Our Moment as Jayhawks

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 59 seconds

Dear colleagues and members of the KU community —

I’m honored and humbled and happy to be back home at the University of Kansas. As a four-time alum of KU, I was a constant fixture on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses between 1978 and 1995, and I had a fair understanding of the physical and administrative landscape of KU. It’s no overstatement to say a lot has changed.

Since the announcement of my appointment, I’ve talked with constituents, read reports, learned from Chancellor Girod about his vision for KU, and have met with members of the campus community who’ve shared their hopes for the future of the university. As I am becoming familiar again with the sights and sounds of campus, I am reminded of so many wonderful things about KU and of what it means to be a Jayhawk:

  • To be comfortable on the frontier and to have a pioneering spirit — to have faith in our own capacity, courage to innovate and to lead, and commitment to tackle our challenges with ingenuity and hard work. It’s our distinct expression of the state motto “Ad Astra Per Aspera” (To the Stars Through Difficulties).
  • To be a “Free Stater” — to stand for equity by valuing each and every human being, respecting our individual uniqueness and our collective diversity, and to be committed to building an inclusive community.
  • To climb Mount Oread — the choice of the founders of Lawrence and Kansas to build a university here seems, to me, a recognition that the act of learning is one of our highest human endeavors.
  • To chant “Rock Chalk” — to respect both the right to free expression and the importance of scholarly engagement with others; remembering the phrase is literally based on the fact that Mount Oread rises from limestone used to make the chalk that allowed learners to communicate their ideas to each other.

These qualities are noble and enduring, representing some of the greatest aspirations of human nature. They are needed now more than ever. We are living through a period of sweeping change and transformation — for our state and nation, as well as in higher education and our institution. We are fortunate to be Jayhawks, especially at this moment in history.

The Right People, the Right Time

I believe we are each truly privileged to spend our days in a community where learning is our work.

Higher education is the place where we provide people with skills to be independent and critical thinkers. It’s where we help people to help themselves by developing skills to be productive members of society. It’s where we engage in discovery that leads to economic development that improves the quality of life for all. It is where community members come together to engage in difficult and necessary conversations. It’s where we invite leaders to reach shared understandings of the past and present as they design the future. It is where we dare to dream of a better world and begin to build it.

When we in higher education are at our best, our work is singularly critical to human development and to the advancement of society. At KU, our tripartite and integrated mission is to educate leaders, build healthy communities, and make discoveries that change the world.

Our future success at KU will be dependent on our ability to rise to the occasion presented by this moment in history. We will make relevant discoveries that address our greatest challenges. We will respond to the needs of our constituents. We will meet our students where they are and prepare them to lead us into the unfolding future. We will each be engaged in our own learning and growth as we engage with others. As provost, I pledge to be the “Chief Learning Officer” at KU — to do my part to inspire, encourage and support the members of our community.

I am deeply grateful to Chancellor Girod for this opportunity. I’m heartened by the outpouring of support I’ve received from so many students, faculty, staff, alumni and KU community members. I’m appreciative of the efforts of Carl Lejuez to strengthen the university during his tenure as interim provost.

Yes, there will be hard work ahead, and I am certain that our collective efforts and ideas will advance this institution. My ask today is that you join me in re-committing to “the Jayhawk Way” as we begin working and learning together in stewardship of this institution and in service to the greater good.

I can’t think of a more exciting time to be in higher education, and I can’t think of a more auspicious place to be in higher education than at KU. Really. This is just the kind of moment Jayhawks are made for; KU has everything it needs to rise to this occasion, and to become the standard-bearer of the public research university for the 21st century.



Barbara A. Bichelmeyer

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor

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