By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–Amid once-in-a-lifetime unrest and uncertainty, Chancellor Dr. Ray Wallace and an expanded roster of IU Southeast leaders delivered a sober but celebratory virtual 2020 State of the Campus address.
While acknowledging the overwhelming challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, including an unprecedented campus shutdown, leaders focused on a year of incredible accomplishments.
“We have had a truly outstanding year despite the setbacks caused by COVID-19,” Wallace said. “I am proud of the entire IU Southeast community for coming together and acting quickly and efficiently during this crisis.”
Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Amanda Stonecipher detailed the efforts of units ranging from admissions and campus life to residences and career development to adapt to suddenly new realities.
These efforts helped IU Southeast exceed its adjusted goals for fall credit hours and enrollment. IU Southeast welcomed 1,087 new undergraduate students, with an average high school GPA of 3.31–the highest in over a decade.
“Back in March, when Indiana University made the decision to move courses and all student services to a virtual format, we did not know what to expect for the future of enrollment,” Stonecipher said. “With clear plans for fall, we were able to fully show our students that we are a caring and nurturing community, focused on their health and safety.”
Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Kelly Ryan praised the resilience of faculty members who were suddenly forced to shift to online education in the spring, in order to assure students of a safe and productive learning experience.
She described several dozen accomplishments from the schools that hinted at the extraordinary depth and breadth of academic life at IU Southeast over the past year.
“This past year has been hard, but we’ve learned some really great lessons that will make this year a springboard a more flexible, future-focused, and student-friendly campus that will thrive,” Ryan said.
Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dana Wavle offered insight into the financial headwinds that have buffeted the institution, while detailing steps that leadership has taken to brunt their impact and make sure that mission-critical functions of the campus continue to flourish.
While scrambling to adapt financial and other administrative functions to the Covid moment, including alterations to dining services and the organization of a point-of-distribution plan for fall flu shots and eventually COVID-19 vaccinations, large projects continued, such as the major repaving and landscaping of the north parking lot.
Vice Chancellor for Advancement Betty Russo related successes from fundraising and development. Chief among these is the Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign. With a goal of $14 million, IU Southeast raised over $17 million; in the area of nongovernmental grants, IU Southeast exceeded its targets by 300%. Altogether, IU Southeast’s margin in the Bicentennial Campaign eclipsed all other IU regional campuses.
Russo also noted the formation of the Indiana University Alumni Association, Kentuckiana Region, merging two large alumni groups into one potent organization dedicated to community engagement and student success.
“They believe in our mission, and see the tremendous results of our students living and working throughout the community,” Russo said.
Speaking of marketing and communications, Russo addressed the many ways that the university has kept in touch with constituents and prospective students.
“We were everywhere—social media, television, digital networks, talk shows, creating and updating new websites,” Russo said. “We put our university and our message where our audiences are living, working and relaxing to make sure they were up-to-date on the latest IU Southeast has to offer.”
As a result of these steps, information was gleaned that will be of use in the altered state of the ongoing pandemic.
“COVID-19 has changed how we communicate with our students, alumni and campus community and we are proud to be a leading example utilizing the latest techniques and innovations among the regional campuses of IU,” Russo said.
New to this year’s event were contributions by Faculty Senate President Dr. Joe Wert and Regional Campus Chief Information Officer Nick Ray.
Wert focused his remarks on efforts of the faculty to respond meaningfully to the two dominant challenges of this moment: the pandemic and the fight for racial justice, which has added urgency in our service region due to the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville last April.
Wert recognized the efforts of faculty to learn, communicate, improvise and collaborate in the face of the covid-19 closure.
“I saw the faculty pull together and get done what needed to be done, and to help out their colleagues and students at the same time,” Wert said. “If I ever had any doubt that this campus might not be able to handle crises, they have been dispelled.”
After IU President Michael A. McRobbie and James Wimbush, vice president of diversity and multicultural affairs denounced acts of racism and bigotry, and affirmed IU’s commitment to a university free of discrimination on the bases of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin or political beliefs, Chancellor Wallace issued a similar statement. In an emergency meeting, the IU Southeast Faculty Senate approved a resolution in support of these powerful statements.
“I am proud to say that the IU Southeast campus was the first IU campus to pass such a resolution,” Wert said. “Our resolution became the model for the resolutions of other regional campuses and for the University Faculty Council.”
Ray noted the extensive measures undertaken by University Information Technology Services (UITS) to pivot the entire campus to online learning. UITS responded to emerging needs with a variety of innovative solutions, including additional webcams and microphones, and a new media studio for faculty who can capture lectures and demonstrations to use with their online courses.
In concluding remarks, Chancellor Wallace thanked the campus community for its resilience and dedication during a time of widespread unrest.
“We still have a lot of hard work ahead of us as we continue to recover from this pandemic, but I have no doubt that we will emerge from this stronger than ever,” Wallace said.