Chancellor Douglas A. Girod

Message: KU's stature, mission at stake in planning process

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dear Colleagues,

At the start of the semester, I wrote to you about the beginning of the strategic planning and implementation process that will prepare this university for the future.

This process builds on the recommendations of the task forces that I commissioned last year. We are moving forward on the work those groups did, and I appreciate the thoughtful contributions many of you have made to the strategic planning process so far on topics ranging from renewal of our general education requirements to ways to raise the scholarly productivity and profile of KU.

Tonight the steering committee and three work groups representing university constituencies will begin the task of identifying strategic action items, including metrics and a timeline that will enable us to measure our progress. As they prepare to do so, I want to briefly share with you some of the reasons why this process is not only important, but urgent.

As Provost Vitter detailed in last week's eNews, KU trails its fellow Association of American Universities members in a number of areas. Student retention and graduation rates are below AAU averages, as is faculty research productivity according to several key measures. While KU has many areas of strength, overall we have not kept up with our peers as they have moved forward.

If this only affected our institutional reputation and membership in AAU then there would still be a sense of urgency. But that urgency is heightened by the fact that these problems go to the heart of our ability to carry out this university's mission.

When students don't persist and graduate, they are very often forced to lower their expectations for success in their careers and lives. That has consequences for them, as well as for society. Similarly, when research productivity lags and the responsibility to conduct scholarly work is unevenly distributed, knowledge that would improve lives and grow the economy goes undiscovered.

Our strategic planning and implementation process is designed to address these challenges and secure the future of our university. Its goal is to not produce yet another report that will sit on a shelf. Rather, its results will be actively incorporated into our decisions on everything from what courses we offer and how we measure faculty productivity, to budget decisions on where to invest our resources.

The strategic plan will align with the objectives of the upcoming capital campaign. And our work in both areas will form the basis for our continuing discussions with state leaders on how to enhance the quality of our university despite the state's challenging budget situation.

We must make conscious, strategic decisions about the future of KU or we risk having them made for us by others or by circumstances. We must also involve the entire university community in these decisions, which is why I am happy so many of you have become involved in the planning process. If you haven't yet, I encourage you to visit the Strategic Planning website and join us in this effort so we can make this a truly university-wide initiative.

By proactively charting our course and committing to necessary improvements we can secure KU's place among the nation's leading research universities, and more importantly uphold our responsibility to contribute to the success of our students and our state.

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.