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Archive for Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Heard on the Hill: First strategic plan summit is Friday; more than 500 students have taken professors to free lunch; student interviewing for Rhodes Scholarship this week

November 16, 2011

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• This week marks the beginning of KU’s summits on various research initiatives associated with its ongoing strategic planning process.

The first one will be centered on the theme of “Sustaining the Planet, Powering the World.”

It will be held for most of the day on Friday at the Commons in Spooner Hall.

These are interesting for a few reasons, not the least of which is that these are areas will likely be targeted for additional budgetary resources in a time of general budgetary struggles.

All kinds of university bigwigs will be there on Friday, and here’s a look at what they’ll be talking about.

One thing I found interesting on this page is the .pdf file called “SWOT Summary.”

SWOT being a trendy sort of acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

I found some of the “threats” to be pretty frank.

“KU is in danger of being expelled from the AAU,” read one.

“Lack of respect for higher education and sciences state-wide,” read another.

“Other institutions conduct more open rank faculty searches which attracts established scholars,” while KU tends to hire at the assistant professor level, read another.

“Universities that have already made large investments in campus sustainability (e.g. recent announcement at U. of Michigan) likely have a competitive edge over KU when seeking sustainability-related external funding,” said another.

Of course, KU has some things going for it, too, as it moves forward on this initiative. Its strengths include programs in climate research (think about the excellent CReSIS ice sheet thickness program) and sustainable natural resources (think about the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis and its efforts to replace petroleum-based chemicals with chemicals made from biological products like grasses).

KU has also put together a 51-page document outlining potential external funding sources for researchers to pursue in this particular area.

So it will be interesting to see where KU goes from here.

• I was reminded recently of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Take Your Professor to Lunch program.

It’s worth a reminder, I think.

Students who have a major in the college can follow the steps outlined here and take one of their professors (not a GTA) to lunch.

The college dean’s office gives a $15 meal voucher for use at several on-campus dining facilities that pays for the meals for the students and professors. (If students or professors have more expensive tastes, they have to pay for it out of pocket).

Since the program’s inception in the 2007-08 academic year, folks in the college dean’s office tell me, about 500 students have taken advantage of the program.

• Good luck to Kelsey Murrell, a senior studying English literature and creative writing, who interviews for a Rhodes Scholarship this week in St. Louis.

The scholarships are given to 32 students each year.

She is a graduate of Kearney High School in Kearney, Mo., and plans to apply to Oxford and other universities in the United States for graduate study. She wants to teach at the university level and continue her work as a playwright.

Students at KU have won 25 Rhodes scholarships in the institution’s history.

• I didn’t get one of those 25 Rhodes scholarships when I graduated from KU, but I hope you’ll find it in your hearts to send me some tips for Heard on the Hill to ahyland@ljworld.com anyway.

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