Welcome back, Jayhawks!
The start of the academic year always provides unmatched energy and a sense of renewal for our community. This is especially true this year as we see our campuses coming back to life in a way they haven’t since the pandemic began. I am so excited to begin another semester with you — and to continue fulfilling our mission as one of the nation’s leading research universities.
As classes begin today, I want to highlight a few topics and initiatives for the semester.
Official data will be available in September, but early indications suggest we have a large class of first-year Jayhawks joining us this fall. The first few weeks of the semester are crucial for these new Jayhawks and their success. I know I can count on you to help welcome our students in the coming weeks.
Last year we began implementing the Lawrence campus’ “Jayhawks Rising” strategic plan and continued to refresh KU Medical Center’s strategic plan. We are now pulling key elements from these two plans to create a combined university-wide strategic plan that we will share with you later this year. In addition to serving as a roadmap for our efforts, this university-wide plan is important to external partners – such as AAU and the Kansas Board of Regents – and to the Higher Learning Commission, which will be conducting a comprehensive evaluation of our university in 2025.
We begin the year with a clear picture of our budget. You will recall CFO Jeff DeWitt last year shared a five-year financial plan for Lawrence to achieve a sustainable, balanced budget that enables us to pursue key initiatives, support regular pay raises and reduce the risk of budget cuts. This plan entails four strategies that we’ll continue to talk about this year: strategic enrollment management; continuous improvement; conventions and events; and all-funds budgeting.
Related to this, we were pleased this summer to be able to enact a 5 percent salary increase for Lawrence campus employees, which kicks in this month.
This semester we welcome new leaders to KU. This includes Dan Martin, the new president of KU Endowment; Lauren Jones McKown, our new associate vice chancellor for civil rights & Title IX; and Kyle Christian, our new associate vice chancellor of federal relations.
Facilities and campus expansion
Earlier this summer, we launched a Campus Master Planning process for the Lawrence campus, which will guide management of buildings and spaces for the next five years. One of these buildings and spaces is KU Innovation Park’s Phase III Expansion Facility, which opened last week and will enhance engagement with tech-based companies on campus. Work continues on the Jayhawk Welcome Center, which will serve as the focal point for prospective student visits in Lawrence and enhance our recruitment efforts. And in partnership with Wichita State University, we are exploring opportunities to develop a new health care campus in Wichita to continue our 50-year legacy of educating health care practitioners and providing health care access for the region.
There continues to be excitement surrounding Kansas Athletics — a point that was confirmed for me as I traveled the state this summer visiting with alumni and donors. Of course, this continues to be as dizzying a period for college athletics as we’ve ever seen. As I’ve said many times, our membership in a Power Five conference benefits our broader mission as a research university, which is why we will continue to do everything necessary to ensure KU is well-positioned in the evolving landscape of college athletics.
Last month I joined regional leaders to announce that Panasonic will build one the nation’s largest electric vehicle battery production plants in De Soto. This project entails a $4 billion investment and 4,000 jobs, making it the region’s most impactful development project in history.
This is a tremendous opportunity for KU in terms of research partnerships and jobs for graduates. More broadly, a project of this size will fundamentally change the region and underpin many of the decisions we’ll be making related to campus facilities, development projects, and partnerships with civic leaders in the years ahead.
For additional information on the start of the semester, please read Provost Bichelmeyer’s message to the Lawrence campus, and Dr. Simari’s message to the KU Medical Center.
Welcome back, Jayhawks. I look forward to another great year with you.
Douglas A. Girod