Letters to campus

November 7, 2011

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Welcome to Fall! The end of the semester is coming up on us quickly, and I trust that you have had a productive and enjoyable academic year thus far.

One of the Schulz family pastimes is going to the movies. I tend to like action and adventure movies, and generally look for those with lots of action and relatively little plot. Thus, when the newest rendition of the "Three Musketeers" came out, I knew I would have to find a couple of hours to go and check it out. Not wanting to go alone, I dragged our high school son with me, and we set off to see the "Three Musketeers" this past Sunday afternoon.

My favorite of the various "Three Musketeers" was the version that came out in 1973 and featured Michael York, Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch and Richard Chamberlain. While I enjoyed the latest Hollywood take on Alexandre Dumas' excellent book (published originally in 1844), my favorite remains the 1973 version.

Imagine my surprise when I was walking around campus after seeing the movie on Sunday — and who should I walk into but D'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis. It seems they had heard about Kansas State University, and were taking one of those beautiful Sunday walks around our campus. With nothing else to do, I decided to join in their conversation, which went something like this ...

D'Artagnan: It is getting a bit chilly this evening. Is winter coming soon to the Kansas Territory?

Prez: Actually, we are a state now, not a territory. And yes, winter weather is coming soon.

D'Artagnan: I had best purchase a nice warm cloak to keep out the chill as the weather gets cold.

Prez: That is a great idea. With winter coming, K-State faculty and staff need to remember a couple of key items. First, weather updates, including closures, will be posted on the university website and local radio and TV stations will be updated. Additionally, we will use the text messaging system to let you know of any weather advisories. If you have not signed up to receive K-State Alerts, please sign up now. My advice: Always assume that Kansas State is open!

Aramis: Do you worry about people walking around outside when it is cold and windy? Why do you make people come to work when it is slippery and snowy outside — wouldn't it be better just to close down campus?

Prez: Of all the decisions I make as president, weather-related closure certainly generates more angst than any other. There is an urban legend that if I can somehow make it to Anderson Hall from the presidential residence that school will be open. This is simply untrue. Bruce Shubert, vice president for administration and finance, drives around campus at about 5 a.m. to check the condition of roads, parking areas and sidewalks. He then calls me and makes a recommendation shortly after 6 a.m., at which point we make a decision.

Athos: What are these flags on each of the poles on campus — they say things like "Diversity," "Community," etc…

Prez: We decided to put up about 40 pole banners around campus that are festive and can be changed to reflect different campus activities. There are seven different banners, which all show historical pictures of Kansas State University. Special thanks to the facilities team for the special effort they made to get the banners up in time for homecoming. In the future, we will have different themes at different times of the year on these banners — including faculty achievement, prominent alumni and our 150th anniversary.

Porthos: Those boots you are wearing are pretty sharp! Where could I get some of those?

Prez: You would have to travel half way around the world to get a pair of these. In fact, you would need to go all the way to Australia!

Porthos: I have heard they have good food and drink in the "Land Down Under." When can we go?

Prez: Actually, we are working to increase the interactions between Australia and Kansas State University, so the opportunity to travel there may come sooner rather than later. First, there is significant interest in building joint research collaborations around animal and plant infectious disease research between collaborators at the top tier Australian universities and Kansas State faculty and staff. Second, there are terrific study abroad opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students in Australia. Third, there are excellent economic development opportunities between Kansas and Australia focused around the animal health corridor. Finally, we have a growing alumni base in Australia, which we expect to expand in the future. I have put together a short white paper that describes opportunities in Australia, and would welcome comments and suggestions from faculty and staff.

Athos: There is a lot of building going on at Kansas State. If you keep building so much, you are going to run out of room! Where will you grow in the future?

Prez: Great question! Our campus master plan update process continues to move forward, and based on feedback we have received from the overview presentations made to various campus groups about our plans, we have decided to engage a planning consultant to aid in the data gathering process. The identification of the consultant will take about 6-8 weeks, and we anticipate having the consultant on board before the end of the semester. At the beginning of the Spring 2012 semester, we will host both open campus meetings and meetings with various individual units to identify the facility and infrastructure needs of our campus as part of our K-State 2025 strategic planning process.

This modification to our process may result in a slight delay in our original timeline. However, our ultimate goal remains is to ensure that the end product is of the highest quality and will provide the framework that will allow us to maintain the outstanding campus attributes that our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends value most highly.

D'Artagnan: Wow! It looks like things are moving along well at Kansas State. Can we come by and visit again sometime?

Prez: Only when Hollywood decides to do another version of the "Three Musketeers!"

Porthos: Enough of this talk — I am ready to eat!

Prez: Why don't you head over to Aggieville and get something to eat — and drink.

D'Artagnan, Athos, Aramis, Porthos: Thanks for walking with us — and as we like to say as a farewell — "All for One, and One for All."

Go Cats!

Kirk