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Hanging with the president

Rob with students-3It’s the first week of classes, and you’re excited to see what various student groups have to offer. When you settle into a room for an informational meeting, someone takes a seat next to you. You turn to say hi, and recognize a face from your very first day at UIndy.

It’s President Robert Manuel, and he’s asking you how your day has gone so far.

This is actually a common experience for UIndy students. President Manuel’s active presence in the campus community is something that students and faculty alike have come to respect and enjoy. His kindness and curiosity lead him wherever he’s invited—whether it be a small gathering of students for a poetry reading or large campus-wide events.

And while this might sound unusual, to hear the president tell it, he’s not doing anything special at all.

“What I’m doing isn’t extraordinary,” he says. “It’s actually quite ordinary for this campus. When I first came here, I immediately noticed how active everyone in the campus community is, from the faculty and staff to the students.”

Campus connections

And whether he’s busy hosting a community event, attending banquets, or meeting with board members, he finds time in his day to experience UIndy right alongside the students and faculty.

Rob with students-14This means attending after-school organization meetings and club gatherings, hanging out on the mall with students between classes, and even hosting events at his home on campus. That sense of community, he says, was central to his approach to leadership at UIndy.

“I could sit in my office and think, or I can get out and be informed,” Dr. Manuel says. “I’m a steward of our students’ ideas and passions. I have to figure out how to connect them to one another and also to the community and the industries they’ll enter when they graduate.

“To me, it comes back to that feeling our students have, that they can build real relationships with their teachers and each other. That’s something very special to our campus community.”

Presidential perks

The encounters that Dr. Manuel has with the students leave lasting impressions and make students realize they really are a part of the school on an important level.

“Being a Presidential Ambassador and vice president of Student Government has given me many opportunities to interact with President Manuel,” says sophomore Mizraim Lorenzo-Aguilar.

“It’s been great because I have been invited to participate in different events with him and I’ve been able to get to know him as a person, rather than just as the president of UIndy.”

Rob with students-6Students are always bumping into the president because he meets the students where they are—whether it’s at an event or online. You can find him regularly engaging with students on Twitter with his handle @UIndyPrez.

With more than 2,700 followers, he actively talks with students, asks questions, shares important information, and highlights student and University accomplishments. He even engages newcomers to the school, regularly tweeting notes of welcome and encouragement to prospective students.

Just doing his job

Rob with students-16But President Manuel insists that in everything he does as president, it’s because it’s in the DNA of the University; he’s simply continuing the legacy of those before him.

“I didn’t bring this here,” he says, “I’m modeling what was already here; I take my lead from the faculty who do this every day. I show up, listen, and connect.”

As UIndy grows and expands (for example, the library renovation will take place this summer and the health pavilion will open this fall), President Manuel continues to talk to the UIndy family about what the University and the surrounding community needs to thrive.

“I believe that the future of UIndy is going to have its roots in the people who have lived it more than I have,” he says. “That’s what is most important to me.”

Nate Brock ’13 & Ryan Brock ’10