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Pursue a Richer Life

September 14, 2015

Faculty, staff, and students:

The liberal arts are the heart and soul of KU.  Like the Cave of Wonders in the movie Aladdin, the liberal arts fill the Lawrence and Edwards campuses with cultural, scholarly, and visual treasures.  These riches define us as unique individuals as they build us into the KU community. 

Each year, talented KU students, faculty and staff bring us hundreds of events and shows for our personal enjoyment and illumination.  Live performance, art installations, lectures, and seminars enrich us in countless ways.  They can be simple escapist pleasures, as well as inspire, build culture, and raise awareness. 

Venues of enlightenment

Thanks to generous donors and careful planning, KU has great new spaces for lectures and the visual and performing arts.  Recent renovations include the beautiful Swarthout Recital Hall and The Jay in the Kansas Union.  The Spencer Museum of Art is closed until mid 2016 for its Phase I construction, although programming is still going strong with events like Saturday afternoon’s Backyard Bash and sightings of a NuPenny Toy Stand in the shade of a campus catalpa.  After the School of Business opens Capitol Federal Hall, other departments and programs will move into a renovated Summerfield Hall.  Its features will include production studios and a new two-story, 2,200 square-foot sound stage to support students and faculty in the Department of Film & Media Studies.

These spaces complement KU venues that already are part of our shared tradition — The Commons, William Inge Theatre, Crafton-Preyer Theatre, Lied Center, the Art & Design Gallery and more.

As Central District redevelopment and KU Innovation Way pick up speed, interdisciplinary spaces designed for the Earth, Energy and Environment Center and the Integrated Science Buildings will increase the significance of these structures, too.  Collaboration between the arts, sciences, and technologies can produce highly creative and profound results.  Such interaction prepares students to address global challenges as informed and cultured citizens.

Sample the bounty

A benefit of living in a vibrant college town like Lawrence is the opportunity to enjoy top-quality performances and presentations right here on campus.  I encourage all faculty and staff to look to KU as the first choice for rejuvenation, entertainment, and inquiry.  I especially urge students to attend these events and exhibits; they can enhance your learning experience in wonderful and unexpected ways.  Need more reasons?  The next Mandy Patinkin, Rob Riggle, or Paul Rudd is likely in our midst.  A new Picasso or Warhol is perfecting his or her art on campus.  And a future Gillian Flynn or Sara Paretsky is gathering experiences for 2025’s literary blockbuster.  Support our rising stars now, and make KU all it can be.

KU’s breadth of activities reflects some of the best the world has to offer.  Here is but a quick sample of upcoming events:  The School of Music will hold its 16th annual Collage Concert this Friday.  The Hall Center for the Humanities will host An Evening of Indian Music in Two Parts on September 24.  In October, University Theatre presents Detroit 67.   The Langston Hughes Center, Hall Center, and other groups are sponsoring the Protecting The Vote Symposium October 8 on citizenship and elections, highlighted by a dialogue with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Distinguished Professor of Law Stephen McAllister.  Many programs are free for KU students.  Links to the University Calendar and several other calendars appear below in Bits and Bytes.

With so many opportunities within reach I want to challenge everyone to attend at least two KU cultural events this semester (and preferably many more!).  Undergraduate students who do so may be well on their way to earning the Arts Engagement Certificate on their transcript.

KU’s arts and humanities offerings are the tangible pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  It’s right here, waiting for us to claim it.

Bits and Bytes

  • The search for the director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs gets underway soon.  OMA makes important contributions that raise awareness and build connections among and between students, faculty, and staff.  I’m looking forward to a robust search to fill this crucial leadership role.
  • The Navigating Digital Futures Summit this Friday in The Commons will offer an enlightening interdisciplinary program to encourage innovative collaborations among faculty and graduate students doing research in digital media or using digital technologies in their work.  Kauffman Foundation CEO Wendy Guillies will be among those speaking.
  • Thank you to all who took part in the dean search for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  The search committee, led by Professor of English Marta Caminero-Santangelo, worked especially hard to identify and bring top candidates to KU.
  • KU dedicated Self and Oswald Halls on Friday.  Kudos to KU Student Housing Director Diana Robertson and her team for student creating spaces that are so much more than residence halls.
  • Calendar links for a season of stellar events:
  • Hall Center for the Humanities
  • Lied Center of Kansas
  • School of Music
  • Spencer Museum of Art
  • University Calendar
  • University Theatre
  • Upcoming lectures in the Bold Aspirations and Visitor Lecture Series:
  • Jim Dumesic, University of Wisconsin, will present a Foundation Professor Lecture on “Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Fuels and Chemicals” today at 3:30 p.m. in The Commons of Spooner Hall.
  • Chris Beard, Foundation Distinguished Professor at KU, will present “Biogeography and Primate Evolution: Scientific Constraints on Improbably Events” on Tuesday, September 29 at 5:30 p.m. in the Kansas Room of the Kansas Union.
  • Omar Gudino, University of Denver, will present the Langston Hughes Visiting Professor Lecture titled “Understanding and Eliminating Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Youth Mental Health Service Use” on Wednesday, October 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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