More than just doing

Welcome back from Spring Break! For those of you who stayed on campus, I hope you took advantage of the slightly slower pace to catch up or get ahead on your next project. For those who left town, I hope you’re rested and ready to finish the semester strong.

I have often written about the terrific work you’re doing to move the University of Kansas forward. As Chancellor, I am grateful for your efforts to educate students, create a more prosperous state, and improve the world through your research. Moreover, I am immeasurably proud of the way so many of you do this — not by merely doing, but by actively choosing to lead.

Leadership has different meanings, and many of you lead in different ways. One way to lead is to do trailblazing research and apply it to benefit society. A great example is Professor Cecilia Menjívar, who earlier this month testified in front of Congress on immigrant integration. Another example is Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender & sexuality studies, who will speak tomorrow night at the Hall Center for the Humanities’ “Human Trafficking in the Heartland” event.

We also demonstrate leadership by addressing challenging topics head on, rather than shying away from them. Earlier this month, we announced “Between the World and Me” as the next KU Common Book. Written by award-winning commentator Ta-Nehisi Coates, the book portrays an honest and courageous response to the realities of race, legacy and inequality in America. It’s a timely selection in the context of ongoing conversations about diversity and equality across the nation and on our campuses. Similarly, we can be proud of our ongoing work to better understand and address sexual assault on college campuses, an effort that includes the creation of our new Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center.

Of course, leadership can mean stepping up when, quite literally, no other organization can. That’s precisely what KU is doing in addressing the shortage of healthcare professionals in rural Kansas. As the state’s only school of medicine, KU is uniquely positioned to address this issue, and we will soon take our efforts to the next level with our new Health Education Building in Kansas City. And with the launch of our Central District redevelopment project, we will soon have the facilities and infrastructure to be a national leader in how we educate students and do research.

KU juniors Shegufta Huma and Abigail Schletzbaum know a thing or two about leadership, as both were recently named finalists for the prestigious Truman Scholarship, which recognizes outstanding leadership in public service. Abby’s leadership in international emergency management and Shegufta’s work in student government and social justice demonstrate the various ways students can become leaders at KU. Joining Shegufta and Abby are members of our KU Debate team, who recently qualified to compete in the National Debate Tournament for the 49th consecutive year.

Leading is rarely easy. But if we are going to continue moving our university and our society forward, we need strong leaders among our students, faculty and staff — and we need Jayhawks who are willing to lead in a variety of different ways. That is why I am so proud to be at the University of Kansas and to be part of a community of scholars like you who don’t settle for just doing, but instead strive to lead.

Thank you again for your great work and leadership.


Bernadette Gray-Little