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Identification of Strategic Initiatives

January 12, 2011

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:

Welcome back to a new semester! I hope your semester break went well and you’re keeping warm.

I’m writing to follow up on the November 30 Provost eNews, which announced the process and objectives we will use to identify strategic initiatives — to leverage KU’s strengths to tackle important grand challenges. I encourage you and your colleagues to submit an idea. We will send you the details of the nomination process next week. The nomination form will center around answering the following six questions. There is a strict page limit of three pages (not counting the items in 2 and 6 that can go into an appendix) so that the nomination process will not be onerous and can instead help focus on innovative and creative ideas.

  1. Describe succinctly the escalating or emerging grand challenge that this initiative addresses. In which multiple ways will this initiative address this challenge/need? Identify the goals and outcomes of this initiative over a span of 5–10 years and more.
  2. Identify the preexisting intellectual strengths already at KU. List the faculty personnel who would be involved; this list could be provided as an appendix.
  3. Describe the multidisciplinary/transdisciplinary nature of the initiative and how it can strengthen, expand, or build an innovative academic community involving multiple units across KU. Identify all departments, centers, schools that would actively participate in this initiative. Describe how it will enhance undergraduate and graduate education at KU.
  4. Describe any necessary new faculty recruits, their impact on the initiative, the feasibility of hiring at the highest levels of excellence, and the start-up resources required.
  5. Estimate other resources that will be needed to launch and support this initiative over an initial five-year period. Quantify costs for support staff, space, equipment, etc. Identify the extent to which these resources already exist or will require new funds. What sources and magnitude of external funding (federal agencies, foundations, corporate, etc.) can be expected to support this initiative?
  6. Identify universities or other entities in the U.S. or elsewhere that already have a similar or complementary initiative in place. Provide a brief description of each initiative. Your response to this request may be provided as an appendix if necessary.

The nominations will be due February 28, 2011 and can be submitted by multiple faculty members, staff members, or organizational units. The nominations will be analyzed during March and April using input from external experts and working with the deans. The deans will then make recommendations to the steering committee for strategic initiative themes.

The process is actually longer, though, for working out the details. For each strategic initiative theme, we will host a campus-wide retreat in Fall 2011 that will bring together faculty from across the university who are doing related research. The retreat will accomplish several things: It will help strengthen, expand, or build the intellectual community; encourage conversations; and form collaborations. The retreat will also help the leaders of the effort (principally the relevant deans and faculty leaders) identify which targeted investments will be most important (such as faculty lines, core equipment and infrastructure, renovation, graduate support, seed funding, etc.) to help guide future faculty search allocations and infrastructure investments. This strategy is an important one, especially in times of restricted budgets, so that we at KU can identify our intellectual strengths and leverage them to great effect.

We have asked every department to devote at least one faculty meeting in the coming weeks to discussing ideas for strategic initiatives. To help inform the discussions, we invite you to visit the strategic planning web site, where you can find links to areas of emphases of the schools and centers, as well as a discussion board where you can post ideas and give feedback on potential strategic initiatives. These resources are meant to help you identify what others on campus are doing so that you can ascertain potential participants in initiative ideas you may have.

More information will be coming soon. Thanks for your direct participation in the strategic planning process. Questions as always can be addressed to provost@ku.edu.

  -- Jeff

Addendum (added January 24, 2011):

The Word form to make nominations for strategic initiatives (due Monday, February 28, 2011) is available online (33 KB MS Word doc).

We will be hosting a town hall meeting open to the greater KU community, including members of our external communities, on February 1 at 3:30. The town hall meeting will help address any questions or suggestions about the strategic planning process to date and in particular about the strategic initiative process. We will also have several informal coffees in the following days to enable more one-on-one discussions:

Town Hall meeting on strategic initiatives

  • Tuesday, February 1, 3:30–4:30 PM, Alderson Auditorium, Kansas Union

Informal coffee conversations

  • Friday, February 4, 2011, 8:30–9:30 AM, Malott Room, Kansas Union
  • Monday, February 7, Noon–1:00 PM, Malott Room, Kansas Union (feel free to bring a brown bag lunch — beverages provided)
  • Thursday, February 10, 4:00–5:00 PM, Malott Room, Kansas Union

More information is available on the strategic planning web site.

Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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