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New Expectations for Doctoral Education

September 16, 2013

One measure of our role as Kansas’ flagship university is the recognition our top programs garner.  The 2014 edition of U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools” ranks 10 University of Kansas programs in the top 10 among public universities.  Our total of 48 ranked programs is an indicator that KU is the driving force for research and innovation in our state.

Goal 2 of Bold Aspirations, our strategic plan, is focused upon expanding our excellence in doctoral education.  Meeting this goal will not only raise the profile of our programs, but also raise the bar for our students — and in doing so fulfill our mission of educating future leaders.

We must chart a path toward stronger, more successful doctoral programs in order to transform ourselves into a model institution among our peers in the Association of American Universities, against whom we measure ourselves.  Developing goals and strategies for Bold Aspirations identified our destination.  Now, we have a plan in place to enhance our identity as a research-intensive institution.

Four strategic action items

A group of faculty, staff, and graduate students formed a doctoral education implementation committee over the past academic year to determine mechanisms and timelines for moving forward the strategies, or action items, for Goal 2 of Bold Aspirations:

  1. Develop comprehensive and sustainable funding models;
  2. Use comparative data to set program standards;
  3. Develop a comprehensive recruitment plan; and
  4. Set program goals focused upon merit, mentoring, and placement.

Each action item has both institutional and departmental components, with performance indicators to measure success.  The timeline for Goal 2 and a complete list of implementation activities will be regularly updated on the Graduate Studies website. 

Activities in 2013–2014

In fall 2013 we will focus upon recruitment and mentoring.  Great doctoral programs begin with active recruitment to bring excellent students to their programs.  We will be working with each graduate program to utilize the Prospect relationship management software and develop a culture of active recruitment.  Prospect allows graduate programs to identify promising candidates and to track students from inquiry through application and enrollment.  It was successfully piloted last year and will now be implemented across campus. 

Once great doctoral students come to KU, active and attentive mentoring is important for their academic progress and career success.  A general workshop for first-time and “veteran” directors of graduate studies was held in late August as the first of a series of workshops planned for faculty and staff this fall.  The workshops are intended to provide toolkits for planning departmental recruiting and mentoring strategies.

Part of recruiting excellent students requires competitive funding packages, especially multiyear packages.  We discussed several important funding strategies and objectives in the April 15 Provost eNews, which I recommend all departments and schools review.  As one immediate example, the application deadline for NSF Graduate Fellowships is in early November; all first-year graduate students who are U.S. citizens, nationals, or permanent residents are eligible and should be encouraged to apply.

Search for a new Dean of Graduate Studies

I would personally like to thank and acknowledge Thomas Heilke, dean of graduate studies, for guiding the implementation plan for doctoral education.  Thomas has recently decided to take an opportunity to lead graduate education at University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus, an exciting challenge close to his family.  He will be leaving KU in January after a 23-year career in Lawrence.  We thank Thomas for his service to KU and wish him well in his new position.

A search for a dean of graduate studies is underway. Rodolfo Torres will chair the search committee, and the position will report jointly to the vice chancellor for research and graduate studies and the senior vice provost for academic affairs.

Bits and Bytes

  • Well-known assessment consultant Barbara Walvoord is holding a series of assessment workshops for department representatives on October 3 and 4.  These workshops are provided to department faculty to help them develop program assessment plans required for our HLC reaffirmation of accreditation self-study.  These plans will keep faculty informed of the success of their degree programs and allow them to make informed curricular decisions to ensure that their students are successful and learning for our global 21st century society. Registration is still open for each of four sessions:
    • Thursday, Oct. 3 from 8–10:30 a.m. in Alderson Auditorium, Kansas Union;
    • Thursday, Oct. 3 from 10:45 a.m.–1:45 p.m. in Alderson Auditorium, Kansas Union;
    • Thursday, Oct. 3 from 2–4:30 p.m. in Alderson Auditorium, Kansas Union;
    • Friday, Oct. 4 from 8–10:30 a.m. at CTE, Budig Hall Room 135.  
  • Congratulations to the Spencer Museum of Art on the opening yesterday of the new exhibition titled James Turrell: Gard Blue, which runs through May 18, 2014.  Renowned artist James Turrell personally opened the presentation as part of the Bold Aspirations Visitor and Lecture Series.
  • There are two more visits as part of the Bold Aspirations series this month:
    • David Roediger, professor of History and African American Studies at the University Illinois, will present Emancipation from Below: The Jubilee Slaves Made and Freedom for All on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. in Alderson Auditorium in the Kansas Union.
    • Timothy Egan, author of this year’s KU Common Book, The Worst Hard Time, will hold two events during his visit to campus next week.  He will host An Evening with author Timothy Egan on Thursday, Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Lied Center.  He will also participate in coffee and conversation on Friday, Sept. 27 at 9 a.m. at The Commons.  A complete list of Common Book related events is available online.
  • KU Innovation and Collaboration — the recently renamed KU Center for Technology Commercialization — has created a three part “boot camp” educational series on the commercialization of university research in all its forms for faculty, staff, students and invited public.  The free series builds upon last fall’s successful Entrepreneurship Boot Camp.
    • The first event is “Commercialization of Creative Activity and Non-Technology Research” on Tuesday, Sept. 24 from 3–5 p.m. at The Commons.  Guest presenter Charles C. Valauskas, a prominent intellectual property attorney, will explore opportunities to license research and creative activity by faculty and students in the humanities, arts, social sciences, and other related fields.  Please RSVP for this event by Sept. 20 to Bethany Scothorn, at bethanyscothorn@ku.edu or 864-6457.
    • The second event will be “Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grant Training” on Monday, Oct. 21 from 8:30 a.m.–4 p.m. at the Bioscience & Technology Business Center on West Campus, featuring Lisa Kurek, Managing Partner, BBC Entrepreneurial Training and Consulting LLC in Ann Arbor, MI.
    • The third event will be “Regulator and Reimbursement: Issues You Need to Know Now” on Tuesday, Nov. 26 from 9–11 a.m. at a location to be announced later, featuring Roy Chin of Chest Innovations, Inc. in Palo Alto, CA.
Provost's Message Signature: 

Rock Chalk!
  -- Jeff

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor

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