Speeches by Provost Lauren Robel

Durability and Reinvention:
State of the Campus Address

March 3, 2015
Presidents Hall in Franklin Hall
Indiana University Bloomington
Provost Lauren Robel

1. Introduction:

Thank you to the Bloomington Faculty Council and President Jim Sherman.  My appearance before you every year is a matter of constitutional duty---the Bloomington Faculty Constitution Sec. 4.2, which states that I am to report the state of the campus “[a]s early as practicable during the fall semester of each academic year, on a date fixed by the Bloomington Provost . . . .”  I find some mild interpretive flexibility in the authorization to fix a date.  My only mild act of constitutional rebellion is to speak to you in the spring, ceding the fall to the President’s State of the University Address.

Last year at this address, I spoke to you about the big ideas that 11 teams of 167 faculty, staff, and students had advanced to the campus through the medium of a draft strategic plan for the years leading to Indiana University’s bicentennial in 2020.   I noted last March that I had been receiving comments and meeting with constituencies across campus to test these ideas in the crucible of peer review, to harness the energy and thoughtfulness of our community, and to determine which of the ideas advanced had broad appeal and merit.   This process was designed to ensure that they represented our best ideas for moving us forward as a campus, and that they made a convincing case for the continuing value of the distinctive work we do in this residential, research environment.  The process was also designed to uncover areas that the work of the teams had overlooked, and to explore opportunities we had missed at the campus level.

Over the summer, I worked to evaluate these comments and to shape the campus plan in ways that reflected areas of support, to eliminate ideas that, on peer review, were less strong or supported, and to determine what was achievable on the time horizon leading us to our Bicentennial in 2020. For instance, there was little enthusiasm for the idea of the Hutton Honors College as a “hub of interdisciplinary learning,” so that was removed.  And there was tremendous enthusiasm for, and well-crafted initiatives in support of, a focus on sustainability.  That set of concepts was added.

I also worked with student and faculty leadership to capitalize on the energy unleashed by the planning process and to set in motion a number of actions that were both important and clearly supported and meritorious.

During the fall, the President led our university through a process to take the best ideas from each of the campus strategic plans, and in consultation with the university’s governing board, which holds all of our assets in trust for future generations, and the constituents of all the campuses, to set Indiana University’s broad course for our Bicentennial.   The trustees adopted Indiana University's Bicentennial Strategic Plan at their December meeting.  In the period since, I have assured that our final campus plan benefits from, adopts, incorporates, and synthesizes the thoughtful and comprehensive work of both processes. 

The IU Bloomington Bicentennial Plan represents both a path to excellence for the dawn of our third century, and an appreciation for the strengths, people, and distinctive culture that brought us to this point.  It is organized, as is all of our work, around the Indiana University Principles of Excellence

Those principles are durable.  Simply put, we aspire to excellence, and the principles represent our university’s commitment to the bedrock foundations of quality in higher education.  They commit us to excellence in educating our students; excellence in the experiences we foster to further their growth;  excellence in the faculty we recruit, support, and nurture;  excellence in our research and creative activity;  and excellence in our engagement with the world.  We are a public university, and the principles represent a form of covenant with the state whose name we bear.   The principles also state a framework to support excellence, through the case we make to our state, our alumni, and our friends for support; the stewardship of our physical and financial resources; and the centrality of information to all we do.

If the principles are durable, they are also generative, and every generation on this campus must be “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.”[1]   We are a living, breathing, exciting, complicated, sometimes fractious, opinionated, and exhilarating community of scholars, teachers, and students.  Our hope for the world is to make it better, and our unique contribution to that mission comes through our students, our creation of new knowledge and beauty, and our service and engagement.

Much of the force driving our particular green fuse is individual faculty and students.  Much is at the level of the schools and programs.  The Bicentennial plans for both the campus and the university primarily represent a set of ideas about how we might be a force to drive that fuse collectively.  Today, I’d like to share with you just a few of the initiatives that harness our collective energy, and what has already happened at our campus as a result of working together, across schools and faculties.  I hope that by giving you some sense of initiatives already underway, you will be tempted to look closely at the plan, available on my website at provost.indiana.edu.

I’ll be illustrating a few of these initiatives with short videos produced during the year by a crack team of student videographers in my office, all from the new Media School. These videos are available on YouTube, along with a number of others that show the human faces of the initiatives in our plan.

Team Provost

 The team includes:

  • Russell Sheaffer, a doctoral student in the Media School’s Department of Communication and Culture. Russell’s film “Acetate Diary,” which he created during his time at IU, was selected for the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. His films have been screened at multiple film festivals, and he has co-curated or directed IU Bloomington’s Iris Film Festival, Underground Film Series and Orphans: Midwest, all at IU Cinema.
  • Cadence Baugh, a Fulbright-Hayes Scholar majoring in journalism with a concentration in digital and interactive media design and graphics. She will graduate this spring. During her time at IU, Cadence has studied at Minzu University of Beijing and National Taiwan University, and she’s a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success. She will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and an outside field in Mandarin Chinese; and
  • Mackenzie Ahlbrand, who will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Arts from the Media School’s telecommunications department and the department of communication and culture. Last summer, Mackenzie interned for a film company in Studio City, California, where she was a production assistant on programs for ESPN and Fox. She has directed and edited documentary packages for WTIU, written, directed and edited her own short films, been a DJ for WIUX, IU Bloomington’s student radio station, and worked as a lab monitor and studio supervisor for the Telecommunications Production Lab here on campus.

It is an honor to have these wonderful students as a part of Team Provost.

2. An Excellent Education:

Our mission, and our plan, begin with an excellent education.  The University Bicentennial Plan’s first priority is a commitment to student success.  It focuses on affordability, diversity, degree completion and career advising, and ensuring the quality of our academic programs. 

Affordability

In Bloomington, while we have the lowest average net price in the Big Ten, we too have taken several steps on student affordability, and contemplate more:

  • This year, through a new Pathways Scholarship, students who graduate in three years may keep their scholarships into a first year of graduate study on this campus, and often achieve an additional credential in the time it would usually take to get a bachelor’s degree.
  • The College and the Kelley School of Business have collaborated to create several innovative programs to allow motivated IU students to complete a bachelor’s and master’s degree in four years. Students will earn a bachelor's degree from the College and a M.S. from Kelley. Current options include in-residence M.S. degrees in accounting and information systems, and online M.S. degrees in information technology management, entrepreneurship and innovation, business analytics, finance, global supply chain management, marketing, and strategic management.
  • The campus has also extended the funding for students in our Groups program from one to four years.  As a result of the promise of support, for the first time in its history, the Groups program saw a 98% matriculation rate from its summer program into the fall semester, an important milestone for diversity on our campus.

Integrated Arts & Humanities at IUB

On the Bloomington campus, our approach to student success focuses on our distinctive strengths. Those include a residential, diverse, safe, vibrant, and thoroughly global campus; a powerful liberal arts core and outstanding professional schools; a set of compelling cultural institutions; broad honors education; and a strong commitment to graduate education.

Several of the most interesting and innovative ideas from the planning process revolved around bringing a campus lens to our historic strengths.  One of those strengths is clearly the synergy between our outstanding arts and humanities programs and our cultural institutions.  Through our plan, we commit to generating passionate advocates for humanistic and artistic expression.  One route to that end is to engage the full spectrum of our artistic, humanistic, and cultural assets to make the campus itself the fulcrum for exploring a set of ideas.  We saw the power of this vision through the outstanding program exploring the Great War, brought together by Professor Andrea Ciccarelli this year (and inspired by our President).  Let me show a short video of one triumph of this year-long program. 


Andrea marshalled every one of our cultural institutions for this effort.  In this very room, we saw diplomats from all of the combatant countries, and faculty from our own School of Global and International Studies, movingly discuss how that war haunts us still.  That evening, the Jacobs School performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem was beautiful, emotionally overwhelming, and well-attended by our students.  The Cinema this week brings Peter Weir and Gallipoli to the campus, and has been screening important films on WW I all year.  The Lilly and Wells Libraries have mounted exhibits; the Art Museum has a guide to its collections; the Mathers Museum did an exhibit on WWI and Native Americans.  Wonderful speakers, from Geoff Dyer to Michael Neiberg, have given lectures.  There were several courses keyed to this initiative.  However, I’d suggest that a student could get a fairly deep education in the War this year without taking a single class----and that the depth of this program would raise questions that would impel many students into our curriculum.  This effort demonstrates effectively the power of a residential campus to envelop students in deep learning.

I am happy to report that Professor Ed Comentale has agreed to chair a campus-level Council on the Arts and Humanities, charged with implementing the plan’s initiatives in this area.  I am also happy to report that one of the teams’ recommendations, that we create campus-wide residencies for creative artists, is also underway.  Next year we will host two international artists.  Kate Lilley, a renowned poet and professor in gender studies and English from the University of Sydney, comes as the inaugural recipient of a fellowship with the University of Sydney US Studies Center. The fellowship is the result of a partnership between IU Bloomington and the University of Sydney, and was made possible by a gift from Michael Thawley, Australia’s secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Thawley, the Australian ambassador to the U.S. from 2000 to 2005, was awarded Indiana University’s Thomas Hart Benton Medallion in 2002.  The second, Amjad Ali Khan, a celebrated Indian classical musician, will return to campus through the good offices of Professor Michael Dodson, who is the academic director of our relatively new India Gateway facility.  When he was last here, Khan worked with a group of students from all parts of the campus, culminating in a riveting performance.  During the coming year, he will formally teach a class at Jacobs while continuing this broad student contact.

STEM at IUB

The plan also calls for us to organize at the campus level around our resources in science, technology, and math, particularly in ways that support increased diversity in those fields.  Three initiatives are well underway.  The first, which launched during my first year as provost, is the Center of Excellence for Women in Technology.  Directed by Maureen Biggers and with Professor Laurie Burns McRobbie as its Advisory Council Chair, CEWIT has already engaged over 350 faculty, 2000 students, over 400 staff members and close to 500 alumni around the simple idea that technology fields should be inviting to women.  This cross-campus initiative supports faculty salons and writing circles, mentorship, and undergraduate research, and has been deeply engaged in our own living-learning community for women in STEM.  Later this week, it will host its second Techie Women Have More conference.

The second is a program, through the Office of Undergraduate Education, that provides financial support for faculty members involved in learning analytics---research that uses data to understand and improve student learning in all fields, and particularly in the STEM fields.  Ten faculty members from five schools and three departments in the college are the first Fellows in this program.  We are participating in a CIC project that has replicated Michigan Professor Tim McKay’s learning analytics research that explored the ways in which our course sequencing and assessment methods in the sciences and mathematics unintentionally deter women and underrepresented minority students from continuing in those majors.  We are planning a Workshop on STEM Education that will share data about how to put these insights into action on our campus.

Third, of course, is the major campus initiative exploring the possibility of establishing a program in engineering in Bloomington.  A November report on economic development in the 11 surrounding counties, sponsored by the Lilly Endowment, spoke to the pressing need for additional engineering capacity in the region.  Our President has noted that we are one of only 2 of the 62 AAU institutions without an engineering program. During the fall semester, ably led by Dean Bobby Schnabel, a group of faculty members from  informatics and computing, physics, chemistry, psychological and brain sciences, environmental affairs, and business and law met and produced a report about the possibilities for engineering here.  At the end of last week, a Blue Ribbon Committee that included James Duderstadt, the former President of the University of Michigan, Eric Grimson, the former Chancellor of MIT, and Anita Jones, Professor Emerita of Engineering at University of Virginia, visited and met with faculty constituencies across the campus and at IUPUI.  All the members of the committee spoke of the ways in which our faculty believed such programs would support, and indeed were necessary to, their research and teaching. 

New Schools & Programs at IUB

While I am talking about important campus initiatives, let me update you on our most recent schools:

  • The School of Informatics and Computing, which welcomed the faculty from Library and Information Science, this spring launched a Masters in Data Science with in residence, hybrid, and online options.  The courses for the masters degree are being taught by faculty from all parts of the combined school, and on only two months notice, 57 masters students are already enrolled.
  • The Media School hired its founding dean, James Shanahan, and the Board of Trustees last week approved two new undergraduate degrees in Media and Game Design.  The latter is a cooperative venture with the School of Informatics and Computing.  You can see the rendering of the beautiful design for the School’s new home in this building, on the opposite side from the right now (snowy) and approachable statue of Ernie Pyle, which has become a talisman for students and guests entering the campus.
  • Dean Mohammed Torabi led the School of Public Health through a site visit by accreditors in December, and the School of Public Health has hired a number of impressive faculty members in new departments such as Epidemiology and Biostatistics. It has also begun new online programs in Gerontology and Public Health.
  • And the School of Global and International Studies, under the leadership of its founding dean Lee Feinstein, was selected by the Carnegie Corporation of New York to be one of five founding institutions of the Carnegie International Policy Scholars Consortium.  The Consortium brings together faculty and doctoral students from five institutions – Maxwell, UVA, Duke, MIT, and SGIS -- to better prepare students for careers in policymaking and academia.  It also launched eleven faculty searches in four academic departments, the largest number of faculty searches of any international affairs school in the country.  It is slated to begin classes in its new building in Fall 2015.
  • The Integrated Program in the Environment under Jeff White’s leadership is up to 110 affiliated faculty.

In addition, and after the report of the Design Initiative Strategic Planning Team, the Department of Studio Art and the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design voted last fall to merge, and are working to prepare a proposal for a School of Art and Design, to be located in the College.  The Design Team had members from these departments and others in the College, as well as six of our schools.  Its proposed initiative in design is built not only on an understanding that contemporary design education is broadly transdisciplinary, but also on an understanding of the unique assets our campus can contribute to such an initiative.  Among them, of course, is the IU Center on Art and Design in Columbus, which the team envisioned as a living laboratory for design education in one of the most architecturally important cities in the country.  The campus has been working closely with the faculty to remodel Kirkwood Hall in the historic Old Crescent for the new School’s use.

Another campus academic initiative involves our health sciences programs.  The programs on this campus in medicine, nursing, optometry, social work, and speech and hearing sciences alone comprise the state’s largest group of health-sciences academic programs outside of Indianapolis, with over 160 faculty members and more than 1200 students.  Larry Humes, Chair of the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, led the team that evaluated the future of those programs.  The team recommended fostering an environment for interdisciplinary collaboration in the health sciences that supports basic, clinical, interdisciplinary, inter-professional,  and community health research and education and delivery of clinical services.   David Daleke, Vice Provost for Health Sciences and Graduate Education, last fall convened a Health Sciences Council to continue the team’s work, and that council, which includes representatives of all the health sciences programs, is considering space needs and possibilities for expanded offerings,  Professor Karen Allen, Director of the Bloomington Social Work program, is actively working to expand the program to include an MSW, and we are in the early stages of discussions with the School of Dentistry about possible collaborations. 

Student Welfare

Finally, I want to mention initiatives that focus on student welfare. 

  • This year saw a campus-wide focus on addressing the serious issues of sexual assault and student mental health. 
    • Through a process that started last summer, and in full consultation with the faculty, we have revamped our processes for sexual assault cases not only to assure that students know where and how to get help if they have been assaulted, but also that our policies with respect to how we deal with reported cases of assault are clear and fair to all;
    • With the advice of our faculty, we sent a climate survey to our entire student body in the fall semester and are now analyzing the results;
    • With the advice of our students, we have added resources to our Counseling and Psychological Services to ensure that students in severe psychological distress will be seen immediately and that all students who seek psychological counseling will be contacted within 48 hours;
      • With the support of our student leadership and the IU Health Center, more than 50 IU undergraduates have been trained through Crimson CORPS to be available in the residence halls and on campus to support their fellow students and raise awareness about issues relating to emotional well-being and mental health. 
      • And the stellar and dedicated students of IU Culture of Care, working with the resources of our Dean of Students office, have continued their efforts in their four areas of focus: respect, sexual assault, mental health, and alcohol and drug abuse:
      • To date, over 3,200 students have participated in the Step UP! IU bystander intervention program and over 30 staff and student facilitators have been trained to facilitate the Step UP training;
      • The initiative is truly becoming a campus-wide effort in engagement and collaboration. The Culture of Care program has reached out to Greek leaders, and worked with IU Student Association to enhance bystander intervention training in new student orientation;
      • Many more student organizations and departments across campus are more significantly involved in these efforts this year. As a result, the Culture of Care message is spreading through different groups of students. 
      • Culture of Care, along with other student organizations, has also been an active partner with the Student Welfare Initiative.  The student leaders have helped promote IU initiatives such as the It’s On Us Public Service Announcement competition. 
      • Strong thanks go to Leslie Fasone, assistant dean for gender and women’s affairs in the Dean of Students Office, and the student leadership of Culture of Care, most especially Rachel Green---who has been awarded a George J. Mitchell Scholarship for graduate study in Northern Ireland next year, one of only 12 students in the country to receive that award.
    • And this spring, led by our Vice Provost for Student Affairs Pete Goldsmith and in consultation with IUSA and our student leadership, we will engage our Greek community in a comprehensive effort to assure that these organizations are living the values expressed in their charters, focusing on educational attainment and leadership, and taking concrete and specified steps to assure the safety and well-being of every person who lives in or visits their houses.

International Students at IUB    

Finally, and as a result of the strong recommendations of the Strategic Planning Global Team, headed by Hilary Kahn, we have put special efforts into campus collaborations to engage our international student community.  I will mention two initiatives here:

  • Important to this team was ensuring that our international students were fully welcomed into campus life from the moment of orientation.  A campus committee is working now on a reimagined orientation.  But the Office of Undergraduate Education, the Vice Provost for Educational Diversity and Inclusion, and the Office of International  Services saw a bigger opportunity to take IU directly to our admitted international students---and in a way that gave global experiences to our domestic students.  Last summer, ten faculty and staff members and eight domestic students traveled to Beijing to present two full-day workshops for approximately 50 incoming students and their parents.  Let me show you a short video from that pilot:


After a thorough assessment of that pilot, and taking advantage of our Gateways in India and China, we are expanding IU2U to four cities next year: Beijing, Delhi, Shanghai, and Seoul. 

Once students have arrived on campus, Vice Provost Martin McCrory, the IU Student Association, and 115 representatives from over 20 student organizations, including eight country groups, will help them BeIU.  Through the BeIU Initiative, students across the campus are intentionally creating meaningful relationships among students from diverse backgrounds. In the words of Andrew Braden, IUSA President, “BeIU strives to be a connector and a place where students can build a tight-knit community that reflects the strengths of our campus's diversity and allows them to stand side-by-side with their fellow Indiana University Hoosiers, no matter where they came from.”  BEIU’s first major event will be April 10 in Dunn Meadow. 

3. An Excellent Faculty; Excellent Research:

None of this happens, of course, without an excellent faculty---that does excellent teaching and research, a point driven home every year at this time when I read the outstanding promotion and tenure files from our departments and schools.  The Bicentennial faculty objective for our campus describes how we might collectively attract, support, and develop a global, diverse, and inclusive community of excellent scholars and teachers.  An important part of that effort is to invest in world-class professional development that allows our faculty to flourish at all ranks.

Support for Faculty

Working with the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs, Tom Gieryn, the campus has developed a number of initiatives to support faculty excellence:

  • Primarily for untenured faculty, the campus and the schools have partnered in sending faculty members to programs of the Center for Faculty Development and Diversity.  This year, almost 40 faculty members have participated, and the participants from the past few years have created writing circles across campus to support each other’s efforts in scholarship.  The two young faculty members who advocated for our participation in this program, Mary Murphy in PBS and Victor Quintanilla in Law, have both received prestigious external fellowships next year, and Mary just learned yesterday that she is the recipient of an NSF Career Award of over $2,2 million over the next 5 years!
  • Under the direction of Professor Eileen Julien, the campus has invested over $230,000 in the career advancement of our associate professors through the retooled Institute for Advanced Studies.  Forty-nine faculty members received grants to support the research they need to achieve promotion;
  • Through the Provost Award for Women in Science, my office has provided financial support to women scientists, both faculty and graduate students, for well over 200 trips to meetings, conferences, and workshops, and for data collection in the past two years.  We have learned that a surprising number of graduate students have obtained post-doctoral fellowships from the travel funded by this program. The testimonials from women early in their academic careers state that the awards have been transformative, opening important professional opportunities for furthering research.
  • Through the New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities, which the Bicentennial plan continues and strengthens faculty members this year received almost $630,000 in funding for research and creative activity.  Just before the semester break, Professor Jean-Louis Haguenaeur, of the Jacobs School, presented me with a sublime 4 CD recording---the first ever compilation of all the voice and piano compositions of Debussy—containing over 100 songs and five hours of music.  This beautiful piece of work was funded in large part through a grant from New Frontiers.
  • Through the new Collaborative Research Award, advocated by the Research Team, we recognized and celebrated the accomplishments of two innovative research teams.  Yves Brun of Biology and Michael Van Nieuwenzhe of Biochemistry worked together to develop a revolutionary method for labeling the cell walls of bacteria. Their method addresses the critical and growing problem of antibiotic resistance, which is a threat to everyone. And Margaret Dolinsky (a digital and creative artist in Studio Arts), John Gibson (a composer in the Jacobs School of Music), and Roger Hangarter (a plant biologist) collaborated on a project called Plant Sensibility, a deeply compelling and beautiful invitation to appreciate the slow-moving life of plants through images and sound. 

New & Innovative Campus Spaces

The campus has also worked to build and support spaces that bring faculty together across disciplines:

The Social Science Research Commons is a high-tech, centrally-located facility designed for faculty collaboration, primarily among social scientists, from across the Bloomington campus and across the world. In its short life, the SSRC has brought together social scientists and other researchers from a wide range of schools and departments.

  • For example, its Workshops in Methods have been attended by campus faculty, students, and staff from nine different schools on campus and 34 different departments within those schools.
  • Five different groups provide individual consultations at the SSRC on a regular basis. One of these groups, the Indiana Statistical Consulting Center, has served about 300 clients each year since the SSRC opened, from every schools on the Bloomington campus and 23 different departments within the College. Most of these consultations have taken place at the SSRC.
  • The SSRC has also hosted many workshops, conferences, research seminars, working groups, and other events originating from seven different schools, on a range of different topics, including social networks, diabetes prevention, business analytics, the social dimensions of health and health policy, and environmental social science.
  • SSRC technology has allowed for virtual meetings and collaboration both within our facility and with researchers and experts from California to Washington, D.C. to Europe.
  • The SSRC hosted two speed-networking events coordinated by OVPR’s Proposal Development Services and researchers from Psychological and Brain Sciences. These networking events were designed to promote new, interdisciplinary connections between researchers on campus.
  • And last month, the SSRC brought together over 50 researchers from six different schools on the Bloomington campus, as well as researchers from IUPUI, to meet with a visiting team from the U.S. Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control.  These meetings explored possibilities for campus researchers to analyze restricted data from the Census and CDC.

Similarly, the new Scholars’ Commons on the first floor of Wells Library East Tower supports researchers at every stage of their scholarship, taking them step-by-step from curiosity to discovery to publication.  Since opening, the Scholars’ Commons has welcomed over 470,000 visitors.  (We called Carolyn Walters because the number seemed impossible.)

  • With 8 technology-enabled collaboration rooms, exhibition space, and room for larger workshops, this space has been designed to evolve as the world of research changes.
  • One of the most flexible features of the space, the Scholars’ Commons Consultation Service, has provided over 300 one-on-one consulting sessions, and draws experts from across campus on topics ranging from data visualization to intellectual property rights, from designing digital projects to human subjects research.
  • The Libraries’ copyright librarian and open access publishing manager worked with students launching the Indiana University Journal of Undergraduate Research, a new student-run, faculty-mentored undergraduate research publication. Together they have solved through technical issues, discussed policy matters, and developed strategies for handling intellectual property rights.
  • Faculty consultations in the Scholars’ Commons have already helped strengthen a number of grant proposals, including an NEH Digital Humanities Implementation Grant proposal as well as a CIC Humanities Without Walls “Global Midwest” grant. 
  • The Scholars’ Commons Workshop Series provides flexible programming that responds to key researcher needs, including such topics as “Supercharge your Dissertation Summer” and how to write a book proposal, both of which fill up almost immediately.
  • The Scholars’ Commons is also home to a high-end multimedia, multidisciplinary Digitization Lab. Pair this lab, which has had hundreds of visitors since it opened late last fall, with Digital Project Planning consultations, and faculty can find support for virtually every aspect of data creation, curation, migration, visualization, and presentation.

While I am updating on collaborative spaces in Wells, let me note that the campus plan calls for a comprehensive space planning effort around the libraries.  The reimagining of the Wells Library, known when it was designed as the Towers of Silence, has included not only the Scholars Commons but also the Learning Commons on the first floor of Wells West Tower, which specifically serves undergraduate students.

  • In this space, the Libraries and UITS have created a more modern, innovative, state-of-the-art environment that focuses on collaboration, active learning, and diverse learning styles.  So far, our librarians have provided nearly 1,400 consultations on topics related to research questions, writing, and evaluating sources.
  • Last fall, students were so enthusiastic that all eighteen collaborative work rooms were occupied with multiple devices tethered to and displaying on the large screens.  And the training rooms—there are two of them—were in use even before all of the empty computer boxes were hauled out.
  • Jose Rodriguez, a sophomore Informatics major, captured the essence of the Learning Commons as “the creative design of the future built into a library.” This environment is what he called “a collaboration hub . . . that is bound to spark creativity . . . and is the best place to start a group project.”

The renewed Learning Commons and Scholars Commons in the Wells Library have been well-received by our campus community.  In just the few months since they’ve opened, over 20,000 individuals have used the technology there over 100,000 times. 

Wells will also be the new home of the Graduate School, with expanded services to graduate students including the popular grad grants program and expanded career services. 

Given these initiatives, it is time to think comprehensively about this substantial campus resource, and the plan commits us to do so. 

4. Conclusion:

This report on the state of the campus, and the number of important initiatives under the Bicentennial Plan, is far from comprehensive.  Our campus and schools have engaged in exciting international activities, focusing quite a bit on the Southern hemisphere, where I traveled in the fall, and will go again in April to explore a partnership with the Organization of American States. We have not yet discussed the call for Grand Challenges, and will have a Town Hall Meeting on May 11, led by Rick Van Kooten, our new Vice Provost for Research, to discuss that initiative and the one on emerging areas of research.  There is much more to say about planning for major campus resources, like the Indiana Memorial Union.  Every school has triumphs to report.

This report is intended, rather, to be an argument for the power and efficacy of our collective work, for the whole being more than the sum of its parts, for the importance both of durable principles and of reinvention.  It is intended to be a call to pride in our collective mission, and to our powers of generative thinking: And with apologies to Dylan Thomas, to the force that through the green fuse drives the flower, and that even as we enter our third century, drives our green age.

Thank you.


[1] Dylan Thomas, “The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower” (1934)