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K-State Today

May 1, 2024

Next-Gen K-State Applied Learning Imperative: Letter to campus from Dean Mary Tolar

Submitted by Mary Tolar

Dear Colleagues,

It's spring, and calendars are filled! I'm grateful for the teamwork behind this season's many markers of progress — dissertations defended, academic year projects nearing completion, annual awards celebrated, graduation and summer plans in motion. Thanks to many of you across the K-State community, we have also made progress this spring on a key Next-Gen K-State strategic imperative — to provide every degree-seeking student with applied learning experiences by 2030.

Our commitment to offer students real-time, real-world experiences at scale is one that requires monumental teamwork. It also requires us to be clear about what we mean by applied learning. In late February, the university community was invited to provide feedback on draft definitions for applied learning at K-State and four initial applied learning experiences. A feedback survey was made available from late February through mid-March, and we had great response, with nearly 200 responses from faculty, staff and students — undergraduate and graduate — representing eight colleges from Manhattan, Salina and online.

After review, we are happy to have landed on definitions that will guide us moving forward. Survey responses included thoughtful questions, additional examples of applied learning in action at K-State and offers to champion this effort. Applied learning is richly embedded within our university's past and present, and we are thankful for all those who have enthusiastically embraced this strategic imperative as a true differentiator for us as a next-generation land-grant university.

With applied learning defined, we now move forward with the important work of identifying and mapping existing experiences. A critical next step is to work with colleagues in academic units and across the university to identify experiences beyond our initial four that meet the applied learning definition. With that expanded set of experiences, and with assistance from a team of student interns conducting interviews, we will build an inventory of our applied learning experiences that will allow us to recognize excellence, clarify gaps, identify obstacles and develop opportunities as we build a scalable framework for K-State's signature applied learning experiences.

Our actions are intentionally designed to engage the larger university community at each level of this work. Your continued participation, communication and support are vital to Kansas State University becoming a model for applied learning done well as we strive to fulfill our commitment to expand access to applied learning experiences for all students.


Mary Tolar
Dean, Staley School of Leadership