When most folks in the Indiana University community hear the term “Grand Challenges,” the first thing that usually sprouts to mind is IU’s $300 million effort to fund interdisciplinary research projects addressing some of the world’s most pressing and large-scale issues during the next five years.
But at IU Kokomo, Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke has put a different spin on the term. In her view, the most urgent issue facing IU Kokomo and north central Indiana is overcoming a culture that “does not always place value” on the importance of college education in an era when most new jobs will requires some variety of college training or certification.
“Our ‘Grand Challenge’ is to change the culture,” Sciame-Giesecke told IU’s Board of Trustees during a mid-April meeting in Kokomo. “Going to college is important. It’s a tough battle we’re fighting here, to change a culture that does not always place value on higher education … As a regional campus, ethically and morally, it is our responsibility to have that conversation. We travel the region and partner with schools to have that conversation.”
Such issues are front-and-center in the “skills gap” dilemma that poses a threat to the future of Indiana’s economy. Unless Indiana colleges and universities produce more technically skilled graduates to meet the growing demand of the state’s key employers, growth opportunities may be lost to other states that are producing such graduates.
To address the matter, IU Kokomo reaches out to students as early as their kindergarten year in school. Other initiatives include encouraging parents to start what is known as a 529 savings account for their children, partnerships with high schools to transport students to IU Kokomo classes during their senior year and learning opportunities for high school freshmen and sophomores.
Read more about such efforts here.