Before we gather at Commencement to congratulate our graduates, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your achievements during the course of the academic year. You have much to be proud of.
We began the year by welcoming a freshman class that set records for talent and diversity, and who set out to explore KU as they also began their academic careers in the KU Core. These students will benefit from not only the ability to better tailor their classroom experiences to fit their interests and goals, but also the ability to incorporate experiences only found at a flagship research university.
This year we also saw significant gains in U.S. News and World Report rankings, and thanks to the strength of our academics and scholarship, we recruited our first three Foundation Distinguished Professors: K. Christopher Beard in ecology and evolutionary biology, William Picking in pharmaceutical chemistry, and David Roediger in American studies and history.
These esteemed scholars join a university community whose members are earning national acclaim for their discoveries. Just last week, University Distinguished Professor Joe Lutkenhaus in the Department of Microbiology, Molecular Genetics, and Immunology was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of his contributions to the understanding of bacterial cells. This is a tremendous and well-deserved honor.
Of course, achieving our aspirations requires new resources for everything from scholarships and professorships to facilities. We continue to benefit from the generosity of Jayhawks who are supporting Far Above, and we are also achieving savings in administrative areas that we’re redirecting to teaching and research.
In terms of state funding, while less than a third of last year’s budget cuts were restored and we did not receive funding for the proposed Kansas Institute for Translational Chemical Biology, we did gain state support for the Health Education Initiative. When this support is coupled with university resources and private donations, we will be able to train more doctors and health professionals to meet the needs of Kansans, and train them in an environment that replicates today’s team approach to health care.
The past year also saw our community engage in discussions central to the life of the university. First and foremost are the ongoing discussions regarding our rights and responsibilities as university employees and the need to ensure that our values are represented in both policy and practice. We’ve also teamed with institutions across the nation to warn policymakers of the growing “innovation deficit,” which is worsened by cuts to federal research that threaten America’s global stature and future prosperity.
But across-the-board—from educating leaders, to building healthy communities, to making discoveries that change the world—the past year has seen us continue to elevate the quality and stature of our university.
Commencement is a celebration of the achievements of our graduates. But it’s also an opportunity to reflect on all you did to help them reach that moment, and all you continue to do to advance our university’s noble mission and achieve our bold aspirations.
On their behalf, and on behalf of all the people in Kansas and around the world who benefit from your work, thank you.