Thanks to all of you who came together for Commencement and made this past Sunday a special one for all our graduates and their many guests. I also want to take this moment to reflect on a few highlights from the past few months and thank you for moving the University of Kansas forward.
The student experience
We received national recognition for our work related to transfer students and first-generation students, which is the result of our purposeful efforts to improve access and opportunity for them at KU. Additionally, we celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Washington D.C. Internship Program, which has provided more than 600 students with life-changing internships in Washington and is a shining example of the experiential learning opportunities available to KU students.
Outreach and service
We fostered connections statewide through outreach at KU Medical Center, the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center and countless other KU units that serve Kansas communities. In particular, we engaged with economic development and industry leaders to ensure KU is addressing the state’s workforce needs.
Several of our faculty and staff members earned recognition for helping to grow our research enterprise. In March, Professors Steven Soper and Lisa Friis were named fellows in the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, while Professors Thomas Cravens and Candan Tamerler were named fellows by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Additionally, KU researchers David Burnham and Matt Jackson received the inaugural KU Research Achievement Awards, while Professors Dale Dorsey, Kirsten Jensen, Paul Popiel, and Franklin (Feng) Tao received the University Scholarly Achievement Award.
We selected top leaders for KU during the preceding months. In January, Arvin Agah was named dean of the School of Engineering, and Dr. Robert Moser became dean of the School of Medicine-Salina on May 1. We’ve recently announced the committee that will help identify our next permanent provost and executive vice chancellor. And in the coming weeks, we will welcome Simon Atkinson as our vice chancellor for research and Richard Godbeer as our director of the Hall Center for the Humanities.
Alumni and friends
Jayhawks around the world humbled us with their support. In February, alumni and friends came together for One Day. One KU, which raised more than $1 million for the university. In addition, the KU Alumni Association grew its KU Mentoring online community, which connects KU students to alumni around the world.
Budgeting and planning
On the Lawrence campus, our willingness to decisively address budget challenges has moved us to a position of greater strength and stability. As Interim Provost Carl Lejuez has discussed, our yearlong effort to create a new budget model elevates priorities such as research, student success, and professional development and provides funds for merit raises, deferred maintenance and savings for unpredictable situations. We will further refine these priorities as we move toward a university-wide strategic planning process in the fall.
In April, we renewed our partnership with adidas, which now includes an unprecedented $500,000 annual commitment to educational programming at KU. This is a tremendously beneficial agreement for our university, and it speaks well of KU’s status in the higher education landscape. As I’ve said many times, a successful athletics department is inextricably linked to KU’s broader academic mission.
As we fulfill our obligation to serve Kansas, we are pursuing national aspirations and take pride in being a member of the Association of American Universities. We’ve partnered with our AAU peers on initiatives related to research funding, student financial aid, and the protection of intellectual property. Additionally, we became a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s new Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education.
As always, we continue to face challenges, and we will address them together. Still, our Commencement ceremonies serve as a reminder that it is worthwhile to take time to recognize our successes.
Thank you for making this a special year.
Douglas A. Girod
University of Kansas