Editor’s Note: This piece also was published in the latest issue of Inside IU, which was distributed March 30.
The 60 members of the 38th Infantry Division of the Indiana National Guard arrived at their current deployment destination on New Year’s Eve, trading Midwestern winter chill for the balmy breezes and blinding sun of the Caribbean.
Tropical setting aside, the members of the 38th Division most certainly aren’t on vacation at the U.S. Naval base in Cuba. They’re three months into a nine-month deployment as part of the U.S. military’s Joint Task Force, a 2,000-soldier operation comprising all branches of the military that is dedicated to the “safe, humane, legal and transparent care and custody of detainees” charged with war crimes against the United States.
The Joint Task Force also supports the work of the Office of Military Commissions, which investigates and prosecutes those charged with war crimes. Currently, 91 detainees are housed at Guantanamo Bay. Included in those numbers are the “9/11 Five” who have been charged with plotting the most devastating terror attacks ever carried out on U.S. soil.
Many of the Indiana Guard troops, like their leader Lt. Col. James Babbitt (a Michigan native who has found a military home in the Indiana Guard), are on their third – or even fourth – deployment.
Despite the potential for danger and the sacrifice inherent in all Guard deployments, such as being away from family, friends and career for up to a year at a time, Babbitt and his fellow soldiers, many of whom have served in combat zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq, aren’t complaining about their latest duty.
“This isn’t the kind of place you should be sent on you first deployment, because then you’ll be spoiled forever,” laughs Babbitt.
Besides, these folks aren’t the complaining type, regardless the circumstances.
Bringing a taste to IU to Hoosiers in Cuba
The 38th Division is the first Indiana National Guard unit to serve as part of the Joint Task Force operation at Guantanamo Bay and this deployment is the first of two to be made by the division. As you might expect, the unit has a decidedly Hoosier flavor to it, which made the university’s outreach trip last weekend a natural fit.
In order to provide our troops with a taste of home, Indiana University’s Vice President for Government Relations Mike Sample arranged to have some IU athletic gear sent to the members serving at Guantanamo Bay.
With the help of IU Director of Athletics Fred Glass, Sample gathered enough basketball practice jerseys, shorts and water bottles to outfit the entire unit, allowing it show their Hoosier pride while competing in the myriad intramural sports leagues on the base. A couple of IU flags and two Purdue jerseys (just to be fair to our friends up north) rounded out the care package.
To ensure safe delivery of the goods – and to personally thank our military personnel for their service – Sample and I traveled to Guantanamo Bay to spend a long weekend as guests of Lt. Col. Babbitt and the members of the 38th. The trip was educational, entertaining and, at times sobering, and left an impression that is certain to last.
While there, we toured the base facilities and operations, ranging from a walk-through of Camp X-Ray, the temporary detention facility set up in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to a visit to Camp Justice, the site of the Commission hearings, which are being observed by a group of IU McKinney School of Law students, faculty and staff as part of the school’s program in international human rights. In fact, the next McKinney School representative is due to arrive the week of April 4 to observe the latest round of Commission hearings.
This being an IU crowd – and this being NCAA tournament time – we were treated to a “watch party” for IU’s game against North Carolina, and while the result wasn’t what we had hoped the game provided a welcome reminder of home for all of us. We also were privileged to see the IU flag, signed by members of the 38th, flown over Camp Justice for a day as a sign of respect for the university’s support for the Indiana Guard’s work, as well as that of our law students observing the Commission hearings.
True citizen soldiers
Perhaps most interesting, however, was learning the personal stories of many of our Guard soldiers, including several with IU degrees. Back home, the Guard members work as police detectives, sales and operations managers, judges, lawyers – even a railroad engineer – and more. They range in age from 20 to early 50s, and nearly all have families at home including one young soldier from Bloomington who has an infant son.
At Guantanamo Bay, their duties cover all aspects of operational support for the Joint Task Force headquarters, including detention facility operations, support operations, perimeter security, Commission processes, legal support, distinguished visitors and administrative duties.
It’s a diverse group united by a common mission to serve their country, regardless the circumstances or politics. To a man and woman, the members of the 38th we met were proud of their work and extremely thankful of the modest gesture of support offered by IU.
In fact, giving thanks was a recurring theme of the weekend, with Vice President Sample and I offering our gratitude on behalf of the university to the Guard members for their important work, even as we were repeatedly being thanked by the soldiers for making the trip down.
Having the last word has its advantages, so I’ll end with this: To all our new friends at the 38th Infantry Division the Indiana National Guard, the privilege was all ours.
It’s beautiful when the planets align and a plan comes together just like you had dared to hope it would – or maybe even a little bit better than you dreamed. And when it happens, it’s worth sharing the moment with as many people as you can.
Indiana University, our heath care partner Indiana University Heath and the city of Bloomington had one of those days today.
The university and health care system hosted an event this morning to share the news that IU Health would locate its Bloomington hospital on the IU Bloomington campus as part of a regional academic health care campus that will be unlike much of anything seen in the country.
Before I get into why this is possibly a historic day for all involved, a little recent history. IU Health Bloomington Hospital currently is located in downtown Bloomington, but the aging facility is in need of a replacement to reflect the realities of today’s medical care that place a much greater emphasis on outpatient treatment. As much as many in the community would like to see the current facility renovated, the hospital board has determined that isn’t feasible for a number of reasons.
The hospital appeared headed to a site outside the Bloomington city limits on land that it owns, until IU President Michael McRobbie, who is a member of the corporate board of directors at IU Health, raised the prospect of a partnership between the university and hospital. Sometimes an idea makes so much sense you don’t need to spend years agonizing over it. In this case, an agreement in principle was reached in just a few months.
Under the agreement announced today, IU Health Bloomington Hospital will lease land near the IU Technology Park at a favorable rate and build a new hospital. At the same time, IU will build a health education building next to the hospital that will give the campus much-needed room to grow programs such as nursing, medical education, speech and hearing therapies and social work.
Many of these disciplines turn away qualified students for lack of space, a problem that will be adressed with this plan. In addition, students will benefit from increased lab and simulation space as well as greater opportunities to work with practicing physicians who will be located literally next door.
The city of Bloomington wins by keeping its hospital in the city limits in a location that is easily accessible by roadways and public transit. What’s more, the site offers plenty of room to grow to eventually make room for the medical offices and labs that inevitably locate near a major hospital.
Academic heath centers aren’t a new concept. What’s different here, though, is the coming together of two independent institutions to partner around a shared vision. Typically, academic heath centers exist where the university also is sole owner of an affiliated hospital system, which is not the case with IU Health.
A lot of work went into today’s announcement, which IU Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel called a “win-win-win” at this morning’s unveiling. Much more work remains over the next few years to turn this shared commitment into a reality. The true impact of today’s announcement, however, may be best felt a decade or more down the road as the campus matures and realizes its full potential to serve students and improve the health outcomes of the entire region.
For now, though, there is plenty to celebrate. After all, it’s beautiful when a plan falls into place.
To view today’s event, which features remarks from leadership across IU, IU Health and the city of Bloomington, click here.
Sometimes, seemingly small gestures can have hugely positive consequences.
Take, for instance, IU’s decision in late 2012 to begin sending students who had taken out student loans a letter twice a year updating them on how much they owed and what their repayment schedule would be. Seems simple, right?
Simply powerful beyond anyone’s expectations, it turns out. This gesture of providing power through information is a central part of IU’s student financial wellness program, launched in 2012 to help students get a better handle on their finances.
The decision to send these letters — along with the creation of a financial literacy website, peer-to-peer financial counseling, free financial management courses and more — helped lead to a 12 percent decrease in student loans taken out by IU students in a single year. Put another way, that’s $31 million our students won’t be paying off — with interest — for years after they graduate.
IU’s MoneySmarts program, run by the university’s Office of Financial Literacy, has received some richly deserved media attention for its efforts, most notably the eye-catching reduction in student loan debt — including mentions in Bloomberg Businessweek and The Atlantic magazines. And this just in: University Business Magazine, a leading higher education news outlet, has named IU’s MoneySmarts program as one of 11 Models of Excellence for the current academic year. (Here’s the IU press release on the honor.)
Winning awards and being slapped on the back is all well and good, but the real satisfaction comes in helping our students succeed. The early returns on our financial literacy programs have been positive, but the office has much more planned, starting with hosting the National Summit on College Financial Wellness at IU Bloomington this summer.
Stay tuned for more on the Office of Financial Literacy and the MoneySmarts program as both continue to grow and serve our students in new and innovative ways. Until then, check out the latest MoneySmarts podcast on how to get the most out of your college degree — or as we like to say “how not to move back in with your parents.”
Universities are among our oldest continuously surviving institutions, both in the United States and around the world. In some cases, U.S. universities pre-date the states in which they are located.
In many others – including Indiana University, which will celebrate its bicentennial in 2020 just four years after the state of Indiana marks the same milestone – the historical timelines of higher education institutions virtually mirror those of their home states.
In other words, the genius of universities is that they were designed to endure. And to endure means to adapt. To changing technology and changing socioeconomic conditions. To the shifting cultural tides that sweep over the landscape. And most recently, to the globalization of virtually every aspect of life as we know it today.
A common misconception among critics of higher education is that these entrenched institutions are reluctant to change with the times, content instead to hold on for dear life to the time-treasured traditions of the “ivory tower.” The reality at places such as Indiana University is quite different.
Want proof? Consider that in the last three years alone, IU has created new or reimagined schools in disciplines as disparate as international studies, public health, information sciences and media-relate studies. Or that IU has become a model for lowering student debt and controlling college costs – both by becoming more efficient in how it operates and by helping students make more informed decisions on their borrowing. Or that IU continues to invest in facilities and infrastructure that will provide a world-class learning environment for generations to come.
We’re not done, either.
As part of IU’s ongoing work to provide a relevant college experience for our students and continue to serve as an economic and intellectual powerhouse for the state of Indiana, the university has created an ambitious blueprint for improvements to be made over the next five years – work that will culminate with IU’s bicentennial in the 2019-2020 academic year.
IU’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan builds on much of our recent work to strengthen the student experience and create degree programs that reflect the realities of today’s global society. It contains eight broad initiatives that, when complete, will touch virtually every aspect of IU’s mission.
The plan, created with extensive input from IU faculty and staff as well as the public, was approved by the Board of Trustees in December. The strategic plan website, which offers details on the bicentennial plan as well as links to much of the underlying work, is now live and worth a view if you want to get a good idea of where IU is headed over the next five years.
Change is hard, but necessary, and IU is committed to the type of change necessary to retain its standing as one of the premiere public universities in the country. And while the methods will evolve over time, our fundamental values of teaching, research and service remain at the core of everything we do.
Happy reading, and as a bonus check out this terrific video below produced by our marketing team that gives you a sense of where we’ve been and where we are going.