Classrooms and sidewalks are filling up, and the construction fencing for most projects is coming down, marking the start of a new academic year at the University of Kansas.
For those of you who are new to our university: welcome. I know I speak for your colleagues when I say that I’m glad you’re here and I can’t wait to see the contributions you will make to our community.
For those of you who are returning, and for the many of you for whom summer isn’t a break at all, I hope that you are ready to continue our shared drive to achieve our bold aspirations.
Central to those aspirations has always been our first mission as a university, which is to educate leaders. We welcomed many of those future leaders last night at Convocation, and they are now fanning out across our campuses for their first classes. Personal connections are vital to helping students feel that they are a part of our academic community, so I encourage you to go out of your way to help Jayhawks – new or continuing – feel at home.
Thanks to you, we’ve made significant progress in many areas of Bold Aspirations, including enhancing the size, diversity, and academic readiness of our first-year classes. To help these students graduate on time, we will implement a comprehensive progression and graduation plan. This will incorporate measures such as course redesign and degree maps, and will help us meet our goals of a 90 percent first-year retention rate and a 70 percent graduation rate.
We must make similar progress at the graduate level by recruiting talented students and ensuring they have the resources needed to both earn their degrees and contribute to KU’s scholarly environment. That’s why I’m proud that this semester we are welcoming the first 12 Chancellor’s Doctoral Fellows to KU. These fellowships recognize the vital role that doctoral education plays at a research university, and our new fellows will make excellent additions to programs ranging from bioengineering to English to musicology.
As a flagship research university, we have a special responsibility to produce research, scholarship, and creative works for our state and society. And as a member of the Association of American Universities, we are held – and should hold ourselves – to a high standard. Elevating scholarship across the university will continue to be an area of focus, including through our multidisciplinary strategic initiative themes that address global challenges.
Similar to the symposium on water that was held last year, this semester we will gather scholars from KU, other universities, and private entities such as Microsoft to discuss the challenges of managing and analyzing large data in the context of genomic biodiversity research. Workshops such as this, as well as grants offered for scholarship related to the strategic initiative themes, will enhance our ability to make discoveries that change the world.
That desire to lift the students and society we serve is what unites us as Jayhawks, and is what will drive us to even greater heights. Thank you for being part of that effort, and best wishes for a successful year.