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KU’s Stage is Set for Exceptional Advances

August 31, 2015

Faculty, staff, and students:

In one very short, exciting week, KU welcomed thousands of individuals into the most amazing family on the planet. I know many ways to describe these new souls — smart, funny, creative, industrious — but now they all share the distinct quality of being Jayhawks.

New ideas, new directions

In addition to students, we also can embrace several new faculty, staff, and leaders. More than 60 new faculty, including our six latest Foundation Distinguished Professors, are here for this academic year. Two new deans arrived in Lawrence over the summer — Mahesh Daas of the School of Architecture, Design and Planning and Paul Smokowski of the School of Social Welfare — and will help guide their programs toward greater achievement and distinction.

Tight resources won’t stop progress: Transforming the campus landscape

New perspectives and fresh approaches in our endeavors are essential for future successes. In June we stared down the grim possibility of mandatory state employee furloughs. While that concern has passed, the state budget outlook still presents hurdles we must clear.

Nonetheless, there are impressive goals we can — and will — accomplish. Because of our good financial stewardship through the Changing for Excellence program, successful recruiting, philanthropy via Far Above, and external partnerships, we can strategically reinvest resources to advance KU’s mission and aspirations.

New facilities are coming online to transform learning and discovery at KU. This past spring, the School of Music dedicated its stunning renovation of the Swarthout Recital Hall. The School of Engineering will dedicate its 110,000 square-foot LEEP2 structure later this fall. The School of Business’ Capitol Federal Hall is closer to completion every day. The Spencer Museum of Art phase I renovation is scheduled to be completed in 2016.

This fall, the Lawrence campus also begins efforts to redevelop the Central District and establish KU Innovation Way, the focal point of the Campus Master Plan. Construction begins soon on Ritchie and Slawson halls of the Earth, Energy and Environment Center near Lindley Hall. In the area of the former Stouffer Place apartments, we will launch an integrated science building, a new student learning center, modern student housing, a power plant, and more to propel the university to greater accomplishments in research, learning, and living. Architects are creating academic spaces that enhance the teaching and learning experience and connect students with KU’s groundbreaking research. Planners are giving special attention to use of space and intersections of activity that foster collaboration among disciplines and strengthen innovative thought.

Before this year’s freshman class graduates, KU will have a world-class, adaptable corridor of discovery that sets the stage for great breakthroughs in the decades to come.

Big data is having an impact, too. KU’s impressive data capabilities are helping vice provosts and deans identify opportunities for strategic investment. These data tools — available to all academic units through Visual Analytics — allow us to see advantageous and more efficient ways to do our jobs and fulfill our mission. And that efficiency matters now more than ever.

Flying into the next 150 years

It’s fair to say we are in the midst of challenging, but extraordinary times. Despite obstacles, the students, faculty, and staff of KU are creatively helping KU craft its own destiny. The first week of classes may be behind us, but a truly bold future stands ahead.

Bits and Bytes

  • The School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures will hold its Inaugural Convocation on Tuesday, Sept. 1. Congratulations are in order for SLLC Director and Professor Marc Greenberg, as well as the school’s faculty and staff, as they prepare more KU students for global careers.
  • The EAB Student Success Collaborative will be at KU for an overview and demonstration on Sept. 8–9. Academic advisers began piloting the collaborative’s data-driven tools last year. KU is committed to fully integrating the tools into all academic advising and student services so that faculty and staff can use them to help our students succeed and graduate.
  • As KU works to influence campus culture and research through the Central District redevelopment, a new book by Mahesh Daas, dean of the School of Architecture, Design and Planning, documents MIT’s efforts to use architecture, design, and art to achieve institutional goals.
  • Even though the legislative session is over, the effort to advocate for KU’s activities and initiatives among statehouse leaders continues. Please welcome KU’s new State Relations Director Kelly Reynolds.
  • Renovation activity isn’t stopping the Spencer Museum of Art. Academic director Celka Straughn is among the leaders of the College Art Association project Resources for Academic Art Museum Professionals, which fosters scholarly engagement with students and faculty.
  • Programs at the Edwards Campus are expanding opportunities to educate and serve the work force. This fall the campus unveils four new certificate programs in accounting, workplace communication, city and county management, and performance management.
  • Upcoming lectures in the Bold Aspirations and Visitor Lecture Series include:
    • Jim Dumesic, Foundation Professor Lecture, will present “Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Fuels and Chemicals” on Monday, Sept. 14 at 3:30 p.m. in The Commons of Spooner Hall.
    • Omar Gudino, Langston Hughes Visiting Professor Lecture, on Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 3:30 p.m. in The Commons of Spooner Hall.
Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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