Succeeding in service to our students and our communities

Dear IU Student, Colleague or Friend of the University,

As I write to you today, I hope you are finding some time to relax and reenergize after this past academic year—one of the most challenging years IU has ever faced in its 200 years of existence, but one that was still remarkably productive and rewarding.

I have addressed you many times and in various forms, including in this monthly update letter, about IU's response to COVID-19 and our comprehensive public health policy that—despite several hyperbolic predictions—allowed IU's campuses to remain open this past academic year and made them among the safest places to be in the entire state.

To this end, IU’s Restart Committee has just released its full health and safety guidance for what basically will be a normal in-person fall 2021 semester. This will be made possible as we expect the vast majority of the IU community will be vaccinated by then. This in turn, will allow us to remove many of the public health restrictions we have had in place and allow us to return to normal operations.

With the vast majority of the IU community vaccinated come fall, the university will be able to remove several public health restrictions to allow for a mostly normal semester.  Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

So, while I will not recount these details at length here, I do want to express my most sincere thanks, once again, to all of you for the strength and resolve you have demonstrated over these difficult past 14 months that will make this outstanding achievement possible. Across all of our campuses and when we needed it the most, you exhibited creativity, courage, kindness, perseverance, personal responsibility and an unwavering concern for others. For this, all of us at IU are immensely grateful.

I would also like to commend you all for your continued extraordinary contributions to IU's fundamental and enduring missions of ensuring the success of our students; conducting cutting-edge research to address the most critical challenges facing our communities and our society; and engaging fully in efforts to improve the quality of life in our state.

Despite the disruption caused by COVID-19, we have been able, through your relentless, creative and dedicated efforts, to further the major progress we have made in recent years toward advancing our longstanding missions and to emerge from the pandemic in a position of strength.

As reflected by the major items of note below, we are finding new ways to succeed across every key area of the university. Even more, we are ensuring that we are superbly equipped to build on our latest accomplishments and make an even greater impact on our state and the communities we serve.

Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie, IUPUI Chancellor Nasser Paydar and others take a tour of Innovation Hall after the building dedication on May 24, 2021. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

Strengthening STEM education and innovation

Several days ago, we had the great pleasure of dedicating Innovation Hall, the newest facility on our flourishing IUPUI campus.

This new building will help to provide for the future of education in the vitally important STEM disciplines—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—that help increase the base of highly skilled workers who meet state and national needs in a wide variety of industries.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupations in the STEM field are expected to grow by 8% by 2029, compared with 3.7% for all occupations. The advanced industry employers who dominate STEM hiring are also leaders in research and development investment and in exports; their industries contribute enormously to the economies of their states and the nation. Because STEM workers are highly paid, highly productive and tend to work for high-growth companies, each new STEM job created is estimated to create two more local jobs with broad economic impact.

Innovation Hall, which held its first classes this past spring semester, will also provide much-needed research and classroom space to accommodate the growth of the three schools whose programs it will house—the School of Science, the School of Engineering and Technology and the School of Informatics and Computing. The building's approximately 100,000-square-feet of new facilities include classrooms and faculty offices, engineering and science labs, a state-of-the-art theater with two curved LED screens and a makerspace. The makerspace includes a collaboration studio, an electronics fabrication lab and a wet lab, as well as a wood shop and a machine shop for students to pursue innovative and entrepreneurial projects as early as their freshman year.

I want to commend IUPUI Chancellor Nasser Paydar for his tireless efforts in support of the construction of Innovation Hall over the last several years. I also want to commend and congratulate Dean David Russomanno of the School of Engineering and Technology, Dean John DiTusa of the School of Science and Senior Executive Associate Dean Mathew Palakal of the School of Informatics and Computing—as well as all of the administrators, faculty and staff of all three of these schools—for their dedicated efforts, which helped make the new building a reality.

I also want to thank Camy Broeker, IUPUI vice chancellor for finance and administration and the Indianapolis Business Journal's 2020 CFO of the Year, for the major contributions she made to the financial modeling behind Innovation Hall and other new construction and renovation projects on the IUPUI campus.

Innovation Hall is just the latest example of how IU, including its core IUPUI campus, is working to meet STEM workforce demands and drive innovation through applied research and industry partnerships.

As I noted earlier this month, in my 14th and final State of the University address as IU president, 589 new degree and certificate programs have been added at IU since I became president in 2007. These represent 589 new ways in which IU students can gain the qualifications they need to enable them to embark on successful and satisfying careers. Of these new degree and certificate programs, 182 programs—or 31% of the total—are in STEM disciplines.

I also noted that more than 308,000 IU degrees have been awarded over the last 14 years, with more than 112,000 of these degrees—or 36.5% of the total—being granted in STEM disciplines. Another 32% of the degrees awarded in this period were in business or public policy areas, so over 60% of all IU degrees awarded in the last 14 years contributed to the building of an environment of entrepreneurship and innovation in the state and nation. 

These impressive figures—along with many other programs and initiatives—reflect IU's strong commitment to increasing the number of graduates with degrees in STEM fields.

A tree blooms near the Metz Bicentennial Grand Carillon on a spring day in the Cox Arboretum at Indiana University Bloomington. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

Reviving a musical tradition

Last week, we also dedicated the renovated and relocated Arthur R. Metz Bicentennial Grand Carillon, one of fewer than 30 grand carillons in the world and one of only a handful nationwide. In doing so, we celebrated a magnificent tower, a splendid new gathering space and a sublime instrument that will create a collective listening experience and play a binding role on the Bloomington campus for many years to come.

The former Metz Carillon was a remarkable musical instrument containing 61 bells, allowing for a five-octave performance range, which is rare among carillons. But its remote and impractical location, with no space for comfortable audience seating, meant that it was rarely used for performances. In addition, over 50 years, the former carillon tower badly deteriorated due to weather and other factors.

By moving it to the Cox Arboretum in the heart of the Bloomington campus, audiences are once again able to enjoy regular concerts and recitals by faculty and students from IU’s renowned Jacobs School of Music on this magnificent instrument. And in the future, the Jacobs School and the Bloomington campus will revive the tradition of inviting distinguished carillonneurs from around the world to perform on the instrument.

If you have not already done so, I invite you to listen to world-renowned carillonneur and IU Jacobs School of Music alumnus John Gouwens perform the IU alma mater on the carillon. This inaugural ringing of the carillon was a highlight of IU's special Day of Commemoration in 2020 to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the IU Bicentennial.

Since 2007, IU has processed 2,497 new invention disclosures and 3,951 new patent applications, which resulted in 1,230 new patents being issued. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

Contributing to Indiana's economic well-being

Through its ongoing commitment to excellence in education, research and engagement, IU contributes in major ways to the economic well-being of the state of Indiana. The ability of our faculty to translate cutting-edge research into commercial technologies is vital to that effort.

Over the last 14 years, under the leadership of Vice President for Government Relations and Economic Engagement Bill Stephan and his staff, IU has seen a large expansion of commercialized IU intellectual property and the steady growth of a new entrepreneurial spirit in many parts of IU.

Since 2007, IU has processed an impressive 2,497 new invention disclosures and 3,951 new patent applications, which resulted in 1,230 new patents being issued. In addition, 531 licenses have been secured, producing more than $109 million in licensing revenue and 67 start-up companies.

In 2018, a group that invests in IU-affiliated innovation, now known as IU Ventures, was named the Tech Transfer Unit of the Year by Global University Venturing in recognition of IU's leadership in the commercialization of intellectual property. And, just a few weeks ago, IU Ventures won TechPoint's MIRA Investor of the Year Award, which recognizes efforts to invest in and support diverse Indiana startups. Over 50 percent of the companies in which IU Ventures invested had women or minority founders.

IU Ventures invests in and supports early-stage companies through three programs: the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund, IU Angel Network, and IU Founders and Funders network. Each program takes a unique approach on how to accelerate and support the positive impacts that entrepreneurs affiliated with IU already achieve across the world. In Indiana alone, IU Ventures made new and follow-on investments in 15 companies during 2020 and was recognized as one of the top three most active funds in the state.

IU also continues to develop numerous defense partnerships that are contributing to the Indiana economy and national security, including partnerships with the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, and the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, and the Indiana National Guard. These collaborations have resulted in multiple joint research awards, cooperative research and development agreements, collaborative projects supporting student and faculty research, and numerous other projects.

To this end, earlier this month we announced that IU and the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, were awarded $1.7 million to collaborate on artificial intelligence programming for rural middle school students. The Office of the Secretary of Defense funded the AI pilot program, which will begin this summer and will involve two schools at IU Bloomington: the School of Education and the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering. Through this exciting and unique new program, we aim to educate students from rural, underserved areas in the ways AI and machine learning affect their lives; offer a glimpse of future career options; and provide a blueprint for others around the nation who, like IU, are eager to leverage their expertise to help the nation build its STEM talent pipeline.

Indiana University Bloomington faculty member Richard Bauman was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University
Bicentennial Professor Hillary Kahn was recently named an inaugural member of the National Academy for International Education. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University
Janet McCabe, director of the IU Environmental Resilience Institute and a professor of practice at the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law at IUPUI, was confirmed as deputy administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in April. Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana University
Bernice Pescosolido, a distinguished professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington and the founder and director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research, was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences.  Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana University

Elevating Indiana's reputation

At the dawn of its third century, IU's research enterprise is strong and well-placed to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. Fundamental to this strength is our world-class faculty, whose research and scholarship blazes new paths of knowledge for the betterment of our communities, and who continue to further the reputation of our state as a center of ideas and innovation.

In recent weeks, several of IU's top faculty members have brought new acclaim to Indiana and its flagship public university through their outstanding scholarship and research.

In April, Indiana University Bloomington faculty member Richard Bauman was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the oldest and most prestigious honorary societies in the United States. Bauman, a distinguished professor emeritus of anthropology and folklore in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington, is known for his major contributions to the ethnographic study of language and performance. An eclectic and prolific scholar, he has had an impact on the development of a number of fields of study, including folklore, anthropology, history, linguistics, semiotics and speech communication. 

In April, we also learned that Bicentennial Professor Hillary Kahn was named an inaugural member of the first learned society dedicated to international education. Kahn, who serves as associate vice chancellor for international affairs at IUPUI and associate vice president for international affairs at IU, joins the National Academy for International Education, which was established this past March to honor outstanding individuals and distinguished leaders who shape and advance international higher education in ways that address global challenges and build a more peaceful, sustainable and equitable world.

Kahn, an expert on global teaching and learning and the internationalization of higher education, is one of just 23 individuals selected for the inaugural class, which represents educators from across the globe, including Australia, Canada, China, Ghana, Japan, Taiwan and the U.S.

April also saw the U.S. Senate confirmation of Janet McCabe, director of the IU Environmental Resilience Institute and a professor of practice at the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law at IUPUI, as deputy administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. McCabe was President Joe Biden's pick to serve in the No. 2 position at the agency, where she will help oversee nationwide efforts to protect public health and the environment.

We are enormously grateful to Professor McCabe for her leadership of IU's Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge initiative, which is helping to ensure that our state and our nation are ready for and resilient to the negative impacts of global environmental change. And we look forward to her putting her talents, wisdom, experience and energy to work on behalf of citizens across our nation.

Finally, in May, we were delighted to announce that Bernice Pescosolido, a distinguished professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington and the founder and director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. In 2016, she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine. She is the only IU faculty member ever to be elected to two of the national academies.

Pescosolido, who is only the 30th faculty member elected to the National Academy of Sciences in IU's history, continues to be one of IU's most highly accomplished scholars and researchers. For several decades, she has led pioneering work on social issues in health, illness and healing, which has led to major insights into the underlying roots of mental health stigma and the role that complex social and organizational networks play in how people recognize and respond to health problems. She is also a leading sociological researcher on suicide, drawing from the same insights that have driven her work on the influence of community on individuals' use of health care.

Thriving in athletics — on and off the field

In May, the IU men's soccer team once again captivated Hoosier Nation with another thrilling NCAA tournament run. Although Coach Todd Yeagley's team fell one win shy of its ultimate goal of a record 9th national championship, it produced a stellar season, which resulted in Big Ten regular season and tournament championships for the third consecutive season and an NCAA record 21st College Cup appearance.

Hoosier fans will welcome the team, which fought valiantly through this year's unusual pandemic-delayed season, back to the field in August. A month later, IU's football team will begin its highly anticipated 2021 season, in which Coach Tom Allen's squad, augmented by some notable new recruits, will seek to build off last year's 6-2 finish, January bowl berth and No. 12 final ranking.

Indeed, this is an exciting time to be cheering on IU's student-athletes, who, I am extremely proud to say, have had great success on the field during the 14 years I have been privileged to watch them compete as IU president. Their success is reflected in:

  • 46 Big Ten Athlete of the Year awards in their respective sports
  • 650 All-America awards
  • 23 Big Ten team championships
  • 30 NCAA Individual Championships (IU student athletes have earned at least one individual NCAA championship in 13 of the last 14 years. In the previous 14 years, there were only five years when IU had an individual NCAA champion.)

Of course, IU's talented student-athletes are above all students. As well as developing excellence in their chosen sports, they are at IU to graduate and get a world-class education that will ensure they will have rewarding careers long after their playing days are over.

The commitment of our student-athletes to their educations is clearly reflected in their remarkable academic achievements over the last 14 years. Since fall 2007, 3,197 IU student-athletes have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors, and the size of the most recent cohort of these is almost double that from 2007. A total of 670 students have been honored as Big Ten Distinguished Scholars, an honor that only goes to those with a 3.70 GPA or higher during a given academic year. Since 2009, the award's inaugural year, we have seen a 14% increase in the number of IU Big Ten Distinguished Scholars. IU student-athletes are also persisting to graduation in increasingly greater numbers, with IU's Graduation Success Rate, or GSR, rising from 81% in 2007-08 to 91% in 2020-21. This marks the ninth consecutive year that IU Athletics has either established a new GSR record or matched its previous record. 

With outstanding new or renovated facilities, excellent academic and other support programs, and solid recruiting and highly talented coaches, the future of athletics at IU Bloomington is bright and the potential is there to join the top ranks of the Big Ten and beyond.

The last 14 years have also seen the growing importance of athletics on the IUPUI campus. After having spent 20 years in what is now known as the Summit League since entering NCAA Division 1 sports competition, the IUPUI Jaguars joined the more competitive Horizon League in 2017, which includes many large public universities in urban settings like Indianapolis and is firmly rooted in the Midwest with league headquarters in Indianapolis. In just four short years in the league, the Jaguars have won eight Horizon League titles while continuing to demonstrate outstanding academic achievement. In fact, in fall 2020 well over half of IUPUI student-athletes made the Horizon League academic honor roll for their outstanding GPAs.

And on IU's regional campuses, intercollegiate athletics has become a prominent aspect of the campus experience, especially in recent years. It is an important recruiting feature for both student-athletes and non-athletes on these campuses. The campuses compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, and together they play 17 different men's and women's sports, including basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball and soccer. The teams have developed friendly intercampus rivalries, and each campus has had notable success, winning conference and tournament championships on a regular basis. Most importantly, regional campus student-athletes are some of the most engaged and academically successful students on each campus, bringing the athletic values of hard work, self-discipline and a winning attitude to their studies and other extracurricular activities.

A final word

The common denominator driving all of these exciting developments that I have just described?

IU's people.

As we reflect on our recent successes and the major challenges we have overcome, a dominant theme continues to emerge. Within our great state—and as we survey the landscape of the very best public colleges and universities—IU truly stands tall as "the people's university."

I simply cannot say enough about the time and energy that IU's students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and other supporters of the university dedicate—day in and day out—to furthering IU's missions of excellence and our ever-growing reputation as a world-class institution.

Because of you, we are giving our students the greatest opportunities to succeed.

Because of you, our campuses continue to inspire forward-thinking learning and innovation.

Because of you, IU research is improving the health and well-being of Hoosiers and people all across our nation.

Because of you, we are more engaged than ever in the communities we serve.

As we head into the spring and summer months, let us take every opportunity to celebrate one another and the extraordinary accomplishments we have achieved together that have had such a transformative impact on our university and our state.

With my greatest appreciation for all that you continue to do for IU,

Michael A. McRobbie

Indiana University