Progress in the pursuit of excellence

Dear Friend of Indiana University:

After a busy and productive summer, one that saw major progress across almost every area of the university, IU's campuses around the state are already deeply immersed in furthering their core missions of excellence in teaching, research and service to their communities. They are also brimming with bright and eager young minds who are the lifeblood of any great university. We are seeing many others returning to IU to finish degrees started at an earlier time and those enrolling in one of the large number of graduate degrees IU offers.

This fall our IU Bloomington and IUPUI campuses are welcoming their largest, most academically accomplished and most diverse freshman classes ever.

Across all levels at the university -- from high school students taking dual credit through the Advanced College Project to students studying for their doctoral degrees -- IU is serving more than 112,000 students statewide, an enrollment that once again, we are extremely proud to report, includes more Hoosier students than any other college or university in Indiana.

IU freshmen and their parents enjoy a picnic following the 2017 Freshman Induction Ceremony.

Our enrollment includes 20,053 domestic minority students who are seeking an IU degree. This is a new record for diversity at IU, and it represents nearly a doubling of minority students over the last decade. These figures are also a testament to our university's ongoing commitment to diversifying our campuses and efforts to reflect the increasing diversity of our state.

The regional campuses that IU administers across Indiana (IU East, IU Kokomo, IU Northwest, IU South Bend and IU Southeast) continue to provide a first-rate education to more than 21,000 students a year, and they are increasingly serving as a first choice for some of the best and brightest high school students in Indiana.

Finally, as the largest four-year provider of online education in our state, we have a record of more than 5,000 students enrolled in online degrees. More than 29,000 IU students are enrolled in at least one IU Online class.

All of this remarkable progress reflects the continuing impact of IU's Bicentennial Strategic Plan, which prioritizes our commitment to providing our students with an affordable and accessible education; a path toward on-time graduation; academic programs that are relevant and responsive to what they will need to find satisfying and well-paying jobs; and the skills of critical thought, evaluation and communications that are at the heart of a liberal education and will prepare them for active citizenship and a lifetime of public service.

As I said in my welcoming message to members of the IU community, our responsibility to create a productive and public-spirited civil society -- one that binds all of us together as one -- has never been more important.

In the coming months, we will be vigilant in helping our students understand, respect and appreciate the perspectives of others, fostering an environment of tolerance and civil discourse, and contributing to a culture of caring, support and dignity so that all of our students feel truly at home on all of our campuses.

These are the values that have defined IU for nearly 200 years and will continue to form the bedrock of our great institution as we prepare to celebrate our Bicentennial and embark on a third century of excellence.

A statement on DACA

Earlier this week, we learned that the Trump administration had decided to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects eligible young immigrants from deportation. In response, I issued a statement on behalf of IU expressing our deep disappointment in this decision and reaffirming our commitment to ensuring a welcoming, safe and civil community for our DACA and all IU students. Additionally, we pledged to work with our state congressional delegation and others to enact a thoughtful policy that will meet the needs of IU's DACA students and our state.

As I said in my statement, our university will not waver in its longstanding commitment to the diverse and inclusive environment that is vital to an excellent education. 

A summer of great success

As our campuses once again spring to life, I am reminded of just how much hard work and preparation goes into the start of any new academic year and how active and engaged our students, faculty and staff continue to be year-round in their pursuit of excellence in and out of the classroom. Indeed, the last several months have been marked by extraordinary progress -- and several major milestones -- as we have steadfastly worked to more effectively meet the ever-evolving educational needs of our students and our state.

Students work in small, collaborative groups during an intelligent systems engineering class taught by Professor Martin Swany.

The success of these efforts is evidenced by the exciting growth of our newly introduced degree programs, including our intelligent systems engineering program, IU Bloomington's first-ever engineering program, now starting its second year. In its inaugural year, students acquired valuable hands-on experience across a wide range of areas important to our state's growth and development. Next fall will bring the launch of a new master of architecture degree, with studios and classrooms housed at the IU Center for Art + Design in Columbus, Ind., a city renowned worldwide for its modern architecture. We expect that this program will soon be well positioned to meet the considerable demand for professional architects both here in Indiana and around the nation. 

Our successes are also reflected in the powerful investments we have made in major university initiatives designed to help generate new industries, improve public health, raise our standard of living, enrich our cultural lives and strengthen society and the world in multiple ways. 

In May, we announced the second project funded through our Grand Challenges Program -- Prepared for Environmental Change. This project, which is backed by a broad, bipartisan coalition of government, business, nonprofit and community leaders, will help our communities track environmental change and measure their preparedness for responding to immediate challenges and long-term effects with targeted and strategic investments in agriculture, industry, infrastructure and public health.

In August, IU and its partner IU Health revealed design plans for the new Regional Academic Health Center. This 735,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art complex will have an enormous impact on the health and quality of life of Hoosiers, as we work to expand opportunities for health sciences education and research, improve patient care and provide the best possible training to future generations of health care professionals locally and nationally.

The 735,000-square-foot complex will house a 620,000-square-foot, five-floor IU Health Bloomington medical facility as well as a 115,000-square-foot academic facility that will be used for health sciences education and research at IU.

Also in August, IU trustees endorsed a recommendation to separate our well-respected School of Education into two separate schools of education on our IU Bloomington and IUPUI campuses. This move will allow the two schools to sharpen their focus on areas where they have emerging strengths and train their energies and expertise on how best to support the educational training and research needs of our state. The formation of two independent schools also furthers one of the top priorities of IU's Bicentennial Strategic Plan, which calls for the university to re-imagine its approach to education.

Finally, we continue to invest in and strengthen our infrastructure so that it fully supports the academic, research and engagement missions of the university. At IU Bloomington alone, we completed several key projects by the first day of classes, and we have made substantial progress on many other additions and improvements to our facilities and campus grounds that will contribute greatly to enhancing the living and learning environment for our students, faculty, staff and visitors. And this type of positive physical transformation is occurring all across our campuses. Just a few days ago, I had the privilege of dedicating the highly anticipated, 126,000-square-foot Arts and Sciences Building at our IU Northwest campus, which will be instrumental in elevating the arts and sciences in Gary, Ind., and is a key component of the region's redevelopment efforts.

The exterior of the new 126,300-square-foot IU Northwest Arts and Sciences Building rises up three stories and spans a city block.

A world-class faculty

As we move forward with new schools, programs, facilities and other initiatives, our faculty continue to distinguish themselves as the best in their fields worldwide.

In May, we announced that IU Bloomington professor Craig Pikaard, one of the world's leading plant geneticists and biochemists, was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences, becoming the eighth active faculty member at IU elected for membership in this highly prestigious organization and the 26th in the university's history. I had the pleasure of hosting a reception in professor Pikaard’s honor just last week.

In July, we announced that Dennis G. Peters and Pratibha Varma-Nelson, professors of chemistry at IU Bloomington and IUPUI, respectively, had been named fellows of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society and one of its most prestigious. That same month, we shared the news that IU Bloomington professors Kathy Licht and Todd Thompson were named fellows of the Geological Society of America, the world's premier geological society.

As I have said on a number of occasions, the power of a great university is in its people. IU owes a great deal of its success to the world-class community of scholars whose scholarship, research and reputations are central to our standing as a leader among the great universities of the 21st century.

Moving forward

As you can see it was anything but a quiet summer around IU. As a result, we head into the new year with great momentum and reason to be excited and enthusiastic about the short- and long-term future of our great university.

We can all be extremely proud of the exceptional work being done by our faculty and staff across the state as we strive to strengthen education and research across our university and become even more fully engaged in improving the quality of life for all Hoosiers.

Of course, none of our successes would be possible without the support of our alumni, partners and friends across Indiana, the nation and the world, and to them I want to express our deepest gratitude.

With my very best wishes for another year of productivity and progress,

Michael A. McRobbie
Indiana University