Chancellor Douglas A. Girod

Message: The value of a broad-based education

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dear Colleagues,

For some time there has been a growing pressure on public universities to meet specific needs in fields such as engineering, medicine and pharmacy. This trend is understandable given the nation’s current economic challenges and workforce needs. And thanks to your efforts, the University of Kansas is answering that call as well as embracing our responsibility to grow the Kansas economy.

But in serving the region's workforce needs, we must also bear in mind our broader mission.

First, a truly dynamic economy requires leaders from all kinds of disciplines, ranging from science and engineering to the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. As the state’s flagship research university, we are uniquely positioned to educate leaders across a great many fields and disciplines.

Second, those leaders who graduate from professional schools such as engineering or pharmacy need a broad-based education to succeed in today’s increasingly complex world. Gone are the days when one discipline alone could solve a problem, or when people held the same job for a lifetime. Today’s leaders must be nimble if they’re going to develop multidisciplinary solutions and succeed in an ever-changing global system.

Third – and perhaps most important – our mission at KU extends beyond just building a stronger economy. That is, our mission also includes building healthier, more vibrant communities and a better society. This means preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives, and providing them the foundation to be active, engaged citizens who have the capacity to understand and improve the world around them.

For all these reasons, we must remain true to our primary mission of educating leaders through a comprehensive education that combines a broad-based classroom curriculum and other rich experiences. Of course we want our students to develop expertise in a specific field. But we also want them to leave KU with the skills to think critically and create solutions, to evaluate and make sense of the flood of information that’s now at their fingertips.

The KU Core Curriculum is based on this idea. Through its learning outcomes, the KU Core is ensuring our students receive an education that is flexible yet comprehensive. It prepares them to think with creativity and rigor, and it positions them to succeed in whatever career they choose, both immediately after graduation and later in life.

Certainly, KU educates students who meet specific workforce needs. But we need well-rounded graduates in all fields if we are to create a prosperous, healthy state and a vibrant society. That’s why it’s crucial that we provide our students a broad-based education that prepares them for successful careers and meaningful lives.


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.