Welcome to our new year
August 25, 2021
"A university can have no greater asset than talented persons who can find in the institution a congenial place in which to realize their own scholarly and personal goals. … I am certain that not only their own rich achievement, which reflects credit upon the university, but in addition their own continued residence here, which leads them to have an understanding of, a true comprehension of, the university’s strengths and weaknesses and manner of functioning, makes them invaluable colleagues in interpreting those factors of the university to incoming faculty members."
- Herman B Well, Being Lucky
It was wonderful to see so many of you on the Fine Arts Plaza earlier this month at our “welcome back” party. Meeting in a space that brings together and celebrates IU Bloomington’s rich traditions and accomplishments in the arts and humanities, and on such a beautiful day, made the whole of this spectacular campus feel alive again. I loved to see colleagues catch up with university leaders and old friends, as well as meet new ones—including IU’s 19th president, Pamela Whitten.
I last wrote to all of you on July 1, my own “first day of school” as interim provost, with this message:
Now is the time—as we come together again—to reach out, to support, and to practice the care and concern for one another that we have shown in responding to the pandemic.
You can feel the energy on campus as we begin the fall semester, and it reminds us that 18 months of “de-densification” are coming to an end. At last. We can turn our attention once again toward the excitement of a new academic year, and we can imagine all that is possible for IU Bloomington, with ambitious goals in mind. As one of the nation’s top research universities, we will continue to push the boundaries of research, creativity, and innovation; to ensure an inspiring living and learning environment that fosters student success; to preserve and reimagine the grand traditions of learning from cultures around the globe; to provide our students with leading-edge majors, certificates, and areas of study apace with emerging fields; and to repair and enhance existing global partnerships stressed by the pandemic.
We must acknowledge, of course, that we are returning this week under circumstances that are not as promising as we expected even six weeks ago. I know that many of us are concerned for the health of ourselves or our loved ones; to some, it may even feel like we are back to where we were when the pandemic raged. Fortunately, we are not. Thanks to vaccination, we are in a far better position than we were a year ago, a semester ago, or even at the beginning of the summer. The vaccines that have been developed to fight COVID are a triumph of science and medicine, and they are remarkably effective by any standard. And as our new COVID dashboard shows, over 90% of the IU Bloomington community—faculty, staff, and students—is vaccinated. This is a tremendous success, and we should all take great pride in it.
We will remain vigilant. The health and safety of IU faculty, staff, and students remains our paramount concern, and so, for instance, we have gone back to masks in indoor public spaces (including classrooms) in response to the delta variant. IU’s medical and public health experts continue to monitor the situation extremely closely, and we will take appropriate action as the situation develops.
Changing academic environment
As we continue our work, IU is also in the process of some major leadership changes at both the university and campus level.
At IU Bloomington, we are currently conducting four dean searches—for the Jacobs, Luddy, and Media schools, and University Libraries—plus a search for a vice provost for research. We are fortunate to have excellent interim leaders in all of these positions, and their leadership is certainly crucial at this transformational time.
This month, I announced the new director of our acclaimed IU Cinema, Alicia Kozma, who begins in the role Oct. 1. I also announced that Kirk White, IU’s assistant vice president of strategic partnerships, has taken on an additional role as our first vice provost for external relations. And, of course, President Whitten and I started in our new positions just last month, making this an exciting time to reimagine what we can be as a campus and as a university.
Strengthening diversity & inclusion
Advancing our unwavering commitment to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community will be an integral part of what’s next for IU Bloomington. As many have observed, the COVID pandemic was accompanied by a pandemic of violence against minoritized communities, and our campus must be a force for restoration, reconciliation, and progress.
Through careful recruitment and retention measures, we are welcoming and retaining an increasing number of incoming underrepresented students each year at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. This week, the Class of 2025 joins a student body that is as diverse as it has ever been—with students of color making up nearly a quarter of our total enrollment.
We are also working hard to support the success of underrepresented faculty at IU Bloomington, whom we are successfully recruiting and retaining in greater numbers. Of the 53 new tenure-line faculty joining us this year, 38 percent are from underrepresented groups, 53 percent are faculty of color, and 55 percent are women. And of our 258 total new faculty—including postdocs, visiting faculty, and researchers—40 percent are faculty of color and 54 percent are women. We will continue working to ensure that we can offer the educational and cultural campus experiences that can only come from a truly diverse community of scholars and researchers.
As we continue to increase the number of underrepresented students and faculty, we have also strengthened our commitment to fostering an environment where all members of our campus community feel truly welcome, encouraged, and supported.
In 2020, Provost Professor Lemuel Watson was named associate vice president for diversity, equity, and multicultural affairs, a new position created to further improve equity in all aspects of university operations. This academic year, Lem will also serve as acting vice provost for diversity and inclusion during vice provost John Nieto-Phillips’ sabbatical. In that role, he will continue the essential work of our Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion with a mandate to create and implement diversity plans and annual reports, and to identify diversity-focused employees and bring people together for greater impact. Currently, nearly 200 faculty and staff members on our campus are supporting diversity- and inclusion-focused initiatives.
"Reach out, support, and care.” The foundation of our campus community is a spirit of shared enterprise and a culture of care. As we gather together again this semester, we have reason for continued vigilance, but we have many, many reasons for excitement and confidence. Let us make a special point of treating one another with respect, kindness, and care, as we all pursue the highest aspirations for ourselves, our colleagues, and our university.
Thank you for all that you do on behalf of IU Bloomington, and I wish you a productive and enjoyable semester!
John S. Applegate
Interim Provost & Executive Vice President
Indiana University Bloomington