Letters to Campus
Dear K-State Faculty and Staff,
Greetings from Anderson Hall! With this upcoming weekend, I will have officially been at Kansas State University for a year — and what a year it has been! I thought I would take the opportunity this month to share some of my reflections on my first year serving as your president. My thoughts are just those — reflections and impressions — so I suspect that for some of these items there may be differences of opinion across campus. So, grab your favorite cold beverage and enjoy some «light» summer reading!
First, the people who work at Kansas State are our most significant resource. I have been amazed at the wonderful quality of our faculty and staff — who work extra hours, are paid less than their peers, and function in subpar facilities — all without complaining. Generally, our faculty and staff work together better than at any other university I have been associated with. When I hear of your professional achievements throughout the year, I always walk a little prouder that day — which serves as a reminder of why I like working in a university environment, and why K-State is a special place.
Second, there is significant disparity across campus in the quality and quantity of classroom/office/research space. Over the last year, I had the opportunity to visit all of our colleges and walk through the majority of our academic buildings. In some units on campus we have three tenure-track faculty members all sharing one small office. In other areas, the wireless Internet connectivity on campus is non-existent in some faculty/staff/student spaces. In short, we have significant physical infrastructure needs simply to ensure we have a work environment conducive to performing scholarship, teaching our students, and working on our service and extension missions. Our space needs on campus will continue to be a significant challenge well into the future.
Third, Kansas State is proud of our decentralized administrative and financial structure — which is sometimes good and sometimes not very efficient. At many land grant universities, there is a strong history of a decentralized administrative approach where most of the substantive resources are allocated at the college level, with a relatively lean set of centralized resources. This makes perfect sense for resources such as faculty lines and research funds. However, this can lead to significant duplication, which in the long run is more costly. As we move forward into the future, we need to continue to dialog about the most efficient approaches to providing needed services and not be as concerned about whether we maintain our history of decentralizing most functions.
Fourth, we must tell the stories of our success more frequently (faculty/staff/students) and to a broader audience. During my visits to different units on campus, I always come away impressed with the national and international achievements of our faculty, staff, and students across virtually all disciplines. However, as I often found out during informal discussions, sometimes people in the adjacent building are unaware of these successes! While we don't want to brag unnecessarily, we do need to tell people regionally and nationally about our academic and scholarly achievements.
Fifth, to get better, we must understand where we are. As I visited with our faculty and staff members over the past year, I did not find a consistent viewpoint on where we stand nationally compared with our peers. Over the next several months, we are going to be talking at length about where Kansas State University ranks nationally. This will include benchmarking against peer universities, a comprehensive look at our research infrastructure, and other opportunities to assess where Kansas State is today. These types of analyses are not meant to undervalue our hard work or academic achievements, but rather to provide a realistic assessment of our strengths and weaknesses.
Sixth, we must engage in a campus dialog on where we spend future state monies. There is certainly no lack of places at Kansas State which need additional resources, but we also need to realize that the dollars needed to move Kansas State forward will not come easily or quickly in the next couple of years. Clearly our salaries are not as competitive as they need to be across the board (graduate student stipends, faculty and staff salaries), but we also need to allocate dollars to assist with our infrastructure needs. It is important that the senior university administration provide a consistent message to our different constituent groups on our funding priorities — which must reflect our multiple areas of need.
Finally, I appreciate all of the support and suggestions I have received from you during my first year. I am enjoying my dream job as president at Kansas State, and look forward to working with all of you as we look ahead in the coming months towards where we want to be in 2025. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.