Extending IU’s commitment to diversity and inclusion

Dear Friend of Indiana University:

As IU's campuses across the state continue to celebrate Black History Month, we are reminded of how the IU community continues to become more diverse and how important it is to ensure there is a climate across the university that does not merely tolerate differences, but truly respects and appreciates them.

Our collective commitment to our core virtues of tolerance, the free expression of ideas, respect for the dignity of others and learning from our differences is fundamental to the enduring success of our great university as it rapidly approaches its third century of excellence.

As part of that commitment, much has been done to ensure an IU education is accessible and affordable for qualified students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, including first-generation college students, veterans and students from under-represented minorities. We are also striving to ensure that cultural diversity is well-represented in our curriculum, and we are continually seeking to foster "interactional" diversity — ensuring that members of the IU community who come from diverse backgrounds have the opportunity to interact with one another in meaningful and educationally purposeful ways.

Becoming more diverse, reflecting our state makeup

As Indiana's flagship public university, we have an obligation to reflect the evolving population characteristics of the Hoosier state. We also have an obligation to facilitate greater cultural appreciation and engagement in communities that are becoming increasingly diverse and where minority populations are having a major impact on our economic development and quality of life.

Increasing minority enrollment at IU has been and will continue to be one of our highest priorities. And with only 131 days remaining until the start of the IU Bicentennial, we have made great progress in recent years in helping the university achieve this important objective.

IU's student population has exceeded the percentage of Indiana's minority population for the last three years.   Graphic by Sam Thompson, Indiana University

For the second consecutive year, IU's student body contains more than 20,000 degree-seeking minority students, setting a new record for diversity at the university. The 20,856 degree-seeking minority students who enrolled on our campuses in the fall also included record numbers of Hispanic/Latino and Asian-American students and the third-highest number of African-American students. This represented nearly a doubling of the number of minority students at IU since 2007.

Six individual IU campuses, including IU Bloomington and IUPUI, set new records in minority enrollment for the 2018-19 academic year. Among IU Bloomington's 8,748 minority students were record numbers of degree-seeking Hispanic/Latino students, African-American students, Asian-American students and Native American students. IUPUI (7,427 minority students) achieved records for degree-seeking Hispanic/Latino students and Asian-American students.

For the third straight year, we exceeded the percentage of Indiana's minority population. Across the university, minority student enrollment increased to 25.1 percent of the student body for the 2018-19 year; Indiana's minority population is 23.3 percent.

We are also making strong headway in improving the retention and graduation rates of IU's minority students. As indicated by the most current data available, the four-year graduation rate for underrepresented minority students included in IU's 2014-15 cohort of graduates rose to 35.1 percent, an 11.7 percent increase from the 2009-10 cohort. During that same time period, the four-year graduation rate for domestic minority students improved by more than 10 percent to 40.1 percent.

Considerable credit for these achievements goes to IU's Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs and to the many dedicated and hard-working faculty, staff and students across all the campuses and schools of the university who work daily in support of IU's diversity mission. Many of these achievements are described in the office's excellent annual diversity report. The office is led by IU Vice President James Wimbush, who was recently recognized as a 2019 Champion of Diversity Honoree by Indiana Minority Business Magazine and last year was named the inaugural Johnson Chair for Diversity and Leadership at IU.

Under Dr. Wimbush's outstanding leadership, IU campuses have received numerous accolades for their diversity and inclusion work. These include IU Bloomington and IUPUI receiving the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from Insight Into Diversity Magazine. IU Bloomington also earned Insight Into Diversity's highest distinction, the "Diversity Champion," an honor shared by only 13 other universities. In addition, IU Bloomington earned a place on Campus Pride's list of the Best of the Best LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges and Universities in the U.S.

Despite all of our recent accomplishments, we know more work still needs to be done to address the obstacles that stand between many minority students and a college education, help them graduate on time, and ensure more women and minorities pursue education in STEM and other important fields of study. These are complex challenges, but the progress we have made toward our diversity goals suggests they can be met if parents, communities, secondary educators and institutions such as IU continue to work closely together.

Mexico Remixed

An important part of our efforts to create a diverse and inclusive environment is fostering greater cultural appreciation and understanding through IU's academic programs as well as through unique activities, events and programs that provide valuable learning experiences for our students and all members of the university community.

Members of Ballet Folklorico at IU perform at the IU Auditorium as part of Mexico Remixed. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

As such, IU Bloomington is in the midst of its third annual Global Arts and Humanities Festival, Mexico Remixed, which is bringing some of today's most distinguished artists and scholars from Mexico and around the world to Bloomington to highlight the rich cultural traditions of the world's most populous Spanish-speaking country and a global region with rapidly increasing connections to the Hoosier state. (Case in point: More than 429,000 Latinos now live in Indiana, three-quarters of whom are of Mexican origin and who represent the fastest-growing and youngest segment of the state's total demographic. Furthermore, Mexico is our state's second-largest trading partner, importing more than $5 billion in Hoosier-manufactured goods and products.)

Following our extremely successful China Remixed and India Remixed festivals, held in 2016 and 2017, respectively, Mexico Remixed will build upon IU Bloomington's extensive academic strengths in the arts and humanities — as well as its world-class collections of art, books, manuscripts and other Mexican cultural objects housed by such units as the IU Libraries, the Lilly Library and the Mathers Museum of World Cultures — while also promoting contemporary scholarship conducted by faculty and students on Mexican art, culture and history.

Additionally, throughout this spring semester, IU's Arts and Humanities Council will collaborate with partners on campus and throughout the Bloomington community to present performances, art exhibitions, public talks and academic conferences that highlight IU's deep and extensive cultural ties to Mexico, its people and people of Mexican descent living in the U.S.

As demonstrated by the work accomplished during IU's trip to Mexico in May, IU as a whole is committed to further expanding its connections to Latin America through the new IU Mexico Gateway office in Mexico City, new student and faculty exchanges, and our relations with our thousands of Hoosier alumni living and working in this important part of the world.

A partnership with France's finest

As a great global research university, IU has long believed in embracing and understanding the world in all of its diversity, and not shunning it or closing it off. Indeed, we believe strongly that the world in which our students will live after leaving IU will require more knowledge about the world.

Developing truly active partnerships with the leading higher education institutions around the globe is essential to us achieving this goal. These agreements are vital to our efforts to expand opportunities for IU students to learn about other nations and cultures through overseas study and for IU faculty to collaborate with researchers all over the world to bring to bear the best possible expertise to address global challenges.

From left: Indiana University Vice President for International Affairs Hannah Buxbaum, IU President Michael A. McRobbie, Sorbonne University President Jean Chambaz and Sorbonne University Vice President for International Development Serge Fdida sign partnership agreements.  Photo by Alex Kumar, Indiana University

To this end, we are extremely proud to count Sorbonne University, one of France's top-ranked research universities, as IU's newest international partner.

Sorbonne University is one of France's newest universities, but it was actually formed through the merger of two venerated research institutions: the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, which was France's leading science and medical education university, and Paris Sorbonne Université, which traces its origins to 1253 and became the country's largest institution dedicated to the study of literature, languages, civilizations, arts and humanities, and the social sciences.

Last week, we formally signed two universitywide partnership agreements with Sorbonne University during a visit to the IU Bloomington campus by a 16-member delegation led by Sorbonne President Jean Chambaz. These agreements will enable IU students to study at Sorbonne and Sorbonne students to study at IU. They will also ensure that the faculty at our two institutions collaborate in a wide variety of disciplines in which there are common or complementary strengths and interests, including the humanities, chemistry and biochemistry, biology, computer science, media communications, neuroscience and physics.

A world-class community of scholars

Ensuring we have a student body that reflects a broad range of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, providing valuable cultural programming on our campuses and expanding our global footprint — all of this work reflects IU's core mission of providing the highest quality education to Hoosiers and students from around the nation and world.

As I have said on numerous occasions, for the many things a premier public research university like IU does, students are the reason for its being, and student success is at the center of its mission.

And IU's students are truly world-class.

As I proudly mentioned in a previous update, recent graduate Jennifer Huang of Granger, Indiana, was named a 2019 Rhodes Scholar, one of just 32 U.S. college students to receive this highly competitive award. She is IU's fourth Rhodes recipient in the past decade and our 18th awardee since 1905.

And last month, we learned that IU Bloomington senior Anthony Coniglio was named one of 16 Churchill Scholars for the 2019-20 academic year, joining an elite group of only five other IU students who have ever earned this prestigious graduate fellowship honor. Anthony, who will graduate in May, will pursue a master's degree in mathematics during his year at the University of Cambridge.

To have a Rhodes Scholar and a Churchill Scholar in the same year is truly remarkable and a credit to IU's extraordinary learning environment and the faculty and staff who make it so.

Here again, and I will never tire of saying this, our faculty are among the very best of the best — a fact reflected in IU's increasing representation among the ranks of the nation's and world's most elite academic and scientific societies.

Jennifer Huang (fourth from the left) with fellow members of the Board of Aeons during a celebration in honor of her receipt of the prestigious 2019 Rhodes Scholar award. Photo by Chaz Mottinger, Indiana University

Recent weeks have seen the addition of two more major faculty honors. In December, Distinguished Professor Emeritus Gary M. Hieftje, who is also the Robert and Marjorie Mann Chair in the Department of Chemistry in IU's College of Arts and Sciences, was elected as a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. This is one of the highest professional distinctions accorded to academic inventors, and it recognizes his pathbreaking work to improve atomic absorption spectrometry across a wide range of industries. He is the third IU faculty member to be elected to the NAI in the past few years, along with David Clemmer in 2017 and Richard DiMarchi in 2015. And last week, IU biologist Jay-Terrence Lennon was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the world's oldest and largest life science organization, in recognition of his major contributions to modern thinking about biodiversity in the environment.

Next month we will also honor several of IU's finest teachers and educators at our annual Celebration of Teaching and Service. These dedicated faculty and graduate students, who are constantly striving to improve their effectiveness as educators, are making outstanding contributions to student success at IU by bringing innovative approaches to the classroom, engaging in first-rate intellectual and research collaborations, and making important contributions to their communities.

A final word about community

IU's upcoming Bicentennial offers a perfect time to reaffirm our deep and abiding commitment to a more diverse and multicultural academic community, one that will serve as a model for higher education and our state and society at large.  

If we are to continue to build a community on the basis of diversity, then all of us must bend our efforts to ensure that our community regards tolerance, diversity, cultural appreciation and a free expression of ideas as among its core virtues.

This is, of course, continues to be difficult work. But across IU's campuses — and in the communities that they serve — many people have readily accepted the challenge and dedicated themselves with passion to creating an IU community of which we can all be enormously proud.

Thank you all for your commitment to this most important work and all that you continue to do for IU.

Yours sincerely,

Michael A. McRobbie