Letters to Campus

October 2010

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Greetings from Anderson Hall! I hope your semester is moving ahead well. The Flint Hills have begun to take on different colors, which makes the drive from Manhattan to Kansas City very scenic — and is a reminder of just how special a place the Little Apple is to live and work.

A few noteworthy items for this month:

I have had several questions about the Research Infrastructure Task Force Report over the last several weeks. Generally, people want to know whether this is going to simply sit on the shelf and collect dust or not. Currently, we are looking at the various recommendations made by the task force, and will put out a letter from the Vice President for Research Office which will detail expected action items for the current academic year. Thus, I would expect to see some additional details on implementation strategies communicated via email to the campus community sometime in October.

I have also had several communications related to transparency in positions filled recently in Anderson Hall, with some comments made suggesting that there are two sets of hiring rules on campus — those which apply in Anderson and those which apply to the rest of campus. I am committed to being as transparent and open as possible with hiring, and will continue to ensure that we are open with our processes and maintain a high level of campus involvement in administrative hiring. The comments forwarded to me related to transparency and hiring were focused on recent hires in the Office of the Provost and the Office of Administration and Finance. Provost Mason and I have met with the Faculty Senate leadership on these issues, and will be working on the development and implementation of guidelines on when a search is warranted and when internal promotions without searches are appropriate. Like all of you, we get busy and sometimes get concerned with doing things quickly, and we need to be sure we (the central administration) are doing all administrative searches and promotions in an appropriate fashion.

As many of you are aware, we will be hiring a significant number of new faculty colleagues this upcoming year. I want to encourage us to recruit the strongest junior faculty members we can find, and not settle for less than top candidates so that a department "doesn't lose the position." In my conversations with Provost Mason, we are strongly committed to keeping positions open rather than filling them with subpar candidates. Additionally, as you do searches, we will be providing support for dual career situations and will issue some suggestions on how to handle these issues when they arise. More information on this will come from the provost's office. Finally, these searches represent a tremendous opportunity for us to continue to diversify our faculty, and I encourage you to recruit underrepresented candidates to your pool.

One of the most challenging leadership positions within the university community is department head. In our conversations with the deans, Provost Mason and I have committed to performing external searches for all open department head positions unless specifically allowed by Provost Mason. I know external searches cost more than internal searches, but I believe it is absolutely essential for us to be looking nationally for administrative talent for departmental leadership. This is NOT meant to preclude outstanding internal candidates for department head positions, but instead to be sure we are always seeking the best talent for Kansas State. Additionally, we are committed to providing the needed funds from Anderson Hall to be sure that when a top candidate is identified, we will pay a nationally competitive salary.

We are continuing to make significant strides in our marketing and communications area on and off campus. A group of communicators for various campus partners (Ag Communications, the Alumni Association, Athletics, Communications and Marketing, and the KSU Foundation) have organized an impact writing workshop, to be held in mid-October. The goal of the workshop is to help all campus communicators clearly illustrate the difference K-State makes in our community, our state, the nation and the world. More information will be coming. However, if you are interested and have questions or would like to request additional information, please contact Shanna Williams.

If you have any questions about any of these topics, please feel free to send me a quick note.

As we continue to work on the K-State 2025 plan, I am often asked, "Why should we pursue a top 50 public research university goal?" There are certainly many different reasons one can put forward on why this is important and strategic for Kansas State, but let me attempt to give five reasons why I think this is important for us.

First, being recognized as a top 50 public research university improves the opportunities for our undergraduate students. As our undergraduate students finish their degree programs, it is important that they have the opportunity to pursue career opportunities across the country and world. Many multinational companies and top-tier research universities pay close attention to the national stature of universities they recruit from — opening new doors of opportunity for our undergraduates as we increase our national visibility.

Second, being recognized as a top 50 public research university will help to drive economic development for Kansas and the Midwest. If we look at areas of intense high technology growth, one of the key ingredients is proximity to top-tier research universities. One of the most highly touted areas for high technology economic development is the research triangle area of North Carolina. If we look at the combined research and development expenditures of Duke, University of North Carolina, and North Carolina State University, it amounts to nearly $1.6B annually. If we examine the research expenditures of the universities along the animal health corridor stretching from Columbia to Manhattan (Mizzou, KU, KU Med, K-State), we account for about $550M annually. To really promote economic development in Kansas and Missouri, we are going to need to play a major role in increasing research and development funds.

Third, being recognized as a top 50 public research university will result in increased funding opportunities for our faculty members. Recognition as a top-tier university will assist our faculty and staff members in securing larger grants and contracts. As new initiatives are introduced at the federal level, the "top-tier" universities are always the ones sitting around the table helping to design large, multi-university research initiatives. As our reputation grows nationally, the opportunities for K-State faculty and staff to provide leadership in setting national research agendas will increase.

Fourth, being recognized as a top 50 public research university will result in better opportunities for our graduate students and post-docs upon leaving Kansas State University. As we grow in national stature, students from Kansas State will start to be perceived as being from a "top tier" university — resulting in more prestigious faculty positions, improved opportunities with multinational companies, and in general better career options for our graduate students.

Fifth, being recognized as a top 50 public research university is an easy goal to remember. Many times universities have long statements describing aspirations that absolutely no one (including the president!) can remember. It is critical that we have a short, easily articulated, and easily remembered goal that resonates with our constituents and is inspirational for the future.

I am sure you have your own thoughts on this topic — and I would love to hear your comments. Keep up the excellent work that all of you are doing, and I continue to enjoy the opportunity to serve as your president.

 

Go Cats!

Kirk