Chancellor Douglas A. Girod

Message: Building on a foundation of excellence

Monday, April 6, 2015

Dear Colleagues,

In 2012, we approached the legislature and governor with a unique proposition: If the state would provide the University of Kansas with an annual appropriation, we would attract a dozen top international scholars to enhance our research capabilities, increase our stature,  and help create a more healthy and prosperous state.

We would call these 12 individuals Foundation Professors, for they would build upon KU's existing strengths and promise new multidisciplinary collaborations to serve as the foundation as we strive toward achieving the goals of our strategic plan, Bold Aspirations.

Last month, five new Foundation Distinguished Professors were announced, bringing the total number to eight. Victor Agadjanian, Beth Bailey, James Bever, Cecilia Menjivar, and Dennis O'Rourke represent a major step toward completing the initiative we began with our partners in Topeka three years ago.

Their credentials are exceptional. In letters of recommendation, peers cited each as being among the top in his or her field, often going so far as to say among the top two or three. Their research was referred to as being the most exciting of their generation, and their publications as being the most important set of books and articles on their topic.

Attracting this talent sends a strong message about where KU is going, but also tells a compelling story about the quality of our current faculty. Professors Menjivar and Agadjanian will be invaluable to our Anti-Slavery and Human Trafficking Initiative, which brings together scholars from across the university. The existing strength at KU in migration, immigration, and trafficking will be invigorated by the addition of two Foundation Professors and will provide our new faculty members new paths for their research.

Professor Bever spent the spring 2014 semester at KU as a Bold Aspirations scholar, and his work intersected with individuals from the Kansas Biological Survey, the Biodiversity Institute, architecture, ecology and evolutionary biology, geology, molecular biosciences, geography, and environmental studies. Five new multidisciplinary research papers are underway at KU as a result of his visit.

Professor Bailey's prominence as a military historian will make the department of history, already ranked 27th among public institutions by U.S. News & World Report, one of the top military history departments in the nation and strengthen ties with the United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. And Professor O'Rourke's decision to return to his alma mater to work alongside colleagues whose work ventures into geoscience, biology, and elsewhere could position KU at the center of the study of research on indigenous North Americans.

An important part of the Foundation Professor initiative is recruiting talented faculty to KU, but that type of recruitment would be impossible without the strong foundation that exists among our truly excellent faculty. The presence of these accomplished new researchers will pay additional dividends as we continue to find ways to increase recognition of faculty both internally and through national honors.

I encourage you to join me in welcoming our newest Foundation Distinguished Professors as they join our original trio -- Chris Beard, William Picking, and David Roediger -- in the coming months.


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.