Charting Our Course — With Adjustments Along the Way
Dear Faculty and Staff:
While walking down the Hill yesterday in my first “official” commencement as KU’s provost, I had the opportunity to reflect on the year and enjoy a moment of deep satisfaction in the work we accomplished together — providing an excellent learning environment for our students.
Nurturing that learning environment and the university that provides it is what motivates our strategic planning process. The first phase of the strategic planning process is wrapping up; the final meeting of the very dedicated steering committee was last Tuesday. The report will be written this summer with continuing input from the KU community.
As we begin the drafting process¸ we will continue our practice of inclusion and transparency. We have worked hard to make this planning effort noteworthy in the extent to which we provide information to — and receive feedback from — the KU community. Strategic plans at universities are most effective when they revolve around a process that seeks clear and open dialogue — one that assesses current challenges, brings forward lots of good ideas, vets those ideas carefully from many perspectives, and by so doing enlists the commitment of the community to move forward.
We began the strategic planning process last October building a sense of urgency. Among other things, we considered metrics used by the prestigious Association of American Universities, in which KU has been a member of for over 100 years; recent events have reinforced the need for progress. The strategic planning website includes the minutes from each committee and subcommittee meeting, as well as the reports from work groups, videos of town hall meetings, results from surveys, and a discussion board. We will continue to keep you informed. As you wrap up your work from the spring semester, please visit the website to review what we have done thus far and give us your feedback.
Refinements to the plan
Your input has already helped us clarify several recommendations, and I list two below:
- Post-tenure review: The Driving Discovery and Innovation (DDI) work group recommended consideration of a policy requiring mandatory promotion review after eight years as an associate professor. This fall we will convene a committee, in consultation with the Faculty Senate, charged with considering best practices and recommending a post-tenure review process that encourages progress through the faculty ranks and throughout one’s career. This committee will include broad representation of faculty from across campus, including both full professors and associate professors, to ensure that the policy they recommend is appropriate for KU.
- Faculty Accountability: The DDI report also included two recommendations made in spring 2010 by the Chancellor’s Task Force on Research Engagement, calling for the development of a university-wide web-based faculty activity reporting system as well as comparative tools (using Academic Analytics) for evaluating department rankings nationally on a variety of measures. As I wrote last September, articles in the press have understandably raised questions about unwise use of metrics at other universities. At KU, our goal instead is to assist departments in measuring themselves against their national peers in ways that are meaningful and tuned to the individuality of our departments. We are also collaborating with the University of Notre Dame to help identify more relevant metrics for the arts, humanities, and humanistic social sciences. By so doing, we hope to augment the metrics that the AAU and other organizations use to evaluate universities so that we can establish more comprehensive assessments of excellence.
Thank you to all who participated in the 104 proposals submitted for strategic initiatives. You were particularly effective at highlighting exciting strengths and opportunities throughout the university. We have very recently sent feedback to the submitters of each proposal, consisting of the scores and written comments provided by the DDI review panels. The deans, as a group, are now establishing strategic initiative themes that integrate and promote the strengths of the submitted proposals. These themes will be sharpened and announced over the summer, and in the early fall we will convene summits on each theme. The goals of these summits will be to bring together all interested faculty and constitute a community of scholars to develop specific project plans for investments, shared among the schools, the College, and the university. Your participation in this process will help to ensure that it yields a brighter future for the research mission of KU.
Changing for Excellence
An important aspect of our planning is a university-wide study, Changing for Excellence, that the Huron Consulting group is leading to recommend ways we can transform KU’s business and administrative processes. Following two initial town hall meetings held before graduation for faculty on May 11 and May 16, we will host additional town hall meetings for staff:
- Tuesday, May 31 from noon until 2:00 p.m. in 110 Budig Hall
- Wednesday, June 29 from noon until 2:00 p.m. in Nichols Hall, Apollo Auditorium
I invite all staff members to come and listen, ask questions, and provide important feedback. I encourage supervisors to give interested staff members the time to attend these very important sessions.
As you read this eNews, I will be with 40 other Jayhawks traveling across Kansas on the Wheat State Whirlwind bus tour. I look forward to traveling with my colleagues and learning more about this great state I now call home.
I hope you have a productive and rejuvenating summer. We have lots to be proud of.
Jeffrey S. Vitter
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor
This issue of Provost eNews as well as past ones can be found on the Provost eNews web page.