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Four Priorities That Will Shape Our Year

August 29, 2016

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 20 seconds

Dear students, staff, and faculty:

It’s been 60 days since I officially stepped into the role of provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas and the days could not have flown by more quickly.

During the interview process, I had several opportunities to learn what you and others in the KU community want and need as students, employees, and alumni. As we enter the 151st year of this institution we have an opportunity to redefine our reputation and ensure our legacy. This will only happen if each and every one of us plays our part in moving KU forward as one team. In the coming year, by intentionally collaborating with every member of our KU community, we will focus on the following four priorities.

1. Increase retention and graduation rates

Students, you started here and we want you to stay here and thrive here. KU’s Bold Aspirations strategic plan set a goal to achieve 90% retention of first-year students and a six-year graduation rate of 70% for undergraduates by 2022. We’ve been making modest progress, and we know where we can have an even greater impact. KU has been building a structure of support. People and processes are being put in place — most notably in the Office of Undergraduate Studies and in academic units — for us to now make great strides together. And, frankly, all our students and our state are counting on us to succeed.

2. Support faculty and staff development

Our people are our most valuable resource. To ensure the environment is right for faculty and staff to achieve, I pledge to remove barriers, provide support, and ensure faculty and staff have the tools, training, and exposure that promote individual and collective success. We still have room to grow to ensure this institution is a great place to work. We will be one team in this effort.         

3. Demonstrate our commitment to diversity and inclusion

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Group, on which I served, delivered its report at the end of April. Recognizing and addressing the concerns and experiences of students, faculty, and staff with marginalized identities remains a top priority to which I am personally committed. KU must be a place where we feel included and supported as we live, learn, and work.

Next month, I expect to share a response to the DEI report that will outline new initiatives and change to come. Already this year, thousands of students, staff, and faculty on campus have taken part in diversity, inclusivity and culturally focused workshops and seminars. I want to offer a special thank you to staff in the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Center for Teaching Excellence for their work across our campuses.

If you have not done so already, please find time to read the KU Common Book “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. While the story is a difficult one, it is important that we engage with many narratives as we each work to expand our knowledge and understanding of self and others.

4. Tell the academic story

Our great ideas and successes are found across all our campuses. I want to connect the dots and show how our varied approaches lead to student success and research innovation. Midwest modesty has its place, but it is time for us to more widely share the excellence within our midst. As we celebrate our victories and demonstrate our impact on the state and nation, we will develop community champions — students, staff, faculty, alumni, donors, legislators, and citizens — who are informed about and proud of the great work occurring at KU.

I have an additional personal priority and it is to truly open the lines of communication. Change and improvement comes from within — it comes from each of us. I need to know your ideas and observations. The Provost Office Suite in 250 Strong Hall has a great view of Jayhawk Boulevard. I can see the action on Wescoe Beach and see many of the people who give life to such great ideas, projects, and programs. Seeing you is important. What’s even better is when I meet you and hear you.

Will you do this for me? Take a moment to share your thoughts with me and this office. Your involvement is how we will excel as a world-class institution. My email address is Neeli@ku.edu or provost@ku.edu. You can follow and interact with me on Twitter at @KUProvostNeeli and with the office at @KUprovost. You can visit me at Strong Hall, of course. Our website also features a page for you to submit your ideas confidentially. Thank you!

Faculty and staff: The work you do is the foundation upon which all our success rests. The boundary-breaking knowledge created through your research and the minds stretched through your teaching catalyze the progress of our society. Students: The learning you participate in both in and outside classrooms allows you to define your future. I am happy you are here.

I am thankful for how each of you engages in this community. We are strong because of you. I’m excited to be filling this role, and promise I will work hard for you.

News and Notes

Stuart Day from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese has returned to the Provost Office to serve as interim vice provost for Academic Affairs. His spring semester in the role left him well-prepared to continue endeavors upon Sara Rosen’s departure to be dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Georgia State University.

The start of the school year is an apt time to welcome our newest faculty members. At the New Faculty Orientation, KU greeted 41 new professors who joined this institution since January of this year. The cohort includes new Foundation Distinguished Professors and represents more than two dozen disciplines.

The annual KU Teaching Summit, organized by the Center for Teaching Excellence, focused on inclusive excellence in teaching. For those unable to attend, Associate Professor Doug Ward offers this recap of the captivating plenary session led by Alma Clayton-Pederson. 

Award-winning filmmaker Bree Newsome is the keynote for the 3rd annual Ferguson Forum at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 31, in Woodruff Auditorium of the Kansas Union. The event is co-sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Student Union Activities. Newsome is best known for her act of civil disobedience for removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds.

Congratulations to Distinguished Professor of Public Affairs and Administration Rosemary O’Leary recipient of the John Gaus Award from American Political Science Association. The career award honors the recipient’s lifetime of exemplary scholarship in the joint tradition of political science and public administration and recognizes and encourages scholarship in public administration.

Design and Construction Management offers links to webcams showcasing many of KU’s biggest construction efforts. Follow progress of Central District redevelopment from three different viewpoints as well as see the latest work on the Earth, Energy & Environment Center near Lindley Hall.

The Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity shared the annual Women of Distinction Calendar. The center hosts a reception for honorees at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30, in the Ballroom of the Kansas Union. Congratulations to all those featured!

The School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, celebrates a milestone and will hold its 2nd annual convocation at 3 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 1, in the Ballroom of the Kansas Union. 

KU Libraries’ exhibit, “INGENUITY @ KU: 125 years of engineering innovation, education and engagement” will be open between Sept. 8 through Jan. 12, 2017, in the Watson Library Haricombe Gallery. The exhibition, created in partnership with the School of Engineering, showcases history, scholarship, creative work and notable milestones. An opening reception will be at 5:30 p.m., Sept. 8 in Watson Library. RSVP to jmuse@ku.edu.

This year’s Volunteer Fair — from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31, on level 4 of the Kansas Union — allows students to connect with the Lawrence community and explore post-graduate volunteer opportunities. The fair will feature over 60 volunteer organizations.

Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk,

Neeli Bendapudi

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor

Follow me on Twitter at @KUProvostNeeli and the Provost Office at @KUProvost

This issue of Strong Ties as well as past messages can be found on the Office of the Provost website.

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