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K-State Today

September 7, 2011

Monthly letter to campus from President Schulz

Submitted by Cheryl May

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Welcome back! It is great to see all of our students, faculty, and staff back on campus. There are certainly a few things that we won't miss from the summer — like the oppressive heat. Our facilities staff is working to ensure that our work and classroom spaces are as comfortable as possible, so please let us know if your classroom or office is uncomfortable or has a non-functional ventilation system.

As the semester begins, I urge everyone to sign up for the Kansas State University Emergency Notification System. This system notifies the campus community on issues surrounding severe weather, fire, terror threats, hazardous substance spills, or any significant danger to the campus community. Each person can choose how to be notified: by email, text message, or phone call. If you haven't signed up, please do so at http://eid.k-state.edu.

As we continue to roll out K-State 2025 and our plan to be recognized as one of the top 50 public research universities in the future, I have put a high priority on securing additional endowed chairs and professorships to recognize faculty achievement at Kansas State University. Until recently, there was no single place where we listed all of our endowed faculty positions, so the Division of Communications and Marketing worked with the KSU Foundation to put together a comprehensive list of all our faculty holding an endowed position. To publicize our faculty members who are chair holders, we have developed a website which lists the name of the endowed faculty position and the current chair holder. This spring, we will be unveiling a recognition wall in Anderson Hall which will also have a listing of our endowed chair holders. I invite you to take a look at the new pages and to send us any feedback you might have. I look forward to adding many names to this list during my tenure as Kansas State president!

In a February 2011 letter to campus I discussed a proposal to establish a corporate engagement center which would be modeled on a similar program at the University of Michigan. This concept stemmed from the Research Infrastructure Task Force report (page 6) which recommended that Kansas State University set up a "one stop shop" for fostering increased collaborations between industry and the university community regarding research projects and/or student internships. Following my February letter to campus, I asked for general feedback on the concept from corporations and industry currently engaged with Kansas State, from faculty and staff, and from our alumni at large.

We received a variety of very helpful responses from both on and off campus. From our industry partners, there was universal and enthusiastic support for having a single point of contact at Kansas State University. Many commented that it was very challenging to figure out who to talk with in a complex bureaucracy that constitutes a modern research university, and the proposed corporate engagement center seemed like a workable solution. With a clear understanding of what constitutes the foundation of our university, each of our corporate partners specifically emphasized that the ultimate success of such an engagement endeavor would rest on the enthusiasm and commitment of faculty and staff.

In addition to comments from off-campus, we received a variety of comments and suggestions from faculty and staff. Common issues included sentiments that during a time of university fiscal challenge, we should be mindful that every added new expense must come with a clear expectation that the university reap a meaningful return on the investment or the added expense should not be incurred. Other comments focused on the current positive roles of the Kansas State University Research Foundation and NISTAC, which are already engaged in working with industrial partners and a caution that any new office of corporate engagement should be required to specifically add value to the other efforts and not simply be redundant to them. Finally, we received several comments which focused on how we would measure the success of an enhanced corporate relations effort.

We took all of these comments to heart, and have taken several actions in the intervening months which should help us to initiate a successful enhanced corporate engagement effort:

First, the role of NISTAC needs to be clearly defined. So that its name more clearly reflects its mission, we have started the process to change the name of NISTAC to the Kansas State University Institute for Commercialization. This name change will not change the role that NISTAC plays in corporate relationships, but instead should make their role clearer to the general public and internally within Kansas State University.

Second, we will change the proposed name from the Center for Corporate Engagement to the Corporate Engagement Office, or CEO. The Kansas State Corporate Engagement Office will report directly to the Office of the President, and will be managed by a full time director. The use of the word "center" implied a research center as opposed to an administrative office, so while the change in title seems somewhat trivial, it should allow us to market the CEO more effectively both on and off campus.

Third, the CEO director's task will be twofold. First, the director will be tasked with seeking out new companies in our region who might have some interest in engaging with Kansas State University. Second, the director will be a team builder who will assemble contact teams to work with the companies, and will then back away. These focused corporate engagement teams could include people from Career and Employment Services, the KSU Institute for Commercialization, the KSU Foundation, the KSU Research Foundation, and faculty and staff from academic units. The make-up of the team would depend on the interests of the corporation and the interests of Kansas State faculty and staff.

Fourth, we will measure the success of the CEO using several key benchmarks. While these have not been finalized yet, they could include the amount of corporate research funding coming into Kansas State University, the amount of commercialization income generated by Kansas State patents and licenses, the number of companies which have clearly defined relationships with Kansas State University, or the amount of corporate philanthropic dollars raised annually. Our colleagues at the University of Michigan stressed that in order for any enhanced corporate relations program to be successful, it had to measured in a way which demonstrated that the financial investments made by the university had direct positive benefit to faculty, staff, and students.

Finally, I am very sensitive that adding any additional administrative positions must be very carefully considered in our current economic climate. However, as we see state funding continue to decrease each year, it is paramount that we find new sources of funding to help support our scholarly efforts. I believe that by taking several modest steps and putting in place a clear set of benchmarks which can help to define the success of any new undertaking, the CEO will pay for itself many times over.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to send me a note at kirks@k-state.edu. I wish you the best of success as the fall semester rolls along.

Go Cats!