As our semester comes to a close and we begin preparations for the holiday season, I want to take a moment to thank you for your efforts and celebrate your achievements over the past few months.
The academic year began with good enrollment news. For the fourth straight year, our freshman class size increased. More importantly, our first-year Jayhawks entered KU with the highest average high school GPA and the second-highest average ACT score of any class in history, as well as the second-highest percentage of minority students on record.
These new students are stepping onto a rapidly changing campus landscape that is more modern than ever. In Lawrence, we completed the Self, Oswald and McCarthy residence halls, and we dedicated our new Learned Engineering Expansion Phase 2 (LEEP2) facility, which adds 135,000 square feet of new research and learning space to the School of Engineering. Construction on the Earth, Energy and Environment Center began in September, and Capitol Federal Hall, the new home for the School of Business, is slated for completion next spring.
This growth will continue into the future in the Central District of our campus, where we will add a much-needed new integrated science building, new student housing and a new student union. These projects will transform this area into a space that will be a point of pride for our university for decades to come.
At KU Medical Center, we came together in August to mark the groundbreaking of our new Health Education Building, a facility that will help us train more doctors for Kansas.
I’m also happy to report that our university continues to attract excellent leaders from around the country. We concluded three important dean searches this semester. Next semester, we look forward to welcoming Carl Lejuez as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Sally Maliski as dean of the School of Nursing and Abiodun Akinwuntan as dean of the School of Health Professions.
In addition to recruiting excellent dean candidates, we’re also continuing to attract top scholars from around the country. Steven Soper, a chemist and a biomedical engineer, was named our 10th Foundation Distinguished Professor earlier this month. He will join nine other outstanding investigators who are renowned in their fields.
Our volleyball team also experienced new highs this year, reaching its first Final Four after its victory against top-ranked University of Southern California. Coach Ray Bechard and the players have demonstrated what hard work and dedication can accomplish, and are to be commended for their efforts. Good luck tonight in Omaha, Jayhawks!
While we have seen many successes, this semester has had its challenges. Students and faculty have shared their experiences with discrimination at KU. While these conversations have been difficult, they are important. Expect to hear more about our ongoing efforts and an action plan to promote diversity and inclusion next semester.
As always, none of this success would be possible without the hard work of our students, faculty, and staff. Your work enhances our university each day, and I am grateful that you’re part of our community of scholars.
Thank you for your efforts, and best wishes during the holiday season and winter break.