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KU’s Visioning Day

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The following email was sent by Kansas University Chancellor, Doug Girod, to all KU staff, faculty and affiliates and all Lawrence and Edwards campus students.

Jayhawks,
Essential to the progress of a major public research university is a strategic plan that establishes a vision, goals and objectives to guide future decisions.
With this in mind, I am excited to launch the next strategic planning process for the University of Kansas and to solicit your assistance in this important effort to shape the future of our university.
The strategic planning process begins with the Visioning Day kickoff event on Friday, November 8 from 3-5 p.m. in the Kansas Union Ballroom. I will open Visioning Day by sharing my thoughts on the higher education landscape, opportunities and challenges, and my vision for KU. After that, we will break into groups for facilitated discussions in the Ballroom, and the ideas that emerge from these discussions will be collected and incorporated into the next phase of our planning process.
For those of you unable to attend Visioning Day, a livestream will be provided on our Strategic Planning 2020 page, and a video recording of the event will be posted there afterward. I encourage you to organize group watch events, facilitate group discussions and use our online form to report the ideas that emerge from your discussions throughout the week of November 8.
Following Visioning Day, there will be ample opportunity in the coming months for you to participate in the process through campus events, online feedback forms, and surveys. We anticipate this process culminating with a new strategic plan by June 1, 2020.
Strategic planning is more than developing “wish lists” of our favorite initiatives. Rather, it requires us to make choices, set priorities, and listen to each other. This process offers responsibility and opportunity – and with your help, I know it will position us to advance our mission and aspirations as a top national research university.
I look forward to seeing you and hearing your thoughts at Visioning Day.

What message does this send to those noted above: KU staff and faculty, all affiliates and Lawrence and Edwards campus students? And, what message does this send to KU alumni, Kansas legislators, the general public, parents of prospective students and to faculty of other schools who are being recruited to fill positions at KU? How about any KU professor thinking about leaving KU?
It’s likely faculty, students and alumni are pleased the chancellor is dealing with today’s realities and challenges facing “higher education” and that Girod is asking for their ideas. Others are likely to wonder how the recent “Bold Aspirations” plan worked out.
It would be interesting to know what triggered Girod’s decision to call for a year-long strategic planning period to identify the university’s goals and objectives to guide the school’s future.
Could it be the consequence of the marginal fiscal support from state legislators and how this has and will affect the future of the school?
Could it be that faculty and students think they should have more of a role in determining the programs and role of the university rather than the traditional leadership role from the chancellor’s office?
Does it mean the vision and future of the university will be in the hands of a number of “in house” groups who will come up with a new strategic plan?
What do Kansas Regents think about the call for a new strategic plan and/or do Regents have anything to say about how the school is run, its programs and future blueprint and priority for teaching and research?
Granted, times are changing but has the environment on college campuses changed so much that the blueprint or vision for a university should be designed by the faculty and students rather than the chancellor and his or her leadership team? Also, what about state legislators and taxpayers who play a significant role in their level of support and approval of the school and how this is reflected in their fiscal support to KU?
Surely, at some point the chancellor and other leaders are the ones to make the final decisions relative to the goals, objectives and decisions for the future of the school but the chancellor also knows it is important to keep peace in the family and get the ideas, hopes and dreams of faculty and students.
Being a university chancellor or president in today’s environment is a totally different game than it was not too many years ago. Unfortunately, in many ways, college leaders have been emasculated with the real power in the hands of groups and organizations. It’s now leadership by politically correct committees.
Doug Girod faces a difficult, challenging task. Fortunately he is at a school that enjoys tens of thousands of loyal and interested alumni; friends and alumni who have been generous in their fiscal support; and an institution that enjoys a proud history.
Can, or will this loyalty and support continue and will a year of strategic group planning and visiting provide helpful answers? Or, will the discussions open up strong and divided opinions? Will Girod’s level of leadership be as strong as many desire?
Girod’s message and the call for the November 8 Visioning Day comes at an interesting time as KU alumni just gathered on Mt. Oread for the annual Homecoming celebrations. A year from now as they gather for the 2020 alumni gathering, what will be their reaction to a new updated vision and goal for KU?
What might be some of the goals? Higher academic excellence; better student retention; improved counselling and advising for students; stopping the decline in student enrollment; the ability to retain prized faculty members; focusing on the excellence of particular programs rather than spreading weaker efforts across the entire campus; improving faculty morale; making sure students are receiving a balanced presentation of current, historical and political issues; how best to arrive at a realistic student and faculty diversity equation; how to improve the university’s image and respect throughout the state and among state legislators; and, how to renew the vigor, enthusiasm and excitement which used to define Kansas University?
Over the years, one of the university’s greatest weaknesses has been the inability of school leaders to tell the KU story. KU needs far better, more effective, passionate cheerleaders than it has had in recent years in Strong Hall and throughout the state.
KU is a good school but not as good as it was in the past. Hopefully Friday’s November 8 Visioning Day will mark the beginning of changes that will justify identifying KU as a true state and national flagship institution.

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