In the midst of several multi-year efforts to transform itself, Kansas University will spend 2013 continuing to shift pieces into their new places.
Campaigns to re-orient the university strategically, raise hundreds of millions of dollars for support and cut down on inefficiency will all be in full swing in 2013.
In the world of higher education, where major changes are preceded by years' worth of planning, none of these adjustments' stories can be told completely within the confines of one calendar year. But 2013 holds in store one huge shift for KU that will change the landscape for students and faculty: a new undergraduate curriculum.
"In the life of a university, that's kind of a quarter-century event," said KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, "or longer, in some instances."
After a planning process dating back to 2009, a new curriculum called the KU Core will go into place in 2013. Its final pieces will take shape during the spring, and in the fall it will take effect for all freshmen and any more advanced students who opt in.
It will be the first curriculum ever to apply to all KU undergraduates, and much of its form is already in place. It will consist of 12 units divided among six learning goals, and students will have a bevy of options for each unit. The amount of general-education course time required for most students will drop significantly, making the new system more flexible and focused on the development of skills, officials say.
Many of the courses to be included have already been chosen (they're listed at kucore.ku.edu). But others will fall into place during the spring.
Gray-Little said that despite the transformation, rigor will not decrease.
"The number of courses required for graduation will be the same," Gray-Little said, "and the quality of work will be the same or higher."
Also during the spring, KU's individual schools will formulate their own requirements to fit in alongside the university-wide ones.
That includes the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which contains about two-thirds of all KU undergraduates.
Danny Anderson, dean of the CLAS, said students pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in the College will likely still have some additional general-education experiences required, and an emphasis on a well-rounded education in the school would not fade away. He mentioned laboratory science and foreign-language courses as possibilities.
"I think it is really a question of, 'What are the ways that liberal arts and sciences need to serve the world in the 21st Century?' " Anderson said.
At the same time, Anderson said it was important for students to have more flexibility. Students seeking BA degrees in the College now have more than 70 hours' worth of general-education requirements, which he said is well out of line with other institutions in the Association of American Universities.
Still in the planning stages during 2013 will be another component of KU's "Bold Aspirations" strategic plan, which runs through 2017: improving the education of doctoral students.
Though undergraduate education tends to draw more public attention, Gray-Little said, graduate education is what really sets a research university like KU apart from, say, a liberal-arts college. Graduate students, as well as post-doctoral fellows, make it possible for faculty to conduct labor-intensive research.
"You can't really have a high-quality research university without strong graduate students and post-docs," Gray-Little said.
To that end, Thomas Heilke, KU's dean of graduate studies, will lead a group that will study how to do things such as increasing funding for students, improving recruitment and shortening the time it takes for students in some programs to earn their doctorates.
"This is not a statement that says we're getting everything all wrong," Heilke said. "It's a statement that says we may have some departments doing things well, others that are not doing as well."
Another part of bolstering the university's research profile — a major aim of the "Bold Aspirations" plan — will be increasing both the number and the quality of the faculty, Gray-Little said.
"That's a critical element for the university's reputation," Gray-Little said.
An effort to fill 64 newly created faculty jobs will continue, and Gray-Little said she expects the university to hire at least some of its 12 "Foundation Professors" during 2013. Those are spots designated for high-profile, field-leading faculty that KU aims to draw from other institutions, to be funded with help from a $3 million annual award from the state.
Also helping to fund new faculty hires will be savings from the university's ongoing "Changing for Excellence" efficiency program, which will continue to spark changes during 2013.
One example of the new efficiency measures, Anderson said, will be "shared service centers." The idea is to take staff members from academic departments who handle a number of financial or administrative tasks — processing bills, handling reimbursement forms, handling federal grant funds — and move them instead to a "shared center" where they can serve several departments while focusing on one area of work.
"We're taking the staff we currently have and trying to reorganize them," Anderson said.
At least two new major leaders at the university will step into place during 2013, as well. Last week, KU announced that Douglas Girod, a surgeon and administrator at the KU Medical Center, will take over the executive vice chancellor position there starting Feb. 1.
Interviews have also been completed for the new dean of engineering. That hire should come early in 2013, Gray-Little said.
Also at the Medical Center, KU will pursue funding from the state to help construct a new medical education building that officials say is necessary for shifting from lecture-based teaching to a small-group, hands-on approach.
At KU Endowment, the "Far Above" fundraising campaign will continue into its first full year following its public launch in 2012.
KU Endowment president Dale Seuferling said that means many more donors are likely to make gifts, as Endowment officials circulate more around the country to spread word about the campaign.
"We still have a focus on the leadership and major gifts that drive much of the campaign goal and achievement, but will now be more focused on the volume of gifts, too," Seuferling said.
Also during 2013, the campaign will focus more attention on campus, where it will look for faculty and staff donations.
In October, KU Endowment announced that contributions to the campaign had reached more than $700 million. Seuferling said another update on progress would be coming in early 2013.
The campaign's fundraising goal is $1.2 billion, to be reached by 2016.
The strategic plan and the efficiency campaign run several years into the future, as well. And Gray-Little said faculty and staff deserved kudos for the help in executing efforts requiring years of planning and work.
"The university community has gotten behind all of these efforts in really a magnificent way," Gray-Little said, "and many people have worked extra hard in spite of the fact that we don't have a lot of external ways of rewarding them."