A reporter from the University Daily Kansan recently asked me, “What is your favorite part about being chancellor?” I told her what I tell everyone who asks: Getting to celebrate the individual and collective accomplishments of our community—your accomplishments.
Whether the celebration is in honor of a competition won or a grant earned, or whether it is simply to mark the event we hope each of our students experiences—graduation—it gives me great pleasure to recognize Jayhawks’ achievements. There have been countless this past year, too many to mention here, so I’ll highlight just a few.
This year we welcomed the most diverse incoming class in our history, as well as a dozen Chancellor’s Doctoral Fellows and the first group of international students to join the KU Academic Accelerator Program. We also continued to expand enrollment at the Edwards Campus and KU Medical Center, leading to growth in the university’s overall enrollment.
All of our students will benefit from the ongoing work to increase the number of students who earn their degrees on-time, while also taking advantage of the wide range of experiences only available at a research university. When matched with what students learn in the classroom, these experiences prepare them for successful careers and lives.
Some of these experiences include competitions against colleagues from around the world, and when it comes to competitions, I want to highlight one particularly distinguished group of students: the 2014 graduating class of the Department of Aerospace Engineering. Every member of this class was part of at least one award-winning international design competition team, a feat unmatched in the history of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Our students benefit from the mentorship and guidance provided by faculty, and the support they receive from the many staff members who are committed to their well-being. This year we welcomed more than 100 new faculty members, including three foundation distinguished professors, and celebrated the accomplishments of many others.
In large part because of your achievements, KU alumni and friends set a new record for generosity, donating $253.2 million to KU Endowment in FY 2014. This demonstrates their belief in our mission and the work you’re doing.
And though the conversations have been difficult, this year we’ve also engaged in a university-wide discussion on how to prevent and respond to sexual assaults. We’ve already made changes, such as hiring an advisor for victims and adding an enforcement mechanism to the mandatory training, and the Task Force on Sexual Assault I commissioned has been meeting regularly during the semester. I look forward to receiving the group’s recommendations, and also appreciate the guidance and advice many of you have provided.
Of course the activism on this issue and the important conversations taking place regarding race, law enforcement, and how our society can better ensure that everyone can be safe and have his or her rights protected are what we hope for from our students and community. We want our students to be active, engaged citizens, and so the fact they are willing to stand up for their beliefs and call for change is itself worthy of recognition. I want to commend everyone who has engaged in these discussions in a civil, productive manner, which is in the proud tradition of community dialogue at our university.
As I said at the beginning of this message, you accomplished far too much in 2014 for me to encapsulate here, or even in the Chancellor’s Report that I’ll issue early next year. But know that your accomplishments are appreciated, and that they enable us to continue fulfilling our noble mission as a flagship research university.
Thank you for another outstanding year, and best wishes for a joyous holiday season and winter break.