The start of the fall semester is among my favorite times of the year. The energy that comes from having students, faculty and staff back on our campuses is palpable, and it is invigorating to think about the work we will do as a community of scholars.
This year is especially exciting because it’s the 150th anniversary of the founding of the University of Kansas. This is a milestone we will celebrate throughout the year, both by reflecting on our university’s history and by continuing to shape the future of our society and our world.
Since its founding, the university’s primary mission has been to educate leaders, which includes providing them an education and the support they need to earn their degrees in a timely fashion. Personal connections are important to this effort — especially for new Jayhawks — so I ask that you help our students feel welcome.
Our mission also calls for us to build healthy communities, which includes addressing Kansas’ shortage of healthcare professionals. Later this week, we will advance this mission by breaking ground on a new Health Education Building at the KU Medical Center, which will enable us to train more doctors for Kansas communities.
Additionally, our mission requires us to make discoveries that change the world, which we do by developing new cures, ideas and technologies, and new ways of understanding society and the human condition. Consistent with this requirement, I hope we use the upcoming year to engage in the national conversations on race, wealth inequality, climate change and other grand societal challenges. For our students, it is essential to their development that they challenge themselves with these topics. For our university, it is our mission — and our obligation — to advance these discussions on behalf of the state and society we serve.
You may notice a few orange cones on campus. This semester, we will celebrate the completion of the third phase of our Jayhawk Boulevard restoration, our engineering school’s Learned Engineering Expansion Phase 2 project, and two new residence halls. We will also begin construction on the Earth, Energy and Environment Center and continue plans for redevelopment of the Lawrence campus’ Central District to create new spaces that will transform the way we learn, teach and conduct research.
The upcoming year, like every year, will have its challenges. I look to your assistance in ensuring that policymakers and the public understand the tremendous value KU provides our state and nation.
It was 1866 when the first students arrived at KU. There were 55 of them. What started as a small college on the hill has become a multi-campus research university with a rich history and a boundless future. Each of you is now part of that history and that future. Thank you for that.
Best wishes for a successful year.