Indiana University Northwest is poised to support and advance our region’s relevance through increased community partnership.
In its landmark publication, “Stepping Forward as Stewards of Place,” the American Association of State Colleges and Universities defined a publicly engaged institution as one that is “fully engaged in direct, two-way interaction with communities and d other external constituencies through the development, exchange and application of knowledge, information and expertise for mutual benefit.
When I arrived at IU Northwest in the summer of 2020, I made a commitment to lead the university into a new era of meaningful collaborations with our communities to improve the overall well-being of the region. We are now at a pivotal moment in our legacy, with the unprecedented opportunity to leverage our vast economic, intellectual and inclusive power to fully realize our place as a publicly engaged higher education institution in the North West. from Indiana.
Our confidence in realizing this vision stems from the strong value proposition that IU Northwest has already established, starting with its direct economic impact on the region. Indiana University recently commissioned Emsi, a leading provider of economic impact studies for educational institutions in the United States and around the world, to assess its contribution to the scale of state during the 2018-19 financial year. The report determined that IU Northwest had a $264 million impact on Northwest Indiana.
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While this total is due, in part, to our investment in local operations and construction as well as the impending power of our campus employees, students and visitors, our greatest contribution comes from our graduates whose incomes have increased and from those of businesses. they work for, has added $220 million to our local economy. Notably, IU Northwest’s operations supported one in 98 jobs in the region, or more than 4,000 in total.
We see this impact as a starting point, with the aim of significantly increasing our economic support to the region. Among other efforts, IU Northwest will focus its sourcing strategies on increasing business relationships with local businesses.
Additionally, because our graduates have the most significant influence on the local economy, we leverage our student retention rates—currently among the highest of Indiana University’s regional campuses—to support timely graduation, launching more of our graduates from all academics and professionals. disciplines into successful careers while simultaneously meeting local labor needs.
IU Northwest’s value proposition is further driven by our stellar faculty. We have fostered an academic culture in which faculty not only engage in the highest levels of research, scholarship, and creative pursuits, but also apply their expertise to address critical issues facing our communities.
As an example of our most recent community-aligned research, IU Northwest is undertaking an in-depth study, part of the successful $50 million grant from the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) of the Northwestern Indiana Forum, to determine housing availability and needs in the area.
Our Urban and Regional Center of Excellence is also engaged in an eight-part collaborative study with Lake County Commissioners to map the more than 9,000 tax sale properties that are chronically receiving no offers to purchase and generate no tax revenue.
Among other results, the study will provide county policy units with usable data to strategically incorporate these stagnant properties into their respective master plans. These correlated housing studies are essential to informing good economic development planning in the region.
Our ongoing research into shoreline erosion, water quality and restoration ecology is equally vital.
To evolve this great intellectual energy for the greater good of the region, IU Northwest is now considering the creation of a regional data analysis center. Such a center would serve as a gateway for economic development associations, non-profit organizations, political representatives, government entities and community organizations in need of research and analytical support to more effectively use data in their respective decision-making and planning.
The center will not only be able to capitalize on the expertise of our own faculty and students, but it will also be able to facilitate collaborations with talent in multiple disciplines across all Indiana University campuses for the benefit of north- western Indiana.
Ultimately, however, our greatest value-added dynamic for the region is the increasingly diverse student body we serve. IU Northwest has long been a driver of social mobility as one of the most diverse campuses in the state. Approximately 40% of our students are “first generation,” meaning they are among the first members of their family to attend university, and half of our students come to us from traditionally underserved communities.
Recently, we became the first and only comprehensive public higher education institution in the state to be recognized as a Hispanic-serving institution by the U.S. Department of Education, providing new opportunities for enhanced funding and resources. for the entire campus.
IU Northwest will serve as a place of higher learning where all students can actively engage in an environment where critical thoughts and ideas are welcomed, tested, and challenged through diverse perspectives and experiences.
As the region continues to diversify, our role will become even more valuable in developing future leaders ready to navigate and leverage the growing complexities of our workplaces and communities and stem the growing tide of social discord and politics across the country that will impede our collective progress.
During the throes of the pandemic, the phrase “We’re in this together” has become the enduring theme of IU Northwest, reflecting how students, faculty, and staff have come together to successfully advance our noble mission in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. As a publicly engaged university, we look forward to continuing this same theme to be “in the same boat” with all of Northwest Indiana to advance the region and beyond.
Ken Iwama is Chancellor of Indiana Northwest University.