Exactly nine years ago today, an Australian researcher boarded a plane and left his home on a national holiday. Now, that researcher, IU-Bloomington Interim Provost Michael McRobbie celebrates Australia Day 10,000 miles across the globe in Indiana. But the former Australian National University professor claims he has no qualms with the States so far.
"I love it here," he said. "It's a great country and a great university."
After overseeing the success of the information technology department by leading the development of the connective IU infrastructure, founding the pervasive technology labs and providing ample research and computing centers for students, McRobbie's leadership skills speak for themselves, said IU School of Informatics Dean Michael Dunn.
"He put IU on the map as far as information technology is concerned," Dunn said. "I would expect to see someone like that in the new provost position."
Having held the position of vice president of information technology and research since 1997, McRobbie will be leaving the IT office to become the University's first interim provost.
Dunn met McRobbie during a sabbatical Dunn took in Australia in 1975, and the pair have known one another for over 30 years. When McRobbie informed his friend that he was considering a move to IU, Dunn said he strongly encouraged McRobbie to apply for the position as vice president of information technology.
Now, almost 10 years later, Dunn still encourages McRobbie as an administrative leader. In addition to his most recent appointment to the interim provost position, some think McRobbie may continue to move up at IU.
"I have heard the rumors too," said Dunn. "I have definitely seen presidential potential in him for sometime. I've always thought he would end up being a university president somewhere at some point. But of course he has his new job to focus on."
Not disputing a possible presidency in the future, McRobbie says for now all he wants to do is carry out the plans of IU President Adam Herbert and the board of
"I've been given a huge job," he said. "I'm totally focused."
And as of Feb. 1, McRobbie says some of that focus will be turned toward finding IU a recipe for global competitiveness.
"We should be thinking about how we can compete for the best students and best faculty here at IU," he said. "If we raise the caliber of our students, we can raise the caliber of our degrees."
McRobbie said his former teaching experiences drove him to improve the quality of life and learning for students on campus.
"I do miss the satisfaction of training students, but now I am involved in a different way," he said. "I was pulled into administration early on -- that's what I have a talent for. When I was working for the vice president for IT I wanted to improve the life of student researchers. Yes, the idea of super computing networks and pervasive technology labs is all very glamorous, but for the average student, they just want things to work."
Although the provost position may seem far removed from student life, McRobbie said he plans to use a family experience as impetus for helping the student body. He said he was appalled when his daughter Josephine, now a IU senior, entered a Collins-Brown dorm room as a freshman that was in worse condition than his own first college dorm, and will use his position to examine the quality of student life at IU.
"I will become heavily involved in issues concerning space," he said. "Over the next ten years the University is looking to make major expansions of space for education, research, and the overall facilities available to students."
As for future leadership available to the campus, Dunn says that he has heard numerous voices of support regarding McRobbie's new post.
"I have talked to the (chief information officers) at other major universities," he said. "And they have told me that in their view he is the best there is"
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