After 33 years at Indiana University, Jack Schmit, assistant dean of The University Graduate school, retires on August 31. Schmit began his studies at IU as a Ph.D. student and upon graduation, went on to serve in a variety of positions. This includes serving as the system-wide assessment coordinator for College Preparatory Initiatives, executive director at Indiana Career and Postsecondary Advancement Center (ICPAC), university-wide coordinator for the Herbert Presidential Scholars Program within the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs (OVPDEMA), and director of IU-MSI STEM Initiative.
“Throughout his thirty-three-year career at Indiana University, Jack has been deeply committed to advancing the mission of our institution,” said James Wimbush, vice president for diversity, equity, and multicultural affairs; dean of The University Graduate School; and Johnson Chair for Diversity and Leadership. “Nowhere has this been more evident than his work with the IU-MSI STEM Initiative—an inclusive academic and research effort that seeks to enhance opportunities for faculty and students at IU and our partner institutions.” Wimbush was the principal investigator on the Office of Naval Research grant that expanded the initiative in 2015.
Yolanda Treviño, assistant vice president for strategy, planning, and assessment in OVPDEMA, worked closely with Jack on the IU-MSI STEM Initiative as a co-principal investigator on the Navy grant. Although having limited interaction with Jack until their partnership on the initiative, Treviño knew who Jack was before their collaboration. “He’s talented,” she said. “One who leads with excellence and is approachable and committed with the heart of a servant leader. As individuals participate in efforts and initiatives, he always personalizes their engagements.”
Treviño recalls a story regarding the Herbert Presidential Scholarship award, where students also receive a heavy medallion “similar to the ones given to Olympic champions” through the mail. None of the scholars knew they were receiving a medallion. As Treviño remarked, “To get something so unique and not even know it is part of your academic scholarship—distinguishes the award even more. Yes, the scholars receive funding for four years, but the medallion makes it more special. It is a level of attention and thoughtfulness to each scholar, to say ‘you have a reputation for academic excellence in high school. We anticipate you’ll achieve the same in college and we hope you say yes to IU.’”
David Daleke, vice provost for Graduate Education and Health Sciences and associate dean of The University Graduate School remarks on Jack’s leadership during one of the IU-MSI STEM Initiatives, the Summer Scholars Institute. The institute is an eight-week summer program that enrolls select minority-serving institutions (MSI) and IU students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Hispanic Serving Institutes (HSI), and tribal colleges.
“Jack took a very personal approach to his interactions with the students and our partner faculty. He got to know all of them individually and quite well. He mentored the students in many, many ways, showing deep concern for their well-being and progress through the program and into their future careers. The lasting relationships he developed are evident in the strong commitments we have with our partner institutions and the number of students who continue to stay in touch with him. I attribute a large part of the success of the program to Jack’s genuine care and concern for all participants.”
His wife, Sharon, expressed a similar sentiment, discussing Jack’s dedication to his students. “He enjoys the students and is always offering and guiding them in any way he can,” she said. “He’s very giving of his time to his students. And I think they appreciate that. We’ve had them over for cookouts and Christmas parties, and so many of them have come back to say thank you.”
JoAnne Bunnage, assistant vice provost for Academic Programs and Accreditation at Oregon State University, knew Jack both as a professional colleague and as a student. Before coming to IU to work on her doctorate, she connected with Jack, who helped to provide her resources on first-generation college students for her work at Notre Dame while he was working at ICPAC in the 90s. Building upon that collegial relationship, when Bunnage attended Indiana University—working on getting a doctorate in Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies—Jack was a member of her dissertation committee.
“I may even still have edits of the various chapters of my dissertation,” Bunnage said. “You always knew that Jack had carefully read the work you presented to him and that the feedback he was offering should be considered and taken into account. He wasn’t just skimming and writing a comment here or there. He was putting in much time and thought. And I will be forever grateful because it helped me improve my writing and my work.” Bunnage noted that her dissertation was accepted as written without edits, a feat she attributes to contributions by Jack and the rest of her committee.
Charlie Nelms, former vice president for diversity, equity, and multicultural affairs, first got to know Jack as chancellor at IU East, before both he and Jack worked together at OVPDEMA. Nelms noted that they had a “very positive and effective working relationship over the years” and highlighted Jack’s passion for historically underrepresented students and his work in collaboratively launching several programs to help those students.
Several of Jack’s colleagues mentioned his collaborative spirit. Kathleen Sideli, associate vice president for Overseas Study, got to know Jack while they worked on the study abroad aspect of the Herbert Presidential Scholars Program. Like Treviño, she knew his face and name but had never worked with him before their collaboration. “It’s interesting,” Sideli said. “I’ve been at IU a long time and involved in innumerable meetings, but I can still remember the day I first met Jack. Being at IU for as long as we have—you develop these bonds with people, and over the years, you watch them blossom in their jobs. With Jack, there is just a passion for the work he does.”
During their partnership, they worked together to identify which overseas programs would benefit the Herbert Presidential Scholars. Sideli remarked that it was a mutual learning situation for both of them and that while working together, she noted that Jack was “a very adept administrator for the students, and we worked well together. He’s very effective and decisive.”
“I think it goes back to his genuine interest in people,” Bunnage said when discussing Jack as a collaborative partner. “He’s a man of faith, and he wants to see the best in a situation. If that involves others, why not collaborate? And when he does collaborate, he removes his ego, and when you do that, you have a better chance of working effectively together.” Bunnage cites Jack’s listening skills and ability to speak up in situations that make him such an excellent collaborator.
As Jack moves onto this new chapter in his life, colleagues remarked on the legacy he leaves behind. While each has different interactions and relationships with him, many note the extraordinary number of people Jack has touched with his work. The passion he feels for helping students reach their full potential and the wonderful collaborations is made all the better because of his expertise and knowledge.
Sharon notes that Jack’s future includes spending time with his four children and seven grandchildren, attending IU sporting events, and traveling. “He won’t sit still,” she says. “Jack is very handy and likes staying involved and staying active, volunteering with neighbors, and teaching classes at church. I’m sure he has some things on his mind, but nothing set in stone. But he will be keeping himself busy.”