Realizing Our Vision

February 20, 2012

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:

The involvement of the KU community in all aspects of Bold Aspirations is the most important way to guarantee success in realizing our vision to be a top-tier public international research university. Our four strategic initiative themes offer stellar opportunities to enhance our research excellence and visibility by addressing emerging and escalating grand challenges of crucial significance both for Kansas and globally.

We will use the insights from the summit reports to launch a process to invest in faculty research projects and faculty hiring, as described in recent Provost eNews. A draft report for three of the strategic initiative summits is now available online, and the fourth report will be posted soon. I encourage you to review the reports and provide feedback. A feedback form is available online, but you are also welcome to provide direct feedback to me, to members of the steering committees, or to our summit organizers Mary Lee Hummert, vice provost for faculty development, and Mabel Rice, Merrill Distinguished Professor of Advanced Studies.

We are asking that feedback for all four reports be submitted no later than Friday, March 2.

Strategic initiatives

I want to thank the many attendees at our strategic initiative summits for their energy and insights. The four summits totaled well over 900 attendees, some participating multiple days. Each event included invigorating discussions that reached across disciplines and stimulated conversations among peers, some interacting for the first time.

I encourage you to take advantage of several initial resources in place:

  • An opportunities page has been added to the strategic initiatives webpage.
  • The Commons is available for group discussions open to the KU community. Simply send a request with suggested research topic to to reserve a time; if desired, we can send a personal invitation to specific individuals.
  • To learn about upcoming group discussions and receive updates, follow our Twitter feed @Bold_KU and KU Today.

Going forward, once the process is vetted and in place, we will make important investments both centrally and across the schools to develop needed infrastructure and to assist faculty with great research ideas attract resources to realize their full potential.

While the four strategic initiative themes are a key component of driving discovery and innovation (goal 3) in Bold Aspirations, they also play an important role in other aspects of the strategic plan. For example, they will influence new curricular experiences in goal 1 such as first-year seminars, the KU common book program, and undergraduate research opportunities. Assistant Vice Provost Sarah Crawford-Parker is leading all of our first-year experiences, including current programs such as Hawk Week and New Student Orientation and the expansion of learning communities.

The strategic initiatives clearly elevate doctoral education (goal 2) by developing exciting new research domains. Given the major societal issues that motivate the strategic initiatives, we expect that some innovations will lead to promising new technologies, community and business partnerships, and economic development (goal 4). The themes will play a key role in bringing talented, new faculty and staff to KU (goal 5).

In terms of raising resources (goal 6), what better way to galvanize the financial support of alumni and friends in the comprehensive campaign than to demonstrate the profound effects our innovations will have? Our Changing for Excellence project will allow us to do more for less and to invest in priorities such as the strategic initiatives. (By the way, the Changing for Excellence implementation web site now offers timelines and status updates for each project.)

Cancer Center site visit

Wednesday is a super-important day for KU. After some preliminary discussions on Tuesday, members of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) team will conduct an all-day site visit Wednesday to evaluate the KU Cancer Center’s application to be an NCI-designated cancer center. Researchers and clinicians, led by Cancer Center director Roy Jensen, have spent years working towards NCI designation, and we look forward in a few months to a favorable outcome.

KU’s commitment to treating cancer is evident on all our campuses. NCI designation will mean state-of-the-art treatments and vital economic growth across the region. The School of Pharmacy will build upon its impressive track record in cancer drug development to provide new generations of novel therapies that one day will help eradicate cancer.

In presentations in the past month before the Kansas Board of Regents and to legislative committees, Ken Audus, dean of pharmacy, and Val Stella, University Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, brought home in very personal terms how KU research saves lives and contributes economically. Their message even drew applause from the Senate Commerce Committee, not an easy feat!

KU in the Capital

Another important event Wednesday is our annual “KU in the Capital” event in Topeka. Every legislative session is an opportunity to inform state leaders about how KU works for Kansas, both through individual committee presentations and larger, organized visits by our faculty, staff, and students. State support for targeted initiatives is important to our strategic plan. For example, last year the state legislature appropriated $35 million over 10 years to each of KU, K-State, and Wichita State to increase the number of engineering graduates by 60%. A new building will begin construction next year, and the extra tuitions will allow KU to grow by 30 net additional faculty positions in engineering.

For the fiscal year 2013 budget, Governor Brownback and the Board of Regents are supporting our request to recruit 12 Foundation Professors to boost our strategic initiatives. This $3 million recurring request is an important signal of the shared commitment of the governor and the board to our mission of educating future leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that will change the world.

Provost's Message Signature: 

Happy Mardi Gras!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

This issue of Provost eNews as well as past ones can be found on the Provost eNews web page.

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