2011 Strategic Initiative Proposals

Thank you to all who participated in the 104 proposals submitted for strategic initiatives. You were particularly effective at highlighting exciting strengths and opportunities throughout the university. We have very recently sent feedback to the submitters of each proposal, consisting of the scores and written comments provided by the DDI review panels. The deans, as a group, are now establishing strategic initiative themes that integrate and promote the strengths of the submitted proposals. These themes will be sharpened and announced over the summer, and in the early fall we will convene summits on each theme. The goals of these summits will be to bring together all interested faculty and constitute a community of scholars to develop specific project plans for investments, shared among the schools, the College, and the university. Your participation in this process will help to ensure that it yields a brighter future for the research mission of KU.

Initiatives Available for Review:
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A critical piece to this plan will be the identification of strategic initiatives or themes where KU can make important and impactful contributions to the grand challenges facing society. Below you will find an overview of the process and answers to some frequently asked questions.

Strategic Initiatives


What is a strategic initiative and why is identifying strategic initiatives important to KU?

A Strategic Initiative is a broad theme or emphasis where KU can make important and impactful contributions. It addresses a grand challenge whose complexity necessarily requires insights from multiple disciplines to solve. Each Strategic Initiative should accomplish several objectives:

  • Address an emerging or escalating global grand challenge where KU has exceptional capabilities;
  • Build a scholarly community of excellence that challenges, engages, and inspires individuals from many disciplines around a common theme;
  • Enhance KU’s national and international visibility and impact;
  • Engage and motivate funding agencies, foundations, state and local government, corporations, alumni, and/or friends to provide much-needed resources; and
  • Provide our students with unique experiences that will position them as highly recruited and valued drivers and innovators of social and technological change.

The great minds of the preceding centuries such as Newton, Galileo, and Descartes did not view themselves as purely mathematicians, physicists, or philosophers. Rather, they were members of a wider community of academics whose discoveries and interactions inspired one another. In the same way, strategic initiatives will draw together modern-day researchers who are experts in their individual disciplines to engage, challenge, and inspire one another to meet society’s grand challenges.

How can I see what others are interested in?

You can view the set of strategic initiative proposals by logging in at the top of this page.

How can I make a nomination and how will the strategic initiatives be chosen?

We have worked to create a transparent process to allow bottom-up input. The process of nominations described in the Provost eNews of November 30, 2010 is now complete. You can view the nominations by following the link at the top of the page. Departments and centers were encouraged to discuss strategic initiatives in the context of group-wide faculty/staff meetings and to submit nominations or encourage nominations.

In March, we posted all nominations on the web for general feedback. The Driving Discovery and Innovation work group reviewed the merits of the nominations and provide feedback on each section of the nomination form. This input was provided to the nominators in late May. We also received input from national experts on important future trends and funding opportunities, as well as their comments to how those trends relate to the various themes proposed in the nominations. A student honors group provided further input on the general themes.

All these inputs were provided to the deans in early April, and the deans continue to discuss what strategic themes are emerging and what collaborative opportunities exist at KU for moving various initiative themes forward.

What happens after May?

The process does not end in May. The strategic initiatives will cluster along broad themes. They will build communities interested in different aspects of a particular societal grand challenge. For each strategic initiative theme, we will spend Fall 2011 holding faculty summits, bringing the community together, learning the wealth of experience and intellect we have to offer, and collectively deciding what investments are most warranted to enable success within the initiative.

For each strategic initiative theme, the collective effort in the fall will involve faculty participants, deans, and the Provost’s Office. It will involve discussing replacement faculty slots, new faculty slots, needed infrastructure, and personnel. Our goal is to establish an intellectual hub that contributes to exciting and successful scholarly efforts among the participants. We want to help individuals realize external funding to grow and sustain their research efforts.

The strategic initiatives are meant to be dynamic and tracked on a regular basis. Investments will be evaluated in order to gauge the value of further investments.

What if the work I do doesn’t fit neatly into one of these strategic themes? Will this mean I’m not valued or that my area of study will not be supported?

As the provost said in the November 30th Provost eNews,

please be assured that KU will continue to be a comprehensive university that has a broad foundation in the liberal arts and supports an array of professional disciplines. Our strategic action plan will continue to support and value all forms of scholarly excellence. The identification of a number of strategic initiatives that cut across the many disciplines at KU will add another dimension and leverage our expertise for greater effect.

These initial strategic initiatives will be specific to KU, magnify the impact of the investments we make, and help spread the story of KU excellence to our many stakeholders. They will spotlight our ability to be forward-looking and relevant in challenging times.


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