In the upcoming year, Kansas University will take on a new strategic plan, leadership searches that will fill key positions and establish a new School of Public Health.
And leaders on Mount Oread will be faced with new challenges on how to generate enough money to keep the university operating smoothly, both from the Kansas Legislature and governor, and from private donors in a capital campaign that’s revving up even more this year.
It’s all shaping up to be an interesting and formative year, officials say, and one that will shape the university for years to come.
It starts with the strategic planning effort.
“We’re pretty much right in the thick of it right now,” Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said.
While it typically takes awhile for strategic plans to turn into individual, tangible goals, some clear visions are already forming.
For instance, Provost Jeff Vitter said KU’s general education requirements as they exist now are definitely on their way out.
As KU leaders and other community members discuss exactly what the new requirements will look like, Vitter said it’s pretty clear that there will be fewer of them, and they will free up students to take advantage of a number of other opportunities.
In the next year, KU research will be more entrepreneurial in its focus. Vitter said that on Jan. 17, Julie Goonewardene will begin her new role as associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship.
She’s one of the best in the nation at spinning commercializable faculty ideas into the marketplace, Vitter said.
Vitter and Gray-Little said they would work hard to secure funding from the state. Both portrayed new money as an investment in the state’s future. Gray-Little pointed out that a new engineering building would generate more engineers for Kansas to address its engineering shortage.
And Vitter said that research, too, is important. Technology such as the Internet and other information technology innovations are all based on research done at universities 20 and 30 years ago.
“What we do today in our research is going to be the basis for our economy 20 to 30 years from now,” he said. “We rely heavily on state and federal grants to conduct this research.”
If that funding is limited, the process can continue for a few years but then will cause the research done at the university to backslide, Vitter said.
“We’re encouraging state leaders to take the long view of what is going to take us out of the doldrums economically,” Gray-Little said.
Vitter said that pay increases for faculty members and staff will be necessary in 2011, after KU employees have gone two years without any.
Dale Seuferling, president and CEO of the KU Endowment Association, said that 2011 will see more movement on KU’s ongoing capital campaign, now in what can be called a “loud quiet phase.”
With the campaign’s volunteer leadership in place, decisions will begin to be made on setting a goal, naming the campaign and building toward a public kickoff once enough money has been raised.
Seuferling said the public kickoff may or may not happen in 2011, but, regardless, volunteers will be working to secure funds for a number of priorities.
The campaign will seek to raise money for cancer designation, new KU Medical Center facilities in Wichita and Salina, student scholarships, endowed professorships, an expansion plan for the Spencer Museum of Art and more priorities to come after KU leaders establish them, Seuferling said.
While KU seeks to raise money across the board, the school will also be focusing on a number of different searches for top leadership posts. KU leaders said those people will be called upon to help move KU in the right direction.
The new athletic director post should be filled shortly, Gray-Little said. That person will join other new academic leaders that KU hopes to find in the new year, including a dean of its School of Law — a search that reopened in December after one finalist took another job — and a dean of KU’s School of Business.
For that search, Vitter said, KU has tapped the top academic search firm in the country, R. William Funk and Associates, Vitter said. That’s the search firm retained to hire both Gray-Little and Vitter.
“(The search) has been unfortunately distracted with a bunch of side issues that we’re now past,” Vitter said, referring to questions raised by a number of MBA students in the business school as to how the school was spending its differential tuition dollars.
Business Dean William Fuerst announced he would resign this June before KU released an audit report that showed nearly all of the funds were spent appropriately.
Gray-Little will be looking for a new vice chancellor of public affairs to oversee media relations, government relations and other marketing efforts.
KU Medical Center will also be looking for the school’s first dean of its School of Public Health this year. KUMC officials hope to enroll the school’s first class of students in the fall. That new effort will coincide with KUMC-Wichita’s first class of four-year medical students who will be trained entirely in Wichita.