Installation Ceremony and State of the Campus Address

IUPUI: Where Education Fuels Innovation

Nasser H. Paydar
Chancellor, IUPUI
November 17, 2015
2 p.m.
IUPUI Campus Center


  • To President McRobbie and Indiana University Trustees: Thank you for your leadership and for the trust you have expressed through my appointment;
  • To President Daniels and Purdue University Trustees: Thank you for your longstanding partnership;
  • To Mayor Ballard: Thank you for your great service to the city of Indianapolis and for your support of our campus;
  • To the IUPUI faculty: I am proud to count myself among your distinguished ranks;
  • To the staff: Your dedication to students, faculty, and one another is the heartbeat of our campus;
  • To students: You are the reason our campus exists; your energy, curiosity, and determination to succeed inspire all of us;
  • To my personal friends: Thank you for always being my best supporters;
  • To my in-laws: I am delighted to be part of your family and proud that you are here;
  • To my mother: You get the award for travelling the farthest to be here today; You have given my brother, my sister, and me your best and we owe all of our accomplishments to you;
  • To my sons: Newly christened Doctor Omeed and soon-to be Doctor Naveed—You are the pride of your mother and me and give meaning to our lives;
  • And to my best friend, my wife Niloo: You have stood beside me for over 40 years. You have encouraged me and supported me at every stage of our lives even as you have achieved your own professional success. You have put up with all of my imperfections. To quote a famous Churchill, “My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me.”

Today, it is an honor to stand before you as the fifth chancellor of IUPUI. I am delighted that former Chancellors Charles Bantz and Jerry Bepko could join us for this occasion. Both of them represent the impressive history of leadership that has transformed this campus over the course of nearly fifty years.

Milestones in the life of our campus offer each of us an opportunity to reflect on ourselves and the role we play in this great research and teaching enterprise.

For well over half of my life, I have lived in central Indiana. I raised my family here and started my career at IUPUI. Since then, Indiana University has invested in me by providing leadership opportunities at IUPUI, IUPUC, IU East, and again at IUPUI. It would be accurate to say that I have been preparing for this moment my entire professional life.

As a child of globalization, though, I started preparing for this long before I came to Indiana.

I was born and raised in Iran to parents who worked hard and deeply valued education though they never attended college.The best advice I have ever received came from my father. He said for me to get an education and take it as far as I could go. My father’s advice launched me from being a first-generation college student to being the chancellor of IUPUI.

Everything I have achieved in my life, I credit to my education, to my academic home at IUPUI and my personal home in Indiana, and to my family.

The 21st-Century Urban Campus and the Spirit of IUPUI

I would like to set the stage for the rest of my remarks by reflecting on what distinguishes IUPUI as a 21st-century urban-serving campus with an extensive research portfolio.

From our beginning in 1969 as an educational partnership administered by Indiana University, IUPUI has united communities through the power of education and research. Today, situated in the heart of Indianapolis, we continue to engage deeply and productively with the surrounding community.

We forge partnerships in a spirit of reciprocity and respect and in response to the demands of the state workforce.

We are nimble in approach and entrepreneurial in spirit, attracting talent from around the world, encouraging discovery, and feeding the innovation enterprise.

We create a pipeline for leadership from the classroom to the boardroom.

In our efforts to achieve our mission, we are guided by the IUPUI Campus Strategic Plan and the overarching Indiana University Bicentennial Strategic Plan. Both broadly align around academic excellence, engagement, and campus community.

These three themes—academic excellence, engagement, and campus community—are the lenses that will shape the vision I share with you today as I have the honor of presenting my first State of the Campus Address.

Academic Excellence: Student Success

My first theme, academic excellence, is at the heart of what we do at IUPUI, and three groups are critical to our success: students, faculty and staff.

Our primary aim as a community is to help our students succeed by providing an outstanding education.

But who are our students?

Overall, IUPUI enrolls more than 30,000 students. Nearly three quarters of these students are undergraduates. The rest are graduate and professional students. This fall, more than 88 percent of our students came from the state of Indiana. All told, our students came from every state with international students from 147 different countries.

I am proud to say nearly one quarter of our student population are students of color, and that is the most diverse student body in our history.

Diversity is directly tied to our pursuit of academic excellence and benefits all students, faculty, and staff. A diverse working and learning environment brings the broadest possible range of perspectives into productive conversation. This is the essence of a true scholarly community where ideas spark off one another to light the fire of learning and discovery.

As a four-time recipient of the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award, IUPUI has been—and must continue to be—a leader in this area.To this end, I am committed to increasing the number of African American students at IUPUI by 50 percent over the next five years.

Working with Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Karen Dace, I am also committed to creating a welcoming environment in which all of our students and employees feel like they belong.

I pledge to support our LGBTQ community, people of color on campus, people with special needs, returning adult students, veterans, traditional college-age students, and all of those who contribute to our campus community.

Access is fundamental to student success. To this end, a key element in our recruitment strategy has been—and will continue to be—scholarships and financial aid. In order to reinforce our work in this area, I have asked Interim Executive Vice Chancellor Kathy Johnson to lead efforts to increase the amount of need-based aid we offer by 100 percent. We aim to achieve this goal by this time next year, by fall of 2016.

To help our students succeed, we will also continue to develop and improve our academic offerings, delivering them in ways that meet the demands of the 21st century. This includes increasing the number of hybrid, online, interdisciplinary, and accelerated programs to save students time and money and prepare them for the challenges of the contemporary workforce.

Our efforts to help students succeed must reach beyond the classroom. So I ask all of our schools to significantly increase experiential learning, as well as community-engaged research. In these ways, we can continue to address real issues of interest to Indiana and beyond.

Even as we serve our local community, our students are using their education to become global citizens. In fact, this fall we welcomed the highest number of international students in our campus’s history.

My own experience has taught me the incredible importance of global learning and study abroad opportunities. I am pleased to say that we will continue to increase our study abroad programs as we welcome more students from around the world to the IUPUI campus.

An IUPUI education—rooted in central Indiana but global in its scope—is an investment in the future of our city, state, and region.

Academic Excellence: Faculty Teaching and Research

IUPUI provides a distinct environment for faculty to achieve excellence in teaching and research.

In fact, earlier this fall, U.S. News and World Report announced that IUPUI ranked 16th in the country for outstanding undergraduate teaching among national Tier 1 research universities. If we take out the private schools—including Princeton, Dartmouth, and Brown at #1, 2, and 3—we ranked 5th, tied with Arizona State University and Michigan State.

As a research institution, our collaborative approaches will be crucial as we address what President McRobbie has described as Grand Challenges. These challenges are of such scope and scale that they require experts from across disciplines, from multiple campuses, potentially from multiple institutions around the world to address.

Building on our strong programs in urban health and wellbeing, we are planning a Grand Challenge initiative on Health Equity with colleagues at IU Bloomington.

I am pleased that our faculty have risen to this challenge and are key contributors to this and other impressive proposals submitted just last week.

We also want to help our faculty receive the accolades they deserve for their research, teaching, and creative activity. This might come in the form of national and international honors and awards, such as membership in national academies or in the form of external funding from local, state, and federal agencies.

On this last point regarding external funding, I have asked Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Simon Atkinson to review our current practices related to faculty research support and develop an action plan to increase our success in securing funding and opportunities for our faculty to develop their scholarship and creative work.

Academic Excellence: Our Vital Staff

It is fair to say that academic excellence—including student success and faculty accomplishments—would be impossible to achieve without IUPUI’s outstanding and dedicated administrative, professional, and support staff.

Our staff ensures that IUPUI—a contemporary organization with a multimillion dollar budget and thousands of employees—runs efficiently and remains responsive to our stakeholders.

In order to continue to reinforce excellence among our staff, I have asked Interim Vice Chancellor Camy Broeker to design and support professional and leadership programs that help staff members continuously improve over their careers.

Engagement and the Power of Place

I would like to move on to the second thematic lens I mentioned: engagement.

Although in some ways our campus is similar to other urban-serving campuses, what distinguishes IUPUI is our remarkable location in central Indiana. IUPUI’s history is woven into the life of the region and of the great city of Indianapolis. We have a special responsibility to preserve the rich history of the people—primarily African-Americans—who once lived and worked in the near-Westside neighborhood where our campus now resides. Through community partnerships, we are working with this and other neighborhoods to create a healthier and more prosperous future.

IUPUI’s deep engagement with the surrounding communities led us to create the Office of Community Engagement earlier this year. Led by Vice Chancellor Amy Warner, this office works with schools and units across campus to better coordinate and focus engagement activities. Through this office, we must work closely with our community partners and the city of Indianapolis to address critical urban needs, such as educational attainment, workforce development, health equity, safety, and neighborhood quality-of-life issues.

Shaping Our Campus Community

I have talked about our outstanding faculty, staff, and students and our collective focus on academic excellence.

I’ve touched on our vital relationship to central Indiana and the partnerships we have forged to leverage education and research at IUPUI in the interest of our community.

My final theme—campus community—draws both of these elements together.

As a community, we need to shine a spotlight on our innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, our unique combination of multi-institutional programs, and our willingness to change in response to student and community needs.

As we prepare to celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2019, we must share our story so that people understand who we were in the past, who we are today, and who we will be tomorrow.

I dare you to dream what the next 50 years hold for our great campus.

That dream requires us to strengthen our campus community and create a more vibrant student life. Vice Chancellor Zeb Davenport and his Student Affairs team have risen to this challenge, teaching students skills like critical thinking, leadership, and conflict resolution in nontraditional classrooms.

But don’t get me wrong. We are also having a little fun.

Just last week, Vice Chancellor Davenport and I spent time with both the Undergraduate and Graduate Student Governments. We hung out in the Jungle for women’s basketball and learned how to salsa with a group of students in the Campus Center.

Along with academic achievement, this kind of engagement lets people feel like they belong, that others care about them and want them to succeed. It helps tie our campus together.

From the moment students apply to our campus, I want them to feel like they are coming home, and I want that feeling to last so that our alumni stay connected and engaged with the campus.

This is especially important as we approach Indiana University’s Bicentennial in 2020. As many of you know, we recently launched the $2.5 billion For All university-wide fundraising campaign.

Drawing on the expertise of Vice President of the IU Foundation Dee Metaj, I am excited that we will be significantly increasing our fundraising both within schools and departments as well as at the campus level.

In the last two-and-a-half years, IUPUI, including the IU School of Medicine, has raised more than $621 million toward our goal. This deserves a round of applause.

We are deeply grateful to our alumni and friends who have contributed so generously to IUPUI so far, and both Niloo and I look forward to connecting with many of you in the weeks, months, and years to come.