It is an immense honor for me to serve as the Interim Chancellor of Indiana University Southeast for the 2022-2023 academic year.
This beautiful and vibrant institution has been my academic home since 2007, when I arrived to teach American history. I went on to serve as academic coordinator of the History department, dean of the School of Social Sciences, and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.
I have been a dedicated member of IU Southeast faculty and administration in times of abundance and growth, as well as in times of contraction and restraint. But regardless of external factors, I have always been inspired by the determination of my colleagues and the aspirations of those we teach to ensure that this college delivers the best possible learning experience to each and every student.
Next summer, the IU Board of Trustees will select a successor to the late Dr. Ray Wallace.
In the meantime, I look forward to making sure that the year ahead sees IU Southeast continue its trajectory of continuous improvement in all areas.
It’s common for incoming chancellors to share their vision for the future of the campus. Interim chancellors, not so much.
But as I have been leading changes taking place on our campus for the better part of two years–changes that, taken together, represent a new outlook for new times—I’m well placed to share a glimpse of what is already taking shape.
New times means new challenges for higher education, both nationally and here at IU Southeast. Our region saw a steep decline in the number of graduating high school seniors and declining numbers of 18-25 year old’s are predicted for much of the country through 2035.
In addition, the pandemic reduced the number of students who interested in pursuing or able to pursue higher education. This is especially true of prospective first-generation and low-income students, as well as potential transfers from community college students.
This is not a blip. This is reality, and we are adjusting our expectations to adapt. [RKA1] Our goal is to be better, not necessarily bigger, and we are excited to enhance the quality of our service around student success.
New times also means students expect new and different things of their colleges.
In order to recruit and retain students, we have launched innovative initiatives in many areas of student life.
For example, during the pandemic, our development of online programming, and the teaching skills to make it effective, accelerated dramatically. We went from last place among IU regionals to second, behind only IU East, a completely online campus. For those students who value face-to-face instruction but want more practical degrees, we worked with IU partners to introduce market-focused programs like business analytics, cybersecurity, and healthcare documentation.
For those who want more hands-on opportunities, we introduced funded excursions linked to coursework: Nursing students traveled to an underserved area of rural Appalachia to observe and assist in a pop-up clinic; geosciences students visited the Clement Mineral Museum in Marion, Kentucky; Honors Program students attended the Mid-East Honors Association research conference in Cleveland, Ohio.
We’ve also built out our learning communities. We’ve paired two courses together so that students may have a more immersive experience as first year and transfer students. They will have a community of learners to help them adjust and learn the ropes, in addition to activities meant to engage them with each other and their professors.
Responding to a desire more personal outreach, we changed our approach to advising, enabling advisors to contact students with text messages. Student responses went up instantly and dramatically. Advisors also plan to meet with students more often, another approach shown to increase retention.
New times means a more cost-consciousness student body. We are responding with a new tuition reimbursement plan for working students, and in-state tuition for online students who live in our Kentucky reciprocity counties.
Administration is more cost conscious, too. All curricular and extracurricular units now have assessment plans in place to collect data on the effectiveness of their programs, and feedback loops to make sure that the data finds its way into decisions on future planning, including budgeting.
New times means a more proactive relationship with our community. We have long known that our students see education as a pathway to a successful career, and we have striven to smooth that pathway through our connections to local employers. We opened our Office of Community Engagement and Service Learning in 2016, and it continues to build relationships based on educational coursework. To supplement these efforts, we launched Employer Connect, bringing local employers into a more focused partnership through internships and tuition reimbursement.
With all this momentum, it’s easy to be excited about the coming year. I hope that you are as excited as I am, and that you will contribute your ideas and energy to the work we are doing.