From the Provost's Desk

October 9, 2013


Dear Colleagues,

As we continue to celebrate Kansas State University’s sesquicentennial, I am delighted to share with you what we are doing to strengthen the university’s ability to promote excellence in undergraduate education for our students. In other words, let’s talk K-State 2025 Theme II.

Our commitment and our plan to build upon K-State’s pioneering land-grant heritage and numerous past achievements in undergraduate education in order to continually enhance the undergraduate experience for today’s students is essential to K-State 2025 and our future.

This much is evident in the student success plan completed last spring by Vice President Pat Bosco and Vice Provost Steve Dandaneau’s, “K-State 2025 Undergraduate Studies and Student Life Theme II Implementation Plan,” which I urge everyone to read. I am happy to report we are making progress on several initiatives directly related to the plan and related work completed by other committees, such as the 2012 Undergraduate Research Task Force. Let me highlight some of the initiatives I have in mind:

  • A team comprised of academic affairs, student life and KSU Foundation members secured a highly competitive First Scholars Program grant and are now working to implement the program for the benefit of identified first-generation undergraduate students. Kiley Moody in the Office of New Student Services will serve as inaugural program coordinator. We are grateful for the Suder Foundation’s generous support and for Kiley’s energetic campus leadership.
  • The inaugural New Student Convocation welcomed thousands of K-State students to the academic mission of the university and featured keynote remarks from the two inaugural recipients of the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Young Alumni Award, Nick Piper (’08) and Justine Sterling (’07). The Convocation also featured The Faculty Brass Quintet and current student leaders Marcus Bragg, Jeff Andrade, Sherron Williams, Yessica Prato, Jazmin Richmond, Natasha Nguyen, and Eli Schooley. Thanks to everyone — and there were indeed many — who pitched in to make this event a success. We look forward to version 2.0 next year!
  • Highlighting the essential collaboration needed to move the university forward, K-State inaugurated use of the Honors House, 1930 College Heights, this fall, a living/learning facility spectacularly renovated by Housing and Dining facilities staff and requiring investment of hundreds of thousands in materials and people-power. The Honors House community is led jointly by Housing and Dining and University Honors Program programming staff and directly serves more than 50 honors students, both new and returning and both women and men. The facility features a seminar room and other amenities which will benefit all students, not only residents.
  • Per Kansas Board of Regents guidelines, we have also added the Plan for Success, or P4S, program staffed by John Kulikowski and Andrea Lo, who serve as academic counselors for students admitted by exception and whose work is expected to help these students better succeed. As do so many others, John and Andrea support K-State’s crucial retention and graduation goals.
  • Advising of all sorts is critical to retention and graduation success. This past May’s inaugural Kansas State University/NACADA Summer Undergraduate Academic Advising Institute represents the first of many steps needed to enhance and support K-State’s diverse advising community. A mid-year mini-institute also is in the works as are pertinent iSIS improvements.
  • Moreover, much needed investments in advising staff are being made variously across campus, including in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Business Administration, for example. In the strategic area of pre-health advising — which serves more than 2,000 of our most high-achieving undergraduate students across every college at the university — Kent Kerby of the Division of Biology will lead a Pre-Health Advising Subcommittee of the University Advising Committee being formed this fall. This position is jointly financed with resources provided by Student Life, Division of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences, and more than $50,000 from the $450,000 FY 13 “student success” budget allocation administered centrally.
  • We also are delighted to announce the expansion of the Developing Scholars Program into an inclusive Office of Undergraduate Research under the direction of Anita Cortez. A space in Wildcat Landing, 1800 Claflin Road, has been leased to house this and other offices and $150,000 of the $450,000 allocated for Theme II excellence in last year’s budget will be directed in support of this unit. Undergraduate research is a K-State 2025 benchmark measure. We are now implementing long-vetted plans meant to further broad-based support for this vital activity.
  • We also have directed over $100,000 to support tutoring universitywide to be administered primarily by Judy Lynch, director of the Academic Assistance Center, and we are directing another $50,000 to the MAPS Program under Myra Gordon’s leadership, this, as a challenge grant which we hope will incentivize colleges to expand their respective investments in access and excellence for multicultural students.
  • Regarding spatial reorganization, please know that the University Honors Program under interim director Justin Kastner and the Office of Pre-law Advising under the direction of Daralyn Gordon Arata are, together with the newly formalized Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships led by Jim Hohenbary, relocating to 215 Fairchild Hall, while the newly renamed Teaching and Learning Center under Jana Fallin’s direction as well as the Honor and Integrity System under Steve Starrett’s direction are moving to renovated space in Wildcat Landing. In addition to serving as the director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships, Jim Hohenbary will also serve part-time as associate director of the University Honors Program.
  • Undergraduate research, pre-law advising, and nationally competitive scholarships will report henceforth to the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies.
  • K-State First under the direction of Greg Eiselein will occupy 7 Leasure Hall, the former home of the University Honors Program. It is our hope that this move, and the other relocations noted above, will be complete by Dec. 1, but please look for additional publicity later this fall.
  • The School of Leadership Studies under the direction of Mary Tolar — and with the leadership, no pun intended, of Trisha Gott, instructor and assistant director for service-learning — hosted in late September Kansas State University’s inaugural Service-Learning Institute. We expect this effort to result in a dozen or more new service-learning courses in next year’s curriculum alone.
  • Finally, the Theme II Implementation Plan calls for three new universitywide standing committees to address our respective strategic interests in enrollment planning, undergraduate student success, and advising. We are in the process of forming the Student Success and Advising Committees and they will meet for the first time in the fall semester. And while we fully expect to establish an Enrollment Planning Committee, we have decided to first work with external consultants who will assist us in collecting and interpreting enrollment-related data, evaluating our strategic enrollment-related policies, processes, and practices, and assist us as we explore viable pathways aimed at facilitating K-State’s mission to provide meaningful access to an excellent land-grant educational experience. Decreases in public funding unavoidably spur increased focus on strategic enrollment management, as does our K-State 2025 goal. K-State’s overall long-term standing and stability increasingly depends on undergraduate enrollments.

To be sure, there is much else that is on-going. For example, the University Honors Program is conducting a national search for a University Honors Program director, the Faculty Senate and Student Governing Association have teamed with the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies to begin an assessment of our Honor and Integrity System, and we have allocated $45,000 from the student success budget for a new assistant dean in the Office of Student Life to help with the growing number of students in crisis. Relatedly, Student Life and the Office of the Provost jointly sponsored the new Student of Concern Guide, an effort led by Associate Dean Heather Reed, Office of Student Life. Available online, printed copies of the guide were also distributed to all faculty and staff universitywide.

As you can see, a lot is happening. In this regard, Steve Dandeneau shared with me what he learned at a recent meeting of the “Reinvention Center,” which is the unusually if also aptly named leading national organization of chief academic officers responsible for undergraduate education at U.S. research universities. Steve noted that K-State’s plans and directions are entirely consistent with, and in some respects more ambitious than, those in place at our national research university peers, public and private alike, but that all of them, regardless of mission and location, are quite busily at work responding to the widely experienced and often drastic environmental changes affecting undergraduate education at today’s national research universities.

Everyone, as we know, aims to improve student success, as measured, in part, by improved retention and graduation rates. And everyone wants to bolster the quality of their undergraduate degree programs by providing so-called “enrichments” (e.g., undergraduate research, study abroad, service-learning, living/learning communities, etc.) which are in fact increasingly essential prerequisites for graduate and professional school admission and success in competition for the most sought-after jobs. By strengthening their undergraduate programs and enhancing the undergraduate experience through and through, research universities greatly improve their overarching quality and reputation. In this way national research universities like K-State go far toward assuring their standing and stability in the increasingly competitive space of U.S. higher education.

New teaching and learning modalities, new technologies, changes in state funding priorities, changing student needs, changing professions, and any number of other factors, demand effective responses. I am confident that we are on a path to thriving as an innovative institution of higher learning in the land-grant tradition. I am excited to continue to work with all of you so that, together, we can keep building a culture of learning and excellence that promotes student success and prepares students for their professional, community, social, and personal lives as envisioned in K-State 2025.

Thank you for all that you do!

April