Strengthening and Deploying Indiana University’s Resources in Service to the State, Nation, and World

Indianapolis, Indiana

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie delivers his State of the University address. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University


Thank you, Rachel (Applegate), for that introduction. I am very pleased to present to my fellow faculty members and colleagues, and to the broader university community, my 11th State of the University address.

I am also pleased to welcome a member of the Indiana University Board of Trustees who has joined us this afternoon. Please join me in welcoming Trustee Phil Eskew.

Indiana's Higher Education Powerhouse

Plato’s great philosophical work, The Republic, written 25 centuries ago, is a meditation on what constitutes the best type of society. It sparked a debate that continues to this day. Many different components and forms of the best type of society have been vigorously argued for over the centuries, but two components remain constant—the need for a citizenry that is both educated and healthy. These are seen as essential to a good society by ensuring its prosperity and the quality of lives of its citizens.

But, from this perspective, there is much to do in Indiana. To take just two figures: with about 25 percent of the state’s residents holding four-year or graduate degrees, the state ranks 43rd in the nation in this area, and 39th in terms of the health of its population. So, it is a simple equation—improving both these figures will improve the prosperity and quality of life of the people of Indiana and beyond.

In both of these areas, Indiana University is the state’s powerhouse and a principal hope for improving these figures. Nearly 50 percent of all four-year and graduate degrees in Indiana are produced by Indiana University. IU’s health science schools produce the vast majority of the state’s health science professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers, and dentists and IU’s close partner, IU Health, is the state’s largest hospital system.

Indiana University’s responsibility, then, to the people of Indiana as the state’s flagship public institution of higher education is to provide an education of the highest quality and produce more and better graduates in areas of importance to the state and nation. It is doing this in an exemplary fashion. Last year alone, a record of over 20,000 students graduated, again constituting roughly half of all four-year and advanced degree recipients in the state.

We have given particular focus to keeping an IU education affordable. Tuition increases have been at historically low levels, and the net cost of attendance is very low compared to our peers. IU student financial assistance for resident undergraduate students has increased 189 percent since 2007, ensuring an IU education remains accessible to Hoosier students from low-income backgrounds. We have pioneered pathbreaking student financial literacy programs that are national models and that have resulted in savings to students of over $100 million over the last four years.

And through a major academic restructuring, we have also focused on developing an extensive range of new programs and schools in areas essential for the state and nation—areas such as design, architecture, intelligent systems engineering, public health, international studies, media, and philanthropy—all based on the sort of strong liberal arts foundation that has made American higher education the best and most admired in the world. The related restructuring of the regional campuses brings an excellent and affordable IU education to nearly every corner of the state.

As a result of these and many other efforts, Indiana University continues to be the major college destination for Indiana residents as well as a highly attractive one to others. Our enrollment remains strong and at record levels in many areas. This fall, for example, IU enrolled over 112,000 students statewide—a total that once again included more Hoosier students than any other college or university in Indiana.

Both the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses welcomed their largest, most academically accomplished, and most diverse freshman classes ever this fall. And overall, our fall enrollment includes a record 20,053 domestic minority students—easily the most of any university in Indiana. This is a new record for diversity at IU, and it represents nearly a doubling of minority students over the last decade.

IU is also the state’s research powerhouse, with external funding for research from such bodies as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation totaling over $500 million—more than any other institution in the state. Pathbreaking research, innovation, and scholarship take place in our laboratories and elsewhere every day. For example, the long-standing and well-known excellence of the work on Drosophila genetics done by our three federally funded Drosophila facilities in Bloomington, was essential to the research that won this year’s Nobel Prize for Medicine for the discovery of how the body’s internal circadian biological clock works. And numerical simulation work done by IU astrophysicists using IU supercomputing resources has played an important role in the development of future and current gravitational wave detectors such as the LIGO detector that was used to confirm the existence of gravity waves, a discovery which won this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics.

IU’s standing as an innovation powerhouse was confirmed again by the recent Reuters ranking, one of the more credible and data-based rankings based on the number of patents, citations, publications, and related factors. It listed IU as the 27th most innovative university in the world, the 19th in the United States, and the first in Indiana!

IU has the most internationally engaged student body in the state with a record of nearly 4,000 students who studied abroad in the 2015 academic year, the most recent year for which there are figures. IU is also the state’s flagship for international studies through its School of Global and International Studies and the efforts of many other schools.

Over the last 10 years, IU has been successfully carrying out a massive program to renovate all its major buildings and eliminate its backlog of deferred maintenance on a scale few public universities have ever achieved. Nearly all of this is to be completed by the Bicentennial. In addition, private philanthropy and other sources have allowed the construction of major new buildings to support many of IU’s new academic initiatives, while providing expanded and enhanced facilities to support some of IU’s most outstanding academic programs. Last year, we exceeded $2 billion in renovation and construction over the previous 10 years, with over 100 major projects completed, underway, or planned, as well as hundreds of smaller projects.

And IU is the state’s philanthropic powerhouse in public higher education. Last year, we set yet another record for philanthropic giving of $462.3 million, the highest in the state, on top of records for each of the last four years. This forms part of IU’s Bicentennial Campaign, our first ever all-campus, university-wide campaign, and one of the largest campaigns ever at a public university. It has the highly ambitious goal of raising $2.5 billion by IU’s Bicentennial in 2020. It is well ahead of schedule due to the generosity of over 270,000 alumni and others—and we will be making some major announcements concerning it later this month at the mid-campaign celebration.

The campaign total so far includes gifts to endow 147 new chairs and professorships—a remarkable 33 percent increase, and about 3,500 new undergraduate and graduate scholarships and fellowships—an equally remarkable increase of approximately 27 percent. And the campaign is far from finished! But at their core, what these numbers actually represent in their simplest terms, are the recruitment and retention of some of the best faculty in the world, and enabling students from low-income backgrounds to come to IU who could not otherwise have afforded to pursue a degree.

And as I am addressing the University Faculty Council, I want to make particular mention of the faculty and staff campaign that is part of the Bicentennial Campaign. Here, an extraordinary $126 million has been given by nearly 14,000 faculty and staff members. I want to particularly acknowledge the energetic and enthusiastic work of a former co-chair of this body, Jim Sherman, for his work in encouraging faculty to make gifts to the campaign. I know many people in this room have given to this campaign, and I want to thank them all most sincerely for their remarkable generosity, as well as thank, more generally, all of the alumni, friends, faculty, staff, students, parents, companies, foundations, and other organizations who have supported IU philanthropically in this campaign. As I repeatedly say, philanthropy serves as one of the great pillars that support the American system of higher education, making it the best in the world.

Beyond the Campus Boundaries: Online Education

I mentioned earlier that only about 25 percent of Indiana’s resident population holds four-year or advanced degrees, ranking the state in the bottom quintile nationally. And I noted that education was a key to a prosperous society with a high quality of life. However, about 22 percent—nearly 750,000 Hoosiers—have some college education but have not graduated. Helping more of them graduate could rapidly increase the percentage of degree holders in the population, opening pathways for them to new careers, promotions, and economic opportunity. But most cannot return as traditional full-time students, as they now have jobs and families. Others who graduated many years ago would like to complete new degrees that will also open new career prospects for them. Indiana University is committed to helping as many of them as possible earn degrees, and online education is a lifeline to higher education and the hope of graduating.

Similarly, for the more traditional IU student who wants to graduate faster or have more convenient access to courses given the schedule of their other classes or work, online education provides an exceptional solution to this problem. The diverse and highly qualified new student body that we have welcomed at IU this fall includes a large majority who were “born digital.” That is, they have known digital technology their entire lives, and they have the strongest expectation that we will be taking full advantage of the newest technologies, tools, and expertise as part of an IU education.

Ever since access to computers became widely available around 50 years ago, educators have understood and been excited by the vast potential that information technology has to positively transform and enhance the whole process of teaching and learning. In my long career in IT, I have seen many waves of progress in this area as new ideas were born and obstacles surmounted. And I am very proud that in each of these waves, Indiana University has been a national and international leader.

Today, Indiana University is the state’s online education powerhouse for four-year and graduate online education. Our enormously successful online initiative, IU Online, was created over five years ago, and now involves hundreds of faculty on all IU campuses. It is truly an extension of IU’s faculty and curriculum, and it thus builds on our worldwide reputation and our highly diverse curricular offerings. It involves an online educational experience that is a direct extension of the best of traditional classroom instruction, including two-way, personalized interactions between teachers and students, true interactions among students, small class sizes, and instructional materials properly suited to the subject matter.

This fall at IU, we have seen a record 5,066 students enrolled in more than 115 online degrees and over 2,000 online courses now offered by IU, a 4 percent increase over last year's record, and among the largest numbers in the nation.

The outcome is even more impressive when one considers that many more students are currently engaged in educational programs that include both a high-quality residential component and an online component. A remarkable 29,000 IU students—nearly a third of our total student body—are enrolled in at least one online course, a figure that has surged dramatically in the past four years, and these courses are accounting for more than one-tenth of all credit hours across the university and matching revenue, larger in total than any of our regional campuses.

This year, our students are benefitting from access to an IU education through still more new degrees available through IU Online, including bachelor’s degrees in applied health sciences, informatics, and medical imaging technology; master’s degrees in philanthropic studies, product stewardship, and information technology management; and a doctoral degree in occupational therapy.

While we develop these programs, the education our students receive online remains authentically IU. IU Online courses, materials and degree programs are created and taught by IU faculty, coordinated by our faculty and academic administrators across multiple campuses, and subject to the same rigorous university processes and approval procedures that our traditional academic programs go through. And this type of quality innovation is not new to us. Our acclaimed Kelley School of Business began demonstrating this essential approachnearly 20 years ago, in 1999, when it launched the Kelley Direct MBA, which continues today as one of the top-ranked online MBA degrees in the nation and beyond.

We continue to recognize that the core value of any great teaching and research university will always be found in the personal experience. Indeed, our faculty and staff, our facilities, our traditions, and our heritage are our greatest assets, and IU Online extends them beyond our statewide network of IU campuses. Ultimately, we are blending these resources with opportunities afforded by new technologies to create the best possible instruction while offering students more flexibility to shorten their time-to-degree and find new educational opportunities. Indeed, it is fair to say that this pattern reflects the likely future of higher education, in which digital textbooks, academic resources, research tools, and classrooms blend ever more seamlessly with the in-person experience. In all of these areas, IU is at the forefront in providing the best technology with the best individual experience.

Research that Benefits the State, the Nation, and the World: The Grand Challenges Program

As one of the nation’s leading public research universities, Indiana University has, in recent years, made powerful investments in research designed to inform public policy; to establish new protocols for the prevention, treatment, control, and cure of disease, pain, and suffering; and to contribute to the quality of life in Indiana, and to state and national prosperity through the creation of new industries and jobs.

One of the most visible of these investments is IU’s Grand Challenges Program, which is funding major multidisciplinary research projects aimed at finding solutions to the “grand challenges” of our time—solutions that will provide major improvements in the quality of life for the people of the state of Indiana and beyond.

In June of 2016, I was very pleased to announce that the Precision Health Initiative was selected as the recipient of the first round of funding from the program. Led by principal investigator Distinguished Professor Anantha Shekhar of the IU School of Medicine, the Precision Health Initiative has the dramatic goal of curing at least one cancer and one childhood disease, as well as finding ways to prevent one chronic illness and one neurodegenerative disease.

In May of this year, I was also pleased to announce the second project funded through the Grand Challenges Program: Prepared for Environmental Change. Led by Distinguished Professor Ellen Ketterson of the Department of Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, IU Bloomington, this project, which is backed by a broad, bipartisan coalition of government, business, nonprofit, and community leaders, will help our communities track and prepare for environmental change, rather than responding after the fact.

This morning, Vice President Fred Cate and I were joined by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and the CEO and president of IU Health, Dennis Murphy, to announce that our third Grand Challenge will be Responding to the Addictions Crisis. Distinguished Professor Robin Newhouse, dean of the IU School of Nursing, will serve as the initiative’s principal investigator.

As you know, drug addiction is a major public health crisis that is taking an increasingly severe toll on the health of far too many Hoosiers and devastating communities throughout Indiana. Some 5.3 percent of Indiana’s residents—or 286,000 Hoosiers—report having engaged in nonmedical use of opioid pain relievers.1 Poisoning is now the leading cause of injury death in Indiana, and drug overdoses cause more than 9 out of 10 poisoning deaths.2

In 2014, more than 1,100 Hoosiers died from drug poisoning, marking a 500 percent increase since 1999, and placing Indiana 15th nationwide for drug overdose fatalities.3 In fact, drug overdoses have risen so sharply in Indiana that they overtook the number of motor vehicle deaths in 2008. The situation is so severe nationally that it is expected to result in a decrease in the average life expectancy of Americans—something usually only associated with countries ravaged by war, famine, or epidemics.

Through this vitally important initiative, IU will partner with Governor Holcomb and the state government, IU Health, Eskenazi Health, and other organizations to urgently address the pervasive and grave substance abuse crisis in Indiana and throughout the United States. This initiative will be the nation’s largest and most comprehensive state-based response to the opioid addiction crisis, and the largest anywhere led by a university.

Governor Holcomb has identified addressing the substance abuse crisis as a key priority for the state, and has identified aligning the resources of the state, including its universities, as a critical step in achieving that priority. IU’s efforts to respond to the addiction crisis will be aligned in this way with state and federal government efforts, and will include collaboration with the Indiana congressional delegation, local communities, industry, NGOs, patient groups, and many others. IU greatly appreciates the opportunity to partner with Governor Holcomb, the State of Indiana, IU Health, Eskenazi Health, and with others on this vital initiative.

This new Grand Challenge initiative will have a budget of $50 million over five years. Of this, around $13 million will be immediately deployed over the next six months in over 10 separate projects in the following areas:

  • Addressing key issues in substance abuse prevention, early intervention, treatment, recovery, and enforcement
  • Expanding education, training, and certification to address the significant shortage of addictions professionals, not just in medicine, but across health care, social work, and related professions
  • Bringing to bear IU’s extensive expertise in data collection and analysis to turn data into actionable intelligence for health providers, government agencies, employers, and community organizations
  • Deploying expertise in policy analysis, economics, and legal reform to reduce the availability of opioids in medicine cabinets and on the street, and to inform decisions made by our state’s elected officials
  • Focusing IU’s basic, applied, and translational science on a better understanding of addiction mechanisms and expanding research into non- or less-addictive treatments for pain to reduce the demand for illicit substances, and ultimately reduce the prevalence of substance abuse disorders
  • Focusing on community and workforce development, and expand IU’s partnerships with communities to enhance their responses to the addiction crisis

Additional projects will be identified through two further rounds of solicitation over the next two years. This initiative will also fund the hiring of 10 new IU faculty members, various other scientists and technicians, and the work of dozens of students each year on IU’s Bloomington, Indianapolis, and regional campuses.

This initiative will leverage IU’s extensive statewide footprint, including the IU School of Medicine and all of its eight regional medical education centers around the state, as well as all of IU’s other health science schools and IU’s regional campuses. It will bring together IU’s formidable and extensive clinical, research, and educational capabilities, working in partnership with IU Health and others, to achieve maximum impact in addressing this urgent state and national crisis.

It will also leverage the vital expertise concerning these problems in other units and schools within the university, including the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, IU's Maurer and McKinney Schools of Law, and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in Bloomington’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Indiana University is certainly not immune to this crisis. We are all hearing almost daily about more deaths and impacts of this devastating crisis. It affects IU faculty, staff, students, alumni, and their families, friends, and neighbors. People are dying. We must act! Now is the time to bring to bear the resources of all IU campuses to help address and mitigate this destructive and deadly public health crisis.

Assuring Pervasive Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Undergraduate teaching is at the heart of great public universities. It is the reason that most students attend the university, and it is the most immediate way in which we fulfill our missions of creating opportunity, of building the foundations for personally and professionally rewarding lives, and of educating an active, informed, and productive citizenry. Teaching is not a burden or distraction; it is—together with research and engagement—what we do as an institution of higher learning.

IU also serves the state, the nation, and the broader world by embracing the values that underpin a liberal undergraduate education. These values are at the core of an IU education. It is an education in the depth and breadth of human knowledge. The skills fostered by a liberal education—critical thinking, problem-solving skills, creativity, and the ability to communicate clearly, to remain flexible, and to respond quickly, thoughtfully and ethically in a world of rapid change—are also at the heart of IU’s teaching values.

The term “institution of higher learning” is not coincidental. Teaching is meaningful only if it results in learning. The statement and measurement of learning outcomes, for example—which require an explicit connection between teaching and learning—are now a nearly ubiquitous aspect of accreditation. Students are not the passive objects of instruction. They must be an active part of their education—whether in lecture halls, seminar rooms, laboratories, studios, student teaching, service learning settings, or internships and externships. Students must therefore be an integral part of any consideration of excellence in teaching.

IU already invests very heavily in teaching and learning.

  • Every IU campus is home to a center for teaching and learning, where pedagogical and instructional technologies consulting is available for all faculty and instructors.
  • Over more than 20 years, The Faculty Academy on Excellence in Teaching (FACET) has grown into a powerful collective force for academic excellence and innovation at IU.
  • Enterprise-wide educational IT systems improve the classroom experience and learning processes for IU students and faculty.
  • IU recognizes outstanding teaching through the presentation of Trustees Teaching Awards, school and campus teaching awards, and a number of university-wide teaching awards.
  • And learning is a major object of research and experimentation in IU’s schools of education and informatics, departments of psychology, centers for teaching and learning, and elsewhere within the university.

The recently launched websit, is a major step forward in gathering in one place and making readily available, IU’s many teaching resources. FACET, which hosts the site—as well as the campus centers for teaching and learning, and UITS, which was instrumental in its development—will continue to update and expand the site as a central resource for teaching and learning.

Not only have we invested in teaching and learning, it has been a prominent university-wide area of focus. I addressed the central importance of teaching and learning in my 3rd State of the University Address in February 2010, where I announced the New Directions in Teaching and Learning initiative, charging each IU campus with renewing its commitment to the quality and currency of the education that it provides to IU students.

The IU Principles of Excellence, which I presented in my 4th State of the University Address in September 2010, here on the IUPUI campus, state the centrality of student success, and the employment of “innovative modes of teaching and learning” in achieving that success.

And The Bicentennial Strategic Plan for Indiana University, approved by the Trustees in 2014, and first announced in my 7th State of the University address in October 2014, includes two key teaching-focused action items that call on the deans to improve the quality of learning in their schools and degree programs, and encourage the broader use and development of IU’s existing resources in instructional development.

But we must continue this momentum. While our commitment to teaching excellence has been a continual theme at the highest levels, it is critical to assure that commitment is continually renewed as we demonstrate that we value teaching as a core mission of the university. Excellent teaching doesn’t just happen. It is taught, learned, modeled, practiced, improved, and updated. It must be valued and nourished. We must translate IU’s educational commitment, investment, and research into pervasive teaching excellence. All IU students should graduate feeling that consistently excellent instruction was at the heart of their college experience.

Hence, in the time left leading up to the Bicentennial, we will redouble our efforts to assure pervasive excellence in teaching and learning, in order to underscore the central importance of excellent teaching at IU and to strengthen teaching and learning on all IU campuses. To these ends, I am announcing today seven new initiatives.

First, I ask Executive Vice Presidents Lauren Robel, Nasser Paydar, and John Applegate to immediately initiate a university-wide review of all of IU’s campus and university-wide programs that support teaching and learning. Building on the New Directions in Teaching and Learning Report, this review should examine what we are doing now, what is working well, what can be improved, what opportunities are there for leveraging and restructuring these programs to make them more effective and efficient, and what new resources, including space, might be needed. As well, it should look at what kinds of programs and spaces will be needed in the future, which will undoubtedly be even more dominated by pervasive information technology. The review committee should be comprised of FACET and other faculty members, staff of the centers for teaching and learning, staff from UITS, and students. The committee’s report should be submitted to the executive vice presidents no later than May 31, 2018, and after consultation, they will take appropriate actions in response by September 30, 2018.

Second, once this first report is complete, I ask the deans of all schools (or regional campuses where appropriate) to work with campus leadership to carry out, during the next academic year, a similar review of their programs for assuring and regularly renewing the pervasive use of best practices in teaching and learning in their respective schools, and assessing the effectiveness of these practices. These reviews should specifically detail the measures that are taken to assure that first-generation and at-risk students receive the support they need to persist and complete their degrees. School reports should be submitted to the Academic Leadership Council (ALC) by May 31, 2019. They will review the reports, and prepare a summary of new and innovative ideas that could be more widely adopted during our Bicentennial year, and distribute these university-wide.

Third, I ask the leaders of all campuses with schools and departments that conduct research into learning—for example, the IU schools of education, the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in Bloomington, and the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, and others—to identify opportunities at IU for translating their excellent research on learning into improved instructional practices at IU. We must use the results of our own reearch to fundamentally improve aspects of teaching and learning at Indiana University. Each campus should compile such material into a report for the ALC by May 31, 2018. The ALC will then consider the feasibility of deployment of some of these practices across IU.

Fourth, I ask that the executive vice presidents, in conjunction with the UFC and others as appropriate, explore the idea of creating a new academic designation to be called something like master teacher, as a way of recognizing the very finest of IU’s teachers. This designation could be similar, in some ways, to the rank of distinguished professor, and might carry with it some of the funding benefits of that rank. As with the rank of distinguished professor, it would also only be granted sparingly and after extensive evaluation, including external peer review. I ask for a progress report on these discussions by May 31, 2018.

Fifth, IU has many teaching awards for widely varied purposes that are presented to our faculty who are nominated by their peers as outstanding teachers. But we need to ask: Do we have the right awards for the right purposes? Do we presently have too many? Should some be consolidated? Are the monetary awards that go with them appropriate? Are we selective enough in how often we award them? Do we recognize the winners of these awards appropriately? I ask that the Office of University Honors and Awards consider these and any other relevant questions, in consultation with the FACET leadership and the chairs of the various award selection committees, and let me have a report on this matter by February 1, 2018.

Sixth, during this academic year, the Bloomington, IUPUI, and regional campuses will establish programs of small, so-called “prototyping” grants for full-time faculty, for internal experimentation with new techniques in teaching and learning. Special consideration should be given to applications from full-time faculty members whose primary responsibility is instruction. Successful techniques will then be reviewed for wider deployment in the university. Details of these programs will be released soon.

Finally, I ask the UFC and other faculty governance organizations to work with campus academic leadership to consider developing new, well-defined, rigorous pathways for tenure and promotion based specifically on excellence in teaching. The pathways should be evidence based, use multiple types of evidence of excellence, consider evidence of student learning, and be peer reviewed. I also ask that they consider changes to the non-tenure-track ranks to provide stronger career paths that recognize the professionalism of these important and growing segments of IU’s instructional community. In this connection, the UFC might also consider other full-time faculty ranks to recognize long-term commitment to excellence and mentorship in teaching. I would like a report back as to progress on this matter by May 31, 2018.

IU Collections: Leveraging University Assets for Greater Use, Development, Exhibition, and Appreciation

I am going to conclude by addressing a subject that has never, I believe, ever been addressed by a president of Indiana University, certainly not for decades, and this concerns the university’s collections.

Almost since the dawn of human civilization, human beings have collected objects— artifacts of their own making, or objects from the natural world. Humans have collected objects for their aesthetic value; as memories of people and events past and present; as records of their philosophical, religious, scientific, and literary achievements; and to illustrate their understanding of the natural world and universe. Today, these objects also include digital objects that were created in a digital form or are digital copies made for purposes of dissemination or preservation.

All great civilizations have celebrated collections that reflect human cultural or scientific achievement. Think of the Uffizi in Florence, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, the British Library in London, and the HathiTrust Digital Library. And some collections chronicle some of the most lamentable episodes in human history. Think of the Yad Vashem museum of the holocaust in Jerusalem, and the account of slavery in the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. The list of great collections is all but endless, as is their diversity.

Great universities are known for their great collections as well. University collections are vital tools for scholars and scientists from nearly all disciplines. They inspire students and are vital parts of their learning and understanding. And they draw the people from beyond the university to view and study them. They have been accumulated, in some cases, for centuries, and can contain unique and irreplaceable material of enormous value. Though not always thought of in these terms, they can be among an institution's most valuable resources.

Indiana University is home to some very well-known and heavily used collections—the main ones being the Herman B Wells Library and the other campus libraries, the Lilly Library of Rare Books, the Eskenazi Museum of Art, and the Kinsey Collection. To this, more recently has been added the digitized collections of hundreds of thousands of rare and scholarly valuable video and audio items, to which will soon be added the digitized collections of IU’s superb film collections totaling in the tens of thousands of films. This will both preserve this material and make it available this material to scholars worldwide. All this has been made possible by IU’s bold and visionary Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, which I first announced in my 6th State of the University Address in October 2013.

But IU has many more collections of material objects—a fact that is not widely known. IU possesses upwards of 50 material objects collections across all campuses, though most are on the Bloomington campus. They serve research, scholarly, teaching, public outreach, and historic preservation missions for the university and the broader community. These collections range in size, content, and use. Some have not been adequately inventoried, but it is estimated that together they contain around 30 million individual material objects, if we include books.

Historically, most of these collections have operated within varying departments or administrative units on each of IU’s campuses, with little to no attention from the university and with limited university-wide policies governing them. As a result, and through no fault of those who oversee and curate them, a number of these collections are under-developed, under-appreciated, under-utilized, and in need of more professional curation and maintenance.

Together, these lesser-known collections constitute a resource of enormous potential scholarly, educational, and cultural importance for the IU community. They could become even more important to IU’s research and education mission, opening up numerous new opportunities for study, scholarship, and exhibitions.

So, I am announcing today that I am charging the Office of the Vice President for Research with developing a plan, in consultation with campus academic leadership, to ensure that all the university’s collections are properly housed, maintained, utilized, and curated, as well as ensuring that these very important and valuable assets become better known, more fully utilized in IU’s research and teaching missions, and more fully appreciated by the IU community and the general public. Our goal will be to make major progress in achieving this by the Bicentennial.

Our overall vision for IU’s collections, then, is that they have a clear and coherent focus; that their mission be consistent with at least one aspect of the university’s mission; that they be professionally managed, curated, and catalogued; that they, in general, be publicly and broadly accessible; that they are appropriately maintained and preserved; and that they be guided by robust accession and deaccession policies.

Oversight for this process will be the responsibility of a new senior position in the Office of the Vice President for Research, who will report to the vice president and work closely with campus academic leadership, the vice president for information technology and CIO, and the dean of university libraries. The search for this person will commence immediately. The person in this position will also convene and chair a Research and Teaching Collections Council, with membership to be announced soon.

In order to provide greater visibility and accessibility for all the university’s collections, I am also directing the Office of the Vice President for Research to begin immediate development of a unified website that collects together all the websites and other material for each of the individual university collections. This would be, as it were, "a collection of collections." This should be operational by the end of this semester.

And on the Bloomington campus, the provost, the vice president for research and I will initiate a review of the status and future of the natural history and sciences collections, and of the anthropology and human sciences collections, to consider their missions and how they might be better aligned together. More details will be announced soon.

Finally, on the recommendation of the IU Bicentennial Steering Committee and others—as a special Bicentennial project, we are exploring the feasibility of developing a Museum of Indiana University. Located on the Bloomington campus, such a museum would chronicle and showcase Indiana University’s history. It would draw from the existing archival holdings of papers, objects, and collections from nearly 200 years of IU’s history. The museum would also collaborate with other museums and galleries on all IU campuses to feature rotating exhibitions, and to serve as an informational hub for IU and a prime center for visitors, students, parents, and new members of the IU community.

Conclusion: Remembering the Past, Building a Brighter Future

As the observance of Indiana University’s Bicentennial draws ever closer, members of the university community around the state and around the world will remember and celebrate the remarkable history, great traditions, and matchless heritage that have made IU what it is today.

Guided by the forward-looking Bicentennial Strategic Plan, we will also pursue bold priorities for the future in order to keep IU on the course of greatness in its third century.

And so, all of us at Indiana University will, in the coming years, work to build upon IU’s worldwide reputation for excellence as we redouble our efforts to ensure pervasive excellence in teaching and learning and bring the university’s formidable resources to bear on the greatest challenges facing humanity. We will work to ensure that IU’s unique and important scholarly collections are more fully utilized in IU’s research and teaching missions—and more fully appreciated and used by the public. And we will ensure that Indiana University continues to stand for truth and is a community whose members embrace dispassionate rationality and tolerance.

Central to all of these efforts, as they have been for nearly 200 years, will be the work of IU’s outstanding faculty members, the leadership of dedicated administrators and staff, and the efforts of the hundreds of thousands of alumni and friends around the globe who support Indiana University’s missions to improve the world for future generations.

Thank you very much.

Source Notes

1. "Opioids Rising: the Wide and Tragic Reach of Indiana’s Growing Addiction Epidemic," Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, 2016, 1.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.