Several major decisions are coming for Kansas University in 2012, as the school will look to hire a new dean of its School of Medicine, begin to see its strategic planning initiatives take shape and publicly launch a fundraising campaign.
KU Medical Center
The year 2012 will be a particularly formative year for KU Medical Center. The KU Cancer Center will hear whether it has been approved for National Cancer Institute designation, for one. And KU will be searching for a new dean of its School of Medicine.
Now, Barbara Atkinson holds that role as well as the title of executive vice chancellor for KUMC. As the 69-year-old leader prepares to step aside from both roles, a new medical school dean will be hired first and then a new executive vice chancellor later, in time to be in place by the time Atkinson fully retires in December 2013.
KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said a search committee is just beginning its work, and the chancellor hopes a dean will be in place by July.
KU had planned to have a dean of a new School of Public Health in place by now, too, but a fundraising effort for that position has stalled.
As soon as the money is raised, KU will move forward, Gray-Little said. She said she hoped the opportunity to serve as the inaugural dean of a school would increase the level of interest in the position, as it did with KU’s School of Music, which hired its first full-time dean in July 2010.
Four main areas will be among the first to be addressed in KU’s strategic planning process on the Lawrence campus:
• General education requirements. Provost Jeff Vitter said KU will be looking to drastically reduce its general education requirements, from the current 72 hours to something in the 30s, 40s or 50s. About 40 would put KU in line with its peer institutions, he said. Fewer general education requirements would free up students to pursue double majors or other experiential learning opportunities, such as study abroad or service learning, Vitter said. The new curriculum also will likely allow students to replace certain courses with those kinds of experiences.
“One key starting difference is that the curriculum is directly linked with our goals,” he said.
• Recruiting new students. KU will redesign its admission requirements to fit with a directive from the Kansas Board of Regents. KU unveiled a new scholarship plan last summer, offering potential recruits a series of new renewable scholarships. This resulted in a much bigger applicant pool than the previous year. In the beginning part of 2012, KU will be working to retain as many of those students as possible, Vitter said.
• Elevating doctoral education. In many ways, Vitter said, this issue is one of available funding. More money for doctoral education will mean more teaching assistant and research assistant positions available, which will increase the number of graduate students who will enroll. KU will look in a number of directions to find that funding. Private funding is one way.
An effort led by the Huron Consulting Group to find efficiencies this previous year is another.
“We’re looking to Huron to find ways to reinvest in our priorities,” Vitter said. “And certainly, this is a priority.”
• Launching new research initiatives. KU is focusing on four key research strategic initiatives that provide areas of focus for KU’s research directions. Vitter said the initiatives are designed to address the “grand challenges” of society. He said the initiatives will drive faculty hiring in the future.
The year 2012 will be a big one for KU’s eight-year comprehensive fundraising campaign, Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, said Dale Seuferling, president of the KU Endowment Association.
“2012 represents the formal public kickoff for the campaign,” he said, referring to the April event. “We will announce the goal for the campaign and the amount raised to date.”
He said after the event, campaign officials hoped to “energize our constituencies in a more public fashion.” Volunteer committee work on identifying goals and other objectives for the campaign will continue to increase in 2012, Seuferling said.
Even though the campaign will be publicly launched in April 2012, it will actually be nearly half-completed by then. It has been operating in its so-called “silent phase” since July 2008, Seuferling said.
The endowment association will hope to continue the momentum after the public launch, too, and will be conducting a series of events around the state and country in support of the new campaign, he said.