The month of May is exhilarating on our campus, partly due to the flurry of activity that comes with the end of the semester, and partly due to the anticipation of Commencement. May is also the ideal time to look back on the year and celebrate your achievements. And there are many worth celebrating.
We began the year by welcoming a freshman class that, for the third straight year, was larger than the freshman class before it. As the year went on, we’d learn our talented students included two Udall scholars, two Goldwater scholars, one Gates Cambridge scholar, and one Truman scholar, whom I had the pleasure of informing of her award via Skype while she was overseas.
This year we also saw gains in U.S. News & World Report rankings and recruited five new Foundation Distinguished Professors, bringing our total to eight. These scholars join a university already rich with researchers earning national acclaim for their work. Just last month, for example, Greg Cushman, associate professor of history and environmental studies, was named a recipient of the inaugural Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, a prestigious honor that fosters scholarly research in the social sciences and humanities. At the medical center, a team led by Christie Befort, associate professor of preventive medicine and public health, was awarded $10 million to study obesity treatment options in rural communities.
We continued to advance our mission of building healthy communities. In March, the inaugural class of students at the School of Medicine-Salina gathered for the campus’ first-ever Match Day. And in Kansas City, we moved closer to building a new health education facility, which will enable us to train more doctors for Kansas.
We also expanded our footprint, both physically and virtually. This included growing the enrollment and course offerings at the KU Edwards campus, and by launching new online programs. We continue to move forward on a new School of Business building and the expansion of our School of Engineering.
This year we also engaged in discussions central to the university and our society. Our students became increasingly involved in the national conversation on sexual assault and violence, and we continue to harness their passion to find ways to make our community safer. We’ve also continued conversations about diversity, which is a foundational value of our university.
Of course, our efforts often require new resources, and we continue to benefit from the support of generous donors to the Far Above campaign, and by savings achieved through our Changing for Excellence initiative.
This year has not been without challenges, and it is possible the state budget will bring new ones in the coming weeks. But despite these challenges, we continued to elevate the quality and stature of our university. For that, you should be proud.
In less than two weeks, we will gather for Commencement, which is a celebration of our graduates. But it is also a celebration of the role you played – as educators and mentors – in helping them reach that moment. They couldn’t have done it without you, in the same way we couldn’t be a flagship research university without you.