Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little
Since arriving at the University of Kansas in 2009, Bernadette Gray-Little has advanced KU’s mission of lifting students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that change the world.
As chancellor, Gray-Little is the chief executive officer of the university, overseeing campuses in Lawrence, Kansas City, Overland Park, Salina, and Wichita, as well as research and educational centers in Hays, Parsons, Pittsburg, Topeka, and Yoder.
Through the university’s Bold Aspirations strategic plan, KU is changing the way it prepares students for success. It is fostering research and scholarship across all disciplines, and sharing the benefits of a flagship university with the state and world.
Gray-Little led the effort to create new admission standards for the University of Kansas. These new standards took effect for the freshman class of 2016 and give students and families a more accurate picture of what it takes to be successful at a research university. Under Gray-Little’s leadership, the university has also revamped financial aid, creating four-year renewable scholarships and expanding the Jayhawk Generations Scholarship. Due in large part to these efforts, the university has now had five straight years of freshman class growth.
Gray-Little was also instrumental to the creation of Chancellor’s Doctoral Fellowships to support outstanding doctoral students, as well as the creation of KU’s first university-wide curriculum, the KU Core, which incorporates both classes and experiences, making KU a leader among its national peers.
As part of KU’s commitment to the health of patients in Kansas and beyond, the School of Medicine is increasing the number of doctors it educates due in large part to an expansion of the university’s Wichita campus and the creation of the School of Medicine-Salina campus. The university is also turning discoveries into treatments and cures. In 2011, the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center received national designation from the National Institute on Aging, while in 2012 the University of Kansas Cancer Center achieved National Cancer Institute designation.
Gray-Little has also been instrumental to Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, KU Endowment’s $1.66 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign. Additionally, the university’s Changing for Excellence initiative is making administrative operations more efficient, with the savings being reinvested in education and research.
Gray-Little has overseen a remarkable physical transformation of the university. In recent years, KU has opened the Learned Engineering Expansion Phase 2 building, Capitol Federal Hall, the DeBruce Center, McCarthy Hall, a renovated Swarthout Recital Hall, and the new Self and Oswald residence halls. Meanwhile, construction continues on the Earth, Energy and Environment Center — featuring Slawson and Ritchie halls — the Health Education Building at KU Medical Center, an expanded Spencer Museum of Art, and the Central District redevelopment, a once-in-a-generation project that will fundamentally change the face of education and research at KU.
In 2013, Gray-Little was named to the boards of directors of the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). She served as Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the APLU from November 2015 through November 2016.
Prior to becoming KU’s 17th Chancellor, Gray-Little was executive vice chancellor and provost from 2006-09 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A professor of psychology, she rose to the post of UNC’s chief academic officer after successive administrative appointments, including dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. While at UNC, she earned a reputation as a champion for the highest quality educational experience for students and a strong advocate for faculty and for research.
A native of eastern North Carolina, Gray-Little received her bachelor’s degree from Marywood University in Scranton, Pa., and her master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from Saint Louis University. She earned a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Denmark. She also served as a Social Science Research Council Fellow and received a Ford Foundation Senior Scholar Fellowship through the National Research Council.
She and her husband, Shade Little, have two children and three grandchildren.