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K-State Today

January 28, 2019

A letter from Provost and Executive Vice President Chuck Taber

Submitted by Chuck Taber

Dear campus community,

Looking back on my first six months, I am inspired by the promise and partnership at Kansas State University, and I am energized to continue our important work in Strategic Enrollment Management and Budget Modernization. It was incredibly valuable for me and President Myers to meet with so many of you in the 2025 visits with the colleges and other major units over the fall semester. In my first letter to the K-State community, I will focus on the important lessons I learned from my listening tour. 

Perhaps most importantly, I learned that we are making impressive progress on all seven K-State 2025 themes. 2018 set records for research expenditures, retention and graduation rates, annual giving, and our university endowment. We won national awards for diversity and economic engagement, and at our second KSUnite, we challenged ourselves to become a truly inclusive university community. K-State continues to set standards for local, state and international engagement, for example through the Kansas Healthy Food Initiative and the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. And we are very fortunate to have a strong athletics department with a deep commitment to academic success and financial stewardship. I invite you to view the annual updates from each college and major unit shared during our fall visits to learn more about the work being done across the university to advance K-State 2025 goals. A deep commitment to service, leadership and community stands behind many of these successes — as exemplified in the remarkable K-State response to the Hale Library fire. 

I am truly impressed with the progress that we are making on our 2025 goals, but I also learned about some difficult challenges that we must address. We continue to lag behind our peers in faculty and staff compensation and, despite some recent investment, we have inadequate facilities in a number of key areas. Our student success metrics are the best in the state, but we can do better in retention and four-year graduation rates. And our campus is not as inclusive as we aspire to be. 

Many of you had ideas or questions about our Strategic Enrollment Management, or SEM, plan. For example, I was often asked what we can do to show the value of K-State to prospective students, which is an important focus of several of our SEM task forces. We are developing a new approach to communication in recruiting that will be more focused on return on investment and on the particular opportunities offered by different programs. It was frequently pointed out that throughout the SEM activities of recruitment and student success, we need to coordinate and communicate more effectively across units, adopting a one-university approach. And there was a lot of interest in how we can make effective, efficient, and fair use of financial aid, which is also an emphasis in our task forces. I am very excited about the changes we are making to recover enrollment and support student success, and my experience with similar initiatives leads me to be very optimistic. 

There was also great interest in our Budget Modernization project, and I was happy to hear your ideas and concerns. I found broad understanding that the old incremental budgeting model was not flexible or transparent enough and did not create incentives for innovation, but I also heard many questions about the new model. How will the model create incentives to grow and to serve student needs? What is the motivation for interdisciplinary collaboration? For research? For service centers to innovate? All of these concerns will be addressed within the structures and processes we are developing during the shadow year for making decisions within the model framework, including the University Budget Planning Team, which was announced in December and has now been charged. This team and its working groups will develop the processes for strategic investment within the model, designed to address the concerns that have been raised. 

This has been an extraordinary six months for me, and I thank all of you for welcoming me into the K-State Family! I am so proud of our progress, and I look forward to working with you over the coming years to achieve even more. 

Follow me on Twitter @ChuckTaberKSU.

Chuck Taber
Provost and Executive Vice President

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