Letters to Campus
Dear K-State Faculty and Staff,
Welcome to the fall semester! I hope each of you had a good summer and that your first week of class has gone off without a hitch. The Schulz clan had a little vacation time, spent lots of time in various airports, and had the chance to visit with K-Staters across the country.
One of our favorite family pastimes is watching movies, and there is something exciting about the summer debut of blockbuster movies. As I was looking over our video collection, I came across "Back to the Future" directed by Robert Zemeckis in 1985. As an avid reader of science fiction, I have always enjoyed contemplating the interesting things we could do if time travel were possible (and ignoring the physics of the situation), so the three "Back to the Future" movies are some of my favorites.
As we start the 147th school year for Kansas State University, I thought it would be interesting to imagine a conversation between the 13th President of Kansas State (myself) and the founding president of Kansas State (Joseph J. Denison) on where the university is today. Since he died in 1900, I will need to use a time machine to go back, pick him up, and bring him to 2010! So, lets power up the Flux Capacitor, hop into our DeLorean time machine, and go back to the founding of Kansas State.
After picking up President Denison in 1864 (I thought we should be in existence for at least a year), we are driving the DeLorean around campus — and I invite each of you to listen in on our conversation...
President Denison: The campus is big and looks great. Just how big is Kansas State Agricultural College now?
KS: Actually, we are now called Kansas State University, and the university is doing very well. This past year, our faculty and staff attracted a record amount of external research funding — just under $150M. The KSU Foundation and our fundraising staff also did an exceptional job at raising funds to help the university move forward — attracting just over $90M in gifts to Kansas State University. We pride ourselves on having a great set of faculty and staff at K-State, and these accomplishments are a testament to the quality of the people.
President Denison: If I need to meet with our faculty, we can all fit in one room. How do you communicate with everyone?
KS: I like to send monthly letters to campus to let everyone know some of what I think is important and on my immediate radar screen. During my first year, this constituted the majority of our communications from the central administration to the campus as a whole. However, over the next year, each cabinet officer will be sending periodic letters to campus focusing on their particular area of expertise. Thus, we will ensure that our faculty and staff get periodic updates from the Provost, office of Administration and Finance, Division of Communications and Marketing, Athletics, Alumni and office of Research. We have a lot happening at Kansas State, and it is important that we keep our communication lines open.
President Denison: There are a lot of buildings around campus — and I really like the limestone look that I started. Are you going to keep building new facilities, and if so what is next?
KS: What a timely question! Right now, I can't answer that because we haven't decided. We are going to work with our deans and governance groups to develop a prioritized list of major capital projects — grouped according to our most significant campus needs. This way, everyone will know what our top priority is for new buildings, and will help us to plan campus growth and renovation in a consistent and transparent fashion.
President Denison: What is this facility that looks like a large area for lots of people to sit and look at a green field?
KS: That is Bill Snyder Family Stadium, where we play football in the Big 12 conference. Our teams are now known as the Wildcats. We will put about 50,000 people in that stadium six or seven times a year to cheer on our football team. This year, we are going to use our communications professionals to craft messages about some of the key academic successes at Kansas State and highlight them at each football game. Since we have a captive audience, I want to be sure we are letting everyone in our stadium learn one new fact about the academic successes of Kansas State faculty, staff, and students.
President Denison: Boy, you have got to be a busy guy! How many events do you go to?
KS: University presidencies have grown into very complex positions, and there are many more campus events occurring than I can go to. Indeed, my calendar of events is already full for the entire fall semester! To make sure I am using my time most effectively, we are asking all campus groups to fill out a form and submit it to my office. Dr. Jackie Hartman, assistant to the president and director of community relations, will work with Dana Hastings in my office to see if it will be possible for me to come.
President Denison: So, do you get any money from Washington, D.C. to help Kansas State or does it all come from Topeka?
KS: We ask the federal government to support us each year, and all faculty and staff can submit ideas for consideration. The K-State Federal Relations Committee will begin accepting proposals for Congressionally Directed Requests to be submitted by the university to the Kansas congressional delegation. Submissions are due by October 31, 2010, to Dr. Sue Peterson, director of governmental relations, by email. A peer committee will review proposals during November. Review the criteria and timeline.
President Denison: Earlier you mentioned research — so is this an important part of Kansas State in 2010?
KS: Our research enterprise continues to grow. This past semester, we had a group of faculty members compile a report with recommendations on how we can grow our scholarly efforts at Kansas State. During the upcoming months, the central administration will be looking over the report and putting out a prioritized set of action items in response to the task force.
President Denison: I could really use something to eat — is there any ice cream around here?
KS: We have awesome ice cream in Call Hall — but alas, we have to go back to 1864. As you can see, we have made great progress in 147 years — and the best is yet to come!