Provost eNews: Creating a Bright Future
If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.--Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison seems to channel what I’ve been thinking the past two weeks. Since my previous Provost eNews, over 100 strategic initiative nominations were received as part of the planning process. They give an exciting glimpse of all the things we are capable of. I encourage you to look at the nominations posted online. There are well over 2,400 collaborators named individually in these nominations, albeit counting those in multiple proposals multiple times. The vision, innovation, and scholarship shown by the KU community is astounding.
Last Friday, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, fellow Executive Vice Chancellor Barbara Atkinson, and I attended the first meeting of the campaign steering committee. We shared with the committee the strategic planning process and the important areas of focus. The strategic initiatives that are ultimately chosen for the strategic plan will play a key role in driving donors and other friends to support the exciting work we do at KU.
We have benefited from significant inclusion and involvement in the strategic planning process. About a thousand members of the KU community responded to the survey last week to help prioritize actions for workforce development. While the full analysis is not yet completed, one observation stands out clearly: the strong support for activities that retain our best employees. Staff particularly value help with professional development, such as the very successful inaugural Staff Leadership Summit on February 17th. Your input reinforced my intent to continue to fund efforts like the summit for our staff.
Another bright spot emerged from the Kansas Legislature last Thursday. Although budgets are strained, I am encouraged by the bipartisan recognition that the long-term solution to Kansas’ economic vitality involves higher education. Senate leaders introduced a major funding bill to increase the pool of engineering graduates at KU, K-State, and Wichita State by 60%. As the chancellor testified last Wednesday before the Senate Ways and Means Committee, “Engineering-intensive industries represent one-third of the state’s tax base and account for two-thirds of its exports.” Engineering is also important for our cancer and health efforts. Our biggest companies are limited in their contributions and growth in Kanas because of the insufficient supply of engineering talent. I’m glad that legislators see the need to expand and fund our engineering programs, even during a time of budget cuts.
While we ask the legislature, our donors, and our students to support the exciting work of KU, we also acknowledge that KU needs to set the example and show that we are good stewards of our resources. As part of our strategic planning, we will be conducting interviews and focus groups across our campuses in the upcoming months to assist us in eliminating inefficiencies and improving services. We look forward to your participation in those efforts.
This week we focus on another key dimension of our future, the Scholarship of Diversity Symposium, which takes place on our campus today and tomorrow. I encourage you to attend. It builds upon my February 14th Provost eNews message on engaged scholarship. Diversity is a major source of strength as well as a responsibility entrusted to all campus community members.
In closing, I acknowledge that there will be several challenges ahead. We are engaged in strategic planning to chart a bright future and guide our way through those challenges. We need your continued participation in the process. I am confident that we at KU will astound ourselves when we realize our collective capabilities.
Jeffrey S. Vitter
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor