As our semester comes to a close and we begin preparations for the holiday season, I want to take a moment to celebrate the achievements of your fellow Jayhawks over the past few months.
But first, I want to thank you for your support. Many of you encourage talented students to come to KU, while others of you donate time and financial resources to KU. Your Jayhawk pride and generosity are critical to our mission.
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. In Lawrence, we completed the Self, Oswald and McCarthy residence halls. We are making progress on the new DeBruce Center, which will house James Naismith’s original 13 rules of basketball. 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. Generous KU donors, who gave $258.8 million to KU during the 2015 fiscal year, provided critical support for many of these building projects.
This growth will continue 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 point of pride for our university for decades to come.
At KU Medical Center, we came together to mark the groundbreaking of our new Health Education Building, a facility that will help us train more doctors for Kansas.
We concluded three important dean searches this semester. Next semester, welcome 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.
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 reached new highs this year, beating top-ranked University of Southern California to advance to the Final Four for the first time in history. Coach Ray Bechard and the players should be commended for their hard work and congratulated for a tremendous season.
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.
None of this success would be possible without the hard work of our students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends. This work enhances our university each day, and I am grateful that you’re part of our Jayhawk community.
Thank you for your support of the University of Kansas, and best wishes during the holiday season and winter break.