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Faculty in their Prime

October 22, 2018

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 26 seconds

Dear students, staff and faculty,

In fast-paced times it can be easy to overlook the gifts we have — the aspects of our institution that are working well or that are raising the profile of the University of Kansas.

A perfect example is our senior faculty. All across campus I see individuals who brought their expertise to KU years ago and found — and fostered — an environment where they and their students could thrive. These individuals also have used their ability to mentor our early and midcareer faculty who have benefitted tremendously from this wisdom as they build a new generation of accomplished KU faculty. Most importantly, our senior faculty individuals push each of us to be a better Jayhawk as they continue to give their best effort to make KU and society a better place.

Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications Charles MarshThe annual Chancellor’s Club Professorship awards, coordinated by KU Endowment, do an excellent job of highlighting and honoring some of our outstanding senior faculty. For example, Charles Marsh, the Oscar Stauffer professor of journalism and mass communications, was recognized with the 2018 Chancellors Club Teaching Award, in part for his consistently high marks from his students. Those great evaluations may also be driven by his innovative research that influences and informs his classroom instruction as well as the public relations profession at large.

At any given time, a university the size of KU has many other excellent faculty, advanced in their careers, who are deserving of praise. Here are a handful of them.

Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Helen AlexanderHelen Alexander, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and member of the executive committee for the KU Field Station, who has been instrumental in prairie research — including plant-pathogen interactions and hybridization between crops and wild plants. She’s shown dedication to educational efforts for students, from K-12 through college. She’s also a member of the Women’s Hall of Fame at KU.

Professor or Aerospace Engineering Saeed FarokhiSaeed Farokhi, professor of aerospace engineering and authority in aircraft propulsion, who continues to prolifically publish texts in his area of expertise. He has guided several teams of aerospace students toward first place finishes in annual AIAA student design competitions. Farokhi is among those who received the Chancellors Club Teaching Professorship in 2017.

Professor of Music Dan GaileyDan Gailey, also a 2017 Chancellors Club Teaching Professorship honoree, is director of KU’s Jazz Studies program. He recently composed and performed “Palos Nuevos,” a jazz-flamenco piece that premiered at the Lied Center in spring 2017, then was performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in spring 2018. The work was among the pieces KU’s Jazz Ensemble I performed while touring Europe this summer.

University Distinguished Professor of English Maryemma GrahamMaryemma Graham, University Distinguished Professor of English, who founded and directs the Project on the History of Black Writing here at KU. In addition to innovative scholarship, the Project conducts literary recovery work in black studies and recently received a substantial grant to support the Black Book Interactive Project, which is building a digital collection of previously unavailable and understudied African-American novels. She’s written or edited more than 10 books covering the works of authors and poets such as Margaret Walker and Ralph Ellison, as well as the history of African-American literature.

Deane Ackers Distinguished Professor of Mechanical EngineeringKaran Surana, Deane E. Ackers distinguished professor of mechanical engineering, who recently completed another book — his fourth book since 2014 — in the field of computational mathematics. He has authored more than 350 research reports, conference papers and journal papers. But that’s not his only motivation. In May, Surana received public praise from a doctoral student who credited Surana with making the Continuum Mechanics class so entertaining the student could barely wait for the next session.

William and Judy Docking Professor of Business James GuthrieJames Guthrie, the William and Judy Docking professor in the School of Business, who has taught all levels of students, including those in the boardroom. An expert in human resource policies, firm performance and more, he has more than 100 articles and presentations to his credit. His work has been cited in popular media including the Wall Street Journal and CNBC.com. In addition to his scholarship and teaching, he has contributed considerably to KU as an administrator having served as an associate dean and interim dean of the B-School.

Univeristy Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Director of Kansas EPSCoR Kristin Bowman-JamesKristin Bowman-James, university distinguished professor of chemistry, has served as chair of her department and contributes in new ways by building access to funding for Kansas researchers through her role as director of Kansas NSF EPSCoR. She is a member of the Women’s Hall of Fame, and has most recently benefitted KU with her outstanding leadership as the chair of the Vice Chancellor for Research search committee. 

Professor of English Amy DevittAmy Devitt, professor of English, who shares her creative endeavors with those outside the classroom, too, through her blog, Genre-Colored Glasses. She’s been passionate about different genres of writing and what those genres can tell us about ourselves, and equally passionate about the best, most effective ways to teach writing to students.

Professor of Medicinal Chemistry Robert HanzlikRobert Hanzlik, professor and interim chair of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry, who is an expert in the chemical mechanisms of cytotoxicity – agents that are toxic to cells. He’s also director of the National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Protein Structure and Function here at KU. The labs there support about 70 research groups each year through high-level scientific and technical expertise and access to specialized equipment.

John H. and John M. Kane Distinguished Professor of Law Michael HoeflichMichael Hoeflich, the John H. and John M. Kane distinguished professor of law, who specializes in legal history and professional ethics. He’s a former dean of the School of Law and prolific scholar. In the past two years alone, he’s published four books with a fifth book nearing completion. He has recently developed additional expertise in homeland security law and the law of war. Last year, Hoeflich and two other KU investigators received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency to establish an intelligence and national security curriculum at KU.

We are all so fortunate for the senior faculty we have at KU. As a group, they have performed well throughout their careers and continue to have a positive impact on students, their disciplines and the life-enhancing knowledge KU has to share with the region and the world. In many cases they embrace demanding leadership roles as department chairs and deans or as directors of research programs and centers. While I only have space to recognize a handful here, I hope this message inspires many of you to reach out to someone I didn’t mention to let them know how much they have influenced you and those around you. Most importantly, I hope we take the lessons they have provided and follow in their footsteps as we become the next generation of senior leaders at KU.



News and Notes

Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Carl Lejuez is offering Budget Office Hours to individuals and small groups (two to five people) from the KU community who want to learn more about KU’s budget reduction and its impact. Twenty minute increments are available from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. To request a session, send an email to provost@ku.edu. The next Campus Budget Conversation is scheduled for Dec. 5.

Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, will speak at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 23, in the Kansas Union Ballroom. Her appearance at KU is sponsored by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center. All are welcome to this free event.

KU benefits-eligible employees are reminded that the open enrollment period for the State Employee Health Plan ends Oct. 31. This year is an “active enrollment” year meaning employees who want to keep their current health plan next year must ‘actively choose” it or they will default into a plan that may not address their needs. For more information, visit the Human Resource Management Open Enrollment website.

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Visit https://itsecurity.ku.edu for quick pointers on a variety of IT security topics. Faculty and staff also are encouraged to complete the annual IT security awareness training on the MyTalent.ku.edu site if they have not already done so.

Since the start of this academic year KU CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) has been able to reduce fees for student services through a generous private gift. Psychiatry fees for an initial visit are now $40 (from $70), a psychiatric follow-up session has been reduced to $25 (from $30), and individual or group therapy sessions are $15.

University Distinguished Professor Steven Soper will present his inaugural distinguished professor lecture “The War Against Cancer: The Role of Engineers and Scientists,” at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 24, in the Summerfield Room of the Adams Alumni Center. Soper, who has made significant advances in cancer diagnostic tests, holds joint appointments in the Department of Chemistry, the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Bioengineering Program.

The Staff Senate Diversity and Inclusion Committee will host “Unpacking Whiteness in the Workplace” from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 24, in Forum A of the Burge Union. The program will explore concepts of whiteness and privilege and how they can shape office cultures that are oppressive to people with marginalized identities. Register through MyTalent.ku.edu.

The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and The Commons have joined talents to create and launch a new research-focused podcast “Unwinding.” The first of the monthly installments features Associate Professor of Geology and Director of the Center for Undergraduate Research Alison Olcott. Listen in, here.

The Dole Institute of Politics welcomes national political staffers Michael Blake and Marlon Marshall for a discussion called “Political Campaigns, Top to Bottom: Door Knocking and the 2018 Midterms” from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the Institute.

It’s October and the annual KU Food Drive is underway. Barrels to collect donations are set up in several campus buildings. Donations support Just Food, the food pantry in Douglas County, and Campus Cupboard to support KU students. For a map of collection barrels, information, and other ways to support an end to food insecurity visit the Food for Jayhawks website

There will be a drug take back event from noon to 4 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 24, at Lot 117 next to Watkins Health Center. Bring expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs for proper disposal. The service is free and anonymous.

The Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity will host Feminist Fright Fest at 6 p.m., Monday, Oct. 29, at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt. The event will feature a screening of the films “The Stylist” and “The Love Witch.” A discussion, facilitated by “The Stylist” screenwriter Eric Havens, will follow the films and include Jill Gevargizian, director of “the Stylist,” and Anna Biller (via Skype), director of “The Love Witch.”

KU Center for Service Learning and KU Undergraduate Studies have partnered to bring Dr. Andrew Seligsohn, president of Campus Compact to bring KU for a professional development and networking opportunity on Friday, Nov. 2. Registration is appreciated as space is limited.

Provost's Message Signature: 


Carl Lejuez

Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor

Follow me on Twitter at @KUProvostCarl and the Provost Office at @KUProvost. Join the office on Facebook at /KUprovostoffice/. Join the office on Instagram at /KUprovost/.

This issue of Provost's Message as well as past messages from this office can be found on the Provost's Message web page25.

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