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Committed to KU’s Excellence

April 28, 2014

Faculty, Staff, and Students:

Bold Aspirations is not only our five-year strategic plan for the University of Kansas, it represents a long-term vision of where we see ourselves as the state’s flagship institution.

Chancellor Gray-Little and I have often mentioned the peers against which we measure ourselves, the metrics by which we gauge our progress, and the goals we set to determine our success. Our peers are a mix of comparable and aspirational, and we aim not only to match their excellence but also to become a model for others who, like KU, are members of the Association of American Universities.

That vision is why we are undertaking Bold Aspirations — an unprecedented effort that includes six broad goals comprised of 22 strategies with 61 specific action steps. And I’m proud to say we’ve already made progress on every single action step in our plan.

This transformation of our great institution into one that is recognized among the top tier of public, international research universities will have long-term benefits for students and the citizens we serve. One reason I know we will succeed is the quality of those who are overseeing the implementation. Our team is visionary, dedicated, and talented. And most importantly, our team has already demonstrated its long-term commitment to KU, and that experience is bearing considerable fruit.

Leveraging 165 years of KU experience

Implementation of Bold Aspirations is being led by Sara Rosen, senior vice provost for academic affairs and a member of the KU linguistics faculty for the past 23 years. Sara guides progress on each of the goals and ensures there is coordination across the strategies.

Ann Cudd, vice provost and dean of undergraduate studies, University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, and a member of the KU faculty for 26 years, is leading the implementation of our progression and graduation strategies tied to Goal 1. She works closely with Matt Melvin, vice provost for enrollment management, who has made major inroads in our recruitment strategies since he joined KU in 2010. And Tammara Durham, vice provost for student affairs, draws upon her 16 years of experience at KU working on both Goal 1 and new housing tied to the Campus Master Plan.

Michael Roberts served as chair and professor in clinical child psychology for 23 years before taking on leadership of Goal 2 earlier this year as dean of graduate studies. Mary Lee Hummert, vice provost for faculty development, has been a member of the KU communication studies faculty for 26 years and in May will lead implementation strategies in Goals 3 and 4 tied to research as interim vice chancellor for research. Taking over for Mary Lee as acting vice provost for faculty development and implementing strategies in Goals 3 and 5 will be Marta Caminero-Santangelo, who has served on the English faculty for 17 years, including two years as chair.

And Diane Goddard, vice provost for administration and finance, has worked tirelessly to implement the Changing for Excellence initiative, our top-to-bottom administrative review and an integral part of Goal 6. This year, she is celebrating her 30th year at KU.

With their combined 165 years at KU, these individuals bring a wealth of knowledge and experience and, most importantly, commitment to charting a bold new course for our university.

Raising the expectations we have for ourselves

The talented individuals overseeing the implementation of Bold Aspirations have dedicated their lives and careers to KU, and the profound changes underway are the fulfillment of a promise we made in introducing the plan to raise the expectations we have for ourselves, the aspirations we have for our state, and the hopes we have for our world.

Only halfway through implementation, KU has launched its first university-wide undergraduate curriculum — the KU Core — and has transformed undergraduate recruitment and first-year studies. We have put a comprehensive plan into place to transform doctoral education, created and energized our four strategic initiative themes through myriad activities — including Foundation Distinguished Professors, strategic initiative seed fund grants, and the Bold Aspirations Visitor and Lecture Series — and generated savings through Changing for Excellence that are being reinvested into the priorities of our strategic plan.

For most institutions, these accomplishments would represent the fulfillment of their strategic plan. At the University of Kansas, we’re just getting in the groove.

Of course, the success of Bold Aspirations goes far beyond the aforementioned individuals and their 165 years of combined service at KU. Our success is due fundamentally to the students, faculty, and staff members of KU, who collectively bring an incalculable amount of experience, talent, and passion to our university. It’s because of your efforts that we are progressing to achieve our bold aspirations.

Bits and Bytes

  • The Joint Council of Kansas Distinguished Professors hosted an engaging discussion yesterday on academic freedom and responsibility in the era of social media. I want to commend Susan Kemper, Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of Psychology, and our colleague from Kansas State University, Philip Nel, University Distinguished Professor of English, for their leadership in organizing the afternoon. The event is another example of how KU is taking a leadership role in addressing the intellectual aspects of this topic. Another stellar example was the March 25 panel at The Commons, entitled “What is Free Speech in the Age of Social Media?” As a reminder, you may view the full March 25 event, including a recap of the Twitter conversation, online.
  • Congratulations to the 67 individuals from the Lawrence and Edwards campuses approved for promotion and/or tenure for the 2014–15 academic year. It was once again a great pleasure to serve as chair of the University Committee on Promotion and Tenure and review our faculty members’ distinguished accomplishments in the classroom, the laboratory, the community, and around the world. I want personally to thank the faculty members who dedicated their time to serving on the UCPT this year and congratulate them for their excellent work.
  • The Course Redesign Task Force continues to take feedback on their draft report. I encourage you to review their six recommendations. The task force is planning a forum for all KU faculty on Tuesday, May 13 from noon–2 p.m. in Alderson Auditorium in the Kansas Union to discuss the report. More information will be shared soon.
  • The annual Undergraduate Research Symposium was held Saturday. In addition to student research awards, two awards were presented to individuals for their work as mentors for undergraduate research: Congratulations to the Barbara Schowen Undergraduate Research Mentor Award winner Kostas Kokkinakas, assistant professor of speech-language-hearing, and to awardee Rachel Bowes, a PhD student in ecology and evolutionary biology. The importance of undergraduate research at KU will be heightened as students progress through the KU Core, which will increase the demand for excellent mentors like Kostas and Rachel.
Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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