I’ve officially been chancellor of the University of Kansas for a little more than two weeks now and I can tell you I’m more excited about this university and this job than when I started.
Shade and I have been overwhelmed by the welcome we’ve received from the community and the larger “Jayhawk Nation.” Whether it was at move-in weekend, a recent rally in Kansas City, or last week’s visit to the Wichita campus, I have seen the love people have for KU and their desire to see it succeed.
I’ve already started a series of meetings with students, faculty and staff, as well as deans, donors, alumni and Kansans. I want to hear from them and from you about what KU’s strengths are and where we can make improvements. I want to learn how KU already works for Kansas and find out how we can help meet even more of the state’s needs.
This effort will take me around the state, such as to Pittsburg this Wednesday, the Kansas State Fair on September 12, and Southwest Kansas the week after that. The conversations I have with you and on these trips will unquestionably shape my thinking about the long-term direction of this university.
But as I told the search committee and the Regents, I have three main areas that I intend to focus on initially: one, undergraduate education, including increasing our graduation rate; two, raising KU’s scholarly and research profiles, which has important implications for graduate and professional students; and three, ensuring we have the resources to accomplish these and other priorities.
Adding a sense of urgency is Governor Parkinson’s recent challenge to all Kansas universities to improve our standing in national rankings. I hope this will result in a serious, statewide discussion of how we can truly improve higher education in Kansas.
I appreciate the governor’s comments in favor of an admissions policy that leads to students arriving at KU ready to succeed, and his support for our desire to improve graduation and retention rates. We have a responsibility to make sure students who go up the Hill on the first day of classes are here to walk down it at Commencement.
A working group will be formed to identify ways we can improve KU’s graduation and retention rates, and I also encourage you to submit ideas and suggestions on this topic, or any other issue related to the university, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s no question that we face a variety of challenges, but I wouldn’t have come to this university if I were not confident in the ability of the students, faculty, staff and supporters of KU to meet those challenges.
As I said at Opening Convocation, we’re all at the start of a journey. We’ll take different paths to different destinations, but we are united in the fact that we chose to make this journey together as Jayhawks. I look forward to taking that journey with you as we work to make this university an even greater place to be.