IUPUI chancellor making his mark on urban campus

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A little more than a year into his term as chancellor of IUPUI, it’s clear Charles Bantz hit the ground running—or skating, as it were.

Observers say Bantz has done an admirable job getting to know the campus and the community, and he’s using that knowledge to make sure their paths remain intertwined.

“He is able to look ahead, to move the university to where it needs to be in the future,” said predecessor Gerald Bepko, now director of the Randall L. Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence at IUPUI. “It’s like ice hockey—the best players can skate to where the puck will be. Charles does that. He has really taken hold of all the issues that are likely to bubble up in the chancellor’s office.”

Indeed, the new chancellor appears to have feet big enough to fill the skates Bepko left behind after 17 years in the office. Even as he laced them up, Bantz was lining up in the attack zone.

At his installation ceremony in December, he invoked “the power of two”—symbolic of the universities that form IUPUI—to set some ambitious goals for the urban campus.

If Bantz gets his way, IUPUI will double its impact on the community by the end of the decade, doubling bachelor’s degrees, research funding and civic engagement along the way.

“The commitment is there,” said Bantz, who came to Indianapolis from Wayne State University in Detroit. “We want to improve the quality of life in central Indiana. … We listened to what the needs were, what the strengths of the campus were and tried to project how we could make an even greater contribution.

“It’s a push, but I think we need to push ourselves. That’s what goals are about.”

And IUPUI isn’t exactly starting from scratch. Work started before the chancellor even arrived, since the school’s existing strategy focuses on the same issues.

“He took a pattern of development and some general goals and said, ‘Let’s put together something more concrete so we can stretch ourselves here,’” Bepko explained. “I think that’s good. … That’s what we ought to be doing. When I saw him putting it together, I thought, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’”

Results are likely years off, but the effort is already well under way. Small groups spent months working on recommendations for possible strategies and committees are forming now to figure out specific courses of action.

School leaders are trying to answer questions ranging from the simple (how to measure civic engagement, for example) to the substantive (what areas of research to emphasize).

“We’re moving ahead,” Bantz said.

That doesn’t surprise U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker one bit. A member of the search committee that recommended Bantz for the job, she’s pleased with his progress so far.

“He has some wonderfully creative ideas about how to lead the campus and what direction to go,” said Barker, also a member of IUPUI’s board of advisers. “And he brings a very high level of enthusiasm for doing it. Charles is not a caretaker chancellor by any means.

“We said all along we wanted to find the right person for the job. Charles Bantz is the right person.”

After 30 years in higher education—half of that in one leadership position or another—Bantz’s credentials are “extraordinary,” Barker said. But he brings personal strengths to bear as well.

She and others rattle off glowing descriptions of a man who clearly loves what he does: enthusiastic, engaged, articulate, attentive, inspiring, inspired.

“He has stirred up a lot of energy on campus,” said math professor Bart Ng, president of the Faculty Council. “He’s able to see the important issues he needs to deal with … and has a sure sense of where he wants to go.”

“I’m proud to have him as part of the leadership team at the university,” concurred IU President Adam Herbert. “He brings a vast reservoir of professional experience, and I thoroughly enjoy working with him.”

Bantz has made a concerted effort to see and be seen around town, too. He and his wife of 20 years, professor Sandra Petronio, have painted the town red and gold. Among the highlights: a Pacers game, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra performance and a trip to Conner Prairie.

A scholar’s life seldom includes as much play as work, Bantz said, but community involvement is part of the job description for the leader of an urban school. His civic commitments already strain his bulging schedule: Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Central Indiana, Indiana Sports Corp. and Indianapolis Downtown Inc., among others.

“Everything makes sense for me and IUPUI,” Bantz said.

The effort hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“Clearly, he understands his role in the community and has accepted it with enthusiasm,” said chamber President John Myrland. “He came in and essentially said, ‘I’m an empty vessel. Fill me up. How can we help?’”

That’s the idea, said Bepko, whose own civic involvement is almost legendary.

“The community expects the chancellor to be engaged, know a lot of people and know what the critical issues are,” Bepko said. “He can use that knowledge to guide the university and think strategically about how it can serve the city and the state.”

Bantz understands.

“There are no great cities without great universities,” he said. “We have to stay connected with the community, with government, with business. … We have such a role in supporting Indiana’s future.”

His grand plans for the university are intended to strengthen that tie.  Since the bulk of IUPUI graduates stay in Indiana, awarding 5,000 bachelor’s degrees a year should make a difference. And increasing research funding to more than $500 million a year could help spur economic development.

Improving civic engagement could have the most obvious impact, as students and faculty do more to apply their lessons and expertise to real-world situations.

“We have this terrific asset and it’s only going to become more valuable,” Myrland said. “What they do is so valuable—not just educating students, but generating ideas, encouraging collaborations. We have such an advantage having IUPUI right here.”

And Bantz is another advantage.

“The future of Indianapolis and the future of IUPUI are intertwined,” said Scott Evenbeck, dean of the University College on the Indianapolis campus. “Leadership is critical. We have to have somebody who can articulate that and find ways to build on it.

“We have always defined ourselves by what we’re going to be, not what we have been, and that is very important. I think Charles is doing a great job keeping us on the right path to being what we need to be.”•


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.