Deans discuss goals, priorities, upcoming projects

Kansas University has 13 schools between its Lawrence campus and the KU Medical Center, and they are led by 12 deans. One school, the School of Engineering, has a new dean this school year. Another, the School of Medicine, is set to appoint a new dean during the year.

The Journal-World asked the deans of each of KU’s schools about their plans, priorities and projects for the 2013-14 year:

John Gaunt, dean of the KU School of Architecture, came to KU to approach architecture and education in a way he had not done before. He now oversees the 1,000 students in the architecture program and teaches a free-hand drawing course, among other responsibilities.

School of Architecture, Design and Planning

Dean: John Gaunt

Appointed: 1994

Coming up: The school will be putting an emphasis on education and research that spans its three departments, especially in the area of environmental sustainability, which Gaunt said applies to architects, designers and planners alike. It will also continue to form partnerships with outside companies through its Center for Design Research, where students already are working on projects for corporations such as Bayer and Ford. And the school will help with interdisciplinary research on meeting the needs of retiring baby boomers.

Neeli Bendapudi

School of Business

Dean: Neeli Bendapudi

Appointed: 2011

Coming up: The business school this year is launching new streamlined three-semester versions of its Master of Business Administration programs, both the full-time program in Lawrence and the part-time program based in Overland Park. Bendapudi said the school would also be working to develop programming for business students in their freshman and sophomore years, before they begin taking actual business classes, in order to get them connected with the school and networking early. And fundraising efforts will continue for the school’s planned new building across from Allen Fieldhouse, which Bendapudi hopes to open by 2015.

Dean of Education Rick Ginsberg

School of Education

Dean: Rick Ginsberg

Appointed: 2005

Coming up: The education school this year will begin launching online graduate programs created through a contract with the startup company Everspring, which Ginsberg said could help make KU a leader in online education for the first time. At the same time, Ginsberg said the school’s faculty will begin a research initiative studying online education, perhaps examining the massive open online courses (MOOCs) being offered by some top U.S. universities. The school is also developing an alumni mentoring system to connect working educators with undergraduate students.

Kansas University has named Michael Branicky as the new dean of the School of Engineering. Branicky, who teaches and chairs the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, will officially take over as dean on July 1. Branicky was touring the KU campus and meeting with faculty Thursday, May 9, 2013.

School of Engineering

Dean: Michael Branicky

Appointed: 2013

Coming up: Branicky, who started on the job in July, is KU’s newest dean. He comes aboard in the midst of an effort to increase the school’s enrollment by more than 50 percent. The school will begin construction on an $80 million expansion this year. The school also will be creating more hybrid courses that combine online and in-person instruction, working to increase its number of doctoral students and helping with the recruitment of some of the 12 “Foundation Professors” that KU aims to hire from other universities to serve as research leaders, Branicky said.

Karen Miller

School of Health Professions, School of Nursing

Dean: Karen Miller

Appointed: 1998

Coming up: Miller, the only KU dean to oversee two schools, said the School of Health Professions will be keeping a close eye on health care trends — the aging of the population, the growing importance of obesity prevention and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act — that may result in a greater need for the kinds of professionals it trains, including physical therapists, audiologists and nutritionists. The nursing school will keep a similar eye on possible increasing needs and also will work with community colleges around the state to create easier transitions for graduates of their nursing programs who aim to earn bachelor’s degrees.

Ann Brill

School of Journalism

Dean: Ann Brill

Appointed: 2004

Coming up: Brill said the journalism school is creating courses designed to fit in the new KU Core general-education curriculum and draw in students from other academic areas, including a new oral communications class to be called “Stand and Deliver.” The school also will continue to increase in-house career training opportunities for students, including the Media Crossroads center at the Kansas Union, a Statehouse reporting bureau and a new strategic-communications agency that will serve the rest of the university. Brill said the school is planning a more converged student-media operation, with a single adviser helping student journalists working in print, on TV, online or on social and mobile media.

Stephen Mazza

School of Law

Dean: Stephen Mazza

Appointed: 2011

Coming up: The law school will continue to decrease its enrollment, Mazza said, “right-sizing” itself to fit a legal job market that has declined in recent years. The school’s 2014 J.D. class will be the first affected by a decision to reduce class sizes by about 20 percent. The school is reforming its curriculum with the aim of better preparing students to practice law after they graduate. Mazza said the school will work to secure more private funding for scholarships and other enhancements, through the KU Endowment Association’s “Far Above” fundraising campaign.

Danny Anderson

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Dean: Danny Anderson

Appointed: 2010

Coming up: Anderson will put much of his energy in 2013-14 toward planning and funding an update of the College’s science lab facilities. Malott Hall, where many of KU’s chemistry and physics labs are located, is about 60 years old, and its outdated facilities are hampering teaching and research, Anderson said. The College also will continue to redesign many of the “gateway” courses that many freshmen take, shifting many to a hybrid format incorporating online and in-person instruction that’s designed to better engage students. Other goals will include funding more graduate research assistantships that will help the College recruit top doctoral students, continuing to build an online Bachelor of General Studies program that should be ready for its first class of students by summer of 2014, and securing U.S. Department of Education funding for the five CLAS international study centers.

Doug Girod, who became Kansas University Medical Center's executive vice chancellor on Feb. 1, plans to emphasize teamwork within KUMC and building connections with other institutions across the nation and world.

School of Medicine

Interim executive dean: Doug Girod, executive vice chancellor for the KU Medical Center

Appointed: 2013

Coming up: Girod’s first order of business for the medical school is to hire a permanent executive dean. He said he hopes to complete that search by mid-autumn. Also during that time, he’ll be helping the school prepare for its first accreditation site visit from the Liaison Committee for Medical Education since 2005, set for October. The school will keep working toward funding a new health-education building that would help increase class sizes and shift to new methods of learning involving more small groups, simulations and interprofessional learning, including nursing and health professions students. Officials will again ask the Kansas Legislature for funding for that purpose in 2014.

In this file photo, Robert Walzel, dean of Kansas University’s School of Music, is pictured in Murphy Hall, KU campus.

School of Music

Dean: Robert Walzel

Appointed: 2010

Coming up: The music school will have another busy concert season, with more than 300 performances scheduled over the next year. Those include two performances at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Mo., an “On the Road” version of its traditional Vespers program at Johnson County Community College and a four-performance chamber-music series featuring the school’s faculty called “Kansas Virtuosi.” The school will continue to raise money for a renovation of its Swarthout Recital Hall, which is more than 55 years old. Walzel said he hopes to finish fundraising by about this coming winter, allowing for a newly remodeled hall by 2015 to coincide with KU’s sesquicentennial.

Ken Audus

School of Pharmacy

Dean: Ken Audus

Appointed: 2004

Coming up: The top item on the pharmacy school’s priority list this year, Audus said, will be to prepare for a once-every-eight-years accreditation review in the fall. The school will continue changing the way it teaches its students, inserting more technology into the classroom and increasing inter-professional exercises involving medical, nursing and health professions students during pharmacy students’ rotations at the KU Medical Center. That group-style, hands-on learning will become a bigger focus, Audus said, for the pharmacy school and most other health education institutions in the coming years.

Mary Ellen Kondrat

School of Social Welfare

Dean: Mary Ellen Kondrat

Appointed: 2006

Coming up: This will be the first year for the school’s new Master of Social Welfare program in western Kansas, designed to fill a void of master’s-level social workers in that half of the state. The school is pushing for more out-of-classroom leadership development experiences for its students, Kondrat said, such as study-abroad programs. Research in the school this year will include projects testing bullying prevention strategies in Kansas schools, determining best practices for reuniting children and families after they’ve been separated and developing a screening process for the state to determine levels of need for elderly people or people with disabilities.