Welcome to Inside SPEA: A Bloomington Campus Blog!

The purpose of this new blog is to help keep SPEA faculty, staff, students, and alumni up-to-date on school-related developments on the Bloomington campus. In addition, it is my hope that it will provide a forum for us to discuss ongoing issues we face in meeting our mission.

The plan is to provide an update every other week. The format of these updates will include the following elements: 1) My take on a particular big issue facing the school; 2) A highlight from a recent event or a profile of a can’t miss event; 4) A big number that captures a school-wide accomplishment or some aspect of our work that needs our attention; and 5) A shout-out to a member of the SPEA community that deserves special recognition. The format is flexible, so please suggest other aspects of SPEA-BL life that should be a point of focus.

This Week’s Big Issue

I am frequently asked “What is SPEA?” I suspect many of you are also asked the same question. The simple response “The School of Public and Environmental Affairs” almost always results in the following-up question: “What is that?”

In November 1971, a proposal to create SPEA was submitted to the Indiana Commission on Higher Education. It stated that the goal of SPEA was to “establish a central focus for professional training and related research for the public sector of our economy….It will have a problem-solving, public service, and interdisciplinary character.” While this language describes our institutional origins and helps provide some context for the question “What is SPEA?”, it falls short of providing a meaningful description to many students, faculty and staff that are unfamiliar with what we do.

Some people think of SPEA as a school of government or a school of public policy. Clearly, some of the work we do is captured by this description but it fails to recognize the unique aspect of the school’s activities in environmental science, nonprofit management, and arts administration. Moreover, it gives the impression that we only work on matters relating to government, when many of our graduates are cultivating the knowledge and skills to launch careers that span the public, nonprofit, and private sectors.

Some think of SPEA as a school of the environment (or a school of natural resources). Clearly, this covers some of the activity/work that takes place in SPEA, but it falls short since it ignores the reality that most of our students and faculty work on topics that are largely unrelated to the environment.

Clearly, SPEA is an organization with many faces and we should embrace our intellectual and topical diversity. Perhaps there is no one correct response to the question: “What is SPEA?” Instead, I propose that the answer depends on who is asking the question. It would be short-sighted to give the same answer to a prospective student interested in public finance, and to a prospective student interested in environmental science or arts administration. These audiences have different frames of reference and we need to describe the School in terms that have meaning to the audience we are addressing. Moreover, SPEA’s vitality depends on its ability to re-shape itself as the landscape of modern life shifts from one topic or region of the country/globe to another. We do ourselves a disservice to force a single, uniform answer that is time invariant.

What’s Happening in SPEA Bloomington?

We have a number of very exciting guests scheduled to visit this fall and all are worthy of a closer look and your participation. A list of these events can be found at: https://onestart.iu.edu/ccl-prd/GroupCalendar.do?methodToCall=publicCalendar&pubCalId=GRP1558

I am particularly interested in an upcoming visit by Teresa Lubbers, the Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education. She will be visiting SPEA-BL during the afternoon of Friday, October 8th. The principal purpose of her visit is to speak at the first program of a new student group, the Education Policy Student Association (EDPOSA), which consists of graduate and undergraduate students across campus units who are interested in education policy issues.

Commissioner Lubbers will be available to hold an informal meeting for interested faculty on October 8th at 4 p.m. in the Dean’s Conference Room, where she will take questions from faculty and provide her perspective on the most important issues facing higher education at the state and national levels.

Teresa Lubbers became Indiana’s Commissioner for Higher Education in 2009, following a 17 year career in the Indiana State Senate. For more information on her background, here is a link to her professional biography: http://www.lubbersforsenate.com/biography.html

SPEA’s Big Number

This week’s big number for SPEA Bloomington is a record total number of full-time enrolled students in all of our educational programs: 2,030

Shout-Out to SPEA Bloomington

Please join me in congratulating Joseph Slaughterbeck, majoring in health administration at IU Bloomington, as a recipient of the Cox Fellowship Program. For more information about this prestigious award, please visit: http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/15755.html


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