Reinforcing IU's commitment to student success

Dear Friend of IU:

Several weeks into the start of the 2019-20 academic year — and as we ramp up celebrations and recognitions of the IU Bicentennial — our campuses across the state are already in full swing, setting the stage for what promises to be one of the most exciting, productive and memorable chapters in IU's nearly two-centuries-old history.

Indeed, the university is brimming with activity. This week we will begin the 200 Festival, our multi-day, official kick-off of IU's Bicentennial Year, featuring special events and programs for IU students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends.

The festival will also include the Bicentennial Ceremony, on Sept. 28 at the IU Auditorium, a once-in-a-lifetime event to celebrate the first 200 years of our great university, honor the people who have made IU what it is today, and envision and explore all that IU might become in its third century. I hope you can be there for this historic occasion and join us at the other 200 Festival events.

The core of our mission: Student success

For several years now, we have been focused on how we could use the enormous and unique symbolic importance of the Bicentennial and all that this milestone represents to improve all aspects of the university. This effort has involved literally thousands of people across all IU campuses, who have worked tirelessly, ceaselessly and with enormous dedication to bringing about positive change at the university and reinforcing IU’s already strong commitment to student success, which is — and will always be — at the core of our university's mission.

In its Bicentennial Year, IU has welcomed its largest freshman class.  Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

Together, members of the IU community are responding to continued calls from our state leaders to produce more Hoosier graduates who have the skills necessary to succeed in today's global job market. They are leading the ongoing development of new programs and schools in areas that are meeting the evolving needs of students and are essential to the success of our state and nation — areas such as architecture, design, intelligent systems engineering, international studies, public health, media and philanthropy. They are working to ensure that even more of our students are persisting to graduate and completing their degrees on time. Finally, they are helping to keep the world-class education we provide affordable and accessible to all academically qualified students.

These have always been our goals, and recent figures indicate our continuing commitment to them.

In the spring, IU once again had a record graduating class; of those 21,500 students, almost 70 percent were Hoosier residents. This fall semester, we are serving more than 111,000 students on our campuses — the largest number of any university in Indiana. Despite considerable demographic changes across our state and our nation and increased competition from the nation’s top colleges and universities, IU remains the leading destination of choice for Hoosier students and continues to attract some of the best and most accomplished students from all around the nation and world.

At the beginning of our Bicentennial Year, IU has welcomed the largest freshman class in the university's history, with over 16,100 beginning students, including record classes at IU Bloomington and IUPUI.

Our student body also continues to reflect the increasing diversity of our state. We set a new record for diversity this year, with 22,068 degree-seeking minority students — the third consecutive year IU's student body has surpassed the 20,000 mark. Four of our campuses (IU Bloomington, IUPUI, IU East and IU South Bend) all set new highs for domestic minority students, who now represent more than a quarter of IU's total enrollment.

IU Bloomington has welcomed record numbers of Hispanic/Latino, African American and Asian American students, and the campus now has over 9,000 minority students — twice the number of minority students enrolled in 2007. While we have much more work to do in continuing to build a truly multicultural IU community, this record number reflects the work of many individuals on our campuses to both recruit minority students and create supportive and welcoming environments for them when they arrive on our campuses.

IU Online — delivering an authentically IU education since 2012

Our newly released enrollment numbers also indicate continued major growth in our successful IU Online initiative, which we established in 2012. Through IU Online, the university has firmly cemented itself as the state's online education powerhouse for four-year and graduate online education.

Our total enrollment figures indicate that a record 31,254 students — representing more than a third of this year's student body — are enrolled in at least one online class. This is a more than 4% increase from fall semester 2018. We also saw an increase in the number of IU students who are taking only online courses. This number grew to 8,768 students, who now make up nearly one-tenth of IU’s total enrollment.

These figures are especially noteworthy and important as they demonstrate IU's strong support of the state's ongoing efforts to help more Hoosiers earn their college degrees and ensure that more students graduate on time.

A record 31,254 IU students, representing more than a third of this year's student body, are enrolled in at least one online class in the 2019-20 academic year. Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana University

Today, according to the most recent report from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, nearly half of all Indiana public college students graduate on time — within four years for a bachelor’s degree and two years for an associate degree — and nearly two-thirds of Hoosiers complete college within six years. On-time graduation increased by more than 11 percentage points between 2013 and 2018.

Our IU Bloomington campus continues to lead all public four-year residential campuses in the state with the highest on-time graduation rate (69%), and I am proud to report that IU East, IUPUI and IU Kokomo have shown the greatest recent improvements in on-time graduation.

IU Online has contributed to the state’s substantial increase in four-year degree completion. Our online platform now includes 135 degree and certificate programs and over 2,500 courses on our seven campuses, all taught and developed by IU faculty. The result has been an authentically IU experience that is a true extension of IU's faculty and curriculum, and that builds on the best of traditional classroom instruction.

IU Online offers opportunities for those Hoosiers who may have started their college education but not finished because they now have jobs or families. Similarly, it provides a solution for more traditional students who want to earn their degrees more quickly or have more convenient access to courses given their class or work schedules.

IU's world-class faculty and alumni

Of course, our ability to attract the best and brightest students and ensure their success depends, in very large measure, on having a world-class faculty who inspire with their excellent teaching, their innovative research and their deep engagement in issues that matter to the communities we serve. The teaching they provide, and the opportunities they create through their own scholarship and research, are the reasons most students attend IU, and they are the most immediate ways in which the university fulfills its missions of building the foundations for personally and professionally rewarding lives, and of educating an active, informed and productive citizenry.

IU's faculty continue to reach extraordinary heights and, in doing so, are advancing IU's reputation nationally and globally as one of the great universities of the 21st century.

Darlene Sadlier holds a copy of her book, "The Lilly Library from A to Z." Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

To this end, IU Professor Emerita of Spanish and Portuguese Darlene J. Sadlier was recently elected to the highly prestigious Brazilian Academy of Letters as a socia-correspondente. She is the only U.S. citizen and woman currently holding this lifetime position at the academy, which is the Brazilian equivalent of the renowned French Academy and the foremost institution devoted to the Portuguese language in Brazil.

Jeff Prince, a professor of business economics and the Harold A. Poling Chair of Strategic Management at IU's Kelley School of Business, assumed a new role this month as chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission. His appointment to this important position reflects his leadership in researching technology market demand, telecommunications, and internet adoption and usage.

This month, we learned that H. Michael Shepard — an IU alumnus, a visiting scholar at IU Bloomington and a pioneer in the field of molecular biology and cancer research — has earned the Albert Lasker Award for basic and clinical medical research and public service. Established in 1942 by the Mary and Albert Lasker Foundation, the Lasker Award is widely regarded as America's top biomedical research prize, with nearly 90 past recipients going on to win a Nobel Prize. The award recognized Shepard's role in the development of the drug Herceptin, which is used to treat patients with HER2-positive breast cancer, an especially aggressive form of the disease. This is the second consecutive year an IU alumnus has won a Lasker Award — C. David Allis, one of the world’s leading molecular biologists, won the 2018 honor for his pioneering role in epigenetics.

Finally, IU Distinguished Professor Anantha Shekhar, executive associate dean for research affairs at the IU School of Medicine, has received Indiana's highest honor, the Sagamore of the Wabash Award. Shekhar is the founding director of Indiana CTSI, a statewide research partnership among IU, Purdue University, the University of Notre Dame and many local life sciences businesses and community organizations that are working to solve the state's most pressing health challenges. He also serves as the principal investigator of the IU Precision Health Initiative, selected as the first recipient of funding from the IU Grand Challenges Program.

A final word

Of course, we are proud of all of the superb work being done by our faculty and staff across the state, who are ensuring that IU continues to provide a contemporary education of the highest quality, produce more and better graduates, and help our students build the foundation for personally and professionally rewarding lives. Our collective commitment to providing an exceptional education to each and every IU student, creating an engaged citizenry and improving the lives of all Hoosiers has been central to our university’s enduring strength for two centuries.

The IU Bicentennial will offer us an unprecedented opportunity to honor and express our appreciation for all of our talented faculty and staff — as well as our alumni, partners and friends around the world — who are making great contributions to IU’s success in meeting its missions of excellence and keeping the university on the course of greatness as we rapidly approach our third century.

Once again, I hope to see you at our Bicentennial Ceremony and other 200 Festival events, and my thanks, as always, for your continued support and all that you do for IU.

Michael A. McRobbie