Recognizing Excellence

November 18, 2010

KU Faculty, Staff, and Students:

If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude. – Colin Powell

In my last Provost eNews I said that as a great institution interested in getting even better, we first need to spend time in the present and take a realistic appraisal of where we are. A key aspect of moving forward is to recognize and promote the “habit of excellence” that will guide our advance in everything we do.

In this issue of Provost eNews, I’d like to do two things: The first is to recognize those who lay the foundation for a tradition of excellence at KU and serve as role models for future efforts. Second, I ask your assistance in helping to identify hidden sources of excellence at KU in order to build synergistic theme areas for the future.

Higuchi-Endowment Association Research Achievement Awards

Each year KU presents four Higuchi Awards to eminent faculty from Kansas Regents universities in the humanities and social sciences, basic sciences, biomedical sciences, and applied sciences. These awards are endowed by generous donors to recognize research excellence and impact. Congratulations to the four 2010 recipients — two from KU and two from K-State:

  • Hagith Sivan, professor of history at KU, received the Balfour Jeffrey Award in Humanities and Social Science.
  • Christian Schöneich , professor and chair of pharmaceutical chemistry at KU, received the Dolph Simons Award in Biomedical Sciences.
  • T. G. Nagaraja, University Distinguished Professor of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at K-State, received the Irvin Youngberg Award for Applied Sciences.
  • Chii-Dong Lin, University Distinguished Professor of Physics and associate director of the J. R. Macdonald Laboratory at K-State, received the Olin Petefish Award in Basic Science.

W. T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence

The Kemper Fellowships are designed to support, improve, and reward outstanding teaching, advising, and service at all campuses of the University of Kansas. Nominations are solicited each spring. Congratulations to the 2010 W.T. Kemper Fellows:

  • Cory Berkland, associate professor of chemical & petroleum engineering and pharmaceutical engineering.
  • Christine Makosky Daley, assistant professor of preventive medicine and public health, KUMC.
  • J. Frederick Devlin, associate professor of geology.
  • Dorice Elliott, associate professor of English.
  • Edna Hamera, associate professor of nursing, KUMC.
  • Toni Johnson, assistant professor of social welfare.
  • Judith McCrea, professor of visual art.
  • Gary Reich, associate professor of political science.
  • Merrill Tarr, professor of molecular and integrative physiology, KUMC.
  • Nathaniel Wood, assistant professor of history.

Surprise patrol visits to recipients on the Lawrence campus were made during the first week of fall classes, and the videos are available on the web.

KU Research Achievement Award

 Nomination Deadline: November 22, 2010 (13 KB PDF)

KU established the KU Research Achievement Award in 2006 to honor an outstanding academic staff researcher from KU’s Lawrence Campus and to recognize the pivotal role staff play in research. Only individuals who are appointed as full-time academic staff researchers working within a KU Lawrence Campus academic department or research center are eligible for the award. The individual’s research should be characterized as having significant influence in his or her field and/or as representing a productive record of important research that has expanded intellectual or societal insights. A substantial portion of the work for which the award is given must have been done at KU.

Donald Huggins won the 2010 honor, and nominations are open for the 2011 award, which will be presented at a spring semester ceremony. Winners receive $10,000 in research funds. Nomination deadline for 2011 is November 22, 2010.

University Scholarly Achievement Award

 Nomination Deadline: December 15, 2010 (59 KB PDF)

Each year KU will recognize mid-career star faculty members by a newly established University Scholarly Achievement Award. The monetary award recognizes research impact of major significance by either a single discrete scholarly or research contribution or a series of closely related contributions.

The selection panel may recommend up to four awards each year in any of the following areas:

  • Arts and humanities,
  • Science, technology, and mathematics,
  • Clinical science, and
  • Social science and professional programs.

Nomination deadline is December 15, 2010.

Chancellor’s Club Award

The Chancellor’s Club award recognizes the outstanding teaching contributions made to the University by a member of the faculty over a period of at least two decades. To be eligible for consideration, the faculty member should be within five years of intended retirement from the University. Last month, we celebrated the 2010 recipients:

The selection panel may recommend up to four awards each year in any of the following areas:

  • Richard De George, University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy.
  • Yu-Jui Yvonne Wan, director of the KU Medical Center’s Liver Center.

Leading Light Award

The Provost’s Office and the Office of Research and Graduate Studies at KU are sponsoring a special new recognition — called the Leading Light Award — to highlight the accomplishments of single principal investigators and teams of principal investigators for their efforts in obtaining a research grant totaling at least $1 million. By contributing to the research enterprise at KU in a major way, these PIs serve as leading lights and role models for others.

The symbol for the Leading Light award is the state flower of Kansas — the sunflower. Each first-time recipient of the award will receive a specially designed and engraved brass sunflower, and a sunflower will be planted in his or her honor somewhere on campus. All recipients (both first-time and continuing) will be invited to a recognition luncheon, where their efforts will be celebrated and the awards presented. These luncheons, starting in the spring, will be scheduled throughout the year to accommodate the numbers of awardees.

Hiring for Excellence

A crucial aspect of building a tradition of excellence is recruiting the very best people. Simply put, hiring faculty is the most significant opportunity that a major university has to enhance its excellence. With so much at stake, it only makes sense to examine how we do faculty searches with the same rigor and resourcefulness that we devote to our academic and scholarly pursuits.

To that end, about 60 search committee chairs, deans, faculty, and staff participated on September 28 in a Hiring for Excellence Workshop, conducted by Vic Hunter, president and CEO of Hunter Business Group LLC. The departments of chemistry and political science are piloting searches this year using the Hunter approach. Vice Provost Mary Lee Hummert is assembling a team of KU consultants to assist search committees interested in employing Hunter’s methodology. The online video serves as a good training resource.

Planning for Excellence

As I said earlier, we need your help in identifying pillars of excellence at KU, especially where we can capitalize and build upon synergies across campus. One of the things I am learning in our strategic planning process is that many of you are working synergistically with colleagues in other fields, sharing talent and resources in innovative ways. In the coming months, with the help of our deans and planning committees, we will be asking the KU community to identify thematic priorities that may warrant strategic investment.

I am particularly looking forward to this aspect of the planning process. Other universities have selected thematic areas of institutional focus, such as energy, environment, entrepreneurship, democracy, health, and advancing the arts in public life. The combination of themes gives each university an opportunity to bring together and galvanize communities of excellence. KU has potential themes of excellence as well, but we have yet to identify and embrace them as elements of our identity. I look forward to the conversations we will have in the coming months on this topic.

Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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