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!

Her story

“She’s the pride of Indiana, Hail to old IU!”

For a university to make history, it has to have a powerful “her” story.

As Indiana University fast approaches its third century (in 2020), its Bloomington campus owes much of its achievement to the many remarkable women – from first ladies to first police chiefs to first business school deans – who have championed an environment of excellence and opportunity at IU.


“Her story” recognizes the exceptional impact women have had on shaping IU’s success.

In recognition of the exceptional impact women have had on shaping Indiana University’s success — and in conjunction with the annual Women’s History Month — the IU Newsroom is showcasing 15 women (for 2015) who reflect the trailblazing spirit, innovative thinking and Hoosier pride that have come to define what it means to be a woman at IU.

“Her story” offers glimpses into the individual stories of these 15 women who are working across a wide spectrum of disciplines and professions central to the continued growth of the Bloomington campus. Together, they represent the arts and culture, academia and administration, teaching, research and creative thinking, student support and security, technology and more.

“Her story” also highlights the past accomplishments of the Hoosier women who paved a path for the next generation of brilliant minds who are making their own mark at IU and beyond.

Of course, members of the IU Newsroom team knew going into this project that it would be nearly impossible to showcase every woman, past and present, whose work is woven into the fabric of excellence at IU. Nevertheless, it was clear that the overall story that continues to be written by IU women was simply too powerful, enlightening and inspiring not to share.

In true IU fashion, new chapters of that story continue to be written every day. For now, though, we hope you enjoy interacting with “Her story” and taking pride in the women who are making a major difference through their day-to-day work here in Bloomington.

For the glory of cold IU!

Let’s get it out of the way. It’s freaking cold out there.

How cold is it? It’s so cold I’m having flashbacks to traipsing through a foot of snow to get to class at my old college campus in Siberia … err …  Storrs, Connecticut. I also remember gliding across a field so frozen solid the old Hartford Whalers hockey team could’ve called it home.

You’ve got to admire the resiliency of Indiana University Bloomington students, faculty and staff, who are bracing Jack Frost’s latest chilling offering in good spirited fun. Never daunted, tried and true, and all for the #gloryofcoldIU — they’re refusing to let the cold win out as they carry on to class, work and other activities. Of course, a little hot chocolate, hot soup and the latest campus bus tracker always helps.

But don’t take my word for it. See and read how some members of the Hoosier community are choosing to find the beauty, inspiration and glory in their beloved, but icy cold, campus.

Picking up good vibrations

Some of my earliest music memories involve the Beach Boys — making the three-hour trip down from Connecticut to the Jersey Shore with my surfer dad, singing along to “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Surfin’ Safari” and “I Get Around”; watching, as a 7-year-old, the famed July 4, 1980, concert in which the group performed in front of a half-million fans at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; and experiencing my first-ever live concert that same year at the Hartford Civic Center. I can still hear the hush that came over the crowd as Dennis Wilson, who would die tragically just a few years later, began to sing his classic cover of “You Are So Beautiful.”

The Beach Boys at the IU Jacobs School of Music. From L-R: Jeff Foskett, Bruce Johnston, Mike Love and Scott Totten.

The Beach Boys at the IU Jacobs School of Music, from left, Jeff Foskett, Bruce Johnston, Mike Love and Scott Totten.

As I grew older, I read just about everything I could about how Mike Love’s lyrics about surf, sun and fun, fun, fun beautifully complemented Brian Wilson’s majestic five-part harmonies. I dug out my dad’s old vinyl, beginning with greatest hits albums like “Endless Summer” and eventually gravitating to the genius of “Pet Sounds.” Like hardcore fans, I delighted in the arrival of the long-awaited “Smile” box set in 2011, and the following year’s 50th anniversary reunion tour, which featured founding members Love, Wilson and Al Jardine, along with later additions David Marks and Bruce Johnston.

So you could imagine the good vibrations I was feeling Sunday afternoon as I headed over to IU’s Jacobs School of Music, where students in senior lecturer Andy Hollinden’s “The Music of the Beach Boys” class braved the brisk Bloomington cold for a special event: a Q&A with Love, Johnston and their longtime Beach Boys tour mates Jeff Foskett and Scott Totten.

Over the course of 90 minutes, the Boys covered all types of topics, including their favorite songs to perform in concert (“California Girls” and “Good Vibrations” for Mike; “Warmth of the Sun” for Bruce), the thoughtful way they craft their concert set lists and the venues they most like playing (Royal Albert Hall, Sydney Opera House). They also discussed their friendly “competition” with the Beatles (Bruce: “There was no rivalry, just appreciation.”) and the changes in studio and touring technology that the teenage versions of themselves, who lugged their equipment to ballrooms across the Midwest, couldn’t have begun to imagine.

“The technology, the sound, the lights, all of it barely existed in the 1960s,” Love said.

Hollinden, known for his popular classes on rock ‘n’ roll legends Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix, began his Beach Boys course in 2012 while the group was celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Mike Love and Professor Andy Hollinden.

Mike Love and Andy Hollinden.

At the time he said, “To the casual listener of pop music, the Beach Boys conjures up images of surfing and cars and girls and California sunshine. And that’s all they know. They don’t realize that their music was incredibly sophisticated. Their musical maturity, artistic quality and production levels were, in America, unparalleled. The Beach Boys really were the chief rivals to the Beatles.”

Sunday night’s Beach Boys performance at IU Auditorium gave Hollinden’s students a special glimpse into what it’s like to be one of the most beloved bands in the world, to perform around 150 shows a year and to remain timeless, even as entirely new generations discover what made the Beach Boys so immensely popular when they burst onto the scene with their distinct vocal harmonies in 1961.

To illustrate the group’s ability to attract new fans and followers, Love told the story about a 10-year-old girl at a show in Kentucky whose favorite song was the classic car song and B-side “409.”

“It’s amazing how our songs can appeal, regardless of age,” he said.

Bruce Johnston and Mike Love of the Beach Boys.

Bruce Johnston and Mike Love of the Beach Boys.

For the college-age cohort, Love, Johnston, Foskett and Totten each extolled the virtues of becoming as knowledgeable as possible about the music business. “When I started, I didn’t know anything about publishing,” Love said, adding that both the Beach Boys and Beatles failed to retain publishing rights to their song catalog. “If you are serious about music, you should be knowledgeable about the music business.”

Though the class Q&A ended on a serious tone, it was clear that the music and making audiences happy mattered the most to the Beach Boys.

“It’s the audience response to our songs … the hobby became our profession, but it’s the appreciation of the people,” Love said. “[Our success] wouldn’t have happened unless there was an audience, a demand.”

Groundhog Day and the genius of IU students

This morning one of my much younger IU Newsroom colleagues asked me when I graduated from college, and when I answered “1994,” there was a brief moment when she looked like the groundhog who, earlier today, saw his shadow.

“Wow,” she said, “that’s over 20 years ago,” and suddenly I was the one who wanted to run back to his burrow.

Time has a way of passing quickly when you live and work in a college town like Bloomington. And yet looking on the sunny side on this dreary Groundhog Day, being part of such a vibrant, energetic, powerful place as IU Bloomington also keeps you feeling young.

I’ve written in this space before about how continually amazed I am by the people you stand next to in line for coffee every morning, many of whom, you come to find out, are world-renowned researchers and/or the best teachers around. Well, I can easily say the same thing about IU students, who, in their own right, are sometimes even more inspiring. Which brings me back to age and a question I repeatedly ask myself: How is it that so many 19- and 20- and 21-year-olds can be so intellectually curious, so actively engaged on campus and in their communities, so creative, so courageous and already so skillful with still so much time and learning ahead of them?

Being part of a university community also means that we often take for granted what goes on here day after day after day. So today, to celebrate Groundhog Day and the genius of IU students, I thought I’d shine a light on a few recent undergraduate-led projects, each of which reflects just how much IU students enrich the Btown campus and community and, in turn, how the experience they’re given here is preparing them for successes they’re certain to repeat over and over again.

IU Bloomington undergrad stories:

Two undergraduates from the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington have teamed up with Professor of Germanic Studies Fritz Breithaupt on research in the field of storytelling, including what we learn from stories, how we pass them along and why we preserve them.

IU Bloomington honors students in an “Intro to Psychological and Brain Sciences” class worked last year to build a palm sweat sensor device to measure the effects of various stimuli on the brain.

IU undergraduate Christina Moe is working in the Walczak Lab at IU Bloomington. Moe was recently featured in a LabTV segment in which she described her genetics research into how cells are supposed to properly divide and how she hopes her work will help identify treatments for cancer and other diseases where there are problems with cell division.

And, finally, students in IU Bloomington’s new Media School are taking a course in 3D cinematography, in which they’re learning how 3D film can significantly enhance the storytelling process and the impact it can have on building the professional portfolios of aspiring filmmakers.

Check out the new IU Bloomington YouTube channel for more videos about the Bloomington campus experience.

Year in Review: Top stories from 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, the IU Newsroom invites you to look back with us at some of the top stories at Indiana University Bloomington: national and international guests; new beginnings and historic milestones; great achievements from faculty, students and athletes; and a focus on the future as IU approaches its bicentennial.

“Great universities, like Indiana University, are not narrowly focused,” IU President Michael A. McRobbie said during his annual State of the University address.

McRobbie stressed IU’s commitment to research, scholarly excellence and offering a broad scope of instruction. He reaffirmed the commitment to keeping a high-quality education attainable and increasing international ties. “Great universities, like Indiana University, are expected to endure.”

Here are just a few highlights from 2014:



Interested in exploring the highlighted stories further? Read more below:

Bicentennial Strategic Plan

New IU research and discovery

Inaugurations and dedications

International IU


Star power

IU’s best and brightest

Inclusive IU

Athletic excellence

Forbes’ Best Public Colleges 2014


Living B1G and what it means to be a Hoosier

Beginning this month and throughout the winter and spring, viewers of Big Ten Network basketball and other sports programming will be given a special glimpse into the work being done by IU Bloomington students to establish a more caring culture on campus.

We’ve bantered about Culture of Care in this blog before, but its importance — and the time, energy and dedication this initiative entails —  make it well worth repeating. And as the students who spearhead the initiative can attest to, a significant part of creating a community in which mutual respect, compassion and support are part of the norm is growing greater awareness and understanding of what it means to be a student and, more specifically, a Hoosier student.

As Culture of Care co-chair Patrick Holbrook says in the new Big Ten Network “LiveB1G” vignette featured above, “Being a Hoosier needs to mean more than just being a student and wearing the IU logo on your chest. It should mean being a person who cares for others.”

The new vignette follows up on an earlier BTN story on Culture of Care, which will run throughout the year on the network’s LiveB1G website. The site showcases Big Ten students, faculty and alumni making a positive difference in their communities and throughout the world.