A Successful Year

April 25, 2012

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:

As we near the end of the 2011–2012 academic year, the first year of implementation of our strategic plan Bold Aspirations, it is a good time to reflect upon the big, bold activities we are undertaking to transform KU and achieve our vision as a top-tier public, international research university.

I recognize that many faculty and staff reduce their time on and around campus during the summer, so the pace of the work being done will be slower yet still intense. In September, the implementation team led by Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Sara Rosen will issue an annual report on the first year’s progress.

In this final eNews of the semester, I want to focus on three key areas where our transformation will take hold during the 2012-2013 academic year: strategic initiatives, the KU Core, and doctoral education.

Investments in strategic initiatives

I am excited about the opportunity to develop our multidisciplinary research potential, which we explored during our recent four summits. We are now launching two important mechanisms to do so: direct research investments and faculty hiring.

Last week I emailed faculty and staff detailing a new Research Investment Council and Strategic Initiative Grant program. The Research Investment Council (RIC) will advise me on investments to support the four strategic initiatives through the Strategic Initiative Grant program. Grants will be awarded to faculty for bottom-up initiatives ranging from seed funding of initial efforts to more major funding to enable large multidisciplinary research proposals.

Complete guidelines are available on the web. On Friday, application form templates will be posted. Proposals for the initial grants are due by Friday, June 15. Additional due dates will be October 15 and February 15.

I have asked deans to submit faculty search requests in a different manner beginning this year. I have observed that last year’s search requests (namely, for searches undertaken this current academic year) have in the majority of cases related closely to one or more strategic initiatives. This year, we are encouraging those connections more explicitly.

At least half of the search requests will be coordinated through departments or schools around common themes related to the strategic initiatives. Joint appointments are encouraged. New faculty positions that we are creating as a result of the Changing for Excellence initiative will also be in the mix as added leverage. These new positions may be requested through the coordinated proposals around common themes. I anticipate that we will attract exceptional candidates energized by the interconnections — both among themselves and with existing faculty.

Nomination of courses and experiences for KU Core

Because of the contributions from the six satellite committees during the fall semester and the follow up work by the transition committee this semester, the six KU Core educational goals now include learning outcomes and draft criteria for meeting those outcomes. Surveys and focus group discussions at each developmental step have helped ensure community involvement and enhanced the quality of our new university-wide curriculum.

If you have not done so already, please complete the online survey on the draft criteria for meeting the learning outcomes. The deadline for survey responses is Friday, May 4.

The transition committee will host a discussion forum on the criteria on Thursday, May 3 at 11:30 am in the Big XII room of the Kansas Union. We will begin with an overview of the transition committee’s work on KU Core followed by breakout sessions for each of the six educational goals.

After considering all feedback received, the transition committee will finalize the criteria and disband. I hope you join me in thanking the transition committee members for the tremendous job they did this past semester.

A standing University Core Curriculum Committee will be formed and will start meeting in fall 2012 to approve courses and educational experiences to meet the KU Core goals and outcomes. Guidelines for submitting courses and educational experiences for inclusion in KU Core will be posted on kucore.ku.edu prior to next semester.

It is not too early to begin considering what courses and educational experiences in your academic units will meet the draft criteria. We anticipate that the submission process will be ongoing. To jump-start the process of preparing for the KU Core’s initial entering class in fall 2013, we will develop a provisional set of courses and educational experiences that departments can certify to be part of KU Core.

Sustainable funding for doctoral education

KU Core will promote greater flexibility for undergraduates to engage in important learning opportunities including experiential learning and undergraduate research. At the same time, it significantly reduces the number of general education course requirements. Each of these factors may have an effect on doctoral education, including graduate assistantships.

Danny Anderson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, has been leading a diverse workgroup carefully studying how KU currently funds doctoral education. It has examined models across campus, reviewed how our peer institutions support doctoral education, and considered a wide variety of flexible funding models that promote degree completion and increase support.

Next month, the workgroup will complete its review and a summary of its work will be disseminated to faculty. I anticipate that the next steps will be for a group to examine the recommendations and to determine a way forward to implement funding models best suited for KU.

Proud to be a Jayhawk

Our mission at the University of Kansas is to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that will change the world. It is an honor to serve as provost on a campus dedicated to advancing that mission day in and day out.

The chancellor and I thank you for a successful academic year. Best wishes for the summer.

Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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