February 20, 2013
Provost calls for merger of departments
In State of the Campus speech, IU's Robel calls for new school within College of Arts and Sciences
By Mike Leonard
February 20, 2013
Indiana University Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel delivered her first State of the Campus address Tuesday in the spacious lobby of the IU Auditorium, covering a broad spectrum of topics including faculty quality, the diversity of faculty and students and initiatives to increase quality of education at all levels of the university.
She also said she will move forward to recommend the merger of the School of Journalism and departments of telecommunications and communication and culture into one school, housed in a newly remodeled (Franklin) Hall and positioned academically within the College of Arts and Sciences.
Robel's inaugural State of the Campus address was lengthy by her own admission, and lofty in the estimation of many in the audience of about 200 faculty, administrators and staff. She began by noting that IU is "one of a handful of truly outstanding public universities in the world" and "one of only 34 public universities that have earned a place among the Association of American Universities, an association distinguished by the research and teaching quality of its members."
The executive vice president and provost said that IU has been buffeted by the economic turmoil of the Great Recession but has emerged in a state of relative strength through the stewardship of President Michael A. McRobbie and the board of trustees with the support of the state of Indiana and IU graduates. She observed, "we have been able largely to avoid the disheartening human cost of layoffs and furloughs that have dealt blows to many of our colleagues at other public universities."
The former dean of the Maurer School of Law said that during "difficult times," IU was able to "strengthen its foundation, to reimagine its academic programs and to protect and build its physical and technological infrastructure."
She said the Bloomington campus was able to increase tenure track faculty significantly in the five years before the recession and hold those numbers during the economic downturn. She said, however, that an in-house analysis concluded that there are "overlaps and gaps in our support for our faculty" that point to a need to examine "interdisciplinarity in hiring, promotion and tenure; to find ways to inflect hiring at the school level with campus priorities in research; to promote our faculty more effectively at the national and international level; and to align our institutional support with the stages of an academic career."
"And (the in-house report) suggested the need to double down on our support for our diverse faculty, who face special demands on their time for service and mentorship."
Robel devoted a good portion of her address to diversity in both the faculty and student body. "I am pleased to note that during this period of constrained hiring, the percentage of minority faculty grew to 31 percent of our entire faculty," she said. Observing that "excellence requires diversity," the provost announced that the Bloomington campus has become an institutional member of the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity.
The provost said James Wimbush, dean of the university graduate school, will lead a strategic planning group that will address issues such as time to degree (particularly in the humanities and social sciences), the rate of completion of Ph.D.s, the need for career counseling and information about alternative careers and funding for graduate students.
"Our commitment to diversity is not an afterthought and it is not an add-on," she stressed. "It is central to our mission."
At the undergraduate level, Robel said the diversity of the student body has increased from 11 percent to 14.6 percent among all domestic minority students and from 7.3 percent to 10.6 percent among underrepresented minority students. She said she will work with Edwin Marshall, vice president for diversity, equity and multi-cultural affairs in advocating success initiatives and strengthening existing programs such as Groups and Hudson & Holland Scholars.
"The Hudson & Holland students in particular have historically been, and continue to be, significantly above the campus average in on-time graduation rates. This fall, IU added $1.9 million to support the recruitment and retention of students into this program, resulting in a 21 percent increase in the number of Hudson & Holland students in the entering class, to a record 271 -- double the number in 2010. In addition, I have committed $300,000 to support study-abroad opportunities for students in these programs."
The provost also spent time extolling international engagement as a cornerstone of an IU education in the future, noting that IU Bloomington is the 11th-ranked destination university in the U.S. for international students and the seventh-ranked university in the nation in the number of students who study abroad. Robel said she's looking to commit the Bloomington campus to requiring academics-enhancing experiences ranging from study abroad to undergraduate research or an internship.
She said plans are under way to beef up academic advising to help students navigate the academic offerings at IU as well as to facilitate a faster on-time completion of degrees.