Board of Trustees names Robel as new IU Provost

New Provost for IU-Bloomington

Starting July 1, Lauren Robel will officially become IU-Bloomington’s executive vice president and provost. Robel is replacing former Provost Karen Hanson, who left for the University of Minnesota this year.

Robel has served as the interim provost since Hanson’s departure on Feb. 1.

“Lauren was the enthusiastic and unanimous choice of the search committee, which was impressed with her vision, impeccable academic credentials, passion for students and her collaborative working style,” President McRobbie said when announcing
the appointment.

While interim provost, Robel has worked to strengthen programs to support women on the Bloomington campus, begun an examination of retention programs for minority students and reached out to hear the concerns of student protesters.

School of Philanthropy approved

The Board of Trustees approved a plan to create a School of Philanthropy on the IUPUI campus from the current Center on Philanthropy.

“It didn’t happen by chance,” IUPUI Chancellor Charles Bantz said of creating the center’s profile as a national destination for philanthropy research and discussion. “It happened by systematic work.”

The center has received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to study the impact of philanthropic gifts of at least $1 million. Gates later used the center’s data set at a conference.

The Lily Foundation awarded the center the third-largest endowment gift the University has received in its history, Bantz said.

Dr. Una Okonkwo Osili, the center’s interim director of research, said philanthropy accounts for 2 to 3 percent of the United States’ GDP, amounting to a $300
billion industry.

“We’re talking about a substantial size of the U.S. economy that this school would focus on,” Dr. Osili said.

The school is looking at tweaking its proposed budget to provide more support for faculty research and more aid to graduate students. More funding would make the school more competitive and produce more research.

The board will submit the plan to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education for official approval. Center on Philanthropy representatives emphasized that this school would be one of the first of its kind and raise IU’s profile as a philanthropy research destination.

“Warren Buffett might pay attention to this when it’s the first school of philanthropy rather than a center of philanthropy doing good work,” Tempel said.

First-generation student programs

Julia Sorcinelli, a School of Public and Environmental Affairs VISTA fellow and an IU Special Projects manager, documented academic progress and experiences of first-generation students across IU’s regional campuses in academic 2011.

Reading from the study, Sorcinelli painted a picture of first-generation students struggling to navigate college while feeling that their families both pressure them to succeed and don’t understand their experience.

“‘I didn’t know what a credit hour was, I didn’t know how to schedule for my classes, I didn’t know about financial aid, I didn’t have anyone to lead me,’” Sorcinelli said, quoting a first-generation student’s experience from the study.

First-generation students, she found, have lower average SAT scores, lower high school GPAs and lower first-semester college GPAs.

Sorcinelli said 43 percent of students at IU’s regional campuses are first-generation students. While support services for these students exist, they vary between campuses and could provide more help.

Recommendations from her soon-to-be-completed report include forming first-generation student communities at every campus, setting up a mentor program with faculty and staff who were first-generation students and developing an additional orientation meeting for first-generation students and their families.

“They need to understand the stresses and ups and downs that they’re going to see in a student that comes home from a test or a lecture,” Trustee Philip Eskew said, emphasizing the importance of educating families of first-generation students about the college experience.

Sorcinelli emphasized another recommendation — reducing the “stigma” attached to being a first-generation student. While these programs are intended to help these students, there is a risk of calling more attention to a stigma.

“I think it’s important not to single out first-generation students and kind of stigmatize them,” Trustee Bruce Cole said.

Cutting prices or cutting jobs?

A presentation about using new technology to reduce the number of employees necessary to provide student services sparked heated conversations between
the trustees.

John Applegate, the executive vice president for University regional affairs, planning and policy, said implementing the student services initiative’s recommendations could eliminate 177 “redundant” jobs.

Job eliminations would come from streamlining processes across regional campuses. Applegate estimated the cuts would save $7 million.

“I, for one, am not going to be happy about Indiana University swelling the unemployment roles,” said Patrick Shoulders, vice chair for the Board of Trustees.
Shoulders pointed out that the IU basketball staff costs about $7 million.

He expressed anger about the University focusing on making top position salaries very competitive while not caring about jobs at the lower end of the pay scale.

“That is a problem for the modern world,” Board of Trustees Chair William Cast said. “In terms of serving students, we do have to do that. If we do have to employ people in other jobs, then I think we should do that.”

Expanding online education

Schools like Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology post their professors’ lectures on the Web to recruit viewers and promote their schools’ brand.

But IU is looking to move in a different direction, providing classes easily online instead of bolstering the University’s reputation.

Barbara Bichelmeyer, director of the Office for Online Education and a professor of instructional systems technology, said her office’s priorities are to create joint programs between regional campuses, create an online course framework and provide all gateway courses online.

“We are losing a number of our own students who go away in the summer and pick up these (gateway) courses,” Bichelmeyer said, adding that students take these courses at less costly schools or more convenient locations.

Bichelmeyer said in the past 10 to 15 years, IU has had faculty and administrators develop 80 credit-earning, online programs and more not-for-credit programs.

Historically, IU has been a residential university, and the nine locations across the state were designed to serve the needs of their area. Currently, 88 percent of IU courses are taken in a classroom.

“We have to figure out how to take that residential education and ramp it up,” Bichelmeyer said. “Online is antithetical to the idea of geographic service area.”

Student financial literacy

The University is working on developing a website for students at all IU campuses to give easier access to financial information and answers to financial aid information.

The website will include information about ways to finance college, seminars, workshops and peer advising for managing debt, according to an IU press release.

According to the press release, the majority of IU students borrow money to pay for college. The website was developed as a way for IU to address nationwide concerns about college student debt.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, student loans have surpassed credit cards as the largest source of consumer debt.

The program, according to the release, is targeted at students who need more assistance, both financially and academically.

— Nona Tepper contributed to this story

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