Strategic plan, tuition assistance and a car club: Semester in preview with KU Chancellor Girod

photo by: Carter Gaskins

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod speaks during a KU forum about budget cuts at Eaton Hall in this Monday, Aug. 27, 2018, file photo.

This upcoming semester, University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod is looking forward to solidifying a tuition assistance program for dependents of staff and faculty, completing the strategic plan and serving as the faculty adviser for KU’s Car Club.

During a brief interview after the Kansas Board of Regents meeting on Dec. 18, Girod talked about some of his plans for the coming semester and what he considered the successes of the previous one.

Girod said he was hopeful that a tuition assistance program for the dependents of KU faculty and staff would be approved next semester and implemented in the 2020-2021 academic year.

“It’s the first time we’ve done anything like that,” Girod said. “And it’s kind of small — only $1,000 a person at this point, but we’d like to be able to grow that over the next few years while we’re looking at other options.”

It is unclear whether the $1,000 would apply on a semester or yearly basis. KU spokesman Joe Monaco was unable to confirm the details of the developing tuition assistance program.

Girod said that faculty and staff pay is “certainly a problem,” and that KU is exploring “what else can we do around pay to try to make things better for our folks.”

Implementing a tuition assistance program would also help KU stay on par with its peer institutions, many of which offer similar programs.

Girod said he is also excited that the university completed its provost search process and that the new provost, Barbara Bichelmeyer, will be able to help launch the new strategic plan.

The strategic plan “will certainly be one of our biggest projects over the spring semester, and we’re hoping to do that fairly quickly and have something in place by the end of the year,” Girod said.

In a moment of excitement, Girod shared that this past semester some KU students had asked him to be the faculty adviser of a newly formed KU Car Club.

“They asked me to do it; I said sure,” he said. “If it’s got a motor, I’m usually there.”

The KU Car Club is for those who have an interest in cars and learning about the rules of respect on the road, the club’s website states.

Girod grew up in Oregon racing motorcycles and working in a motorcycle shop, Monaco said in an email. Though Girod did not pursue his childhood dream of racing professionally, he still has a motorcycle today, and he also owns a red 1973 Triumph convertible.

Girod confessed he’s a “bit of a motorhead” and said he was happy that the club would give him more opportunities to engage with students.

“It gives me a more consistent student contact point, and that’s what’s the best thing about the job,” he said. “But it’s also one I don’t get to do very often.”

Looking back at the previous semester, Girod said it went well, “without any major hiccups.”

“We had a lot of really good things happen this fall,” he said. “Real excited on where we ended up on enrollment and with both the quality of the class and the diversity of the class, which are things we’ve been working on, of course.”

Girod said he was pleased KU has been making steady progress on improving retention and graduation rates, especially among first-generation students.

According to KU’s statistics from earlier this year, the university achieved all-time highs in its four-year graduation rate (49.8%), six-year graduation rate (66.5%) and minority population (22%).

But overall student enrollment on KU’s Lawrence campus fell by 1.3%. At a strategic planning kickoff event in November, Girod said “A future KU may be a smaller KU, but a stronger KU.”

Girod highlighted a few other successes from the past semester in his “CEO Update” presentation to the Board of Regents. These included:

• Three KU students won national scholarships: Alex Murray (Mitchell Scholarship), Sam Steuart (Marshall Scholarship) and Catalina Wedman (Charles B. Rangel Fellowship).

• The women’s soccer team won the Big 12 Championship.

• KU formed a varsity Esports team.

• KU engineering professor Shannon Blunt was appointed to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

• KU’s School of Engineering received a $3 million interdisciplinary National Science Foundation grant.


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