KOKOMO, Ind. — Students are at the forefront of Pamela Whitten’s mind as she prepares to become Indiana University’s 19th president.
“Students will be the center of the universe at every IU campus,” she said. “Everything you do, every decision you make, you always have to stop and ask, ‘How does this benefit our students?’ If you keep that as your north star, it really lifts and elevates the entire university.”
In a visit to IU Kokomo this week, she said it was evident starting from the first conversations she had on campus how dedicated faculty and staff are to student success.
“You have a lot to be proud of here,” she said. “This is a school that’s deeply committed to the tailored experience of each student. It’s impressive. You don’t see that at every school.”
Whitten, who will be IU’s first woman president when she begins her tenure July 1, toured all five regional campuses this week, visiting with students and faculty, listening to their questions and concerns, and seeing the unique contributions each one makes within the larger IU system.
Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke led Whitten’s visit, which included meeting with faculty who coordinate Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) programming, a tour of the School of Nursing simulation labs and the new Student Event and Activities Center, a stop at the Multicultural Center to meet its leaders, and discussions with students and campus leaders.
“We look forward to working with President-elect Whitten when she begins her tenure in July,” Sciame-Giesecke said. “She shares our philosophy that student success is the most important part of our mission, and shows great support for our regional campuses. I am happy we had the opportunity to showcase the great initiatives happening at IU Kokomo, and we are excited about the future.”
Whitten said research and discovery, as well as playing a role in quality of life are important parts of the university’s mission, in addition to student success.
Research and discovery is where faculty and students can transform and change the world. Impacting quality of life includes preparing students for the workforce, playing a role in economic development, adding arts and music to the culture, and improving the health and lives of Hoosiers is also an important role.
“We all saw that in the past year, with the outstanding job IU Health did in helping IU and Indiana navigate this pandemic,” she said. “I think if you look at those as our core mission, and then you look at this university and its portfolio, it’s just astounding.”
Paul Cook, associate professor of English, was among faculty who met with Whitten, both as someone who led KEY trips, and in his role as faculty senate president. He was impressed that she quickly identified the campus’s dedication to creating individualized learning experiences.
“That’s exactly what we’re all about, and she saw that in just a short visit,” he said.
He appreciated that Whitten made time to visit IU Kokomo before she takes office.
“It shows her support for our regional campuses,” he said. “That’s a clear signal she’s really focusing on the university as a whole, including IU’s presence throughout the state.”
Communications students Brenna Liston and April Chrisman interviewed Whitten for The Correspondent, the campus newspaper. They were impressed she made time for student journalists, and listened to their comments about decisions being made for IU Kokomo individually, and not always as part of the whole larger university.
Both are excited about the history Whitten is making, as IU’s first woman president.
“It’s really groundbreaking,” said Liston. “I love that.”
The Board of Trustees named Whitten as IU’s 19th president on April 16. She has held a variety of leadership roles, beginning at Michigan State University, and now as president of Kennesaw State University in Georgia.
She holds a Ph.D. in communication studies from the University of Kansas, a Master of Arts in Communication from the University of Kentucky, and a Bachelor of Science in management from Tulane University. She is an internationally recognized expert in the field of telemedicine, and has held leadership roles at the University of Georgia and the University of Kansas Medical Center.