Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:
Goal 1 of our strategic plan Bold Aspirations is dedicated to renewing KU’s strong tradition of providing an exceptional undergraduate education. As part of fulfilling our mission of educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that will change the world, we are creating a transformed and engaging academic environment.
As an international research university and the state’s flagship, KU trains students who go on to play key roles in the economic growth of our state and nation. By transforming our undergraduate experience, we will engage our students intellectually so they reach their full academic potential, graduate in a timely manner, and progress to successful careers.
This week, I want to focus on how KU is educating future leaders by updating you on our progress towards a new university-wide curriculum, which we call the KU Core. I also want to highlight the opportunities for service learning already available at KU. Both will play an important role in how we prepare students for lifelong learning, leadership, and success.
Moving KU’s general education into the 21st century
Last month, the KU Core transition committee met for the first time. Made up of 22 faculty, staff, and students nominated by faculty, deans, governance, and student groups, the committee is responsible for reviewing the learning outcomes for each of our six general educational goals. The committee will then develop the process for nominating courses and educational experiences to meet those goals in a flexible manner.
We call the committee a transition committee because it forms the critical bridge between the six educational goals on the one hand and the curriculum to meet those goals on the other. It also serves as a transformation committee because the curriculum we envision will be transformative for our students. The curriculum will integrate formal courses and learning experiences to prepare students as lifelong learners — with the critical thinking and adaptation skills demanded by a rapidly-changing 21st century world.
From the beginning, our development of a single core curriculum for all undergraduates has been guided by the KU community: In fall 2010, over 700 individuals sent nominations for educational goals, and an even greater number gave input into their prioritization, which led to the six identified in the strategic plan. Last fall, the six satellite committees drafted learning outcomes for the six goals. To maintain full community involvement, the transition committee’s first responsibility is to review the draft learning outcomes and then share them with KU faculty, staff, and students for feedback later this month.
As the semester progresses, members of the transition committee will continue to be a communication conduit as they build our new curriculum. As envisioned in Bold Aspirations, the KU Core curriculum will give undergraduates the flexibility to chart personalized paths by ensuring multiple options for each learning outcome, including a combination of formal classes and co-curricular learning experiences.
Serving the community: The Big Event
As we renew our curriculum, we will expand the opportunities for students to learn through doing, by serving the community. KU has a strong foundation of community service and service learning, as evidenced by our being named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for five consecutive years.
The second annual Big Event at KU will take place on Saturday, March 31 when KU students, faculty, and staff will complete service projects all across town. It is designed to bring the University of Kansas community closer to the larger community of Lawrence, Kansas. I plan on participating in The Big Event and I encourage you to do the same. Building connections with the local community can spark new service projects and new opportunities for engaged learning of the type that can play a role in the new KU Core curriculum.
The deadline for KU faculty, staff, and students to sign up to volunteer is Friday, March 2. If you are aware of projects in the Lawrence community needing volunteers, the deadline to nominate projects is Friday, February 24. Information and sign-up are available on the web page.
Chancellor Gray-Little and I are looking forward to The Big Event and to working with you to build a healthier community here in Lawrence. Please spread the word and help the organizers meet their goal of 2,000 volunteers.
Providing feedback on strategic initiative summit reports
The report for our third strategic initiative summit, “Building Communities, Expanding Opportunities,” is now online. Your feedback is a crucial part of putting our strategic initiatives in action, and I encourage you to review the planning group’s report and offer your thoughts and suggestions. The same applies to the reports for the first two summits, which are also online. See the strategic initiatives web page for details.
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.