[Photo] IU Seal design imbedded in the floor in the entrance to the IU Southeast Library.
AUGUST 20, 2013
Welcome, all, to the 2013-14 academic year at Indiana University Southeast.
On behalf of the entire IU Southeast community, we extend a special welcome to our students – may this be a year in which you learn not only how to provide for your needs and to better care for yourself; may you also come to understand yourself and your world more deeply and fully, to find your place in community with others, and to come closer to finding your answer to a most important question, posed by poet Mary Oliver, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
To our faculty, staff and administrators, welcome back to another year in which, day in and day out, through the words you say and the actions you take, you will create a climate that helps people to change, and to grow, and to do things they have not previously been able to achieve. Thank you for all you do to make IU Southeast a place which people value so highly, a place where hopes and dreams may begin to come true.
Welcome to our alumni, to our friends and our guests, to those who serve IU Southeast in many and varied important ways. Thank you for all the positive energy you /ping to help us build /pidges between our campus and the regional community, between our dreams and our future.
Welcome to each of you on stage with me today. You are the leaders of our students, our alumni, faculty, staff, administration, and our Board of Advisors – collectively, you represent the strength of our community. Congratulations to our award winners, and thank you - you exemplify the best qualities of our service.
And thank you to all who have spent so much time and effort and gone to great lengths to prepare for and organize events today. Thanks especially to Charla Stonecipher, Jennifer Hershfield, and to Jenny Johnson Wolfe, and the entire Office of Communications staff, without whom these events would not have happened at all.
I consider it a great privilege to be serving this year as Interim Chancellor of Indiana University Southeast. I am inspired every day by the people I have come to know here - you care so much, you are so very generous of time and resources, and you work so hard to further the mission and goals of this campus.
I have held the title of Interim Chancellor for only seven full weeks, so I am honored to serve as reporter to you about the good works of so many others over the course of the past year. Notable accomplishments include:
Accomplishments from athletics:
Accomplishments of note among our faculty, staff and students:
I have attempted to highlight just some of the good that has been done by the community members of IU Southeast over the course of the past year. If caring, commitment and hard work are the only measures of our success, IU Southeast is thriving. Yet, as much as our people care and as hard as everyone works, our campus experienced four significant concerns this past year, concerns we continue to face.
Perhaps the major theme of the past year has been the news of transitions among campus leaders:
Serving in an interim role, I am perhaps more keenly aware than most that this is a year between what has been and what will be. It would be wise, I think, for us to pause at this time to consider our position and surroundings in order to chart a course that will keep us moving in the direction of our goals. If we stop for a moment to survey the landscape, we will see that our campus is not the only higher education institution currently in transition.
Indiana University is in transition, as President McRobbie and our Board of Trustees shepherd the institution through a period of capped tuition, shrinking state apportionments, with increasing costs of operations, particularly related to health care benefits. Our leaders are working to build on IU’s reputation by scaling up our academic programs so we reach more students, while at the same time leveraging our resources to achieve economies of scale across all IU campuses.
Higher education in the State of Indiana is also in a period of transition. Secondary students are now required to take college credits while in high school in order to achieve a Core 40 honors diploma. Rather than waiting for classes to be offered or waitlists to open on our campus, our own students now take courses online from other schools. This Fall, a new Statewide Transfer General Education Core goes into effect that allows students who complete a general education program at one college to transfer 30 credit hours toward their degree at another college. This past legislative session, a statute was passed requiring higher education institutions to work together to develop state-wide transfer pathways, so any student who completes an Associate’s Degree in any of the 10 most popular programs at Ivy Tech will be able to transfer all 60 credit hours toward a bachelor’s degree at any public four-year school in Indiana.
Indeed, the entire enterprise of higher education is currently in an unprecedented period of transition. Shrinking revenue sources, increasing student debt burdens, calls for greater accountability, more -and more aggressive - competition, and the impact of the Internet are a perfect storm of conditions that are forcing change.
The Internet is actually late to effect higher education. While the first wave of the Internet disrupted information industries such as newspapers, journals, libraries, advertising and recording, Web 2.0 technologies are just beginning to be able to replicate some of the interactive features of traditional face-to-face classes.
The Internet is refining our notions of education as being a lecture-based, information dissemination experience. We are gaining a new appreciation that real education occurs through learner engagement and interactions with faculty, other learners, and with the knowledge and skills students seek to acquire. Historically, many people have confused information with education, but these are two very different things. Information is the decrease in uncertainty, while education is an increase in ability to do things one could not previously achieve. Lecture alone is simply informational. The other elements of instruction needed to increase students’ abilities are inspiration, demonstration, discussion, practice, feedback, and assessment. It always has been and always will be true that education, by its very nature, requires learners to be engaged in these elements of instruction. We have the Internet to thank for finally breaking the old paradigm of education as information dissemination, and bringing the truth into our collective consciousness that learner engagement is the core element of education.
The Internet is also transforming the university through the re-definition of expertise. When the collective body of knowledge is available in “the cloud,” it strikes at the root of the academy as conservatory. If faculty are no longer the keepers of knowledge, if students no longer must “sit at the feet of the masters” to access knowledge, then what purpose does the academy serve? While many faculty are still concerned with transmitting subject matter, our constituents are screaming that they want us to teach students the skills they need to interpret and apply knowledge. The U.S. Department of Education is so committed to finding alternative approaches to prepare students with adequate skills and abilities for the 21st century, this past Spring they ruled that federal student financial aid may be awarded for competency-based education. We can now be assured that such programs are here to stay.
The Internet has created expectations for customization of educational programs and services – just think of the Amazon model applied to higher education. Online degree programs offer students the opportunity to work through courses when it’s convenient, wherever in the world they happen to be, and do just as much work as they have time available to complete in any given session.
The real revolution in student-centered education begins when we match competency-based programs with customization of services: students are given outcomes with integrated performance measures of the knowledge and skills they must master to achieve a diploma, and they receive credit for prior learning activities. They engage in a community discussion space to connect with other students and use a web-based dashboard to see how well they are progressing as they work their way through project-based assessments that demonstrate they’ve achieved the required competencies. This isn’t futuristic. Currently we have elements of such programs on our campus. Just last week Southern New Hampshire University celebrated its first graduate from College for America, a comprehensive competency-based and customized programs.
To summarize my address to this point, the community of IU Southeast is full of tremendously caring and committed people who have been doing and continue to do wonderful things. Even so, we face significant concerns with regard to our enrollments, revenues, completion rates, and resulting budget constraints, at a time when not only our own campus is in transition, but when large forces are effecting change in higher education all around us.
So, what are we to do now? How should we respond when we care so much and we work so hard, and we are still not achieving the levels of success needed? Do we shrug our shoulders and give up? Do we trust our plan and keep a steady course, and hope the winds will shift in our favor? Do we re-double our efforts in the same direction? Or, do we stop and assess the terrain and remember the admonition of Thomas Edison, who said, “There’s always a better way.”
My father was a sixth-generation butcher who grew up during the Great Depression, left home at the age of 13 to apprentice in a meat market so he could help provide for his family, and worked in the grueling conditions of the Kansas City stockyards. My father was a man who knew how to work hard. At the age of 30, he took a chance on himself and started his own business. Just as his fortunes were improving and his company was showing signs of succeeding, he fell ill with tuberculosis, and was ordered by the doctor to bedrest for nine months. Worried his company would fail without his constant presence and effort, he turned for advice to his oldest sister, a major in the U.S. Army nursing corps. My aunt Barbara’s reply was, “John, this is a change you can’t escape, and you can’t work any harder, so if you want to be successful now, you are going to have to figure out how work smarter.”
We are now facing changes in higher education that we can’t escape, we are experiencing constrained resources that make it very difficult if not impossible to work any harder, and it is critical to our students, to our region, and to our economy that we are successful in achieving our goals. It’s time for us to “work smarter,” to find better ways to increase enrollments, improve retention, ensure completion, in service of our students and our community.
What would it look like for us to work smarter now? There is clear consistency in the messages I’ve received from IU Southeast’s Faculty Senate Executive Committee, the Campus Budgetary Advisory Group, and from Indiana University administration, regarding recommendations and priorities for the campus.
First, we will improve revenue by increasing enrollment, retention and completion. We are already engaged in several strategic initiatives to address this priority, and during the coming year we will pursue several others:
Second, we will collaborate with Ivy Tech and other area institutions to pursue opportunities that support students, promote seamless transfer, and serve the Southern Indiana and Greater Louisville Metro community.
Third, we will develop and deliver online courses and programs to better meet the needs of our students, who face real time and resource constraints that may be mitigated by new technologies.
Given my continuing role this year as Senior Director of IU’s Office of Online Education, I would like to take a moment to address what I imagine may be a question or concern for some of you, which is whether I value and promote online courses and programs simply for the sake of technology. Please let me assure you that I see technology as a means to an end, and never as an end in itself. Within my academic discipline of Instructional Systems Technology, I have been criticized for not promoting technology enough. I do value technology as an important tool to most effectively and efficiently meet the needs of our students. I have also experienced that online courses and programs can be, and research shows them to be, a viable option, when well-designed, for students who have limitations that keep them from coming to campus.
Please let me explain what I mean by “well-designed.” You will hear me preach the terms “quality” and “student-centered” so many times this year with regard to education that you may come to believe these are my professional mantras. You will be correct in that belief. I have absolutely no doubt that, given the care and concern I find on this campus, you share my commitment to quality and a fierce dedication to students. At my professional and academic core, I am and always will be an instructional designer, and therefore I employ very technical definitions of these terms. So please understand that, when I talk in terms of quality, I am referring very specifically to educational programs and instructional experiences that are as engaging and highly interactive as possible. For example, I will look on a syllabus for statements of the performance objectives for a class, and compare those statements to the assessment activities to see if there is a strong link between what students are asked to do and the goals of the course.
Similarly, as an example of what I mean by student-centered, if I were to observe a student sitting through a 45-minute lecture in a classroom, I might ask why students are required to drive to campus rather than staying at home and watching via YouTube. I challenge us all to think from the perspective of the student when we design and develop academic programs and instructional experiences, so they are as valuable to each student as possible, and so our students never have a concern or a doubt about the return on investment for their educational experiences at IU Southeast.
Finally, we will build a respectful, feedback-rich culture that allows us to create strong relationships between the members of our campus community; between our campus and other Indiana University campuses as well as university administration; and with our constituents and community partners in Southern Indiana and the Greater Louisville Metropolitan region.
I have already listed many important initiatives we will undertake together this year. However, I am certain the most important work we will do during this moment of pause and transition and change, will be to consider again our relationships to each other, this community, to Indiana University, and to our students; and to ask whether our relationships are as we want and need them to be, and if not, how we should come into right relationship with each other.
I assured you earlier that I will always consider technology as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. I assure you now that I will always consider a relationship - a respectful feed-back rich relationship - as an end in itself and never as the means to any other end. In this, I take my lesson from philosopher Immanuel Kant's second formulation of the categorical imperative, which states, "Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end." This year:
Annually, members of the IU Southeast Common Experience Committee select a book and theme to promote an extended intellectual dialogue among students, faculty, staff, and members of the community. Led by co-directors Mary Bradley and Cliff Staten, for this year they have chosen The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, who took ten years to uncover the facts of this award-winning story about a poor African American woman whose cells were taken during a procedure to remove an aggressive tumor, and without the knowledge of her family, became the first line of cells to grow in cultured media indefinitely, thereby providing us with the means to cure polio, to begin the Human Genome Project, and serving as the basis for a miraculous range of medical discoveries. It is a fascinating, complex, well-told, sometimes heart-wrenching, and ultimately love-affirming story. The quote that begins the book is from Elie Wiesel, who himself experienced greater suffering at the hands of others than any human being should have to endure, and throughout it all found a way to keep a loving spirit. Weisel wrote:
We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.
I know we will do great things together during this year of transition. I know it will all go so very quickly. Most importantly, I know the greatest gifts of this year will be the relationships we build with each other, and those will remain long after the year is finished and the initiatives have been completed. I know that our relationships will, ultimately, be the most important measures of our success.