Remarks as prepared for delivery
I'm very pleased to see such strong interest in regional cooperation. I was at the Governor's Summit last week, and if Kansas and Missouri can cooperate, surely all of us can work together.
I've spent much of my first six months traveling the state, visiting places ranging from Greensburg to Ft. Riley, as well as making several visits to here in Topeka.
Kansas is bigger and more diverse than many people give it credit for. But Kansans everywhere see the connection between higher education and economic prosperity.
The primary economic driver will always be business and industry, but businesses need the educated graduates we produce at KU, K-State and Washburn. And the discoveries we make are often turned into jobs. For example, there are currently 17 active start-up companies in Kansas created by KU research.
My job is to ensure the dollars invested at KU bring a strong return on Kansans' investment. To do that I'm focusing on three goals.
First, I am focusing on strengthening undergraduate education. KU has 6,000 graduates every year, yet too many students never make it to graduation. That hurts their future potential, as well as the economy because there are key state workforce needs that must be met in fields ranging from engineering to nursing.
Second, I want to enhance KU's research profile. KU research leads to new jobs, both from the $200 million we bring into Kansas annually and from the start-ups created from our research. But it also enhances Kansans' quality of life and increases understanding of our state, society and world.
And third, because both these goals require money, I want to ensure that higher education has the resources needed to accomplish its mission. That's challenging, given $37.3M in state budget cuts and unfunded mandates, but we are maximizing external funding and donations, as well as identifying $9 million in savings the last two years.
If we can achieve these goals, they will lead to more graduates to meet your workforce needs; new discoveries in medicine, engineering, social sciences, arts & humanities; and a prosperous state and higher quality of life.
Reaching these goals will require a renewed commitment to higher education by the state, and that's made more difficult by the budget crisis. So as we work together to strengthen the partnership between business and higher education, I hope you'll also be sure to remind our state leaders of the connection between education and prosperity.
Gatherings like this are important first steps toward greater regional cooperation. I saw in North Carolina the positive things that happen when business and higher education team up. And I stand ready to work with my colleagues in Manhattan, Topeka, and around the area to advance our shared goal of improving the lives and livelihoods of the people of Kansas.
Thank you for inviting KU to be a part of this effort and I look forward to working with all of you.