Kansas State University president Richard Myers gave his first State of the University address Friday afternoon, focusing on the university’s goals and challenges.
Myers opened up the address by dedicating a moment to remember Steve Logback, associate vice president for the Division of Communications and Marketing, who suddenly passed away Thursday evening.
Myers’ main theme of this address was paying respect to K-State’s early years, as it was the first land-grant institution in the nation. This was made possible by former United States president Abraham Lincoln in 1863.
“Being a land-grant university means everything to us,” Myers said. “It’s a special designation that I believe was the original engine for economic development and quality of life for the U.S.”
Myers said the university is uncertain of what the low enrollment numbers mean for K-State’s future.
“Enrollment numbers are one thing,” Myers said. “What counts is credit hours, so we need to know how many credit hours we’re going to accumulate this semester so we know what the budget impact is.”
Campus salaries are an issue K-State’s University Support Staff Senate is concerned about. The USS Senate acts as a voice for employees at K-State.
“USS staff are dealing with increases to taxes and health insurance premiums at a rate higher than increases being received,” Carrie Fink, president of the USS Senate, said. “USS staff are also feeling the pressure of increased workloads as positions stay vacant.”
Brian Lindshield, president of K-State’s Faculty Senate and host for Friday’s address, said he felt optimistic about President Myers’ decision to tackle the budget model.
“It’s been put off for a number of years,” Lindshield said. “I think this will be a major takeaway for faculty, and a big change for campus.”
Myers repeated the three themes of teaching, research and service throughout his address, saying programs like K-State First are designed to help freshmen acclimate to a new environment in a successful way.
“We are committed to providing all students with a quality education and preparing them to be a good member of a vibrant democracy,” Myers said.
Myers also revisited K-State’s goal to be one of the top 50 research universities in the nation. K-State currently has $193 million in research and development expenditures. To be included in the top 50 ranks, the university’s R&D expenditures will need to be closer to $300 million.
“President Myers embodies that thing that admits ad astra per aspera, or times of difficulty, with declining enrollment and declining state funding,” said Jack Ayres, student body president and senior in chemical engineering. “We want to grow. We want to become better. We want to be a top 50 research university, and that kind of drive and that passion to do more with less is extremely indicative of the nature of K-State, and I think that’s what today just showed.”
In terms of diversity and inclusion, Myers touched on K-State’s position among the “Top 25 LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges and Universities,” as determined by CampusPride.org. Myers also mentioned the university’s plans to launch a multicultural student center as soon they find and select a chief of diversity.
“It’s not enough, but we’re proud of that,” Myers said.
Ayres said he is eager to get the multicultural student center project started.
“We need to move the needle on the multicultural student center,” Ayres said. “President Myers talking about it today is a perfect example of that.”
Changes like these are what President Myers said he is focused on, regardless of if it will be easy or not. President Myers said he deemed the state of the university to be “strong.”
Over the past 154 years, Myers said K-State has been “built on a foundation of high standards in teaching, research, service and delivering exceptional opportunities to those who want to take on the challenge.”