TERRE HAUTE —
Gov. Mike Pence briefly addressed Indiana’s brain drain — and later held a human brain in an anatomy lab — all in one short visit Thursday to Indiana State University.
As Pence met with a class of master’s degree students in the Physician Assistants program, he asked how many were from Indiana. He told them he hopes they stay in Indiana once they graduate.
“There are a lot of opportunities in health care in Indiana,” Pence told them. “It’s historically been a great place to be involved in medicine.”
He also noted growing opportunities in life sciences fields.
ISU launched the physician assistant program in January 2011. It is one of several recently developed programs in ISU’s College of Nursing, Health and Human Services designed to help address a shortage of health care providers in the state, especially in rural areas.
In visiting ISU, the governor wanted to learn more about the university and its programs that are helping to meet the state’s needs, including the area of health and human services.
After he met with students, Pence proceeded to an anatomy lab in the same building, the Sycamore Center for Wellness and Applied Medicine. In a visit that wasn’t part of the itinerary, he received a short lesson in anatomy from Dan Coovert, anatomist and assistant professor in the department of applied medicine and rehabilitation.
Coovert showed the governor a cadaver and pointed out that the elderly individual had suffered from hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure and poor circulation.
“Would you like to hold a brain?” Coovert asked. The governor politely declined, but when Coovert asked a few more times, Pence donned rubber gloves and received a first-hand anatomy lesson.
Coovert pointed to gaps in the brain, which indicated some dementia.
“They didn’t warn me you were coming,” Coovert told Indiana’s governor. Pence responded, “They didn’t warn me you were coming.”
The visit to ISU was Pence’s first to the campus since taking office. He briefly met with campus leaders to discuss high-growth academic programs and fiscal/budget matters.
He took a short tour of the Scott College of Business and then took a quick walk through campus as he made his way to the class at the Sycamore Center for Wellness. Officials pointed to Normal Hall, which in this legislative session received $16 million for renovation to house the University College and Student Academic Services, including tutoring and advising.
Officials also pointed to the Science Building, which will undergo a series of state-funded repairs and renovations. The Legislature approved $4.5 million for the final phase of renovation of ISU’s science labs.
Pence also met with reporters and described ISU as “one of the great, great assets of higher education in Indiana.” One of his goals was to better understand how the state’s investment in ISU is “making a difference in the lives of students” and making a difference in the community.
The Legislature did increase overall funding for public higher education and it also advanced certain reforms, including on-time degree completion, he said.
He praised ISU for its Sycamore Graduation Guarantee, which assures eligible students they will be able to complete a bachelor’s degree within four years. If not, the students will be able to take remaining courses tuition-free.
“I want to commend ISU for the commitment they have made to assisting students in completing a four-year degree in four years,” Pence said.
Citing the “enormous cost” of higher education, and particularly “the burden of student loans that so many of our kids are facing as they come out of school,” Pence said one of the ways to lower the cost of a college education is to make sure that a four-year degree is completed in four years.
The Sycamore Guarantee “represents an extraordinary and commendable commitment by Indiana State University,” Pence said.
He also noted that the General Assembly approved a Principal Leadership Institute at ISU, which will be funded at $1.2 million over the next two years.
The state “has forged a new partnership with ISU” to train educational leaders, which should translate into higher educational outcomes for kids, Pence said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.