Skip to the content

Kansas State University

  1. K-State home >
  2. Chats
  3. > Faculty Chat with Kirk

Faculty Chat with Kirk

This is the official chat transcript from November 30, 2010. It reads top-to-bottom.

Kenneth Hughey asks:What do you see as the primary assets of KSU and challenges related to Vision 2025? Thank you.

Kirk Schulz I could type on this one for the remainder of the time! Our strongest assets related to 2025 is a strong and hard working faculty and staff, NBAF, and K-State Olathe. People have done more with less here than almost any other place I have worked. While this may be notable, I am hopeful that we can have facilities and infrastructure that match our strong work ethic. Our biggest challenge is that K-Staters need to believe that we can be a Top 50 university. If we can get 1500 faculty members and 4000 staff members on board with our goal - it will be incredible what we can accomplish! I am a "glass is half full" kind of guy - so lets all enjoy what will be a fun ride!

Betsy Cauble Glad you found your way home. Can you see the questions?

Spencer Wood asks:As a junior faculty member, I am concerned about our lagging salaries. Manhattan is a surprisingly expensive place to live, yet our salaries are at, or very near, the bottom of the conference. KU once was as well, however, they have lifted theirs up over the past five years or so. In other words, it doesn't appear to be strictly driven by the legislature. As part of your commendable efforts to elevate the research stature of the University, it seems we need a comprehensive plan to raise faculty salaries. I'd like to see a commissioned study of our salaries by departments relative to peer institutions, but even more I'd like to hear your thoughts and plans to improve our bottom-ranking salaries. Can you share some of your thoughts on this matter? Thank you very much. Respectfully, Spence

Kirk Schulz As you can see from other postings, I concur that this is a significant problem at Kansas State, and there are no magic bullets to help solve this problem. There are a couple of things that we can do to help this. First, we need to generate additional release time monies from research contracts which will provide additional funds at the departmental level - which in turn means that we can be more creative with the salary money that we have. Second, as mentioned below, we are SIGNIFICANTLY behind our peers in the number of endowed positions at K-State - which also allows us to supplement current salary monies. We do have some data sorted by department which compares salaries against our peers - and I know we have a lot to do to catch up. These are my current thoughts - I would be happy to hear any creative ideas out there on other ways to enhance our salaries.

Betsy Cauble Good Evening, Welcome to the first Faculty Chat with Kirk. This is an opportunity to ask our president whatever is on your mind. I'm looking forward to the next hour, so let's get started........ Betsy Cauble, Faculty Senate President

Jane Dunstan asks:Umberger Hall has no hot water. This is unhealthy for faculty, staff and students; not to mention embarrassing when clients or visitors come into the building.

Kirk Schulz I was not aware of this - and will discuss this with the facilities folks tomorrow morning. We have various infrastructure issues similar to this across campus - and we are working on developing a plan to do more than band-aid solutions to our physical infrastructure.

Esther Swilley asks:As your initiative to make KSU a top 50 research university, will this mean adding more PhD programs?

Kirk Schulz I think that it certainly can! As we move through the planning process - particularly looking at our graduate educational experience - we will need to make sure we have the right mix of doctoral programs. The most obvious ones to add would be in the humanities - where we are significantly short of doctoral programs compared with peer institutions.

Amy Hubbell asks:In the Lawrence Journal-World (Nov. 17) and in your Research Infrastructure Task Force Update this morning, you express concern about faculty retention. Given that funding is limited, can you elaborate on what initiatives are currently in place or immediately planned for retaining mid-career and highly productive faculty?

Kirk Schulz I like nice easy questions like this one! There are no programs which are currently in place which will address this issue - although we have worked to match salaries when people have received other offers in some cases over the past 18 months. However, encouraging people to look at other universities in order to be recognized as productive faculty members at K-State is NOT the right way to do this. There have been several programs at K-State in the past which have focused on this issue - including one where department heads had some available monies to provide permanent substantive increases to highly productive faculty. If we can find the funds, I would like to reinstitute this effort. Finally, we really need to ramp up the number of endowed chairs at K-State - we need 250 or 300 chairs - not the current 50 or so that we have. This is long term - but is what we need to have to really address this issue.

Sara Goldsby asks:what are your biggest concern regarding budget issues for next year.

Kirk Schulz I have several key concerns. First, it is critical that we not take any further cuts to the K-State budget. The governor-elect has discussed keeping the higher education budget at the same level as last year - which is welcome news. Second, health care costs continue to increase by 10+% per year - and this money has to come from somewhere. This last year much of our tuition increase went to simply fund additional health care costs. Finally, we have gone 2 years with no salary increases - at a time when our faculty and staff have given back to K-State in record levels, when our new grants and contracts are at an all time high, and when our teaching and advising responsibilities have increased substantially - we need to find some way to give an across the board salary increase. Besides these items - I am fine!

Raylene Alexander asks:This may not be the place to ask the question, but I would like to know why KSU does not offer its 9-month faculty the choice of getting their paycheck spread over 12 months. It would seem to be a financial benefit to the school and the faculty. Thank you

Kirk Schulz Excellent question. At the previous two universities where I worked, we had a program where faculty members could elect to have their 9-month salary spread over 12 months, and were surprised to learn that this was not routinely available at Kansas State. I will talk with Bruce Shubert and see what it would take to set up a similar program here at Kansas State!

Kirk Schulz Hello! My driveway was blocked with construction outside of Justin Hall - but I am now logged on - with a cold beverage - and am ready to type away.

Dale Bremer asks:President Schulz. This isn't a question but I want to thank you and Noel for allowing us to place our tripod weather stations on your lawn a couple of weeks back. It was a great way to obtain on-campus visibility for our lawn-irrigation research project!

Kirk Schulz We were happy to help! I did get lots of questions about what was going on in the yard - I hope you got some useful data. Given my current job raising money and promoting the university - this was the closest I have been to real research in some time.

David Anderson asks:Salaries continue to be frozen. This puts KSU at a competitive disadvantage for recruitment and retention of faculty. What is being done to resolve the freeze and adjust to peer institutions for competitive salary?

Kirk Schulz We (the university leadership) are continuing to work with the Kansas Board of Regents on salary issues - which is our most promising short term solution. Faculty endowed positions is the most likely solution for long term salary issues. I am working hard on both fronts.

Gerald Reeck asks:Hi Dr. Schulz -- What is the timeline on NBAF's coming to fruition and how do you seek us as a campus interacting with NBAF? Related to this: What role does our BRI have in working with NBAF now, during the next few years, and into the future once NBAF is up and running? Thanks. Jerry Reeck Biochemistry

Kirk Schulz The timeline for NBAF remains the same - and if you drive by the NBAF site you can certainly see that construction of the Central Utility Plant (CUP) is underway. I would love to see the interaction between K-State and NBAF much the same as the interactions between the University of Tennessee and the Oak Ridge National Lab - including joint research projects and joint hires with dual appointments at K-State and NBAF. We are working with the KBA to develop a funding stream for transitioning research projects from Plum Island to the BRI as we speak - so having a fully functioning BRI is critical to advancing K-State as a leader in the type of research currently done at Plum Island. I could go on for awhile about this - but the bottom line is that we are going to have a federal lab right next door to K-State - and the ultimate impact on K-State will depend on how we build collaborations between these two organizations. I am optimistic - but then again - I still believe in Santa Claus!

Kaleen Sue Knopp asks:As K-State expands to three campuses (Manhattan, Olathe, and Salina), how will the campuses be similar and different?

Kirk Schulz I think we have to consider Kansas State University to be a three campus system - with each campus having a distinctly different focus and mission. In many ways land grant universities are "systems" with our extension service - but having comprehensive campuses is a different beast. I see the Olathe campus as having a strong graduate educational emphasis - particularly on adult learners on people already with jobs looking for graduate degrees to enhance career opportunities. I see the Salina campus as a "private school experience at a public university price" - with a much more intimate atmosphere than in Manhattan. Finally, our comprehensive campus will always be in Manhattan campus - three campuses and "One K-State!"

Kaleen Sue Knopp What are your plans for including faculty input on the development of Vision 2025 development and implemetation strategies?

David Anderson asks:The second environmental impact study made by the DHS raised more concerns regardingn locating NBAF in Manhattan. Can you share an update regarding this project and how it may impact KSU? If the NBAF project does not move forward, what will be out liability exposure based on financial investment to date?

Kirk Schulz The second environmental study was seriously flawed - and the group conducting the study used it as an opportunity to discuss a broad range of issues related to select agent research - which were outside of the intended scope of the study. Additionally, many of the criticisms offered in the report were based on a design which is only about 25% complete - and not the finalized design of the NBAF facilities. However, it would be foolish to not respond to the issues raised in a comprehensive fashion, and as such, many of the concerns echoed in the report will be considered as the finalized facility design is done. Finally, we still need an NBAF facility to ensure that we can adequately address food safety in the U.S. - and we have strong support from the Departments of Homeland Security and the USDA that Manhattan Kansas is the right place to build such a facility.

Jun Li asks:I have joined KSU since summer 2007. One of the major problems that I encountered is the lack of a state-of-the-art centralized facility such as microfabrication or microscopic characterization. There is apparently even no plan at university level to build such infrastructure which will benefits many researchers. This put KSU at a much less competitive position. How will president Schulz address this issue?

Kirk Schulz The Research Infrastructure Task Force (RITF) addressed this issue directly - and I concur that we need to develop more centralized facilities with an impact across the campus research culture. As our financial picture improves, we will need to invest additional funds in high-impact facilities that will improve the research opportunities for our students, staff, and faculty. However, this is more of a 5 year goal than something that can happen immediately.

Joel Matthews asks:The numbering system of courses seems, for some departments, rather skewed in favor of 500+ level courses; particularly when compared to similar institutions. This presents a problem for some faculty adopting new and interesting classes in an effort towards improving the quality of student life and learning. What do you think about this and do you feel this is worthy of investigation?

Kirk Schulz I was not aware of this - and I will certainly discuss this with Provost Mason at our next meeting. However, I am unsure how the course numbering will prevent us from offering creative and new courses. Are you referring to the fact that these upper level courses will not be available for freshman and sophomore students?

Robert Tibbetts asks:What is the State of Kansas' position on graduate programs going forward?

Kirk Schulz New graduate degree programs are being approved - the University of Kansas just received authorization from the Kansas Board of Regents for a new program this month. However, we have to be incredibly selective on what we bring forward given the financial situation which exists in Kansas. However, I think we need to be planning now - so when the door opens back up - we know what we want to add and have identified appropriate resources to adequately fund new programs.

Betsy Cauble Several faculty members have expressed concern about athletic events being scheduled during weekdays when classes are in session. What are your thoughts about this?

Kirk Schulz Folks - thanks for sending in questions and participating! It is my goal to communicate with the campus community in many different ways - and these on-line chats will hopefully be another way to continue to move K-State forward. Have a great evening!

Dana Nordyke asks:Hi Dr. Schulz, I am a KSU alumni from both my undergrad and grad degrees and am now employed with the university. As an avid catbacker and athlethic supporter I am concerned that our students are required to be in class when our major athletic events are broadcast during the daytime. I understand the academic nature of this university and I respect all of the progress accomplished in the classroom. I know you are an active athletic supporter as well so I'm wondering how you feel about our students being punished if they are not in class while these games are taking place? It seems that if we are going to honor a great like Tex Winter that the students, faculty, and staff should all be allowed to attend amd show their support especially when KSU is being featured on large broadcast networks. Any thoughts? Thank you for your time and consideration in doing these chats!

Kirk Schulz This is a pretty controversial topic. Some faculty feel that athletics already has a larger role within academia than it should - and that athletic events should always be secondary to academics in the university community. Others are strong fans of athletics, and feel that we should cancel classes when we have "significant" athletic events - like those you mention. So, at least for the time being - we will continue to conduct "business as usual" when we have Thursday football games or mid-day basketball games - and continue to seek the advice of the university community on the appropriateness of our decisions. How is this for a "side stepping" presidential answer?

Kirk Schulz A research culture is a tough thing to really measure and assess. I would argue that within some units on campus - we already have a strong research culture (like some of our science departments). Within some units, research is still considered more of a "hobby" activity - do it only if you have spare time. I would like to see us continue to move towards a campus atmosphere where nationally recognized scholarly work is not just an expectation of the administration - but is considered part of the fabric of our university - that is immediately picked up when anyone visits our campus.

Kirk Schulz Faculty involvement in K-State 2025 will be critical to our success. Thus far, most of the work done has really been to put a framework up for our long term planning - and my November letter to campus (coming out later this week) will address the next steps. The tough part - and most fun part - will be to actually start dreaming about what our undergraduate program would look like at a top 50 public research university - what our infrastructure will look like, etc... As we have done to date - there will be plenty of opportunity for EVERYONE to participate on-line and in groups on campus.

David Rintoul One of the things that the Research Infrastructure Task Force was to develop a "research culture" at KSU. That's a pretty vague goal. Do you have any specific ideas about how we can accomplish that?