Two years ago at Opening Convocation, I talked about the climb that students and the university were embarking upon.
While the students’ climb ends with a walk down Mount Oread, for our university I said, “the climb will never truly end, but we will still feel that same sense of accomplishment when we achieve the higher aspirations we are now setting for ourselves and our institution.”
I think it’s appropriate for us to take a moment to celebrate the achievements of the last few years, even as we keep our sights set on KU being recognized as a top-tier international public research university.
Researchers across our campuses earned a record $275.2 million in external research funding in the most recent year measured. We now have nationally designated research centers studying treatments for Alzheimer’s and cancer, adding to the abundance of health and wellness research already taking place.
Though Bold Aspirations, strategic initiative themes are bringing together scholars from different disciplines to focus on pressing issues such as water resources. And just in the past several months, KU has hosted international conferences of humanities scholars and of scientists studying the Earth’s glaciers and ice caps.
Revitalized undergraduate recruitment efforts have grown the freshman class two years in a row. The Class of 2017 is 4,000 students strong, with these Jayhawks continuing the trend of freshman classes setting records for average ACT scores and diversity. They will also be the first to benefit from the KU Core and its focus on specific learning outcomes that will prepare students for success.
Of course, as a research university, we also have a responsibility to educate graduate students. As such, we will look at ways to achieve a similar revitalization of graduate recruitment with changes to both the process and the amount of funding we’re able to offer graduate students. This is important to our Association of American Universities membership and our standing among research universities.
Finally, Changing for Excellence is creating a more efficient university, enabling us to invest in teaching and research. And as I mentioned last month, Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas is ahead of schedule thanks to our generous donors and their belief in your work.
These are just a few of the milestones we’ve passed on our climb. While it is tempting to look at recent rankings and attribute those to our efforts, what we must continue to focus on is our mission of educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world. If we do that, elevated stature and higher rankings will surely follow.
There’s still a long path ahead of us, but we’re making outstanding progress. For that, I thank you.