Letters to Campus
June 29, 2009
Dear K-State Faculty and Staff:
Greetings from Anderson Hall in Manhattan! It is a real pleasure to finally be here in Kansas full time. I am currently living in a two bedroom condominium across from campus while we are getting renovations finished on the presidential residence.
I sent out an e-mail note last week on the transition audit, and I apologize if you received multiple copies of this note. We had modified the letter for our alumni, and sent out two notes that were very close to identical. In the future, we will ensure that we send one uniform letter to both groups – so please chalk this up as a learning experience for a rookie president!
This has certainly been one of the unique periods in my life – I have been welcomed by a group of music educators singing the Cowboy National Anthem – "Home on the Range" and I received many electronic greetings – but the most unique greeting so far has been the "Tap-O-Gram." For those of you who may not be familiar with the "Tap-O-Gram" – a group of our students show up (there were four K-State students for mine) wearing costumes and tap dancing shoes, play some appropriate music with an iPod, and then do a tap dancing routine for the audience. Each participant brings a portable tap dancing board they use to dance on. Of course, things like this aren't as much fun if there aren't a bunch of friends and colleagues around to see it – so I received my "Tap-O-Gram" on the second floor of the alumni center in front of about 20 people. The real culmination of the entire event was that I turned very red-faced during the performance – which I am sure is part of the entire "Tap-O-Gram" experience. So, if you raea lly want to send a unique message – forget telegrams, telephones, or email – send a "Tap-O-Gram."
I am very excited to welcome Dr. Ruth Dyer as our interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. I very much appreciate Dr. Dyer's willingness to step forward and provide leadership for our academic enterprise as we conduct a national search. I am also pleased to report that Dr. Chuck Reagan will be serving as the chief of staff for the president's office. With the elimination of the vice president for institutional advancement position, I am still in the process of working with our campus leadership to be sure all of the duties formerly carried out in this office are assigned to existing staff members. I will keep the campus community updated as we modify assignments within Anderson Hall.
One of the challenges with being a newcomer to campus is just trying to get out and meet people, see our campus buildings and learn a little more about our academic programs. In the last couple of months, I have been able to spend a couple of hours each visiting the Colleges of Agriculture; Architecture, Planning and Design; Business Administration; Education; Human Ecology; Engineering; Technology and Aviation (Salina Campus), and Veterinary Medicine. I will be scheduling visits to the College of Arts and Sciences, the Library, Continuing Education and the Graduate School as the summer progresses.
I have had the pleasure of meeting many enthusiastic faculty, staff and students who enjoy working at K-State, and are proud of the job they do. People are really our most important resource, and I am very impressed with the quality of K-State personnel. On the flip side of the coin, there is a significant disparity on campus in terms of the quality of our facilities. I am sure this will surprise no one, but being new to campus I am finding some facilities that are among the best in the country along with other facilities that should probably be bulldozed.
Occasionally in my communications with campus, I will talk about a topic which is particularly relevant at that time of the academic year. This month, I would like to visit with you a little bit about my general thoughts on "internal" versus "external" university presidents.
This was a topic which came up frequently during my interviews – what percentage of my time did I intend to spend on activities external to the university compared with activities internal to the university. One of the more accepted models in higher education administration is where the president essentially becomes the outside face of the university and the provost serves as the inside face of the university. While I do think this is largely true, I believe this is an overly simplistic explanation.
The role of a university president continues to evolve. While running a university has always been a complex job, I think it has changed over time to require very divergent skill sets to be successful. To make an ideal president, I believe you need the following ingredients – stellar fundraiser, exceptional scholar (preferably with an international reputation), winner of several teaching awards, politically astute and well connected, committed to shared governance, experience as an administrator at multiple prestigious universities, an academic pedigree from a top tier research university and an excellent communicator. You put all of these ingredients together in a bowl, mix well, bake in the oven, and out pops the ideal university president. As you know, the reality of a university president is that virtually no one has all of the attributes to be an ideal president – just as it is extremely challenging to describe the job as either exclusively external or internal.
My goal as K-State president is to work with the university community to help us move towards greater national prominence in teaching, scholarship and engagement. To do this means that I will need to have a thorough understanding of our institutional strengths - including how we operate as a university, an internal function – as well as to communicate our dreams and vision to a large number of constituencies, an external function. For the past several months, I have found that each day and each week where I am representing K-State is just a little bit different, with some weeks almost exclusively spent outside of Manhattan and others spent getting to know the faculty, staff and students on campus.
So, will I be an internal president or an external president? I don't think it is really possible to fully answer this question yet. I am enjoying getting to know the K-State family both on campus, in Manhattan, and within the State of Kansas. I continue to be impressed with the passion of our alumni, the breadth and depth of excellence at K-State, and the opportunities for us to continue to seek greatness as a university.
I hope all of you have a great summer!