From the Desk: IU Southeast chancellor touts campus's commitment to student success and research

A hallmark in the strategic plans for Indiana University and all regional campuses, including IU Southeast, is the commitment to student success and catalyzing research and creative activity.

During my tenure as chancellor of IU Southeast, I am proud to report that an increasing number of our undergraduate students are collaborating with IU Southeast faculty to produce research presentations for our spring Student Conference. Indeed, since 2005, IU Southeast's efforts to increase undergraduate research activities have propelled our campus to now host the largest student research conference in the IU system.

Ray WallaceView print quality image
Indiana University Southeast Chancellor Ray Wallace.  Photo courtesy of IU Southeast

On April 19 and 20, the 2018 IU Southeast Student Conference will feature a record number of students presenting 224 outstanding research and creative presentations. These students represent every school on campus, including fine arts, business and the sciences. The majority of the students are seniors, presenting their capstone course projects.

However, a growing number of the presenters are first- and second-year students, as more of our faculty incorporate hands-on experiential research and creative projects into their lower-level courses, a nationally recognized best practice in pedagogy. By the time many of our students graduate from IU Southeast, they have several of these presentations on their resume.

Many IU Southeast students not only present at the IU Southeast Student Conference and at the IU Undergraduate Research Conference, but they now are presenting their research projects at professional conferences both domestically and internationally.

For the 2018 conference, more than 60 faculty mentors have guided theses students' research and creative work. The vibrant level of student research and creative activity on our campus is a result of over 25 years' worth of effort by our faculty and administrators placing a high value on this one-on-one interaction with students. In fact, the Council of Undergraduate Research has stipulated that hands-on research and creative learning have to happen in every program offered in today's institutions of higher learning.

Our students are presenting an amazing variety of work at the 2018 conference. Some from the campus design center have developed integrated visual aids for the Paul W. Ogle Cultural and Community Center to create a distinct and easily navigated environment. Students have analyzed and are presenting information about a variety of topics, including southern politics and the economic impact of the Ohio River Greenway. Science presentations include assessments of herbal extract used for medicinal purposes in Cameroon and the unique experiences of female police officers. The arts are represented by a variety of media such as oil paintings and a brilliantly colored crocheted coral reef.

We feel a responsibility to our service region to enhance its intellectual, cultural, societal and economic development.

Ray Wallace

As another opportunity for students to present research and creative projects, faculty mentors encourage students to participate in the IU Undergraduate Research Conference in Indianapolis each fall. The 2017 conference featured 72 IU Southeast students presenting on 55 topics, with two of our students garnering first and second place in the universitywide conference.

Meeta Cesler-Maloney, a senior in geology and science who was mentored by John Halfacre, assistant professor of chemistry, won with a presentation on the relationship between ozone and meteorology during the Arctic spring. Angela Sabo, a senior majoring in biology who was mentored by Pamela Connerly, associate professor of biology, placed second with her study of phages. These two bright examples of our outstanding students will graduate this spring from IU Southeast and plan to pursue post-graduate studies.

The outcome for students participating in research and creative projects can be dramatic, providing the direction for their career path and leading to previously unobtainable career opportunities. This type of one-on-one experience also has an impact on student retention and degree completion. Recent University Institutional Research and Reporting reports show that students who participate in research or creative work with faculty members at IU Southeast are more than twice as likely to graduate in four years than their peers who don't participate in research and creative activity.

We at IU Southeast will continue to place a high value on research and evidence-based learning, and we'll encourage an environment of endless curiosity and a passion for discovery. We are deeply committed and connected to the universitywide strategic plan aimed at 2020, the bicentennial of Indiana University. Moreover, our campus strategic plan is designed to collaborate with the other IU regional campuses as aligned in the Blueprint for Student Attainment.

We feel a responsibility to our service region to enhance its intellectual, cultural, societal and economic development. We intend to offer even more to the community in southern Indiana and to the greater Louisville metropolitan area in the years to come.

Ray Wallace is chancellor of Indiana University Southeast. This column is part of a series featuring regional Indiana University leaders.