Letters to Campus

April 2009

Dear Faculty and Staff--

Greetings! I hope this note finds you doing well as the semester is coming to an end. Throughout my academic career I have always found the time between spring break and graduation to be one of the busiest times of the year with many end-of-the-year banquets and other events. I always looked forward to the summer when I felt that I could concentrate on research, catch up on my reading, submit a couple of proposals, and in general try to cram six months of backlogged work into a three month period! Thus, regardless of what your summer plans are, I hope you find it a productive time.

When I was growing up, I remember the song by Queen, "We are the Champions" which was played at many sporting events. At K-State, I want us to compete for national prominence in anything possible — not just athletics. As many of you may have seen in the news media, K-State is home to the national champion Soil Judging Team — which actually defended their national title earned a year ago. Our team finished ahead of Purdue, WVU, Maryland, and Tennessee. Congratulations to our two-time national champion Soil Judging Team — let's keep the streak going and go for three in a row in 2010.

I would also like to congratulate Coach Brad Hill and our baseball team, who made their debut this week at #21 in the Baseball America Poll. College baseball is booming across the nation, and I am proud of how well we are doing this season. If you haven't had a chance to go out and watch a baseball game this season — check out the schedule, put on your K-State gear, and cheer on our team.

During my campus visits, I continue to be impressed with all of the outstanding programs and successes by our faculty, staff, and students. Generally, most of my meetings to date have been with the vice presidents and other members of the executive leadership team. During my last visit, I had some informal meetings with the deans, at which time we discussed a broad range of issues, including enrollment, fundraising, K-State 2025, and what I can be doing to support each of the academic colleges. I also had the opportunity to visit with the Student Senate, our new student officers, and coaches and staff in the athletic department. During my future visits, I am scheduling two-hour visits to each college in order to meet with as many of the faculty and staff as possible, tour facilities, and to get a little more in-depth view of the challenges and opportunities at the college level.

When I am speaking to any group, the university budget is one of the things that always arises during the question and answer period. We, as a university, will face many challenges in terms of university finances in the next 24 to 36 months. Indeed, this is an unprecedented time in higher education — which in turn means that we are going to face some very significant decisions about our future. I believe that nationwide, universities will take two very different paths.

At some institutions, the university community will come together in a collegial fashion and jointly make tough and controversial decisions. This is a "roll up our sleeves" and work together philosophy that will be critically important in the next couple of years. The alternative pathway is that a university will rapidly descend into an "us versus them" mindset — and instead of applying creative, courageous solutions, a truly dysfunctional situation will be the status quo that no amount of money or change in personnel will ever fix. I am very confident that K-State will be in the first category — and I will do everything that I can to ensure that we keep communications open, that we evaluate every reasonable idea as thoroughly as possible, and that we make decisions in the spirit of shared governance that is a hallmark of American universities.

Some other notes of interest —

   I am extremely pleased with the caliber of candidates that we have attracted for the Dean of Arts and Sciences position, the Dean of Architecture, Planning, and Design position, and the Associate Provost for International Programs position. It speaks very highly of our institution that we are able to attract experienced academic administrators to want to come and work at K-State. I want to thank the search committees who worked long hours to attract these quality applicant pools.

   It is a significant challenge to find ways to continue to creatively publicize the successes of our faculty, staff, and students, particularly to the students of tomorrow. One of the newest venues for promoting universities is YouTube. There are many groups at K-State which have YouTube sites including admissions - Consider K-State; and K-State athletics. I have asked Cheryl May in the president's office to begin the process of setting up an "official" K-State YouTube site which will be the main university portal for YouTube. All of the other YouTube sites associated with K-State will still be maintained by their present owners — and will have links on our main K-State YouTube site.

Just to give you a flavor for what a university site can look like —

University of Texas

University of Minnesota

This will be very much a work in progress — and it will be several months before the site goes "live" — but I do think we will have this up and going by mid-summer. Please let Cheryl know if you have any suggestions for content or other ideas. I would like to thank Cheryl and her team and Lynn Carlin and her team for working together on this. Michael Wesch has given invaluable guidance to this effort as well.

Good luck as the semester comes to an end, and please keep sending me email notes with comments and suggestions — I appreciate your willingness to share your ideas and concerns with me.

Go Cats!

Kirk