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IU president reflects on first year and looks ahead

Indiana University President Pamela Whitten is now in her second year at the helm of IU. As she looks toward the rest of the fall semester, IU Today asked her to reflect on her first year at IU and what’s next.

IU President Pamela Whitten recently visited the drosophila facilities on the Bloomington campus,... IU President Pamela Whitten recently visited the drosophila facilities on the Bloomington campus, where she spoke with Department of Biology senior scientist Kevin Cook, who manages the drosophila stock center's collections. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University

Question: Looking back at your first year at IU, what would you call both your biggest accomplishments and remaining opportunities?

Answer: We’ve had a number of important accomplishments, all of which were the result of many people working together. Two stand out: Thanks to the Presidential Diversity Hiring Initiative, we’re welcoming a record number — 54 accepted offers — of new faculty members from historically underrepresented groups this year, which has resulted in the most diverse faculty in IU’s history. The other is the new vision we’ve announced for IUPUI, which we believe will take an already-great and innovative institution — one that is so important to Indianapolis and our entire state — and make it one of the truly preeminent urban universities in the country.

An ongoing and vital opportunity, as a faculty member myself, is to continue to engage with more of our faculty across all our campuses, learning about their vital work with our students, and how they are furthering society through their research impact. As I have often said, students are the center of our universe. Creating new opportunities to further the academic and personal success of our undergraduate and graduate students is critically important to me and will strengthen in the year ahead.

Q: What were your top priorities in your first year?

A: Perhaps few things are as important to students as affordability. To ensure that we provide an education that offers both excellence and financial value, we created an Academic Tuition and Fees Task Force to look at how we should approach these issues, with an eye toward keeping the cost of attendance low and easy to understand.

IU President Pamela Whitten fist-bumps a student during a roller skating event at Weeks of Welcom... IU President Pamela Whitten fist-bumps a student during a roller skating event at Weeks of Welcome on the IUPUI campus. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

We also recently announced reductions in costs and other barriers to increase opportunities for students to attend our regional campuses while unlocking opportunities for further investments in teaching and research endeavors. In finding ways to become more efficient, we trimmed $70 million from the budget in administrative areas without cutting academic programs or reducing positions. These savings have been invested in faculty hiring, student success initiatives and other new programs.

Another major priority has been our ongoing efforts to strengthen our graduate students’ experience at IU, including covering fees and increasing stipends, which moves IU Bloomington from the bottom of Big Ten universities in minimum graduate stipends to the top half. In these ways and others, we are committed to ongoing actions to improve the experience for our graduate students and student academic appointees. We are grateful to the many faculty and students whose guidance and involvement in the Task Force on Graduate Education, on related work groups and in listening sessions have resulted — and will continue to result — in significant advancements.

Progress toward a strategic plan for Indiana University’s next seven years was another key priority.

Q: What will be the top priorities for this year?

A: We will continue to expand upon our priorities from last year. This year marks our time to collectively establish our long-term vision and strategic planning. Later this month, we will unveil the framework for our university-wide strategic plan. Over the next six months, each campus will do the important work of designing and tailoring this strategic plan to meet its unique needs for students, research and outreach.

IU Northwest Chancellor Ken Iwama, left, and IU President Pamela Whitten at a public dedication c... IU Northwest Chancellor Ken Iwama, left, and IU President Pamela Whitten at a public dedication ceremony for a new Indiana state historical marker commemorating the history of Indiana University Northwest. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana UniversityWe’re also prioritizing the recruitment of excellent faculty to IU. In addition to welcoming over 50 new faculty through the Presidential Diversity Hiring Initiative launched last year, we recently announced our next bold initiative to recruit 100 new tenure-track faculty to IU Bloomington. The IU Bloomington Faculty 100 initiative comes at a time of nearly 12% enrollment growth for the campus since 2012, and will expand the number of faculty, increasing research impact and strengthening the student experience on campus.

Another key priority will be the exciting journey to realign and reimagine IUPUI. We anticipate that in the current academic year, we will be fleshing out the details of the plan with internal and external stakeholders. Then in the following academic year, we will begin executing the transition plan, so that by fall 2024 you will see IU Indianapolis as a fully developed reality.

I want to emphasize that both the strategic plan development and the IU Indianapolis planning will require, and benefit from, input from our stakeholders and especially from our faculty. We are preparing to announce membership of task forces that will lead the transition to IU Indianapolis, and we greatly appreciate the collaboration and enthusiasm already in play.

We will continue working alongside all of our faculty members on each of our campuses, getting to know more about them and their work and hearing their ideas and vision for what they would like IU to become.

Q: What has been a treasured experience of your first year?

A. Our university community has been so welcoming since I’ve joined IU, and I’ve really enjoyed meeting our students, faculty and staff in the places and spaces on our campuses where they do their vital work. Our community is made up of extraordinary people who have a deep love for our institution and are ambitious to do better for each other and our students. It is wonderful to be at a place where people are so dedicated and ready to jump in to strengthen our university.