It is simply wonderful to see so many people here today for my installation as the seventh Chancellor in the history of Indiana University Southeast.
This is a wonderful campus with much to be proud of, and I am delighted to be on this stage with so many people who wish this campus only the very best.
University installations are about two key occurrences in an institution’s development — the person being “installed” as the new leader of the campus, and more importantly, the state and future of the campus itself.
So to begin, let me tell you all a little about me and how I got here. Don’t worry. This won’t take long since the second half of this talk — the part about the importance of regional campuses, and this one especially — is as I say, much more important.
I am part of a large, and unfortunately, recurring diaspora of Irish people who have emigrated all over the world due to famine, war, or economic misfortune. I grew up in Northern Ireland in distinctively lower working class environments.
I was raised first in what many of you would recognize as a World War II Nisan hut (a cold, poorly constructed, pre-fabricated dwelling). Later, after my parents gained some degree of social equality, we moved to what most of you would recognize as a large public housing development. My parents were poorly educated (my father left school, as was the fashion, at 14). However, they both recognized that educational attainment was a “way out” for their two sons, and they made huge financial sacrifices so my brother and I could attend a very proper English-styled grammar school and that we passed a string of national exams to remain firmly on the university track. Through hard graft and great teachers, I became a fairly good student in Northern Ireland (really most probably because there was very little else to do, given the shootings, bombings, acute sectarianism, and day-to-day fear of the “Troubles.”) I passed enough exams to gain admission in universities in both parts of Ireland, but the violence worsened. My initial “escape” was that I was also an accomplished track athlete (I know, many pounds and many years ago) who won national titles in both Irelands and represented my country in international track and field competitions. However, my real “escape” came when several track coaches came to Europe to recruit Irish athletes, myself included. Consequently, I arrived in America in the Seventies to attend Eastern Illinois University (a fine example of a regional campus) on both athletic and academic scholarships.
Apart from the usual cultural differences with which I had to struggle, it quickly became clear to me that in this country, a person could reinvent himself through hard, but more importantly, smart work. I threw myself into my studies with a vigor most likely fueled with equal parts home sickness and fear of failure.
Indeed, the New York Times senior editor, Thomas Friedman, has recently noted that the first-generation immigrant success story is that of the overwhelming desire for success, achieving a class level not possible at “home.” But it also involves surmounting the paranoia that implies that such success can all be taken away one day if the first generation immigrant stops working sufficiently to maintain it. Friedman calls on our next generation of native born Americans to start working as hard as their first-generation immigrant peers, and I agree with him. I was driven by this same defined immigrant desire to succeed in this country.
Those who know me well know, that even after attaining US citizenship, I work hard every day, but that I also always look over my shoulder to check out the gaining competition or the target on which to aspire to. Immigrant paranoia, perhaps, but it has not failed me yet! So, to cut a long story short, I finished an undergraduate degree in three years, a Master’s in one year, and a doctorate in three! Almost thirty years later, after varied academic/administrative positions in mostly regional campuses, several books, articles, and conference presentations, recruiting experiences in this country and several others, successful work in attracting outside support for regional campus initiatives, and the great experiences gained with three post-doctoral explorations, I stand before you a very proud Chancellor at IU Southeast.
However, as I mentioned in my introduction, this installation has really more to do with the importance of the regional university and this one in particular.
The growth of the US regional university is a picture of the expansion of American higher education if you will. American higher education institutions in the 19th and early 20th centuries, not unlike their European peers, had the same mission — to educate the landed gentry and upper to upper middle class citizenry. True as the twentieth century evolved and benefits such as the GI Bill came into play, the mission slowly evolved to “allow” others access to higher education. It is with this expanded access to higher education where regional universities truly grew.
Indeed, today the regional campus continues to educate an increasing cross section of the American public. As a matter of course, we educate several types of students:
- High school students who desire university credits before they enter full time higher education;
- The traditional 18+ year old university student who does not want to move away from home;
- Returning military veterans;
- The working adult who because of employment constraints does not want to leave the community; and
- Out-of State (and In-State) students who see the availability, proximity, and superiority of an IU degree, without the necessity of travelling too far from home to gain it.
A few months ago I gave my campus and its community leaders a summary of my vision for this campus. Here is an overview.
In the next ten years, we should see a significant increase in enrollment. We need to capture a larger share of currently enrolled high school students so that they take more college courses whilst still in high school. We need to offer these courses on their high school campuses and/or transport these students to our campus. We need to capture a larger percentage of Kentucky students. We need to attract a larger percentage of working adults to degree completion programs and to graduate programs. We will need to increase our on-campus housing to accommodate a growing interest. We will need to have consolidated learning centers in all the Indiana counties we currently serve. That means physical space(s) in each of our service counties to offer undergraduate and graduate programs. We will need to increase the size of our “campus” in downtown Jeffersonville to serve more adults working in downtown Louisville.
We will need to change our philosophy about how we serve our students. We will have to become more customer savvy about how and when we educate. Different schedules will be needed for different populations; we will need faster undergraduate and graduate degrees, using summer school as a traditional semester; using winter break and summer break as times when we can offer additional classes. We will need to understand soon that more and more of our students do not want and will not sit still long enough to come to class to view the “sage on the stage.” Some will still want that, but many others will not. Therefore, hybrid classes and totally digital classes, programs and degrees must be the order of the day. We will need to bring our programs to the students who want them, whether digitally or face to face. And we will need to be “out there” at UPS, Ford, and River Ridge to name just a few.
We will need to become more connected to our communities. We must be seen as the economic development engine in this area; we are after all the only public comprehensive undergraduate and graduate institution in this part of Indiana.
We must be considered the academic leader as we help attract new white-collar industries and companies here, and we must be current in our development of the next generation of mid-level and up employees. We must be good neighbors — we will be involved in fairs, parades, clubs, organizations, social organizations. We will be known as the place where we graduate good citizens who stay to make our communities even stronger.
We need a stronger, more involved alumni base. We must be known as the institution which improves greatly the quality of life factor here in Southern Indiana. More art, more plays, more music, more keynote speakers. We will have to stop liking being known as “the best kept secret” and “the hidden gem!” Both are descriptions of failure!
IU Southeast is a fine regional campus in the IU family. It has good bones!
Regional universities are quality-of-place enhancers, and IU Southeast is front and center on this. Whether it be in our fabulous Ogle Center with its visiting symphonies, theatre productions, speech competitions, visiting lecture series, or art collections (the most recent being the fabulous Wonderland Way collection made possible by the generosity of Don and Kathy Smith) — or in our athletic facilities with nationally ranked men’s and women’s sports teams — we are here for the communities we serve. IU Southeast is proud to welcome people on our campus seven days a week, and we are proud that we are contributing to the quality of place here in Southern Indiana and the metro Louisville area.
We graduate great students who become great citizens, and we will continue to do so. But, we will need to dream bigger, to attract even more.
At regional campuses, our faculty are teacher/scholars who instill in our charges that higher educational attainment will lead to enhanced opportunities. We, along with our regional partners, work to meet our unique student population right where they are — in the communities we serve, and with the resources we have.
IU Southeast is a great institution within a wonderful university family. IU Southeast will become even stronger in the future because we (our faculty, staff, and supporters) know we can. I am honored to be the Chancellor of this campus. I am honored to work with the faculty, staff, and students of our great campus. I am honored to work with the donors who continue to support our campus. Simply stated, I am honored.
Thank you all.