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Changing Times

Kaylee Shirrell already has a White House visit and a chance to introduce Vice President Joe Biden under her belt. The Brownsburg native's next challenge? Tackling courses at IUPUI. The incoming freshman earned her White House excursion as one of Parade magazine's All America High School Service Team, based on her Hats for Hope organization that creates knit hats for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, which grew into a nonprofit organization.

Chris Foley, IUPUI's director of undergraduate admissions, finds Shirrell's story exciting and uplifting, and says the 18-year-old typifies the evolution of incoming students. “Our student body is growing in both numbers and the quality of academic achievements they've already reached,” Foley says.

For Shirrell, he adds, it was IUPUI's track record of civic engagement and service that made the campus “a perfect fit” for her. For other students considering enrollment, there are a host of other reasons. “We have great academic programs, some new and others that are growing to meet new real-world challenges,” Foley says. “Our specialized programs, like motorsports (page 28), forensic sciences, energy engineering and philanthropy studies, for example, appeal to a lot of talented students. We'll be launching our new public health school in the not-too-distant future. The list is long, and growing!”

For still others, IUPUI's willingness to invest in scholarship programs that touch on prospective students' career dreams or honor their hard work are a strong lure. So, too, is IUPUI's newly established Honors College.

Last year, IUPUI launched a new initiative called RISE, which stands for research, international experiences, service learning and experiential learning. Though the program is new, the reality is that it formalizes past decision-making by IUPUI students, who instinctively knew a good thing when they saw it. “We've long touted our undergraduate research opportunities, and they have been a major attraction for years,” Foley explains. He also says a heavy increase in study-abroad has satisfied the goals of students who think globally.

Shirrell and lots of other current IUPUI students and recent graduates have made service and volunteerism a part of their academic experience, turning a chance to offer a helping hand into career training that will ripple through the years ahead in communities across the country.

The experiential learning — which includes internship opportunities throughout Indianapolis — opportunity is pivotal to many students, regardless of whether they come from the state's capital city or smaller towns across Indiana. “Students know that these opportunities prepare them for the world that awaits them after graduation,” says Foley.

The fact that they can get it just down the street from where they take classes is a huge bonus, he adds. “Being right in the heart of the biggest city in the state means a lot to our students,” Foley says. “It's not just being near places of business — a lot of students want to experience life in a city. We have a growing number of students who live on campus; what a lot of people don't realize is that about 75 percent of our students live in the same zip code as the campus. In effect, those students are living on campus.”

When you factor in other accolades that prospective students have mentioned to Foley and his staff — including ready access to faculty members and a diverse student body that broadens students' world views — Foley isn't surprised at the changes that are reshaping the campus. “It's an exciting time to be at IUPUI, and our students reflect that,” he says. “They have realized they could go to a Bloomington or a West Lafayette and be part of 100 or more years of tradition, or they could come here and create the traditions that future students will share.”