Letters to campus

August 2014

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Greetings from Anderson Hall! Once again, another summer has passed and the K-State Class of 2018 will arrive on campus during the upcoming weeks. While I certainly enjoy lighter traffic and being able to eat in Aggieville with no wait, I am always excited to see the campus in full swing. There is a vibrancy on a college campus during the beginning of fall semester, which is now almost upon us!

Like many of you, I try to find some time away from Manhattan during the summer. These times away from K-State are excellent for refreshment and reflection. During these summer reflection times — often relaxing on the lake — I think back on the wonderful successes enjoyed by members of the K-State family during the previous academic year. Predictably, I also think about K-State 2025 — now a couple of years old — and reflect upon the importance of our strategic plan moving forward.

In my conversations with faculty, staff and students, I often hear recurring questions or statements. "How are we ever going to pay for everything in K-State 2025?" "Where are we going to get all the new faculty and staff positions we need for K-State 2025?" "The plan is fine — I just don't think it will ever happen here." I simply don't have answers to all of these important and very relevant questions, though I wish I did! However, I also am very confident that if we don't have some sort of plan laid out at all levels across K-State, we won't be able to respond to new opportunities as they arise, including new funding sources that we can't always anticipate. The bottom line is that although the path forward is not always crystal clear, if we are flexible and nimble enough in our quest forward, I am confident we will get there!

This summer, Noel and I had the opportunity to visit the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida. During a tour of the museum reflecting on Thomas Edison's inventions and creativity we saw a sign with the following quote: "Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." I am amazed at how hard K-State faculty and staff work to create an outstanding educational experience for our undergraduate and graduate students. One of the keys to success in K-State 2025 is not how inspired or visionary our plan is, but rather how hard everyone works to make it a reality. I believe we have a great team of dedicated professionals across all four K-State campuses — Manhattan, Salina, Olathe and Global — that are our greatest resource.

I also believe that public higher education is changing at a dramatic pace across the nation. Critics of higher education are actively attacking the liberal arts core of our educational system and are starting to gain traction with many constituent groups outside of higher education. The rising amount of student debt, the growth of online educational experiences and job placement rates classified by degree program are all receiving significantly more attention than even five years ago. Across the country more states are decreasing investments in public higher education while simultaneously demanding increased accountability from universities. K-State 2025 certainly does not satisfy all of these issues, but it does provide us with the ability to communicate to our external audiences a desire to be accountable, responsive and to explicitly measure our progress.

One of the frequent comments I hear from visitors to campus is that they hear a lot about K-State 2025 from faculty, staff and students. What visitors find truly remarkable is that a significant majority of the campus community not only knows the name of our strategic plan but also knows our overall goal. I have visited many universities where once you get outside the senior administration most people are unaware if a strategic plan even exists. If we have all 5,500 faculty and staff members working to find ways to do a better job with our undergraduate and graduate students, we will certainly accomplish many of the ideas laid out in K-State 2025. If we can find ways to get the entire K-State family all pulling in the same direction, it will be amazing what we can accomplish as a university.

Finally, I continue to be very impressed with the new ideas that have come forth throughout the K-State 2025 planning process at the departmental, college and university levels. At the end of the day, the role of the administration is to help find creative ways to take the outstanding ideas generated by our campus community through K-State 2025 and make them a reality. While I am sometimes frustrated about how long it takes us to move a great idea along, it is my hope that by asking ourselves questions about where we would like to be in our future that we continue to grow and evolve.

I am looking forward to the 2014-15 academic year and appreciate all that each of you do to make K-State a special place to learn, work and discover.

Go Cats!

Kirk