Dear Friend of Indiana University:

A central part of IU's nearly two-centuries-old heritage is our commitment to educating the sons and daughters of Indiana—and students from all across the nation and around the world—at the highest levels of quality. For all of the many roles a premier public university like IU plays, students are our primary reason for existing, and student success continues to be at the core of our mission.

Nearly every month our students and our graduates achieve remarkable accomplishments we can all admire and be extremely proud of. These successes in turn reflect an educational environment of the highest quality across the university—one that enables our students to grow intellectually, socially and culturally, and one that engages them in life-changing experiences and challenges that enable them to make positive and lasting contributions in their communities.

As our students prepare for a well-deserved spring break and ready themselves for the home stretch of what has already been a most busy and productive semester, here are just a few examples of recent noteworthy achievements by IU's best and brightest. 

Saluting IU's Army ROTC, new MacArthur Award winner

IU's long tradition of military training dates almost as far back as the founding of our university, and it is furthered every day by the hardworking men and women of IU's Army ROTC program, which remarkably is the fourth oldest of its kind in the nation following West Point, Norwich and the Virginia Military Institute.

Last month, we were very pleased to announce that this program recently earned the General Douglas MacArthur Award for the best ROTC program in the 7th Brigade, representing Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. This is the first time IU has received the award, which is presented by the U.S. Army Cadet Command and the General Douglas MacArthur Foundation in recognition of the ideals of duty, honor and country. Only one winner was chosen from each of the eight ROTC regions, which include 275 programs nationwide.

As neatly showcased in this 2015 video, the 110 cadets who currently make up the program truly represent the very best of IU, including our community values, our pride in serving our nation and our commitment to excellence in all that we do. And all of us look forward to further celebrating their success at a special award ceremony on March 20 in Bloomington, which will be shown live online at

Fit for more Fulbrights

In February we were also delighted to report that IU students are once again among the nation's leading recipients of awards from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Having held a Fulbright myself earlier in my academic career I was particularly pleased to see this. This long-standing and prestigious program is one of the U.S. government's top international educational exchange programs, providing funding for students to participate in meaningful overseas study opportunities. This program has probably never been more important than it is now.

The 13 IU Fulbright recipients enrolled at IU Bloomington and the recipient at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne represent a variety of academic disciplines. They will travel to 10 countries in Europe and Latin America for immersive international experiences that demonstrate IU's ongoing commitment to preparing our students for success in today's highly competitive global marketplace.

As I shared in a recent editorial for U.S. News and World Report, it is vitally important that we continue to place international literacy and experience at the top of all that comprises an IU education. Indeed, the world our students will enter when they graduate will only require more, not less, knowledge about other countries and cultures, which is why we continue to work to make it possible for more IU students to study abroad through programs like the Fulbright program, while simultaneously strengthening the diversity of our campuses.

Meet Morgan Mohr, IU's newest Rhodes Scholar

In a previous President's Update letter, I proudly shared the news that IU Bloomington senior Morgan Mohr was one of 32 college students nationwide—and the only student from a Big Ten university—to be named a 2017 Rhodes Scholar.

Morgan, the valedictorian of the Class of 2013 at Kokomo High School in Indiana, who entered IU as a Wells Scholar, is now preparing to graduate in May with majors in feminist policy and in political science and history. As IU's 17th recipient of the Rhodes award, one of the most prestigious and highly competitive academic awards in the world, she will go on to study comparative social policy at Oxford University in England.

Morgan is the subject of a terrific cover story in the newest issue of the IU Alumni Magazine. She also recently shared her experiences and insights as a student and social justice activist on this recent edition of the weekly Through the Gates podcast, produced by the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President and The Media School. She is truly one of our most outstanding students and a wonderful civic and community leader. I've had the pleasure of getting to know her through her involvement with IU's Board of Aeons, a nearly 100-year-old student organization that offers thoughtful and informed student perspectives to my office on a wide range of campus issues.

Path to international engagement goes through the U.N.

I am always extremely impressed by the wide variety of ways in which IU students pursue international engagement and their goals for helping make the world a better place.

Vannary Kong, a senior at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis studying political science and international studies, is spending her spring semester in New York City interning in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs at the United Nations. A dual citizen of the U.S. and Cambodia, she is the only American in her department, and she is working with people from all around the globe on U.N. goals concerning sustainable development, including education, equality, climate action and eradicating poverty.

In addition to her current role at the U.N., Vannary, who expects to graduate in December and pursue a career in international affairs, has had a highly commendable five other internships, which have included teaching English and American culture and citizenship to refugees relocating to the U.S., assisting refugees and college students with registering to vote, and participating in policy discussions around social justice. 

The latest buzz from The Bee Corp.

A year ago, IU marked a major milestone by surpassing the $1 million mark in investments in student-led projects through its annual IU Building Entrepreneurs in Software and Technology, or BEST, Competition.

Launched in 2011 by the IU Bloomington School of Informatics and Computing and the Kelley School of Business, with the support of a group of IU alumni investors and IU's Research and Technology Corp., the BEST Competition is the largest award in the world offered by a university solely to its students in a business plan competition.

The 2016 winners included a team of students from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Kelley School of Business who founded The Bee Corp., a company, born out of a beekeeping club at IU Bloomington, working to devise technical solutions to address the collapse of the honey bee colonies. These colonies play a critical role in protecting our nation's food supply, and they contribute more than $15 billion annually to the value of U.S. agricultural products.

As showcased in this recent edition of Inside INdiana Business, the founders of The Bee Corp., who received $100,000 as BEST competition winners, now have moved on to the research and development phase as they begin to build and test sensor hardware that will provide them with a greater understanding of the needs and behaviors of healthy beehive colonies.

Student success all across our state

The success of our students can be seen in every area of our state, and it has a particularly important impact in those areas served by our outstanding regional campuses, which now educate more than 25,000 IU students.

Those pursuing an IU education at one of our regional campuses are frequently deeply engaged in public service and community engagement projects that aim to enhance our quality of life. They may not always get the proper recognition they deserve, but they almost always have interesting and inspiring stories to tell, as can be seen in the following:

  • A second-year medical student at our IU Northwest campus in Gary, Ind., who is serving on a committee to study the root causes of burnout among emergency medicine providers, an issue of great concern for the healthcare industry around Indiana and nationwide.
  • Students at our IU East campus in Richmond, Ind., who are providing one-on-one math tutoring to area middle and high school students and, in turn, are receiving valuable experience as they seek to uncover new teaching techniques in the vital STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math.
  • A student at our IU Kokomo campus who wants to make a positive difference in the world after having participated in several internationally focused programs offered by the campus, including the Innovation Symposium, an initiative that engages students in global issues and what they can do to solve the world's problems.
  • A team of undergraduate and graduate students at IU South Bend that is participating in a major worldwide collaborative research experiment, supported by the National Science Foundation, in the search for dark matter, one of the most important keys to understanding how our universe works.
  • Students in nursing, education and the social sciences at our IU Southeast campus in New Albany, Ind., who are participating in poverty simulations designed to illuminate the many challenges facing the disadvantaged and who are also interacting with representatives from the local government, business and non-profit sectors toward the goal of improving the quality of life in southern Indiana.

Singing the praises of IU's opera stars

As reserved as we Hoosiers may be, we love to sing the praises of IU's world-renowned Jacobs School of Music, which continues to shine on a national and international stage.

Late last year, five IU Jacobs School students won awards from the Central Region Finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions held at the Music Institute of Chicago in Evanston, Ill. They included tenor Richard “Trey” Smagur, a student of longtime Jacobs voice professor Carlos Montané and recipient of the Georgina Joshi Graduate Fellowship award, who is one of two first-place winners to advance to the national semifinals on March 12 at the Met in New York City.

He will be singing for a chance to advance to the Met Grand Finals later this month and attempt to join the sizeable ranks of Jacobs singers, including the beloved opera sopranos Sylvia McNair and Angela Brown, who have captured the Grand Prize award, a coveted recognition of up-and-coming opera stars.

Dancing for the kids

IU's students continue to create a culture of care and community engagement at the university, and no place is that culture more on display than at the annual IU Dance Marathon.

In the fall, for the first time in its 26-year history, IU Dance Marathon topped the $4 million mark in raising money for Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health in Indianapolis.

IU Dance Marathon, the university's largest student philanthropic event and one of the largest events of its kind at any university in the nation, included more than 4,000 participants at its November marathon. Since its inception, the event has raised more than $28 million, including this year's total, for Riley Hospital for Children.

This is a remarkable achievement that has benefitted countless children and families who receive treatment at one of the nation’s leading pediatric hospitals, and we owe great credit to all of the students who have worked so hard to make the event such a stunning success.

And last weekend saw the return of the Jagathon dance marathon, the largest student-run organization on our Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus. Now in its 15th year, Jagathon raised more than $351,000 for Riley Hospital, setting a new record, thanks to the efforts of its many "champions," including Hoosier native and IUPUI sophomore Rosie Tarlton, who has been able to give back—through her work on the Jagathon—to the hospital that helped save her life as a newborn.

A final word: A future of civic and community engagement

All of these aforementioned honors, achievements and activities represent just a snapshot of outstanding and diverse student success at IU. But they paint a larger picture of what great universities like IU do best. For nearly 200 years, we have broadened the horizons of our students and provided them with opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom that foster a commitment to lifelong learning and helping others. In doing so, we have made major contributions to the continued development of an engaged, productive and public-spirited civil society.

As intelligent, spirited, compassionate and driven as they are, our students cannot do this alone. And this is why we are immensely grateful for the generosity of IU's numerous alumni and friends, whose philanthropic support allows the university to pursue what it otherwise could not.

As we celebrate our students' outstanding achievements, let us also pay tribute to all of those who contribute to ensuring a vibrant academic life at IU, engaging our students' talents and passions, and preparing them to shape a better future for all of us.

With thanks as always,

Michael A. McRobbie
President, Indiana University