Celebrating a semester of progress, honors and achievements

 Dear Friend of Indiana University:

As I write to you today, we have just concluded another exciting, eventful and extremely productive semester at IU. Indeed, the semester has seen a number of record-setting and other major achievements all across the university that reflect our continued commitment to delivering a first-rate education, as well as to fulfilling our promise -- as the state's flagship public university -- to proudly serving the communities and residents of our great state.

This fall delivered new records in the academic quality and diversity of our student body as well as in external funding for research and other activities that continue to make a positive impact here in Indiana and across the nation. These efforts include our three Grand Challenges initiatives, which, as I described in my last President's Update, are making excellent progress toward achieving our ambitious goals for improving the health and quality of life of our state, nation and world.

We continued to carry out the most important and relevant research while working with government, business and community development leaders all across Indiana to ensure we are also offering the most contemporary education programs, including those in professional and specialized areas essential to the growth of the state's economy. To this end, we recently celebrated the remarkable community support we continue to receive in Columbus, Indiana, that has made possible our School of Art, Architecture + Design's new J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program, housed there in the historic and newly renovated Republic Building.

IU graduate student Daniel Weddle works on a project at his desk inside the former Republic Newspaper building in Columbus. The building, constructed in 1971, is the home of the new J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

We reported on the extraordinary investments that IU alumni and friends of the university are making in IU as part of the IU For All Bicentennial Campaign, our first-ever all-campus, all-university fundraising campaign with a goal of raising $3 billion by the end of the IU Bicentennial in 2020. A central focus of this campaign is helping IU to recruit and retain the very best and most creative faculty who, in addition to teaching, are driving research and innovation in Indiana. Through the campaign, we are also raising funds to endow new scholarships and fellowships that will allow even greater numbers of talented students of limited means to attend IU and earn an education that will change their lives.

Finally, at IU Bloomington's annual Winter Commencement ceremony on Saturday, we congratulated more than 1,900 students on earning their IU degrees. This new group of IU alumni heard from David Rubenstein, one of our nation's most successful entrepreneurs and active philanthropists, who has had a major impact on safeguarding our country's cultural heritage, including some of our most cherished monuments, museums, national parks and historic documents. At the commencement ceremony, Lee Hamilton, the distinguished former Indiana congressman and professor of practice in IU's newly named Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, was awarded the University Medal. This is the highest award the university can bestow, previously awarded only 18 times. We also awarded an IU honorary Doctor of Human Letters to Charles MacKay, the general director of the renowned Santa Fe Opera and a highly respected leader in American arts administration.

As I said in my Winter Commencement speech, members of the Class of 2018 are superbly prepared to confront the challenges of the 21st century, become the leaders and responsible citizens of tomorrow, and continue IU's nearly two-centuries-old tradition of standing for truth and defending it from those who would distort, discredit and defame it.

More than 1,900 students graduated during winter commencement 2018 at IU Bloomington. Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana University

With a mere 196 days left until we commence the celebration of the IU Bicentennial on July 1, we can all be proud of the recent progress we have made in living up to our motto, "lux et veritas," or "light and truth," as well as in meeting our mission to provide the best, most affordable and most relevant education, as we prepare to celebrate what will be an unforgettable milestone in IU's history.

Before I sign off on the fall semester and what has been another banner year at IU, I want to share with you a few final important recent developments, including a major announcement on IU Bloomington's student residences, and several exceptional student and faculty honors and achievements.

Accelerating residence hall renovation plans

Residence halls are a vitally important part of students' academic and personal development. Indeed, a vast body of research, including work conducted by IU faculty and others, has documented that students living on campus are more likely to interact with faculty, participate in extracurricular activities and use institutional resources. This increased engagement and involvement, in turn, is a determinant of improved critical thinking ability, intellectual growth, persistence to graduation and satisfaction with college.

Residence hall conditions that impede these benefits are -- and will always be -- unacceptable at IU.

Thus, we were pleased to report earlier this month that mold remediation work in the Foster and McNutt residence halls at IU Bloomington has been completed. It was also announced that the IU trustees had approved a proposal to accelerate previously approved plans to renovate Foster and McNutt and that these will now be renovated in the 2019-20 academic year. Accelerating the planned renovations of Foster and McNutt will enable IU to address underlying HVAC deficiencies of older systems while also comprehensively renovating these facilities.

This action, together with the pending construction of the new North Hall and the ongoing renovation of the Teter residence hall, will provide more than 3,000 beds in new or renovated residence halls that will be available to students for the 2020-21 academic year. The accelerated renovations of Foster and McNutt are part of a plan to invest a total of $300 million over the next six years to complete the renovation of all student housing on the Bloomington campus, as well as construction of North Hall.

As I expressed at the beginning of my State of the University address in October, and as IU Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel has communicated in a number of messages to the campus, all of us at IU regret very much that the freshman semester for many students began with difficult circumstances. The well-being and security of our students and their uninterrupted academic progress have been our paramount concern as we have worked to conduct the remediation, and we will continue to be guided by the values of health, safety, academic progress and transparency in all of our actions moving forward.

From Granger, Indiana, to Oxford, England: New Rhodes Scholar Jenny Huang

Last month, we were delighted to announce that recent IU Bloomington alumna Jennifer Huang, of Granger, Indiana, was named a Rhodes Scholar for 2019. Jenny is one of just 32 U.S. college students to receive this prestigious and extremely competitive academic award. (To give you a sense of just how highly sought-after the Rhodes is: This year, more than 2,500 students pursued the award from 281 colleges and universities!)

Jenny is IU's fourth recipient of the Rhodes Scholarship in the past 10 years, our second in the last three years and our 18th awardee since 1905. Rhodes Scholarships cover all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford, in England, the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

IU Bloomington alumna Jennifer Huang was named a Rhodes Scholar for 2019.

As we shared in our announcement, Jenny is a rare and refreshingly different kind of student -- a pure thinker who has chosen to define herself in terms of her intellectual interests and genuine concern for others.

Among her many academic activities, she wrote her undergraduate thesis on the cultural, economic and environmental tradeoffs associated with the advanced development of Iceland's geothermal energy industry, and she co-produced a portfolio of podcast and prose pieces profiling Chinese Americans in Indiana -- a project that was supported by an IU Arts and Humanities Council "China Remixed" Creative Grant. She was also an intern for my office, helping prepare a strategic plan for the digitization and preservation of the university's vital teaching and research collections.

She won multiple awards during her time at IU, graduating Phi Beta Kappa with the highest distinction and a 3.95 grade-point average in December 2017.

As we also mentioned in our announcement, one of the people who interviewed Jenny for the Rhodes -- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg -- was so impressed that he hired her to work for him. Upon joining the mayor's office, she worked as a policy associate and as a research and editorial assistant on the mayor's forthcoming book, "Shortest Way Home."

With her Rhodes Scholarship, Jenny plans to pursue graduate degrees in the social science of the internet and in public policy, and we wish her very well as she embarks on this next exciting phase of her academic career.

Dancing and setting records -- For the Kids

Among the great many pleasures I have had during my tenure as IU president is attending -- nearly every year for the last 12 years -- the annual IU Dance Marathon.

IU Dance Marathon is the second-largest student-run philanthropic organization in the world, featuring more than 3,000 dancers, committee members and volunteers.

IU Dance Marathon participants raised 4,187,051.23 for the children of Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

Last month -- after 36 consecutive hours of dancing and for the third consecutive year -- our tireless IU students once again raised more than $4 million for the children of Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. The nearly $4.2 million raised brought the amount our students have secured since the marathon's inception in 1991 to more than $36 million, money that has benefitted thousands of Riley children.

This is truly an extraordinary event, one that puts IU's best values into action. Indeed, the students who participate in this event exemplify what is so great about the student body at IU. Their commitment to IU Dance Marathon is a commitment to healing and improving the lives of all the children at Riley Hospital for Children, and for that, all of us at IU are deeply grateful.

Setting a standard of excellence: IU's world-class faculty

As I never tire of saying, IU's success is powered by people, including a world-class faculty whose scholarship, research and reputations continue to be central to IU's standing. Indeed, our faculty members truly represent the best of the best, and this is reflected in the number of impressive accolades they continue to amass.

Late last month, eight IU faculty members were named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society, founded in 1848. This highly prestigious honor recognizes outstanding contributions to the progress of science and research.

These eight excellent researchers are making extraordinary strides in advancing our understanding of the human body, the mind and the natural world. They are also extending IU's longstanding tradition of pushing new frontiers in scientific discovery.

Their election brings the number of AAAS fellows affiliated with IU to 111. More than half of those have earned the honor in the past 12 years, illustrating the success of IU's recent effort to increase the number of its faculty recognized for their excellence and elected to our nation's and the world's major scholarly academies and organizations.

Additionally, seven IU faculty members have been awarded fellowships through the renowned Fulbright Program, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Also, two IU Ph.D. students were awarded Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowships from the Fulbright Program.

Finally, just last week, we announced that 10 IU faculty members have been appointed as distinguished professor, the university's highest rank for scholars and researchers. These professors are recognized by their peers as some of the very best anywhere in the world. This rank is reserved for only the most highly acclaimed and accomplished IU faculty. Among our more than 10,000 faculty, there are fewer than 100 active distinguished professors, which demonstrates that they are truly those who have transformed their fields of work and have earned worldwide recognition.

We are extremely proud of all of these researchers, scholars and artists who enrich our campuses through their work and who are superb representatives of IU both here in Indiana and all around the world.

Happy holidays!

As we close out another outstanding year for IU and head into our winter break, Laurie and I want to take a moment to wish everyone a safe, joyous and restful holiday season.

To all of our faculty and staff who work so hard throughout the year to make IU the outstanding university it has been for nearly two centuries, you have our sincerest gratitude and respect for a job very well done.

And to our many alumni and friends all across the nation and all over the world, please know that your continued support of IU and our work is truly and deeply appreciated.


With warmest holiday greetings,

Michael A. McRobbie