Fulfilling the promise of a truly global university

Dear Friend of Indiana University:

For nearly 200 years, IU has proudly been the namesake university of the Hoosier state. It has served the state over that period by graduating around a million people and providing them with the promise of more prosperous and productive lives.

IU has truly been the people’s university. It has also served the nation through the accomplishments of its graduates, who have been some of America’s most eminent scientists, scholars and political leaders.

And for much of the last two centuries, the university has been Indiana’s window to the world through its longstanding and extensive international engagement. That engagement is reflected in outstanding faculty who come from all corners of the globe; the opportunities students have been given to study abroad in record numbers; an international student body that is now one of the largest in the country; superb scholarship and teaching concerning almost every area of the world; and language education programs that, in their breadth and quality, are unmatched anywhere in the U.S.

Great universities like IU are always great international institutions, open to the world and attracting the very best and most able from every country. The histories of the greatest universities of the past -- featuring renowned figures from every part of the then known world -- are the record of this.

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, right, makes a point with former Sen. Richard Lugar, left, and moderator Marie Harf. Hamilton and Lugar recently co-convened the America's Role in the World conference at IU's School of Global and International Studies. Photo by Ann Schertz

We live, however, in increasingly difficult times when strident voices would shut us off from the rest of the world just when the need to understand and engage with it is at its most urgent. In keeping with their global missions, great research universities must play a central role in combatting xenophobic stereotypes, willful ignorance and calls for isolationism -- all of which can have dire consequences.

IU’s longstanding recognition of the vital importance of international engagement led the university -- more than a decade ago -- to develop its first International Strategic Plan, which called for a major enhancement, expansion and renewal of its global activities. The plan has been enormously successful, leading to nearly a doubling over the last decade of the number of IU students studying abroad (today, nearly one in every three IU Bloomington students will have taken part in overseas study by graduation) and also to large increases in the number of international students (nearly 9,000 from 144 different countries) enrolled at our campuses across the state. As I recently pointed out in an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, foreign students continue to enrich the diversity of our campuses and bring valuable cultural perspectives to our classrooms, while also making major contributions to our local economies.

Our International Strategic Plan has helped guide the development of productive and enriching partnerships with some of the premier institutions of higher education and research around the world. It has also led to the establishment of a network of Global Gateway offices that have provided exciting new opportunities and support for faculty research and our study abroad programs; given us a considerable advantage in recruiting the best international students and faculty; and strengthened the connections among the nearly 700,000 proud IU alumni living and working around the world.

We have pursued an aggressive international agenda because we know that our engagement and increasing global presence have great importance for the Indiana communities we serve. Our state’s businesses, including established firms and new startups, exist in a highly competitive global marketplace, and the Hoosier workforce increasingly requires individuals who have global cultural understanding and experience, as well as the ability to work productively with people from different cultures and traditions. Indeed, we believe strongly that of all that comprises a first-rate IU education, international literacy and experience rank at the very top. The world in which our students will live and work will require more -- not less -- knowledge about the world.

Today, we can truly say that IU is as international as it has been at any time in our university’s nearly 200-year history. And we are becoming more globally engaged every day, as evidenced by a number of recent major and exciting events, activities and developments at IU that I will share in this update.

Indiana’s role in the world

Just over a week ago we were delighted to host the third annual conference on America’s Role in the World at IU’s School of Global and International Studies in Bloomington. This event, which has quickly become a highly regarded foreign policy conference, was once again co-convened by two of America’s most renowned statesmen, former Sen. Richard Lugar and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, both distinguished scholars and professors of practice at SGIS and both Presidential Medal of Freedom winners.

Highlights of this year’s two-day conference included thought-provoking keynote remarks from Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. We also heard from U.S. Sen. Todd Young, who joined Lugar in a sobering discussion about global food security, as well as from former U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation James F. Collins, a graduate of our Russian and East European Institute, who participated in a pertinent and informative talk on Russia’s global aims. Professors Lugar and Hamilton led a separate conversation centered on Congress’ role in foreign policy, and the conference culminated, appropriately, with several eminent state leaders sharing their thoughts on how Indiana interacts with the world and how global events and forces impact the Hoosier state.

This year’s conference presented IU students, faculty, staff and visitors with an extraordinary opportunity to hear from leading foreign policy experts, who addressed some of the most pressing international challenges facing our country. A special thank you goes out to all of the speakers, panelists and attendees for being part of this superb event.

Strengthening engagement in Mexico

Indiana’s important role in the world was also underscored earlier the same week by a former senior Mexican government official, Dr. Roberto Salinas-León, who is now the head of the Mexico Business Forum. Dr. Salinas-León delivered the seventh annual Patrick O’Meara International Lecture on the Bloomington campus. He noted that Mexico is Indiana’s second-largest trading partner and that, last year, Indiana exported more than $5 billion in Hoosier-made goods and products to Mexico. Additionally, according to data gathered by the IU Public Policy Institute at IUPUI, Latinos are the fastest growing and youngest minority population in Indiana. More than 429,000 Latinos live in Indiana, including approximately 320,000 (75 percent) of Mexican origin. The number of Latino-owned businesses in Indiana grew almost 150 percent over a 10-year period, from 5,482 in 2002 to 13,639 in 2012.

From left: IU students Marc Prats and Victor Sanchez with President Michael A. McRobbie and Peter Tattersfield, Mexico chapter president for the IU Alumni Association, during the Patrick O'Meara International Lecture series.  Photo by Chaz Mottinger, IU Communications

IU’s growing engagement in Mexico has resulted in the university continuing to be a popular destination for Mexican students; the exchange of many other students and scholars; and a productive new partnership with the National Autonomous University of Mexico, one of the finest universities in Latin America.

Recently, IUPUI Chancellor Nasser H. Paydar led a delegation to Mexico to strengthen the connections IU and its Indianapolis campus have developed over the years, including with Mexican universities, research partners and our Latino alumni.

Next month, I will have the great pleasure of formally opening and dedicating our newest Global Gateway office, the IU Mexico Gateway, located in Mexico City on the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The establishment of IU’s fourth gateway facility represents the latest chapter in IU’s long and successful history of engagement in Latin America and in Mexico. And we are determined to deepen our ties to this part of the world as our state’s rapidly growing Latino population makes increasingly vital contributions to economic growth, educational development and quality of life in communities in Indiana, throughout the Midwest and all across the nation.

India connection, “India Remixed” and honoring a literary giant

IU has powerful connections to the people, history and vast cultural heritage of India through our renowned Dhar India Studies Program at the School of Global and International Studies -- one of only a handful of such programs in the U.S. -- and through partnerships with a number of the leading educational institutions in India and close linkages with thousands of successful alumni affiliated with India.

In recent months, several major Indian companies have elected to set up business hubs in our state that contribute to job creation and innovation. The list of businesses includes Infosys, a large global tech firm that last spring announced plans to open training facilities in Indiana that would generate an estimated 2,000 new jobs. This summer, IU’s Bloomington campus will serve as the venue for an Infosys-led institute that will provide more than 800 teachers with training in computer science and maker education.

In the fall, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb led an economic development trade mission to India that included IU School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering Dean Raj Acharya. The goal of the trip was to recruit even more Indian businesses to locate operations in the state and send more Hoosier-made products to India. Indiana exports to India have increased by 117 percent since 2006 and now total nearly $270 million.

IU is continually exploring ways to strengthen Indiana's ties to India. To this end, several years ago we formally established the IU India Gateway office to support IU faculty research and student-focused activities in India. On Saturday, we formally dedicated a new office space for the gateway, which is now located in a more prominent and easily accessible location in New Delhi.

Back in Bloomington, we are in the midst of the largest Indian arts and culture festival ever mounted in the Midwest. The semester-long festival, “India Remixed,” sponsored by the IU Bloomington Arts and Humanities Council, is designed to highlight -- through exhibits, performances, film screenings and lectures -- IU's many arts and cultural assets concerning India and Indian studies. (The festival is an annual event highlighting the art and culture of a different country or region each spring semester. The inaugural year in 2017 highlighted China.)

Sir Salman Rushdie delivers a lecture titled "Wonder Tales: East Meets West" during his visit to IU Bloomington.   Photo by James Brosher, IU Communications

Just last week, in conjunction with the festival, we had the enormous pleasure of a visit from one of the world’s greatest novelists, Sir Salman Rushdie. Sir Salman is Indian born but now a U.S. citizen. He is the author of about a dozen classic novels that draw richly on Indian themes and other works from a remarkable range of areas. I had the great honor of presenting him with an IU honorary degree during his visit in recognition of his peerless contributions to world literature and cultural advancement.

Rushdie is one of five renowned cultural figures with Indian roots who graced IU’s Bloomington campus as part of "India Remixed,” which we designed with a goal of strengthening the connections among students from India and America, exploring India’s contemporary arts and culture, and prompting conversations that will continue long after the festival has concluded. We are extremely grateful to our Indian and Indian-American students, faculty, alumni and others who helped organize and plan this year’s festival.

IU’s longstanding engagement with Africa

Last week, we had the honor of officially welcoming to IU the inaugural participants in the NGO Leadership Transition Fellowship Program in Africa. Through the program, 10 senior NGO leaders from Southern and West Africa are spending this semester in Indianapolis engaged with faculty in the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI.

Their presence at IU this semester will help to further build and strengthen our longstanding ties to Africa -- ties of which we are very proud.

Over the years, we have welcomed many African scholars, dignitaries and students to our campuses. This summer, IU will also host, for the third year, a group of 25 emerging civic leaders from Africa under the Mandela Washington Fellowship program, which is sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

IU now has more than 2,700 alumni associated with Africa, and we have active chapters of the IU Alumni Association in Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. I had the pleasure of visiting with members of these chapters in 2013, when I led an IU delegation to Africa. The purpose of that trip was to renew and extend our partnerships with some of Africa’s leading universities and to meet with our alumni and with government and other leaders.

During that trip, we also visited the path-breaking AMPATH program in Eldoret, Kenya, a partnership between the Moi University School of Medicine and a consortium of U.S. medical schools led by IU. AMPATH began as an HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention program, and it has expanded into a comprehensive primary health care system that serves 4 million people in western Kenya.

IU President Michael A. McRobbie speaks with NGO leaders from Southern and West Africa. Photo by Chris Meyer, IU Communications

And, of course, IU faculty, many of whom are connected with our acclaimed African Studies Program, have been engaged for decades in interdisciplinary research that focuses on Africa, African language instruction and scholarship, and a wide variety of institutional development projects that have helped strengthen the educational and public health infrastructure in a number of countries.

Given the emerging importance of Africa on the world stage -- as well as IU’s growing collaborations with leading African universities and our continued interest in partnering with institutions in Africa to contribute to institutional and human capacity development -- we will be establishing a Global Gateway office in Africa in the near future.

Generosity, global leadership and great new ambassadors

IU’s increasing impact around the world is perhaps best reflected by the outstanding globally focused achievements of our students and faculty and the loyalty, support and friendship we continue to receive from our many distinguished international alumni.

In February, we learned that IU was one of only 16 institutions in the nation to be named a top producer for both the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and Fulbright Scholars Program. Twenty-one IU Bloomington students received Fulbright awards for academic year 2017-18 -- ranking IU 10th in the nation and second among public colleges and universities -- as announced by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The Fulbright Program is an extremely competitive program, one that demands a high level of excellence of its recipients. We are proud of our students, who have worked so hard for this opportunity, to continue their studies abroad. They will be great ambassadors for IU and our state, and we look forward to the new contributions they will make in their chosen fields of endeavor when they return from what promise to be memorable teaching and learning experiences all across the globe. 

In March, one of IU’s former outstanding faculty members, Dr. Yi Gang, was appointed the governor of the People’s Bank of China, China’s central bank and the rough equivalent of the U.S. Federal Reserve. From 1986 to 1994, Dr. Yi served as an assistant and associate professor of economics at our IUPUI campus, where he gained an international reputation and became a leading expert on China’s monetary and financial sectors. With good economists in high demand in China in academia, industry and government, he returned there in late 1994 to join the faculty of Peking University, becoming one of the first Western-trained economists to return to work in China.

In 2012, I had the honor of presenting him with an honorary doctorate in recognition of his contributions to economics both as a researcher and as a policymaker. With his new appointment, he will be assuming one of the most important positions within the global economy, leading the central bank of the country with the world’s second-largest economy. Our congratulations go to Dr. Yi on this outstanding accomplishment.

Ten of the 21 IU Bloomington students who were named Fulbright students this year, from left, are Thomas Tyler, Megan Darlington, Nathan Quinlan, Kelsey Gerbec, Peter Arnold, Allison Larmann, Katelyn Testerman, Kaitlyn Hockerman, Tiarra Clarkston and Alejandra Agular Perez​.

Finally in March, we were pleased to announce that Ming Mei, an IU alumnus and the CEO and co-founder of GLP, a leading global provider of logistics services, has donated $3 million to establish faculty chairs in the School of Global and International Studies and in the Kelley School of Business. Ming’s extremely generous gift -- which will make possible a tenured chair in Chinese economics and trade in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and another tenured position in logistics at the Kelley School -- will greatly strengthen our ability to provide our students with an excellent understanding of the business principles and emerging industry trends necessary to succeed in a changing global economy. We are most grateful to Ming for these generous gifts.

A final word

The events, activities and accomplishments I have described offer just a snapshot of IU’s ever-expanding international engagement with countries on every continent and in nearly every part of the world.

Of course, building a truly global university does not happen overnight. It requires rigor and a longstanding commitment to international exchange, to the promotion of greater cultural understanding and to opening wider the gates of opportunity to students from all backgrounds. In recent years, we have redoubled that commitment to these core values of our institution, reinvigorating our efforts to deliver quality educational programs that foster increased understanding and respect, and promoting study abroad and exchanges that have made it possible for a Hoosier student living in Kokomo, Indiana, who may never have traveled overseas before, to receive a life-altering experience in Korea.

Fulfilling the promise of a truly global university also does not happen without the strong and energetic support of a committed faculty, alumni, friends and partners all around the world.

You have been -- and will continue to be -- a vital part of IU’s proud tradition of international education and engagement. With your ongoing support we will realize our goal to be one of America’s most international universities, preparing our students for success in the global future and serving the interests of Hoosiers all across our state.

With thanks as always,

Michael A. McRobbie
Indiana University