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November 22

During a Science Advisory Committee meeting, discussions are held about the need for a Center for the Study of the Human Environment at Indiana University. A proposal was subsequently developed by professors Thomas Brock (bacteriology), Lynton Caldwell (political science), and Richard Curtis (physics) to investigate how IU could contribute “more effectively to the growing need for research and teaching dealing with the interrelations between science, technology, and society” as well as how the university could “make a distinctive contribution and achieve high quality performance” in the area of environmental study.


March 27
President Ryan in suit and glasses.At the invitation of Indiana University President John Ryan (pictured), the IU Board of Trustees (BOT) first discusses and then approves a proposal for the establishment of a School of Public and Environmental Affairs on multiple IU campuses. The new school is slated to function in five areas: academics, research, research applications, professional and technical assistance, and placement. The BOT directs that the proposal be presented to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education in the near future.


January 14

The School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) at Indiana University is approved by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. IU President John Ryan names an executive committee to begin implementing the school and serve as a search committee for a dean.

Charles Wise, administrative assistant to the IU president, served as executive secretary of the committee. The committee recommends Charles “Chuck” Bonser be appointed as dean. Bonser appoints Charles Wise as the first faculty member. Wise would chair a committee to develop the graduate curriculum while Jeanne Patterson, the second faculty member hired, led the committee to establish the undergraduate curriculum.

Students for undergraduate and graduate programs are anticipated for fall 1972. The school will be organized as a regrouping for several existing activities on the campuses. SPEA is the first school to be established on the IU campus in six years, the previous being the Graduate Library School in 1966.


April 1

Bonser in a wide-lapeled suit with Meinschein in plaid plants seated near a coffee carafe and a digital clock.

Dean Bonser (left) with Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Warren Meinschein.

Chuck Bonser is appointed the first dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. 


Charles Wise and Jeannie Patterson, in rain coats, stand in front of the very 70s Poplar building.

Charles Wise and Jeannie Patterson, the first two faculty hired at the school, in front of Poplars.

June 1

SPEA takes up residence on three floors of the Poplars Research and Conference Center, a converted dormitory.


Chuck Bonser in regalia stands to the left of 10 students in caps and gowns.

Dean Bonser (left) with the first graduating master's class. 

August 28

SPEA welcomes its first students on five IU campuses, offering a Master of Public Affairs, a bachelor’s degree, and a two-year associate of science degree aimed at professionals. A total of 85 students enroll in the school during its inaugural year.



With the aid of a $100,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment, SPEA undertakes a major community development program in which assistance is given to South Bend, Elkhart, Rochester, Lebanon, Bloomington, and Martinsville to help solve fiscal management and personnel administration problems.


May 27

Arts Administration Program is established.


August 24




Roy Jumper is appointed as an associate dean and served in this capacity until 1986.





Master of Science in Environmental Science program is established in the spring with the first cohort of students being accepted the following fall.


The Ph.D. in Public Policy program begins.


September 25

Three men in suits dig ceremonial dirt with two inset images of building progress

Ground is broken at IUPUI on a new, four-story, $7.5 million building to house the IU School of Business and SPEA.


October 5

aerial view of the spea building and the library

SPEA building under construction in background, behind Wells Library

IU Board of Trustees approves construction of SPEA building on the IU Bloomington campus at a cost of $18.9 million. 


Aerial view of IUPUI

Aerial of IUPUI looking southeast, circa 1979.

The Indiana University Executive Education Program is founded. Offices are established on both the Bloomington and IUPUI campuses and develop a broad reach domestically and internationally while hosting professionals from across the U.S. and around the globe. Executive Education offers an executive master’s program as well as non-degree professional leadership development programs for healthcare, nonprofit, and governmental organizations.


January 9

John Mikesell leads a class

John L. Mikesell, an expert in governmental finance, leads a class. 

SPEA begins to offer public finance and budgeting and public management graduate programs in an off-campus capacity. Courses are designed to give government employees a chance to expand their primary fields of competence and will be held at the auditorium of the state capital.


September 25

The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration singles out SPEA’s MPA program as a “model graduate program” for similar schools around the country, saying, “Indiana University, through its School of Public and Environmental Affairs, has accepted the challenge of conceiving, designing, and managing a singular program for the differing needs of various parts of the state of Indiana … No challenge can ever be wholly met, but Indiana University appears to have achieved a degree of success which, given the program’s size and age, is commendable and exemplary.”


January 16

Men around a conference table

SPEA hosts Egyptian delegation.

SPEA celebrates its 10th anniversary by holding events on the IU campuses at Bloomington, IUPUI, IU East in Richmond, IU Kokomo, IU Fort Wayne, IU South Bend, and IU Northwest in Gary. The school features 351 students and research grants totaling roughly $2.8 million. 


July 24

SPEA building, circa 1982, with hanging foliage and serpentine wall.

The School of Public and Environmental Affairs moves out of the Poplars Research and Conference Center and into its new home on East 10th Street. The building includes four floors, a library that connects it to the expanded School of Business building, and features hanging gardens on the terraces.


October 7



The new SPEA building is officially dedicated in conjunction with Homecoming Weekend.

IU President John Ryan at the SPEA building dedication ceremony. 


October 3

Retro image of woman in labA Ph.D. in Environmental Science program is approved by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. The degree “uniquely combines basic science, applied science, and public administration in the professional preparation of persons to deal with environmental problems” according to an IU release. The new program is critical because, at the time, IU didn’t offer many advanced degrees in applied science.


Group shot

The Washington Leadership Program is established, allowing SPEA students to earn professional experience in Washington, D.C., while also serving as ambassadors in the nation’s capital. 



January 27

The school celebrates its 15th anniversary with a two-day colloquium involving high-level federal government officials and the deans of the country’s major schools of public affairs and administration. Officials include Ralph Bledsoe, the special assistant to President Ronald Reagan. 


August 24


Retiring Dean Bonser holds commemorative plaque


James Barnes is selected to succeed Chuck Bonser as dean of SPEA. Barnes comes to the school after serving as the deputy administrator for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since 1985.  

Dean Bonser at his retirement event.




Professor Meretsky with a group of students on a deck overlooking a creek

Professor Vicky Meretsky with student researchers at McCormick's Creek.

The United States Department of Energy creates the National Institute for Global Environmental Change to address growing public and scientific discussion about climate change. SPEA is selected as the site of the Midwestern Regional Center of the institute and begins research on the effects of climate change on Midwestern forests and agriculture. 



Center for Urban Policy and the Environment, 1993.

The IU Center for Urban Policy and the Environment is created at IUPUI to deliver unbiased research and data-driven, objective, expert analysis to help public, private, and nonprofit sectors make important decisions that directly impact quality of life in Indiana and throughout the nation.



A new Ph.D. in Public Affairs program is established and welcomes its first cohort of students.


Men around a conference table.

The United States Agency for International Development awards a five-year, $5 million collaborative agreement to SPEA in Bloomington and IUPUI with Charles Wise as project director to assist the Parliament of Ukraine in developing a more democratic and effective parliament. The project will be subsequently renewed and served for 19 years.


Dean Barnes with a microphone in front of a red drape and 25 sign.

Dean James Barnes at the 25th anniversary celebration.

SPEA celebrates its 25th anniversary with a yearlong series of events to showcase the ways the school is impacting the real world both locally and around the globe. The effort includes a public policy lecture series, graduation dinners, multiple visits from speakers, and more. The school includes more than 100 full-time faculty, 600 graduate students, and 1,600 undergraduates, making it the largest school of its kind in the nation. 


September 2

Dean Barnes headshot



Dean James Barnes announces he will step down from his position effective July 1, 2000.






Interim Dean Gronbjerg headshot




Kirsten Grønbjerg is named interim dean.







October 1

Dean Merget gesticulates at a podium in front of a welcome sign

Astrid Merget, the former director of The Ohio State University’s School of Public Policy and Management, becomes the third permanent dean of SPEA.


Students on grass on SPEA plaza with serpentine wall

SPEA is ranked No. 3 in the country by U.S. News & World Report in their ranking of “America’s Best Graduate Schools.” The school's environmental policy and management program at IU Bloomington ranked first, while the public financing and budget and nonprofit management programs ranked second.


May 17

Kurt Zorn head shot



Merget announces she will step down as dean. Professor and Associate Dean C. Kurt Zorn (pictured) is named interim dean.






April 17

Dean Graham head shot



John D. Graham, a former Harvard faculty member and former top official with the White House Office of Management and Budget, is named the fourth dean of SPEA effective August 1.





May 12

Man at podium

John Krauss, founding director of PPI, at the American Red Cross National Convention, Indianapolis, 1986.

The Indiana University Public Policy Institute (PPI) is established at IUPUI. The multidisciplinary institute was initially envisioned to serve as an umbrella organization for the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment, the Center for Health Policy, and the newly formed Center for Criminal Justice Research. PPI will also support the Office of International Community Development and the Indiana Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.


July 1

SPEA IUPUI commencement, May 2010

Following a reorganization within Indiana University, SPEA at IUPUI is designated as a “core campus school”—a single academic entity geographically dispersed on both the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses under the broad academic leadership of a single dean. The decision is aimed at removing barriers to collaboration between the two campuses.


August 1

Graham becomes the fourth permanent dean of SPEA.


September 15

Paul Oneill with George Bush

President George W. Bush meets with his domestic policy team in 2001, including Paul O’Neill (left).

Paul H. O’Neill, who earned his Master of Public Affairs from IU in 1966 and was former Secretary of the Treasury under President George W. Bush, visits to attend several events to provide insight into the workings of the public and private sectors while also touching on topics such as health care and environmental policy.


October 5

The SPEA Dean’s Council (DC) is established by Dean John D. Graham. The DC includes 20 respected leaders from business, government, and the nonprofit sector, including former IU President John Ryan.


October 5

Elinor Ostrom in front of a hearth


Professor Elinor Ostrom becomes the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in economic sciences. Ostrom was known for her groundbreaking work on the management of commonly owned resources spanning political science, environmental policy, and economics.




December 22

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels awards Elinor Ostrom the Sagamore of the Wabash.




SPEA at IUPUI introduces the Master of Criminal Justice and Public Safety program.








National Research Council’s Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the U.S. ranks the SPEA doctoral program in public affairs and joint doctoral program in public policy among the top five programs in the country.




Civic Leaders students

Civic Leaders Students on move-in day, 2013. 

The Civic Leaders Living Learning Center is established at Briscoe Quadrangle with more than 50 students. It is directed by Paul Helmke and is formed to engage students interested in global, national, and local policy issues such as healthcare, income inequality, and gun control laws.


March 27

Architectural rendering

Paul O’Neill gives a gift of $3 million to SPEA, the largest private donation in the school’s history to that point. The gift will partially fund a planned graduate center (rendering pictured).


January 26

Group shot with ceremonial shovels

Ground is broken for construction on the $12 million Paul H. O’Neill Graduate Center. The three-story structure will adjoin the existing SPEA building, providing space for graduate students who previously shared space with a growing undergraduate population.


February 24

Students at tables in atrium in front of rankings banner

Spring Experience Day, 2016

U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools” rankings are released, and the Master of Public Affairs at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs is ranked No. 1 for the first time. The school also was ranked No. 1 in three specialties—environmental policy and management, nonprofit management, and public finance and budgeting—and third in public management and administration. 


March 7

Cecile and George WangThe second-floor study and meeting space of the soon-to-be-opened SPEA graduate center is named the David and Cecile Wang Commons thanks to a $1 million gift from the couple. The gift is unique in that, per the couple’s request, the name is temporary with a 10-year time limit. It is the first time in IU history a limited-time naming has been used.

Cecile and David Wang in 2012.


March 27

Paul ONeill at building dedication

Paul O'Neill at the O'Neill Graduate Center dedication.

In a ceremony presided over by IU President Michael A. McRobbie, the Paul H. O’Neill Graduate Center is dedicated. The LEED certified 34,000-square-foot facility provides state-of-the-art classrooms, meeting areas, faculty offices, and three large student commons.


August 8


Deans Siân Mooney, Charles "Chuck" Bonser, James Barnes, John D. Graham and Provost Lauren Robel in 2019.

John D. Graham announces he will step down as dean to return to the faculty effective at the end of the 2018-19 academic year. Graham presided over the rapid growth of the school—enrollment increased more than 50 percent during his tenure—and its rise to No. 1 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings.


March 4

McRobbie (left) with Mrs. O'Neill and others and building sign

IU President McRobbie with the O'Neill family at the school naming ceremony on September 18, 2019.

The School of Public and Environmental Affairs is renamed in honor of Paul H. O’Neill in recognition of O’Neill’s career in the private and public sectors and a $30 million gift to support programming within the school. The gift will establish the Paul H. O’Neill Center on Leadership in Public Service; a dean’s initiatives fund; three faculty chair positions; five professorships; a fellowship program for master’s, doctoral, and postdoctoral students; and a scholarship program, which will continue in perpetuity. 


May 31

Dean Mooney head shot

Siân Mooney is announced as the new dean of the O’Neill School. The Arizona State University associate dean for interdisciplinary programs and initiatives at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and a professor in its School of Public Affairs will step into the job August 1.





August 15

IUPUI classroom, 2017

The Academic Ranking of World Universities—more commonly referred to as the Shanghai Rankings—names the O’Neill School’s public administration research in Bloomington as best in the world. Research originating from IUPUI O’Neill was ranked in the 76-100 grouping.


April 18

Paul O'Neill head shot


Paul H. O’Neill passes away in Pittsburgh at the age of 84.









September 22

David Audretsch with arms folded in front of O'Neill sign

O’Neill School Distinguished Professor David Audretsch (pictured) is named a Clarivate Citation Laureate, an international honor reserved for researchers whose work has been deemed to be "of Nobel class" as demonstrated by analysis carried out by the Institute for Scientific Information. Audretsch is one of 16 researchers in the world to receive the honor, which commonly serves as a precursor to winning a Nobel prize.


October 4

Senator Bayh at podium in packed room

Former Indiana Governor and Senator Evan Bayh welcomes students.

More than 125 students gather to officially launch the NextGen Leadership Program on the IU campus. IU is one of 10 schools across the country to offer the program which aims to develop leadership skills in students and explore ways to incorporate public service into their future careers.


March 29

Dean Mooney at podium in front of number one sign

Dean Mooney speaking at the No. 1 rankings celebration.

For the sixth time in seven years, the O’Neill School is ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Graduate School” rankings for its MPA program. O'Neill's programs in environmental policy and management, nonprofit management, and public finance and budgeting all ranked No. 1. The public policy analysis and public management and leadership specialties ranked second. The nonprofit management program based at IUPUI ranked third.  


The O'Neill Building in 2017.
50 years at O'Neill