The Best Medicine

April 1, 2013

The University of Kansas is one of only 34 public members of the prestigious Association of American Universities, and one of only 19 public AAU members with a medical school.  KU’s presence in this distinguished group reinforces the efforts underway in our strategic plan Bold Aspirations around our mission of building healthy communities.  In this issue, I’d like to highlight a few exemplars.

Healthy aspirations for a healthier campus

To start out, I’m excited to announce some major improvements across campus that will put the discoveries and research of KU faculty into action in big, bold, healthy ways:

  • Research by Paul Atchley, professor of psychology, has been widely cited by states that have banned texting while driving, including here in Kansas.  Our roads are safer, but on campus, the sidewalks remain dangerous because of a less widely recognized threat — texting while walking.  Effective immediately, Chief of Police Ralph Oliver has banned all texting while walking on campus.  The ban will greatly improve campus safety, particularly during class changes when collisions are frequent.
  • The KU Life Span Institute and the KU Medical Center are leaders in research on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acid DHA, commonly found in fish oil supplements, for children’s intelligence and school readiness.  The benefits can extend well beyond childhood.  Starting today, we are installing fish oil stations in all campus buildings.  The first station will be in Strong Hall, where rumors suggest that the need for the benefits of DHA is most pressing.  To ensure the fish oil initiative is successful and sustainable, crews will begin immediately stocking Potter Lake with North Atlantic Cod.
  • Finally, a new multidisciplinary research center is being established thanks to a generous grant from the Gates Foundation.  The KU Center for Healthy BBQ will be housed on west campus and will study the benefits of one of the area’s greatest natural resources.  In case there was any confusion, the generous grant is not from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; it is from the Ollie Gates Foundation of Kansas City.

Updating the campus master plan

Building a healthier and more sustainable KU is also being woven into the update of our campus master plan.  It is important that our buildings and physical infrastructure encourage a healthier environment.  Here are some of the exciting new ideas percolating:

  • Proposals for a KU natatorium have led to an interesting alternative:  When work begins on reconstructing Jayhawk Boulevard this summer, KU will add not only bike lanes to the road, but also swim lanes.  These new swim lanes will be controlled by a series of locks similar to those in the Panama Canal and allowed to freeze during the winter for ice skating.
  • The amount of snow this winter overwhelmed our budget for salt, sand, and snowplows.  So in future years, as part of Changing for Excellence, we will leave the snow on the ground and set up stations at each campus entrance stocked with cross-country skis and tire chains. 
  • Further good news for those who like to take midday runs:  When the track from Memorial Stadium is removed after construction of the new world-class track facility by KU Athletics in western Lawrence, the old track will be re-installed onto the roof of Wescoe Hall.  Special KU zebra-striped basketball shorts will be available for use as running gear.
  • The Information and Telecommunication Technology Center is working on a major new energy conservation project titled “Deep Green.”  Director Perry Alexander explained: “Most computing is done in binary — ones and zeroes, or ‘yes’ and ‘no’ values.  Our faculty are exploring adding a ‘yeah, whatever’ state that requires much less energy.  Next on our list is educating students in ‘green’ responsibility, including how to grow forests of binary trees to offset the environmental effects of their data mining activities.”

Exciting new visitors to campus

This week, two visitors to campus will bring plenty of excitement as part of the Bold Aspirations Visitor and Lecture Series:

  • On Tuesday, Jillian Michaels from TV’s The Biggest Loser will present her lecture “You Will Make It Up That Hill” on the sidewalk outside of Anschutz Library.  Michaels’ lecture will consist of her yelling, “You will make it up that hill!” nonstop from 10:30 a.m. to noon.  A calorie-free reception with guest Don “Red Dog” Gardner will follow.
  • At 10:30 Saturday night, the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications is sponsoring a weekend update and workshop by noted newscaster Seth Meyers.  Students who attend will get credit toward the oral communication outcome of goal 2 for the new KU Core.

Promoting well-being, finding cures

I hope you all agree with me that these exciting developments are, in a word, unbelievable.  And if it is true that laughter is the best medicine, I hope that this week’s Provost eNews, falling as it does on April Fool’s Day, makes you at least a little healthier.

Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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