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Last modified: Friday, November 30, 2007

Q&A with IU President McRobbie and University of Queensland

EDITORS: Indiana University President Michael McRobbie answered several questions posed to him by his alma mater, the University of Queensland in Australia, which will present him with an honorary doctorate on Monday (Dec. 3). The following are his answers to those questions.

Q: Receiving an honorary doctorate from your alma mater must be a pleasant surprise. How has it made you reflect on your years at UQ, and on those since?

McRobbie: I am very grateful to the University of Queensland for igniting my lifelong passion for learning and discovery. This honorary doctorate comes as a great surprise, and it has given me another opportunity to reflect fondly on my years as an undergraduate. Those years provided me with a strong academic foundation from which to grow personally and professionally. They also opened my mind to the great potential that arises when we pursue knowledge in its many and varied forms.

Q: The improvement of IT infrastructure has been one of your biggest achievements at Indiana thus far. How important is it for universities to successfully integrate IT into their research, learning and teaching?

McRobbie: IT is absolutely fundamental to research, learning and teaching in every academic field, from anthropology to zoology. A university's core technological systems allow its faculty to make important and far-reaching discoveries in the sciences, in the arts and humanities, and in nearly every other area of research and scholarship. A university's ability to attract and retain research faculty will also depend, in large part, on its ability to support its IT infrastructure. Students, too, now demand access to a 21st-century education. They expect their IT environments to be contemporary and flexible, ready to change from one generation of students to the next. The great universities of the future will be those with great IT.

Q: Engineering, physical sciences and architecture are among UQ's most rapidly expanding disciplines. What is your advice for the graduates who will be in attendance at the ceremony?

McRobbie: A great strength of universities is that they offer a healthy balance of new and traditional disciplines that expose students to the full range of human knowledge. Those disciplines encompass the life, physical and social sciences, as well as the arts and humanities. Today's graduates have acquired the knowledge and experiences necessary to live, work and thrive in an increasingly global marketplace. By continuing to push the frontiers of knowledge, seek out diverse perspectives and opinions, and engage in critical thinking about humankind's greatest problems, they can make the world a better place, not only for themselves, but also for future generations.

Q: University-alumni relations in Australia are very different to those in the United States. How important is it for new graduates to keep in contact with their alma mater and vice versa?

McRobbie: Graduates of Indiana University are the most dedicated and loyal to their alma mater of any that I have encountered in my extensive travels. We have more than a half million living graduates, and their support is key to our success. Their generosity enables us to build new research facilities, attract leading scholars and teachers, and develop new scholarship opportunities for students. In return, they receive career services, lifelong learning programs, cultural and sporting events, and connections with other alumni all over the world. So much of what we have at the university is a result of what our alumni have given back. I would highly encourage my fellow Australians to examine the American model of university-alumni relations and to engage in a lifelong relationship with their alma maters. They will benefit from this relationship, as will future generations.