At his official inauguration as KU’s 18th chancellor, Girod calls for university to expand its reach and research

photo by: Mike Yoder

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas A. Girod is acknowledged by faculty and a gathered audience at the Lied Center after being installed as the 18th chancellor of the university on Friday, April 20, 2018.

Douglas Girod outlined his goals for the University of Kansas during an inauguration ceremony Friday that officially installed him as KU’s 18th chancellor.

About 1,100 alumni, faculty, community members, civic leaders and dignitaries attended that afternoon’s ceremony at the Lied Center. Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, one of the many state leaders present, helped introduce Girod by sharing stories from their early careers.

Colyer, a plastic surgeon by trade, said he first met Girod in 1994, when the two men were just starting out their medical practices in Kansas City. A celebrated head-and-neck surgeon and U.S. Naval Reserve officer, Girod joined the KU Medical Center faculty the same year he met Colyer, in 1994. But, as Colyer recalled in his remarks Friday, it wasn’t long before Girod quickly began moving up the ranks there.

And, as he advanced to increasingly higher positions within the system, eventually serving as the Medical Center’s executive vice chancellor, Girod began developing some big plans for KU, Colyer said. One day, the two were sitting down together over a map of the country, drawing circles around America’s most prestigious health organizations. After circling places like Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic and elite facilities on the coasts, they zeroed in on somewhere much closer to home.

“Then we drew that circle around Kansas City, and that was our space,” Colyer recalled to the audience. “This is the heartland, and that’s what Doug Girod believes — that KU is essential to the heartland.

“And I think that’s why he’s going to be a great chancellor for us,” Colyer said.

Girod followed those remarks with his plans for the university, which largely focus on KU’s important role across Kansas and the region. “Perhaps the most visible” symbol of KU’s service to the state, Girod said, is the KU Medical Center and its campuses in Kansas City, Wichita and Salina.

But the Medical Center also “touches every county of the state” in some way, Girod said, whether through outreach clinics, research, telemedicine, public health initiatives or other efforts.

That’s only a bit of KU’s influence in the state, Girod said.

“Beyond the Medical Center, we have a wonderful story to tell. We do so much, and we can do more,” Girod said. “Today, we train over 11,000 Kansas police officers at KU. We train over 7,000 firefighters at KU. We place our pharmacy students on rotations in rural pharmacies around the state.”

In the past year, Girod said, the university has expanded its nursing program to Salina, and is contemplating a similar expansion to Lawrence. The Edwards Campus, primarily located in Overland Park, has widened its reach to Leavenworth, offering several new program options for soldiers at the U.S. Army fort located there.

“But really, beyond these services, we are a powerful economic engine for our state and for our region,” Girod said. “We address workforce needs every year by conferring almost 7,000 degrees for our students. There are currently 38 successful startup companies — companies that are no longer startups but successful companies that have come out of KU technologies and discoveries.”

KU also hosts 40 companies in its Lawrence and Kansas City incubators, Girod said. Some are fledgling startups, while others, like Garmin, are established companies “who want to be here to work with our students and our scientists,” he added.

Strengthening KU’s research culture was the second component Girod called for in his remarks, after expanding the university’s outreach across Kansas. KU researchers currently add more than $230 million per year to the Kansas economy through their work, Girod said.

“As a top-tier research university, our research enterprise is most valuable to us, and KU really has the opportunity and the responsibility to make discoveries that improve lives every single day,” Girod said. “But we really do need to find new and innovative ways to grow our research, because research really is what defines and distinguishes KU both regionally and nationally.”

Within the last year, crews have completed construction on KU’s $78.5 million Earth, Energy and Environment Center, Girod said, and the university’s new National Security Laboratory (which KU says will enable students to conduct research for the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies) is set to open on KU’s west campus this spring. The 280,000-square-foot, $117 million Integrated Science Building will open in KU’s Central District this summer.

The third key area Girod discussed in his remarks was “student experience,” a sweeping term that encompasses everything from recruitment to alumni engagement.

Within the last year, the university has made several gains in this area, Girod said, among them the creation of a tuition waiver program for out-of-state students, an expansion of counseling and psychological services in response to “an exponential increase” in student need and demand, and a partnership with the KU Alumni Association and University Career Center to develop the Jayhawk Career Network, which aims to connect students with alumni across the globe.

But the university must be more strategic in resource investment, finding new collaborators and expanding research between disciplines and campuses if it is to reach to the goals Girod has in mind, he told the Lied Center audience.

In his closing remarks, Girod said, “I am confident that we will meet the challenges ahead of us in a way that strengthens our university, enhances the value of higher education in America, and improves the world around us.

“And I’m confident the University of Kansas will continue to be a beacon atop a noble hill,” he added, “towering toward the blue.”