Letters to Campus

May 21, 2009

Dear Faculty and Staff —

Greetings from Mississippi! I just had my last official day at Mississippi State University on May 15, and it was a strange feeling turning off the lights in my office and walking down the hallway for the last time. However, I am now turning my full time attention to coming to K-State in early June — and I cannot wait to get started!

Throughout our careers, we all have challenges that cause us to work hard and really excel. I have also had several times when luck played a key role in my success as well. I was reminded of this most recently on my May trip to Manhattan for a three day visit.

To set the stage a bit, I must tell you that while I love athletics, I am not personally a gifted athlete. So, several months ago, I talked with our colleagues in K-State Athletics, and asked if I could attend a Wildcat baseball game and visit with some donors during the game. As part of the deal, I was also asked to throw out the first pitch.

I am not a good baseball player. Actually, I am a terrible baseball player. My greatest fear was that I would throw the ball and it wouldn't even get to the catcher — that it would bounce a couple of times in front of nearly 3,500 people.

The day of the game (the Texas Tech — K-State series), I stepped in front of the mound, and made the luckiest throw I have ever thrown — right to the catcher! If I tried to make the same throw 25 more times, I am convinced that it would hit the dirt every time. I would love to tell you that I had prepared for this throw for several weeks — but the truth be told — it was luck. So, the force was with me on that day.

I am very pleased to welcome John Currie to K-State as our new athletic director. John comes to K-State from the University of Tennessee, where he served as the executive associate athletic director. Throughout the interview process, John rose to the top in a very strong applicant pool. I am thrilled that he and his family will be joining us in Manhattan in early June. I know that he will be active in communicating with the campus community what is happening in athletics, and I urge all of you to join me in welcoming him to Manhattan and K-State.

Our student teams continue to excel at national and international competitions, and we have two additional national championship teams I am pleased to highlight:

   A K-State team of construction science students was awarded first place in the International Concrete Construction competition sponsored by the American Concrete Institute. A total of 52 different teams competed.

   For the eighth time in the last 11 years, the Kansas State University Crops Team won first place in the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture national crops contest. This year's event was April 17 at the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, Ohio, and featured 17 teams from two- and four-year schools.

As many of you know, our provost search is underway. I would like to thank John English, dean of engineering, for agreeing to chair this committee. Last week, the search committee held its first meeting, and asked that I give the committee their "charge" as one of the first steps in the search process. I was able to link in via videoconference from MSU to K-State (don't you love technology!), and shared six key points with the search committee. I would like to share these with you as well so the campus community is aware of some of what I communicated to the search committee:

First and foremost, my desire is that we find the best provost possible. I know this may seem like a simplistic statement, but I really want us to shoot high in this search. K-State has a lot to offer, and I don't want us ever to settle for just any candidate for any position — but instead to be sure we take the time to find the right candidate.

Second, I believe that some dean level experience is very important. While this may exclude some non-traditional candidates, I believe it is important for our next provost to have served as both a department head and dean. Administratively, I learned a tremendous amount serving in both of these positions, and want to ensure that our next provost has had similar types of academic experience.

Third, we need a provost with a strong record of academic leadership. It is important for our next provost to have a strong track record of innovative leadership, particularly as it relates to recruiting and retaining faculty members, effective communication skills, student retention, and the ability to provide a strong vision for our academic programs.

Fourth, it is important that we build a very diverse executive team to lead K-State into the future. As such, the search for our next provost is an opportune time to recruit a very broad and diverse applicant pool. As part of this process, we will have the opportunity to aggressively pursue candidates from women and underrepresented minority groups as provost candidates.

Fifth, our next provost will need to bring a strong background in private fundraising to K-State. Over the next several years, we will be starting to plan for a $1B capital campaign to build on the success of the Changing Lives campaign. In order to build our endowment, secure additional endowed faculty positions, and build up the resources needed for additional scholarships, the next provost will need to take an active leadership role in this upcoming campaign.

Sixth, I am not overly concerned about the academic discipline of the provost. It is important that the provost have a strong record of academic achievement that will be respected by the academic community within K-State. I weigh that much more heavily than what a candidate studied while in school.

I would expect that each of you would have your own set of key attributes for our next provost, and I would be happy to hear your opinions on this topic

Finally, I remain committed to try and keep communications as open as possible as your president. I have a Facebook page (and certainly welcome any friend invitations from the K-State community). I am an active blogger on Twitter — my Twitter name is "kstate_pres." These electronic social networking programs are fun, interesting to use, and a great way for me to stay connected with the K-State family.

Please keep sending me e-mail notes. And I really appreciate those of you who have come up and introduced yourselves to me while I am on campus. I hope all of you have a productive summer!

Go Cats!

Kirk