Giving Thanks for Everyday Excellence

November 21, 2011

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:

I’m still energized from last Friday’s successful kickoff to our strategic initiative summits, and I want to thank all the participants for their contributions. Over 225 members of the KU community gathered at The Commons for invigorating conversations about our first strategic initiative theme, Sustaining the Planet, Powering the World. The four strategic initiatives form a principal component of our strategic plan, Bold Aspirations; they’re all about KU exercising its intellectual muscles to tackle some of society’s grand challenges through multidisciplinary research.

At Friday’s summit, several of our very talented faculty touched upon exciting opportunities for KU related to sustainability, the environment, and energy — especially how we can learn from our current successes to most effectively invest KU’s resources in the future. The deans added rich perspectives during a lunch panel, and the attendees spent the afternoon engaged in small-group discussions. The planning group will prepare a follow-on report with suggestions and feedback to guide our next steps; a preliminary version will be vetted online.

Strategic Initiative Summit #2 — Promoting Well-Being, Finding Cures

I invite you to register and take part in our second strategic initiative summit on the topic of Promoting Well-Being, Finding Cures, which will take place Friday, December 2, beginning at 8:30 am at The Commons. Its scholarly goal is to promote health and improve the quality of life both globally and locally. The summit will reflect upon ways the university can translate basic research into effective therapies and interventions. It will also explore wellness in all its forms, as well as the scholarly approaches to better understand and promote individual well-being. Please take part if you’re involved in related research or want to learn more about the topics; they embrace scholarly components in every school and the College at KU. Broad participation and inputs across the university, like at the first summit, will help guide our future actions.

The demand for space at last Friday’s summit meant that registration was limited in the final days leading up to it, so I encourage you to RSVP online soon for our second summit. As with all of the summits, there will be coffee and pastries available beginning at 8:30 am. Presentations will start at 9:00 am and will include brief talks by faculty members illustrating the multiple approaches to this complex topic and highlighting future opportunities at KU. During lunch, a panel of deans, including Danny Anderson(Liberal Arts & Sciences), Ken Audus (Pharmacy), Ann Brill (Journalism & Mass Communications), John Gaunt (Architecture, Design & Planning), and Rick Ginsberg (Education), will share their perspectives. In the afternoon, participants will share their views in small groups about how KU can most successfully move research forward on this topic. A reception beginning at 4:00 pm will close out the day and enable further connections among the participants.

Enhancing our strategic themes

In addition to the summits, our strategic initiative themes will be enhanced by lectures from noted visitors. Just prior to the next summit, we will host our second such lecture, open to the public:

“Discovering the Developmental Roots of Heart Disease”
Dr. Kent L. Thornburg
the M. Lowell Edwards Chair in the Department of Medicine at the Oregon Health & Science University
Thursday December 01, 2011, 7:00 pm
Spooner Hall, The Commons

Dr. Thornburg is director of the Heart Research Center and professor of cardiovascular medicine. He plays a leadership role in the International Society for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, which addresses public health issues such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes through interdisciplinary developmental approaches on the earliest stages of human development.

He studies how factors such as genetics, prenatal nutrition, and other environmental influences can establish the risk for later heart disease, childhood obesity, and overall well-being. His work is particularly tied to our second strategic theme, and I encourage you to attend.

A time for thanks

As Provost, I am very thankful to be a part of the everyday excellence that exists in the KU community. I am particularly thankful for the energy and excitement I see in our faculty, staff, and students as we work towards our vision of being recognized as a top-tier public international research university. That energy was on full display at our first summit three days ago, and it is also evident as we collectively work to realize Bold Aspirations.

I am also thankful for the tens of thousands of KU alumni and friends whose donations support what we do. Far Above, our comprehensive fundraising campaign, is scheduled to launch publicly next spring. The resources from the campaign will be pivotal for KU to achieve the lofty goals of our strategic plan. Experiencing the first summit last Friday reinforced to me the crucial role KU can and must play in educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that will change the world.

And while promoting health and well-being may not always be in mind this Thanksgiving, particularly when eyeing that next piece of pie (!), I look forward to joining you as we explore KU’s opportunities in that realm at our next summit on December 2.

Provost's Message Signature: 

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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