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IU president meets students, tours factory, for “McRobbie on the Move”

April 14, 2016

KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie heard stories of lives changed on the Kokomo campus, as part of his statewide tour.

President McRobbie meets with students.

President McRobbie meets with students. See more pictures on Flickr.

He met with students, faculty, and campus leaders as a part of “McRobbie on the Move”, his statewide tour designed to highlight IU’s connections to the state as a whole as well as the university’s regional campuses, and further strengthen relationships with business, community and government leaders, and local media. 

Together with Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke, he listened as students talked about their internships, study abroad experiences, undergraduate research with faculty, student leadership, and participation in athletics, and he asked each senior about plans after graduation.

Their successes are “a great testament to the care and special character of the campus,” he said. “It’s that combination of what a smaller campus can offer. You’ve done a wonderful job of leveraging that in the very best way. You’ve carved out an important niche here that will change people’s lives.”

McRobbie listened intently to students like Javier Vasquez, who has an interview with his dream company, Tesla Motors, after graduating in May. Vasquez spent months trying to connect with someone at that company through social media, leading to his interview.

He also shared that he recently returned home to Frankfort, where he was invited to speak to middle and high school students about his IU Kokomo experience. McRobbie thanked him for sharing that message.

“There’s nothing like seeing someone from the same school who has been successful,” McRobbie said.

Kortany Baker told the president about dusting off her dreams of a Ph.D., because of encouragement from her professors. She begins graduate school in biochemistry after completing her degree in May.

“I wanted to be Dr. Kortany Baker all my life, but when I had my kids, I thought that was over,” she said. “Dr. Kasem told me I am a scientist, and the place for me to go is to graduate school. Because of the professors here, my whole life is changed.”

He asked about her career plans, and reminded her of the cancer research center at IU Health when she said she wants to be a medical researcher.

Faculty members discussed overseas study programs, noting that the campus has its largest number of students participating in these programs this academic year. The goal is for at least 10 percent to include study abroad in their IU Kokomo experience.

Libby Kimbrough studied art in Italy during spring break, and found it eye-opening to see work she studied in class up close and in person.

“I’ve been studying art history for so long, but to be there is so different,” she said, recalling her reaction to walking into St. Peter’s Basilica. “I was frozen, staring at the dome. I realized the lasting impact art has on people, and it made me want to work harder and leave my mark on the world.”

McRobbie has prioritized study abroad for IU students, noting that the For All bicentennial campaign includes raising money for scholarships to make travel affordable for students from all economic backgrounds.

“In a world where there’s no area not impacted by globalization, it is essential that students gain that experience,” he said. “These stories underscore how important study abroad is.”

McRobbie kicked off his visit Wednesday at Kokomo Opalescent Glass, the oldest glass manufacturer in the United States.

John O’Donnell, chief executive officer, started the tour at the furnace, noting it is maintained at a temperature of 2500 degrees, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The furnace contains 12 pots, specially manufactured for the factory, which last about 120 days.

“It’s the only furnace like this in the United States,” he said. “The process hasn’t changed. We start with sand, and soda ash, and pigment.”

Wagons of the mixture stand ready, marked with a number designating what color the completed glass will be after it is melted in the pots.

As McRobbie observed, glassmakers armed with ladles scooped out molten glass and ran across the concrete floor, jiggling the ladle to keep it moving and not allow the glass to cool, before pouring it on the mixing table. Another worker hand mixed it with a metal instrument, then moved it through rollers, where it was flattened and sent into a lehr, or temperature-controlled kiln, for a half hour of gradual cooling.

Later, it was hand cut and packed for shipment, for use by artisans worldwide.

Asked by McRobbie about production and sales, O’Donnell told him the factory sells about $3 million in product annually, with about half of its glass exported.

He also visited the hot glass shop, watching a glass blower as she created a floppy bowl, which is blown and then allowed to “flop” into a unique shape. O’Donnell showed him other hot glass products, including memorial urns and awards, as well as glass destined to be used at IU Health North Hospital.

McRobbie’s visit to IU Kokomo also included a dinner with campus supporters and a trustees meeting, and culminated with the dedication of the renovated Main Building.

“McRobbie on the Move” kicked off in October in Evansville, and has included stops at IU Northwest, IU East, and IU Southeast. He centers his visits on discussion of topics related to issues of importance to the campus, as well as IU’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan priorities, which include a commitment to student success, catalyzing research and global engagement, research and education aimed at improving the state and nation’s health, and building a prosperous and innovative Indiana.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 04/14/2016