IUPUI State of the Campus

IUPUI: A Story of People with the Theme of Hope

November 2020
Zoom Webinar
Indianapolis, Indiana


Thank you, Professor Watson, and thank you all for being here this afternoon. John, I want to thank you for your leadership of the IFC as well as extend my gratitude to colleagues serving on the Faculty Council. 

It is a pleasure to be here this afternoon to present my State of the Campus address. 

I can see among our list of attendees a number of distinguished guests.

I am delighted to welcome Chancellor Emeritus Charles Bantz.

I am also pleased to welcome IU Trustees Jim Morris and Molly Connor. Molly is also a student in McKinney Law.

Also with us is Purdue Trustee Mike Klipsch, who serves on the IUPUI Board of Advisors. 

Thank you all for being here. 

I am also pleased that so many other members of our IUPUI Board of Advisors could join us today as well as members of the IUPUI Chancellor’s Circle. Thank you all for being here as well.

Special welcome to Staff Council leaders and thank you all for your service to our campus.

I am always pleased to see members of the Senior Academy, a number of whom are with us this afternoon.

I want to thank our student leaders, including members of my Student Advisory Board who are here this afternoon.

And as always, I would also like to extend a special welcome to Niloo, the first lady of the IUPUI campus.

President McRobbie

Before I begin my official remarks, I would also like to say a word of gratitude to President Michael McRobbie, who will be retiring at the end of June 2021, before I deliver my next State of the Campus address.

During his tenure, President McRobbie has brought vision to his role as president that is firmly tied to university history and traditions at the same time as it has built a pathway to future for our institution.

Between now and next June, we will have additional opportunities to celebrate all that President McRobbie has accomplished, but I wanted to add my thanks to him in my State of the Campus Address, my official remarks about the state of the IUPUI campus.

Introduction: These Past Four Years

Exactly two weeks ago today was the 2020 presidential election.

Regardless of who you voted for, all of us can celebrate the fact that voter turnout this year exceeded that of any other election in modern American history. We can also celebrate the continuation and affirmation that our democratic process works. 

Our campus has been nationally recognized for civic engagement, and I am especially pleased that our IUPUI students are being well educated and well prepared for their lives and responsibilities as engaged citizens. 

I look forward to seeing what this new administration will bring to our nation's leadership.

Four years ago, I delivered my first State of the Campus address just a week before the presidential election. In that address, I said that "Depending on who gets elected, the next four years for our country will look dramatically different."

We have seen the powerful truth of that statement over the past four years. I went on to say that no matter the winner, "What will remain the same is the value of higher education to our students who will be living, learning, and earning in an increasingly global environment.

To best serve these students, we in higher education must continue to focus on our strategic priorities."

In the past four years, we at IUPUI have remained firm in our commitment to our strategic priorities of fostering student success, advancing health and life sciences, and contributing to our communities, both near and far.

We have also strengthened our commitment to our core values of ensuring that IUPUI is an intentionally inclusive, equitable, diverse, and accessible campus community that inspires educational, personal, social, and professional achievement.

I made a simple statement back in 2016 that really—to me—tells the story of IUPUI:  The thread that holds our campus together is people.

Our strategic priorities, our core values, and our people are the reasons we have been able to weather the COVID-19 crisis. They are the reasons that the state of our campus is as strong as it is today.

So now, let me share with you some highlights on the state of the IUPUI campus.

Promoting Health and Safety in Response to the Pandemic

Over the past eight months, we have been living through the pandemic together, and many of you have joined at least one of the eighteen town hall meetings for faculty, staff, and students at which I've presented over the past eight months to share COVID-19 updates.

Even so, let me recap a few major milestones on what has happened since March.

Major Changes as a Result of COVID-19

Our number one priority from the beginning has been to promote the health and safety of our campus community. This led us to transition to remote learning in March.

Most students were sent home from our residence halls and received prorated refunds on their housing, dining, parking, and other fees.

Most faculty and staff were asked to work remotely, and we have encouraged remote work throughout the fall semester where possible.

Our success on the IUPUI campus has resulted from a number of strategies: wearing of masks, safe physical distancing, reducing the number of people on campus, as well as educating and communicating with our community.

Along with these important steps, we have developed testing, tracing, isolation, and quarantine programs that have been vital.

I want to thank the members of our university Medical Response Team, who have coordinated these complicated efforts: Dr. Cole Beeler, Dr. Adrian Gardner, and Dr. Aaron Carroll.

I also want to thank members of our COVID-19 scenario planning taskforces who are with us as Red Ribbon guests today. Their tremendous collaborative effort helped us reach this point. 

With vigilance, our numbers have remained remarkably low, and currently our positivity rate stands at 0.5%, according to our online COVID-19 dashboard.

Budget Implications of Pandemic

It goes without saying that the impact of all this on our budget has been enormous.

As we were preparing that budget for this academic year in June, we anticipated that our costs would be going up and our revenues would be going down.

To prepare for these changes, in June we cut budgets 5% across the board on campus. We implemented a hiring freeze and put in place restrictions on university-sponsored travel, as well as reducing other non HR related parts of our budget to stay true to our commitment of putting people first.

Additionally, in August when the semester started, the state cut our appropriation by 7.5%.

With our careful planning and management, we have been able to respond to the fiscal challenges that COVID-19 has imposed without experiencing a financial crisis.

Thanks go to Vice Chancellor Camy Broeker, school fiscal officers, deans, and directors for making the appropriate adjustments so that we could face these tremendous challenges.

As we look to the future, we will remain focused on keeping people safe, healthy, and employed, putting people first every step of the way.

As we have faced the COVID-19 crisis, we have kept our strategic priorities firmly in mind, and those priorities will serve as the basis for the rest of my address this afternoon. I will begin with student success, move to our thriving research enterprise, and close with a focus on our contributions to the city of Indianapolis, the state of Indiana and beyond.

Student Success

Let me begin with student success, our number one strategic priority. College students, broadly speaking, are facing challenges they never anticipated with the shift to remote instruction, the loss of much-anticipated social experiences, and the intense pressure of the new COVID-19 normal.

These challenges are having an impact on university enrollment across the nation. This fall nationally, undergraduate enrollment shrank by 4% with first-year student enrollment falling by as much as 16%.

Just last week, it was reported that the number of students filing the Common App, which IUPUI uses, is down 8% compared to last year.

With these figures in mind, we are working harder and smarter across campus to create new strategies for connecting with students, keeping them engaged, and letting them know we care about them.

Jaguar Check-In Telephone Campaign

One of those strategies was the Jaguar Check-in Telephone Campaign launched last spring.

Through that campaign, faculty and staff volunteers called 19,000 undergraduate students. We wanted to know how those students were doing and add a personal touch. One surprise for our volunteers was that 11,000 of those students actually answered their phones.

Students were surprised and grateful for the personal outreach, with volunteers helping to solve problems and connecting students to resources when needed.

We have also conducted student and employee surveys to gather feedback that we are using to refine our strategies to meet student needs.

As a result of this and the work of recruiters, advisors, and others across campus, our enrollment this fall remained relatively unchanged with 29,390 students.

Of those students, nearly 21,000—more than 71%—are taking at least one face-to-face class with 29% taking all of their classes online.

Let me add that our enrollment at IU Fort Wayne is up a remarkable 32% compared to last year. I appreciate all that Fen-Lei Chang, Ann Obergfell, and their team at IU Fort Wayne have done to continue recruiting, retaining, and providing educational opportunities for so many students in the region.

Our strategic priorities, our core values, and our people are the reasons we have been able to weather the COVID-19 crisis. They are the reasons that the state of our campus is as strong as it is today.

IUPUI Chancellor Nasser H. Paydar

IUPUI Commitment Initiative Postcard Campaign

Thinking about the decline in applications, this fall we have developed the Jaguar Commitment Initiative Postcard Campaign, which will reach thousands of prospective IUPUI students. Faculty and staff members have volunteered to handwrite personal messages to these students, encouraging them to pursue higher education at IUPUI.

Of course, to qualify as a volunteer, you have to have legible handwriting!

I appreciate this creative engagement with prospective students and want to thank our Commitment Champions who are here as Red Ribbon guests this afternoon.

I would also like to extend a sincere word of thanks to our staff in Student Affairs, especially Housing and Residence Life. Your careful and considered work to keep students—and parents—informed and engaged and to promote health and safety ensured that they had the most up-to-date information so that they could the best decisions quickly.

I appreciate all that you have done to help our students stay engaged and succeed.

As we move forward, we will continue our efforts across campus to keep the doors of higher education open for as many students as possible, to stay connected with them, and to help them succeed.

Student Success & Outstanding Teaching

Enrollment is the first step of many as students progress towards graduation, and teaching is a vital part of that equation.

I am incredibly proud that IUPUI ranked in the top 12 tier 1 national public universities for having the very best undergraduate teaching by U.S. News and World Report this year. We tied for 12th place with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the University of Florida, and Texas A&M University, so those three institutions were in very good company.

We were also ranked among the most innovative campuses in the country once again.

What I am especially proud about are the tremendous efforts our faculty have made to meet the changing needs of our students.

The Institute for Engaged Learning and the Center for Teaching and Learning offered a number of professional development opportunities to help facilitate the transition to the online or remote environment.

The projects growing out of the institute and CTL demonstrate time and again faculty innovation in the interest of our students. I've learned about welcome videos made for Nursing classes, the use of small group breakout discussions in Human Physiology, retooling the Sophomore Internship Program for the remote environment, and a new course on White privilege in the workplace.

I know these innovations are just the tip of the iceberg, and I deeply appreciate the creativity our faculty have brought to support student success.

Let me say a special word of thanks to those from IUPUI, IUPUC, and IU Fort Wayne who have joined us as Red Ribbon guests, especially those from IUPUI and IUPUC who participated in the Small Teaching Online Workshop and in "Tips and Strategies to Promote Student Learning and Engagement During COVID‐19" sessions.

I'd also like to thank Jerry Daday and Terri Tarr for their leadership in supporting our faculty and student success.

Before I move on, I would also like to acknowledge our faculty. I know an incredible amount of time and planning have gone into the details of your classes and your work in labs, in studios, and in the community. Under normal circumstances you would likely not have needed to spend nearly as much time or energy on these matters.

You have taken great care to think through questions like how to take attendance, what about a seating chart, what if your internet fails, will bad weather impact your signal strength, what if a student is sick, should you offer extra credit, where do you give your tests, how do you keep your students honest, should you allow make-up exams ...

I feel stressed just sharing that list. It may feel like you are doing thankless work, but please remember the lives you are changing for the better and know that every day, I am more grateful than ever for your hard work and sacrifices.

Diversity, Equity, and Engagement

Deeply connected with our efforts to help students succeed is our commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive campus where students feel like they belong.

The virus has not changed the fact that diversity and inclusion are among the core values of our campus. These values are woven into our strategic plan and guide our decision-making.

Our work towards a more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming campus is ongoing.

In fact, one of my first decisions as chancellor five years ago was to form taskforces focused on the recruitment and retention of students of Color at IUPUI. Those taskforces developed a number of recommendations, which we have worked to implement since.

This fall, more than 30% of our IUPUI student body were students of Color. I can almost hear your response. That's right, this deserves a round of applause.

In addition, we saw encouraging increases in the retention rates among our Latino students as well as our African-American students this year.

We can attribute these advances to changes such as the increase in need-based aid from zero dollars in the first year I started in my role as Executive Vice Chancellor in 2012 to more than $10 million dollars this year.

We have also enhanced our investment in recruiting and retaining faculty of Color so that students have role models who look like them.

And we have made many other changes, including developing a campus tour program in Spanish, expanding our staff in the Multicultural Center, and increasing housing stipends, among other important adjustments.

The Action Committee

Events over the summer, including the murder of George Floyd, further reinforced the need for our continuing and strengthening our efforts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In the aftermath of that tragedy, I established the Action Committee under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Karen Dace to develop recommendations to help us re-envision the university in ways that lead to anti-racist practices.

I would like to thank our committee members who have joined us as Red Ribbon guests today.

Thanks to this committee's good work, we have already implemented a number of their recommendations and have identified barriers to equity that we are working to remove.

Through Their Eyes Scholarship & Center for Africana Studies and Culture

One of their most inspiring recommendations takes us back to 1969. At that time, residents of the neighborhoods where IUPUI now stands were displaced in the interest of campus expansion. In honor of the descendants of those displaced people, we have established the Through Their Eyes Scholarship. Those whose families were displaced are eligible to apply for this scholarship beginning in January.

This is our way to express gratitude and respect to those whose history is tied to our campus. We named the scholarship in honor of the IUPUI Black Student Union's 2006 Black Student Initiative, which advanced efforts to achieve racial equity and inclusion on the campus.

In addition, just last month we established the Center for Africana Studies and Culture. The center broadens the scope of the School of Liberal Arts' existing Africana Studies program through opportunities for public scholarship, professional learning, undergraduate research, and related programming.

These are vital investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion that strengthen the foundation upon which we will continue to build.

P&T Guideline Revisions

I am especially pleased about an initiative in support of diversity, equity and inclusion that is taking place within Academic Affairs where we are carefully examining our Promotion and Tenure guidelines. We want to make sure that they reflect and reward the efforts our faculty undertake to enhance equity and inclusion, whether that be through service, mentoring, teaching, or research.

Racial Justice Research Fund

As we make changes to academic policies, procedures, practices, and traditions, in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion, our faculty are also continuing the hard work of research and teaching.

It gives me great pride that 15 out of the 37 projects to be funded by the broader Indiana University Racial Justice Research Fund were based on the IUPUI campus. I want to recognize all of our Red Ribbon guests who received that funding from the Office of the Vice President for Research. Your work in the interest of racial justice is also work in the interest of a better, safer, and more humane world for all of us.

Faculty Achievement in Research and Creative Activity

Now, I will move on to our second strategic priority: Advances in the Health and Life Sciences. I will also focus more broadly on our research enterprise as a whole. The fact that our faculty continue to make great strides in research even in the face of a global pandemic is remarkable.

It is testimony to your dedication, your passion for discovery and creation, your curiosity, and so much more.

I've said before and I'll say again that there are many ways we can measure faculty accomplishments: number of books, chapters, and papers published; exhibitions of creative work; patents filed; conference presentations; community partners supported.

For our campus, such achievements number in the thousands, and I could spend the rest of this week sharing every single accolade. That would be time well spent but talk about Zoom fatigue.

One shortcut to measuring faculty achievement is in our total external grants and awards, which are also impressive. This past year, we reached another milestone in terms of that research funding. Including the School of Medicine, our external grants and awards amounted to $633 million dollars.

COVID-19 Focused Research

I'm proud that many of our faculty rallied in response to the pandemic, conducting research specifically focused on COVID-19.

From early in the pandemic, the SAVI Coronavirus Data Hub, developed in our Polis Center, has served as an important resource for the state of Indiana as we have tracked the spread of the virus as well as its impact on families of Color.

In addition, the School of Informatics and Computing, in partnership with the IU School of Medicine and IU Health, helped develop faster COVID-19 diagnostic tests for healthcare workers.

The School of Engineering and Technology has continued to develop ventilator, PPE, and other innovations. Among many projects, these include pneumatic-powered ventilators, reusable face masks incorporating virus-killing copper, and protective boxes for intubation procedures that help contain virus-laden aerosols.

Our School of Social Work and School of Nursing are also addressing the pandemic, helping K-12 teachers and other school personnel who work with students struggling to cope as a result of this health crisis.

Throughout the crisis, Fairbanks School of Public Health has also been a leader. They have worked with the Indiana State Department of Health, the Marion County Public Health Department, and the Regenstrief Institute to develop predictive models to forecast COVID-19 patient impact on Indiana hospitals.

I will return a little later in my remarks to the outstanding and far-reaching work our Fairbanks School has done in response to this global health crisis.

I want to congratulate our faculty members who received COVID-19 Rapid Response grants from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, who have joined us as Red Ribbon guests.

The virus has not changed the fact that diversity and inclusion are among the core values of our campus. These values are woven into our strategic plan and guide our decision-making. Our work towards a more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming campus is ongoing.

IUPUI Chancellor Nasser H. Paydar

Research Advancing on Other Fronts

As much as COVID-19 has preoccupied many of us, work continues steadily across our entire research portfolio at IUPUI.

With the enrollment challenges we are facing, especially in terms of international students, I was pleased when I learned that the Office of International Affairs and the School of Liberal Arts had received a Title VI U.S. Department of Education Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Grant.

The primary goal of this collaborative research project is to internationalize the first-year experience. There may be no better time than now to have received such a grant, which will allow students to continue building global skills even as global travel has become more challenging.

While we are thinking globally, we are still acting locally as our School of Education received a significant grant from the Indiana Department of Education to deliver cultural competency training and support to Indiana schools. I appreciate the fact that this grant extends our commitment to diversity and inclusion and shares it with our community partners.

Another important development in our research enterprise is our establishment of the new Institute for Integrative Artificial Intelligence led by Professor Shiaofen Fang. The institute is helping to coordinate and promote AI and AI-related research activities in areas as varied as the automotive industry, medical imaging, and law enforcement.

Staff Achievements and Recognition

Research at IUPUI is a team effort. Our faculty members depend every day on staff colleagues to keep projects moving forward, to tell their stories, and to take care of countless other tasks that are vital to the research enterprise.

Many of those staff members have shouldered additional responsibilities as a result of COVID-19, with some of their jobs changing radically. IUPUI staff members are assisting with COVID-19 testing, helped set up flu vaccine clinics, distributed masks on campus, and ensured the prompt ordering and delivery of personal protective equipment.

In addition, they have ensured the continuing operation of campus at a time of heightened stress and anxiety for everyone.

I am deeply grateful for all that our staff has done to adjust to this new normal. Before I move on, I want to say a special word of thanks to CFS employees for all that you have done since March to promote health and safety on our campus. I have been impressed—as have others—with the hard work you have been doing, especially with the new, more intense cleaning protocols.

I really appreciate it, and I know others do too.

IUPUI’s Impact on the Community

Now, I will move to IUPUI's third strategic priority: our contributions to the well-being of the citizens of Indianapolis, the state of Indiana, and beyond. In many different ways, IUPUI's outstanding staff, our productive faculty, and our successful students work hand-in-hand with this great community. Even in the face of the pandemic, we are continuing to build ever-stronger relationships with our community partners.

Fairbanks School Studies

Through our Fairbanks School of Public Health, for instance, IUPUI worked in partnership with the Indiana State Department of Health to lead a statewide prevalence study of COVID-19 transmission.

I'm especially proud that other institutions including Harvard and Johns Hopkins University were turning to IUPUI for our guidance on designing similar studies.

Take a look at this short video for a little more information about the study.

Watch the video

I want to congratulate Dr. Nir Menachemi and his expansive team of partners on this very important project.

In addition to this groundbreaking prevalence study, the Fairbanks School is also working in partnership with the city of Indianapolis and the Marion County Public Health Department to expand the city’s contact tracing program.

As you know, contact tracing tracks the person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 and is a vital part of our strategies to slow the spread of the disease.

I want to share a word of thanks to Fairbanks School Founding Dean Paul Halverson for all that you have done during this crisis to provide leadership, scholarship, and guidance both on our campus and throughout the state.

For All Bicentennial Campaign

In September, we officially concluded the For All Bicentennial fundraising campaign, that benefits so many IUPUI students.  This first university-wide philanthropic campaign at Indiana University. I am proud to say that every school on the IUPUI campus surpassed its goal.

This tremendous success is due to the hard work of our gift officers, directors, and deans as well as the leadership of IU Foundation Vice President Dee Metaj. I want to congratulate these Red Ribbon guests and thank them for their good work.

The IUPUI total (with Medicine) was $2,174,080,889 dollars. I also want to thank the more than 6,800 members of the IUPUI faculty, our staff, and our retirees, who donated more than $76 million dollars to that campaign.

Your generosity has made a transformative difference in the life of our campus, especially for our students.

This is what we as Jaguars do: We take care of each other and try—in different ways—to make a positive difference in the world.

IUPUI Chancellor Nasser H. Paydar

Leadership Transitions

We have been successful on so many fronts—even in the face of a global pandemic—because of the leadership team on this campus. I look back and think about the chancellors that preceded me. They worked tirelessly to generate a culture that values planning, collaboration, and innovation at the same time that it encourages vision and creative risk-taking.

I have learned so much from their examples and hope that my own contributions will stand up as strongly as theirs to the scrutiny of the future.

I see leadership vision every time I meet with my Council of Deans, which includes my Cabinet, and I am grateful for this group’s sacrifice and their dedication.

As you know, we have welcomed two new deans this year, both selected after competitive national searches.

Dean of McKinney Law Karen Bravo is bringing 16 years of experience on the IUPUI faculty to her new leadership role, which she assumed on July 1.

And Dean of the School of Science John DiTusa joined us on August 1 from Louisiana State University where he had served as department chair among other leadership roles.

In addition, we will be welcoming incoming dean of the School of Liberal Arts Tami Eitle in January.

I want to extend my deep gratitude to Rob Rebein for seeing the School of Liberal Arts through this period of transition.

Post-Pandemic Opportunity Working Group

As I reflect on all of these updates, my mind necessarily turns to the future. There will be a dawn that breaks after this pandemic, and we need to be ready for it. At an appropriate time, I will be assembling a working group to begin the planning process that will position us as an even stronger, more responsive, and more innovative campus as we put the pandemic behind us.