Provost candidate says KU needs to ‘recapture joy,’ find creative revenue sources

photo by: Lauren Fox

Margaret Raymond, one of the four finalists for the position of provost at KU, speaks in the Burge Union on Oct. 29, 2019.

Provost candidate Margaret Raymond said she asked those she met on campus Tuesday to tell her what at the University of Kansas gives them joy. She expected to hear stories of remarkable student projects, she said, but instead, heard things like, “I like Lawrence” and “I like the people here.”

“I think we need to recapture joy,” Raymond said at her afternoon public presentation in the Burge Union at KU. “I think we’ve got to get lit up by what is happening here and we’ve got to be able to tell that story to other people.”

If a member of the KU family was on an airplane and their neighbor asked them what’s going on at the university, “people should need to order you a drink to get you to stop talking,” she said.

Raymond, the dean of the law school at the University of Wisconsin, was responding to a question about how she would plan to rally KU members together toward a common goal, and numerous attendees said it was the highlight of her presentation.

Susan Twombly, chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, said she loved Raymond’s reference to finding joy, and said that overall, the provost candidate was “appropriately knowledgeable about KU” and seemed to care about the university.

During her presentation, titled “Challenges and Opportunities: The Future of KU,” Raymond outlined some of the current challenges facing higher education. Among them, she mentioned a lack of resourcing, access to education and diversity and inclusion.

She said the university needs to get “creative,” “smart” and “innovative” about the ways they get funding: state support, tuition, research, philanthropy and auxiliaries.

Steven Soper, co-chair of the provost search committee, noted that many of these revenue sources are on the decline, and he asked Raymond during the question and answer session from what untapped revenue sources the university could draw.

Raymond said she doesn’t have the “magic answer,” but noted that a lot of people love Lawrence and that perhaps there could be a “real estate play” where the university could figure out a way to bring alumni back either temporarily or permanently to be part of the community and generate money.

She said there’s no simple answer to the question of how KU can get more money.

“Although, I confess that as I was coming through O’Hare, the Powerball was $140 million, so I bought a ticket,” she said, garnering laughter from the crowd.

Addressing the concern of attracting students, Raymond said that KU needs to compete more successfully for the type of students they already attract and think about drawing in new pools of students, such as adults, transfers and online learners.

She also said KU needs to support low-income students and students of color.

“If you become a school where low-income students and students of color know they can succeed, you will become a magnet for those students,” she said. “You will transform their lives, you will change their worlds and the worlds of their families and communities.”

Attendees also thought Raymond did a good job fielding a question about the budget model: if she would tweak it in any way or throw it out. Raymond said it was too early for her to address the question fully. She kept her answer open, but noted that she wanted to move in a direction from a locked-in, predictable budget to one that is nimble and responsive to changes.

She ended her presentation with a PowerPoint slide that featured the screenshot of senior Hailey Solomon, known colloquially as “Crochet Lady,” crocheting before the Kansas-Oklahoma football game.

She used Solomon’s as an example of a great KU story.

“I’m confident that there are quite literally thousands more,” she said to close her presentation.

Second of four provost candidate presentations scheduled for Thursday

KU interim provost to deliver campus presentation as candidate for permanent position

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