This is one of my favorite times of the year. The residence and scholarship halls are full of activity. Jayhawk Boulevard has reopened. And students on all five of our campuses are back in classrooms, laboratories, and libraries as we start a new academic year.
In addition to the first-year, transfer, and graduate students who have joined our community, we’ve also welcomed more than 100 new faculty members, including our first three Foundation Distinguished Professors. These three leading scholars – in American studies and history, paleontology, and pharmaceutical chemistry – join professors and instructors dedicated to our first mission as a university: educating leaders.
Over the past few years, and with support from Jayhawk alumni and donors, we’ve made significant progress in many areas of our Bold Aspirations strategic plan, including enhancing the size, diversity, and academic readiness of our first-year classes. We’re in the midst of recruiting the Class of 2019 now, so if you know of a student who should be a Jayhawk, let us know.
But we don’t just want students to start at KU – we want them to graduate. That’s why this year we’re implementing a comprehensive progression and graduation plan. It will incorporate measures such as redesigning courses to “flip” the classroom and enhance student engagement, and will help us meet our goals of a 90 percent first-year retention rate and a 70 percent graduation rate.
We’re also well into our planning for the expansion of the School of Medicine. Like our expansions in pharmacy and engineering, this project will help us meet a vital workforce need. Half of Kansas doctors trained at KU, and this state- and donor-supported effort will help us address Kansas’ doctor shortage and ensure patients have access to physicians close to home.
As a flagship research university, we also have a special responsibility to make discoveries that change the world. 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 emphasis, including through our multidisciplinary strategic initiative themes that focus on global challenges.
Because doctoral students are vital to research and scholarship, we’re also working to recruit and support outstanding graduate students, such as the first 12 Chancellor’s Doctoral Fellows. We welcomed them to KU during a luncheon last week, and they will make excellent additions to programs ranging from bioengineering to English to musicology.
KU’s alumni and friends are vital to our success as an academic community, and you are always welcome at any of our campuses. I hope you’ll stay engaged, and perhaps even join us for Family Weekend, Homecoming, or any time you’re nearby.
Thank you for all that you do to support the students, faculty, and staff of the University of Kansas.