IU President McRobbie charts bicentennial course in annual State of the University address

Oct. 16, 2014

IU President Michael A. McRobbie has outlined an ambitious set of initiatives focused on student success and the value of an IU education; research and scholarly excellence; the university’s role as an economic powerhouse in Indiana; and more -- all of which are designed to carry IU into its third century as one of the premier public universities in the United States.

McRobbie devoted his annual State of the University address Oct. 14 to providing the first detailed look at the Bicentennial Strategic Plan for IU, which includes seven broad priorities on which the university will be focused over the next five years. IU celebrates its bicentennial as a university during the 2019-20 academic year.

McRobbie at State of the University

President McRobbie speaks at the 2014 State of the University address Oct. 14 at IUPUI. | Photo By Liz Kaye, IU Communications

Speaking from Hine Hall on the campus of IUPUI, McRobbie called on everyone at the university to “build on the foundation for Indiana University’s enduring strength and to set IU on the course for greatness in its third century.”

During his 40-minute address to faculty and staff, McRobbie discussed each of the “bicentennial priorities” included in the strategic plan, which was released online Oct. 14 in draft form on the university’s website. The site includes an opportunity for public comment on the plan before it is presented to the IU Board of Trustees for approval at its December meeting.

McRobbie first announced his intent to direct the development of the strategic plan in his State of the University address last year. The plan, whose creation was led by the office of IU Executive Vice President John Applegate with input from across all campuses, builds on much of the work undertaken by IU during McRobbie’s first seven years as president and the strategic planning exercises that have been carried out on all campuses and by many other units involving hundreds of people.

In particular, the strategic plan was informed by the IU Bloomington Strategic Plan; the Our Commitment to Indiana and Beyond: IUPUI Strategic Plan; the recommendations in IU’s 2011 New Academic Directions report, which already has led to the creation of several new schools at IU; and the Blueprint for Student Attainment, which is driving the mission of IU’s regional campuses; as well as previously completed strategic plans and similar documents in areas including research, information technology, economic development, facilities, affordability and international engagement.

“Great universities, like Indiana University, are not narrowly focused. They offer a broad scope of instruction and undertake research in depth over a large and growing array of subjects,” McRobbie said in his address. “Great public universities are also rightly called upon to contribute in major ways to the quality of life of their states.

“And great universities like Indiana University are expected to endure. We are entering a period marked by rapid change, unprecedented global competition and increasingly stressed resources. The Bicentennial Strategic Plan gives focus to our efforts to ensure that Indiana University will continue to thrive in this environment.”

The seven bicentennial priorities, all of which are consistent with IU’s Principles of Excellence, first articulated by McRobbie in 2010, are:

  • Commitment to student success: This wide-ranging priority will ensure that IU remains among the most affordable universities in the nation, while at the same time continuing to offer a high-quality educational experience. IU’s commitment to value will call on the university to pursue innovative options in course delivery, continue to align academic offerings with the needs of the 21st century workplace and build on existing efforts to keep costs to students as low as possible.
  • Catalyzing research: Increasingly, IU will promote multi-disciplinary research that addresses the grand challenges facing our state, nation and world. As part of this priority, IU will provide targeted seed funding to assist faculty in the pursuit of greater external research funding for their work and pursue a strategy of “cluster hires” of outstanding research faculty in areas of strategic importance to the university. The university also will continue its successful New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities program, which has funded hundreds of research and scholarly projects over the past decade, through the bicentennial.
  • Re-imagining education: IU’s School of Education, one of the best in the nation, plays a vital role in the training of educators and in education research. Despite its success, the school -- like many others in the nation -- has seen falling enrollments in recent years, largely as a result of the challenging policy and economic environments faced by P-12 schools today. The strategic plan calls for a comprehensive review of the latest trends in teacher education and education research by an outside panel of experts to be completed before the search for the new dean at the school’s core campus in Bloomington begins.
  • Becoming a global university: IU will continue to expand its international engagement, especially in the 32 countries of emphasis in the university’s international strategic plan. Central to that work will be the creation of IU “gateway offices” in several key regions of the world, in addition to the offices in Beijing and New Delhi that IU has opened recently. IU also will soon complete its work to create alumni chapters in all 32 countries and increase its efforts to establish and sustain institutional partnerships with leading universities in those countries.
  • Health sciences research and education to improve the state and nation’s health: IU’s health sciences research and clinical activities contribute significantly to the economic health and physical well-being of Hoosiers; but more needs to be done in this area, especially in light of today’s increasingly challenging health care and science research funding environment. IU’s strategic plan calls for the university -- primarily through the IU School of Medicine -- to build research capacity in population health management, cancer, cardiovascular disease and the neurosciences. McRobbie said the university also plans to develop new interprofessional degrees and specialized qualifications in the health sciences to better prepare heath care professionals for future team-based health care delivery models.
  • Building a prosperous and innovative Indiana: Given IU’s standing as one of the largest employers in the state and its role as the largest educator of Indiana college graduates, IU has a unique role in the economic development of the state. To further the efforts of IU’s economic engagement organization, the IU Research and Technology Corp., the strategic plan calls for IURTC to more tightly focus IU’s support of faculty research on those innovations with the most potential for commercial development. Additionally, the IURTC will move from its current downtown Indianapolis location to the IUPUI campus in the near future to more fully integrate the organization into university life.
  • Toward a culture of building and making: In an era in which we face a national shortage of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates; in which design has emerged as a critical component of product competitiveness; and in which research universities are expected to contribute to state and local economic development, the lack of programs in design and engineering at IU Bloomington must be addressed. Such programs and a culture of “building and making” are vital if IU Bloomington is to reach its full potential to provide relevant and rewarding educational opportunities, to contribute more extensively to the state economic development, and to contribute to the state and national need for STEM graduates.

Indeed, IU Bloomington is one of only two Association of American Universities members out of 62 to not offer an engineering degree program, and this gap was identified in a recent major report on economic development in Indiana by Battelle, the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization. To address this gap in IU’s program offerings, McRobbie called today for the creation of an outside committee to assess the viability of establishing a program in IT-based systems engineering at IU Bloomington. Such a program would be designed to leverage IU’s existing strengths in informatics and computer science and would be complementary to established programs in the field

At the same time, the university plans to establish a more robust design program at IU Bloomington. Last week the departments of studio arts, apparel merchandising and interior design faculty members voted overwhelmingly to establish a new School of Design and Art, which will serve as an important first step in strengthening IU’s offerings in a full range of design-related disciplines.

Building a “Framework for Excellence”

In addition to articulating the seven priority areas that comprise much of IU’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan, McRobbie shared several ideas around advancement; physical infrastructure; information digitization and preservation; the stewardship of scarce resources; and the effective communication of IU’s positive story through a comprehensive marketing strategy. Each of these topics, which support the priorities identified in the bicentennial plan, also is included in the strategic plan.

“Indiana University has been engaged for the last several years in ongoing efforts to re-evaluate how we achieve our core missions,” McRobbie said. “As a result of those efforts, much has already been accomplished.

“Still more is in progress, all with the same goal as the Bicentennial Strategic Plan: to build the foundation for Indiana University’s enduring strength, and to set IU on the course for greatness in its third century.”

The full text of McRobbie's address is available online. To view an archived broadcast of the State of the University, go to broadcast.iu.edu.

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