire to healthier and happier Hoosiers, who have ready access to the best health care, medical education and research.
Of course, we understand that we cannot accomplish all of this on our own. We know that progress only comes through partnerships with individuals, community organizations and industries. We experience the realities of living in a global economy, and we are prepared to meet the challenges of this changing world through hard work, teamwork and innovation.
Greater engagement and collaboration between IU and our local communities is possible because, in so many ways, we are already united. We share the same vision for the future of our state and its communities.
We share a commitment to excellence in everything we do—from education and research to economic development, the health and life sciences, and the arts. Without question, excellence is the key to a stronger, brighter future for Indiana and all of us who proudly call it home.
To all of our alumni and friends across the state, thank you for your continued support of IU’s mission and work and the contributions you make every day to furthering IU’s enduring legacy of service to our great state.
With thanks as always,
Michael A. McRobbie