Recently, I was in Overland Park to speak with the Board of Advisors for the University of Kansas Edwards Campus to discuss ways we can all work together to enhance the economic future of the region. It is a busy time at the Edwards Campus, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and will dedicate KU’s new location in Leavenworth next month.
All of this provides good context to reflect on how our efforts in Overland Park and the Kansas City metropolitan area are helping to advance our university’s mission.
In 2008, Johnson County voters decided to partner with KU and Kansas State University by approving a 1/8-cent Johnson County Education Research Triangle sales tax. Ten years later, this still represents an extraordinary commitment to education and economic growth and demonstrates the value of what can happen we all work together to achieve common goals.
This funding has been critical to some of our important initiatives, contributing to our National Cancer Institute designation, our Frontiers: KU Clinical and Translational Science Institute and our KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s designation from the National Institute on Aging.
At KU Medical Center, the funding supports our Clinical Research Center in Fairway, which opened in 2012. The funding is designed to provide opportunities for new cancer treatments and enhance our clinical research capabilities. The Clinical Research Center houses the clinical research infrastructure for the KU Cancer Center, enhancing its ability to attract world-class researchers and talented staff. Since the building opened, our Cancer Center has doubled the number of annual placements of patients on a clinical trial.
At the Edwards Campus, this funding has supported new undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates in business, engineering, science and technology. Thanks to additional partnerships between the academy and industry, these programs are specifically tailored to meet workforce needs in Kansas City. And our campus in Overland Park is continuing to experience significant growth; it is up more than 12.5 percent in student credit hours this semester.
The Edwards Campus is also working together with nearby community colleges like Johnson County Community College, Kansas City Kansas Community College and Metropolitan Community College to allow students to get an associate’s degree and then follow up by completing a bachelor’s degree at KU.
As voters realized nearly 10 years ago, partnerships are essential to this work. It cannot be done by one organization, or by the public or private sector alone. I serve on the steering committee for KC Rising, a group that works to spark collaborations that fuel economic growth. The business, civic and educational communities will need to work together if we are to succeed.
Johnson County voters took the first steps in forming a special partnership, and we should rise to meet these expectations by continuing to collaborate across all our campuses and with other partners like Kansas State. While we have accomplished much, I still believe the most exciting work is yet to come. I look forward to these great new ideas that will help push this work into the future.
Douglas A. Girod
University of Kansas