On June 8, Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie hosted a hybrid in-person and virtual reception to discuss the university's progress in diversity and inclusion and to thank those in attendance for their accomplishments toward its goals in these areas. Those in attendance included IU Trustee Donna B. Spears, First Lady Laurie Burns McRobbie, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs James Wimbush, former vice presidents Charlie Nelms and Ed Marshall, and chief diversity officers from IU campuses across the state.
McRobbie, who is stepping down as IU president at the end of the month, recounted the history of the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs (OVPDEMA), highlighting the work of Nelms, IU's first vice president for student development and diversity, and his successors, Marshall and Wimbush.
McRobbie also spoke about various recent IU achievements in the area of diversity, including developing the President's Diversity Initiative to bolster graduate student diversity; strengthening the Groups Scholars Program through the implementation of 4-year funding for students; establishing the Black and Queer philanthropy circles; launching an anti-racist agenda; and creating, in 2020, the Pandemic Health Disparities Fund and the Racial Justice Research Fund.
President McRobbie said OVPDEMA is succeeding in its mission to make IU a more diverse and inclusive place, reflecting the population of the state and country.
"IU's commitment to diversity at the highest cabinet level of the university began over 20 years ago when the late IU President Myles Brand appointed Charlie Nelms as IU's first vice president for student development and diversity in 1999," McRobbie said. "Since then, under the continuing excellent leadership of Ed Marshall and James Wimbush, IU has become a much more diverse university and has seen all its individual campuses become progressively more diverse. Indeed, today IU is not only as diverse as the state but more diverse."
Since McRobbie's introduction as president in 2007, the population of underrepresented students has increased 102%. Currently, 28% of IU's total degree-seeking population are underrepresented students, a figure higher than the state population equivalent of 24.8 percent. Last fall, IU welcomed the most diverse class in its history, including a record total of 23,401 domestic underrepresented students.
Additionally, since 2013, over $50 million has been raised at IU for diversity-focused efforts.
"As proud as we are of the doubling of the number of underrepresented students, we must continue to try to find further ways to improve diversity, equity, and inclusiveness at IU and to always stand up to hatred, divisiveness, bigotry, and intolerance in all its forms, as we have for the past 14 years," McRobbie said.
During the reception, President McRobbie recognized Vice President Wimbush, who has led IU's diversity efforts for the past eight years, by awarding him with the President's Medal for Excellence. In presenting the award, the highest honor an IU president can bestow, McRobbie praised Wimbush for his administrative leadership, extraordinary service to the university, and accomplishments that have made IU more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
"Under James' leadership, OVPDEMA has prioritized the recruitment and retention of underrepresented faculty, staff, and students, and timely graduation of students, while ensuring that IU maintains a learning environment where people of all backgrounds can thrive," McRobbie said.
Following his receipt of the president's medal, Wimbush surprised McRobbie with the Gerry Gunnings Stroman Distinguished Inclusive Excellence Award paying tribute to the work done during his time at IU. This award goes to individuals who actively promote diversity and inclusive excellence, dedicating themselves to making IU a diverse, multicultural academic community that serves as a model for higher education, the state of Indiana, and society at large.
Past recipients include Nelms and Marshall, as well as Gerry Stroman, Karen White, James Mumford, and David Hummons.
"During his time leading the university, Michael McRobbie advanced the work of IU in so many ways," Wimbush said. "I am delighted that his support and great care for the work of my office—and all diversity and inclusion efforts across the university—have made IU more welcoming and inclusive for all."
"I am extremely honored and grateful to receive this award, which truly reflects the outstanding work of so many members of the IU community to make IU a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive university," said McRobbie.
Originally titled the OVPDEMA Distinguished Inclusive Excellence Award, renaming the award honors its inaugural recipient, Gerry Stroman, who passed away in 2021. Gerry, the former IU Kokomo chief of staff, assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs, and affirmative action officer, set the standard for future award recipients.
"Gerry was a good friend of mine. So when she retired, I wanted some way to recognize those who distinguished themselves in the area of diversity and inclusion," Wimbush said when discussing the history of the award. "Gerry was the first to receive the award because she epitomized all the wonderful attributes of someone who not only cared about their institution but the broader institution. She is the epitome of what we mean by someone who is committed to diversity and inclusion, and I am honored to honor her legacy and the type of person she represents.”
Members of the Gunnings-Stroman family and friends were in attendance.
"We're grateful to be a part of this," Willie Stroman, Gerry's husband, said during the reception via Zoom. "This was her passion, and I hope this is a lesson to everyone to follow their passions.”
"My grandmother left a wonderful legacy," Jaylen Stroman, her grandson, said. "I hope to continue that legacy as she lives on through me.”
Sonya Gunnings-Moton, a niece of Gerry, stated in the Zoom chat. "This is a tremendous honor for Gerry and her family. We greatly appreciate this acknowledgment. You have continued her legacy in a truly meaningful way. Thank you.”
Read McRobbie's statement on the upcoming Juneteenth celebration and IU's continued commitment to greater diversity and inclusion.