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K-State Today

October 6, 2023

Operational excellence update: Integrating engagement across all we do

Submitted by Richard Linton

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,

As Kansas State University moves the Next-Gen K-State strategic plan into action, building operational excellence is critical to achieving many of our key priorities. Today, I want to focus on one of those priorities: Integrating engagement across all we do. As the plan communicates, this priority is all about maximizing our collective impact and fully leveraging engagement, outreach and Extension services together, elevating the third pillar of our land-grant mission — teaching, research and service — to new heights. 

Oftentimes, when we talk about our service pillar, we also use the words outreach and engagement interchangeably. When we talk about engagement in that space, we are talking about how this institution takes knowledge, research and its impact potential out across the state, nation and world to build relationships and partnerships, deliver solutions and effectively enhance the lives of all we serve. It's how we show up outside of our walls — physical or virtual — to make this world a better place. Extension plays a key role in this. The Office of Engagement plays a key role in this. And now, we've also created K-State 105 to play a key role in this. The inevitable question, then, on many minds today is: How do all of these groups work, function and contribute together in this engagement space? 

Aligning our engagement reporting structure together is critical to helping us maximize and communicate the collective impact of Kansas State University. Today, I am excited to share that we are taking an important step forward to more clearly define and align engagement across the institution.

  • Extension, under the leadership of Gregg Hadley, now has a shared reporting line to both Ernie Minton, Eldon Gideon dean of the College of Agriculture and director of K-State Research and Extension, and Marshall Stewart, senior vice president for executive affairs, university engagement and partnerships, and chief of staff. This retains the long-standing relationship between Extension and the College of Agriculture while also elevating Extension to be accessible across the entire breadth of the institution, creating additional opportunities for our extension network to deliver critical content across the state. As part of this transition, Gregg Hadley's role has been elevated to an assistant vice president.
  • The Office of Engagement, under the leadership of Tim Steffensmeier, has been realigned to report to Marshall Stewart, positioning the office right beside Extension to maximize opportunities for collaboration. Additionally, since the office supports engagement efforts across all K-State campuses and academic units, this further connects the full breadth of K-State’s academic enterprise within this broader engagement mission. Tim Steffensmeier's role has also been elevated to an assistant vice president as part of this transition.
  • Finally, as was previously shared, Jessica Gnad, director of K-State 105, also reports to Marshall Stewart, ensuring this initiative is aligned and coordinated under the university's broad engagement mission, leveraging both the Office of Engagement and Extension in its efforts. 

As this realignment of engagement efforts begins to take shape, we will be hosting numerous conversations with the individuals in these units, as well as internal and external stakeholders, to create a clear path forward for how we will become a better-engaged institution. We know that Kansas State University is already doing incredible work in this space. Thanks to the engaged work of so many across the entire institution, we consistently earn the designation as a Carnegie Engaged University for a reason. But, we also know that by aligning these units together under shared strategies and priorities, we will not only be increasing our bandwidth to serve Kansans, but we will also be showcasing what the collective impact of Kansas State University truly is by elevating our land-grant pillar of service at this institution to the same level as teaching and research. 

There will be much more to come on this journey, but it starts by aligning these units and creating space for conversations that will move engagement forward in new and innovative ways. This sets us up to deliver solutions to those we serve as One K-State — united together under a shared commitment to our land-grant heritage. I'm excited to see where this engagement super-collective leads the university in our service mission — and I'm excited to see what they can achieve together for Kansas. 

Go 'Cats!

Rich Linton