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Office of the President

Letters to Campus

November 30, 2009

Dear K-State Faculty and Staff,

Happy Holidays from Anderson Hall! I know this is a very busy time of year with grading and other end of the semester activities, and I hope that you and your families had a relaxing Thanksgiving break.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all of the faculty and staff members who participated in the 2009 All University Campaign. We had a record participation level -- 34 percent -- this year, up from 32 percent last year. This effort raised more than $2 million, with over 1,800 of you pledging your financial support to help K-State. I thank Cheryl Grice, Brad Kramer, Darla Thomas, and Laurel Littrell for serving as co-chairs for this year's campaign.

I would also like to thank the provost search committee for their outstanding work in our recent provost and senior vice president search. I have talked with Dr. Mason frequently over the past several weeks, and she is eager to join us as soon as possible in early 2010. We will have a welcome reception for her on December 14, 2009, at the Alumni Center, and I hope that all of you will come out and welcome April to the K-State family.

I would like to also take this opportunity to give a special thanks to Dr. Ruth Dyer, who has served as our interim provost and senior vice president. Ruth has done a wonderful job leading our academic enterprise over the past six months, and I appreciate her time, effort, and leadership during this time of transition.

As we enter the final stages of our search for a vice president for communications and marketing, my office has been working with the other vice presidents on the set of units who will constitute the Office of Communications and Marketing, or OCM. Presently, the units that will constitute OCM include the office of media relations (currently reports to the chief of staff), the office of university publications (currently reports to the vice president for student life), the Educational Communications Center (currently reports to the provost), and the office of printing services (currently reports to the vice president for student life). The office of licensing will report jointly to the athletics director and the vice president for communications and marketing. The new vice president will also be charged with responsibility for the university Web page design and content, so several people from ITS will eventually transfer to the OCM.

Over the last several months, I have had the opportunity to discuss our land grant mission and the components of a student-centered research university in my letters to campus. This month, I want to continue to discuss aspects of our research enterprise, with a special focus on our research infrastructure at Kansas State. The good news is that our new sponsored research continues to grow each year. Indeed, our new grants and contracts numbers have doubled over the past decade -- a testament to the quality proposals submitted by our faculty and staff to national and international funding agencies. The bad news is that we have not kept pace with this growth with our research infrastructure -- including people, overhead return, equipment, graduate student stipend levels, and research administration.

First, it will be critical to ensure that we have enough people in the right places to support our research enterprise. This needs to include a comprehensive analysis of staffing needs from pre-award/post-award services to senior level leadership positions within the office of research. In the end, we will certainly need to fill some key spots where we are significantly understaffed -- but we need to identify the most critical areas of need and develop a plan for how we can meet these needs in times of budgetary decreases.

Second, we need to examine our equipment and laboratory needs, in particular examining the potential for establishing university-wide laboratories which could meet the needs of many of our researchers across campus. Additionally, we need to identify key facilities and equipment needs which can significantly advance our research enterprise across multiple disciplines.

Third, we will want to look at our research policies and procedures on campus to ensure that we are continuing to promote a culture of interdisciplinary research across Kansas State University. Many of the world's pressing research problems are at the boundaries between traditional disciplines, and it is critical that we have an environment in place which will promote the formation of research teams to tackle these major issues.

Fourth, we need to ensure that we are building research infrastructure which can elevate our research and scholarly activities at K-State across all disciplines. While the financial and laboratory needs may not be as significant in the humanities and social sciences as in engineering and the physical and biological sciences, it is important that we grow the scholarly opportunities for all of our faculty members at K-State.

Fifth, we need to examine our support mechanisms for graduate students on campus, including a multitude of issues surrounding tuition for doctoral students. Additionally, there are significant discrepancies across campus on tuition remission for GTAs and GRAs, and we need to develop some consistent best practices on these issues, which will involve both the Graduate School and the Office of Research.

Finally, I want us to take a look at the way in which we distribute our returned overhead funds. As we grow our research funding base, it is important that we have a uniform plan in place for the distribution of these funds which will provide needed monies for our research infrastructure at the department, college, center, and university level. Additionally, we need to be sure we have effective plans in place for handling overhead funds for large, interdisciplinary (and sometimes multi-university) research projects.

So, how do we go about addressing these important issues? After discussion with Ron Trewyn, vice president for research, we are going to convene a Research Task Force to meet during the spring semester to examine our research infrastructure. This group will be tasked with examining these questions and any other appropriate concerns which need to be addressed as we continue to grow our research enterprise at Kansas State University.

If you have any comments or suggestions you would like to share about our research infrastructure, I encourage you to send them via email. I have completed almost six months serving as your president, and feel honored to work with all of you as we move K-State forward.

Go Cats!