Reviewing an Exciting Semester

December 6, 2011

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:

As we enter the last week of fall classes, it is a good time to reflect upon a job well done and to ready ourselves for the activities of the New Year.

As we look ahead to 2012, we will continue with the implementation of our strategic plan, Bold Aspirations, particularly the four areas of focus for this academic year:

  • establishing a new KU core curriculum,
  • strengthening the pipeline of students to and through KU,
  • developing sustainable funding for doctoral education,
  • boosting research through multidisciplinary strategic initiatives.

Before I update you on our progress, I want to thank you for your continued hard work and dedication. KU is great university with a commitment to transforming itself into a top-tier public international research institution. Our mission is to elevate students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that will change the world. Through our efforts, we are raising the expectations we have for ourselves, the aspirations we have for our state, and the hopes we have for our world.

A New KU Core curriculum

Central to our mission of educating leaders is developing a new KU core curriculum that will target key educational goals and provide students the flexibility to enhance their education through life-changing experiences, such as study abroad, research, internships, double majors, certificates, and service learning.

Our new core curriculum will be based upon six educational goals determined during last year’s planning process:

  1. Build core skills of critical thinking and quantitative literacy;
  2. Strengthen written and oral communication;
  3. Develop a background of knowledge across fundamental areas of study;
  4. Gain the ability to integrate knowledge and think creatively;
  5. Respect human diversity and expand cultural understanding and global awareness; and
  6. Practice social responsibility and demonstrate ethical behavior.

The six committees are nearing the end of their work to develop measurable learning outcomes that provide opportunities for students to achieve each core educational goal. This work is essential to making our six goals operational. Next semester, the recommendations of each committee will be shared on the implementation website and reviewed with the KU community. Chris Haufler, special advisor to the provost, is leading this effort and is working closely with the deans, faculty governance, and student leaders to form a transition committee to conduct this review.

This transition committee will also lead the development of the new KU core curriculum by fall 2013 based upon our six core goals and the associated learning outcomes. Nominations for courses and educational experiences will be invited from across campus. The process of developing the core curriculum will be open, inclusive, and ongoing. Associated new endeavors include expanding first-year experiences, enhancing experiential learning, and redesigning courses to improve student learning. Components will be piloted in limited form, as early as fall 2012, as they are developed. All of these elements together will play key roles in making KU more attractive to prospective students while at the same time helping students participate actively in their educational experiences in ways known to increase retention and graduation.

Strengthening recruitment

We are working to enhance recruitment in three areas: the quantity of new students, their quality, and the overall diversity of our incoming class. This fall, under the leadership of Matt Melvin, vice provost for enrollment management, KU has reinvigorated its outreach to prospective students.

Most noticeable was the campaign to encourage applications by our November 1 scholarship deadline for new renewable 4-year scholarships. The deadline for transfer applications is February 1. The word was spread in a variety of ways, including highly visible radio, print, and billboard advertisements as well as online advertising and phone calls from noted KU personalities.

The results so far have been impressive: The number of applications has increased considerably, with an even greater increase in applications from underrepresented minorities. During the spring, our focus will shift to ensuring that admitted students choose to enroll at KU. Our faculty and staff will be called upon to play a key role in this effort. I personally look forward to reaching out to prospective students, and I encourage you to participate when given the opportunity.

Elevating doctoral education

We have updated the KU graduate studies website with open and transparent doctoral program data, with links to the new data on each department and school website. Important faculty, student, and programmatic benchmark data are presented in a standard format. Doctoral programs can use the data to set goals and make strategic plans and adjustments; likewise, prospective graduate students can access valuable information to inform their career plans.

This month we will launch our doctoral funding work group, whose charge is to develop a sustainable funding model for doctoral education. The work group will have broad campus representation and be chaired by Danny Anderson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. They will examine our current funding levels and different ways to enhance funding for doctoral education. Their report will include recommendations on the most effective and strategic use of funds for our doctoral students.

The work group will also examine how to ensure vibrant programs and what effect, if any, changes to the core curriculum will have on graduate assistant funding. Additional information, including a list of the members of the work group, will be available soon on the strategy 2-A implementation page.

Strategic initiatives

I was gratified to see another full turnout this past Friday for our second strategic initiative summit, Promoting Well-Being, Finding Cures. The energy level at The Commons was high, and a diverse section of the KU community took advantage of the opportunity to dialogue about how to enhance our multidisciplinary efforts. Many participants established new research connections; the concluding reception at the Natural History Museum offered an environment conducive to dialogue and further networking. Videos of the first two summits will be posted on the strategic initiative website later this week.

I encourage you to make plans to attend our two remaining summits at The Commons in Spooner Hall, starting with an 8:30–9 a.m. continental breakfast and concluding with the 4–5 p.m. reception across the street:

  1. Building Communities, Expanding Opportunities, Friday, January 20, 2012.
  2. Harnessing Information, Multiplying Knowledge, Friday, January 27, 2012.

We want to ensure that as many voices and ideas as possible are heard so that we have the information to guide future hiring plans, infrastructure development, and ways to invest in faculty groups who have great ideas and want help to realize their full potential. Faculty hiring will support and strengthen research in the areas of the strategic initiatives. In the next five years we are likely to see over 200 faculty hires on the Lawrence campus. Many new hires due to regular attrition will relate to strategic initiatives. We will also add to the total number of faculty members on campus: We will grow by 30 net new faculty positions as part of the state-funded engineering initiative. We will grow by 20 net new faculty positions targeting strategic initiatives across the rest of the university. And we are seeking state funding for an additional 12 “foundation professors” at the distinguished professor rank for strategic initiatives.

Tracking progress

Your continued participation in this year’s four areas of focus is crucial to our success. As a reminder, the Bold Aspirations implementation web site will regularly keep you informed of overall progress.

Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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