Dear colleagues and members of the KU community —
My first week at the University of Kansas has been a little bit of a whirlwind and, I have to add, amazing.
As you might imagine, it was packed with meetings of some of the people I need to know and briefings of information I need to master as provost. Maybe the professional distance I’ve had from KU over the years has been a hidden blessing, because I already see so much that we can and should take pride in.
My schedule last week also included a few signature events for KU – ones where scholarship, creativity and excellence are on full display. On Wednesday I had the chance to visit with eight graduate students from the Lawrence campus and five others from the KU Medical Center, who were presenting their timely research at the 17th annual Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka. On Thursday, I stopped by the Daisy Hill Commons for the International Jayhawk Festival organized by the Office of International Affairs and featuring dozens of other offices and groups from across campus. Friday evening I was invited to take part in a reception at the Spencer Museum of Art to open the new exhibit Staging Shimomura, featuring a retrospective of the performance art of KU Professor Emeritus of Art Roger Shimomura.
By far, though, my highlight for the week was Friday afternoon, when about 150 of you turned out in person and another hundred tuned in online for the Campus Conversation about our strategic-planning efforts. What strikes me about the event are the number of people in the room who left feeling good about KU. They had an opportunity to listen, to interact with others from across campus, to gather new or different perspectives and to participate in addressing great challenges. This process and exercise confirm to me that the activity of learning is every bit as important as the accomplishment of knowing.
At the event, Chancellor Girod and I rolled out Jayhawks Rising — the updated Vision, Mission, Values and Master Objectives for our campus. These were the result of your input gathered from many conversations with members of the KU community over the past 10 months. As I mentioned Friday, we, as a campus, are preparing to transition from strategic planning to strategic doing.
If you weren’t able to attend or watch the program, a link to the video is now available. Your ideas and observations are still important and still needed. The Strategic Planning Implementation Team will continue to collect your ideas from the exercise we took part in during the event. Please pull together a team from your office or program, complete the exercise and share with us what you believe needs to happen.
In the future I plan to use this space to continue highlighting a few of our campus heroes. It was a great week and many people stood out, although, there is one person, who – for me, personally – stood out above all others. I want to share a big note of appreciation for Jeremy Whetstone who found and returned my favorite mug that I left behind after one of my many meetings across campus. It’s a little thing, I know. What I’m so appreciative of, isn’t so much that I got back my beloved mug, it’s that I see in Jeremy the spirit of service that is so critical to what we do here at the university. I mentioned Friday afternoon that universities are sometimes thought of as an inversion of the business model that utilizes people to make money; universities are an economic enterprise that uses money to make people. To ensure more people reach their fullest potential we — faculty, staff and students — need to be willing to model service, both in and out of the classroom. It’s within our power to make a positive difference in the lives of each other.
With spring break quickly approaching, many of us have our eyes on the Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams and are watching their performance heading into the Big 12 Tournament. I want to wish the teams, Coach Self and Coach Schneider well in the games ahead. Some of you know KU has another set of talented competitors heading into the home stretch — the KU Debate Team. KU has a rich history in debate with six national titles … so far. The teams of Azja Butler and Kenny Delph, Nate Martin and Nick Massa, and Michael Scott and Michael McMahon are among those who will represent KU at the National Debate Tournament at the end of March. Good luck to them and Coach Harris as well.
Finally, I received so many messages from people across campus welcoming me to my new role at Strong Hall. Thank you for the very kind reception. I’m looking forward to meeting more of you in the weeks and months that follow.
I can’t wait to see what Week 2 will bring.
Barbara A. Bichelmeyer
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor