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Bloomington Herald Times Articles

December 19, 2007

McRobbie hints 'major announcement' in life sciences could come in spring
IU president also talks about plans to improve graduation rates
By James Boyd
December 19, 2007

In his last big speech of the calendar year, Indiana University president Michael McRobbie reiterated his plan for moving the school toward a top-tier public university ranking and lifting its graduation rates within the next five years.

While speaking to the Economic Club of Indianapolis, McRobbie also hinted at a potential "major announcement" in the life sciences field in the spring of 2008.

"Our neighbors are making sizeable investments in this burgeoning industry," McRobbie said. "If we stand still, others will pass us."

He didn't elaborate on what the announcement might entail.

McRobbie again touched on the issues he sees as critical to the mission of IU, from providing more financial aid to students from low-income families to enhancing the school's research abilities by actively recruiting top faculty members and giving them new state-of-the-art facilities to conduct their work.

His goal, he said, is to make IU "one of the great research universities."

"As good as we are," McRobbie said, "we have to get better."

McRobbie said one of the main priorities of his administration will be the implementation of a new international strategic plan.

After returning from China, McRobbie stressed the importance of IU students and faculty having the opportunity to explore other cultures while learning.

"We're preparing our students to live and work in a flat world," he said. "Studying abroad is one important, one vital way we can ensure our students become globally literate."

Following his keynote address, McRobbie took questions from the crowd, which consisted of some of Indiana's highest-profile business members.

One member asked about IU's graduation rates.

McRobbie said IU's rates are "not where we want them. I want to see them improve significantly over the next five years. The more graduates we have, the greater the impact on the economy of this state. Clearly, as a university, one of our prime responsibilities is to graduate our students. We want to now try to do that better."

McRobbie has already said he wants to redistribute funds across all of IU's campuses to help boost that figure.

Another questioner wanted to know what McRobbie has brought to IU from his native Australia in terms of his approach to higher education.

"This (American) university system of higher education is the best in the world, bar none," he said. "I've worked in Europe, Asia and Australia, and I think (the U.S.) has an enormous amount to teach the rest of the world about how great institutions should be run."

He noted the affection many alumni feel toward their alma mater, a feeling that isn't seen often in other countries.

And his final question was a softball.

One woman wanted to know how McRobbie had adapted to life in Indiana.

"I often say I was Australian by birth, and a Hoosier by choice," he said. "I never regretted the move for one nanosecond. This is home. I've loved every second of it."