Dear Friend of Indiana University:
Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed a spate of terrorist attacks around the world, including the recent deadly shootings in California, aimed at civilians where they live, work and play. These barbaric attacks, carried out by people with no regard for the sanctity of life, have horrified and saddened all of us in Indiana, thousands of miles away from these appalling incidents.
As a university with a strong and longstanding commitment to international engagement, Indiana University has hundreds of students studying abroad at any given time. While we are fortunate that all of our students living and studying in areas overseas that have been beset by violence are safe, we continue to stay in close contact with our students abroad and do everything possible to ensure their safety.
Additionally, we have reached out to offer support to our international students from the affected regions as they work through a difficult time fraught with uncertainty. These students are valued members of our IU family, and I encourage everyone to keep them in their thoughts.
Whenever heinous acts such as these are perpetrated on innocent victims, there is a tendency to want to draw closer to one another, to put up barricades, to retreat from the larger world. The reality, however, is that in today’s deeply interconnected global society isolating one’s self from the joys — and the challenges — of the rest of the world is simply not possible, or even advisable.
Universities such as IU play a vital role in fostering understanding among widely diverse populations. This commitment to attracting and welcoming students, faculty and staff from around the state, across the country and throughout the world is a core value of Indiana University that has never been more necessary than in these troubled times.
Indeed, the role of the United States as a global leader, and the need for our leaders of tomorrow to graduate from college with a high degree of global literacy was underscored on the IU Bloomington campus in late October when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry opened the new Global and International Studies Building with a superb public lecture to nearly 3,000 people that provided a comprehensive survey of U.S. diplomacy and world affairs, especially concerning some of the most difficult international conflicts and issues.
As part of his remarks, Secretary Kerry stressed the need for young people as part of their education to gain a strong understanding of the world around them, and encouraged the best and brightest of our students to seek rewarding careers in foreign service that is so essential to our country. To quote Secretary Kerry: “I ask you a simple question: Would you rather spend the next 40 years complaining about the world or would you like to try to improve it? Your country needs you.”
One of my personal highlights from a great day was the opportunity to listen to Secretary Kerry talk to a small group of our very best students in the School of Global and International Studies. The secretary spent the better part of an hour offering candid answers to our students’ thoughtful and penetrating questions, even offering to help provide background information for a research project for one of our students.
I was extremely proud of the depth of knowledge displayed by our students, and their exchange with Secretary Kerry underscored the type of invaluable learning experiences we strive to provide every day at IU. More information about Secretary Kerry’s visit, including the text of his powerful speech, can be found at a special web page we designed to commemorate the event.
As Secretary Kerry’s visit clearly highlighted, IU’s School of Global and International Studies, while only two years old, is rapidly growing in appeal and interest to our students. The school builds on nearly two centuries of tradition and excellence at IU Bloomington, and its gorgeous new home in the heart of campus is emblematic of our lofty ambitions for the school.
The school, with more than 250 scholars whose research and scholarship covers every part of the globe and who teach more than 70 languages, is poised perfectly to provide our students with the type of broad and deep internationally focused education that will prepare them well for roles in fields such as foreign service, diplomacy and international commerce.
Indeed, Secretary Kerry noted IU’s history of international engagement in his remarks, praising the university’s “very proud tradition of helping to explain the world to America and America to the world” in voicing his support for SGIS.
SGIS Dean Lee Feinstein, a former ambassador to Poland, whose extensive background in international affairs includes serving as principal deputy director of policy planning at the U.S. Department of State and as a national security director to then-Sen. Hilary Clinton during her 2008 presidential campaign, brings a keen understanding of the skills and competencies needed to build a successful career focused on international affairs. He and his team are hard at work building a school that we believe will be one of the best of its kind within the next several years.
Berlin visit cements historical ties, opens a new chapter of engagement
In addition to providing our students with a wide array of international studies options, the university continues to strategically engage with alumni, prospective students and other leading universities in locations around the world. In fact, I recently returned from Berlin where I helped open IU’s third international Gateway Office and renewed our oldest international partnership.
For nearly 70 years, Indiana University and the city of Berlin have had a special bond, forged by the leadership of legendary IU President Herman B Wells, who played a pivotal role in the reconstruction of Germany’s higher education system in the aftermath of the destruction of World War II.
As I shared in a piece for the Huffington Post last month, Wells took a leave of absence from IU in 1947 to travel to Germany to do this work and was a champion for establishing the Freie Universität (Free University) in Berlin, which opened in 1948. Shortly thereafter, IU and Freie Universität began a student exchange program, and the relationship continues today as IU’s longest-standing international partnership.
Against that backdrop, I was honored to preside over the latest chapter in our engagement in Berlin, which will serve as a springboard to further cementing IU’s strong presence in Germany and across Europe. The week’s activities, which included a renewal of our agreement with Freie Universität, were highlighted by the opening of the university’s European Global Gateway Office in the city.
IU’s European Global Gateway Office, created through the hard work of IU Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret and his office, will provide IU students and faculty with greater access to educational and research opportunities across Europe, while at the same time allowing students, alumni and other IU partners to connect directly with the university in one of the world’s great cities. The gateway office, IU’s third following the opening of similar facilities in Beijing and New Delhi last year, is housed within the new Global Institute of the Council on International Educational Exchange, the leading non-governmental, U.S.-based international education organization.
As Indiana University has consistently demonstrated over the course of nearly 200 years, we take our responsibility to serve the residents of Indiana with the utmost seriousness. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, however, our mission to educate our students to the intricacies of today’s global society — and to bring a greatly expanded worldview to their lives here at home — has never been more important.
In that spirit, IU is steadfastly committed to being a leader regarding higher education and international engagement as we continue to strengthen our commitment to producing well-educated global graduates and leaders.
Finally, as we prepare to close out the fall semester and head into our winter break, Laurie and I want to take a moment to wish everyone a safe, happy and restful holiday season. To our faculty and staff who work so hard year-round to make IU the outstanding university it is, you have our sincerest gratitude and respect for a job very well done.
And to all our alumni and friends outside the university, please know that your continued support of IU and our work is deeply appreciated.
With warmest holiday greetings,
Michael A. McRobbie