September 2, 2016
A letter from the vice provost for undergraduate studies
Dear K-State Students:
You can almost hear it now. After the Wildcats defeat the Cardinal in this week's nationally televised opener — "Fear the Tree?" Oh, please — some Stanford alumni will quip, "Well, at least we have superior academics."
But do they? Let's stipulate that Stanford is a great American private university, where, among other things, philanthropists provide around $1 billion annually — annually — to help keep things spiffy and on the up-and-up.
But did you know that…
• Former K-State faculty member Robert A. Walker presided over undergraduate education at Stanford in the late '50s and '60s and co-founded Stanford's popular overseas studies program? Walker came to K-State at the behest of then-president, Milton S. Eisenhower — himself a K-State alumnus and future president at Penn State and Johns Hopkins — where he helped create and direct the highly innovative Institute for Citizenship, a forerunner of today's Mary Lynn and Warren Staley School of Leadership Studies. Thus, part of Palo Alto's scholarly mojo derives from important academic innovation undertaken here in Manhattan, from whence, by the way, students can and do study abroad about anywhere a Stanford student can, including at the world's top 100-ranked universities from New South Wales to Helsinki to Lund, with all of which and more K-State enjoys affordable exchange relationships.
• Speaking of the Staley School, when Dr. Bosco and I visited Stanford in the fall 2012 to investigate its academic and student affairs collaboration, we came away admiring of the Haas Center for Public Service. But the Hass Center is comparatively marginal at Stanford, serving fewer students than our Staley School. Located in a house — a nice house — sans coffee shop, Stanford's public-service minded students are not enjoying the benefits of a gold LEED-certified educationally construed facility in which are educated some 1 in 4 first-year students. The school's excellence is perhaps best illustrated by K-State's No. 1 national ranking among public university Truman Scholarship recipients, as the Harry S. Truman Scholarship is the foremost recognition of excellence for students committed to public service.
• In fact, let's acknowledge that over the past 30 years Stanford ranks No. 3 and K-State No. 10 in combined Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater and Udall scholarship recipients. These are among the very most selective recognitions an undergraduate can receive. K-State and Stanford are tied among Udall awards, which recognize excellence in public service related to American Indian nations or to the environment, and K-State maintains an overall lead vis-à-vis such public institutions as Michigan, Virginia and UNC-Chapel Hill. When it comes to the most prestigious academic recognitions, K-State and Stanford may not compete on a level playing field, but we do compete on the same playing field.
• Speaking of being on the level, I want to stress that we are all K-State Proud, as it were, that over twice as many of our undergraduates as compared to Stanford's are working to be the first in their respective families to earn a bachelor's degree. In fact, K-State's nearly 7,000 first-generation undergraduate students are roughly equal to the total number of Stanford undergraduates. Our first-generation students join first-generation faculty, graduate students and staff to infuse our learning community with a deep appreciation for the potentially life-transforming value of higher learning. Our inclusive, land-grant university thus provides something which is relatively difficult for a highly-selective, private university like Stanford to provide: a daily education in democracy.
• Unlike Stanford, which has a very different history, K-State traces its founding to a group of people who, in the midst of the American Civil War, were deeply committed to the values of democracy and equality. The first class of K-Staters featured equal numbers of women and men: a statement, not a coincidence. Land-grant universities, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, pursue this same mission today.
Alas, Leland Stanford's university may shine in various ranking systems, but for my money, Kansas State University is every bit as excellent and in many ways academically superior to our cardinal-clad colleagues from the PAC-12.
Steven P. Dandaneau, Ph.D.
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies