The experience, expertise, creativity and eagerness of K-State's faculty and administrators have prepared a venerable land-grant university for its 21st century role as a center for innovation, Provost Duane Nellis said during his State of the University presentation Sept. 12.
He listed several initiatives that make K-State "a unique and forward-looking institution," among them "our emphasis on departments setting priorities for academic achievement, our university-based interdisciplinary Targeted Excellence grant program, and our efforts to be more engaged, entrepreneurial and international as an institution."
In addition to crediting research scholars for K-State's increased national prominence, Nellis pointed to impressive tallies in research dollars, national awards for faculty, national and international awards and scholarships for students, and records in numbers of international students and private giving.
But Nellis also raised the importance of continued improvement as the 2011 reaccreditation visit approaches, particularly in enhanced diversity of faculty and students, the need for an updated strategic plan, approval of a new general education curriculum and associated full cycle assessment of student learner outcomes, and enhanced engagement across the university and across the state. Nellis also spoke to the need to improve faculty and staff salaries in line with peer institutions.
He praised such initiatives as the Developing Scholars Program, Bridges and Project Impact, which work with underrepresented students and their families, as ways "to provide a seamless track to success at K-State."
Other efforts to increase K-State's accessibility, including two-plus-two arrangements with community colleges, also have brought more high-quality students to campus, he said.
Just as important as retaining and supporting students and faculty is the need to more aggressively internationalize their university experiences, Nellis said.
That will mean more incentives for faculty to create opportunities for students internationally. Details of a new university grant program for faculty to support such activities will be announced soon, Nellis said.
In emphasizing entrepreneurship, Nellis defined it as "moving our land-grant institution to new levels of innovation, being more creative and taking advantage of opportunities to extend our knowledge discoveries to new business opportunities."
Extending K-State's assets and expertise across the campus and the state is the essence of engagement, Nellis said. He cited the Center for Engagement and Community Development for "fusing our knowledge base on campus with communities in the state through our Extension network."
Nellis lauded the career-long devotion of retiring deans Stephen White, Arts and Sciences, and Dennis Law, Architecture, Planning and Design.
"These two individuals have committed their lives to the university and have done an extraordinary job."
Nellis then summarized plans for searches related to these deanships and other university administrative posts.
He expressed his hope that a new president will be named in time to have a hand in final selections for the deanships.
Despite administrative transitions and a climate of fiscal uncertainty, Nellis expressed enthusiasm for the opportunities ahead for K-State.
"That optimism, which is now a hallmark of Kansas State University, is a tribute to the leadership that Dr. Wefald has provided over the past 22 years," Nellis said.
Photo: Duane Nellis, provost and senior vice president, addresses attendees of the 23rd State of the University presentations Sept. 12.