I always enjoy the energy that comes with the start of the semester. This year, for the first time, I am experiencing that energy as chancellor — and loving every minute of it. I’m delighted to have all of you back on campus and look forward to the work we’ll do together as a community of scholars.
This year, our semester starts with a rare solar eclipse that peaks today at 1:10 p.m. I hope to see you at our eclipse celebration at the Shenk Sports Complex, and I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to learn something new about physics and astronomy.
Assuming the sun reappears – and I’m told by our professors it will – we have much to look forward to this year, including the addition of some terrific new leaders. Dr. Robert Simari begins his first semester as the interim executive vice chancellor of the medical center and executive dean of the School of Medicine. Reggie Robinson recently became our interim vice chancellor for public affairs. Jennifer Hamer, our new vice provost for diversity and equity, is already advancing our efforts to become a more welcoming and inclusive university. Chris Brown is our new vice provost for faculty development, and John Colombo is our new interim vice chancellor for research. We also welcome two new deans — L. Paige Fields in the School of Business and Michele Mohr Carney in the School of Social Welfare.
In addition to new leaders, we start the year with some remarkable new facilities. At KU Medical Center, students are training in our new Health Education Building. In Lawrence, undergraduates have moved into Downs Hall, the first building to open as part of our Central District development. The west end of Memorial Drive has undergone a makeover, and we will celebrate the opening of the Earth, Energy & Environment Center later this year.
While looking ahead, we should take a moment to reflect on our successes this past summer. In May, we announced the School of Nursing will open a new location in Salina to attract and educate nurses in rural Kansas. In June, the Legislature passed a budget and tax plan that seems to be a step toward more stable funding. And earlier this month, the National Cancer Institute renewed our Cancer Center’s national designation for five years.
As I said in my July message, KU is in a good place, and now there are opportunities to do more. We will focus on three areas: improving the student experience, expanding our outreach in Kansas, and growing our research enterprise. And we will do this in pursuit of our goals to elevate KU’s national stature, attract the best students and researchers, and improve in every aspect of our mission.
And if that isn’t enough, there are doughnuts. Tomorrow morning, Susan and I will serve doughnuts and coffee in front of the Outlook from 7:30-8:30 a.m. Please come by and say hello.
Welcome back, Jayhawks. It is my honor to be your 18th chancellor, and I look forward to working with you to advance the University of Kansas.
Douglas A. Girod