KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo strives to emphasize the importance of a college degree to students of all ages, and works with schools in the region to keep the conversation going about the importance of higher education.
IU Kokomo Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke shared this campus priority with the IU Board of Trustees on Thursday, during the board’s two-day meeting here.
“Our ‘Grand Challenge’ is to change the culture,” she said. “Going to college is important. It’s a tough battle we’re fighting here, to change a culture that does not always place value on higher education.”
In an effort to keep college top of mind, IU Kokomo hosts numerous campus visits throughout the year, inviting children from kindergarten through high schools so they can see what a college campus is like and why obtaining a degree is important.
“As a regional campus, ethically and morally, it is our responsibility to have that conversation,” she said. “We travel the region and partner with schools to have that conversation.”
Sciame-Giesecke highlighted efforts to reach out to young students, including partnering with the Howard County Promise and Wabash County Promise programs, which encourage parents to start 529 college savings accounts for their children. Research shows that a child with money in a college savings account is seven times more likely to go to college than one who do not have an account.
The campus hosted about 1,100 kindergarteners in the fall, with faculty, staff, and students leading educational activities.
She also shared a partnership with the Wabash schools, which transports 11 students to campus for classes during their senior year, with financial assistance. The students pay only $25 per credit hour, and gain real experience.
Once students enroll, Sciame-Giesecke said, faculty and staff are focusing on providing a distinctive IU Kokomo Experience, starting with the freshman learning communities, and continuing with the newly-launched sophomore sojourn. The sojourn includes an opportunity for sophomores in each major to travel off campus with faculty, to learn together and build mentoring bonds.
“If we are small and provide those personal experiences, that is something that makes us distinctive,” she said.
In addition, Sciame-Giesecke provided a seven-year perspective on enrollment and degree completion. During that time, enrollment increased by 400 students, and credit hours taken grew by 10,000 hours.
“The more we concentrate on who we are and how we are distinctive, the more we become a campus of choice,” she said.
She concluded by talking about how regional campuses have a responsibility to be “stewards of place,” providing educational opportunities and leadership, as well as impacting regional economic development.
Carolina Anaya-Pico, student body president, spoke to the trustees on behalf of students, sharing what she believes is distinctive about the campus. She highlighted study abroad opportunities, the community of care offered with a campus counseling center and food pantry, the Cole Fitness Center, and the newly updated Main Building.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.