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Beyond Bold: Our Aspirations Advance KU's Culture of Achievement

November 3, 2015

Students, faculty, and staff:

At the annual Academy Awards there’s usually an Oscar winner who tries to thank everyone in the room before being cut off by the orchestra. At the University of Kansas, there are so many people to thank for the successes through our strategic plan Bold Aspirations. Unlike the Oscars, I’m not limited by a single room, and luckily I’m also on good terms with the KU Symphony Orchestra!

The Bold Aspirations Year 4 Annual Report is now available for your review. Printed reports also are available in the Provost’s Office. Our collective hard work, involvement, and investment through Bold Aspirations produces results worthy of praise.

Year 4 advances

The six areas of focus in Year 4 came to life through courses, events, research, advising, recruitment, and an array of behind-the-scenes efforts.  

We took greater strides to promote active learning for undergraduates. Through Strategic Grant Initiatives and Foundation Distinguished Professor hiring we strengthened research and scholarship. A number of programs and events allowed us to involve the public and business in our scholarly plans, ideas, and discoveries. New resources and infrastructure kept our people and our campuses functioning at a high level. Our award-winning faculty and staff work in an environment that values and recognizes their excellence. Efforts to energize the educational environment are driving advances toward Chancellor Gray-Little’s 90/70 retention and graduation goal.

Evidence in black and white, crimson and blue

Accounts throughout the Bold Aspirations report demonstrate our growing accomplishments.

The metrics continue to paint a picture of improvement. Additional information available after the print report went to press shows further increases in minority faculty hiring as well as a higher six-year graduation rate. Even more significantly, for the undergraduate class entering fall 2013, when the KU Core went into effect, leading indicators based upon those students’ first-year academic performance at KU predict that its six-year graduation rate will be in the upper 60s, pushing KU even higher toward the 70% goal.  

These increases are important — and not simply for our current students. Even modest gains have an impact on popular college rankings. While we may be disappointed in KU’s slight dip in U.S. News undergraduate rankings released this fall, we can take great pride in knowing that our leading indicators, as well as our AAU metrics, show KU moving in the right direction.  

Finely tuned instrument

This report also shows the many ways this strategic plan is carefully interconnected. Many of the moving parts support advances in multiple goals. The report highlights successes through Changing for Excellence and Far Above.  It spotlights support that fosters collaborative research and scholarly engagement with public and with students. The document and website showcase a few of our new Foundation Distinguished Professors and faculty hires who bring fresh insight to the classroom while they build KU’s international reputation. Finally, it details several of our efforts to further excellence in KU’s talented people — the bedrock for all our success.

Looking ahead

We’ve come far, and there’s more achievement in KU’s future. This year’s work will continue our advances and seal our efforts to transform KU.

Five areas of focus will guide our activities this academic year.

  • An emphasis on progression and graduation furthers our efforts to achieve 90/70 plan by 2022.
  • The campus diversity and climate effort will fully launch the KU Climate Study.
  • Online and international enrollment activities will offer an accessible and welcoming environment to students at home or work as well as students from around the world. David Attis of EAB, who presented at the Provost’s Retreat in August, demonstrated the growing importance of these prospective student audiences to the long-term viability of higher education institutions in the United States.
  • Metrics of research performance will continue to address markers that matter and that elevate KU’s stature.
  • Central District redevelopment will modernize and prepare the KU campus for the decades ahead. Innovation Way — made possible in part from savings realized through Changing for Excellence — bridges the physical and scholarly realms of the Lawrence campus as it fuels excellence and innovation.

The Bold Aspirations steering committee did a stellar job of furthering last year’s efforts and continuing the transformation of this thriving institution. The real stars, however, are the KU faculty, staff, and students who have embraced these efforts and made them something worthy of celebration.

The dedication and efforts each one of you brings to KU make it such an amazing place to learn and to work. Thank you.

Bits and Bytes

  • Many of you have contacted me with warm wishes upon hearing about my selection as the next chancellor at the University of Mississippi. Thank you. It’s been a privilege to serve KU as provost. I have nothing but praise for Chancellor Gray-Little’s choice of Sara Rosen as interim provost. KU is in great hands. 
  • Congratulations to Dean Michael Branicky and the School of Engineering on the dedication of its grand new facility within the Engineering Complex. The Learned Engineering Expansion Phase 2 (LEEP2) is a great new front door for the school and demonstrates KU’s commitment to educating the next generation of engineering leadership.
  • Aspiring faculty entrepreneurs can sign up for KU Innovation and Collaboration’s Startup School@KU, which begins Wednesday, November 4. The Entrepreneurship Center at the School of Business developed the three-session program, which draws on the lean startup model and encompasses idea generation, validation and company launch.
  • Monday’s announcement of DeAngela Burns-Wallace selection as vice provost for Undergraduate Studies is great news for KU. I want to thank the search committee and its chair, Associate Dean Tom Volek, for presenting such strong candidates to the KU community, as well as thank Vice Provost of Student Affairs Tammara Durham for stepping up to lead as interim vice provost for Undergraduate Studies.
  • Upcoming lectures in the Bold Aspirations and Visitor Lecture Series include:
    • Michael Blum, Inaugural Distinguished Professor Lecture, will present “Bloodlines of a Continent: Snapshots of North American Drainage and Landscapes over the last 150 Million Years” at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, November 19, in the Jayhawk Room of the Kansas Union.
    • Rolfe Mandel, Inaugural Distinguished Professor Lecture, at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, December 3, in the Summerfield Room of the Adams Alumni Center.
  • Congratulations to the Undergraduate Advising Center, winner of a technology innovation award from National Academic Advising Association. The honor recognizes KU’s creative use of data and student information to help more students stay on track and graduate.
  • Associate Professor of Theatre Nicole Hodges Persley, this year’s winner of the Byron T. Shutz Award for Excellence in Teaching, will present “The Message: Improvising Hip Hop as Critical Pedagogy in the 21st Century Classroom” at 3:30 p.m., Monday, November 9, in The Commons of Spooner Hall.
  • Design and Construction Management will host public forum on Central District redevelopment from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday, November 16, in the Gridiron Room of the Burge Union. The forum gives the KU and Lawrence communities an opportunity to see plans for improvement to KU’s Central District as part of the 2014-2024 Campus Master Plan. DCM Director and University Architect Jim Modig will lead a formal presentation at 6:15 p.m. 
  • Opportunities still abound to enjoy KU’s rich tradition of performing, and visual arts, and lectures.  Tomorrow at 7 p.m., the Commons presents the panel discussion “Contemporary Indigenous Art, A Conversation” featuring Sandra Laronde. Next Monday, the School of Music will be at the Edwards Campus with a performance for the 2nd Monday Series. There are many more gems to experience.
Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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