KU announces new 5-year university plan called ‘Bold Aspirations’

Speaking to a crowd of university community members Wednesday, Kansas University officials unveiled their new strategic plan, “Bold Aspirations,” which will seek to chart a path for KU to follow during the next five years.

Some parts of the plan are already in place. KU has created a new associate vice chancellor position to oversee entrepreneurship. KU leaders hope a freshly revamped scholarship plan that’s in place for next fall will attract more freshmen to the university.

And more changes are coming. KU will seek to institute an online system that tracks all of a professor’s professional activity in an attempt to better follow research activity on campus. The system would also be used to help implement a policy of post-tenure review.

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the plan would be paired with an ongoing efficiency and effectiveness review, “Changing for Excellence.” That plan could help provide funds for the efforts outlined in the strategic plan.

“These are the two components that will help us to reach our goals,” she said, noting that the university was just beginning to implement some of the recommendations. “The best is yet to come.”

The plan charts a path to meet some of her initial goals for the university, including raising graduation and retention rates and increasing the scholarly research profile of the university.

Along with the plan come four new “strategic initiative” themes that will encourage faculty members to address some of the world’s great challenges in their research, said Jeff Vitter, KU’s provost and executive vice chancellor.

The themes are: “Sustaining the Planet, Powering the World,” “Promoting Well-Being, Finding Cures,” “Building Communities, Expanding Opportunities” and “Harnessing Information, Multiplying Knowledge.”

The university will host four research summits on each initiative in the coming months and will seek to invest new dollars into the efforts. In addition to the savings realized from the efficiency plan, the university will also seek some state money to pay for some of the efforts.

KU intends to ask the Kansas Board of Regents to support a state funding request for $3 million to hire 12 senior “foundation” professors — three in each of the four strategic initiative areas.

That move, along with others in the plan, would help KU maintain its status in the Association of American Universities, a prestigious group of the nation’s top research universities, Vitter said.

Some aspects of the plan call for private funding through the university’s ongoing fundraising campaign. A goal that would seek to elevate doctoral education around the campus specifically calls for fundraising through private donations.

Vitter said the plan was a product of a large amount of work from people throughout the university.

“This is an exciting time for us,” he said. “We’re all eager to get going.”

By Andy Hyland

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