Taking Bold Steps Together
President McRobbie, Trustees, Vice President Applegate, esteemed members of the platform party, Indiana University Kokomo faculty and staff, friends, family and community members, from the bottom of my heart I thank all of you for taking valuable time out of your day to celebrate this milestone in my career and in the history of this institution.
I want to thank President McRobbie, for having faith in me as the interim Chancellor and now as the 7th Chancellor of Indiana University Kokomo. I have learned much by watching your transformative leadership of Indiana University and I will continue to try to follow in those footsteps. I also want to give a special thanks to Vice President Applegate who has been a great mentor, supporter, and friend on a day-to-day basis. Congresswoman Susan Brooks, thank you for your tireless effort to make a difference for those of us in Higher Education.
I am so pleased and so touched that three of our former Chancellors, all mentors to me, made the trip to be here today. I have special memories of each and every one of you. I want to thank Skip Smith-Higgins for representing his father, the first director of the Kokomo Center, who at 93 years of age, could not travel here today, and to Fern Bogle who also couldn’t travel, but sent Bob Mohr to represent her late husband Victor Bogle, the first Chancellor of IU Kokomo. I want to thank Jen Johansen for her poetry readings. As a faculty member who was tenured and promoted based on my work in theater, I appreciated her willingness to share that love with all of you and since she has a special connection with IU Kokomo’s founding director Virgil Hunt, it was even more special.
Finally, I want to thank members of my family for their continued support, including my sisters, and brother, their spouses, my nieces and nephews, my in-laws, the loves of my life, my husband Dan and my two daughters, Lindsey and Lauren, and most of all my parents, Lacy and Florence Sciame, who at 88 years young, made the long trip to be with me today and who because of their strong belief in me and in a college education, I am here today.
Now most of you know, I have been at IU Kokomo for over 35 years, what you may not remember is that this academic year we will celebrate the 70th anniversary of our campus, and yes, I have been here for more than half that time, so this quote from Winston Churchill, “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see,” makes a lot of sense when you think of my career.
Each of the former Chancellors at IU Kokomo brought their unique strengths and attributes to the position. What I bring is that I am able to look pretty far back into the life of IU Kokomo, and with that historical foundation, I am positioned to have a clear understanding of where we can go. Now I am going to start with something a little unconventional, and something that frankly makes me a little nervous, a picture of me when I started here at IU Kokomo in 1977 – the year of big hair.
Now I know most of you are saying, wow, she really hasn’t changed much over all of these years, well thank you, I appreciate that thought. But the picture is a great visual for how far back I can look. As I look back, I know I follow in big footsteps. IU Kokomo began as an entrepreneurial effort by President Herman B. Wells and his friend Virgil Hunt in 1945. Indiana University established the then extension center in a Victorian Home on West Taylor Street that served as the junior college. The goal was to provide, just as today, affordable educational opportunities, in the name of Indiana University, within easy commuting distance for the residents of north central Indiana.
Each Chancellor in the past 70 years continued to grow this institution; Chancellor Victor Bogle moved the campus to the Washington Street location and opened the main building, Chancellor Hugh Thompson added the East Building and the Kelley Student Center, Chancellor Emita Hill added the Library building, Kresge Auditorium, and the art gallery, Chancellor Ruth Person opened Hunt Hall and Interim Chancellor Stuart Green was responsible for many new academic programs and student success initiatives throughout his career. As a result, IU Kokomo has been transformational for this region with over 12,000 alumni.
As we stand today at the milestone of changing campus leadership, the obvious question is what’s next? At our 50th anniversary celebration, we published a book on the history of IU Kokomo called “Coming of Age.” The text shared how we grew from infancy in 1945 to the mature institution that it is today.
However, now as this campus turns 70 years old, we are faced with some pretty disturbing headlines like the one from the Chronicle of Higher Education that reads: Higher Education in America: A Crisis of Confidence As the landscape of higher education continues to change in dramatic ways, my answer to the question, ‘what’s next?’ has to be for us to take bold steps and lead. As I like to say to the faculty and staff at IU Kokomo when they come to me with a problem or opportunity, I say, “Go ahead, lead from where you are, solve it, move it forward.”
With the complexity of today’s environment, no one can do it alone, the only way we can move this institution and region forward is to do it together. Each of us must lead from where we are. So I ask the faculty, staff, mayors, school superintendents, and the business and community leaders that are gathered here today to make a commitment to join together to take bold steps that will impact this region.
As I build on my past at IU Kokomo and I look forward, I see a 21st-century regional campus, partnering and collaborating with the communities we serve and our sister regional campuses, so that we can take bold steps together in three areas:
First, we must join together and advocate for the importance and the funding of higher education as a part of the collective good, our complex global world needs critical thinkers, who will provide creative solutions for our 21stcentury problems, college graduates will be essential to our success.
Recently, many articles and books have been published that question the value of a college degree. In these discussions, a college education is questioned as students are paying a larger share of the costs, accumulating more debt, and are perceived as not being career ready.
But I for one am baffled by the question. Let’s look at the global news in just the past two weeks. We have seen a team of doctors joyful as they watch a remarkable recovery of a doctor inflicted with Ebola and wonder if they have the beginnings of a cure for this deadly epidemic. We saw journalists beheaded as world conflicts continue to escalate.
So I am baffled because I can’t imagine a world where we don’t value and thus provide support for students to enter college so they can be prepared to think critically, hone their problem-solving skills, and gain the confidence and knowledge to address the complex issues in our world that we are all seeing on the news. How can Higher Education not be seen as part of the collective good and thus highly valued and supported?
President John F. Kennedy once said, “The New Frontier I speak of is not a set of promises -- it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them.” As we have seen just by the nature of the world we live in, we will be asking so much of our graduates. They will address the issues facing us, seek solutions to these challenges, and make new discoveries.
So how can we lead from where we are? In this region, we must lead by encouraging traditional and non-traditional students to see a college degree, not as a financial burden but an essential vehicle for the world they live in. We must encourage all students - first-generation students, 21st-century scholars, and newly immigrated populations and returning adults.
At IU Kokomo last year we invited over 1500 middle school students to campus so they could see what college is all about and begin to see college in their future.
Now here is where I ask you to lead from where you are. When you entered the auditorium, you received an Indiana University trident pin. I ask that you put it on, and where it proudly. Use the pin as a tool, as a symbol if you will, to engage others in a discussion about how higher education is essential for the collective good in the world we live in. Our graduates will improve our lives, our communities, as well as our world. Encourage both traditional age and non-traditional aged students to attend college. We can all do this from where we are. Together, we can step boldly into our region and make a difference.
Unfortunately, it is not enough for us to only encourage others to attend college; we must also help them complete their degree. Currently, 15% of our students complete their degrees in four years, and 26% complete their degrees in six years. Knowing the impact a college degree has, we must help more Hoosiers complete.
Why is it that so many of our students begin college and then give up hope and never realize their dream of a college degree? Here is where I call upon the faculty and staff to lead. We must continue to explore pathways to student success. The challenges facing our students are great, whether they be first-generation college students who don’t understand our culture, to veterans returning from war and trying to find where they fit, to parents who are juggling school and family, to part-time students who are working to support their families.
We have chosen to teach at a regional campus with a diverse group of students. Therefore, we must think boldly and set completion goals which steadily grow. In the past couple of weeks, I received a message from a graduate of IU Kokomo, a young man who had very little family support, lived on his own, and transferred to IU Kokomo after he got lost at a larger campus. He worked on the grounds crew here at IU Kokomo to pay for his schooling and found a family here. The message was to let me know he had secured a position in management at Chrysler and although he took six years to graduate, he was on his way. He wanted to thank us for helping him realize his dream.
What do bold steps look like when you are face-to-face with your students in the classroom or your office? We are small, how do we ensure every student has a relationship with a faculty member in their major who knows their name and their goals? How do you encourage more of your students to engage in high impact practices, like applied learning projects, undergraduate research, international travel, that will deepen their learning and help them get connected so they stay?
Now I would like to end by leaving the stage for a moment. Becoming a valued regional partner means becoming a part of each community that we serve. We have begun to establish advisory boards in each community so that we have a vehicle to listen to the needs of our region. Relationships are key if we are going to lead this region together. As I have traveled to each of the 12 cities we serve and met with the mayors, school superintendents, Presidents of Chambers of Commerce, business leaders, I know this is where I work best – with all of you. I will continue to reach out the IU Kokomo hand to partner to advance this region. I am committed to being a servant leader who will partner with each of you. I know together, we can make a difference in this region.
I work with a dedicated team of faculty and staff who are passionate about helping students be successful in achieving their goals. So it is a joy to work with them each day and see lives transformed as students earn degrees and find their passion. I live and work in a region and in a city where people are generous, innovative, hard-working, friendly, and committed to passing on communities that are poised for future generations. I am privileged to be so blessed, and I am committed to being a servant leader who helps IU Kokomo take bold steps and make a difference in the lives of those we serve.
Now the last slide I would like to show as I return to the stage is a preliminary proposed design of what the main building might look like, as it goes through its 14 million dollar renovation. It was our first building when Chancellor Victor Bogle moved the campus to our current home. As many of you know, this building has needed a major facelift for many years. Not much has been done to it since it was opened in 1965.
Recently we received 14 million dollars to renovate this building. I am grateful to our legislators, many who are here today for their help in securing this support. I believe as we watch the transformation of this building unfold as it becomes a 21st-century learning environment, with new high tech classrooms, a new math lab, new MBA classroom and the list goes on – we will also see the transformation of our region.
More Hoosiers recognizing the need for higher education as part of the collective good, more students with a college degree in hand to tackle the problems in their communities, state and nation, and finally, you and I will continue to take bold steps every day together to make this region a great place to live, work, and play.