Building upon momentum and ensuring the success of IU students

Dear Friend of Indiana University:

Throughout the just-concluded academic year, I was pleased to share with you a wide variety of new initiatives, programs and activities that are all focused on IU’s twin core missions of continuing to ensure IU provides an affordable education of the highest quality and an environment in which the university’s faculty can conduct outstanding research that can also contribute to state and national prosperity.

Last week, IU trustees approved an operating budget for the next fiscal year, 2017-18, for all of our campuses that once again strongly underscores our commitment to these missions. This budget will enable us to continue the great momentum we have generated through our strong commitment to a vision — which we share with our state — of producing more Hoosier graduates, ensuring an accessible path to an IU education, helping to build a workforce that meets Indiana's economic development needs and enhancing our state's culture of entrepreneurship and innovation.

IU President Michael A. McRobbie addresses the Class of 2017, gathered in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall during the afternoon IU Bloomington undergraduate commencement ceremony.

The 2017-18 operating budget will allow us to do this through its continuing support for major initiatives such as:

  • Engagement with students in academic advising, supported by the IU Graduation Progress System, at all of our campuses around our state. This is helping increase graduation rates and reducing the time to degree completion, hence making an IU education more affordable.  
  • A comprehensive financial literacy program that has become a national model and has helped reduce borrowing by IU students by nearly $100 million in four years.
  • Establishment or reconfiguration of eight schools in the university, all of which are focused on an area of major state and national importance or some contemporary area in demand by our students.
  • New academic programs, such as our new degrees in architecture and intelligent systems engineering, in response to student demand and the evolving needs of our state's employers.
  • Enhancement of the quality of student life through an environment that is culturally rich, diverse and inclusive, and one that fosters student engagement and success.

Furthermore, the new budget will enable us to continue pursuing multidisciplinary research, with a focus on the Grand Challenges facing the state, the nation and the world; to support the creative and scholarly activities of IU’s artists and humanists; and to fund various strategic initiatives on all of IU campuses.

A major component of the 2017-18 operating budget is employee salaries and benefits. These have been addressed in a way that speaks volumes about the importance and commitment IU has to supporting the people who have contributed to the university’s success and to making IU such an attractive and fulfilling place to work. 

The budget includes merit-based salary increases of up to 2 percent for faculty and staff across the university, and an additional amount up to $600 for any employee making less than $15 an hour. It will be our recommendation to IU trustees in future budgets to continue such increases. Indeed, our goal is for all employees across the entire university to earn at least $15 an hour by the end of 2020.

Effective in April, IU also began providing paid parental leave to staff employees of the university. This major new policy underscores the value we place on our employees' well-being, and we believe it will help us continue to attract and retain outstanding staff employees. 

We believe it is essential that IU provide fair, adequate and competitive compensation for all of our employees, and we are delighted that we are in sight of fulfilling it. Our faculty and staff are our greatest assets and thus deserve to be rewarded for their dedicated and outstanding efforts.

Our support for our faculty, staff and students also continues to drive our efforts to rejuvenate our campuses through new construction and renovation. On Friday, IU trustees approved renovation projects on six IU campuses. The newly approved projects include, at IU Bloomington, an addition to the Fine Arts Studio Building, which will provide much-needed studio and lab space for the new School of Art and Design; renovations to Ballantine Hall and Geological Sciences as the third phase of the multiphase Old Crescent Plan to modernize older buildings on campus; and a new parking garage and office building.

The projects also include renovation of the Primary Care Center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Multi-Campus Special Repair and Rehabilitation for Deferred Maintenance on the IU East, IU Kokomo, IU Northwest and IU Southeast campuses; a new indoor arena for volleyball and wrestling on IU Bloomington's athletics campus; a new campus gateway with limestone sign at the corner of Seventh Street and Indiana Avenue in Bloomington; and a new, upgraded IU golf course facility. 

An Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis graduate celebrates by holding his diploma cover in the air during the commencement ceremony.

A record number of degrees

There is truly no better testament to our commitment to delivering a world-class education and career preparation that our students and the state's employers expect than the number of students IU graduates every year. 

Last month, a record number of more than 21,000 students received IU degrees during commencement ceremonies across our state. IU's class of 2017 represented the largest group of graduates to be produced by any institution in Indiana — in fact almost as large as the next two combined — and it was also one of its most distinguished. The class included Wells Scholars, Goldwater Scholars, a Boren Scholar and a Rhodes Scholar. It also included members of IU's Army ROTC Bison Battalion, recipient of the  General Douglas MacArthur Award as the best ROTC program in the 7th Brigade, which includes much of the Midwest. 

Viewed in terms of sheer size, the class of 2017 shows again how IU is truly the state’s higher education powerhouse and reflects the enormous value Hoosiers continue to place on an IU education. These graduates also serve as a powerful reminder of IU's huge impact on the health, social and cultural fabric, and economic vitality of the Hoosier state.

As I said in my commencement address, we can take great pride in knowing that our graduates will be called upon to solve the grandest challenges facing our society and further solidify IU's nearly two-centuries-old tradition of searching for and defending the truth. 

I invite you to take a moment to enjoy the video below showcasing the spirit, pride and pageantry of IU's 2017 commencement ceremonies.

Description of the video:


[Video: Graduates processing in robes and mortarboards]

[Words appear: 7 campuses, over 20,000 degrees awarded, one week of celebrations]

[Video: Fly over graphical map of the United States until we arrive over the state of Indiana where 7 tridents are arranged over each Indiana University campus. We fly through the trident over IU Bloomington]

[Video: Aerial of the Old Cresent at IU]

[Video: IU seal on a large screen]

[Video: Timelapse of Assembly Hall filling with graduates] [Video: Mothers and children lean over a rail waving and taking pictures]

[Video: Young female graduate looks up as if to find her family in the crowd]

[Video: Group of female graduates laugh together]

[Video: President McRobbie speaks at a podium during commencement]

[Video: Mortarboard on young woman reads “Future looks good”]

[Video: Young male and female stand together and move their tassels to the right side of their mortarboards]

[Video: Graphical map zooms into IU Southeast]

[Video: Southeast campus library]

[Video: Students process into large arena for commencement]

[Video: Military color guard processes]

[Video: Group of students smile as they stand at their seats]

[Video: Two female students hug each other and air kiss]

[Video: 3 female graduates stand in front of a IU Southeast backdrop and pose for a photo]

[Video: Female graduate looks into the lens and smiles]

[Video: Graphical map zooms into IU Kokomo ]

[Video: IUK campus shot] [Video: Hallway of graduates wave at the camera as it goes by]

[Video: Graduates process in]

[Video: Graduates sit as the someone from the platform party speaks from stage]

[Video: Two female graduates take a selfie]

[Video: A group of graduates smile and wave at the camera]

[Video: Graphical map zooms into IU South Bend]

[Video: Aerial of IUSB in Autumn]

[Video: Graduates process as the IU seal comes into focus in the distance]

[Video: Chancellor speaks at the podium]

[Video: A graduate walks by and hugs a friend]

[Video: Graphical map zooms into IU Northwest]

[Video: Aerial shot of IUN]

[Video: Two graduates, one male and one female, hug eachother]

[Video: Graduates process into the convention center]

[Video: A male graduate stands up while those around applaud him]

[Video: Rapid montage of graduates being handed their diplomas]

[Video: A male student shakes his fist and smiles with pride]

[Video: Graphical map zooms into IU East]

[Video: Aerial of IU East campus]

[Video:A crowd of people looking in the same direction ]

[Video: A man walks into position with his camera]

[Video: A graduate processes in line illuminated by stage lights ]

[Video: Graduates are lined up to go onto stage and receive degrees]

[Video: A graduate receives her diploma from the Chancellor and smiles]

[Video: The student commencement speaker addresses the crowd from the podium]

[Video: Streamers fall on the graduates]

[Video: Graphical map zooms into IUPUI]

[Video: Aerial of IUPUI campus]

[Video: A graduate high fives Jaws, the IUPUI mascot]

[Video: A male and female stand in front of a #raisetheflag backdrop and hold an IUPUI flag as they pose for a photo]

[Video: Graduates processing into Lucas Oil stadium]

[Video: A graduate stops and waves to the crowd]

[Words appear over a group of students pointing to the crowd: 7 campuses]

[Words appear under the commencement speaker Tamika Catchings: Over 20,000 degrees awarded]

[Video: The IU seal appears and..]

[Words appear: One IU]

[Video: The Indiana University trident appears]

[Words appear: Indiana University]

[Words appear: Fulfilling the promise]

[Words appear: iu.edu]

[End of transcript]

Study abroad and the impact of IU's international engagement

In addition to being one of the most academically accomplished classes in IU's history, the class of 2017 was also one of its most globally literate and engaged.

About a third of this year's IU Bloomington graduates had traveled around the world for their studies. The Bloomington campus ranks in the top 10 out of about 1,200 universities in the U.S. in terms of the number of students who study abroad. In the last decade alone, we have more than doubled the number of students who spend time overseas working toward their degrees.

These numbers are testament to our strong commitment to the principle that student study and service abroad — areas in which IU has been a leader for many decades — are essential components of 21st-century education, one meant to prepare students to live and work in a flat world. Students who have studied abroad say it is a life-changing experience. For many undergraduates, their time studying abroad is also their first time traveling abroad. So not only are they acquiring global literacy and understanding, but they are also learning the skills of — and gaining confidence in — living, working, studying and traveling internationally. And the contacts they make while studying abroad often lead to lifelong friendships and lasting valuable international networks.

To support study abroad by IU students, we have increased the amount of financial aid available for this purpose, and we have also made fundraising for study abroad scholarships, especially for low income and minority students, a centerpiece of IU’s Bicentennial Campaign.

IU goes to Spain and France

Last month, I led an IU delegation on a weeklong trip to Spain and France, the details of which you can read about at our special trip blog. While in two of Europe's most historically and culturally important countries, we experienced — through the lens of two of IU's longest-running and most successful study abroad programs — the powerful impact of the university's international engagement efforts.

In Madrid, we helped celebrate the golden anniversary of IU's groundbreaking Madrid — or WIP (Universities of Indiana-Purdue-Wisconsin) — Program and the recognition of the consortium of U.S. universities, known as the Universidades Reunidas, that has enabled thousands of American students to study abroad at the renowned Complutense University of Madrid, one of the oldest universities in the world and one of Spain’s leading academic institutions. At the 50th anniversary event, we were joined by about 100 past and present Madrid Program participants, representing IU and its partner institutions, Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin, who were eager to share with us five decades worth of stories about the sustained impact of their time studying abroad, including the many friends and connections they will carry with them forever.

Madrid 50th anniversary
IU students in the Aix-en-Provence Program share their study abroad experiences with IU President Michael McRobbie and members of the IU delegation to France.
Aix-Marseille University

A collection of images from the IU delegation's trip to Spain and France in May.

We also met with a group of IU students studying abroad as part of our Aix-en-Provence Program in France. The 55-year-old program, which IU shares with the University of Wisconsin and has helped manage since 1997, provides IU students with the opportunity to learn about, among other subjects, French language, civilization, culture, history and social science alongside French and international students. Many of our students take their classes at Aix-Marseille Université, the country’s largest university and the largest in the French-speaking world, with around 70,000 students.

Talking with our students studying in Spain and France gave us a wonderful glimpse into the truly transformative effect that studying overseas can have on our students and, more broadly speaking, on our state. By leaving their comfort zones to live and learn in a foreign country, IU students who participate in overseas study gain a level of global literacy and experience that is becoming increasingly vital for our state to stay competitive in a marketplace that seemingly becomes more interconnected by the minute.

Indeed, as Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said to me during a recent one-on-one conversation — held as part of the second-annual "America's Role in the World" conference at the IU School of Global and International Studies — study abroad can often be the “difference maker" for business leaders who are seeking to recruit and employ talented new workers and for entrepreneurs deciding whether to locate their new business ventures here in Indiana.

A final word: Keeping Indiana competitive, and your support

As I recently wrote in the Indianapolis Business Journal, for Indiana to thrive in today's economic marketplace, we must ensure that the state's talent pipeline remains flush with people who are highly skilled, smart, savvy and flexible. We need those employees to possess global cultural understanding and experience and have the ability to work productively with people from different cultures and traditions. And we need to continue working hard to keep our best and brightest in our state after they graduate.

By almost any measure, IU is fulfilling its promise to our state. We are preparing our students to meet their fullest potential, make major contributions to the economic development and quality of life in the communities in which they live and work, and find solutions to the most important problems facing our planet. IU is also contributing to an active and engaged citizenry that contributes to a culture of openness, free speech and debate, and respect for the beliefs and opinions of others.

Of course, sending our students out into the world with the education and experience they will need for a lifetime of success requires a massive team effort. As we reflect upon another successful academic year and settle into summer, I want to express my sincere thanks and deep appreciation to all of the faculty, staff, alumni and friends of IU who make our university the world-class institution it is today and will continue to be when it embarks upon its third century of excellence in education, research and service to our state.

This is my last update for this academic year. It has been an eventful and, as in previous years, a highly rewarding one reflecting the marvelous achievements of our faculty, students and staff. The summer is also the time when many in the IU community take vacations with family and friends to relax and recharge. To all who do, I hope you greatly enjoy yourselves. And I look forward to communicating again with you all in August.

With thanks as always, 

Michael A. McRobbie
President, Indiana University

P.S. — If you would like more details about our recent activities and future plans, I encourage you to visit president.iu.edu.