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KU’s Inclusive Approach to Shared Service Centers

February 17, 2014

Faculty, Staff, and Students:

Our first KU shared service center (SSC) in Liberal Arts and Sciences has been open for several months, and the feedback I have received has been increasingly positive. SSCs bring selected members of our dedicated staff together to manage financial resources, human resources, and post-award grant administration procedures — allowing departments to focus upon our mission of educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that change the world.

Our second SSC, for Biobehavioral & Social Research, is also open, and the Campus Administration & Operations SSC will open in early April. The five remaining SSCs will be “online” by August 2016, guided by individual implementation plans developed through ongoing communication with all stakeholders.

I am dedicating this issue of Provost eNews to bring clarity to the process of planning the SSCs so that we develop truly win-win scenarios in their implementation.  Our eight SSCs are set to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our units as well as provide new professional growth opportunities for KU employees. Continuous improvement is a key goal, so that faculty members can spend less time on administration and paperwork and thus more time on their research, teaching, and service.  And cost savings that are generated by SSCs and other components of Changing for Excellence are fueling additional faculty slots and enhancements as part of our strategic plan Bold Aspirations.

Primer on planning for future SSCs

The key to having a successful SSC is for everyone involved — both faculty and staff — to be actively engaged in the planning.  If you are in a unit that will be covered by one of the SSCs beginning the planning stage, I encourage you to get engaged in the process.  There will be multiple rounds of interviews, focus groups, and research on outcomes, such as review of data from past transactions.

Planning for each SSC occurs over several months and is led by the deans, chairs, and staff members of the schools and departments that will be served. A continuous iterative process helps ensure that they consider all the staff functions both in the SSC and in the home departments.  Through the planning and implementation process, each SSC has an advisory committee consisting of individuals served by the SSC that meets monthly to monitor implementation and provide feedback.

After implementation, each department will work with a single point of contact for each of the three SSC activities: human resources, accounting, and post-award. In many cases, the assigned accounting or human resource contact person comes from the same department, allowing for continuity in support as well as greater efficiency and opportunities for staff development.

I am especially committed to increasing the level of post-award support for principal investigators by having specialized SSC staff who focus upon this activity. In particular, each SSC will provide its assigned PIs a single point of contact as a means to provide enhanced, responsive post-award service.

Another big plus will be the new BudCast financial reporting tool, currently being rolled out across campus.  BudCast will provide PIs, chairs, and directors up-to-date financial information — combined from research, general use, restricted use, and endowment sources — for managing project activities and expenditures.

Focusing our talents

Staff who transition to an SSC work closely in a shared space with peers from other departments in an environment that fosters communication and collaboration for problem solving. There are enhanced opportunities for training, professional development, and advancement. The end result is a university that operates more smoothly, and staff develop a deeper understanding of our departments and functions.

Our three current SSCs — for Liberal Arts and Sciences in 050 and 345 Strong Hall, for Biobehavioral & Social Research in 1052 Dole Human Development Center, and for Campus Administration & Operations on the third floor of Carruth O’Leary — have been located as close as possible to the units they serve, and we will strive to continue that pattern for future SSCs. The spaces in Strong Hall and Dole are open and inviting, and I encourage you to visit and learn more about SSCs.

Finding SSC information online

The shared service center website, ssc.ku.edu, provides an excellent overview:

  • There is a timeline for implementation activities and an FAQ.
  • There is a news section, including a section for SSC Communication Ambassadors. Ambassadors meet bi-monthly.  If your department does not currently have a representative, I encourage you to designate one by sending an email to ssteinle@ku.edu.
  • For departments already in an SSC, you can find the appropriate staff member who serves as your single point of contact, depending upon which service (HR, financial, post-award) you desire.
  • I encourage you to read the recent coverage in the Wall Street Journal that highlights KU’s approach to SSCs.

Bits and Bytes

  • This past Thursday was the annual KU in the Capitol event in Topeka. Several members of the KU community visited with lawmakers during what was a busy week for KU in the Statehouse. You can keep track of all of the happenings in Topeka by following the State Relations updates posted weekly by Lindsey Douglas, KU’s new director of state relations.
  • Other events last week included Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol, Master’s Research Day at the Capitol, and the Capitol Graduate Research Summit. These events are a showcase for student research at the state’s six Regent universities. KU students from Lawrence and the Medical Center were well represented at all three events, with 21 undergraduate students and five master’s students at the concurrent Undergraduate and Master’s Research Days last Wednesday and 13 graduate students at the Capitol Graduate Research Summit last Thursday.
  • As a reminder, the next deadline for Level I Strategic Initiative Grant proposals is March 1. In its two years of existence, the Research Investment Council has recommended 12 Level 1 awards totaling nearly $4.4 million, including the three most recently funded proposals announced earlier this month.
  • The Bold Aspirations Visitor and Lecture Series is bringing three leading scholars to KU this week and next:
    • Yong Wang, Voiland Distinguished Professor in Chemical Engineering at Washington State University and Associate Director of the Institute for Integrated Catalysis at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, will speak on “Innovations in Catalysis and Reaction Engineering for Thermal Chemical Conversion of Biomass to Chemicals/Fuels” today at 4 p.m. in The Commons.
    • David Miller, professor of cell and developmental biology and biological sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, will present “Decoding Genetic Programs that Wire the Brain” on Monday, Feb. 24 at 4 p.m. in The Commons.
    • Mahdi Abu-Omar, R. B. Wetherill Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Purdue University, will present “Sustainability through Catalysis Science: Making Biofuels and Chemicals from Biomass” on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 3:30 p.m. in The Commons.
Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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