Indiana University statement on the creation of an intelligent systems engineering program

As you likely have already heard, last Friday the Indiana University Board of Trustees endorsed the creation of an intelligent systems engineering program within the School of Informatics and Computing on the IU Bloomington campus. The Trustees also approved proposals for a bachelor's degree and a PhD in engineering.

This is an immensely exciting development for the Bloomington campus. Given that engineering is intertwined with many scientific disciplines today, the establishment of this program will complement and enhance the research and education efforts of several of our most highly regarded departments and schools. The widespread enthusiasm for this development was made clear by the presence of numerous departmental chairs and other senior scientists at last week's Trustees meeting.

Establishing such a program also is a critical component of our larger effort, described in the IU Bicentennial Strategic Plan, to nurture a culture of “making and building” on the Bloomington campus. This program will greatly benefit IU Bloomington and the state of Indiana by producing new, well-trained graduates in a high-demand field, as well as through its impact on economic development in Indiana. In fact, we were very pleased to announce yesterday the formation of the IU Bloomington Engineering Advocacy Board, chaired by Cook Group Chairman Steve Ferguson and comprising many distinguished Indiana business and industry leaders.

The establishment of this program follows the recommendation of both an internal committee of faculty members from many areas, led by School of Informatics and Computing Dean Bobby Schnabel, and an external blue ribbon committee of nationally renowned experts in engineering chaired by president emeritus of the University of Michigan, and former dean of engineering, James Duderstadt. Those reports were followed by recommendations for the bachelor's and Ph.D. degrees from faculty committees, which proceeded through our normal academic approval processes including the School of Informatics and Computing's curriculum committee.

Their work, in turn, was informed by an extensive report released late last year by the Battelle Technology Partners Practice that cited the lack of engineering at IU Bloomington as one of the limiting factors to future economic growth in southwest central Indiana. Specifically, the study's authors called on IU Bloomington to “expand and/or develop offerings in applied sciences, including engineering” to better support the needs of employers in this part of the state — and beyond.

IU's program will be narrowly focused and will not compete with the large well-established engineering programs at other universities in Indiana and the Midwest. Rather, our program will be configured to take advantage of the campus' existing strengths in technology and science, notably informatics, computer science and fields such as biology, physics, chemistry, environmental sciences, and psychological and brain sciences.

The program will focus on six overlapping disciplines: bioengineering, computer engineering, cyber-physical systems, environmental engineering, molecular and nanoscale engineering, and neuro-engineering. Central to it will be the engineering and design of small, mobile, personal technologies that integrate big data, computational modeling and intelligent systems into their design.

To launch the program, we plan to hire 20–25 new core engineering faculty members, whose work will be bolstered by a significant number of affiliated appointments among current IU faculty members working in other departments. IU Bloomington already has more than 100 faculty members, research scientists and post-docs with engineering degrees many of whom are expected to be involved in this program.

Now that the degree programs have been approved by the IU Trustees, they have been submitted to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, which we hope will consider them for approval at its June meeting. Our goal is to commence the program at the start of the 2016–17 academic year. Universities are often criticized for the slow pace at which they move, but I want to compliment all involved for the speed with which they developed this vital and compelling program that will represent a major new step forward for IU Bloomington.

The last few years have been an exciting period for Indiana University Bloomington, marked by a number of ambitious steps to strengthen the campus' academic offerings so they better meet the needs of today's students and offer even more opportunities for talented faculty to flourish. And just last week, as you will recall, we made the momentous announcement to locate the new IU Health Bloomington Hospital on the Bloomington campus as part of the creation of a new regional academic health center.

The establishment of an engineering program at IU Bloomington is the next step in our continued journey toward enduring excellence, and we couldn't be more excited about the future prospects for the university and the Bloomington campus.

Yours sincerely,

Michael A. McRobbie

Lauren Robel