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Dean's column: Leading by learning

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Welcome back to campus! When faculty, staff and students return, you bring with you so much energy. I am eager to work with you on exciting developments that will help move the College forward together.

Through my first six months, I have spent a great deal of time meeting you and gathering feedback. I’ve also just come back from a trip to several cities across Kansas with the KU Office of Admissions. I’ve made a point of learning about KU directly from those who support our mission and those whom our mission supports. As I’ve made decisions, I’ve relied on your input to determine what will best meet our collective needs.

I will continue to seek your feedback in many ways. Next week, you will receive an invitation to submit anonymously your thoughts on what’s working and what we could be doing differently. I encourage you to take a few minutes to share your feedback. Additionally, please make sure to save the date for our first-ever State of the College, Sept. 27 at 4 p.m. at the Commons. I’ll share a brief update, followed by ample time for Q&A.

As we look ahead this year, one of our greatest challenges is our budget. As you know, state funding to KU has been cut again. When budgets decrease, strategic thinking and planning are crucial. One of my top priorities has been to identify opportunities to improve services and save money at the same time. It may sound paradoxical, but it’s possible. Through creative allocation of resources, the Dean’s Office has reduced our expenditures in fiscal year 2017 by more than $230,000 while also reconfiguring positions to focus on areas that are most important to our success.

Earlier this summer, we announced several staffing changes, some of which represented new areas of emphasis for the College. Your input helped lead us to identifying these as key areas. Among those are:

  • Hiring an associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion;
  • Appointing our first director of research development and engagement;
  • Hiring our first undergraduate recruitment coordinator

Those positions and other staffing changes reflect our guiding priorities. We will focus on student-centered services and programs; diversity, equity and inclusion; and enhancing research opportunities and impact. Knowing our destination helps us chart our course of action and focus resources where they will make the most impact.

I am excited to see what we’ll accomplish this year and so appreciative for all you do. I am fortunate to be surrounded by so many talented, caring and creative individuals. Best wishes for a productive and rewarding academic year!