For those of you new to the University of Kansas, welcome! For those of you who are returning, welcome back!
This is an exciting time to be on campus. The activities surrounding Hawk Week and the start of school help energize all of us for the year ahead. To mark the start of the 2010-11 academic year, I hope you’ll join us for Opening Convocation at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Lied Center.
I’ll be coming to Convocation after attending the Board of Regents’ annual retreat that afternoon. During this year’s retreat, the Regents have asked university leaders to outline their plans for the future of their institutions. I want to give you a preview of what I’ll talk about with the board.
Despite Kansas’ budget challenges, our university stands on a solid foundation. We are one of the top 50 public universities in the nation and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities.
Thanks to talented students and dedicated faculty and staff, we have dozens of nationally recognized academic programs, including U.S. News No. 1-rated programs in special education and city management & urban planning.
And our research efforts are recognized nationally, such as the School of Pharmacy’s No. 2 ranking in grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology’s No. 4 ranking among public medical school basic science departments. There’s also our standing as a top 50 public university in National Science Foundation grants and the many awards won by individuals working in a wide range of disciplines.
But even as we reflect on our accomplishments, we must turn toward the future. We will move forward only by being very focused and deliberate. We want to make progress on our teaching and research ambitions and reward our employees. Accomplishing this in challenging times makes it more important than ever that we have a plan.
KU reaffirmed its commitment to high aspirations for teaching, research and service during the Initiative 2015 process. And the task forces I commissioned last year have produced tangible solutions that we are now putting into place to address specific needs in student achievement and research.
During the coming year continued strategic planning will enable us to craft and implement an overall plan for the future of KU. This process will be led by Provost Vitter, but it will only be successful if we have broad input from the entire university community. Our planning will stress focused goals and specific timetables, so that we can be clear about where we want to go as a university and how we intend to get there. And this plan will be used to make budget decisions, guiding our investments as we shape KU’s future.
We will not shy away from topics such as renewal of KU’s general education requirements simply because they seem arduous. And we will not shy away from topics such as faculty and departmental productivity measures just because they may spur difficult conversations.
If this university is to be successful in the future, we must be proactive about setting our course and not wait for outside forces, be they budgetary or political, to force decisions upon us.
This is a great university. It is staffed by individuals who have genuine commitment to learning and knowledge, and attended by students who will use their KU education to change the world.
And though we have faced – and will continue to face – challenges, I have never doubted that we can achieve the level of excellence to which we all aspire.
I look forward to working with you during the coming year and beyond to achieve the goals we have for ourselves, our students and our university. Best wishes for a successful start to the academic year.