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Changing for Excellence: Resources to Realize Our Bold Aspirations

November 3, 2014

Faculty, Staff, and Students:

John D. Rockefeller once said, “If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” At KU, one way we define success is achieving our vision as a top-tier public international research university, and the strategic plan Bold Aspirations that we collectively developed, lays out key new paths to success.

In the last issue of Provost eNews, I shared our year 3 report on progress onBold Aspirations. Fueling that progress are the resources we are raising from our capital campaign Far Above, new initiatives to grow online programs and boost enrollments, and our efficiency efforts to streamline the university so that we can do more with less.

In this issue of Provost eNews, as promised, I am going to give an update on our efficiency program — which we call Changing for Excellenceand the major opportunities it is enabling at KU.

Changing for Excellence

In her message last week, Chancellor Gray-Little mentioned the high praise voiced by the Kansas Board of Regents about our progress on Bold Aspirations and noted that our successes are the result of your hard work and your willingness to help drive needed changes — even when those changes can be difficult.

In spring 2011, we began the initiative we now call Changing for Excellence by engaging teams of stakeholders around the entire university to look into possible ways in which we could function more effectively using fewer resources. The teams ultimately identified 10 projects to move forward with, and we subsequently developed and launched implementation plans. The Changing for Excellence web site provides regular updates on progress.

Investments in the Future

Thanks to your efforts on the Changing for Excellence projects, the efficiency savings are helping fund the following major initiatives that are key to enhancing our status as an AAU institution and a flagship university of national stature:

  • 22 net new faculty positions — some filled, some searches underway, others to come — are strengthening our academic program around our four strategic initiatives. It makes a total of 64 net new faculty positions, counting 12 Foundation Professors and 30 for the Engineering expansion funded by the state of Kansas.
  • On November 20, we will break ground on the new Earth, Energy, & Environment Center buildings north and south, leading into the first phase of the major Innovation Way project, the key part of the Campus Master Plan for 2014–2024. It will provide important infrastructure for teaching labs, research infrastructure, and student learning spaces.
  • Supporting research from autism to arts collaboration research to drug discovery, the Research Investment Council (RIC) has provided over $5 million to date in seed funding for multidisciplinary research by KU faculty advancing our four strategic initiatives.
  • Our investments in recruiting, enrollment management, and scholarships have yielded three straight years of growth in the first-year class, as well as growth in our international student population. Our overall enrollment for Lawrence and Edwards increased this fall for the first time since 2008.
  • While providing more resources to units with growing enrollments, we have used savings to support on a temporary basis the budgets of those units where there have been significant enrollment decreases, in order to allow them to maintain a strong faculty while they build back their student cohorts.
  • New offices and programs for undergraduates in experiential learning and First-Year Experiences will help engage and advance more students on campus.
  • Enhancement of academic support services, including the MySuccess early warning system and supplemental instruction for large courses that have no discussion section, are helping students be successful in their courses and continue to make progress toward degree.
  • Teaching postdoc positions have been created to help units redesign gateway courses, especially those with high D/F/W/ rates, in order to improve student learning and retention.
  • The addition of an assessment specialist will help us know how effective we are in documenting student learning, and help us continue to improve.
  • Technology enhancements for research computing infrastructure are in place with benefits to students and researchers.
  • Human Resource Management is implementing a new learning and performance management system, is about to launch a new website, and is implementing new help desk functionality to improve campus services.
  • The Classification and Market Study has to date identified approximately 800 positions whose compensation were below market and have been brought up to the minimum salary range compared with the market. Now in Phase III, we anticipate upon completion, an additional 100 positions will have their compensation adjusted upward to meet the market minimum. No employee has had a reduction in compensation as a result of the study
  • We have increased funding for library holdings and subscriptions.
  • We have tripled funding for graduate fellowships over the last four years from a variety of funding sources, including Changing for Excellence.
  • Multiple millions of dollars are now being saved annually, spread throughout the budgets of multiple departmental and schools, as a result of IT server and staff centralization. At the same time, IT services and satisfaction have improved significantly.

These and other important activities are being funded through the 10 Changing for Excellence projects, such as the Shared Services Center, Procurement and Sourcing, and IT server centralization.

If you ask me if I think the hard task of changing the way we do business is worth it, I would answer with a resounding “yes.” Imagine what KU would be like in the future without these new faculty, enhanced research collaborations, and important academic facilities. I have faith that KU will grow and prosper — and fulfill our commitment to future generations of Jayhawks — by embarking on bold paths to success.

Bits and Bytes

Please join us for several interesting upcoming lectures and workshops:

  • As part of the Bold Aspirations Visitor and Lecture Series, Perry Alexander, AT&T Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at KU, will speak on “A Just Machine” on November 6 at 5:30 p.m. in the Bruckmiller Room of the Adams Alumni Center.
  • For the Byron T. Shutz Award Lecture, Jide Wintoki, associate professor of finance at KU, will speak on “The Effects of Corporate Governance and Legal Institutions on the Value of Companies in the U.S. and Around the World” on November 13 at 3:30 p.m. in the Commons, Spooner Hall.
  • A workshop on “Making Time to Write: Sustaining Research and Scholarship after Tenure,” will be geared particularly to the needs of Associate Professors — both those who are just starting to adjust to life after tenure and those who have held their rank for several years and are contemplating the next steps in their career trajectory. It is sponsored by the Office of the Provost on November 14 from 9:00–11:30 a.m. in the Hall Center for the Humanities.
  • In honor of the 400 faculty and staff who are veterans, and the approximately 800 students who were or are in the Armed Forces, I invite you to observe Veterans Day through the many activities and ceremonies on the Hill. These begin on Saturday, November 8 with the “Taps” at 10:00 a.m. at the Campanile, followed by Cadets and Midshipmen from our three ROTC battalions participate in a solemn 24-hour vigil at the campus War Memorials. As part of the “Salute to Service,” Veterans will be recognized during KU’s football game that afternoon. On November 9, the annual Veterans Day Run will begin next to Memorial Stadium at 9:00 a.m., and at 6:00 p.m. the Dole Institute of Politics is hosting “A Tribute to Veterans — USO Style.” Veteran’s Day will conclude with “evening colors” at 4:00 p.m. on November 11 conducted by our Midshipmen and Cadets on the Strong Hall Lawn.
Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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