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Busy Becoming Stronger

April 27, 2015

Faculty, Students, and Staff:

Had he visited the University of Kansas, T.S. Eliot would have started his epic poem differently: April is the busiest month.

The level of activity at the end of the academic year can be stressful. Every one of us is busy with multiple interests: studying, finalizing proposals and papers, writing exams, grading work, budgeting for the year ahead, organizing events, attending events, conducting research, and more. We all look forward to the change of pace that follows commencement.

As we anticipate the end point, it is an especially good time to reflect and enjoy the productive journey we’ve just taken. The KU community has delivered a number of noteworthy accomplishments in the past year.

Reasons to celebrate

KU produces great research for our communities and the world. In the past year, faculty and researchers have found ways to help children with autism learn to be more social, identified two new species of lizard, licensed new technologies to treat complications from diabetes, and divulged numerous other findings that are shaping society in bold new ways.

KU students have captured headlines with high-profile national and international honors. Since August, we’ve heralded two Udall scholars, two Goldwater scholars, one Gates Cambridge scholar, one Truman scholar, a top-ranked debate team, and an aerospace engineering class that knows no limits to achievement.

Search committees successfully found new leadership for the Office of Research and the schools of Social Work, and Architecture, Design, and Planning. Faculty recruiting is winding down, and departments are building their scholarly reputations with new scholars, including five new Foundation Distinguished Professors. We kicked off plans for Innovation Way with the November celebration of the Earth, Energy, and Environment Center buildings, Ritchie Hall and Slawson Hall, which will begin construction this summer on Naismith Drive. Eighteen months of assessment and self-reflection culminated with a very productive Higher Learning Commission accreditation visit in early February. Faculty and staff have also made advances in the student experience — unveiling four year plans for undergraduate degrees, analytics-based advising tools; new minors and certificates, and innovative degree options, including the B.S. in biotechnology on the Edwards Campus.

Finding good from conflict

We have also had several hard conversations during the past year. Issues of sexual assault, social justice, and cultural sensitivity have opened our eyes and ears. These concerns have called upon us — and especially those of us in leadership roles — to be more open, responsive, and inclusive. Forums have helped clarify concerns and responsibilities. The Chancellor’s Task Force on Sexual Assault will deliver its report before the semester’s end. Soon, a new task force will begin assessment of the campus climate with the goal to provide a safe and inclusive environment that enables success for all students, faculty, and staff. And through initiatives like KU Athletics’ adaptation of It’s On Us, more of us are aware of the importance of our individual roles in keeping our campus community safe and welcoming to all.

Finishing stronger

The transformational effort we call Bold Aspirations has asked much of all of us. The fourth year of the plan wraps up this fall; but right now, take a moment to breathe. Celebrate the successes of the past year, and know that your hard work matters. Your contributions have measurably increased KU’s stature nationally and have made KU stronger in every way. Thank you for all you do for KU!

In the weeks to come, several alumni and advisory groups will return to KU to cheer our accomplishments and guide our programs toward new opportunities. I encourage you to make time to celebrate, too. Enjoy our achievements, our enduring friendships, and upcoming graduations. Celebrate the strength of our Jayhawk family.

Bits and Bytes

  • Please join me in congratulating Greg Cushman, associate professor of history, as one of the world’s first recipients of the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship. This prestigious honor fosters scholarly research and writing in the social sciences and humanities.
  • The Center for Teaching Excellence hosted the first Student Learning Symposium on April 18. Turnout was impressive, and participants had opportunities to network and share ideas. Two programs received awards for their assessment success stories. Please join me in commending the Environmental Studies undergraduate program, winner of the Degree-Level Assessment Award, and the Department of Physics and Astronomy, winner of the Chris Haufler KU Core Innovation Award.
  • Earlier this month, the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity inducted six individuals into the KU Women’s Hall of Fame and honored several additional students, faculty, and staff members. Please take a moment to acknowledge their contributions.
  • The University Press of Kansas launched its redesigned website. The new site offers samples of books, direct sales to customers, and social media engagement.
  • We will hold a public showing of The Hunting Ground, on the topic of rape on college campuses, on Tuesday, April 28 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union.
  • On Saturday, the Undergraduate Research Symposium showcased more than 160 students who presented their original research. Visit the Center for Undergraduate Research to learn more about research topics and award winners.
  • One of KU’s great longtime traditions, the Stop Day Walking Tour, continues this year. Professor emeritus Ted Johnson begins the daylong tour at 9 a.m. on Friday, May 8, near the Natural History Museum, rain or shine. The tour combines history, art, philosophy, and more as participants experience the monuments and beauty of Mount Oread. All are welcome and can join the tour or leave it as time allows.
  • The countdown to Commencement has begun! Make sure family and friends know commencement.ku.edu is the one-stop shop for information, and be sure to check out the countdown clock. Remember to use #KUgrads in your social media posts about graduation and Commencement. In the meantime, you can see my view of KU events and activities by following my Twitter feed, @KUprovost.
Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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