Maintaining Momentum

January 24, 2012

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:

It’s only been four months since the launch of Bold Aspirations, the strategic plan for the University of Kansas, and in that short time we have been busy working toward achieving our vision of transforming our great university into one of the nation’s best.

We’ve seen progress towards all of the goals we are focusing on in our first year, ranging from a new scholarship program and elevated student applications, to the almost 150 nominations for KU’s first common book program, to the draft learning goals for the KU core curriculum.

I’m particularly excited about what our strategic initiative summits have accomplished. At each of our first three summits, well over 220 members of the KU community came together to discuss their individual passions and explore potential collaborations. In a very public way, these summits explored the great things KU is doing today and explored the even more fascinating possibilities for the future.

Strategic Initiative Summit #4 — Harnessing Information, Multiplying Knowledge

Our final summit, on Harnessing Information, Multiplying Knowledge, takes place this-coming Friday, January 27, starting at 8:30 am at the Commons. Its message reinforces and supports each of the preceding three themes by exploring the ubiquity of information and its central role in innovation:

A connected human network thrives on technology that accelerates the creation and sharing of knowledge. Harnessing the potential of information in a positive way promises to revolutionize how we live and enhance our civilization.

The university has strong support in place and in development, and the summit will explore how we can make further progress. I look forward to another lively discussion on how we can build upon our strengths and push the boundaries of knowledge.

Feedback needed on post-summit reports and recommendations

Each summit group will prepare a report summarizing the discussions at the summit and offering recommendation for future steps. Based upon this input, we will soon thereafter develop appropriate mechanisms to help move great ideas forward. Two particular focus areas, as discussed in the last Provost eNews, will be university and College/school investments in faculty projects and in faculty hiring for the strategic initiatives. In the latter case, I am happy to see that our funding request for 12 Foundation Professors is now part of Governor Brownback’s budget package; they will complement the other 50 net new faculty positions we will add to campus. We have even greater potential with the roughly 200 faculty searches we can expect to conduct in the coming five years as a result of normal attrition.

The summit organizers will need your feedback in order to finalize their reports. The report for our first summit, Sustaining the Planet, Powering the World, was posted last week. The report for our second summit, Promoting Well-Being, Finding Cures, was posted yesterday.

Included in each report is an update of the SWOT analysis (of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and recommendations for grant funding, infrastructure improvements, and support for current and future faculty. Please visit the website and give us your comments so that the reports can be finalized.

Please visit the website periodically and give us your comments so that the reports can be finalized.

Continuing the momentum of the summits

One important recommendation made often at all three summits is to provide easy ways for interested faculty to get together around topics of interest. Such discussions will likely prove helpful to make the case for future investments, so I encourage interested faculty groups to take the initiative. If you send email to with a suggested topic and any special requests, we will provide space for you (e.g., at the Commons) to hold a brownbag discussion session. We can send invitations to desired participants as well as get the word out in general so that others can take part.

As groups meet to discuss topics of interest and future investments, an excellent tool and source of support for putting proposals together is the Major Project Planning Grant (MPPG) proposal guide and application found on the Research and Graduate Studies website.

New website for Changing for Excellence

A key component of Bold Aspirations goal 6 — on developing infrastructure and resources — is the Changing for Excellence initiative, which is all about doing more with less. It is vitally important that we dedicate ourselves to eliminate inefficiency and improve effectiveness, so that we can invest needed resources in the big, bold priorities arising from the strategic initiative summits and elsewhere in the strategic plan.

As we move forward with implementing the Changing for Excellence business cases identified during Phase II, Vice Provost for Administration and Finance Diane Goddard and the advisory committee have created a dedicated website,, where we have outlined each of the business cases and will provide weekly news updates. We will also be tracking the financial benefits generated by each business case.

Best wishes for a successful spring semester!

Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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