From the Provost's Desk

January 29, 2014

It seems my last few letters to campus have been focused on one single topic, which I hope have communicated particularly timely and important messages. Today my letter is a bit broader in focus with a number of things that have been on my mind to share with you.

Many of you know the president and I attend every commencement in December and May. We see each student walk across the stage and receive their diploma with different styles, dress, shoes, tears sometimes, and family and friend support from the bleachers. I have written about my impressions of commencement previously, most recently in my May 2013 letter

What I want to say today is how much we appreciate what goes into a successful and meaningful commencement. Here are just a few things made to happen by so many: our faculty in regalia looking great; our staff behind the scenes working to get candidates lined up, armed with their cards and aimed in the right direction; the bagpiper on cue; the video ready; the care and feeding of those of us who are there all day; Bramlage Athletics staff who make all the between ceremonies changes; more and more. It is a production of major magnitude and so many work to make it go seemingly flawlessly. I thank you. I know each graduate has a story, each has accomplished so much, overcome much and is making a huge transition. Thank you for making our commencements memorable for each graduate and their families and friends.

In December, I had the honor of representing the university at the United Nations for the ceremonial pledge signing of the Presidents' Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security, part of the presidents' United to Stop Hunger (PUSH) initiative. Started by Auburn University and joined by Presidents of U.S. and international universities, this initiative was a sure fit for Kansas State University. I knew of food drives, food packaging events, service learning at the Flint Hills Breadbasket, runs organized to raise funds for local agencies supporting food assistance programs and so much more. Following the news release for the event in December, I heard from many of you about what we are doing in many areas across the university — thank you for sharing.

Now, what I want to do is bring a group of interested individuals together to discuss what coordination we need so that we can stay in touch locally and report our work nationally as part of the PUSH coalition. I know a group of individuals who are interested, but I would like to know who else might have interest in this topic. I plan to coordinate a session later this spring to brainstorm, organize and set up a system of communication. If you are interested in participating, please send an email to Sandra Brase at sbrase@k-state.edu and I will be back in touch with you. The topic of hunger prevention and promotion of food security is historically part of our land-grant mission and a large part of our current Global Food Systems initiative. I know faculty, staff and students across our university have interest and passion about this topic!

Six degrees of separation — I think not! Is it that I am getting older and have more life experience — wait a minute, don't answer that! Let me just tell you what I am talking about. Last May while boarding one of the Skylink trains at Dallas/Fort Worth airport, my newly purchased purple cowgirl hat blew off my head and miraculously went between the train and the terminal and landed outside! I had owned it for 10 minutes. I called airport security and they said they would try to assist. Tick tock . . . my plane boarding time approached. An American Airlines service man trying to simply board the train asked if he could help me. He waited for security, sent me to my plane, got my (incredibly uninjured) hat and ran to the gate to provide it to me. He was a K-State graduate and said he just had to help me! Later wearing a K-State hat at Walt Disney World, a graduate asked me if I knew a friend of his at K-State. Why yes, I do. He took our picture and texted it to her — you know who you are! While in China last summer our delegation met with leaders of the Chinese Scholarship Council. A young man speaking wonderful English hosted us as we waited for the director. I asked him where he had studied English. In the U.S. Where? Ohio. Oh, I am from Ohio; where in Ohio? University of Mount Union — this provost's alma mater! We had our picture taken and I sent it to the president of the university. Last fall at a football game I had read our distinguished alumnus to be recognized that day at halftime was from Indiana where I lived for a long time. I sat next to him and talked and finally asked if he had a brother named Lowell. Yes, he did. I worked with Lowell at Purdue. It's three degrees of separation for those of us here at Kansas State University.

Wear your purple proudly and know you are an ambassador of our great institution. You just never know who you may run into.

Happy New Year. Classes have started and you are up to your ears in work already — thanks for reading.

Thank you for all you do!

April Mason
Provost and Senior Vice President