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Great Progress on Changing for Excellence

November 19, 2012

Great Progress on Changing for Excellence

The release of the movie Lincoln last week brings to mind how our 16th president transformed the United States in ways we don’t typically consider. Beyond the herculean task of reuniting the nation and ending slavery, President Lincoln and the Congress completed an aggressive agenda, particularly in 1862.

For Kansans especially, the Homestead Act, the Morrill Land-Grant Act, the Pacific Railroad Act, and the act establishing the Department of Agriculture were crucial to the development of the state. In the most difficult of times, Lincoln and the Republican majority implemented a comprehensive plan that still benefits our country 150 years later. We remain grateful for their leadership and vision.

On a smaller scale, and in certainly less difficult times, what we as a community at KU are doing in implementing our strategic plan Bold Aspirations will transform our university and benefit our students and state for many years to come. This week, I want to update you on one component that is transforming KU administratively — Changing for Excellence.

Major progress on Changing for Excellence

Just over a year ago, Chancellor Gray-Little announced the Changing for Excellence business cases that KU is now implementing. The implementation has made great progress during its first year, led by Vice Provost for Administration and Finance Diane Goddard.

Our success in implementing Changing for Excellence directly benefits the goals and strategies of Bold Aspirations. We have already directed some of the savings in key ways:  One was by the creation of the Office of First-Year Experience — with new topical first-year seminars, the common book program, and the growth of learning communities.  The newly formed Center for Undergraduate Research will increase opportunities for student research experiences across the university. With the launch of the KU Core next August, students will be able to satisfy some of the learning outcomes with the experiential learning programs from these units.  The Research Investment Council is funding faculty research in our four strategic initiative themes, and units across campus are working on important cluster hires and Foundation Professor recruitments to enhance research and scholarship.

The facilities business case has led to the most visible change. On July 8, the merger of Facilities Operations and Student Housing maintenance and custodial staff created the newly named unit of Facilities Services. Jay Phillips was hired last month as the first director of facilities services, completing an overhaul of the administration. We estimate that the initial savings from the first year will be over $1 million. The men and women who work in Facilities Services have done amazing work during what could have been a difficult transition. I commend them on their efforts and thank them for the work they do every day to keep KU running smoothly.

On the IT front, Chief Information Officer Bob Lim has been ably implementing the technology business case. He and his team have made major progress in multifunction devices, planning for virtual servers, and streamlining the IT organization. In addition, analysis of software purchases by the Lawrence campus and the Medical Center has resulted in over $140,000 in savings.

Finally, we are redefining how we conduct human resources, finance, and research administration by implementing the Shared Service Centers (SSC) business case. KU will have a total of nine SSCs when the plan is fully implemented by 2015, creating department-focused centers that are charged with serving HR, financial, and post-award research administration needs.

During the course of the project, the SSC team is focused upon transparency and communication. Over 75 staff members from across the University are participating directly in defining our processes for the SSCs. Assistant Vice Provost for Business Operations Jason Hornberger and the team from Huron Consulting Group have met with the leadership of the College, Hall Center for Humanities, and Institute for Policy and Social Research to gather input as we prepare for the transition of the first set of SSCs in February/March 2013.

You will find biweekly updates on these three business cases and the other seven cases we are pursuing on the Changing for Excellence website. We have made great progress in all areas, including several new contracts producing major savings for all of our campuses. The less we dedicate to administrative functions, the more we have available to pursue priorities in Bold Aspirations.

Bits and Bytes

  • In a message to the Edwards Campus and to Lawrence faculty, I announced that Mary Ryan will serve as interim vice chancellor of the Edwards Campus when Bob Clark steps down at the end of December. Mary has served well as associate dean of academic affairs at the Edwards Campus since 2001.  A search is underway to fill the permanent role.
  • Last week, KU alumnus, British political commentator, and market research pioneer Sir Robert Worcester was named Chancellor’s Lecturer and Adjunct Professor of Political Science. On Thursday, November 29, as part of the Bold Aspirations Visitor and Lecture Series, Sir Robert will give two presentations:
    • Why America Reelected a Black Liberal in 2012, or Not, at 9 a.m. at the Hall Center Conference Hall.
    • The Relevance of the Magna Carta to the 21st Century, at 7:30 p.m. at the Dole Institute.
  • The KU Center for Technology Commercialization has created a new Proof of Concept Fund to support KU research projects that are approaching the commercialization stage and have the potential in the near future to become marketplace solutions. The application deadline is January 2, 2013. For more information, visit the Research & Graduate Studies funding opportunities website.
  • Finally, one more note about President Lincoln:  On October 3, 1863, Lincoln established a national “day of Thanksgiving and Praise” to be set aside annually on the fourth Thursday of November. During the 150th celebration of this national holiday, I wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving Break and offer my heartfelt thanks for your continued dedication to our students, our university, and our state.
Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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