As we close 2008, I reflect on numerous successes of the year - 30,300 students (a record enrollment), more than $303 million in externally funded research, and tremendous improvement in the physical environment (e.g., the Campus Center and the IU Simon Cancer Center). We also are engaging the challenges that face us as a nation. Three examples illustrate IUPUI's commitment: the translational research of the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment, the University Library's online policy repository, and expanded support for returning veterans.
One type of translational research, as described by John Krauss in a recent interview, is "taking complex issues, researching them until we understand them, and then identifying what the choices are for policymakers."
John heads the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment, which just received a three-year $2 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc.
In cities and states across the nation this month, newly elected or reelected public officials are joining President-Elect Barack Obama in contacting advisors, identifying issues, analyzing options, and developing strategies to respond to challenges that will need to be addressed by their administrations in the coming months.
The Center for Urban Policy and the Environment, established in 1992, has worked with state and local governments, neighborhood and community organizations, and business and civic organizations to provide community leaders with information to address the challenges communities face every day.
Previous work by the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment included staffing the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform last year.
Meanwhile, our University Library has been working on an online repository of public policy research geared in part to help inform lawmakers. Working with the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, the library has collected more than 17,000 items for the PolicyArchives (http://www.policyarchive.org/), and the resource is growing at the rate of several thousand items per month.
Besides providing academic expertise to policy makers in this busy post-election, pre-inauguration season, IUPUI is active in anticipating and addressing needs related to other issues of national prominence, such as educational access for veterans.
IUPUI has the state's largest population of student veterans. More than 1,200 students receive benefits associated with military service here. IUPUI is 59th in the nation in student veteran population, including online schools.
To meet the needs of this student population, IUPUI is establishing an Office of Veterans Affairs and will be hiring a full-time office director. This step results from the work of the Student Veterans Task Force at IUPUI.
Sgt. Russell Silver, Jr., a 1999 Decatur Central High School graduate, has been at the forefront advocating for this initiative and was part of the task force. He is also president of the Student Veterans of America group he founded at IUPUI.
Earlier this year, Sgt. Silver and representatives from 51 campus groups gathered in Washington, D.C., for their first national conference and lobbied for the new additions to the G.I. Bill.
This new student support office comes just in time for the influx of the National Guard 76th Infantry Brigade - soldiers recently returning home from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the Student Veterans Task Force report, more than 4,000 members of the Indiana National Guard, who will have returned by February 2009, will significantly increase IUPUI's student veteran enrollment.
Sgt. Silver served four years of active duty with the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division, doing tours in Kosovo and Iraq. Since 2003, he's been with the Indiana National Guard's 76th Infantry Brigade. He knows firsthand the difficulties veterans face as they return home and try to access college benefits.
IUPUI's Office of Veterans Affairs will improve veterans' ability to navigate the system and adjust to campus life. The office not only will serve veterans, but also spouses and dependents, as well as other military service personnel. There will be a special orientation process, learning communities, and mentoring programs specifically to help veterans succeed in their academic career.
With best wishes for the holidays and the coming New Year...
Charles R. Bantz