It’s hard to believe Commencement is two days away. It seems like only yesterday I wrote you for the first time as chancellor to express my gratitude and enlist your support in moving KU forward.
Thank you for making my first year so rewarding. Across our university and nation, Jayhawks welcomed me into their classrooms, boardrooms and living rooms to discuss KU. These conversations were productive and honest, and they shaped my thinking about our university’s direction. Jayhawks recognize our challenges and overwhelmingly believe we will overcome them. I happen to agree with this notion.
It’s easy to be excited about KU’s future given this year’s highlights. Below are a few of them in our three areas of focus: the student experience, outreach to Kansas, and research.
The student experience
This year we opened incredible new spaces for our students, including the Health Education Building at KU Medical Center, Cora Downs Residence Hall, the Burge Union, and the Earth, Energy & Environment Center. Together, these facilities are transforming the environment in which our students pursue their studies.
We updated our tuition waiver program to recruit top scholars and shift need-based funds to Kansas students. The Military Times ranked us No. 5 nationally for our commitment to military-affiliated students, and we launched the Jayhawk Student One Stop to make campus more welcoming and inclusive.
We increased student mental health support through expanded capacity in Counseling & Psychological Services, the creation of the HOPE@CAPS peer educator team, and the addition of a coordinator for student support and case management in Student Affairs. Additionally, our Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center expanded its programing to make 16,600 in-person student interactions.
This year, our students interacted with some of the world’s most dynamic leaders, including President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Meanwhile, students dazzled us with their achievements, including a debate national title, a Kennedy Center performance, Goldwater and Udall scholarships, and a run to the men’s basketball Final Four.
Outreach to Kansas
We continued our outreach throughout the state this year. Our Edwards Campus expanded its offerings in Leavenworth, where we now offer five military-relevant graduate programs to meet that community’s needs.
Additionally, we launched a new School of Nursing location in Salina with 12 students, and our Center for Telemedicine and Telehealth expanded its work to share the latest in asthma management and treatment with peers and patients throughout the state.
We continued to grow our research enterprise this year. Kristin Bowman-James and her colleagues received $20 million from the NSF for research on microorganisms. We received a $25 million NIH grant for Frontiers: University of Kansas Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and our pharmacy school ranked No. 4 in NIH funding.
Three KU researchers were named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, two were named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Cory Berkland became our fourth National Academy of Inventors fellow. As a member of the Association of American Universities, these are the types of successes we should celebrate and expect of our faculty.
As I mentioned, we have challenges, and we will continue to address them. But during the next few days, we will celebrate our graduates. I look forward to joining them – and you – at Commencement on Sunday.
Thank you for making this a special year.
Douglas A. Girod
University of Kansas