Chancellor Douglas A. Girod

Message: KU making progress on key initiatives

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dear Colleagues,

The university is making marked progress on several goals important to our academic and research endeavors. These initiatives are fundamental to our ability to extend the boundaries of human knowledge and advance the horizons of our students, the state and our world.

The Provost's Academic Council met last week to review recommendations from the research engagement task force I established. Key among them is creating a university-wide system to measure scholarly engagement and taking steps at the department and school levels to remove barriers and create more incentives for faculty to conduct research and undertake scholarly and creative activities.

KU has a large number of faculty who are highly engaged in research and creative activity and many departments across the university with strong research cultures. But how do we grow the number of faculty engaged in scholarly activities and the proportion with external funding, and how do we enhance over the long term the impact of faculty work, regardless of discipline?

Vice Provost Steve Warren and a group of faculty and staff this summer are developing a system to better track our current levels of publishing and other engagement activities. It is a challenging task that must take into consideration diverse activities across academic fields, from the traditional measure of citations in research journals to creative scholarship and performance. The proposed system will be evaluated and fine-tuned by a group of faculty stakeholders.

At the same time, the deans have been asked to submit by August 1 to Provost Jeff Vitter and Executive Vice Chancellor Barbara Atkinson plans to promote, increase, sustain and recognize faculty research engagement in their respective areas. The deans and chairs will work to eliminate barriers and identify incentives to encourage research and other scholarly activities.

I am eager to hear the ideas that will be generated from conversations within our departments and schools that will continue into the fall as we work to encourage research and scholarly engagement and foster a culture of increased collaboration. The August 1 products will be the first in a multi-step effort to engage all sectors of the university in this initiative.

There is also progress to report on the important issue of student retention and graduation. I am pleased that Chris Haufler, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology who chaired the retention and graduation task force, has agreed to work with the provost on putting into place the tools and pursuing the initiatives the task force recommended. The recruitment and retention and scholarly engagement task forces address critical issues; their work will be incorporated in an overall strategic planning effort to be coordinated by the provost's office. You will hear more about all of these efforts soon.

To ensure that we have the most efficient and effective administrative structure to advance these and other initiatives, I am engaged with Provost Vitter in a thorough review. Two experienced AAU leaders, Philip DiStefano, chancellor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Elmira Mangum, vice president for budget and planning at Cornell University, met with us last week to review our administrative structure. We are committed to an organizational structure that enhances teamwork and effectiveness.

Finally, I want to thank to each of you for your patience during the at times rocky but ultimately successful negotiations of the past several weeks for a reconstituted Big 12 Conference. Though it is not a plank in our academic and research structure, the Big 12 has benefited our university and our state in many ways since it was established. This includes both the national exposure we receive as well as the visibility we gain in high-population cities and states where we recruit students.

We are pleased to have good results from this process, and we are excited about the less visible, but critical efforts in the pursuit of excellence in KU classrooms and laboratories. Each of you is a valued member of this larger KU team, on which our great university depends each day.

Bernadette Gray-Little

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times
Chancellor's Vision

The mission of the University of Kansas is to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that change the world.

We will do that by raising the expectations we have for ourselves, the aspirations we have for our state, and the hopes we have for our world.