Commissioner Spotlight: Indiana's Teresa Lubbers

Teresa Lubbers, Commissioner for Indiana’s Commission for Higher Education, will step down from her role at the end of March when the Indiana legislative session ends. Prior to joining the Commission, Teresa served in the Indiana State Senate for 17 years, leading on education and economic development issues as Chair of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee. She has served in many roles with the Midwestern Higher Education Compact since becoming a Commissioner in 1996, including a term as chair. Teresa also serves as the Chair of Indiana’s Governor’s Workforce Cabinet. She holds an undergraduate degree from Indiana University and a Master in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

You’re on record as saying you never dreaded a Monday as Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education. Is that really true, even given the challenges of the pandemic?
It is! We are very mission-driven so even though there were obstacles during Covid and some of our efforts had to go on hold, we never lost sight of the mission and that made every day worthwhile. I have to say, throughout my career, all of my roles have never seemed like jobs but opportunities to be mission driven. It has been a real privilege to serve in these positions.

Education and economic mobility are two of your top passions. Tell us about your work in these arenas.
The relationship between education and economic mobility drove me to run for office and for my current position. We do not want to leave people behind in this knowledge-based economy.

Access to higher education is clearly important but access without completion can leave people with debt and no better opportunity, so I am very focused on college completion. I also work hard to align postsecondary credentials with the needs of our workforce so that we put people on the path to success and build a stronger economy.

Tell us about your work with MHEC over the years. What stands out from your lengthy service as a Commissioner?
Building support in the legislature has been a pleasure because it’s easy to convince legislators about the benefits of MHEC membership. In addition, MHEC’s data collection and research that drives policy in individual states has been very important to me.

What do you think the true value of MHEC is?
The four higher education compacts are critically important to our regional economies. Through MHEC, the 12 states can share and benefit from cost savings and dig deep on regional and higher ed challenges. Higher education, like many other industries, is in the midst of significant change due to technology and demographic shifts. MHEC convenes people to share best practices, cross pollinate, and simply provide opportunities to think about tough issues and discuss them honestly.

Tell us about your passion for education and education policy.
I grew up in Indianapolis and was a first-generation college graduate. I taught high school English after graduating from Indiana University but early on I was interested in policy. I had the privilege of working with Dick Lugar, who then was mayor of Indianapolis. When he moved to the U.S. Senate, I went to work for him in Washington, D.C., where I learned so much. Quality education has always been my deepest passion and interest. I truly believe it is what will drive the future of our regional and national economies.

What’s next for you?
I’m looking forward to having more flexibility in my life! But I intend to stay engaged in topics related to higher education. I really see myself moving to something new rather than giving something up.

The Compact extends its deepest thanks to Teresa for her wise counsel over many years and tenacious dedication to quality higher education in Indiana and our MHEC 12-state region.