Preparing Lifelong Learners

February 25, 2013

As the only Kansas university in the prestigious Association of American Universities, the University of Kansas provides an undergraduate education that goes well beyond preparation or training for a job.

The first goal of our strategic plan Bold Aspirations is to prepare students for lifelong learning, leadership, and success. We will achieve this goal as we build upon our tradition of providing the broad knowledge, critical thinking skills, and versatility required to prosper in an increasingly complex world.

This time of year is when many high school seniors and transfer students are making their college choice. The quality of our undergraduate education and the important changes we are making are a powerful story to tell prospective students.

Enhancing the success of our students

We certainly want undergraduate students to have the skills and experience to land a job or pursue an advanced degree after graduation. The placement data from several of our schools shows how our students are successful after graduation. A number of our schools and programs — including Pharmacy, Engineering, and Social Welfare, to name just a few — have placement rates of 90 percent or more.

A KU education does far more than job placement. We are positioning our graduates for long-term success as lifelong learners who can develop and thrive in fields or industries that might not even exist today.

Our most significant strategy is the new KU Core, the university-wide curriculum that ensures each student meets key learning objectives. The KU Core is set to launch in August 2013 for all incoming students; current first-year students may also “opt in.”  

The flexibility of the KU Core allows students to tailor a more personal education and encourages participation in the growing number of exciting experiential learning opportunities at KU, such as study abroad, research, internships, alternative breaks, and service learning.

Preparing for the August launch is a tremendous effort involving many faculty members and academic units throughout campus along with the leadership of Sara Rosen, senior vice provost for academic affairs, Chris Haufler, special assistant and EEB chair, and KU’s first-ever university-wide curriculum committee UCCC, chaired by journalism professor Chuck Marsh.

In the Office of First-year Experience, led by Assistant Vice Provost Sarah Crawford-Parker, we are implementing several strategies — including the KU Common Book, first-year seminars, and learning communities — to ensure that our newest students find the right path through KU.

There is much activity in the realm of hybrid and online education, which we’ll highlight in future issues. The Center for Online and Distance Learning, directed by Julie Loats, provides tools for our faculty members to redesign their courses to enhance student learning and performance. Enhanced student learning through course redesign is a crucial part of increasing retention rates.

CODL has recently updated its website, including the spring calendar for their popular Lunch & Learn series and several videos by faculty members teaching online and hybrid courses. The Center for Teaching Excellence, led by psychology professor Dan Bernstein, is collaborating with CODL on a course redesign seminar this semester. More than a dozen faculty members are developing course materials to move content to a hybrid format and to “flip” the classroom.

Keeping KU affordable

As our state’s flagship, we must also make a KU degree affordable. We try hard to keep tuition costs low and still provide the high quality education our state needs. Despite tuition increases necessitated by a decade of declines in state funding, tuition at KU is still in the lower third when compared with our national peers. About half of all KU students graduate with no student loans, and the median borrowing rate for KU undergraduates is around the national average.

Last year, financial aid to students totaled nearly $290 million, including over $74 million in scholarships and grants. Under the guidance of Matt Melvin, vice provost for enrollment management, KU offers more scholarship funds in Kansas than any other university, including four-year renewable scholarships for freshmen and two-year renewable scholarships for transfer students.

As we implement Bold Aspirations, we will continue to strengthen both our academic experience and our commitment to keeping KU affordable. I encourage you to share these important messages as you visit with prospective students over the coming weeks.

Bits and Bytes

  • David G. Holmes, the spring 2013 Langston Hughes Visiting Professor, will present his lecture, “Occupy This: Political Representation, Prophetic Voices, Popular Culture and the Contested Rhetorical Legacies of the Civil Rights Movement” on Tuesday, February 26 at 3:30 pm in the Kansas Room of the Kansas Union. Holmes is a professor of English and the director of African American studies at Pepperdine University. A reception will follow.
  • On Thursday, February 28, Vice Chancellor for Research & Graduate Studies Steve Warren and I will host our second Leading Light Award luncheon. The Leading Light Award recognizes principal investigators and co-PIs of research grants totaling at least $1 million. Each first-time recipient of the award will receive a specially designed and engraved brass sunflower, and a sunflower will be planted in his or her honor somewhere on campus.
  • The next edition of our Bold Aspirations Visitor and Lecture series will be Thursday, March 7, at 4:00 pm at The Commons. Chuanbin Mao, Edith Kinney Gaylord Presidential Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Oklahoma, will present his lecture, “Genetically Engineering BioNanostructures to Develop NanoBiotechnology and Nanomedicine.”  Professor Mao’s lecture was rescheduled from Thursday, February 21 because of the weather. A reception follows at 5 pm in The Commons.
Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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