Sustainability at IU Northwest

The new Arts & Sciences Building at IU Northwest that opens this year will be certified “LEED Silver”.  LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and represents Indiana University’s commitment to a responsible approach to environmental sustainability in all new construction and major renovation projects.  Building and renovating to LEED standards in publicly-supported projects is a very visible way in which IU fulfills its educational promise to Indiana, by showing the different ways in which a large organization (like IU), as well as individual members of its constituent campuses, can make a difference and model sustainable practices.

A quick look round the IU Northwest campus reveals many opportunities that encourage members of the campus community to think and act sustainably.  One of the easiest commitments is to use the blue recycling bins that are found in hallways, the Library and (for employees) beside desks, for paper, bottles and cans.  Recycling (along with using the trash containers) keeps the interior and outdoor campus environment clean and attractive and collects material for reuse.  IU Northwest was the first IU campus to take recycling to the next level when it installed Big Belly Solar Compactors at several campus locations.  These compactors are conveniently located, accept all recyclable materials and periodically use energy captured by solar panels to compact the recyclables, which manages them more efficiently.

Students and colleagues can also cut down on plastic water bottles by using their own containers that can be conveniently refilled (for free) at stations on campus.  And, for those with electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles, there are four recharging stations in the north parking lot, near the Savannah Center, where a recharge takes four hours and costs about $1.00.

There are many sustainability connections with academic programs on campus, including the Community Garden at the corner Washington and 35th Avenue that is sponsored by the Center for Urban and Regional Excellence.  Keeping our laboratories safe from fumes relies on high-volume hoods that consume a great deal of electricity and the Shut the Sash campaign, when the hoods are not in use, helps to save on energy use.  The Biology Department maintains a prairie and wetlands preserve just North of the IU Northwest campus, as well as the Northwest Indiana Restoration Monitoring Inventory, which create applied field experiences for students.  The Geosciences Department features many opportunities for students to engage directly with the Northwest Indiana environment, in programs such as the Great Lakes Innovative Stewardship through Education Network (GLISTEN).  Not-for-profit organizations that work to sustain the regional environment also offer internships and other experiential learning opportunities for students.

IU’s University Information Technology Services (UITS) has created an increasingly digital and wireless academic and working environment on campus, but university students, faculty and staff still use and generate a significant amount of paper.  IU Northwest is an active participant in an Indiana University initiative to cut down on the amount of paper that is produced and stored.  The IU Electronic Document Management (EDM) project guides campus offices to make digital copies of paper documents that, customarily, have been kept and stored in the file cabinets that are such a familiar part of office environments everywhere.  The Academic Affairs, Finance and Chancellor’s offices are collaborating on EDM and the results are already apparent, in full recycling bins and surplus file cabinets.

Students also have access to resources that help them to both manage their needs for printed material in a sustainable way and save money.  Learn more information about RedHawk Print services for students.

IU Northwest also contributes to a sustainable environment in a very traditional way: by pitching in and helping to remove trash and debris from our University Park neighborhood.  Members of the campus community can join the Brother-to-Brother program and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs in their annual Earth Day Clean-up, on Saturday, 22 April 2017 (Earth Day 2017).  The Earth Day Clean-up is supported by the resources of the IU Northwest Physical Plant Department.

Indiana University and IU Northwest are committed to sustainability and, while there remain many ways to continue to improve, our campus has many of the fundamentals in place, which enables individual members of the campus community to develop their own sustainable commitments and habits.

A Safe Place to Learn and Work

Something that members of the IU Northwest campus community ought to be able to take for granted is a comfortable, well-appointed and safe environment in which to learn and work.  Safety and security should never be assumed anywhere, but, year after year, IU Northwest is one of the very safest campuses in Indiana University, the state of Indiana and the United States.  Indeed, in 2015, IU Northwest was rated by Home Insurance as one of the 50 safest campuses in the United States.

Maintaining an environment in which students, faculty members and staff colleagues can be confident about safety and security requires diligent, skilled work round the clock by the members of the Indiana University Police Department – Northwest (IUPD-NW) who are stationed on our campus.  Our IUPD-NW officers are a familiar and reassuring presence around campus, on the grounds and in the buildings.  Chief Wayne James and his colleagues place the highest priority on sustaining good, mutually-supporting relationships with all members of the campus community, which is an extension of the community policing approach that guides IUPD-NW practices at IU Northwest.  According to Chief James, community policing:

. . . is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues . . . We consider our community to be our students, our staff, our faculty, and the citizens of Gary.

Community policing is very appropriate to the traditions of the academic environment and, consistent with IU Northwest’s Strategic Priorities, extends to the larger Gary and Northwest Indiana communities.  Among the ways that the IUPD-NW keeps the campus safe is by partnering with other local law enforcement agencies that patrol in the campus neighborhood, including the Gary Police Department, Lake County Sheriff and the Indiana State Police.  IUPD-NW patrols are a common sight in the University Park area, including on bicycles in the good weather, and Chief James and other officers are very active in community-based activities (such as Shop with a Cop at the holidays) and organizations.  Last summer, local children discovered that an ice cream truck in their neighborhood was staffed by the IUPD-NW, as a way for residents and police officers to get to know each other better.

Safety in Northwest Indiana is also advanced through an initiative by SPEA faculty member Joseph Ferrandino, who has organized a collaborative data consortium, with funding from NIPSCO, that supports more than twenty local law enforcement agencies, including the IUPD-NW, to share statistical information that enables them to deploy their resources more efficiently and effectively.  The data are also published daily on The Times of Northwest Indiana’s Regional Crime Report website.

Among the advantages of community policing is the building of mutual trust that results in important information being made available to police.  Theft on campus is a good example.  Even in a very safe environment, thefts can be a problem.  Campuses are very open and welcoming places in which people can become careless with personal possessions, such as laptops and tablets. The IUPD-NW urges all members of our campus community, whether in classrooms, lounge areas, the Library or offices, to be careful to not leave personal property unattended or doors open and unlocked, to prevent opportunistic thefts.  Still, the IUPD-NW at IU Northwest very successfully uses its local knowledge and investigative skills to close 92% of cases of theft on campus and recover 85% lost property.

Safety is a high Indiana University and campus priority and we can be grateful for the fine work of our campus police (supported by the IUPD-NW resources across all IU campuses), as well as all of the campus citizens who take their individual roles so seriously.

Reflections on Martin Luther King, Jr.

Each January, for more than a quarter-century, the United States has commemorated the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a national holiday, a day that calls on us to pause to reflect, not only on the man himself and his significance in the history of our country but on where we stand, as a society, on the range of issues on which his legacy continues to challenge us.

This year, I was honored to be asked to be the keynote speaker at the 10th Annual Tribute to Dr. King at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels, here in Gary.  My remarks were centered, not surprisingly, on the importance that Dr. King assigned to education and I am reminded of a newspaper columnist’s comment back in the 1980s that he wondered what Dr. King would have thought about a national day in his honor when children did not have to go to school!

As Black History Month begins, I would like to share several excerpts from my remarks at the Cathedral last month.

Dr. King, for instance, also spoke often and eloquently on the importance of education, a topic for which I, too, am very passionate, having spent my entire professional career at, mostly, urban universities.

“The function of education,” Dr. King said, “is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

True education is not about memorizing facts, or standardized test performance. It is about inspiring, engaging and empowering students to learn how to be independent learners who can reason, question and act. In fact, Dr. King reminded us that, “Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.”

What Dr. King knew in 1947…70 years ago…is still true today and underscored by the recent election year that has been described as “savage in its anger and abject in its fear”.  It is up to schools, and institutions of higher learning, to teach students how to think critically. Through that academic process, students, and their families, will recognize the value of education and its transformational and civic power.  It is, after all, much harder to distract or mislead a well-educated, critically-minded citizenry.

Dr. King, who entered Morehouse College at the young age of 15, understood the transformative effect that education had on his own life, and he recognized its value for all those with a stake in American society.  As an educator, I, too, believe in the power of a college education, because I have witnessed it, firsthand, through the determined efforts of our region’s students, who are committed to their studies, driven by their desire for a better, more enriched and fulfilled life.

For the students of Northwest Indiana, earning a college degree is their way, their opportunity, to connect to their communities, unleash their potential, build their confidence… and truly transform their lives.

[The remarks included profiles of two IU Northwest students, both student athletes, whose stories and accomplishments, in many ways, say a great deal about the students who attend and succeed at our campus.  The two students are Symone Hayes and Rashad Richardson, who were in attendance that day.]

These are but two of thousands of similar student stories that fill the halls and classrooms across the Northwest campus. Our students, many who come from this very community, share a common bond and determination to overcome anything that stands between them and their aspirations.  They juggle their courses, work and family responsibilities, while also remaining committed to their dreams.

In a world that still shows us many examples of social and economic inequality, education can go a long way toward being an effective equalizer, perhaps, as Lyndon Johnson said, the only equalizer.

Dr. King’s mission of education equality and equity lives on and shines brightly throughout our region, because of students like Symone and Rashad and the thousands of other Northwest Indiana students who are also working hard to earn their college degrees.

As a champion for education, Dr. King believed that education was the “most vital and indispensable element” of the drive for freedom and equality.  He was stating a deeply-held belief that was one of the highest priorities for African American communities at the end of slavery.  Study after study has shown this to be true.  In fact, it is widely agreed that postsecondary education has become one of the most important economic issues of our time.

While King, the scholar, pursued rigorous academic inquiry, King, the minister, pursued his calling to preach, which makes his life’s ministry so distinctive. The power of these two attributes had a historic effect, when the substance of his message and his compelling rhetorical skills fueled the Civil Rights Movement and challenged every American to think hard about a different, better future.

As a man of the church and a student of the academy, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. embodied the complementary principles of faith and knowledge. Faith informed by reason became the cornerstone of his life’s work and the foundation of his dream.

Dr. King observed that: “Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control.”

The importance of education was central to Dr. King’s message and strategies for change.  The Office of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs is hosting a range of activities in association with Black History Month 2017 (https://apps.iu.edu/ccl-prd/events/view?type=month&pubCalId=GRP12120) and I encourage all members of our campus community to make the time to participate.

 

 

 

Generous Friends

IU Northwest students have busy lives and I am always impressed by what they can accomplish through the ability and sheer determination that they bring to their studies. But the help and support that they receive from others, whether family, faculty, staff or philanthropic donors, can make a crucial difference.  The annual Chancellor’s Medallion Celebration took place on the evening of 10 November 2016, where we were vividly reminded of the importance of all those whose contributions that make it possible for our students to be successful and finish their degrees.

In particular, privately-funded scholarships and the good campus friends who create them enable many of our students to meet their financial obligations, which, too often, can be a major hindrance to student persistence and academic achievement.  As part of the IU Northwest commitment to IU’s bicentennial For All campaign, scholarships that support our students’ academic success are a high priority.

During the last 20 years, 19 Chancellor’s Medallions have been awarded to good friends of IU Northwest who have provided distinguished service to the University and the Northwest Indiana community.  The 2016 Chancellor’s Medallion recipients are Dr. Keith Lorentzen, IU Northwest Associate Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, and Strack & Van Til.

Dr. Lorentzen retired from IU Northwest nearly 30 years ago, but his support has continued, thanks to a scholarship that he created, given annually to an outstanding chemistry student.  Strack & Van Til has a corporate commitment to community engagement that has benefited IU Northwest directly.  Thanks to the Strack Family endowed scholarship, more than 50 students have worked toward their IU degrees, many of them Strack & Van Til employees, or children of Strack employees. Strack & Van Til team members are active volunteer leaders at IU Northwest, including serving on the IU Northwest Board of Advisors and the IU Northwest School of Business and Economics Advisory Board.

Both of this year’s Chancellor’s Medallion recipients continue to make a difference at IU Northwest by investing in students and their academic success.  And investment is what it is all about, for individual students and the Northwest Indiana community.  Anyone who has been on campus recently, or simply passed by on Broadway, has seen that our campus, and Broadway, are being transformed by Indiana University’s investment in the $45M Arts & Sciences Building that is on schedule to open in 2017.

The imposing, three-story building will house IU Northwest fine and performing arts programs, as well as instructional and administration space for the College of Arts and Sciences. Nearly a third of the building will be occupied in partnership with Ivy Tech Community College science programs and admission and enrollment services.  But, without question, the signature space in the building will be the 500-seat, state-of-the-art theatre space for our performing arts program (as well as a smaller black box theater) that will rival the former theatre in Tamarack Hall that audiences still remember.

The arts wing of the Arts & Sciences Building richly represents the continuing commitment of IU Northwest (and Indiana University) to first-rate academic preparation in the fine and performing arts, as well as serving as a premier artistic and cultural resource in Northwest Indiana and the City of Gary.  For more than 50 years, the rich talent that exists at IU Northwest has entertained and inspired audiences through stage performances, art exhibits and dance recitals.  With our new facilities, we can now can look ahead to the next half-century, a new era that strengthens and deepens our campus’s commitment to the arts and culture.

The Arts & Sciences Building is another way in which we demonstrate the IU Northwest commitment to truly being the Region’s University and the Medallion dinner ended with an invitation to our philanthropic partners to help the campus celebrate the arts and set the stage for the next generation of talent and achievement.  We announced the Arts on Broadway initiative, through which friends of IU Northwest can support our aspiring artists, actors, designers and writers by enabling us to be sure that they and our faculty colleagues have the artistic and academic resources that will guarantee that our students will get the most from their campus learning experiences.

A very important component of our Arts on Broadway campaign comes from another Chancellor’s Medallion recipient.  The NiSource Charitable Foundation, presented by NIPSCO, believes that art brings communities together and have agreed to match all charitable gifts to Arts on Broadway, which doubles the impact of your gifts.

So please contact the Office of Development at IU Northwest, if you would like to be a ground-floor supporter of the arts at IU Northwest (and throughout the Region) by contributing to the Arts on Broadway and help to bring our stunning new facilities fully to life for our talented students.

Sincerest thanks to all of IU Northwest’s friends and donors for helping to make IU’s For All bicentennial campaign a success, enjoy the holiday season and all the best for the New Year.

Research and Creative Activity at IU Northwest

A long-established role for universities is to support research, scholarship and creative work by faculty members that refines and expands the knowledge on which the contemporary world relies.  At “Flagship” universities, such as IU Bloomington and IUPUI, researchers and the infrastructure that supports them are primary components of the campus mission, but even at regional, comprehensive campuses, such the IU regional campuses, scholarship is an important part of faculty work.

Each day at IU Northwest, our first priorities are teaching, learning and enabling our students to succeed academically, so that they can complete their degrees.  But our faculty must also be productive scholars who contribute to the advancement of their disciplines.  The idea of the Teacher Scholar brings these interdependent parts of the faculty role together at IU Northwest.  I like to think about Teacher Scholars as colleagues who are scholarly about their teaching and able to bring the latest questions and findings to inform and animate the work that they do with students in their classes.

And my faculty colleagues are very active in research, publication and creativity.  Annually, IU Northwest faculty members typically publish more than 100 scholarly articles, more than fifteen books and twenty-five or more book chapters.  There are also upwards of 100 exhibits, shows, performances and other creative activities and faculty colleagues make hundreds of presentations at professional conferences each year.  Faculty scholarship at IU Northwest covers the methods and styles of all of the disciplines represented on our campus, whether theoretical, empirical, laboratory, field-based or applied/community-based research. These same busy scholars also regularly receive numerous awards for distinguished teaching, at the campus and University levels.

But how does a faculty of Teacher Scholars pay-off for our students?  First of all, IU Northwest students can be assured that the content of their courses reflects the most current knowledge and perspective in the disciplines that they are studying.  Students also gain insight into what it means to actually be a scholar at work in the respective disciplines.

Another advantage for students in an academic environment that is infused with scholarly perspective and active research is the opportunity to be directly involved in research activities.  IU Northwest faculty (as well as researchers in the IU School of Medicine-Northwest-Gary) engage students in their projects, which is valuable research experience that, sometimes, results in students making conference presentations and having their names on publications.  Faculty members also encourage and guide our students to initiate their own research projects, often in teams, which previews what students can expect in the postgraduate and professional worlds.  Students can, likewise, take advantage of opportunities to present and disseminate their work at undergraduate research conferences, on campus or at regional and national meetings.

Student engagement in research is excellent, practical preparation for a future in a graduate program, professional school or the working world that also enables our students to have the fullest learning experiences during their time with us at IU Northwest.

Scholarship and creativity are integral to the Mission and academic character of IU Northwest.  Faculty scholarship enriches teaching, advances knowledge and engages students in experiences that will serve them well for their futures.

One Book…One Campus…One Community

As we have done since 2013, members of the IU Northwest community will engage with a common campus reading during the 2016-17 academic year.  As the One Book…One Campus…One Community website explains, the “program is intended to build an intellectual and social rapport among students, staff, faculty and community members through the collective experience of reading, thinking about, and discussing challenging ideas and themes that raise important social issues, especially those surrounding issues of diversity”.   A shared learning experience like this creates awareness of questions of social justice and inclusion, as well as promoting collaboration, across our campus and with the larger community. And, once again, the One Book Committee, with the participation of campus colleagues, have made an engaging and provocative selection.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is, on its own, a compelling story, based on years of research and interviews, that provides insights into interrelated topics that will prompt discussion and reflection on a university campus.  The story begins with the cancer death of a young African American woman, Henrietta Lacks, and it tells us a lot about the character and practice of scientific research and discovery in the mid-Twentieth Century, which will seem extraordinarily informal to early-Twentieth-First-Century readers.  But Henrietta’s cell lines have proved to be among the most important in medical research during the 65 years since her death.

The medical advances and benefits have been significant, but it all occurred, largely, without the knowledge or “informed consent” of Henrietta and her family, which, for me, makes ethical perspective, in the practice of both medical research and health care delivery, the book’s strongest theme.  A process that might appear almost quaint in 1951 also betrays legacies of indifference, inequity and exploitation in American health care.  But Henrietta’s experience and the “immortal life” of her cell lines have contributed to a much more structured and regulated environment for those who may find themselves participating in research.

At IU Northwest, along with our partners in the IU School of Medicine-Northwest-Gary, there are multiple academic and research strengths in the health care professions and the life sciences, all of which reside within Indiana University’s arts and sciences context that embraces a commitment to ethical perspective.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks will be of cross-disciplinary interest on our campus.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016, for example, is UNESCO World Bioethics Day, which will be observed at IU Northwest by an all-day conference on “Bioethics and Vulnerable Populations”, an important topic for students and faculty in the health professions and life sciences that ties in directly with The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  I encourage students and colleagues to participate in our World Bioethics Day conference and the other campus One Book activities that are listed on the One Book…One Campus…One Community website.

And finally, a major priority of the IU Northwest One Book program is to engage our students in reading and discussing important works with other members of the campus and Northwest Indiana community.  The potential for One Book to become more central to our redoubled attention to the initial academic experiences of our First-Year students is very promising and the website features Student Champions and ways for students to participate.

Members of the IU Northwest campus community will find plenty of substance for discussion and reflection in the The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

 

 

Campus Conversation: Annual State of the Campus Remarks – 19 August 2016

The IU Northwest campus community welcomed the 2016-17 academic year on Friday, 19 August 2016, with the annual Campus Conversation.  I offered remarks on the “state of the campus” and, for this month’s blog, I have selected several excerpts.  The day’s theme focused on the importance of service.

The service and support that our students can expect is fundamental to the character and quality of the IU Northwest academic experience and “servant leadership” is an idea with which many colleagues are probably familiar.

John Henry Newman characterized the essence of servant leadership very well almost 165 years ago in The Idea of a University: the mark of the educated person is one who always strives to remove obstacles from the paths of others.  At a University such as IU, I think that we can recognize servant leadership as fundamentally humane and generous. Some of the attributes of servant leadership underscore this point: careful listening, empathy, good stewardship, commitment to human growth and building community.

As we begin a new academic year, there are several areas in which I think that the redoubled attention to service can help us to continue to improve our effectiveness.  The very first thing that comes to my mind is academic advising, not only as a fundamental investment that enables students to build attachment and a sense of belonging at our campus but because its success relies on the contributions of such a wide range of faculty and staff members, from the person who greets a student at an office to the advisor who provides the direct guidance.  Advising is a very tangible way in which we serve our students and encourage them to care about their academic work and persist to degree completion.  But if we expect our students to care about the fine IU Northwest academic experience and succeed, we must both care about them and commit to spending time with them.  We need to care about all of our students, not least because, more and more, the accountability environment makes it clear that our fate and future are intricately tied to theirs.  Advising is a good example and measure of the standard of service at IU Northwest.

IU Northwest is still Indiana University’s most diverse campus, by almost any measure, which is very apparent in our student and employee demographics, and we try to keep the importance of engaging with diversity, equity and inclusion before us.  Diversity is, of course, a campus fact, the what; equity is why diversity is important for us; and inclusion is how we make the best use of our resources and assets.  IU conducted a diversity audit of all campuses this past year and our report has some encouraging things to say about the frequency and sophistication of our programming.  The next step is to firmly anchor our commitments and efforts in a clearer, stronger strategic framework and do a better job of demonstrating and measuring the impact.  We engage our diversity in service to student achievement most effectively by progressively achieving inclusion for all of our students, as a defining feature of our campus identity.  “Inclusive Excellence” is an integral part of the discussion of the next iteration of our campus strategic priorities and objectives.

What connects the attributes of servant leadership and makes them of practical, daily use is effective communication.  Reliance on good communication is implicit in the servant leadership idea and meaningless without it.  But there probably has never been a time when achieving effective communication, whether among individuals or within organizations, has been more complex or difficult.

A world in which people face a continuous “cascade” of information probably does not begin to describe what we experience just about every working day.  There is, of course, the sheer volume of information, which is complicated by the selection and segmentation of individual preferred media for receiving information that we need and want.  But I still hear that colleagues do not know enough about what is going on at IU Northwest.  Perhaps the difficulty of keeping up with so much data from so many sources feels a lot like not having information at all.

These are the big questions that everyone, not least those who work in complex organizations, face today and, so, it is not at all surprising that, to a greater extent than even I anticipated, communication emerged last year in my Fifth-Year review as a major campus concern.  In these times, these are concerns that demand attention.

One means of campus communication is the IU Northwest Council itself, which dates to the flooding crisis of 2008 and includes representatives of every IU Northwest constituency.  Questions continue about the Council’s role and ability to enhance the sharing of information among campus colleagues, through both distribution to all employees and constituency representatives.  The Council is a distinctive feature of IU Northwest and we want to take full advantage of its potential to enhance campus communication.

Shared governance with faculty colleagues is, of course, critical to good, collaborative decisions in the academic environment, a tradition and practice to which I am firmly committed.  It is also, by design, a powerful communication system.  When we do it well, shared governance models servant leadership and is a very effective way to get the work done.  Working relationships that are strengthened through the shared governance process must sustain our ability to continuously adapt and improve.

In addition to other initiatives to improve communication, I have my own commitments too.  In addition to my more routine dispatches, I will be arranging more informal opportunities for colleagues to meet with me and working with the divisions, schools and colleges on more regular visits to their scheduled meetings, by me and other senior administrators.  I want to make sure that I am doing whatever I can to support good communication and campus dialog.  Effective campus communication is everyone’s job and requires the active engagement of each one of us.  I intend to do my part.

The challenges of our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment remain very much with us this year.  We start off in a tight-but-sound financial position and we have ideas and frameworks that help to center and guide us. Fundamental to redoubling our commitment to continuous improvement must be renewed attention to the importance of a campus working environment that values and embraces service: to our students, to each other and to Northwest Indiana communities.

Thank you, welcome back and all the best for a successful 2016-17 academic year.

Celebrating Our Newest Alumni

This past May, Indiana University Northwest reached a milestone for which we should all be proud. We, as a campus, celebrated IU Northwest’s 50th annual Commencement, while conferring 748 degrees to the Class of 2016.

Our newest graduates have proudly joined more than 29,000 IU Northwest alumni, who, every day, help to advance Northwest Indiana, and beyond.

As a historian, milestones, such as our 50th annual Commencement, allow me to reflect on the significance of a regional campus to Northwest Indiana.

Throughout IU Northwest’s long history and commitment to this region, our primary mission and purpose has remained the same.

Despite constant change that affects the larger environment of higher education and our campus, IU Northwest has remained IU in Northwest Indiana. We take seriously our commitment to provide a high-quality and relevant education to the citizens of Northwest Indiana, the most diverse and industrialized area of the state.

My academic career has been spent, mostly, at urban campuses like IU Northwest, where so many students share a determination to overcome anything that stands between them and their academic objectives. They juggle their courses, work and family responsibilities, while remaining committed to their dreams, recognizing the transformational value of a college degree.

Our students see earning a degree as a signature life achievement that will enrich their lives and careers, and position them for leadership and successful citizenship.

Meet, for instance, Gregg Schwartz, a proud member of the Class of 2016. At Commencement, we celebrated Gregg’s persistence and commitment to earning his IU degree, an achievement 27 years in the making.

When Gregg first enrolled in college in 1989, he never anticipated it would take two and a half decades, and several universities, to finish. After several starts and stops, as well as missed career opportunities, Gregg knew that finishing his degree was a personal and professional commitment he must fulfill.

Despite the varied challenges and obstacles, Gregg could not give up. Earning his degree was a personal goal that he had to see to the end.

With a will to finish, Gregg re-enrolled at IU Northwest in 2012 and, this time, embraced all that the campus had to offer, in both activities and services. In fact, he was the play-by-play announcer for our basketball and volleyball teams, on the campus’s radio station.

Being involved in the life of campus provided Gregg with the resources and connections he needed to be accountable and successful.

His commitment to his studies paid off, and in May, I was very proud when Indiana University conferred his Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

I congratulate Gregg for believing in himself and for seeing the value of an Indiana University degree.

Our graduates’ achievements symbolize more than simply the diploma that they receive, but also the promise of a lifetime of success; the promise of preparation for whatever comes next; and, the promise of becoming part of something larger than any individual, by joining all of those who hold Indiana University degrees.

I am very proud of the Class of 2016. Their academic achievements, their engagement in their communities and their commitment to lifelong learning distinguishes them. I am very confident that, in the future, we will have every reason to be proud of them, as graduates of IU and IU Northwest.

Experiential Learning at IU Northwest

The combination of college-level learning and experience that connects students’ degree programs with the professional world of work is very topical and highly valued. It is important not only because experiential learning opportunities can enhance students’ preparation for careers but it also deepens and energizes learning. Formal study, classroom discussion and applying what has been learned through practice creates a powerful synergy that reinforces the skills that enable students to be lifelong learners who can navigate a future of continuing changes, to which the educated adult will have to adjust and adapt.

There is a strong tradition of experiential learning at IU Northwest.  Our regional leadership in the health sciences (including the IU School of Medicine-Northwest) incorporates extensive clinical placements across the disciplines of Nursing, Dental Hygiene, Radiological Sciences and Social Work. Students who are preparing to be teachers participate in a series of field placements that lead to the student teaching capstone experience. And the Small Business Institute in the School of Business & Economics creates opportunities for students to learn and perform in actual consulting roles with Northwest Indiana businesses.

But there is another very productive source of experiential learning that we should not overlook.  Many IU Northwest students are active in community-based engagement, both as part of their academic programs and their individual commitments to service in the communities where they live. Community-based engagement is also participation in practical, real-world, civic activity that complements formal learning on campus and gives our students direct experience in working with organizations of all kinds and many different people who share interests in advancing initiatives and solving common problems. Community-based engagement is an introduction to and window onto effective adult life for our students.

Formal internships, off- (as well as on-) campus receive a great deal of attention these days, as a very direct route to learning and experience that connects the classroom and careers, in the context of particular jobs. Many IU Northwest students work with the campus Career Services Office to take advantage of internships and find them an excellent way to make their learning more concrete and refine their professional skills. But most internship postings that Career Services receives are unpaid, which means that many IU Northwest students who would like to have the advantage of an internship experience are not able to do so. The overwhelming majority of our students already work, sometimes with more than one job, which makes their college attendance possible. Their prior employment commitments create time and financial barriers to participation in unpaid internships and most of the unpaid internships that are posted on campus are unclaimed.

But the IU Northwest Board of Advisors, NWI community members who are appointed by the Indiana University Board Trustees, has assigned a high priority to working with the business and professional community in the Region, to find ways to make it possible for more of our students to include internships among their academic experiences. The campus is also working to raise money to endow scholarships that will enable students to participate in unpaid internships and one has already been established.

Experience is a powerful part of learning that is already integral to the IU Northwest academic fabric and we continue to explore ways to expand opportunities for more of our students.

 

The Importance of Scholarships for IU Northwest Students

All Indiana University campuses are part of a comprehensive fundraising effort, to help commemorate the 200th anniversary of IU’s founding in 2020. For All: The Bicentennial Campaign for Indiana University includes student scholarships among its priorities for private giving, a priority that is of special importance at IU Northwest. Why is scholarship support so important for IU Northwest students? Three things come immediately to mind. Scholarships alleviate financial need, recognize academic achievement and encourage students to persist in their studies to complete their degrees.

Perhaps the most obvious reason that scholarships are important is that our students have high levels of financial need and, particularly since the Great Recession, many more students and their families find even a very affordable campus like IU Northwest a financial stretch. The students who have the highest levels of need are often eligible for Federal and state grant programs, but some may still find it necessary to borrow. Indiana University is a national leader in Financial Literacy programming for all undergraduate students, which gives them the tools to minimize the need to borrow and keep careful track of their government grants, loans and scholarship support. Privately-supported scholarships help to limit the need to borrow among the students with the highest levels of financial need.

But there are many students and families who have incomes that make them ineligible for grant support, but, with the post-recession pressure on employment and incomes, struggle to find the money to pay for college, even at IU Northwest’s accessible tuition rates. While the campus assists students with scholarship aid from operating funds, private scholarships are critical to enabling students to close financial gaps and maintain their enrollment with as little borrowing as possible.

But beyond the pressing reality of financial need, scholarships help student recipients in other ways, especially by providing formal recognition of excellent academic performance. Privately-funded awards tell good students that their fine work matters and is valued, not only by IU Northwest but by the generous scholarship donors. Recognition is, in itself, important incentive to students to continue to do their best work and complete their degrees, but scholarships also encourage students to get the most from the college experience by creating distinctive opportunities, such as scholarships that support study abroad and internship experiences.

The idea of encouraging student academic success through scholarship awards loops back to the ever-present danger that unexpected financial barriers may hinder good students along their pathway to graduation. Private scholarship support is one of IU Northwest’s critical tools for enabling students to stay on track to degree completion. It is also an excellent way to introduce donors, some of whom may have faced (perhaps with scholarship support) challenges similar to those that IU Northwest students must overcome on the way to graduation, to endowed, major-gift philanthropy that underwrites student academic success.