For some, Kansas University is an employer, a job. For others, it's a place for learning, research and hatching opportunities.
For the latter, 2001 was terrific, arguably one of the best years ever. For the former, there were disappointments.
Tight budgets caused the athletic department to drop its men's swimming and tennis teams. And lawmakers handed KU a budget that fell $3 million short of paying the bills, forcing cutbacks.
Faculty members got a much-needed, long-overdue 6 percent pay raise one of the largest in state history but the university's unclassified workers had to settle for a 3 percent raise.
"This is an interesting time," said Kyle Browning, KU student body vice president. "A lot of people, I think, got sort of complacent about KU. But the budget cuts and then the athletic department cuts made a lot of people realize we need to be on a continual offensive when it comes to making KU better."
Browning said he expects students to play a key role in mounting that offensive.
"This year will be one of the most productive ever. Our mentality is different, we're much more activist- and grass-roots-oriented," he said referring to the Delta Force political party.
Browning said newly hired athletics director Allen Bohl "will be good," and it helps, he said, to know that Chancellor Robert Hemenway and the student body "seem to be on the same page."
Ready for a challenge
Hemenway said he, too, is ready to take on the new year.
"There is an awful lot of evidence that the university is in great shape academically," he said. "Our enrollment last year was the highest ... (and) the freshman class had the highest average ACT ever, and our faculty and students won more awards and grants than ever before. Our funding for research has gone from about $90 million to $193 million in the past five years. And let's not forget that we held on to one of the best basketball coaches in America.
"So, we've had a great year, but I don't want to leave the impression that I'm being a Pollyanna," Hemenway said. "The greatest challenge facing us is to continue operating the university with as much efficiency as we can. We're going to have to keep our belts cinched tight."
On the legislative front, Hemenway said he'll keep pressing lawmakers to see the university's budget as an investment in the state's future, rather than one of many cost centers in the state budget.
"It's our belief that higher education is an investment that brings a return," he said. "The best example of that is the life sciences initiative going on in Kansas City, and I'm very proud to say KU is positioned to play a major role in that initiative."
The initiative, led by the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, hopes to make Kansas City one of the nation's top 10 cities for life-science research. Officials recently unveiled an agreement in which KU and Kansas University Medical Center will jointly pursue contracts and federal grants.
Officials hope to achieve $500 million in annual research expenditures by 2010.
Institute officials hope the agreement coincides with the pending establishment of a center for brain research at KU Medical Center, made possible by a $4 million pledge by KU alumni Forrest and Sally Hoglund.
Eventually, the center will use brain-imaging techniques to study Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, autism, strokes and developmental disabilities.
The medical center also is busy creating a world-class heart and lung program, involving 22 cardiologists and three surgeons.
Last year, U.S. News and World Report put KU among the top 50 public universities in the nation. Twenty KU graduate and undergraduate programs were ranked in the top 30 of their respective fields; two special education and city management and urban policy were ranked No. 1.
Five KU professors were awarded National Endowment for the Humanities research fellowships last year that's the most received by any public university.
The partial list of student accomplishments includes:
Jeffrey O'Neal won one of 85 Mellon Foundation fellowships, worth about $40,000, for teaching careers in the humanities.
Mark Bradshaw won a Truman scholarship worth about $30,000.
Bradshaw, Joanna Griffin and Lee Joel Kellenberger were awarded Morris K. Udall scholarships, each worth about $5,000.
Scott Allan Ferree was awarded a Marshall scholarship, worth about $50,000, for up to two years of graduate study in Great Britain.
Matt Haug, who graduated in May 2000 with a 4.0 GPA, landed three major fellowships Mellon, Javits and National Science Foundation last spring.
"Last year was a year of extraordinary student accomplishment," said KU provost David Shulenburger. "For a long time, we've been paying more attention to what goes on in the classroom. What we're seeing now is the payoff, and I think we're going to see even more."
KU Endowment Association appears to be doing its part. It spent a record $65.1 million last year 20 percent more than the year before on scholarships, faculty fellowships and program support.
Next month, KU Endowment Association will formally unveil plans for KU First, an unprecedented $500 million capital campaign that, if successful, will add buildings to the university's Lawrence, Edwards and Kansas City, Kan., campuses, improve athletic facilities, enhance research and increase support for scholarships and fellowships.
Among the nation's public universities, KU's endowment ranks 16th, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of College and Business Officers.