Welcome back, Jayhawks! I hope you had a joyful holiday season, and I trust you are ready for another productive year. With classes beginning today, I want to take a moment to look ahead to some of the highlights for the upcoming semester.
This semester brings new milestones in the ongoing transformation of our campuses. Today we are holding the first-ever classes in the new Earth, Energy, and Environment Center (EEEC) – which comprises Ritchie and Slawson Halls – and we look forward to seeing you at a celebration event April 25 for the new facilities. Not far from the EEEC, on April 2 we will open the new Burge Union as the latest component of our Central District. And later this spring, construction begins on an indoor football facility adjacent to Memorial Stadium.
This semester, we will continue to host leaders from all areas of society. This month, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will visit KU to teach a course and interact with students, staff and alumni. Later in the spring, we will welcome #MeToo creator and TIME Magazine 2017 Person of the Year Tarana Burke as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities sponsored by our Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center and Student Union Activities.
This semester, we can look forward to continued excellence from our students and faculty. I am especially excited to watch our KU Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble I and dance professor Michelle Heffner Hayes perform April 29 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. This will be a tremendous opportunity for these KU performers and proud KU alumni in the area.
We can also be proud of the great work we will do at KU Medical Center through our $25 million grant that will fund Frontiers: University of Kansas Clinical and Translational Science Institute. This grant is the second largest in KU history.
No semester reaches its full potential without generous support from our donors. This year, alumni and friends from around the world will come together for “One Day, One KU,” a special day of giving on February 20 to show support for our students and the work you do.
We also welcome new leaders for KU this semester. Last week, I was delighted to announce Dr. Robert Simari as the executive vice chancellor for KU Medical Center and Reggie Robinson as the vice chancellor for public affairs. Both have served in interim roles since last summer and provided crucial leadership and stability to the university during a time of transition. I am excited to have them as permanent members of our leadership team.
The 2018 Kansas legislative session began last week, and as always, we continue to work with lawmakers on issues related to higher education. This session, the top priority for the Kansas Board of Regents and the state’s six universities is encouraging lawmakers to restore $24 million in Fiscal Year 2017 budget cuts to the higher education system. For KU, these funds total $7.4 million.
On April 20, we will gather for my installation ceremony to mark new beginnings and celebrate with colleagues near and far. While this day is partially about me – which is humbling and appreciated – it is mostly a celebration of your work and our shared aspirations. I am excited to celebrate this special day with you.
Thank you for all you do on behalf of KU. I look forward to another great year.
Douglas A. Girod