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Progressing Forward

September 15, 2014

Faculty, Staff, and Students:

A brief note on Sexual Assault Awareness Week

I very strongly believe in and support our KU tradition of open and free dialogue on difficult issues.  We are seeking a common goal — for KU to lead the way in creating an environment where every member of our community feels safe.  The worst thing that can happen is that we become afraid to speak our minds and to have an open, constructive dialogue. 

I fully support the positive steps that Chancellor Gray-Little outlined in her message Thursday.  If we are going to move forward as a campus on these issues, then we need campus-wide participation and feedback, not a “top-down” approach.  I invite you to a panel discussion, as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Week, that the chancellor and I will be sponsoring and participating in this Thursday, September 18th from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. at the Commons. 

I would welcome receiving questions that you would like the panel to address.  Feel free to send them to me prior to Thursday’s panel at provost@ku.edu.

Focusing on student success

Our key mission as a university is to educate leaders who are prepared for successful careers and prosperous lives.  Ensuring that more Jayhawks earn their degrees has been a priority for the chancellor and me since we arrived. Working with faculty and staff, we’ve already implemented a range of action steps through Bold Aspirations to address this vital issue.

But there’s much more to be done.

As mentioned in the previous issue of Provost eNews, we have set important university-wide goals: a 90 percent first-year progression rate, and a 70 percent six-year graduation rate.

To meet those goals, we’re empowering faculty, staff, and students to implement our comprehensive progression and graduation plan. And we’ll use data and experiences to make adjustments along the way.

First-year performance predicts future success

One example of data we can bring to bear is the powerful correlation between first-year academic performance and graduation rates. In each of the past five years, first-year students— who complete at least 30 hours with at least a 2.5 GPA — have a six-year graduation rate of more than 86 percent. But for those who struggle more — who complete fewer than 24 hours and have lower than a 2.5 GPA — the six-year graduation rate is less than 34 percent.

We are seeing indicators of progress: For the fall 2008 class, only 28 percent were in the former group, and more than 41 percent were in the latter category. Impressively, 41 percent of the fall 2013 class were in the upper category, suggesting an improved future graduation rate. Unfortunately, one-third were still in the lower category, putting them at grave risk for leaving KU before earning their degrees.

If students learn skills needed for success during their first year and progress with 30 credit hours, they are more likely to be here at Commencement. We owe it to all of our students to help them get off to that successful start, and to continue supporting them until their successful finish to their time at KU.

Overview of the Progression and Graduation Plan

Our plan focuses on three areas: the academic experience, advising, and removing barriers to earning a degree.

At the heart of our efforts to enhance the academic experience is the redesign of courses to maximize student engagement and learning. For example, we will “flip” more classrooms, making the learning experience interactive, and use data analytics to help instructors tune their classroom interactions.  We will also integrate teaching with advising technologies and techniques, rather than treating them as separate.

For students who fall behind, or for those who want to get ahead, we’ll create more courses during winter and spring intersessions. To keep students on the right path to graduation — or help them choose the path they prefer — we’ll implement co-curricular and degree maps.

KU offers our undergraduates over 400 majors, minors, and certificates. As faculty and staff, we often forget the difficulty of navigating those options. Now is the time to transform the advising process to provide guidance to our students using predictive analytics and integrated tools in order to match students in advance with the resources to help them succeed, rather than wait until students need help.

And finally, we must coordinate all our efforts and design them around those we are serving — our students.  We will identify and remove policies that act as barriers to graduation, which may include inappropriate enrollment holds, billing practices, drop and withdrawal polices, and more.

It will take all of us

Just as with our successful implementation of Bold Aspirations to date, the entire campus must be engaged in order to achieve our shared goals. Recruiting students isn’t solely the responsibility of the Office of Admissions, and ensuring they succeed is not the sole responsibility of any one department.

Success will take all of us. And when we achieve our goals, we can celebrate with the knowledge that our hard work has resulted in more students walking down the Hill and out into the world as that most unique breed of graduates — Jayhawks!

Bits and Bytes

  • The University of Kansas is committed to a safe campus. In 1990 the federal government passed the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, the Clery Act. The Clery Act is designed to inform the community of campus safety policies and crime statistics. The Clery Act requires the University to designate Campus Security Authorities (CSA) and certify that they complete an annual training. If you receive such an email, it is imperative that you complete this training by the deadline stated.
  • I hope you will join me in welcoming Nate Thomas, who joined KU as vice provost for diversity and equity this summer, and his family to the KU and Lawrence communities at a campus-wide welcome reception on Tuesday, September 30 from 4–5 p.m. in the Kansas Room in the Kansas Union.
  • The latest in our series of summits tied to Goal 3 of Bold Aspirations is the Large Data Management Genomic Biodiversity Summit. The event is on Monday, September 22 from 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. at The Commons. Join speakers from Internet2, Microsoft, University of Oklahoma, University of California, and the University of Kansas to explore the challenges of managing and analyzing large data in the context of genomic biodiversity research.
  • The Bold Aspirations Visitor and Lecture Series is entering its third full year.  Among previous participants were our first three Foundation Distinguished Professors.  Two new visitors will be on campus shortly:
    • Dennis O’Rourke, interim chair and professor of anthropology at the University of Utah, will present “A Genetic Prehistory of the Americas: Ancient DNA Perspectives on Colonization and Population History” on Thursday, September 25 at 3:30 p.m. at The Commons.
    • Beth Bailey, professor of history at Temple University and the 2014-15 Oscar Hardin ACLS Fellow, will present “Who Serves?: Citizenship, the Market, and the All-Volunteer Army” on Wednesday, October 1 at 3:30 p.m. at 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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