I’ve often talked about the special role the University of Kansas fills as the state’s flagship research university. We’re called upon to educate tomorrow’s leaders, conduct innovative research, and build strong, healthy communities through service.
That service mission is often what we think about when we say that KU works for Kansas, and there are some amazing stories to tell. KU trains the state’s firefighters and law enforcement officers. We help local educators teach students about American history. And through the KU Cancer Center and Midwest Cancer Alliance, we’re bringing advanced care closer to home.
These are just a few examples of the services we are proud to provide. But KU also works for Kansas through our ability to meet the needs of students and employers around the state. We’re seeing examples of that type of contribution this fall in Salina and Wichita as KU expands its ability to educate doctors and pharmacists, and in the planned School of Engineering expansion.
Next week at the Wichita Campus we’ll be joined by local leaders and state policymakers to celebrate the expansion of the School of Medicine-Wichita to a four-year program and the inaugural class of the School of Pharmacy’s new program there.
Kansas faces a serious shortage of health professionals. Ninety of 105 counties are considered medically underserved and many rural residents don’t have access to a local pharmacist. Educating more health providers will help close these gaps. That will enhance the health and quality of life for residents, as well as make it easier to recruit businesses and families to rural communities.
These efforts are matched by the expansion of the School of Engineering that was approved in May. Engineering-intensive industries account for two-thirds of Kansas’ exports and industry leaders tell us they need a 60 percent increase in engineering graduates to be able to grow and create jobs in the state. Thanks to the support of state leaders, we’re preparing to meet that need with new classroom space and additional faculty members.
But it isn’t just health professionals and engineers that KU is called upon to educate, and our work to meet society’s needs spans many disciplines.
Our state and nation need more entrepreneurs to create businesses, as well as science teachers to close a looming shortage. Artists and musicians are needed to inspire us, while journalists are called upon to inform us. And our economy and society would struggle to function without graduates who have received a well-rounded experience in the liberal arts, and those who, thanks to their KU education, will be leaders in their fields, whatever those fields may be.
Our university’s contributions to our world are vast and the ways KU works for Kansas varied. But none of those contributions would be possible without your dedication, and without the dedication of all of the faculty and staff who make KU the university it is today.