Introduction to "Indiana in the World" Panel

SGIS Auditorium
IU Bloomington

Thursday, March 29, 2018

IU President Michael A. McRobbie opens the "Indiana in the World" session at the America's Role in the World conference.  Photo by Ann Schertz

As this third annual conference on America’s Role in the World draws to a close, I want to thank all of the speakers, panelists, and attendees for being part of this superb conference.

This annual conference truly is an extraordinary opportunity for IU students, faculty, and staff to hear from leading foreign policy experts as they address some of the most pressing international challenges facing our country.

We just heard some very insightful remarks from Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

We also heard today from U.S. Senator from Indiana, Todd Young, who was part of a compelling discussion about global food security with Richard Lugar and Lee Hamilton, two of our nation’s most venerable statesmen and the two men without whose leadership this timely conference would not be possible. I want to thank Senator Lugar and Congressman Hamilton, both of whom are distinguished scholars and professors of practice in the School of Global and International Studies, for helping to convene this conference.

And I want to commend Dean Feinstein and all of the faculty and staff of the school who have worked to make this annual conference—and the new school—such a resounding success.

At Indiana University, we are proud of the leading role we play in the state’s and America’s international engagement. 

We live, as all of you are acutely aware, in increasingly difficult times, when strident voices would shut us off from the rest of the world just at a time when the need to understand it, engage with it, is at its most acute and urgent.

American universities must play a central role in combatting xenophobic stereotypes, willful ignorance about the broader world, and calls for isolationism—all of which can result in dire consequences. There are probably no American institutions more widely admired and respected internationally than its great research universities. This has been repeatedly confirmed to me in my visits as IU president to 35 countries around the globe.

It is quite fitting, in fact, that universities have such a central role in countering calls for isolationism. Universities, after all, have always been truly international institutions, open to the world and attracting the very best and most able from every country. The pages of the histories of all great universities of the past are the record of this, with names from every part of the then-known world.
Of all that comprises an IU education, international literacy and experience ranks at the very top. The world in which our students will live will require more, not less knowledge about the world.

We seek to foster this in a number of key ways:

  • By requiring a mandatory international component for every student as part of their IU education.
  • Through a major increase in the number of our students who study abroad. Over the last 10 years we have seen nearly a doubling in the number of IU students who study abroad. IU Bloomington now ranks seventh in the nation (out of about 1,200 universities) in terms of the number of students who study abroad.
  • Through welcoming a large and diverse international student body who now come from over 150 countries. They bring the world to IU. And when they return to their home countries, they become, for the rest of their lives, passionate alumni and staunchly pro-American. The Bloomington campus currently ranks 19th in the country in terms of the number of international students enrolled.
  • Through global alumni engagement. We now have around 50 international chapters of IU’s Alumni Association.
  • By building strong and active partnerships with some of the best foreign universities in the world. IU has around 200 such partnerships.
  • Through the academic study of the languages, histories, cultures, religions, politics, economies, institutions, art, and literature of other countries. Enhancing IU’s strengths in these areas was one of the motivations for the establishment of the School of Global and International Studies. The school builds on IU’s formidable resources in language study—we teach over 70 foreign languages, more than any other university in the country—and on IU’s historic strengths in area studies. Our goal is to ensure that IU is a center for the world’s leading scholars and practitioners in global and international studies, and to support our internationally engaged faculty.
  • Through the establishment of IU Global Gateway offices to help focus and concentrate our activities in key regions of the world. We have these now in Beijing, Berlin, New Delhi, and in May, I will have the pleasure of formally dedicating our newest Gateway Office in Mexico City. Others will follow in the next few years. Soon, in Herman Wells’ words, the sun will never set on IU.

That idea is a most fitting lead-in to a panel on Indiana’s role in the world.

Last year during the “Indiana in the World” panel of this conference, I had the privilege of hosting a conversation with Indiana University Governor Eric Holcomb. Indiana is privileged to have, in Governor Holcomb, a leader who understands the importance of international engagement and the impact it can have on the Hoosier state’s businesses, culture, education, the arts, the non-profit sector, and beyond. And Governor Holcomb is demonstrating his commitment to international engagement, in part, by working to attract foreign direct investment to the state, with all the economic and cultural benefits it brings.

Just last week, Indiana’s important role in the world was underscored by Roberto Salinas-Leon, the head of the Mexico Business Forum, when he delivered the seventh annual Patrick O’Meara International Lecture on campus. As he pointed out, Mexico is Indiana’s second-largest trading partner. Last year, Indiana exported more than $5 billion in Hoosier-made goods and products to Mexico.

IU’s growing engagement in Mexico has resulted in a significant increase in the number of Mexican students coming to IU; the exchange of many other students and scholars; a productive new partnership with the national Autonomous University of Mexico, one of the finest universities in Latin America; and, as I mentioned, the opening of IU’s fourth Global Gateway Office.
Last year, as I led an IU delegation to Japan to expand our partnerships with a number of Japan’s leading universities, Indiana’s important role in the world was again underscored. We arrived on the heels of the publication of a newspaper article by the former vice minister of foreign affairs of Japan, Mitoji Yabunaka, in which he referred to Indiana as the most pro-Japanese state in America. To support this claim, he cited the fact that many major Japanese companies, including Honda, Subaru, and Toyota and many automotive component companies, have invested heavily in the Hoosier state and its workforce.

And, of course, Indiana’s thriving partnerships with Japan and Mexico are but two examples of our state’s fruitful global partnerships.

As part of our final panel in this year’s conference, you will hear from a number of eminent leaders of our state about how Indiana interacts with the world and how global events and forces impact the Hoosier state.

I want to thank this afternoon’s panelists for being with us. We are very pleased to welcome:

  • a member of the IU Board of Trustees,
  • a leader of one of the Hoosier state’s great cities,
  • a member of Governor Holcomb’s administration who is working to help Indiana attract and retain the talent needed to compete successfully in the global, tech-based economy, and
  •  the leader of an Indianapolis-based foundation whose mission is to expand student access to and success in education beyond high school.

And now, to introduce this afternoon’s panelists in greater detail, please join me in welcoming the panel’s moderator, the provost of the Bloomington campus, Lauren Robel.