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K-State Today

October 12, 2023

Letter to campus from Dean Mary Tolar

Submitted by Mary Tolar

Dear colleagues,

"By 2030, we will provide every degree-seeking student with applied learning experiences before they graduate, fulfilling our commitment to prepare students for life beyond K-State starting early in their college experience." With this imperative in our Next-Gen K-State strategic plan, we commit to deepening and expanding students’ real-time, real-world learning experiences, giving all students confidence and clarity in their future careers — and competence and purpose as they pursue it.

The Staley School of Leadership has been charged to engage faculty and staff across the university and community and industry stakeholders to advance this important work. I am writing today to update you on the steps we will take this year to build on the successful programs K-State has in place and begin to scale the work to meet our 2030 goal for all undergraduate students to benefit from an applied learning experience. 

To elevate and deliver an impactful and unmatched student experience, applied learning at K-State must deliver on two counts. We must ensure it is both comprehensive and excellent. To do this, we must first establish baseline participation rates, a means by which to identify and evaluate types of applied learning experiences, and a mechanism to track and report student participation. We must also work to understand, support and build partnerships with industry, government and communities to provide excellent applied learning experiences that resonate with diverse learners, disciplines and professions. To ensure access to these experiences by all students, we will also work to secure necessary philanthropic support.

We must also undertake this work in phases, beginning with undergraduate students and then expanding to include all degree-seeking learners. As President Linton shared in his budget investment announcement, the university has provided $250,000 from the "One K-State" investment pool to launch our Next-Gen K-State initiative to expand the learning experiences available to our students outside classroom walls. With the help of Kerri Keller, executive director of career services, I am in the process of building a team and designing the work this year to:

  • Engage academic partners across the university to define, identify and map excellent applied learning experiences already offered.
  • Understand what opportunities, gaps and obstacles exist.
  • Launch a grant program to incentivize the expansion of opportunities through our academic departments.
  • Pilot a grant process to provide direct support to students to enable them to take advantage of these opportunities.

As a model next-generation land-grant institution, we will build on the world-class research of our faculty, our extraordinary alumni networks, and rich partnerships across the state and around the world to create and scale exceptional applied learning. We aim to not only empower students with experiences that position them for immediate and lifelong success but also to engage students as essential partners in serving our land-grant mission, helping our stakeholders meet the challenges they face right now across the state and beyond.

This is an exciting time at K-State. We will be sharing more information soon as plans develop. I look forward to working together with all of you as we make real-time, real-world learning experiences a true differentiator for our students and for K-State.

Mary Tolar
Dean, Staley School of Leadership