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Installation speech of Chancellor Michael Harris

October 22, 2010

October 22, 2010

Michael Harris, Installation Address – Indiana University Kokomo

Catalyst for Change; Charting a Regional Transformation

President McRobbie, trustees, family, guests, members of Indiana University and IU Kokomo community, thank you for being here today. Your presence is deeply appreciated.

President McRobbie, I accept the chancellorship of Indiana University Kokomo with humility and enthusiasm. I am proud and deeply honored to serve as the sixth chancellor of this campus, and I am grateful for your trust and confidence.

It is truly a delight to be back in Indiana after 17 years.  Some of you may not know that my journey began 9000 miles from here in Johannesburg, South Africa where I was born. When I was 6, my family moved 4000 miles to Israel where I lived for 27 years. In the late 80’s, my family traveled yet another 6000 miles to a new home in, Indiana. So now you know from where I get the tag line “On the Move.”

I come from a family of immigrants, and I may be the only person in the auditorium to have my four grandparents – two of whom were born in Europe -- buried on three different continents (Africa, Australia and Asia) and a grandson is living on a fourth.

I grew up on an Israeli commune, which was founded on principles of equality and joint ownership of property and means of production. It was established in fulfillment of the Utopian idea “from each according to his/her ability, to each according to his/her needs.” It was a farming, as well as an industrial commune and it had its set of interesting characters.

For example, there was one older member of the commune whom I would greet every day when we met for work at 6:30 a.m. by the tractor shed with a “good morning.” Every day, he would look at me with great surprise and confusion and say: “you’re telling me?”  …

During the years, I had a variety of responsibilities, ranging from working in the fields and the dairy (my favorite), to vice president of industry. I also served in the Israeli Defense Forces and rose to the rank of Major. I led men to combat while internalizing the deep values and ethics inherent in the commands “follow me” and “leave no one behind.”

My early, intense and wide-ranging experiences shaped who I am. I learned to appreciate the value of: a civic society, friendship, loyalty, team work, self-discipline, community, integrity, lead by example; maximizing each person’s potential for success and living a meaningful life.

I came to recognize that sustaining a democratic society depends on education and knowledge.  I embraced John Dewey’s idea that: “Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself” and decided myself to pursue an academic career. After Graduate School, I was gratified to become faculty. I immensely enjoy teaching, I relish research, and I pursued both

One day while on the faculty at Eastern Michigan University, I received a surprising call from Provost Ron Collins asking me to serve in an administrative capacity. In retrospect, Ron allowed me the opportunity to contribute to public good through education, economic development and public policy. It also ultimately allowed us the opportunity to be here.

This is a perfect time to introduce my wife Tali who I have known since 3rd grade. I thank her for the love, encouragement and support she has given me over the past 34 years. Without her I would not be here. She has been the most inspiring and supportive force in my life. In fact, Tali has always assured me that: behind every successful man there is a very surprised woman. I am very proud of her amazing professional accomplishments.

Tali and I are very proud of our sons Ronen, Asaf, and Amit who are here. My brother Ariel has travelled 6,000 miles to join us. His presence means the world to me.  Please join me in extending a warm Midwestern welcome to them.

And finally, I would like to thank Dianne Roden and Kathleen Ligocki for sharing the podium with me. It’s a privilege to be here with them.

Today we celebrate the rich heritage and promising future of IU Kokomo and North Central Indiana.

I am proud to follow in the steps of our “founding father” Virgil Hunt, who also graduated from IU and years later came back to lead IU Kokomo. We are delighted to have with us today his son Mr. Bill Hunt. Virgil Hunt was followed by Smith Higgins, Victor Bogle, Hugh Thompson, Emita Hill, Ruth Person, and Stuart Green.

I have spent the past 114 days on the move, meeting people, listening, and learning. I would like to share with you a few of my observations, and introduce to you three major themes, I intend to focus on in the coming months. I offer these preliminary thoughts with my assurance that I will never stop listening and learning while we as a community continue to refine our vision.

First Theme:  Enhance Academic Excellence and Student Success.

It was Benjamin Disraeli, the British statesman who said: “Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends.” Truer words could not have been said about our region. Addressing this challenge will require commitment and hard work on behalf of our faculty and staff. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the warm welcome you have extended to me. I have been impressed by your commitment to students and academic excellence.  And to the students here today, I urge you to take advantage of all we have to offer, to engage with our faculty and staff and realize your dreams.

Academic excellence and student success are at the heart of our enterprise. We will strive to create a learning environment that engages learners, that supports high standards and motivates independent learning. We will focus on transforming our students rather than merely transferring information. This world of daunting complexity requires graduates who are flexible, adaptable and creative. We will be responsive to the needs and preferences of those we serve while ensuring that we maintain a competitive edge and offer significant added value in our education.

To that end we have begun several initiatives. Let me mention only a few:

In his State of the University address, President McRobbie challenged IU regional campuses to improve graduation rates. In response, I am in the process of formulating an "On-Time Graduation Task Force" that will examine policies, process, space, technology, learning, advising, and structures. I ask for very creative & innovative analysis and bold recommendations. Let there be no mistake: more of our students must complete their degrees.

We are working to ensure the seamless transfer of students to IU Kokomo. To that end we are deploying academic advisors to Ivy Tech campuses and we have created a joint position with Ivy Tech to coordinate transfer.

We are developing 5 new academic programs and 30 online courses. These programs are all in areas of high demand in this region and build on our strengths.

We are increasing professional development, research activity and opportunities to attract external funding.

We are actively expanding opportunities for students to have an international and/or an internship and participate in undergraduate research. And finally, we are addressing the necessity to increase classroom utilization.

We are on the move!

Second Theme: Regional transformation.

From the moment I learned that the university would hold an installation ceremony for me, I wanted to use the occasion as an opportunity to invite regional leaders to partner with us to bring about the transformation of North Central Indiana. I thank you for your overwhelming response.

Among our partners is the Mayor of our host city and a student at IU Kokomo, Greg Goodnight. I would like to take a moment to recognize him. A recent article in CNN Money acknowledges the Mayor for being instrumental in bringing Kokomo back to life.

We live in an era of accelerated economic change that at times can make us feel as if we are living through a “perfect storm.” We are swiftly departing from the "labor-material" paradigm of production to a new economic model based on knowledge and innovation. The pace of the emergence of the knowledge economy is further accelerated by increased globalization.

Economist Carl Schramm, suggests that “for the U.S. to survive and continue its economic leadership in the world, we must see entrepreneurship as our central comparative advantage. Nothing else can give us the necessary leverage.”

I believe that we in North Central Indiana are well situated to capitalize on this opportunity and that we must instill a sense of hope and optimism.  In fact, we have several advantages.  They include:  educational and knowledge capacity, solid infrastructure, Hoosier values, a heritage of “firsts” and an exceptional location. I have witnessed and participated in successful transformations around the world, in far less favorable conditions. I do visualize it here.

The task will require forward looking and optimism which Sir Earnest Shackleton referred to as “true moral courage.”  We will need to exhibit endurance and belief that we can transform North Central Indiana. Together, we can create significant and meaningful regional networks and collaboration built upon principles of: an educated work force, innovation, and access to knowledge.  We must constantly strive to attract companies and investments, enhance the local quality of life, and promote a global perspective.

I am often asked about my vision for what will we be known for. Frankly, I do not know the answer to that question because it is grounded in an irrelevant paradigm that assumes today’s knowledge and technology. We must look forward and develop expertise to facilitate entrepreneurship rather than aim for a single product or process.

I am calling upon you to join me, our faculty and staff on a journey to develop a committed and dedicated coalition for regional transformation through entrepreneurship and innovation. In the words of Ghandi, “We must be the change we want to see in the world.”

The future is abundant. We are on the move!

Third Theme: Building Relationships and Making Friends.

I have met so far with over 200 alumni, community, business and government leaders. At each meeting, people told me that our campus fulfills a deep need in the region and that they were committed to supporting it. I pledge to each of you here today that I will continue to build relationships. We will earn your hearts and minds, passion and compassion. To that end, we are initiating a new campaign to engage and raise the level of external support and donor participation. I have recently heard from a former Kokomo native who has been working with me to organize a get- together of a group of regional ‘expatriates’ who want to support IU Kokomo. We will strive to be worthy of that dedication. Albert Camus, the great French philosopher observed that “Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”  We believe that our students and the wellbeing of IU Kokomo is a worthy cause. We assure those who support us that their contribution will be received with deep gratitude and have a significant impact.

We are on the move!

During the past 114 days we have built on our history, moved to reaffirm our values and set new strategic goals. Let me share with you just some of what we have already accomplished or have in the works:

We are becoming more efficient and effective. Professor Roden has already told you about “The Big Move.”  She’s absolutely right. It was hot. It was humid. But it was also exactly the right thing to do because it streamlined operations and brought together individuals who need to collaborate. The task also made us come together as a community and even have some fun.

We are welcoming 5 new additions to our campus: The Digital Media Center; a New Mac lab; a renovated facility for our fine arts program; a new world class Simulation Lab for our nursing program; and our first basketball and volleyball courts. We are also assessing the feasibility of a Wellness Center. Taken together, these new facilities and programs represent an enhanced capacity and a commitment to be intentional, relevant, responsive and current.

We are developing an ambitious enrollment plan and a new marketing and branding campaign. We want more high school graduates and other residents to be aware of the many opportunities available here “close to home.” Nida Zia, a senior majoring in Biology and our student body Vice President who is planning to go to medical school believes that many high school students are simply unaware of the opportunities we have available for them. These campaigns will attempt to address that challenge.

We are on the move!

As you can see, I am committed to leading the campus forward and ensuring academic excellence and student success, regional transformation, and building relationships and making friends. IU Kokomo is committed to making our region an even better place to live; a place where every individual has an equal opportunity to be educated, to raise a family, to earn a good living and to enjoy all the benefits of a welcoming and inclusive community. I am moved by the large regional presence here – it confirms for me that together we will achieve regional transformation.

President McRobbie, I am grateful for the privilege of leading IU Kokomo, being part of your leadership team and following your vision. I will do so in the context of the principles of excellence you set forth. It is with that commitment that I accept the title and the responsibilities to serve you and Indiana University as the chancellor of Indiana University Kokomo.

IU Kokomo is on the move and regional transformation will take place! We are bound by a common goal: to sustain here in North Central Indiana the American dream of a better tomorrow. We are on the move while remaining grounded in Hoosier values and dedicated to a global perspective and academic excellence.

At the end of the day, the ultimate test of our success is the difference we make in the life of one individual. Together we will make a difference in the lives of many.

We are on the move!

Last updated: 08/07/2014