*Editor's note: This is an adapted version of a story in the Summer 2009 edition of K-Stater, the K-State Alumni Association's quarterly magazine. The original version is available at http://tinyurl.com/lyw8jh
Kirk Schulz, a chemical engineer who speaks with a slight Virginia accent, said he has experienced a most pleasant surprise since the Kansas Board of Regents named him Jon Wefald's replacement Feb. 11. That surprise is the passion students, faculty and staff have for K-State and how much they say they look forward to doing some things differently. It is a rare combination to find, he said.
From June 15, his first official day as president, until early next year, Schulz, 45, wants to spend much of his time meeting and listening to K-Staters to learn as much as possible about the institution.
Following that, the former Mississippi State University vice president for research and economic development plans to bring a broad spectrum of K-Staters together to develop a strategic plan for what the university will resemble in 2025. That unhurried process of perhaps 12-18 months will form the vision of the Schulz presidency.
The new president, who will be inaugurated in the fall, said that everyone at the university will be involved in shaping and implementing his vision for the future.
"This is going to engage the K-State community like it has not been done in many, many years. Everybody is going to have a chance to put it together," Schulz said. "Everybody is going to have a chance to comment on the draft, but then when we finally get it done, we're going to have something we can use for a long time. This is where we are going as an institution."
In that plan Schulz said things like how K-State compares to other national research universities and what it means to have a K-State education will be outlined. Areas of focus for the future also will be a major part of that document.
Preparing K-State students to operate in an increasingly global world will likely be one of many areas of pursuit.
"We live in such an international world now that we have got to do a better job in higher education to equip our students for a global economy," he said. "We need to make sure K-Staters who may be in a leadership position in that community, who work in economic development or run a business feel comfortable dealing with a culture outside of America. Today, all of our students also need to understand how to operate in a diverse environment."
Schulz said he is also sensitive to the challenge of implementing change in times of economic difficulty.
"It is going to be too easy for us to get discouraged because we're going to have less money to use than we had in previous years, and we're going to have a couple years of that," Schulz said. "The senior administration is going to have to do an outstanding job ensuring we put an environment together that when we reduce resources, we can collectively make some good things happen."
Though he's been around K-State only a short time, Schulz said that he's excited that everyone is so passionate about K-State and that that will be key to the university's future success.
"Everybody I talk to loves being here. They enjoy being a faculty member, a student or a staff member," he said. "When I talk to people, I think they are ready to say, 'Hey, let's look at doing some things differently.'"
Photos: Clockwise from top left: K-State's 13th president, Kirk Schulz' term officially began June 15; Schulz converses with Chris Sorensen, University Distinguished Professor of physics; a recent portrait of the Schulz family; Schulz shakes hands with Wayne Stoskopf, vice president of K-State's Student Governing Association.