I came to the University of Kansas with three initial goals: Increase our retention and graduation rates, enhance the university’s scholarly and research profile, and ensure we have the resources to accomplish these goals.
If we can achieve these goals, we will position our university to better serve our students and our state. We will provide our students the educational opportunity they need for rewarding, successful lives, and we’ll support the scholarly work that enhances our economy and increases our quality of life.
These past several months I’ve spoken with everyone from students to the governor about these goals. These conversations have informed my thinking and shaped my views on how best to proceed.
But these challenges are too daunting and the stakes too high for this to not be a university-wide effort. That’s why I am seeking the insights of the university community, specifically through task forces that I’m convening to address three critical topics in a planning process we’re calling “Charting the Future.”
The first task force will look at how we can improve our retention and graduation rates. Too many of our students don’t complete their degrees, which has lasting effects on their lives and on our state’s prosperity.
We must identify the factors that cause students to leave KU, as well as ways we can improve student retention and the timely completion of degrees. Chris Haufler, professor and chair of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, has agreed to chair this group.
The second task force will look at an issue related to retention and graduation – our admission standards. Thanks to action by the governor and Legislature this year, the Board of Regents now has the ability to set university admission standards.
I believe we should use this authority to create standards that better reflect what it takes to succeed at KU. The goal isn’t to reduce the number of students admitted, but to increase the number of students who come to KU ready to succeed. Marlesa Roney, vice provost for Student Success, will lead this task force.
Finally, the third task force will identify ways to enhance the level of research engagement, which is an inclusive concept that encompasses all scholarly and creative activities. KU faculty and staff make tremendous contributions to our world through their research and scholarly endeavors.
We want to identify reliable measures of research engagement and suggest specific ways to promote, increase and recognize scholarly and research activities. Steve Warren, vice provost for Research and Graduate Studies, will chair this task force.
The members of these task forces represent all areas of the university, and their names will be announced in next week’s Oread. I appreciate their willingness to add to their already busy schedules.
At our first gathering Tuesday afternoon, I will ask each task force to report back to me by early spring. It is important to act quickly because a large part of my third goal – securing the resources necessary for success – depends on defining a clear path forward. Potential funders, be they legislators, donors or grant review committees, want to know that we have a vision for KU and are working to make that vision a reality.
The work of these task forces, the conversations I’ve had and will continue to have with a range of individuals, and your thoughts and ideas will all help shape our approaches to these challenges. And ultimately, they’ll help ensure the future success of KU.