• Home
  • Nurturing Our Talent

Nurturing Our Talent

November 28, 2016

Est. reading time: 5 min.

Dear students, staff, and faculty:

I’m inspired by Jayhawks literally every day. There are many wonderful aspects to my job, not the least of which is meeting the people who put their heart and soul into making the University of Kansas achieve the incredible.

Every single day, people at all levels and locations contribute to something larger than themselves, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. When I first moved to Strong Hall, staff in Facilities Services came to fix some noisy, leaking pipes and apply a long-overdue fresh coat of paint. Not only did they check back in to ensure their repairs were effective, they made it clear they would do what was necessary to quickly address any concerns. I could see the pleasure they took in carefully and skillfully performing their work because it matters to me and the others they work with on campus. 

I love the enthusiasm, pride, and ownership the encounter conveys — that every person in this organization understands the mission, is committed to it, and is contributing to its success. That kind of emotional connection comes from establishing and maintaining a culture where people feel valued.

Reaching Our Potential

Engagement, opportunity, and empowerment are among the most powerful ways to improve culture when resources are limited. Helping our faculty and staff reach their full potential through professional development does more than ensure our people have the right skills to advance the university. It boldly states that every person makes unique contributions to KU and has the ability to shepherd advances.

Earlier this semester, I was able to restore professional development funds to the previous level allocated through Staff Senate. Even though it’s a modest amount, it offers the individuals who receive it greater support for the pursuits most crucial to their advancement. There are even more ways KU is helping faculty and staff realize their goals.

Increasing Opportunities

In August the Office of Faculty Development announced a significantly expanded Senior Administrative Fellows Program for tenured faculty. The program lets the fellows see the nuts and bolts of administrative activities and responsibilities. In addition to learning more about major units of the university, fellows meet with KU’s senior leadership and take part in discussions surrounding academic leadership, public policy and the future of higher education.

SAF identifies and cultivates current and potential leaders. As a business scholar and former business executive, I’m particularly concerned with grooming talent early to take on more responsibility as major positions open. The SAF program, led by Vice Provost for Faculty Development and SAF alumna Mary Lee Hummert, is an incredible example of how we can build a strong bench of future leaders across our campus.

If there’s any doubt that it works, look to the program’s alumni:

  • 23 current department chairs and 14 current associate deans and vice provosts at KU
  • Professor in the Clinical Child Psychology Program Michael Roberts is now our dean of Graduate Studies
  • Stuart Day, who had been chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, is now serving as our interim vice provost for Academic Affairs
  • Last week, former KU communication studies professor, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and current provost at the University of Cincinnati Beverly Davenport was selected to be chancellor at the University of Tennessee
  • Kim Wilcox, who had been professor in KU’s speech-language-hearing program, went on to be dean of the College at KU, then provost at Michigan State University before becoming chancellor at the University of California, Riverside.

All Areas of Our Campuses

The Staff Fellows Program was revised in recent years and gives about 10 staff members an inner look at the university through engaging with university leaders, instruction in leadership development, and the opportunity to work on a large collaborative project that benefits KU. In fact, the past two cohorts worked directly on assessing professional development opportunities at KU and developing a roadmap to guide leadership development for personal as well as institutional success. My hope is that over the next two years we can build out a more formal university-wide leadership development program so every interested Jayhawk faculty and staff member has access to a strong development opportunity.

Within our Shared Services Centers, Pat Kuester, director of the Education, Social & Biobehavioral SSC, has been working with Human Resource Management to develop the Aspiring Leaders program. The eight-month program selects 15 staff members from within the SSCs and helps them develop portable skills that can help them succeed anywhere at the university or even beyond. Following a brief pilot project, the program begins in earnest this January with mentoring, coaching, and a curriculum based on KU’s Core Competencies.

The Aspiring Leaders program also strives to strengthen a culture of customer service and personal leadership by promoting integrity, expertise, and process innovation. Pat outlined four rules of engagement that will define the SSC culture:

  1. Leave things better than you found them.  This applies not just to work transactions, but also to interactions with others.
  2. Be accountable. People are given responsibility, but they accept accountability.
  3. Attack the problem, not the person. Don’t lose perspective and instead resolve to take the high road.
  4. Have the freedom to act. Do the best that you can do and act in a way that doesn’t necessitate the creation of burdensome rules.

Human Resource Management plans to extend the Aspiring Leaders program to other campus units over the next two years.

A Brighter Outlook

All these activities give me great hope for the future of KU.

Leadership is an activity, not a position or a title.  It happens at, within, and across all levels of an organization. Investing in you — helping our people define and build their inner leader — has an exponential effect. At KU we are putting our heart and souls into our work, and we are achieving so much more than what’s written on our job descriptions. We’re exploring the universe, creating new industries, educating the next generations, developing cures, and building the future. We are rising to new challenges, together.

Rock Chalk,

Neeli Bendapudi

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor



News and Notes

Applications for the next Diversity & Equity Faculty Fellow are due by Dec. 15.  Faculty Fellows collaborate with a number of KU organizations and work on a large project during their 18-month term.

Congratulations to senior Shegufta Huma, KU’s 27th Rhodes Scholar! When talent and hard work combine, Jayhawks can do amazing things.

Jen Brockman, director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center, was selected to participate in the Raliance Prevention Advocate Think Tank. Raliance is the recipient of the NFL’s $10 million contribution to sexual violence prevention.

Spencer Museum of Art and the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity have joined together to curate “Art, AIDS, & Activism,” a collection commemorating World AIDS Day. The exhibit in the Spencer Museum Brosseau Center for Learning runs Nov. 22 to Dec. 11.  An exhibit reception will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 1.

Congratulations to the aerospace engineering students who brought home another top honor from AIAA student competitions. This never gets old. It’s also a great time to recognize all the math, science and engineering faculty who lay the foundation for this unparalleled string of success.

The Center for Teaching Excellence dissects another timely topic on the Bloom’s Sixth blog. This time CTE Associate Director Doug Ward offers tips on “Negotiating difficult post-election conversations.”

Congratulations to Hall Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture Robert Warrior who recently became president of the American Studies Association. The association, with more than 5,000 members, supports original scholarship and meaningful dialogue about the United States around the world. Warrior succeeds Foundation Distinguished Professor of American Studies and History David Roediger as president.

SUA’s Tea at Three this week features a drop-in visit by Provost and executive Vice Chancellor Neeli Bendapudi. Come say hello and enjoy cookies, tea and punch from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday, Dec.1, in the Traditions Area, 4th Floor of the Kansas Union.

Edwards Campus continues the Tech CEO Series on Thursday, Dec. 6, with a presentation by KU alumnus and Lexmark Enterprise Software CEO Scott Coons. Registration is now open for the event, which is 7:30 a.m.to 9 a.m. at the BEST Building Conference Center.

The Hall Center for the Humanities presents “Why Write?: An Evening with Zadie Smith” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1 in the Kansas Union Ballroom. Smith is a celebrated author, perhaps best known for her work “White Teeth.”  The free event is part of the center’s Humanities Lecture Series.

Holiday Vespers is nearly here. The KU School of Music tradition offers two shows, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.  Sunday, Dec. 4, at the Lied Center. Tickets are available at the Lied Center ticket office.  A free Pre-Vespers event begins an hour before each show in the Bales Organ Recital Hall.


Provost's Message Signature: 

Follow Provost Bendapudi on Twitter at @KUProvostNeeli and the Provost Office at @KUProvost. Join the office on Facebook at /KUprovostoffice/.

This issue of Strong Ties as well as past ones can be found on the Provost eNews web page.

Office of the Provost
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Several initiatives are furthering efforts to ensure KU offers a welcoming and supportive environment for all to learn, live, work, and discover.

RT @APLU _News: Apply for the 2019 APLU Degree Completion Award, which recognizes #studentsuccess initiatives. Past winners include @Florid

Policy Library Search

Visit the Policy Office for more information.

Green Office

Why KU
  • One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
  • 44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
    —U.S. News & World Report
  • Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
  • 5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times