Freezing debt in its tracks

IU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams, which are coming off impressive weekend wins, may be the toast of Btown right now. But another team at IU Bloomington has been garnering major acclaim here and nationwide.

Since 2012, IU’s MoneySmarts team has been carrying the banner on campus for educating students in their money matters and helping them reduce their debt. And while no one would declare victory on overall student debt just yet, the MoneySmarts team can take considerable credit for helping dramatically reduce undergraduate student borrowing across the university. Over the past three years, the university has seen a remarkable 16 percent decrease in student loans — equaling nearly $83 million.

IU's student debt letter details a student’s level of college-related borrowing and provides an estimated payout upon graduation.

IU’s student debt letter details a student’s level of college-related borrowing and provides an estimated payout upon graduation.

Central to the MoneySmarts team’s playbook has been a student debt letter — which IU began sending to student borrowers in 2013 — that details a student’s level of college-related borrowing and provides an estimated payout upon graduation. This seemingly simple but highly effective tactic has been nothing but a slam dunk — so much so that starting July 1, 2015, all public universities in Indiana have been required to provide similar letters to their students under a new state law.

In May, Yahoo Finance called the student debt letter a “genius” idea for tackling the student debt crisis. That plaudit came just weeks after University Business magazine recognized the MoneySmarts initiative as a Model of Excellence, an honor reserved for just 1o other colleges and universities. More recently, USA Today featured the IU debt letter in a larger feature story on tips for how students can better handle borrowing, including several from IU Director of Financial Literacy Phil Schuman.


IU’s MoneySmarts team is hosting a WinterFest event for students seeking to “freeze debt in its tracks.”

Never a group to rest on its laurels, the MoneySmarts team, along with the Office of First Year Experience Programs, is hosting a WinterFest event from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight, Jan. 25, for students, student organizations and others on campus. Complete with free food, prizes and entertainment, the event in Alumni Hall at the Indiana Memorial Union promises to help students “freeze debt in its tracks” and give all of us who want to see our students graduate with as little debt as possible one more activity to cheer about.

For a student perspective on MoneySmarts, check out this Student Experience blog post, written by IU senior and MoneySmarts team member Dottie Vollmer. 

The winter buzz in Btown

The start of the spring semester has brought a flurry of activity here at IU Bloomington. From new discoveries, initiatives and student success stories to Hoosier basketball’s early-season dominance at Assembly Hall, here’s just a small sampling of the buzz being heard and felt all around campus.

IU Bloomington is set to debut a new podcast series on Jan. 24, hosted by James Shanahan, front, dean of The Media School.

IU Bloomington is set to debut a new podcast series on Jan. 24, hosted by James Shanahan, pictured in front, dean of The Media School.

All the buzz, on the airwaves. A new IU Bloomington podcast series kicks off Sunday, Jan. 24, with a conversation about IU’s new Grand Challenges Program, featuring IU Vice President for Research Fred Cate and IU Bloomington Vice Provost for Research Rick Van Kooten. The weekly series, titled “Through the Gates: IU This Week,” will be hosted by James Shanahan, dean of The Media School at IU Bloomington, and cover news, events and other activities of interest to the university’s many engaged audiences around the state, nation and world. IU students and staff will also be involved in the production of the podcast series, which is a collaboration of the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, The Media School and the IU Newsroom.

Biofuel and half of a “holy grail.” A team of IU Bloomington scientists has created a highly efficient biomaterial that catalyzes the formation of hydrogen — one half of the “holy grail” of splitting H2O to make hydrogen and oxygen for fueling cheap and efficient cars that run on water. The news has been widely shared and reported, crisscrossing the globe and appearing in such major media outlets as Science Magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, UPI, Tech Times and the Times of India. In addition, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science Communication prominently featured the story on its website.

Bikes and a new master plan. Good news for Btown’s many cycling enthusiasts: IU Bloomington has finalized a campus bicycle master plan, presented to university trustees last month and designed to build upon IU’s rich bicycling tradition. The finalized plan strives for safe, efficient and convenient bicycle travel on and off campus, greater bicycle parking and increased ridership among students, faculty and staff.

IU President Michael A. McRobbie discussed IU's strong partnerships with the city of Bloomington at the annual meeting of the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation.

IU President Michael A. McRobbie discussed IU’s strong partnerships with the city of Bloomington at the annual meeting of the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation.

Btown economic development. Leaders of the IU Bloomington campus and surrounding community came together Wednesday to hear IU President Michael A. McRobbie deliver the keynote address at the annual meeting of the Bloomington Economic Development Corp. In his address, McRobbie described the progress being made on the priorities of the university’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan, including strengthening the university’s commitment to student success and maximizing its capacity for research, scholarship and creative activity.

A breakfast for a King. On Monday, President McRobbie and other IU administrators attended IU Bloomington’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration Leadership Breakfast. In his remarks, McRobbie sought to honor King’s life and legacy by underscoring and reaffirming the university’s commitment to diversity and free expression. “We must demand a tolerant Indiana University, but we must aspire to an engaged Indiana University,” McRobbie said. Nowhere was that engagement more evident than in the volunteer projects that involved scores of IU students and the dedicated students and staff who were honored at Monday’s breakfast for serving as “champions of change” around campus and in the community.

Business start-ups and the student experience. If you haven’t yet caught on to the new Student Experience blog from our IU Newsroom, there’s still plenty of time. The latest student success story to be showcased on the blog: IU Kelley School of Business freshman Mikaela Gilbert, who’s launched her own start-up business, with assistance and advice from Kelley faculty, that she hopes will grow into a company that helps children gain greater fluency in foreign languages.

Mikaela Gilbert is a student at IU’s Kelley School of Business and the creator of Chatter Eggs.

Mikaela Gilbert is a student at IU’s Kelley School of Business and the creator of Chatter Eggs.

Btown goes Tinseltown again. Our campus’s and city’s credentials when it comes to big silver screen movie productions is well known. (See: “Breaking Away,” “Kinsey,” Angelo Pizzo and “Hoosiers,” and Michael Uslan and “Batman.”) Now a team of IU alumni is set to begin production on a new feature-length romantic comedy featuring a couple of well-known actors. “The Good Catholic,” written and directed by IU MFA graduate Paul Shoulberg, will be filmed late this month in downtown Bloomington and near the surrounding campus.

Basketball and the hurryin’ Hoosiers! It’s still early, of course, but there may be something brewing at Assembly Hall, where both the Hoosiers men’s and women’s basketball teams have been heating up the hardwood. With an impressive win on Tuesday over Illinois, the men’s team moved to 6-0 in the Big Ten and a perfect 11-0 on their home court. Spearheading the men’s effort has been senior Yogi Ferrell, IU’s new all-time assist leader and subject of the latest edition of the popular #ImAHoosier spotlight. Not to be outdone, the Hoosier women have also amassed an undefeated record at home (8-0), with their latest victory a dramatic come-from-behind win against the Illini.

Again, it’s only the start of the semester, but if the early weeks of 2016 are any indication, the buzz may only get louder in Btown in the weeks and months to come. Stay tuned!

Celebrating ‘champions for change’ on MLK Day

Post courtesy of April Toler, who regularly blogs at Health & Vitality and Student Experience

Hundreds of Indiana University administrators, faculty, staff and students, alongside members of the Bloomington community, gathered Monday to honor Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the university’s annual MLK Leadership Breakfast.

Sitting in Alumni Hall, it was hard not to be inspired by the profound words spoken by the day’s guests, including IU President Michael McRobbie, Provost Lauren Robel and keynote speaker Soledad O’Brien, who encouraged the crowd to ask themselves “What can I do?”

A performance by IU’s African American Choral Ensemble amazed the crowd, and after we all held hands and sang the “Unity Anthem,” I think everyone left the event feeling inspired and a little more hopeful.

Dedric Dennist Sr., Julia Joshel and Brandon Washington

Building Bridges Award winners Dedric Dennist Sr., left, Julia Joshel and Brandon Washington pose for a photo after the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Leadership Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 18, in the Indiana Memorial Union Alumni Hall.

But speeches and performances aside, what I found truly inspirational was hearing about this year’s Building Bridges Award recipients, presented by James Wimbush, vice president for the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs.

The awards recognize individuals, groups of people and organizations that capture King’s vision, spirit and leadership.

Whether a young student starting an on-campus food pantry or a residence manager helping to create diversity training for IU resident life staff, this year’s Building Bridges recipients shine a bright light on the everyday work being done by IU students, faculty, staff and community partners.

As Wimbush noted, “Like Dr. King, these five individuals – Mercedes, Brandon, Terri, Julia and Dedric – are champions. Champions for change, to show us even a single person can make a difference.”

This year’s Building Bridges Awards winners:

Mercedes Jones, a senior studying public management in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, is this year’s undergraduate recipient. Jones is a Hudson and Holland Scholar and creator of Crimson Cupboard, a food pantry for students on the IU Bloomington campus.

Brandon Washington, a graduate student in African American and African Diaspora Studies, is this year’s graduate or professional student recipient. Washington, who hopes to one day become a lawyer, has studied abroad in Ghana and London, traveling to Liverpool to study the Transatlantic Slave Trade. He has served as an AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow for the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation and has volunteered in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Terri Francis, associate professor in the Department of Communication and Culture, is this year’s faculty recipient. Francis is a former associate professor of Film Studies and African American Studies at Yale University and author of “Josephine Baker’s Race Burlesque: Blackness, Power and Visual Pleasure,” which will be published by IU Press.

Julia Joshel, residence manager for Residential Programs and Services, is this year’s staff recipient. After identifying a need for a more structured and discussion-based series to better equip staff for the changing university climate, Joshel helped create and pilot a diversity series training for residential life staff. Joshel received a master of science degree in higher education and student affairs from IU in 2009.

Dedric Dennist, Sr., an engineer at Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center, is this year’s community member recipient. Dennist has served as a volunteer track and basketball coach and math tutor for local students. Dennist also volunteers for a local elementary school reading program and as a mentor to local 21st Century Scholars and is a long-time member of the Bloomington Black History Month Committee.

Year in review: Top stories from 2015

From Grand Challenges to global gateways, mythical first flowers to marathon dancing and bicentennial campaigns to a Big Apple bowl game for our gridiron Hoosiers, 2015 offered another set of amazing accomplishments, discoveries and milestones at Indiana University Bloomington.

As always, there were almost too many good happenings on our bustling and dynamic campus to report, spanning our top-ranked academic programs, arts and music scene, international culture and, of course, IU sports. Here in the IU Newsroom, we did our best to share as much as we could, giving you, we hope, a sense of what makes IU Bloomington such a special place and how much we all have to look forward to in the coming year.

So as we prepare to ring in 2016, here’s a quick look back at a busy and productive 2015:


Interested in exploring these stories further? Learn more below:

New complexes and centers

New programs and schools

Grand Challenges

New discoveries

Financial feats

Dedication of new Global and International Studies Building

IU men's basketball huddle before a game

IU Athletics will be the first institution in the nation to broadcast college basketball games in Mandarin.

International IU

Student successes

Bicentennial campaign

IU football goes to Pinstripe Bowl

Honorable mentions

Yo-Yo Ma and musicians speak to IU students on link between culture, economics and the arts

Yo-Yo Ma performs

Yo-Yo Ma performs with members of the Silk Road Ensemble at IU’s School of Global and International Studies auditorium.

Guest post courtesy of Chuck Carney, director of communication and marketing at IU’s School of Global and International Studies: 

Grammy Award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma and a group of musicians gave a special presentation to students at the Indiana University School of Global and International Studies this morning about art and its connection to economics and culture. Ma gave the free talk and performance along with six other performers in a program titled “Musical Perspectives on Culture.”

Ma and his ensemble mixed live performance with a discussion of the music’s meaning for students and others who filled the auditorium of the new Global and International Studies Building. The musicians performed six musical selections from a variety of cultural influences, composers and time periods. Ma asked his audience to open themselves to hearing what is in the music, saying that the arts and humanities require a “childlike wonder.”

“Childlike wonder is essential for musicians,” Ma said. “They require the courage to be vulnerable and the capacity to wonder. That leads us to innovation and invention.”

Yo-Yo Ma speaks to IU SGIS students

Ma talks about world music at the SGIS auditorium. Photo by Eric Rudd, IU Communications.

Such wonder with the arts, he said, can bring solutions to bear on the world’s most difficult problems.

“We are tempted to consider solutions in very narrow political or economic terms,” Ma said. “It is openness that brings opportunity.”

The IU Auditorium is hosting the world-premiere performance of Ma’s newest collaborative concert series, “Musical Perspectives on the Cultures of BRIC: a Silkroad Collaboration,” at 8 p.m. today. The concert itself focuses on music of the “Big Four” countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China. They are called the “BRIC” countries by economists and are considered to be in similar stages of new economic development. The BRIC concert series expands on how changing economic times can create unusual conflicts when aligning rich cultural history and tradition with modern aesthetics.

Ma and the members of his ensemble performed part of the program for IU School of Global and International Studies students and spoke about the roots of the music. Ma, Kathryn Stott, Sérgio and Odair Assad, Johnny Gandelsman, Wu Tong and Sandeep Das have been in Bloomington rehearsing for their debut show and the upcoming tour.

“Ma and the Silk Ensemble travel the world to celebrate both our differences and our commonalities as global citizens,” IU SGIS Dean Lee Feinstein told Ma in an introduction to the group. “We at SGIS and Indiana University are immensely honored to form a section of the glorious world orchestra you’ve devoted your life to assembling.”

Yo-Yo Ma and IUSGIS Dean Lee Feinstein

Ma chats with IU SGIS Dean Lee Feinstein. Photo by Eric Rudd, IU Communications.

Throughout the discussion, Ma dissected the music for his audience, discussing how slight accents on certain beats and notes comprise the sound of a particular cultural influence. He noted in the opening piece an accent common in Brazilian music. In a piece by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, he pointed out that moving a note by an eighth of a beat gave it a wistful, Russian sound. Other pieces, Ma explained, combined American tradition with North Indian music and African rhythms with jazz.

Such combinations illustrate the openness Ma said we should bring to listening, allowing the cultural influences to come through. He said he first discovered this when he was a child, something that calmed his fears as his family moved from France to the U.S. On a larger scale, he said such openness can have a positive effect as the world goes through change.

“Openness goes hand-in-hand with empathy,” Ma said, noting that a piece the ensemble performed was 1,800 years old but still felt contemporary. “That’s how culture helps us transcend distance both in space and time. Taken together, wonder, openness and empathy have an incredibly powerful effect on culture. They’re an antidote to fear and darkness.”

Seeing the IU spirit in trying times

As wonderful a time of year as it is here in Bloomington — as the leaves begin to change, reminding us just how stunningly beautiful a campus we have — it would be difficult to describe the start to this academic year as anything but trying.

Too many difficult and tragic events have befallen our bucolic campus these past several weeks, immersing us in collective grief, disappointment and sadness, and sometimes leaving us without words to comfort those individuals who’ve been affected the most by actions and activities that are almost incomprehensible. Indeed, there is simply nothing worse than losing a member of the IU community, especially someone who is so young, loved and full of potential.

A banner flying as part of a "banner up" campaign, started by the Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault group at IU Bloomington.

A banner flying as part of a “banner up” campaign, started by the Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault group at IU Bloomington.

The details of these occurrences have been widely reported, discussed and analyzed, and much of the chatter has taken place across social media, where the age-old journalistic debate over the right to know vs. the right to privacy is being played out in real time. It’s no secret that we live in a time when we are more aware of what’s happening around us than ever before, which — when terrible things happen and details aren’t always immediately available — can be confusing and scary.

When the worst happens, we often focus on the worst, which is understandable and often necessary in the healing process. By no means do I want to misrepresent the start of this semester, which has been really, really tough on all of us. But many of us who call IU home continue to be heartened by the good work being done all across campus, much of it by our student body, to make ours a safer, more respectful and more caring environment.

On Tuesday, our campus released the findings of our first-ever climate survey on sexual assault. The results, to borrow from IU President Michael A. McRobbie, were “sobering” and clearly illustrate the need to focus greater attention on a major problem affecting all college and university campuses, as well as larger society.

Within a serious issue, however, there is reason for optimism. As the survey indicated, nearly 95 percent of undergraduate students have participated in some sort of educational or training activity that deals with sexual assault or gender-related issues, and about half of all student respondents on campus think they can personally make a difference in addressing the issue of sexual misconduct.

Through student-led programs such as Culture of Care, members of the IU community are calling attention to areas such as sexual well-being, drug and alcohol awareness, mental health and respect, as well as stressing the importance of bystander intervention.

As I write this, in fact, IU fraternity Sigma Chi is hosting an event called “Hoosiers Fighting Sexual Assault.” Featured speakers from the campus organizations Culture of Care, Safe Sisters and Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault are talking about sexual assault prevention and bystander intervention. The MARS group, made up of more than 300 male students who are part of a number of different Interfraternity Council chapters, recently started a “banner up” campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault and violence on campus. As part of the campaign, large red banners are now being displayed at fraternity houses all across campus with messages supporting the campus’ sexual assault services.

And on Saturday, several IU students will participate in a statewide “It’s On Us: Student Leaders” conference at the IUPUI campus, where they will learn about different sexual violence prevention efforts and connect with other college students to help end campus sexual assault.

Increasingly, IU staff members are working to proactively address the challenges that our students are facing. To this end, the IU Health Center’s Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, continues to work with thousands of IU Bloomington students each year on problems they are facing. And over the past three years, CAPS has grown its Crimson CORPS, a group of specially trained students who are actively engaged in promoting awareness of mental health issues.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to a group of School of Global and International Studies students on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to a group of School of Global and International Studies students on Oct. 15, 2015.

Just last week, the Bloomington campus was buzzing with pride over the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to celebrate the opening of a new building for IU’s School of Global and International Studies. This event was historic for a number of reasons, not the least of which was how well it reflected upon our talented students and how actively engaged so many of them are in making the world a better place.

Highlighting these activities and efforts is not meant to dismiss the anger, hurt, uneasiness and sorrow we’ve all felt far too often this fall. Certainly it can’t reverse awful events that have already taken place, and it’s not meant to suggest we can’t take to cyberspace to complain — even if I wish sometimes that we all would take a second to think before tweeting and posting and remember that words, even 140 characters’ worth, have an impact, both on the victims of unfortunate incidents and those students, faculty, staff and other community members who are doing their best to help.

Admittedly, I sometimes worry that even the most constructive dialogue around difficult events will detract deserved attention from the abundance of good work being done across a campus of more than 40,000 students and, even worse, discourage people from continuing to fight the good fight. But I’ve also met enough of those people over my dozen-plus years working for IU Bloomington that I know that Hoosiers aren’t easily moved off the mission at hand. It’s cliché to say, I know, but trying times often bring out the best in people. Here in Bloomington, it’s when the IU spirit shines brightest.

Btown bands together for the bees

That’s IU graduate student Ellie Symes, who’s part of a growing network of IU students, faculty, staff and Btown residents taking on the cause of the honeybee and its perilous existence. Ellie, in her first year at IU’s top-ranked School of Public and Environmental Health, is one of a dozen students who’ve joined the Beekeeping Club at IU to help establish hives on campus and raise awareness of the ongoing collapse of bee colonies.

U.S. beekeepers lost more than 40 percent of their colonies in 2014-15, and in Indiana, the total colony loss last year was 49 percent.

“The numbers are shocking,” Ellie says.

When members of the IU Newsroom began work on their latest in-depth, long-form story, “Keepers of the Bees,” even though the collapse of the bees had become a hot issue in the news and attracted the attention of the White House, I was still shocked to learn just how potentially disastrous of a problem this is — bees are the most important pollinators of flowering plants and, along with other insects, directly produce a third of every bite of food we eat and are responsible for more than $15 billion annually to the U.S. agricultural sector.

At the same time, I was also heartened by the scientific and grassroots work being done in the gardens, labs and nature centers here on campus and within the surrounding community to both better understand the various parts of the disappearing bee conundrum, including the bees’ possible vulnerabilities to pesticides, poor nutrition and disease.

Indeed, all of us who had the pleasure of being involved in telling this important story could feel tremendous pride in the ingenuity and resourcefulness of IU students, faculty and staff, and the time and energy they’ve dedicated to the cause of the bees. (Retired IU microbiology professor and longtime beekeeper George Hegeman, 77, started becoming interested in beekeeping as a boy on Long Island.)

We could also marvel at their persistence when presented with difficult challenges. (Ellie Symes’ first bee hive, installed in the spring of 2014 by way of a research grant from IU Bloomington’s Hutton Honors College, succumbed to the fate of many U.S. hives and failed to survive the winter. Disappointed, but undaunted, she helped establish two more hives this summer.)

Here in the Newsroom, we’ve thrown around the “b” word — as in “buzz” — a lot lately, but IU’s work on the bees is truly catching on fast, and we look forward, as we hope you will, to continuing to follow the effort to make IU a more bee-friendly campus and a leading center for new research and discovery into promoting the health of an insect that plays such an important role in all of our lives.

A busy week (and summer!) in Btown

What a week!

And for that matter, what a summer!

Beginning last Sunday, when new students began arriving on campus, we here at IU Bloomington have been busy officially welcoming the most academically accomplished and diverse incoming class in our history and helping our first-year students quickly get acclimated to their new surroundings and all the pride and joy that goes into being a Hoosier.

A quick by-the-numbers look our record-breaking freshman class, followed by some highlights of Move-in Day, a momentous day in the lives of our students, their families and their loved ones.










We’ve also worked with our colleagues across campus to spotlight a few bright and talented individuals who make up the Class of 2019, all of whom were formally inducted into IU’s vibrant community of scholars during Freshman Induction ceremonies led by IU Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel.

Finally, let it be noted that our welcoming work begins well before students officially become part of the IU family. Our precollege programs and summer camps bring hundreds of potential future Hoosiers to campus.

Students, ranging in age from elementary to high school, spend time here in, among other activities, world-class arts-related programs at the Jacobs School of Music, Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance and the African American Arts Institute, business- or tech-focused programs at the Kelley School of Business and School of Informatics and Computing, and the Media School’s 70-year-old IU High School Journalism Institute.

While on campus, they live in residence halls, take classes, work in groups and individually, and present their work at the end – all experiences that help make the college experience feel possible and exciting.

Several of these students took part in programs focused on science, technology, engineering and math, such as Project STEM (previously known as Project Seed).

Others participated in Camp S.O.U.L., a performing arts camp, led by three-time Emmy award nominee Tyron Cooper, an assistant professor in IU’s Department of African American & African Diaspora.

And nearly 130 rising high school seniors took part in the Balfour Scholars Program, which seeks to increase access to higher education for students from underrepresented groups and matches high school seniors with research projects that reflect their interest areas.

With all of this activity, it’s kind of amazing that classes haven’t even begun yet — the teaching and learning kicks off Monday. If this busy summer and the start of Welcome Week are any indication, we’re in for an exciting and productive new year.

Welcome Week and the renewal of IU traditions

Dunn Meadow

Newly planted trees in spring 2011 at IU Bloomington’s Dunn Meadow.

Walking through Dunn Meadow this afternoon, I was reminded of how quickly time passes in a university community such as ours.

It had been more than two years since I stopped to notice the new trees that IU groundskeepers planted in one of the many parts of campus that were severely damaged by the violent storms that swept through Bloomington in May 2011.

The difference between my last trip to the trees and now was truly dramatic, but don’t take my word for it …

Dunn Meadow

View of Dunn Meadow trees today, Aug. 18, 2015.

Indeed, four years can go by before you know it, which makes tomorrow, the official start of “Welcome Week” at IU Bloomington, especially meaningful for those of us who’ve experienced past iterations of this time-honored tradition and appreciate just how special a day it is for our students, their families and their loved ones.

For IU’s newest class, Welcome Week, which officially begins with tomorrow afternoon’s Freshman Induction Ceremony, picks up where New Student Orientation leaves off and continues their transition to becoming true Hoosiers. What’s more, Welcome Week has – to continue the tree theme of this post – branched out over time: In the dozen-plus years I’ve been here, it’s always featured a packed array of activities, but more than ever before those activities serve to equip our entering students with the knowledge and cultural understanding they need to succeed at IU as soon as they set foot in their first classes.

“[Welcome Week] is not simply a string of social events but, rather, an integral part of the culture of IU and a factor in retention and student support efforts that make IU a special place,” says Melanie Payne, senior associate director of IU’s IU Office of First Year Experience Programs and director of New Student Orientation. “The student who attends Welcome Week events can’t help but feel more comfortable with the campus, more knowledgeable about the opportunities, expectations and services that are here for them and, as important, more confident about starting that important first year.”

This year’s event theme, “Proud Traditions: Welcome Week 2015,” reflects the continued effort by staff from First Year Experience Programs, IU Residential Programs and Services, and other IU departments to showcase the longstanding academic, athletic and cultural traditions of a campus closing in on its 200-year anniversary. Indeed, Welcome Week has become a tradition in itself, through a number of popular returning events, including, among others,

  • Traditions and Spirit 2014

    Events like the Traditions & Spirit of IU pep rally help turn IU’s newest students into true Hoosiers.

    Freshman Induction, where new students will be formally inducted into the Class of 2019;

  • Culture Fest, which celebrates the cultural diversity of IU through food, music and dancing;
  • Traditions and Spirit of IU, a cream-and-crimson-filled pep rally at Memorial Stadium;
  • RecFest, where students can sample the hundreds of activities and programs available to them through their automatic IU Rec Sports membership; and
  • New Student Service Day, where students learn more about their new surroundings through community service work.

Those events are complemented by new-for-2015 offerings, such as a “Jigsaw Challenge” that allows students to examine opportunities and benefits of engaging in undergraduate research and other creative activities during their time at IU and “Rachel’s First Week,” which introduces them to what it means to foster a IU Culture of Care on campus and make good decisions during their days as IU students.

“We have the very large, exciting, traditional events, and we have smaller, more personal events,” Payne says. “Some are academic, some are social, some are cultural and some are informational. But all are designed very intentionally to help students be a part of the IU family and start their year off right.”

On the eve of Welcome Week, here’s to the start of another great year, to the growth and success of our newest Hoosiers, and to the renewal of IU’s grandest traditions.

Download IU’s Welcome Week digital booklet for a view of all the events and activities that make up this year’s celebration. 

The stories behind Commencement

It’s my favorite time of the year here in Btown.

Commencement. A time for taking selfies and smiling snapshots at the Sample Gates. Caps, gowns and the turning of the tassles. Hugs, handshakes and, yes, the hashtag. (In case you’re wondering, this year you can follow the festivities at #iubgrad15.)

Now in its 186th year, Commencement at IU Bloomington continues to be an expression of joy and achievement, as well as a chance for IU’s newest graduates to reflect on a remarkable accomplishment and what they’ll take from their college experience moving forward.

In the days leading up to commencement ceremonies, several outstanding graduating seniors agreed to share a little about their time at IU Bloomington, including their top memories, favorite spots on campus, the people and events that inspired them, the opportunities they were afforded to grow intellectually, culturally and socially, and their plans post graduation.

These “senior spotlights” showcase students from diverse backgrounds who have embraced a wide range of experiences inside and outside of the classroom, all of which have prepared them for a lifetime of success.

Members of the Class of 2015 took time to share their memories of their time at IU Bloomington.

Members of the Class of 2015 took time to share their memories of their time at IU Bloomington.

Listening to their stories is a wonderful reminder of what a special time commencement is in the lives of those who’ve captured the promise of IU and, in doing so, added to the storied traditions that make this university so great.

Congratulations and best wishes to the Class of 2015!