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K-State Today

August 28, 2012

From the Provost's Desk

Submitted by April Mason

April Mason with her motorcycle in the mountains

Dear Colleagues,

Last week, Aug. 13-20, is one of my favorite times at Kansas State. We welcome new faculty and staff who have chosen to continue their careers here, and we see the energy of campus increase as new and returning students start the process of moving in. Traffic increases, directions are asked numerous times while I walk campus (and I now know the answers to "Where is….?"), and you just know something is building and it is good!

During that week:

  • I welcomed our new faculty and staff;
  • President Schulz and I held the fall leadership retreat;
  • the K-State First program instructors met to get ready for their courses;
  • and many new first-year K-Staters and our students were greeted with welcomes and assistance everywhere they turned.

We are all here, new K-Staters among us, to start a new year. Welcome to all.

As the fall semester starts, I do need to reflect on the summer. During the summer of 2011, longtime Kansas residents told me it was very unusual. “It never gets this hot for this long,” they said. The summer of 2012 was hotter, for longer! This has been an inconvenience for many of us, but an economic disaster for many, many others. Our new Dean of Agriculture and Director of K-State Research and Extension John Floros started Aug. 1. As I was writing this, he was in western Kansas talking with farmers and ranchers and meeting our hard-working extension professionals and regional researchers to understand the implications of this drought.

In Salina, our new dean and CEO of that campus, Verna Fitzsimmons, welcomed K-State Salina students with a tailgate picnic and her open and enthusiastic personality. On campus, Debbie Mercer, our new dean of education, is helping bring new and exciting international programs to our campus as well as working to make the entrance to our Bluemont Hall more welcoming with a lovely garden in honor of retiring Dean Mike Holen. Steve Dandaneau, our new and inaugural vice provost of undergraduate studies, is meeting all the staff who help our students be successful and bringing new ideas for enhancing our undergraduate educational experience.

This is my third start to the fall semester here at Kansas State University, and I have to tell you this is by far the most exciting with new leadership, new ideas, new students and new faculty and staff. Together we will move our university forward.

President Schulz and Vice President Ron Trewyn recently released the report of the Research Themes Committee,  Identifying Opportunities for Focused Research Expansion. Another area in which we are moving forward is undergraduate research, a key focus for K-State 2025. I am very pleased today to release for comment the report of the Undergraduate Research Task Force. The 24-member universitywide task force, led by Dean Peter Dorhout, was charged last spring to develop an action plan to encourage, increase and measure the participation of undergraduates in research, scholarly and creative activities, and discovery (RSCAD) at Kansas State University.

President Schulz and I thank each and every one of the members for their effort and work, which is so important to our students and to our university. I encourage you to read their thoughtful report and send your comments and suggestions to 2025@k-state.edu. This report, as well as that of the Research Themes Committee, will be available for comment through Oct. 1.  

In early June, we also released two additional drafts of K-State 2025 university plans for comment – the University K-State Olathe and the Internationalization Strategic Action plans. We have extended the time line for comments on those two draft plans through Sept. 7, so please take a look, if you haven’t already, and let us know what you think.

Everyone I meet on campus is ready to start this great fall semester, but a common comment is the summer was too short. They always are, I think. Whatever you did since May (worked in the laboratory, studio or theatre; traveled to collect research; wrote up your ideas and collected research notes; consulted; continued the teaching and learning you facilitate) I hope you took some time for yourself. I did. I traveled from Manhattan, Kan., to Jasper, Alberta, Canada.

While traveling, I thought about how beautiful our country and Canada are. I thought of the significance of water — and lack thereof — on our soil and the things we grow. I thought of the beauty of the plains, the foothills and the Rocky Mountains on both sides of the border. I thought about energy for our world as I passed natural gas pumps and wind turbines. I thought about animals, no lions or tigers, but indeed bears, antelope, bighorn sheep and the bison of Yellowstone, whose favorite place is in the middle of the road, a bit too close to a rider!

I thought how people, whether in Shoshoni, Wyo., or Banff, Alberta, are friendly to two Kansas-plated motorcycle riders, giving directions and suggestions of routes. I thought about getting back and getting to the important work of Kansas State University. Let’s get to it!

Thank you for all you do and welcome to fall 2012!

April Mason