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Our Commitment to Students

February 22, 2016

Faculty, staff, and students:

Last week, Chancellor Gray-Little wrote about the importance of helping prospective students see the great opportunities available at the University of Kansas.

The harder work happens when those first-year students and other fledgling Jayhawks arrive at KU. In part due to our work implementing the goals of Bold Aspirations, our strategic plan, KU students — and particularly undergraduates — have available redesigned courses, enlivened curricula, and services and programs to help them succeed. It’s part of our pledge to students as we work toward a 90 percent first-year retention rate and a 70 percent six-year graduation rate by 2022.

As the goal states, this isn’t a target achieved overnight, and the effort needs the involvement of every person on campus. 

Faculty and staff members, regardless of their role, can play a part in helping students succeed. Upper-level students can mentor incoming students. All faculty, staff, and students can help them make connections, and help them harness their energy toward academic success and involvement. Even a simple action, such asking a new student how classes are going, sends the message that KU cares and help is available if needed. 

Just as Bold Aspirations provides metrics and regular assessment of effectiveness, our efforts to improve undergraduate progression and graduation should focus on well-defined outcomes. Reaching the 90/70 goal is paramount. To reach it, we must proceed intentionally and strategically. Our plans must address and remove impediments to student success and create a sustainable environment where students can focus on academics and scholarly engagement. 

DeAngela Burns-Wallace, our new vice provost of Undergraduate Studies, will guide our efforts as we deliver on this promise. During her first few weeks on campus, she’s been meeting with administrators, faculty, staff, and students to better understand the challenges students face and catalog the full array of initiatives available at the Lawrence and Edwards campuses. She sees the academic support and engagement units of Undergraduate Studies as the backbone that helps students successfully move through the university. All our academic units — the schools, the College, and all departments — have distinctive concerns, and Undergraduate Studies has the ability and flexibility to support the academic programs as they work with and educate their students.

We have good momentum, great energy, and thousands of committed faculty, staff, and students on our campuses who are eager to work hard and lend a hand. When we are successful, even more students — both prospective and current — will see not only the opportunities at KU, they will see the immense Jayhawk family that stands with them every day of their college career, especially on their graduation day.

News and Notes

  • The Department of Physics and Astronomy will host “An Evening with Black Physicists,” featuring Dr. Vera Loggins of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, at 7:30 p.m., Monday, February 29, in The Commons of Spooner Hall. Loggins, who works on new advanced detectors for a next-generation particle collider, will take part in a panel discussion with other black physicists and engineers. The event is co-sponsored by the Department of African and African American Studies, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the KU Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. A reception begins at 7:00 p.m. 
  • Students, be sure to fill out the SERU survey you were emailed about. There are some nice prizes for those who participate. More importantly, your answers help us improve academic services. It’s one of a small number of surveys we’ll ask you to take that have a huge impact, including the sexual assault survey later this spring, and the KU Climate Study survey next fall.
  • Student Union Activities and the Office of Multicultural Affairs are hosting a conversation with Opal Tometi, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Lied Center. The event is free and all are welcome.
  • Thank you to all the KU faculty and staff who’ve worked to make this year’s Read Across Lawrence of Andy Weir’s “The Martian” so successful. Events conclude this week with a ticketed event Thursday evening featuring KU Professor and NASA astronaut Steven Hawley.
  • Congratulations to the students, faculty, staff, and alumni selected as this year’s KU Men of Merit. You can get a copy of the poster honoring these great campus role models by contacting, the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity.
  • Last week’s Staff Leadership Summit was a huge success. More than 400 KU staff members were able to take part and demonstrate their commitment to lifelong learning and improvement. Thank you to Human Resource Management, the planning committee and all the program participants.
  • Staff Senate is accepting nominations for new senators until Monday, February 29. The senate encourages self-nominations for the April election. Staff Senate champions KU staff members in a number of ways and provides a formal channel to discuss and communicate the concerns of unclassified professional staff and university support staff. 
  • Upcoming presentations in the Bold Aspirations Visitor and Lecture Series include:
    • Foundation Distinguished Professor David Roediger will present “Making ‘Solidarity’ Uneasy” A Keyword and its Discontents” at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, February 23, in Alderson Auditorium of the Kansas Union.
    • David Farber, Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of History, will present “The Uneasy State of American Conservatism: A Brief History” at 5:30 p.m., Monday, April 11, in the Summerfield Room of the Adams Alumni Center.


Provost's Message Signature: 

Best wishes,

Sara T. Rosen

Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor

Follow me on Twitter at @KUProvost

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