The Herald-Times, OurOpinion
November 23, 2013


In his 12 years in Bloomington, he envisioned what he believed students at Ivy Tech needed to be successful in life. He has set goals for the campus and pursued them doggedly. When he saw gaps in the community, he sent college resources to fill them.

In that time, the campus has taken its place as a major contributor to life in this region, not simply as an alternative — or worse, an afterthought — to Indiana University. Under Whikehart’s leadership, Ivy Tech and its students have melded into the infrastructure of its service area.

Some of this has been through a civic engagement initiative begun in the 2003-2004 academic year that was portrayed as standing on three legs: individual volunteering, service learning and using institutional resources in support of the greater community. Whikehart wanted Ivy Tech’s students to become involved in public service, to understand the concept of giving back and to learn about issues larger than those on their campus. This goal was met in a number of ways, including the establishment of the Center for Civic Engagement and the O’Bannon Institute for Community Service, which occurs every spring.

Important campus directions can be seen in four other centers of excellence unique to the Ivy Tech-Bloomington campus: the Center for Lifelong Learning; the Indiana Center for the Life Sciences; the Gayle and Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship; and the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center.

That last one, the arts center, shows Whikehart’s ability to see a niche and jump in with campus resources. The college took over the arts center facility when it was in danger of closing. It’s given Ivy Tech a presence downtown and spun off dozens of opportunities related to the arts for Ivy Tech students and the greater community.

Academic options have grown dramatically. As enrollment grew from 2,600 to 7,000 since Whikehart was named chancellor, academic options have exploded. A legislative bill on which Whikehart worked has made it much easier for students to study for two years at the community college then move on to Indiana University or another four-year school. The number of transfer credit hours IU will accept from Ivy Tech has grown from 39 to 400. At least two dozen new associate degrees are in place.

The college has creatively filled the workforce needs of partner businesses. A prime example came in 2006, when Ivy Tech provided workforce training to nearly 1,400 employees of the French Lick and West Baden resorts. Another example involves designing an associate degree program in radiation therapy, which was needed by the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute (now the IU Health Proton Therapy Center).

While the campus was transforming, Whikehart also was busy engaging in Bloomington and Monroe County. He’s served on 26 boards and commissions over the past 12 years, and currently serves on eight.

He’s elevated the stature and success of Ivy Tech to heights that would have previously seemed unreachable. His successor will have a blueprint from which to build — and a tough act to follow.

Posted in Opinion on Saturday, November 23, 2013 12:15 am.

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.