Building history and bears: IUS watches as Whitten is sworn in as president of IU

Students and faculty at IUS celebrated with bear-building fun


Caleb Stultz

Chelsea Gramlin, senior, holds her stuffed build-a-bear at the inauguration watch party moments before joining attendees of the party for President Whitten’s inauguration.

Caleb Stultz, Staff Reporter

Students at Indiana University Southeast lined up ready to build bears and celebrate earlier this month as Dr. Pamela Whitten was inaugurated as the 19th president of Indiana University.

Whitten is the first female president of Indiana University. Her time as president began in July 2021, over 200 years after the school was founded.

The event took place on Nov. 4 on the third floor of the IUS library with boxes stocked full of stuffing, ready-to-be-stuffed bears, masked-up students and faculty, one giant screen with a countdown clock and drinks and food laid out for anyone to take. 

Anticipation was buzzing all around for the historic moment. However, many students, like Chelsea Gramlin, said their main motivations were the bears.

“I kind of wanted to see what the Build-A-Bear thing was like,” she said. “Also I think it’s a big deal that we are getting a new IU president.”

Gremlin, a senior finance major, said she thinks Whitten will set a good example for women across all of Indiana’s regional campuses. She said she feels like females at IUS should feel empowered by Whitten’s inauguration to take positions of leadership on campus.

“I like that this is an event that is unifying all the IU campuses,” Gremlin said. 

One student who said she was mainly there for the Build-A-Bear event was Esther Yebei, a junior psychology major and president of the Asian Pop Culture Club.

“I thought it would be fun because who doesn’t like build-a-bear?” she said.

Yebei said she wants to name her bear “An-me” but have it pronounced as “anime.”

She said she wants to see more iconic American ideas from pop culture incorporated into events on campus, especially those that deal with diversity. With that, she also mentioned that she would like to see more diverse events at IUS.

She said she did not have an opinion on the president yet, but she did say that it was “about time” IU had a female president.

“It shouldn’t be something so major,” Yebei said. “It should have been more natural.”

Next to Yebei stood Jonathan Wagner, a freshman psychology major who said he was “looking for somewhere to help out.” 

Wagner said his main motivation for coming to the event was to find a spot to help with the event, but that he was also excited to build a bear.

He said he has not thought about what he wanted to name his bear, only that he wanted to make one.

Wagner also said he doesn’t give too much thought to the president being a woman or a man.

“This is just the passing of the torch to me,” Wagner said.

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  • Keziah Jones (left), sophomore, and Zoe Wallace (right), sophomore, showed off their gray and brown bears at the event. Many students said they came because they wanted to build bears.

  • Students and faculty piled in on the third floor of the IUS library to celebrate the historic occasion.

  • Esther Yebei (left), junior, said she wants to see more American iconic ideas incorporated into events on campus considering the success in turnout of this event.

  • : Jonathan Wagner (left), freshman, said he was happy to help in any way he could for what he said what just “the passing of the torch.”

  • Horizon Radio’s Station Manager Harlee Dorman joined later in the event, building her own bear.

  • The IUS softball team joined in attendance at the event. One student said she would “not miss this event for the world.”

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