All abuzz about Jonathan Banks

For a guy who’s built a career in film and on TV for playing sinister types and villains, including Mike Ehrmantraut on the award-winning TV drama “Breaking Bad,” Jonathan Banks seemed to have no trouble embracing the part of happy homecomer during a whirlwind visit to IU Bloomington last week.

Breaking Bad actor Jonathan Banks mugs in front of a video camera follwing the ceremony to formally dedicate IU's new Media School.

Actor Jonathan Banks mugs in front of a video camera following the ceremony to formally dedicate IU’s new Media School.

Best known for his memorable roles in “Breaking Bad,” “Community” and “Wiseguy,” Banks got his start in acting while a student in Btown in the 1960s. At the time, he appeared in a production of “Threepenny Opera” with fellow IU alumnus Kevin Kline, who was here just a few weeks ago.

If it seemed like Banks was everywhere during his return trip home, which happened to coincide with IU’s 2014 Homecoming celebration, that’s because he was. Speaking at the inauguration of the new Media School and dedication of a new sculpture of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ernie Pyle. Meeting with IU President Michael A. McRobbie. Conducting a master class with IU theater students. Riding with his daughter in the annual homecoming parade. Cheering on the Hoosier football squad. Delivering an inspiring talk at IU Cinema. Recording a new public service announcement. Posing for pictures with IU students thrilled to be in the presence of such an accomplished actor, who was anything but the bad guy he frequently plays on screen.

Everywhere he went he was warm and gracious, but not unwilling to spread a little tough love here and there, like when he implored students to watch out for the dangers of alcohol and talked passionately and forcefully about the need to care for and respect one another.

“Jonathan’s main motivation to return this week is to connect with theater students, both at the graduate and undergraduate level,” Jon Vickers, director of the IU Cinema, said prior to Banks’ visit. “He has told me several times how important his time here at IU was to him. He feels that he may be able to offer the students some wisdom collected from his 40-plus years in the business.”

Banks didn’t disappoint. And his message, delivered in his unmistakable, serious, deep-throated voice, couldn’t have been lost on anyone: “Be kind, don’t lie.”

Here’s hoping Banks will be true to his own word and bring more of his own kindness back to Btown very soon.

In the meantime, here’s a sampling of various tweets chronicling Banks’ memorable and inspiring homecoming.

King Kevin returns

Don’t call him stupid. Call him Dr. Kevin Kline.

The man who brought us the clueless criminal Otto from “A Fish Called Wanda” and has famously portrayed Shakespearean kings, pirate kings and presidents, among many other classic characters of the stage and screen, made a triumphant return to Indiana University Bloomington this afternoon, earning standing applause for a new honor to accompany his Oscar and two Tony Awards.

Kevin Kline displays his newest honor -- an honorary doctorate from Indiana University.

Kevin Kline displays his newest honor — an honorary doctorate from Indiana University.

“It all did start here,” Kline said upon receiving an honorary doctoral degree from his alma mater and the place where he launched a remarkable acting career still going strong in its fifth decade.

That was just one of several memorable lines the living legend shared during his post-degree conferral Q&A session with Jonathan Michaelsen, chair of the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance, who led the audience through a retrospective of Kline’s most well known (and a few lesser known) roles and allowed Kline to reminisce fondly about his days as an IU student. 

Of note, Kline said:

  • “The American Olivier,” as he was famously dubbed by New York Times theater critic Frank Rich, “hated” Shakespeare in high school. Then he took a Shakespeare class at IU, where he became fascinated by the Bard and learned to really focus on the true meaning behind Shakespeare’s lofty language.
  • He got his acting start in the “small” T300 classroom, located in the University Theatre Building.
  • As a student, he was inclined to mimic the masters, asking himself how actors like Marlon Brando or Jimmy Stewart would approach a particular role. While studying at IU, he quickly learned how to be the “author of your own work.”
  • Improv contributed to the success of “A Fish Called Wanda,” for which he won the 1988 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. As an IU student, he honed his improvisational talent while performing sketches at the Owl, a one-time Btown coffee shop, and at the neighboring Brown County Playhouse. (Kline will appear at a special screening of “Wanda” this evening at IU Cinema.)

Kline will remain in his old stomping grounds tomorrow for a master class with IU theater students. He’ll also get to spend time with his friend and fellow actor, IU Professor Robby Benson, who was instrumental in bringing Kline back to Btown. Then it’s on to yet another challenge.

But he won’t be able to leave IU too far behind. In a few weeks, Kline will begin filming a new movie, starring opposite another recent IU honorary degree recipient: Dr. Meryl Streep.

A best value

For the second straight year, Indiana University Bloomington has been recognized by Washington Monthly for being one of the nation’s top values in higher education.

In its 2014 “Best Bang for the Buck” rankings, which are based on the economic value students receive per dollar, the non-profit publication that covers Beltway politics and government, culture and media ranked IU Bloomington eighth among larger national universities and 20th among the 1,540 universities and colleges it reviewed. Among larger national universities, IU Bloomington was once again tops in the Big Ten, followed by Rutgers University (14) and Purdue University (19).

IU Bloomington has once again been named a best value by Washington Monthly magazine.

IU Bloomington has once again been named a best value by Washington Monthly magazine.

While rankings only reflect part of the overall college experience, it’s satisfying to see such recognition for IU’s commitment to keeping a quality education affordable, which includes recent efforts like the new “Finish in Four” program and several initiatives designed to help keep tuition costs low and control student debt levels.

The rankings appear in the magazine’s September/October issue. Go here to read more about the methodology behind and insights into the rankings.

Making a caring culture the “norm”

Guest post courtesy of IU Bloomington student Rachel Green, who is a senior advisor to Culture of Care

College is a time for learning, exploration and self-discovery, for forging new and lasting friendship, for developing strong mentoring relationships — and it’s often a time for partying and late-night adventures.

Rachel Green has been involved with IU's Culture of Care as a director, co-chief and now senior advisor.

Rachel Green has been involved with IU’s Culture of Care as a director, co-chief and now senior advisor.

Often, when students leave for college, they think “Freedom! Finally!” now that parents and guardians are no longer watching over them. Although college is a time for learning, navigating these new freedoms can be challenging.

During my experience at IU, I’ve seen a number of students struggle for different reasons. Some of my fellow students have abused alcohol to the point of getting so sick I’ve had to hold their hair back as they puked onto the concrete. Others have struggled with anxiety, depression, overwhelming sadness or alcohol abuse. I’ve also personally seen how sexual violence has taken a toll on someone’s emotional well-being and ability to be successful at school.

The student founders of the Culture of Care program felt that these experiences shouldn’t be considered normal. They created Culture of Care Week at IU in the spring of 2012 to raise awareness about issues related to mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual assault and discrimination, with the overarching message to students to help one another. To not be idle bystanders. To intervene on behalf of one another.

In short, the goal of Culture of Care is to engage students to create a safer IU Bloomington community.

Over the past year and a half, Culture of Care has grown into a campus-wide, student-led, staff-supported initiative housed under IU Student Association Special Projects. We have four focus areas: sexual well-being; drug and alcohol awareness; respect; and mental health awareness. Our goal is to connect students to the multitude of on-campus resources available and to spread awareness about our four focus areas through a speaker series, workshops, training through our Step Up IU Bystander Intervention Program and our annual Culture of Care Week. We also maintain visibility on campus by handing out information at highly populated areas on campus.

The Culture of Care vision is to create a campus where students have the courage to care about one another.

Transforming the culture through the “courage to care”

I have been involved with Culture of Care since the fall of 2012 as a director, co-chief and now senior advisor. Through my experience leading Culture of Care, I have learned that the hardest challenge facing this organization as well as IU Bloomington and college campuses as a whole is the slow nature of culture change and the simultaneous necessity of culture change if we want to live in a healthy, safe, caring and productive society.

We live in a world where, when a party guest has drunk so much that she becomes physically ill all over the sidewalk, other party guests excuse her behavior saying, “Everyone has those days.” What kind of culture is that, where drinking to the point of physical illness is a normal and acceptable way to socialize on a weekend?

To me, it is terrifying that it’s acceptable for “everyone” to have those days. Those days are dangerous! Those days can result in serious injury or death! Those days should not be normal.

This is a cultural issue that spans generations of Americans. It cannot and will not be fixed in a few years with a few thousand T-shirts handed out with information at tables across campus. The students who started Culture of Care, the leaders currently on campus, the freshmen who have just arrived — none of them will likely see a total transformation of IU’s culture.

It will be a gradual, slow process. We’re taking steps in the right direction by talking to students face-to-face about bystander intervention; explaining what mental health stigma is and how to reduce it; providing clear definitions of consent; and talking with students about real-life situations so they can treat their sexual partners with respect. Our goal is to educate students with information about the resources and help available to them on campus. If we can create a culture where the “norm” is for students to intervene when they see someone in need, we can work to address the root cultural problems that condone dangerous binge drinking, violent and aggressive sexual behavior, and discrimination against people because of their race, sexual orientation or religion.

Culture of Care is taking steps to engage students in creating a safer environment, one in which students have the courage to care. We want students to feel empowered to act when they see another in need.

These steps are new on such a large scale and with such widespread administrative support for a student-led organization, but they are not new for IU. The university has been committed to providing a safe, rewarding campus atmosphere for students for years. What makes Culture of Care unique now is the level of collaboration and coordination among different entities across campus. I am so incredibly proud and grateful to be a student at IU during this critical point in time and to be able to offer my time and passion to help make IU an even better place for students for years to come.

Learn more

Those interested in learning more about Culture of Care should check out our website at We also have a Facebook and Twitter. Please email if you have any questions or want to get involved:

Student groups, professors, student organization leaders can request a Culture of Care – Step UP! IU bystander intervention training to teach students who to step up and help intervene. Request a presentation here.

Rolling out the Big Red carpet

We’re still basking in the glow of Move In Day here at IU Bloomington and the fun, energy and excitement that comes with welcoming all of our new and returning students, their families and their loved ones to campus. As this video, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood IU Newsroom attests to, there truly is nothing like a warm Hoosier welcome to IU’s best and brightest.

A big Btown welcome!

It’s hard to believe it’s back-to-school time in Bloomington – that time of year when those of us who stick around during the quiet summer months start to gear up for the impending onslaught of students arriving on campus, busier streets and sidewalks, louder, more crowded restaurants and, yes, fewer parking spaces.

I admit, this is that time when I start pining for a few more weeks of summer to bask in that parking spot right behind my office building and the short line for my coffee and bagel at the Bloomington Bagel Company.

And then it happens: Smiling students and their families snapping selfies at the Sample Gates. Incoming freshmen happily meeting one another for the very first time. The looks on the faces of those students’ family members – a unique combination of pride, happiness and anxiousness. A parent stopping to comment on the stunning beauty of the Bloomington campus.

For us longtime IU Btown folks who’ve experienced more than a few back-to-school extravaganzas, it’s easy to forget what a special and momentous time this truly is for IU students and their families and loved ones.

Here in the IU Newsroom, we talk a good deal about what it means to our students to be joining (or rejoining) the IU community and the power of being part of its proud traditions. Many of us are alums who have fond memories of our days spent as students. Some of us have seen our own children follow in our footsteps or look forward to a time when they will.

Also not to be overlooked is the time and energy that dedicated IU Bloomington staff put into welcoming the campus’s new and returning students and the programs that have been carefully constructed to enable IU students to better connect with the people, places and services that can ensure a positive overall college experience. Indeed, the events and activities that make up IU Bloomington’s “Welcome Week” – including popular traditions like Freshman Induction, which, remarkably, began 80 years ago; CultureFest, a celebration of the many cultures represented at IU; and Traditions and Spirit of IU – have become vital components of a campus culture that emphasizes caring and community, engagement, personal responsibility, safety and Hoosier spirit.

Says Melanie Payne, senior associate director of IU’s First Year Experience Programs and director of New Student Orientation, “Welcome Week is more than a schedule of events. By going to events of Welcome Week – academic, social, large, small, required and optional – they are meeting people, learning the campus and exploring what is here to help them be successful as Hoosiers.”

While popular traditions like Freshman Induction, which will formally welcome the class of 2018, will continue this year, Welcome Week also will weave in messages and activities highlighting efforts related to IU Bloomington’s Culture of Care, a student- and staff-led initiative to foster greater care and awareness in the areas of sexual well-being, drug and alcohol usage, mental health and respect.

“Building upon messages from New Student Orientation of safety, community, personal responsibility and the Indiana Promise, we want our newest Hoosiers to understand they are part of a community that takes care of one another,” Payne says. “We hope to help them to be compassionate, engaged, aware members of the IU and Bloomington community by connecting with each other and their surroundings.”

As the Bloomington Herald-Times reported today, IU’s new international students are being made to feel at home through orientation and transition activities organized by the Office of International Services, First Year Experiences and Residential Programs and Services. They and other new students from Indiana and around the nation will have the opportunity to further acquaint themselves with IU through the popular RecFest, job fairs, open houses, Taste of the IMU (Indiana Memorial Union), academic advising opportunities, IU Guides support, IUBeginnings trips and numerous fun events, including late-night movies and shopping trips and the annual Welcome Week concert. A new social media contest even asks students to upload their favorite move-in images to win prizes.

IU’s newest students are already giving back, too. This year’s incoming class started its giving spirit at New Student Orientation by collectively donating 3,085 pounds of food to Hoosier Hills Food Bank to help feed the area’s hungry. What’s more, IU’s orientation staff expect that hundreds of new Hoosiers, who will participate in New Student Service Day, will donate their time to the Bloomington community, working with local agencies, to serve others in many different ways.

All in all, the events and activities of Welcome Week, which officially begins Wednesday, Aug. 20, are enough to excite even longtime Hoosiers like myself and infuse them with some serious IU pride.

A complete Welcome Week schedule is available online.

Fond memories and excitement over a new era in journalism excellence at IU

Guest post courtesy of Mark Land, IU associate vice president of public affairs and government relations and adjunct lecturer of journalism.

A part of my educational history died today.

I’m a proud graduate of the IU School of Journalism (Class of ’85), which provided the foundation for most everything I have achieved in my career and more importantly is where I met the girl of my dreams.

Some of my fondest memories as an IU student are housed in Ernie Pyle Hall where I spent many an hour as a reporter and editor of the Indiana Daily Student, which was then – like today – one of the very best student newspapers in the country and where I learned from professors who left a lasting impression on my journalistic sensibilities.

But rather than mourn the passing of the IU School of Journalism, I’m choosing to look with excitement at seeing it reincarnated as a central piece of the new IU Media School.

IU journalism faculty celebrated past successes and the beginning of the new Media School on Monday, June 30. From L-R: Cleveland Wilhoit, David Nord, Trevor Brown, Tom French and David Weaver.

IU journalism faculty celebrated past successes and the beginning of the new Media School on Monday, June 30. From L-R: Cleveland Wilhoit, David Nord, Trevor Brown, Tom French and David Weaver.

Now, in my current position I don’t exactly get paid to take positions in opposition to university decisions. In this case, though, I honestly would be excited even if I was an arm’s length observer to IU’s transition from stand-alone journalism school to a more integrated communications school that is reflective of the way people create and consume content in today’s digital society.

This may still be a minority opinion among my fellow alums, and certainly a vocal contingent has shared its concerns for the feared loss of identity or independence for the school – and even a bit of nostalgia over moving out of Ernie Pyle Hall, which to call it a quaint home would be a compliment.

But consider this: For most of its storied century of history, the journalism program at IU existed not as an independent school, but rather as a department. In fact, the program had only been elevated to school status for less than a decade when I entered it in the early 1980s.

By that time, however, the program already produced a stable of journalistic legends from Nelson Poynter to James Polk to, of course, the legendary Pyle. Many more leaders in the field, including many still active today as working journalists, academics and public relations professionals, came through the program after it was elevated to school status.

Structure has never defined excellence when it comes to journalism education at IU, but change is a natural part of life, a fact that journalists have experienced first hand all too well over the past decade.

The legendary Ernie Pyle, reporting during World War II.

The legendary Ernie Pyle, reporting during World War II.

The sweeping changes in the delivery of news and the consumption preferences of audiences brought on by rapid technological change have turned the journalistic business model on its head by completely eliminating the traditional news cycle and greatly expanding the competition for consumers’ eyes and ears. They’ve also required journalists to be writers, videographers, web producers and more – often on a single story.

What hasn’t changed, however, is the need to produce graduates that understand what makes for a good story, that possess a keen eye for detail and an ear for language, that are steadfastly commitment to accuracy and that respect the enormous responsibility that comes with being a journalist.

Nothing about the School of Journalism’s move to the Media School affects the core principles that have guided the university’s teaching of journalism for more than a century. Instead, students will now be grounded in journalistic fundamentals as part of a school that offers significantly greater flexibility and choice when it comes to a communications curriculum.

And just as journalism students will benefit from access to the best of our current telecommunications and communication and culture curriculum – not to mention entirely new course offerings – they eventually will pursue their education in state of the art facilities in Franklin Hall.

J. Irwin Miller, business visionary and the longtime legendary chairman of another great Hoosier institution, Cummins Inc., once famously said “reorganization is organization.” In evolutionary terms, I believe the concept is “adapt or die.”

Rather than cry over the end of an era, I’d rather raise a glass and toast the IU School of Journalism for a good run and offer a hearty welcome to the Media School, which – if history is a guide – will make all of us at IU very proud.

Growing global partnerships

Guest post courtesy of Jennifer Piurek, director of communications and special projects, IU Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.

During Lauren Robel’s trip to Taiwan in May — her third official Indiana University international visit in a six-month period — IU Bloomington’s Provost and Executive Vice President caught a glimpse into a fresh world of possibilities for IU students, particularly through partnerships with National Taiwan University and National Chiao Tung University.

Lauren Robel

Lauren Robel

Robel was invited to Taiwan as a guest of the Ministry of Education. There, she met with ministry officials, alumni and university partners, and presented a talk on IU’s new academic directions.

“Everywhere I went, I saw more opportunities to help IU students to become globally engaged citizens,” Robel said. One of the most exciting parts of the trip: discussions with the Ministry of Education about additional opportunities for bidirectional student exchange programs. “Through these programs, both sets of students will be able to make incredibly valuable connections with professors and peers from another culture while experiencing immersion in that culture.”

At the request of the Ministry of Education, Robel gave a talk on Indiana University’s New Academic Directions initiative at the Chinese Culture University in Taipei. She attended a dinner hosted by CCU Professor of Political Science Spencer Yang, who is the chair of the Taiwan Alumni Club.

The Taiwan visit followed Robel’s trips to Seoul and Shanghai in March and to Korea in December 2013. All of these trips support her campus vision for even greater international connections that increase opportunities for IU students to both study abroad and take part in overseas service projects.

Indiana University already has strong connections to Taiwan; during the past academic year, over 200 Taiwanese students were enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs at IU, most on the Bloomington campus.

IU’s Maurer School of Law has active partnerships with National Taiwan University and National Chiao Tung University. Mark Janis, the Robert A. Lucas Chair of Law and director of the Center for Intellectual Property Research, recently visited NTU and is currently teaching an advanced IP course at NCTU via videoconferencing. Robel met with officials from both universities and discussed the possibility of expanding existing partnerships to include other areas and schools.

Provost Robel with members of the Taiwanese Ministry of Education.

Provost Robel with members of the Taiwanese Ministry of Education.

Robel also had a special opportunity to visit National Taipei University of the Arts, the institution with the longest history of any art institution in Taiwan. She toured the university’s facilities with President Chyi-Wen Yang, a graduate of the IU Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance in the College of Arts and Sciences. A number of accomplished directors have graduated from NTUA, including Oscar Award-winning director Ang Lee.

President Yang and Dean of Music Hwei-Jin Liu visited the Bloomington campus several years ago, and a number of NTUA students have studied in the Jacobs School of Music in recent years.

Provost Robel’s official visit to Taiwan coincided with Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie’s trip to Japan, China, Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong.

Following her time in Taiwan, Robel traveled to Singapore, where she attended a ceremony in which McRobbie presented the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion to Maurer School of Law alumnus and former U.S. ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, David Carden. While in Beijing, McRobbie dedicated IU’s second international gateway facility.

During her trip, Robel also met with IU Bloomington alumnus Yu-Chi Wang, Minister of the Mainland Affairs Council. Minister Wang is a graduate of the Maurer School of Law and serves as the political point person for cross-strait affairs with mainland China. He previously served as spokesman for President Ma Ying-jeou and as senior advisor on Taiwan’s National Security Council.

President McRobbie and Provost Robel have both made multiple official visits in recent years to Southeast Asia, a region of great strategic importance to Indiana University.

“It’s an honor to represent IU abroad,” Robel said. “These trips serve as a powerful reminder of this university’s ability to support the overseas engagement that leads our graduates to greater understanding of the world, richer visions of the possibilities for their lives and careers, and closer ties to IU.”

Mini University provides a learning vacation for students of all ages

Guest post courtesy of IU Newsroom colleague Jaclyn Lansbery:

As a recent graduate, I am not ready to jump back into the classroom anytime soon. But give me a few years, and I’ll start to miss the newness that comes with the first week of the semester – finding your “spot” in the classroom, feeling out your professor’s approach to grading and starting fresh with a new group of people.

For those who want to experience that first-week rush, the IU Alumni Association and IU Lifelong Learning are sponsoring the 43rd Mini University, giving people of all ages and backgrounds a chance to take five days of classes taught by IU faculty, right here on the beautiful Bloomington campus.

Participants from the 2013 Mini University on the IU Bloomington campus.

Participants from the 2013 Mini University on the IU Bloomington campus.

From June 9 to 13, registered participants can take courses in a variety of topics: arts; business and technology; education, health and human development; humanities; international affairs; and science.

Participants will also be able to mingle with fellow classmates while attending a picnic, a faculty reception at the university president’s house on campus, a film at the IU Cinema, a play at the Wells-Metz Theatre and an informal graduation ceremony at the end of the week.

“Mini University is a summer-learning oasis,” said Jeanne Madison, IU Lifelong Learning director of Mini University. “Hundreds of adults will immerse themselves in the intellectually stimulating teachings of the finest faculty at IU, gaining emerging knowledge on topics of domestic and international importance, the arts, and social and natural sciences. Participants form lasting friendships at Mini University as they foster their joy for learning with their peers and the IU Bloomington community.”

Read more…

One-on-one with Robby Benson

This is a pretty amazing time in Btown — the IU baseball team made it back-to-back Big Ten regular season titles, underwater science researchers at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington are investigating the recent potential discovery of Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria, the Kelley School of Business made it to the big Nasdaq screen in New York City’s Times Square and three IU Bloomington faculty members made it to the silver screen at the Festival de Cannes with their short film about the ways humans have spread information throughout history, Humanexus.

All of this is incredibly exciting. But if you really want to get people going, just mention that Robby Benson is here. More and more, it’s becoming less and less of a secret that the veteran film and TV actor, director, producer and educator is on campus, working with aspiring IU filmmaking students and rapidly raising the visibility of film production and study on the Bloomington campus.

I recently had a chance to meet Benson, a professor of practice in the Department of Telecommunications, soon to be part of the new IU Media School, and it’s clear he has big plans for IU Bloomington, including making the campus one of the nation’s premier destinations for students who want to get into film. In the meantime, his students just finished more than nine months of film production work, which led to an eventful night on yet another big screen — that of the IU Cinema.

Check out the video above, shot and produced by Inside IU and IU Newsroom intern Matt Bloom.