2019 State of the Campus

Thank you, President Marsh. Moira reminds me of my favorite State of the Ritual, which is the annual ritual in High Wycombe, England, where two of my siblings were born, of weighing the mayor. And publicly announcing the gain or loss from the previous year. The theory being that the gain demonstrates some form of corruption, most likely. I'm particularly happy that that is not a part of our rituals.

I want to start by congratulating the Bloomington Faculty Council for its work this year, really for its success, in expanding the franchise and membership for the Council to assure that the views of our talented faculty in lecturer, clinical, practice, and research scientist positions are part of the calculations and conversations when the BFC adopts policies for the campus.   This work has taken many months, I would almost say years, of careful discussion, consultation, and compromise, and reached an excellent conclusion this semester. I want to thank particularly Nick Williams from English and Jon Trinidad from Chemistry for their outstanding and patient work on this issue, and of course to our President, Moira Marsh, for her leadership, without which we would not have gotten to this conclusion.

I’m coming straight from class over at the law school, and class always reminds me of the many reasons why I love this environment. We are and have been since 2016, in my office been documenting the lives of a group of our students who joined us as the future class of 2020. They are from Indiana’s smallest towns and the world’s largest cities. They arrived at IU ready to pursue every field you could imagine: art, science, health, music, business, and athletics. Each of them came, as all students do, eager to pursue growth and friendships and independence and autonomy. During our bicentennial year next year, our documentaries about the lives of these students will be released, but here is a preview for now, so you get a sense of where they are in this point of their journey. 

Video screening: "Class of 2020: Season 2 Teaser"

There are so many things I love about that video, including the student who calls it “my chemistry building,” and the homecoming float by the new class of engineering students, which was just wonderful! These students are thriving in an academic environment built on an almost 200 years of history and traditions and excellence. And they are also benefiting directly from the more immediate work we did five years ago, when we developed and adopted the strategic plan for our campus. At that time, we knew we were building on tremendous assets. We recognized the breadth and depth of our cultural institutions: our museums, libraries, and arts venues that make Bloomington unlike, and may I say, better than,any other college campus in the country.  

The academic departments and the schools were and remain engines of excellence, providing a strong education in academic disciplines and professional fields. Five years ago, like today, our academic programs across campus were consistently recognized as among the best in the country, including Kelley’s outstanding undergraduate, graduate, and online offerings; Jacobs’ world-renowned education in all forms of music; Education’s top-ranked programs in instructional systems technology and innovative online offerings; Maurer’s global reach and focus on the international legal profession; and many, many  of the College departments, in the sciences, in the humanities, and in the social sciences. I started to list them, but I realize that’s a little like listing your favorite children, and I wasn’t going to do that. I want to congratulate particularly the Paul O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and its dean, faculty, staff, and students.  Support—such as the generous gift provided by Paul O’Neill—comes because of the consistent ethic of excellence and innovation you have fostered since the school was founded in 1972, when it was the first school in the country to recognize the power of combining public policy, management, and administration with environmental science. 

At the same time, five years ago, we did recognize that we had opportunities to be more than the sum of these excellent parts. We could build the connective tissue among our academic programs, research centers, and cultural institutions; we could think with intentionality about our institution’s impact on our state and the world; and we could focus on inclusivity as we worked towards greater diversity. Our collective work over the past five years has allowed us to build at the interstices of our residential, research-intensive campus in preparation for its third century of excellence. It has also allowed us to learn how to support innovation in our academic programs on a scale that is uncommon at large academic institutions. 

We have worked hard and deserve to celebrate, wildly and with great hope, and perhaps even abandon, the 200th birthday of this great public university next year. We will do so with the happy recognition that the campus institutions that unite us are strong, and our ability to work collectively together is even stronger. As a result of this work together, we are more involved and engaged, more inclusive and diverse, and more innovative and cutting edge, than we were when we started. I will talk, as I do each year, about the ways in which our campus has changed as a result of this collective vision. In particular this year, I will focus on greater campus culture of involvement, inclusivity, and innovation that are, in my view, a direct result of our thoughtful work in both the new academic direction process and through the inclusive strategic plan for the campus. 

No set of plans lasts forever, and we also need to identify and address the challenges that we will face as we begin our third century. Those include demographic changes in undergraduate populations; the continuing challenges of liberal and general education; the issues we face around international engagement; and the fragility and importance of graduate education, which is at the very heart of our mission, and which really connects all of the pieces.

Five years into our collective efforts, the campus is significantly more involved in the world and the state than when we began. President McRobbie, Vice President Hannah Buxbaum, and a number of our deans and academic leaders have just returned from opening the IU ASEAN Center in Bangkok. This newest office joins our Gateways in Beijing, Delhi, Berlin, and Mexico City as a connector between our potential students from these regions, our current students who are involved in over 380 study-abroad programs in over 50 countries, our alumni who return home, and our faculty, who engage in multiple ways around the world through their research and teaching. The Gateways have hosted workshops and conferences on issues ranging from Beethoven to quarks, provided counseling and advising for admitted students, hosted career fairs for our new graduates, and provided classrooms for our students studying abroad. The fact that our Gateways continuously buzz with so much activity demonstrates that they were needed before we knew they were needed.

While we are pervasively global, we are also more deeply engaged with our local communities. In the year since it was founded with a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment, indeed a year ago to this day, the IU Center for Rural Engagement has become a trusted partner in the rural areas across our part of Indiana, demonstrating the ways in which the campus’s research and teaching can brighten the future for our neighbors. Over 1400 community members in 27 communities in rural Indiana have engaged with the Center during its short life. Forty-six courses, involving around 900 students and 30 faculty from every school and the College have tackled public health issues, financial literacy, dark skies initiatives, food systems, legal needs, community arts, and complete streets in engagements in Lawrence and Orange counties. Our nursing students are learning about rural life through clinical experience directly in patients’ homes; our Master of Social Work students are providing direct clinical support in mental health and addictions throughout the region. Indeed, the Center is applying our faculty’s research across the rural Indiana space. Not only is it working with all of the Grand Challenge research projects; it has also funded eleven ongoing faculty research projects, ranging from aging in place and community health plans, to a study of parks and public places and the creation of innovative and modest home design.  And in its quality of place initiative, the Center has partnered with three southern Indiana communities in ways that have already been deeply inspiring to us back on campus.

I would like to share a video of our wonderful and dedicated nursing students, who have been visiting chronically ill patients in their homes in Paoli, Indiana.

Video screening: "IU School of Nursing students visit rural patients"

That work will change where those young people go in their lives. The Center’s focus on the arts has been particularly enriching in connecting our campus more closely to our neighbors. Bonnie Harmon has been a band instructor in Salem, a town with a population that just tops 6000, for thirty years. Eric Smedley, a Jacobs professor, and his students visited Salem to rehearse with Ms. Harmon’s students and perform with them side-by-side during a concert that evening. After the event, Ms. Harmon wrote us to say that in her 30 years as a teacher, she had “never experienced such a powerful program.” She wrote of students seeing instruments they had only read about; of students who faced difficult home circumstances being lit up by the encouragement they received from our students; and of one student’s experience at the performance:

“My soloist started softly and began to falter, her confidence waning.  The IU clarinetist softly joined in, letting our student take the lead. She gained confidence and finished the solo. Such kindness and compassion… My student glowed.”

Students from neighboring school districts and retirees came to the performance that evening by the busload:

“They were astounded,” she wrote, “by the musical presentation, wowed by Dr. Smedley’s virtuosic performance… and moved to silence with the Rosa Parks piece. They left inspired. You gave them dreams to dream… You changed lives yesterday. Thank you, IU. You are welcome back at our school any time.”

Along with the launch of the Center for Rural Engagement, we launched IU Corps, which has engaged with schools across campus, and with students both domestic and international, to ensure that all of our students—regardless of their academic home—have an opportunity to serve communities, here and around the world. In the fall semester alone, IU Corps was able to document over 225,000 service hours provided by our students, valued at close to $6 million.

Keshuann Tompkins-Barnes, a computer science student, became the president of Groups through his work with IU Corps. Keshuann is an exemplary model of service and leadership on our campus. And I would like to show you a little about him.

Video screening: "Keshaunn Thompkins, volunteering with IU Corps"

At a time when involvement and engagement with the world—and discussion and care across sectors of our own country—are at a premium, IU Bloomington values involvement. When the value of higher education to the state and the nation is questioned, IU Bloomington makes a persuasive case for the worth of its teaching, research, and service—through what we do, not just what we say. Such is the power of involvement and engagement.

Five years ago, every one of the working groups involved in the strategic planning effort wrote about our need to focus with renewed intentionality on inclusivity and diversity. We have done so. This effort has made a tangible difference on campus for our students and faculty.

I’ll begin with our International Students.

  • Between fall 2015 and spring 2018, the number of countries represented by our undergraduate and graduate international students has increased from 116 to 122.
  • During that same period, in an effort to diversify our international population, the wonderful folks in the Office of International Services and student recruitment doubled their efforts from 32 countries on 4 continents to 64 countries on every inhabited continent. Jon, I would like your frequent flyer miles!
  • As a direct result, the number of countries represented in the first-year undergraduate cohort has increased 21%.
  • Among graduate students, we host 233 sponsored students from 36 countries, representing some of the most prestigious programs in the world.
  • As host to students from every inhabited continent, our campus provides opportunities for increased global dialogue, increased cultural understanding, with internationalized learning communities.

International students continue to be among our strongest students.  The first-year average SAT scores have increased 20 points in the past four years, and international students persist at IUB from first to second year at a rate of 90%.  And the Office of International Services has focused with deep intentionality on inclusivity initiatives:

  • Working together with the Office of Enrollment Management, OIS have our first-year orientation for international and domestic students has been integrated, which fits our expectations of intercultural dialogue;
  • OIS has sponsored 15 intercultural training seminars not just across campus—but across the state, to agencies such as the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the Social Security Administration. You can imagine how much impact programs like that would have;
  • Through its IU Care Community, OIS has sponsored 15 different intercultural events on campus to facilitate formal and informal interaction between international and domestic students. These include:
  • A World Cup Tournament, which features 16 teams comprised of a mix of international and domestic students. The winning team was Team USA, it was half and half); and
  • The IU World’s Fare, which displays the richness of the cultures that exist within IU, allowing international students to share their pride in their own culture while teaching others about it.
  • We’ve also seen great strides in international student representation on important student bodies, including 6 international students on IU’s Student Government; 5 international students on GPSG; 2 on Union Board; and one on the Board of Aeons.

The support of our international students does stop at the borders of the campus. We have also used our Gateway Offices to foster their career success. Through the terrific IU Bloomington Career Services Council and our IU Alumni Association, we’ve hosted successful career fairs in both China and India.  One hundred and twenty-five companies, for instance, participated in the two career fairs in Shanghai and Beijing. 

Domestic Students

Our vision of greater inclusivity and diversity not only looks to the international realm—it looks to our home state and nation. This year we welcomed academically gifted students from all 92 of Indiana’s counties and 45 states. The 92 counties was a real push, I know, for the Office of Enrollment Management, and I thank them for that. Since we formulated the strategic plan—and through focused work by that office and the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion—the campus has almost doubled the number of underrepresented minority students in the entering class, from around 700 to over 1350 in our latest class. We have also improved the retention rate of these students from first to second year to 89%. Our efforts have been honored by Insight Into Diversity’s highest recognition, the Diversity Champion award, an honor shared by only 13 other universities in the U.S. Part of this success has been due to increases in financial aid. In the past five years, we have more than doubled the number of Pell Promise recipients; more than doubled the number of 21st century scholars; and had an astonishing 101% increase in Hudson Holland Scholars, our most academically-accomplished group of students in a diversity program. 

We also earned recognition from Campus PRIDE’s list of Best of the Best LGBTQ Friendly Colleges and Universities—a tribute to, among many others but especially, Doug Bauder, who retires at the end of this academic year after a spectacular and pathbreaking decades-long run as the leader of our LGBTQ+ Culture Center.

Our vision toward greater inclusivity and diversity has also been facilitated by the way we welcome prospective students and their families to our campus. The historic Ernie Pyle Hall, which sits in the heart of campus, has been beautifully remodeled to house the Office of Admissions Welcome Center. Let’s take a look at this new space.

Video screening: "Online Tour of IU's new Office of Admissions Welcome Center at Ernie Pyle Hall"

If you have an extraordinarily talented intern in your office that does videos, you really want to use them!


We have also focused on the recruitment and retention of faculty. Through the excellent work of our schools and the office of Vice Provost John Nieto-Phillips, particularly the work of professor Stephanie Li, all schools now have diversity recruitment plans that are tailored to their disciplines or professional areas, and that have focused our existing faculty on how to be successful in enticing new faculty to join us. The number of requests to use strategic hiring funds has doubled since the year before the strategic plan came together, and the number of successful hires has almost doubled. The campus has also worked aggressively with the schools and the College to retain the faculty we hire, successfully retaining six underrepresented faculty members last year against outside offers.

The campus has also partnered with the College on the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society (CRRES), and this fall, moved the center to the campus level. Formed in 2012 with a mission to support social science and humanities scholarship, CRRES has grown significantly in the past five years. It now has 44 faculty affiliates, 3 post-doctorate fellows, and 16 graduate students across the campus whose research focuses on how race and ethnicity function to shape life experiences and chances in the U.S. and beyond. Part of its mission is to build interdisciplinary networks, community, and training opportunities for students, faculty, and post-docs, which contributes by itself to a more supportive campus climate for those community members.

CRRES is an active and important facilitator of campus conversations on issues of contemporary and historical importance. The CRRES postdoctoral scholars program is facilitating the development and training of a diverse generation of scholars who are conducting research on these important areas. Under Professor Dina Okamoto’s leadership, the Center has developed a mentoring and support program for the post-docs’ academic careers. Out of 8 post-docs, the College has made tenure-track offers to four, and the first CRRES post-doc joined the faculty of sociology in fall 2017. Past CRRES post-docs are now tenure-track faculty at IU, Michigan, Northwestern, Florida State, and Missouri. 

Mexico Remixed!

Finally, Mexico Remixed! Mexico Remixed! I hope you can hear the exclamation point! The third of our Global Arts and Humanities Festivals has brought a stunning set of opportunities to explore the contemporary arts and humanities of our neighbor country. Encompassing 27 different events, exhibits, talks, and performances in all of our cultural venues this semester, Mexico Remixed has created a brilliant space to explore the cultural influence of a country whose filmmakers have dominated the Oscar best director category for the past seven years and whose writers include the riveting Valeria Luiselli, whose books have been featured by the NYT and the New Yorker in the past few weeks, and who will come visit us soon. I have heard from students and faculty across the campus about their excitement and engagement with this set of events, and it has been particularly important to our students of Latinx heritage. Many thanks to Ed Comentale and the wonderful Arts & Humanities Council, a direct result of our strategic plan. Like First Thursdays and the two Global Arts and Humanities festivals that preceded it, the Council’s work contributes to a sense of belonging and pride in our students and faculty, who can share in and learn about the cultures of their colleagues and friends. Thousands of students benefit from these public-facing arts and humanities initiatives each year—3-4 thousand at each First Thursdays alone. 

The focus on the public face of the arts and humanities was born really, with the wonderful Jonathan Elmer and the Collage of Arts and Humanities Institute, and it has paid off in more than a delightful and inclusive college campus. I was delighted to hear, to learn, that since 2016, IU Bloomington has attracted $30 million in external arts and humanities funding. Placing this campus fourth in the country in that category.

Since we adopted the strategic plan, we have also been the center of so much academic and research innovation that it is important to step back every once in a while, in order to appreciate its breadth and depth.

We have successfully launched three Grand Challenges since the strategic plan’s adoption, all designed to have direct and important impact on the world—cures for acute and chronic disease; the mitigation of climate change; and relief from the ravages of the opioid epidemic. The Grand Challenges have added 12 new faculty to our campus from 11 departments in the College and three schools. Fourteen more faculty members are currently being considered. In addition, the initiative on climate resilience has added 12 post-doc and research scientists to our campus, adding to the intellectual mix that will help us present compelling solutions in these areas. Our Emerging Areas of Research program has likewise opened our campus to new fields and stronger impact, helping us gain intellectual heft in food systems, quantum theory, and machine learning. 

In terms of nurturing the leaders and thinkers of tomorrow, our campus has 550 programs in 15 schools, an astonishing 6 of which were either created or significantly reorganized in the past 5 years to open new pathways for our students through the liberal arts and the professional fields. No university in the state comes close to the level of innovation of IU Bloomington.  Since 2014, IU Bloomington has successfully proposed 145 new degrees, majors, and certificates. We are combining our resources in unprecedented ways across schools, going beyond joint degrees, where students work in parallel degree programs, to integrated multidisciplinary degrees, such as the immediately-successful MS in Cybersecurity Risk Management with contributions from three schools, or the proposed and exciting MA in Curatorship, with contributions from multiple programs and cultural institutions across campus. 

The new Music Scoring for Visual Media program, taught by Jacobs faculty member Larry Groupé, brings together composition students with Media School students, in collaboration with the IU Cinema. Let’s take a short look:

Video screening: "Hearing the Picture: Documentary Short Trailer"

We’ve developed new schools that open broad and attractive pathways that honor and are based in the liberal arts. We’ve celebrated as the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, in its fifth year, smashed through previous records in grant funding for area studies and national language resource centers and acquired the bipartisan brilliance of the statesmen its new name honors. HLS, as the students are immediately calling it, stand aside Harvard Law School, is an important effort to redefine how international and area studies reinforce each other, and how language and culture are critical pieces in any serious attempt to engage globally and strategically.

We’ve cheered on the Media School as it garnered a $6 million gift to begin the Michael Arnolt center for investigative reporting this fall, demonstrating a commitment to sustaining the principles of journalism that are so deeply necessary to democratic self-governance. And of course, some of the students in the class you just saw are in the Media School game design program. We’ve applauded the founding of the J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program, in its beautiful home in Columbus’s landmark Republic Building. As part of the reorganized School of Art, Architecture + Design, the Miller Architecture program will be an important contributor to the beauty of the built environment in our state, while providing a path for students with liberal arts undergraduate degrees. 

To these wonderful programs I would like to add the Integrated Program in the Environment, jointly administered by the College, the O’Neil School, and the School of Public Health. This program, which serves as the steward for the BA in Environmental and Sustainability Studies, has seen an explosion of majors in the only joint undergraduate degree on campus. In addition to this successful degree, it fosters much interdisciplinary work, including this past semester, the Crossroads Project IUB, a two-day event presented by the IPE program, the Arts & Humanities Council, the Environmental Resilience Institute of the climate Grand Challenge, the Jacobs School, and the IU Cinema. If that doesn’t demonstrate a level of connectedness across our campus, then I don’t know what would. The event aims to explore how the arts, humanities, and sciences can collaborate to create sustainable communities.

As we see the construction cranes looming out on the bypass, we are seeing the fruits of a major collaborative effort in our health sciences programs designed to create a Regional Academic Health Center that will transform both the training of medical and allied professionals and the delivery of healthcare in our region. In preparation for this, our programs have developed a number of new degrees, including just this semester a new Masters of Nursing Education. Congratulations to Mary Lynn Davis-Ajami, who is leading that program on our campus, and her colleagues. And all this is happening at a point where our School of Public Health, just accredited a couple of years ago, is building its faculty and research profile to be a major player in the Grand Challenge in Addiction.

We have also been delighted with the dramatic unveiling of the beautiful sentient sculpture Amatria in the atrium of Luddy Hall, the gorgeous new home of the School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering.  The sculpture signifies a vision of our brand of engineering, our brand, as “a blend of scientific and technical skill with creative thought and a foundation in the arts and humanities that attracted its creator, Philip Beesley, to IU.” The fascinating and thought-provoking sculpture represents all the promise that the Intelligent Systems Engineering Program, which has been doubling in size in its short life, has offered to our state, within a school that offers a similar promise to our campus.

A sense of creativity and innovation permeates the campus, and I’d finally like to say a word about the wildly creative work by the IU Libraries under the leadership of its dean, Carolyn Walters. When university presses were under severe stress across the country, the Libraries offered a strong support system for the now-flourishing IU Press. With Vice President Brad Wheeler, Carolyn Walters has led our campus’s participation in the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, which has not only assured the preservation of thousands of important and often unique artifacts, but also unearthed and publicized material unavailable elsewhere, like the very first documented recordings in 1901, these of folk and theatre music in China. Our library has been transformed into an enormously functional space for learning and research; has worked diligently to support both the new programs we have created and our historic strengths; and has garnered amazing amounts of grant support while leading initiatives on open access, primary source undergraduate research, and media literacy. Bravo!

We have accomplished an enormous amount together in the past five years. Our progress has rested upon the thought, creativity, and patience of countless faculty members, as well as a terrific group of  academic leaders. I want to thank the deans who have worked so tirelessly to ensure the academic integrity and excellence of their programs. And because the campus has relied so deeply on their work in knitting us together, I want especially to thank our vice provosts, whose work by its very nature is aimed at creating a common campus culture.

I have in today’s talk been celebrating like its 19…9. And next year, we will truly pull out all the stops on our bicentennial. But it is already time to be thinking carefully and systematically about our future. We are a campus heavily reliant on undergraduate enrollments to support our research and graduate education mission, at a time when the number of college-aged students will steadily decline. We have an abiding and historic commitment to global engagement at a time when our country has erected barriers to international mobility.

Like all institutions of higher education, we have seen undergraduates arrive to college with much of what might be the otherwise unifying experience of general education already completed. Like all institutions devoted to the core of liberal arts, we are experiencing the endless echoes of the Great Recession, from which many families emerged with fears that a liberal arts degree would not provide the solid support for their children’s financial stability. Graduate education, at the core of our mission, needs our careful thought and attention.

All of these are challenges, but none are insurmountable. We are proving the value of what we do every day. We know how to think and act collectively. We have built a tremendous platform of involvement, inclusion, and innovation that will serve us well as we face these challenges and enter our third century next year. Thank you.