By: Mira Costello
After a tumultuous two years – politically, socially, educationally and pandemic-ally – students might be tired of living through major history. This month, though, IU South Bend’s community members had the opportunity to witness some good news: the inauguration of IU’s nineteenth and first female president, Dr. Pamela Whitten.
Students and faculty gathered at the University Grill to enjoy a livestream of the inauguration held at Bloomington, as well as refreshments, food and activities. Those who wished to play “Inauguration Bingo” could check off buzzwords they heard in Whitten’s speech for IU South Bend-themed prizes. Students were also able to witness their fellow Titan, Student Government Vice President Kayla Isenblatter, sit on stage as a student delegate while Dr. Whitten was inaugurated.
Elaine Roth, president of the Academic Senate at IU South Bend, gave introductory remarks about the historical context of Dr. Whitten’s position. Although Dr. Whitten is the first female president of all of IU, three of five regional IU campuses – including IU South Bend – have female chancellors. IU Northwest was the first regional campus to have a female chancellor in 1983.
Before becoming IU president on July 1 of this year, Dr. Whitten previously served both as Dean of Michigan State University and President of Kennesaw State University. She attended Tulane University, University of Kentucky, and ultimately the University of Kansas, where she earned her Ph.D. in communication studies.
Dr. Whitten focused on the past, present and future of IU in her remarks, beginning by highlighting important women in the university’s history, like Sarah Parke Morrison, the first female graduate of IU. She went on to describe IU as an “intensely vital place,” and hopes that the future of the university will see progress in enacting her seven-year diversity initiative, growing the research sector, and fulfilling the university’s obligation to the people of Indiana.
Other speakers included Eric Holcomb, Indiana governor; John Hamilton, Bloomington mayor; Marietta Simpson, IU faculty council co-chair; Seuth Chaleunphonh, IU Southeast dean of student life; Martin Vargas, IU Alumni Association manager; and Kay Booth, IU Foundation vice chair. Quinn Buckner, chair of IU’s Board of Trustees, presided.
Darron Mullins and Kyle Johnson, freshmen, enjoyed the event and the school spirit. “It was a very historic moment in IU’s history, so that’s why I came. I got the IU merch too,” Mullins said.
“I thought this was very eye-opening,” Johnson said. “It was also a good time with my friends, and I got some gloves, too.”
Students, like freshman Breanna Williams, enjoyed the proceedings and the opportunity to become closer to faculty members. “I really support women being in power,” Williams said.
Hayleigh Barker, a sophomore, characterized the event as a “step in the right direction for women everywhere.”
Zion Hawkins, also a freshman, shares this sentiment. “I love Indiana, and I love this school,” he said. “To actually see the first female president of a university was amazing.”