Getting Ready to Roll

August 17, 2011

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

In some ways, summer seems to be hitting its peak. But while temperatures remain high, summer break is rapidly coming to an end. Next week the fall semester begins and another academic year awakens campus from its summer swoon.

It isn't just the heat we are waiting out, it is also that other sign of summer — road construction. On campus and across Lawrence, it has been a busy year as streets are upgraded, infrastructure is improved, and new roads are built to allow for expansion. Some road projects take a few weeks, while others have been going on for months. But as summer fades away, so will the orange barrels and lane closures.

Final vetting of the strategic plan

Much like those road projects, the construction phase of our strategic plan is also wrapping up this summer. The university has been engaged since last year on ways we can upgrade, improve, and excel at KU. As we near the launch of our full strategic plan, it is important that your feedback and insights continue to drive the process. Please read the draft detailed summary of the strategic plan and send us your thoughts by Wednesday, August 31, on how things fit together, suggestions of points we need to add, and questions about moving forward. We are planning a campus-wide event to launch the plan when finalized on Wednesday, September 14.

The strategic plan consists of six goals, along with strategies and action items to achieve the goals. The elaborations of the first four goals were done by work groups on the following topics:

  • Energizing the Educational Environment;
  • Elevating Doctoral Education;
  • Driving Discovery and Innovation; and
  • Engaging Scholarship for Public Impact.

In April, the work groups submitted their final reports with recommended strategies and action items. Over the summer, we have incorporated your feedback and have made enhancements and modifications as appropriate.

The other two goals in the strategic plan are overarching in that they enable success in the other four: one is devoted to developing the full potential in our people — recognizing the fact that excellence, accountability, and diversity go hand in hand — and the other is focused on making the most effective use of current resources as well as expanding the pie with new resources so that we can invest in the priorities of this strategic plan.

A unique aspect of the strategic plan is the formulation of the four strategic initiative themes that we shared in the last issue of Provost eNews. Those themes emerged from the 104 proposals submitted on February 28 and subsequent analysis and vetting by the deans. We will be holding a summit on each of the four topics this academic year. You can access the latest about the upcoming summits and their committee makeup on the strategic initiative web page.

The strategic plan will guide KU for the next five years — toward our aspiration as a top-tier public international research university. Performance indicators will provide accountability, and as we monitor progress there will be assessment and adjustments. Just as every summer brings more orange cones, our plan will go under maintenance from time to time. The intensity of that maintenance depends upon how well we construct out plan today. I look forward to getting your thoughts.

Back to school

Fall classes begin on Monday. Since this year is the first since 1995 when fall semester classes have started on a Monday, the University wants to ensure that students can find and use the services they need. For that reason, some key KU offices will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday to serve new and returning students and their families and to help prepare them for the Monday start to fall classes. You can go to the Student Success home page at for a complete list.

The Lied Center plays a major role in the cultural life of KU and the community. The season schedule features a wide selection of performances from around the world, including a free open house and arts festival on Saturday, August 27, starting at 5:00 pm. KU faculty and staff receive 10% discount on the advance package purchase of tickets to Lied Center performances; retirees may also take advantage of the 10% discount. I encourage you to start your new year on a high note by attending some of these great performances at the Lied Center.

This year will be a busy and exciting one for KU. Earlier this week, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little announced the targeted opportunities in the Changing for Excellence program that the Huron team will be building business cases for over the next 10 weeks. Next month, we will launch strategic plan. As a university, we are starting the new year with a renewed focus on achieving excellence.

There has never been a more energizing time to be a Jayhawk.

Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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