Progress and Growth in the Last Year of Indiana University’s Second Century

Franklin Hall, Presidents Hall

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie delivers the annual State of the University address on the IU Bloomington campus.  Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana University


Thank you, Professor (Joe) Wert, for that introduction.

I am very pleased to present to my fellow faculty members and colleagues, and to the broader university community, my 12th State of the University address.

Countdown to the Bicentennial

This will be the last State of the University Address I give before Indiana University’s Bicentennial Year commences on July 1, 2019, and which ends on June 30, 2020. As of today, this is a mere 258 days away, and the actual Bicentennial date itself for the founding of the University—January 20, 2020—is just 462 days away.

Almost from the day I became president, we have been focused on how we could use the enormous and unique symbolic importance of this date and all it represents, to improve all aspects of the university and to prepare it for a third century of greatness. We defined the principles that would guide us in doing this—our Principles of Excellence. And over the last decade, plans were developed in nearly every area of the university with these goals in mind, and which reflected the principles. Much of this planning was drawn together in the five-year IU Bicentennial Strategic Plan for Indiana University approved by the IU Board of Trustees in December, 2014.

For over a decade, these plans have been vigorously, energetically, creatively and above all, successfully implemented. The results have changed the very face of the university. Literally thousands have worked tirelessly, ceaselessly, and with enormous dedication to make this happen. And as it enters its third century, Indiana University and future generations of students, faculty, staff, and alumni will be forever in their debt.

In my Bicentennial State of the University Address a year from now, I intend to survey the results of the implementation of all these Bicentennial strategic planning efforts and assess their success and progress. Today, I will mainly restrict myself to some of the most notable of this year’s achievements, and some significant developments arising from my State of the University Address last year.

Of course, the Bicentennial year will be marked by extensive commemorations and celebrations, many of which are already underway, which are being organized and coordinated by the Office of the Bicentennial. Ongoing details can be found at The Bicentennial Director, Kelly Kish, and her staff are to be congratulated on the outstanding work they have already done that will ensure IU's Bicentennial year will be an unforgettable milestone in IU’s history.

A banner year at Indiana University

Meeting Indiana’s Higher Education and Talent Needs

The last year was another banner year for Indiana University with, once again, a number of record-setting achievements.

As the state's flagship and namesake public institution of higher education, Indiana University has a special responsibility to the people of Indiana is to provide an education of the highest quality and produce graduates in areas of importance to the state and nation. IU continues to do this in an exemplary fashion, educating more Hoosiers than ever before—including in a growing number of professional and specialized areas that are essential to Indiana's economy. We also attract talented students from around the country and the world, many of whom contribute to the state's brain-gain by staying in Indiana after they graduate and entering the workforce hence helping to address the need for talent in Indiana’s booming economy. Many of them also contribute to starting new businesses and forming new companies.

This spring, IU conferred a record of more than 21,000 IU degrees to our newest Hoosier alumni across our seven campuses—including record numbers of graduates in Bloomington, Indianapolis, and Kokomo—far and away the largest group of graduates to be produced by any one institution in Indiana. The sheer size of IU’s graduating class is a constant reminder of how IU is the state’s educational powerhouse and of the major role IU continues to play in creating and advancing the educational, intellectual, economic, social, and cultural fabric of the Hoosier state.

The IU student body is also more diverse than ever before. 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. Minority students now constitute about a quarter of IU's degree-seeking population. This represents nearly a doubling of the number of minority students at IU since 2007—and this outstanding improvement is due to the dedicated efforts of all those who have worked over many years to help develop our campuses into diverse, multicultural academic communities that serve as models for higher education, the state of Indiana, and society at large.

As always, central to our efforts to provide a high-quality education and produce graduate who are ready to make an impact in the world, is ensuring that an IU education remains accessible and affordable to all. IU’s MoneySmarts program, introduced in 2012, was designed to help students understand the impact of student loan borrowing and repayment schedules. It was named a "Model of Excellence" by University Business magazine, and has played a central role in the major drop in the volume of student loan borrowing we have seen in recent years. Between the 2016—17 and 2017—18 academic years, the volume of student loans by IU undergraduate students fell again, by $13.6 million in this period. Newly released numbers show that over a six-year period, from 2011—12 to 2017—18, undergraduate student loan volume at IU from both federal and private loans fell a remarkable 19 percent, accounting for $126.4 million less in borrowed money. Federal loan volume for all students was down $143.3 million, or 23.7 percent.

Record Research Funding and Philanthropy

Indiana University also continues to be the state's research powerhouse.

During the last academic year, IU researchers received $604.4 million in external funding for research and other activities. This is the highest total of external grant funding obtained by any research university in the state during the last fiscal year and the second-highest annual total in IU history—only slightly below the previous record.

This includes $314.8 million in federal and state government grants, highlighted by an IU record of $204.7 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, the major federal government source of support for health sciences research in the United States and $44.1 million in awards from the National Science Foundation, as well as nearly $75 million in sponsored funding from industry. It also includes a total of $203.1 million in nongovernmental grants, which is also an IU record.

The enormous success Indiana University faculty have had in competing for sponsored awards in an environment that continues to grow more and more competitive, is a testament to the quality of IU's faculty and their work. IU's outstanding faculty are engaged in a wide range of research and scholarship that results in the generation of innovative new ideas, intellectual works, and discoveries that cure disease, protect our environment, help secure our nation, grow the economy, and advance art and culture in our communities.

This includes, of course, the work of IU faculty members in the Grand Challenges Program, where faculty are working to cure cancer and childhood disease, prevent chronic illness and neurodegenerative disease, to help Indiana communities prepare for environmental change, and to combat the pervasive and grave substance abuse crisis in Indiana and the U.S., in partnership with the state government, local communities, and healthcare providers statewide.

There are hundreds of excellent faculty members and their teams of staff and students who successfully obtained grant funding last year, but I would like to single out just one in particular. Last year, Dr. Liana Apostolova, who is the Barbara and Peer Baekgaard Professor of Alzheimer's Disease Research in the Department of Neurology in the IU School of Medicine, obtained a $7.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish and lead a major nationwide project in the study of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. And just last week it was announced that she had obtained the second half of the funding for this project from the NIH, $44.7 million, for combined funding for this project of $52.3 million. This represents the largest amount of NIH funding ever for a research project at Indiana University. I am sure you will all join me in congratulating Dr. Apostolova and her outstanding team.

Last year was also a record year In the history of fundraising campaigns at IU. Last year, IU received a record $550.1 million in total private individual and institutional philanthropy given by the alumni and friends of Indiana University—the highest annual total in the history of Indiana University.

This figure represents a 19 percent increase in philanthropic support over the previous year—and it also marks the fifth consecutive year that Indiana University has set a record for the amount of private individual and institutional philanthropy received.

This total of $550.1 million includes more than $347 million in philanthropic gifts from nearly 112,000 donors. It also includes the record total of $203.1 million in nongovernmental grants that I mentioned a moment ago. So overall external research funding of $604.4 million including government and nongovernment grants plus private philanthropy of $347 million, totals nearly a billion dollars—$951.4 million to be precise—which dramatically underscores the extensive scale of research funding and philanthropic support that Indiana University continues to attract.

The IU Bicentennial Campaign

As most of you know, we are in the midst of the IU For All Bicentennial Campaign, our first ever university-wide fundraising campaign, with the goal of raising $3 billion by the end of the Bicentennial year, a goal that was raised from $2.5 billion only a year ago, given how successful the campaign had already been by that stage.

I am extremely pleased to report that the campaign is well ahead of schedule, having raised more than $2.6 billion to date, with the support of nearly 300,000 donors.

A particular focus of the Bicentennial Campaign is raising funds to endow chairs and professorships that will help IU recruit and retain the very best and most creative faculty who are the innovators and leaders in their disciplines, and raising funds to endow new undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships that will allow greater numbers of talented students of limited means to attend IU and earn an education that will change their lives.

I am delighted to report that, to date, funds have been raised to endow 190 new faculty positions, mainly new endowed chairs and professorships—a remarkable increase of 42 percent over the previous number. And I am also delighted to report that, to date, funds have also been raised to endow more than 4,500 new scholarships and fellowships, an equally remarkable increase of more than 35 percent over the previous number. These are quite extraordinary numbers as in both cases they represent increases over less than 10 years, to totals accumulated over the previous 190 years!

And as I am addressing the University Faculty Council, I again, as I did last year, want to make particular mention of the faculty and staff campaign that is part of the Bicentennial Campaign. Here, more than $163 million has been given by more than 15,300 faculty and staff members. I want to again commend 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 finest in the world.

Unprecedented academic transformation at Indiana University

In my third State of the University Address in February 2010, I announced the establishment of the New Academic Directions Committee under the leadership of then-IU Bloomington Provost Karen Hanson, then-IUPUI Chancellor Charles Bantz, and Executive Vice President John Applegate, and comprising some of the university’s most distinguished and visionary faculty and academic administrators. I asked the committee to consider whether IU was offering the right kinds of degrees and educational opportunities that one should expect of a university that aspires to be one of the finest universities of the 21st century—and whether the structure and organization of the academic units at IU allowed this to happen in the most effective way. This was, as I said at the time, one of the most important exercises of its kind ever carried out at Indiana University.

The committee presented its report to me in the Spring of 2011, and I presented it to the IU Board of Trustees in April of that year, and received their broad endorsement to move forward with implementing its recommendations. In my fifth State of the University Address in September 2011, I described this process. Since then, in every one of my State of the University Addresses, I have described the remarkable and transformative progress that has been made in implementing these recommendations. Among its most important outcomes has been the restructuring, merging or creation of 10 new schools on the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses each of which focuses on some contemporary area of major importance to the state of Indiana and to society more broadly—or to some contemporary area in demand by our students.

This is the largest academic restructuring in IU's history. It defies the oft-expressed view that universities are impervious or slow to change. Hundreds of faculty and staff have supported these changes and are to be congratulated for their clear-sightedness and commitment to ensuring that IU offers the best and most contemporary education programs and can carry out the most important and relevant research.

The latest of these 10 new schools commenced their operations on July 1 this year—the new Schools of Education at IU Bloomington and IUPUI that were formed out of the previous core school that straddled both campuses, and the School of Health and Human Sciences at IUPUI, formed from the merger of the previous School of Physical Education and Tourism Management and the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. The School of Education at IU Bloomington will focus on continuing to strengthen its undergraduate teacher education and graduate programs and better connect students with cutting-edge educational research, while the School of Education at IUPUI will focus on urban education, and especially the Indianapolis Public Schools. And by reducing competition and producing stronger, aligned undergraduate programs, the School of Health and Human Sciences is providing a solid foundation for future careers in the health professions as well as emerging careers related to health and wellness.

I have spoken in some detail in previous State of the University addresses about the other schools, but I want to mention two of them again for some major developments concerning them.

Two weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of announcing that the School of Global and International Studies, which was established in 2012 within the College of Arts and Sciences here on the Bloomington campus, has been named the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies in honor of two of Indiana's and America's greatest statesmen, Congressman Lee Hamilton and Senator Richard Lugar. Naming the school in their honor is a fitting and appropriate tribute that reflects their extraordinary service to the state of Indiana and the nation. In these times of grave national division and rancorous and destructive partisanship, their names linked together in the naming of this school demonstrates symbolically—but more than symbolically—that our nation is at its best and most admirable when the partisan divide is bridged in the national interest and in the interests of the world. Both men have also served as distinguished scholars and professors of practice in the school since 2013 providing our students and faculty with a unique opportunity to learn from and work with them. We announced at the same time a special fundraising campaign to raise $25 million dollars to endow new scholarships and faculty positions in the Hamilton Lugar School.

One of the Hamilton Lugar School's great strengths, and a strength of the IU Bloomington campus more generally, is instruction and scholarship in foreign languages. Instruction is offered annually in around 70 foreign languages—and over the last five years, IU has offered instruction in around 90 languages—far more than any other university in the country. This strength was emphatically underscored just a few weeks ago, when it was announced that a record number of 18 language and area studies centers and programs affiliated with the Hamilton Lugar School were awarded a total of $18.8 million over four years under the U.S. Department of Education's prestigious Title VI program. Just a few weeks later it was also announced that the Center for International Business Education and Research at the Kelley School of Business has been awarded an additional $1.28 million Title VI grant. The total then in the present round of Title VI awards to IU's international centers and programs surpasses $20 million in the 2018 round of funding. This is a record outcome for IU in the 60-year history of the Title VI program and the best outcome for any university in the country. It is also a record amount of external funding for the humanities at IU.

And, we are not resting on our past successes in this area—next weekend we will host our first Bicentennial Symposium on "International Education at the Crossroads"—with national thought and policy leaders convening at IU to define the future of this critical national priority. Professors Deborah Cohn and Hilary Kahn have developed an intellectually stimulating program, all are welcome to attend, and we thank them and their colleagues for positioning IU at the dawn of our third century as the nationally recognized leader in international education.

Earlier this year we announced that the historic Republic Building in Columbus, Indiana, would be the new home of the IU Architecture Program in the IU Bloomington School of Art, Architecture + Design, and that it would be renovated for this purpose with $2 million provided by the Community Education Coalition in Columbus. In recognition of this, the program was renamed the J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program in honor of the longtime chair of Cummins Inc., whose vision allowed a flourishing of architecture in Columbus which has led to it being ranked by the American Institute of Architects as the sixth most architecturally significant city in the United States. The building re-opened just a few months ago and the Miller Architecture Program welcomed its first students in its new master of architecture degree program this fall.

IU Online

Let me now move on to three matters I discussed in detail in my State of the University address last year, where important progress has been made over the last year—online education, excellence in teaching, and IU’s collections.

We continue to see rapid growth and expansion of online education at IU. As I said in my address to you last year, IU is the state's online powerhouse. We are the largest provider of online bachelor’s and higher degrees to residents of Indiana. The IU Online program, launched in 2012 with an initial investment of $8 million, has been a tremendous success. IU Online now has a portfolio of 124 online degrees and certificates as well as nearly 2,400 courses which leverage the strengths of all seven IU campuses. IU’s regional campuses have been particularly active innovators and adopters in this field. This fall, IU Online’s programs again broke enrollment records with 5,746 students in online programs, and more than 30,000 students – a third of all IU degree-seeking students - enrolled in at least one online course, and with more than 8,700 taking all their courses online.

There are many ways to approach online education, which, at its best, is a highly engaging and flexible mode of learning. Some universities have taken approaches different from IU's; differences that some would say provide online qualifications of lesser quality than their core programs. At IU, we have emphasized that our programs should provide a quality "authentically IU experience" and that online courses will be treated like any other courses for progression, transfer, general education, or for any other purpose.

But we are not standing still. At the graduate level, IU has already had considerable success with, for example, highly regarded master's and doctoral degrees from the IU School of Nursing, and the Kelley School of Business has had over a decade of experience with a market-leading set of online M.S. and M.B.A. degrees. And all schools and all regional campuses now have online graduate programs and courses of some kind.

However, there is a strong continuing demand for such programs and courses. Hence IU has decided to amplify and expand the formidable array of programs it is already offering in this area by joining the not-for-profit edX Consortium. This was announced last week. We will be bringing our considerable expertise in online degrees to edX and will be among the very first universities to offer genuine degrees using the edX software platform.  The Kelley School of Business will begin in 2019 by offering an M.S. in accounting and an M.S. in IT management.  These degrees will also have options for MicroMasters by edX for students who only want to take a few courses to expand their professional skills and then they may choose to pursue the full M.S. degree.  Over the coming years, we will continue to assess this and other innovative forms of education to meet the needs of IU students, the state and beyond.

Towards excellence in teaching

Next, let me discuss teaching. Teaching is, together with research, one of the core functions of a great university. Engaging and innovative teaching should therefore be recognized, encouraged, supported, and honored as a core function of a university. I proposed several initiatives in my State of the University address last year to accomplish each of these aspects of the overall goal of raising the profile and supporting excellence in teaching at IU.

I am very grateful for the thoughtful work that very many faculty members, governance bodies, and academic leaders have invested in these initiatives. A new website,, gathers in one place an enormous range of teaching resources available to full- and part-time IU faculty. It is curated by IU's long-standing, faculty-led organization, the Faculty Academy on Excellence in Teaching (FACET), which is itself an innovative approach to encouraging excellence in instruction.

In addition, all campuses now have in place a program of prototyping grants for teaching innovation, and they now have available excellent and comprehensive support for university and campus teaching programs. I appreciate, too, the efforts of IU’s faculty organizations in evaluating the teaching pathways to promotion and tenure, as well as the crucial role of non-tenure-track faculty in the university’s mission. I look forward to final reports on translational efforts—connecting research on learning and pedagogy to the classroom—and on our system of honoring excellent teachers.

It cannot be said too often that students’ academic experience at IU is what sustains us—through engaged students, students who re-register each semester, students who graduate with the degrees they sought, and alumni who recognize the value and indeed the life-changing experience at IU. That academic experience occurs in many places, but it begins in the classroom, laboratory, and studio. The excellence of that experience is a fundamental obligation and a central aspiration.

IU's collections

Last, let me discuss collections. In my 2013 State of the University address I first drew attention to the vital importance of our irreplaceable research and scholarly collections of video, audio and film and announced the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative (MDPI) aimed at digitally preserving by the Bicentennial about 300,000 of these judged by our faculty to be the most important of these.

As of today, MDPI has already digitized almost 310,000 such items, and the project is set to complete its expanded goal of digitizing 350,000 of these by the end of 2020. These works are stored on IU’s excellent IT systems, and they can be searched and accessed (within copyright limits) through the IU Libraries. This scale of this digitization and its reach across so many media types is unprecedented at any university in the country. It has already drawn considerable national and international attention to the university including almost $1.5M in grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In my State of the University address last year, I raised the further topic of our vast and impressive university collections of objects, art, cultural artifacts, archives, and manuscripts. I suggested that we should redouble our efforts to ensure that these rare and valuable assets are brought to bear on our teaching and research missions. I am pleased to report on the progress of this initiative over the last year.

First, under the direction of the Vice President for Research, after a national search we have recently welcomed Heather Calloway as Executive Director of University Collections whose role will be to facilitate the development of a university collections strategic plan. This plan will address the core issues of collection scope, policies, preservation, funding, and exhibition matters, among other core issues, while developing new collaborative relationships across collections. In the coming weeks, in consultation with Vice President Cate, she will be appointing the Research and Teaching Collections Council, which I announced last year. This group, with faculty and staff members from across the university, will advise the Vice President for Research on an ongoing basis and will work closely with the related leadership in research administration, schools, and the university libraries—all of whom have a vested interest and provide expert oversight and support to university collections.

This past spring, we launched, a new website that, for the first time ever, begins to bring together these incredible assets under one public-facing portal. The site will continue to develop features in the coming months, including opportunities for members of the public to access digital collections.

Finally, we have prioritized, in our private fundraising efforts and in our Biennial Budget Request to the State of Indiana, projects that will enhance our ability to exhibit objects from these fantastic collections. Joel Silver, director of Lilly Library, once explained that in the space he has available at the Lilly, he can program for 60 years or more and never use an object twice! We have great cultural, artistic, and scientific artifacts that simply must have more and better exhibition space. So, I am pleased to announce that we have requested from the State of Indiana renovation support for the Mathers Museum, Glenn Black Laboratory, the Kirkwood Observatory, and the McCalla School Building, which we anticipate serving the university as a home and exhibition space for biological collections.

If there is anyone that doubts the value of such projects as Google Books, Hathi Trust, our MDPI, or Professor Bernie Frischer’s fabulous work digitizing the Uffizi Gallery collection of Greco-Roman sculptures in Italy—one need look no further than the devastating and catastrophic loss of culture, history, and science last month in a fire at the National Museum of Brazil. An article in Nature suggested it was one of the largest losses of human cultural material in history. Indiana University has amassed a collection that would leave many nations envious. We have a responsibility—to art, culture, history, science, and to the citizens of Indiana and the world that have helped us build these collections, to do everything we can to document each artifact, share them through exhibitions here and around the world, and preserve them with the best tools we have available to us. To do anything less would fail our mission as a public research university.

Assessing the impact of IU's general education curriculum

I want to end this year's address by discussing general education. IU unashamedly embraces the classic liberal model of higher education as the very core of a university education. But it also rejects the view that this is incompatible with the modern educational needs of society. In fact, we believe that this model of education, and education in breadth and depth, is essential to producing the kinds of creative, flexible, adaptive graduates so in demand in the state and elsewhere. It is these kinds of graduates who are the innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs of tomorrow, as they have been in the past.

Great universities by their very nature provide both breadth and depth. They offer a wide range of disciplines at the undergraduate level, and they employ talented and engaged faculties with a thorough understanding of their disciplines. And great universities seek to assure that their students have the benefit of both breadth and depth by requiring a series of general education courses and at least one major subject of study—general education requires breadth, and having a major provides depth.

As often happens, however, general education is not always understood as a way of providing structure to breadth, exploration, and perspective, but rather that it is seen as something to be "gotten through," a box to be checked on the way to choosing a major and graduation. Nothing could be farther from the truth. General education is the foundation of a university education—indeed, the foundation of a liberal education. Students should be encouraged to make the most of it, and our campus faculties should be encouraged to be sure that campus general education requirements continue to reflect its purposes in the context of an ever-changing educational environment.

It is commendable, therefore, that all of IU's campuses are undertaking or have recently undertaken reviews of their general education requirements—either as part of the accreditation process or as a separate review. While these are, quite appropriately, campus-specific reviews, it has been well over a decade since the Board of Trustees directed all campuses to adopt general education requirements. It is thus important that the university as a whole be confident that general education is achieving its academic goals, that the requirements are up to date, and also that campus requirements, while distinctive, are nevertheless coordinated to avoid creating unnecessary barriers to students’ progress toward their degrees. 

To that end, I am asking the executive vice presidents to report on the status of general education at IU at the upcoming Board of Trustees meeting in December. In addition, over the coming academic year, each campus should put in place a process, if it has not already done so, to assure that its general education program:

  • Serves the "breadth" purposes of exploration and diversity of perspective;
  • Is effective in achieving these and other goals of general education adopted by the campus;
  • Reflects developments in the disciplines that contribute to general education, as well as the skills expected of educated citizens in our society;
  • Meets the requirements of state law on transfer of general education credits; and
  • Articulates consistently and transparently with the general education requirements of all other IU campuses, in order to reduce to the extent possible barriers to students’ academic progress and degree completion.

I ask the executive vice presidents to report to me by the beginning of the next academic year the progress that each campus has made toward these goals.

Finally, while it is not within our power to require all students to receive their general education courses at our respective campuses, or even at IU, we should have as our goal a program of general education that draws in and engages students, even those who might otherwise be inclined to seek the relevant course work elsewhere. General education should, in short, be a sought-after feature of an IU education, and not a requirement to be met in the least demanding possible way.


So, this is the State of the University in the last year of its second century—strong, vigorous, innovative, ever-adapting, but ever committed to the fundamentals of an outstanding liberal and professional education. And ever mindful of the vital role universities play in human civilization as the creators, disseminators, and ultimately as the preservers and guardians of knowledge and the riches of millennia of human culture and achievement. For in these "post truth" times, it is knowledge that will ultimately overcome this grave but temporary backward step in human progress.
And as we approach the Bicentennial of Indiana University, we will remain steadfastly committed to the outstanding traditions of academic excellence that have been a hallmark of this great university for nearly two centuries.

Thank you very much.