Speaking before the Kansas Board of Regents Wednesday, President Richard Myers announced a series of proposals and initiatives he will be rallying going through the 2021-22 academic year.
Myers announced the formation of a task force designed to look university wide at academic programs, as part of a revitalization process to occur over some period of time. Working with the entire university community to establish common practices, and a set of metrics, this will provide a path to reveal programs for revitalization, investment and growth.
“This data can help us drive innovation in our curriculum support, continuous program improvement, and promote financial sustainability by assuring we meet contemporary market demands, and opportunities,” Myers said. “It’s going to launch with a forum on March 25th, and we’ve partnered with the Educational Advisory Board (EAB), they have experts in his field that will be able to help benchmark us against other universities like us. Our real goal here is to make this a collaborative effort that promotes academic excellence and accountability that supports longtime viability as a university.”
Myers announced it will be led by two of their Dean’s, Debbie Mercer of the College of Education and John Buckwalter in the College of Health and Human Sciences and made up of 15-20 experts will be in addition to the normal program reviews already conducted.
“We got the right leadership, and it’s going to be data driven, we’re gonna look at the data, and that’s going to help drive this,” Myers said. “When you work with somebody like EAB, they can also help benchmark with you, how are you doing compared to other land grant universities in the country and that sort of thing. So you can know if you’re way off, that’s how we eventually got around to redoing our budget model. EAB helped us there again, and showed us that we’re way out of line with almost every other university, and we had to change. That was the thing that gave us the momentum to go ahead and change against a lot of headwind.”
Myers clarified that these budget models were going to play a role in the evaluation of these curriculum, as to where a lot of the money for reinvestment into innovative programs, that have real potential, have a place in the budget right now.
“As enrollment grows, that pot will grow. And yes, so it fits right in the budget model, and drives the kind of behavior we hope to continue to work on with this particular task force,” Myers said. “They’re the group that will develop the review process, the decision making is going to be a pretty tight group, and that I’ll be included in that group.”
Myers recounted that it was the pandemic that led them down the path to establish a major program review across the whole university, as they additionally launched a platform called You@KSU. As used by 150 other universities, this third party software provides a comprehensive 24/7 well being platform to help students, faculty and staff to succeed, thrive and matter.
“So you want to help people succeed in academics and career readiness, thrive in areas of personal wellness and matter by finding motivation and involvement. The way this works, if you want to participate, you do it online, you can take these Reality Check quizzes. It’s all confidential, of course, nobody sees the results, but you assess current strengths and challenges and based on this secure information, then it gives you resources you can take advantage of to to help improve your life and you achieve your goals,” Myers said. “This is an addition to what we’re doing with Jed campus, a group that helps us make, assess and then make recommendations on how to improve the mental wellness primarily, in the case of students. They’ve already done their survey of K-state, and now we’re in the process of finding the gaps where we don’t measure up, the best practices and putting those best practices in place.”
Myers says there couldn’t be a better time to do it than after the pandemic, because there’s a lot of need for those sorts of programs, as there is for textbooks and digital textbooks. To be held on March 24th, Kansas State University’s “All-in-for-K-state” social media fundraising event, will assist students with the rising cost of textbooks and in-class educational materials.
President Myers says previous events raised over $300,000 for Cat’s Cupboard fighting food insecurity on campus and helps to combat textbooks prices for students, that average just shy of $1,000 a year.
“I had to buy expensive textbooks for engineering, I imagine you did too. I was always amazed at how much I got back by the end of the year, and I was always amazed by how fast it went. This is a real issue for us to try to reduce the cost of education,” Myers said. “We did this once before, when President Schultz was there as a big effort to move down this path. It takes money to pay the professors to put their material online, and that’s what we’re raising money for. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s some money to get them to convert some of their material online. We estimate the students have already saved nearly $7 million to the previous efforts.”
Myers says the best part is students can get all their materials when they start classes , as it’s not always the case that student’s find out what textbooks can be used or are in stock until they arrive.
“This guarantees they’re gonna have all their textbooks up front, so it’s gonna be a big push,” Myers said. “We’ll see how much will be raised, I’m sure it will be over 300,000, probably over 350,000, which will do a great job in kick starting this effort. Again, we call it Textbooks 2.0.”
As Coronavirus persists, Myers made clear that spring commencement will be held in person on Friday, May 14th through Sunday, May 16th at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. This outdoor venue, has not been used for this purpose in years, and will officiate all the spring and fall 2020 class graduates and those for the spring 21 class as well.
“There’s, I think, a lot of pent up demand for in-person graduations to celebrate the success of our students, and we feel pretty bad that we couldn’t do that other than in a virtual format, which worked pretty well,” Myers said. “It’s nothing like an in person event, so that’s what we’re gonna do, and the whole campus is looking forward to that”.
Myers says in terms of their fall session, they maintain plans for in person classes, and modalities have already been established by the deans, then reviewed by the provost, to make sure the institution is maximizing the in person experience.
“Beyond the classes though, there is a lot of learning that goes on outside the classroom. Some of those are student leadership opportunities, and while that was all done virtually this last academic year, it’s not near as good as being doing this in person,” Myers said. “So all those activities we expect will start back up, and we’re anticipating a pretty normal semester.”
Myers says policies will continue in terms of dealing with the virus as they are, but envisions by the time summer rolls around, everybody will be vaccinated and ready to go back to classes.
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