By: Kate Luce
A whirlwind trip to regional campuses has led IU President-Elect, Pamela Whitten, to visit IU South Bend on April 26. During her travels, Whitten has been given a Hoosier welcome throughout the IU campuses.
“I absolutely have been overwhelmed by the campus itself. It’s beautiful. The range of academic programs that are available are very strong, from sciences to incredible music. The range is stunning, and it’s wonderful,” Whitten said.
While at IU South Bend, Whitten visited with a small group of IU South Bend students, toured the campus and connected with local media to speak on the transition of presidents at IU and the goals she has for the university and as well as its regional campuses.
As of now, she is listening and learning as the transition to her presidency approaches.
“It’s so important in these kinds of pre-days, and then in my initial days, to listen more than I talk, because there’s so much to understand and observe, across all aspects of the university. So that’s an important piece,” Whitten said.
However, for larger goals, she has three in mind. The first one comes down to learning what IU across the board is doing well for its students for their continued engagement and success.
Secondly, she wants to hone in on the scholarship throughout IU’s campuses. She wants to find out what kind of research and creative work we are doing well with, and in addition, find out what needs improvement and ways to foster it.
Lastly, she touched on is the importance IU plays in Indiana. As a public university, IU provides economic impact but also cultural impact for Hoosiers. Throughout the pandemic, the university has played a large role in assisting the state with COVID-19 research, education, testing and vaccination efforts.
With the pandemic changing and a possible end of sight, Whitten will lead the university at a crucial point. She had a start in telemedicine communications in the 1990s. At the time, only four universities in the United States offered programs in it. Her work within it has helped her during her time as a Provost and President, allowing her to innovate and improve.
“Going into a pandemic, of course, that was my automatic assumption, again, not just for health, but as you all saw, at least in your education, you escaped before. We had to adapt. All these new ways of doing things that we might have resisted a little bit, you know, before and so and so the whole field of telemedicine, I think kind of wired my brain to think about looking at innovating, always looking at innovative ways to kind of enhance your effectiveness or the quality of the way that you’re doing things as well,” Whitten said.
As far as the pandemic goes, nothing is entirely set in stone for IU. However, students will be given an announcement of the fall semester. COVID-19 vaccination requirements are unknown at the time, as Whitten has yet to officially get a sense of rates in the state and throughout the university.
However, she will be in charge of leading the university in a new direction during a post-COVID-19 university. Something she is looking forward to tackling. Some aspects of the pandemic probably might not ever leave education, i.e. Zoom, but normalcy can be in the reach for IU campuses.
“You still have many of the unknowns. We talked before about how very much we need people to be vaccinated quickly and successfully returned to normal, which we all want to do. You’re planning in an environment where there are still moving variables and moving targets as well. But the good thing is, we know that it’s fixable, right? We know that we can solve this and get on the other side of this as well,” she said.
Whitten’s presidency was announced on April 16. She will be the first female IU President, an honor for her.
“It’s actually deeply touching. I’m of the age where when I went to college and graduated from college, which was in the 1980s, you didn’t see women in these jobs. So this was not this was not something that I imagined. As a young adult, when I was your age, it just wasn’t in the specter, what you’d see was so rare … It’s stunning to, you know, to be able to be one of the women that is playing the role of, you know, initial female leadership. I am very confident that I am the first of many, at IU and across the nation as well,” Whitten said.
Whitten wrapped up her visit to IU South Bend just after 9:30 a.m. She is now off to travel to the other regional campuses. IU Northwest is first on the list.