UMKC administrator named as KU’s next provost

Barbara Bichelmeyer, a candidate for the University of Kansas provost position who currently serves as provost of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, gives a presentation at the Adams Alumni Center on Nov. 7. Bichelmeyer was announced as KU's new provost on Dec. 6, 2019.

Updated at 4:07 p.m. Friday:

The University of Kansas has named Barbara Bichelmeyer to be the next provost and executive vice chancellor at KU.

Bichelmeyer, who currently serves in the same roles at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, will start at KU in February, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod announced Friday morning.

“As many of you observed during her campus visit, Barbara is a tremendously talented researcher and administrator, as well as a proud KU alumna with an unabashed love for this place,” Girod wrote in his message.

In a phone call with the Journal-World, Bichelmeyer said she felt a “thrill of emotions” when she was offered the job on Monday, but the most overwhelming one was gratitude: gratitude to KU for the offer and gratitude to UMKC for the platform “that made me competitive.”

At UMKC, in addition to her role as provost and executive vice chancellor, Bichelmeyer also served as interim chancellor for 11 months in 2017 and 2018. Prior to her role at UMKC, she served in numerous leadership roles at Indiana University-Bloomington.

Bichelmeyer, a four-time graduate of KU, said she was excited and honored to be returning. She earned undergraduate degrees in journalism and English, a master’s degree in educational policy and administration and a doctorate in educational communications and technology from the university.

“My excitement about Barbara goes beyond her credentials,” Girod said in his message. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with her for years on initiatives to enhance higher education’s role in regional economic development … I have come to know Barbara as a genuine and compassionate person who cares deeply about students, research and higher education.”

Bichelmeyer will have an annual salary of $425,000, comprising a nine-month faculty base, three months of summer salary and an administrative supplement of $100,000, KU spokesman Joe Monaco told the Journal-World in an email. The Journal-World has requested a copy of the contract between Bichelmeyer and KU.

Bichelmeyer said her last day at UMKC would be Jan. 24. She’ll be taking a month of personal time before starting at KU on Feb. 24. She also said she’d be house-hunting in Lawrence.

In a message to the UMKC campus, Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal said that “(because) she was born and raised in Kansas and earned four degrees from KU, it’s not a surprise that the institution has always held a piece of her heart. I look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role at our neighboring university, and to the new and innovative collaborations that may arise from it.”

In Bichelmeyer’s Nov. 7 public presentation at KU, she emphasized listening and a personalized learning experience for students. In a moment she later described as emotional, she shared with the crowd that she is gay and that she struggled with suicidal ideation in her youth, two things that have since informed her goals in life.

“As I started to formulate what is my goal and what is my intention in life, it was to figure out how do we create a better experience for people so that they know that they matter, that their uniqueness is a gift and that we’re here to support them,” she said.

Friday afternoon, Bichelmeyer said the important part of that story was about how higher education was all about “developing human beings.”

Bichelmeyer has a number of things she plans to tackle when she starts in February, including improving enrollment, personalizing the student experience and bolstering faculty and student research.

Teaching and research go hand-in-hand, Bichelmeyer emphasized.

She added to her to-do list: “I understand there’s a fair amount of work to do to build morale.”

In his message, Girod said the decision was not an easy one, writing that “our national search produced four outstanding finalists who each offered distinctive strengths that would benefit KU.”

Of the four finalists, only one — Margaret Raymond, the dean of the law school at the University of Wisconsin — came from an institution more than 50 miles away from KU.

The other two candidates were Carl Lejuez, KU’s interim provost, and Dave Cook, vice chancellor of KU’s Edwards Campus.

Girod finished his message by thanking Lejuez for his work in the interim position.

Girod said Lejuez “provided strong leadership and energy as our interim provost amid challenging circumstances. KU is in a better place today as a result of his efforts during the past 19 months.”

Lejuez took over as interim provost in April 2018, after then-Provost Neeli Bendapudi resigned to become the president of the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

In his interim provost role, Lejuez has spearheaded budget discussions at KU as the university has cut $20 million from its budget and shed dozens of positions. He was at the center of controversy earlier this year when he sought to directly appoint professor Clarence Lang dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences without going through the university’s formal search process. Lejuez himself was CLAS dean before accepting the interim provost position.

In his message, Girod said Lejuez would be returning to his role as CLAS dean. It’s unclear if Lejuez will remain in that position for long, however. Earlier this week he was interviewing at the University at Buffalo in New York for the position of provost.

Bichelmeyer emphasized her gratitude to “those at KU who have done great work before me,” and specifically mentioned Lejuez.


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