President Kirk Schulz has been in office for only a couple days, but he has already begun working toward a vision of K-State in 2025.
The Collegian had an opportunity to sit down with him on his second day as president and discuss his goals for K-State.
Q: What are you doing short-term to make K-State 2025 a reality?
A: “What I’m going to spend the rest of the summer and really the fall semester doing is still just getting out and visiting with different groups. So I’ve been visiting Alumni groups — I’ve been to two groups in central Kansas, one in southwest Kansas … I’ve made it to about all of the colleges except for about two or three now where I’ve just spent a couple hours there.
“So a lot of it is just going and hearing what people have to say about the university: what do they think is good; what do they need to see improved … it’s really information gathering. It’s a complex, big place with lots and lots of good things going on, and figuring all of that out as a newcomer is going to take some time.”
Q: Why did you decide on the year 2025?
A: “I wanted something that was about 15 years out … if you move out 15 years, that’s far enough out that people will sort of say, ‘Well, let’s think big.’ Really what I want people to do is dream, think large. I think we’ll be amazed; at the end, there will be a lot of commonality.
“We’ll find the students, the faculty, the staff, alumni, major donors, friends, people in Kansas City, people in western Kansas are all going to converge on a set of fairly common things and that’s what will be in the plan.”
Q: Have you made any immediate changes?
A: “Not really. We’re continuing to look at governance models; the president’s cabinet has got vice presidents on it; and I added the athletic director, the CEO of the Foundation and the CEO of the Alumni Association all to the president’s cabinet because I was familiar with more of that model where I was before. But, we’re going to look at some other things so that we keep students, the Faculty Senate, the Student Senate, the staff, the classified staff senate engaged and involved in decision-making. I’m going to float some things out there over the next couple of months that we think will improve the communications in the senior administration and maybe a little bit of how we do things.”
Q: You seem to be really tech-savvy. How do you think that will help your presidency?
A: “I think people communicate in different ways. Somebody that maybe was a 1960s graduate may not be all that worried about twitter or facebook and things like those. So, I think the presidents of today have to be tech-savvy because we’re trying to appeal to that 14-year-old that’s starting to think about maybe where they want to go to college to the 1960 alumni that may have had a very long and productive career and may be helping out the university in some particular way. So you just can’t do a single way and I think that’s all part of it, plus it’s hard for me to be connected to the students, the faculty, the staff, alumni this allows me to be able to I think keep connections up with people that you may not be able to do otherwise.
Q: Are you enjoying Manhattan?
A: I am and Believe it or not, this is twice the size of where we lived before so Starkville Mississippi does not have a mall it doesn’t have a target and some of those things a so I like small college towns and I lived in two places now that have been about 50,000 people and it’s about the right size. You get some restaurants and some shopping like that but it’s easy to get around and the traffic isn’t too bad but you go up to a couple 100,000 and moving around takes longer. I do like Manhattan it’s very nice but I travel so much that when I need my “big city fix” I’ve got lots of chances to do in Kansas City or Chicago or Minneapolis or places like that.
Q: How’s your family adjusting to the move?
A: They’re doing well my younger son’s here, Andrew, I just met him in the union and he’s at band camp this week here at K-State and so I met him at the union we had lunch at the union then walked around the transfer orientation fair so we got to meet a whole bunch of different groups on campus and stuff like that. He was wearing his K-State shirt and shorts and I don’t even want to know if he was wearing K-State underwear I’m not even going to ask. He seems to be acclimating very well a little adjustment though to being the president’s son, because everybody sort of recognizes maybe not his face but they see his name and they just know on campus that he’s associated with me and so I think he hasn’t found anybody that didn’t know who he is and so it’s not a problem but it’s going to take a little getting used to.
Q: Why didn’t your older son end up coming to K-State?
A: Well he grew up on the Mississippi State campus and was there for eight years and we went to football and basketball and baseball and did stuff during the summer and he was very engaged so he came up to the CU basketball game here and Dr. Bosco sat right in front of him and worked on him the whole game about coming to K-State but he really loves Mississippi State that’s where a lot of his friends are going and it’s a very similar institution to here. So we were pleased with that and it gives him a little bit of freedom away form mom and dad from the perspective of if he came here, my younger son will be in high school but he came here everybody on campus ‘oh yeah your dad’s the new president, your mom and this and your living right there on campus’ I think this allows him to be a college freshman like you would hope someone could come and do and learn on his own and I think it will be fun for him but he’ll be back for fall break and to a football game and so he’ll be around.
Q: Is your wife excited about starting on as a faculty member?
A: She is she’s finishing up a bunch of her graduate students and as a matter of fact she’s in a meeting for the American Society for Engineering Education meeting this week and she had coffee with Dean English earlier today and she’s got a chance to visit with a bunch of the K-State faculty who’ve been at that same meeting. So she’s eager to get here as well and do a yard sale on Saturday back in Starkville and then she’ll be here sunday for a week and she’s got a whole bunch of meeting all set up but we’re all ready to be here. looking forward to our first football game, I mean, we’ve seen all the pictures and all that stuff but it still is not the same actually being there and walking around in my purple coat and shaking everybody’s hand and thanking them for coming out and hopefully we are going to have a capacity crowd for our first game with Coach Snyder being back and be a lot of fun
Q: Is there anything that you have taken from President Jon Wefald into your presidency?
A: I think if you ever talked to Jon, he was very positive and an enthusiastic cheerleader about K-State. You never heard him say something like well this isn’t so good or this isn’t going to happen and I think that’s really important. I think the president has to be that. If everybody sees me with a big hang dog look like aww man I can’t believe this it rubs off on people so I think Jon had that sort of positive can do attitude and I hope to keep that as well I think that’s really really important.
Q: Are their any programs in-particular that you are going to take any personal interest in?
A: Nothing that I’ve got as sort of a personal passion I need to get to know the campus a lot better and sort of what the student programs and things like that are but I want to be out and engaged with our student organizations as much as possible. I think the one area that I need to make sure that I have some involvement in is actually in my own professional society which is the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and I probably need to be more active in that just because that’s sort of my home department and I would like to do that but that just probably means that I will attend 2 events a year or something like that but I’m looking forward to being out and seeing a lot of different things.
Q: Do you have anything specific that you want to achieve by 2025?
A: I don’t know and that sounds maybe like kind of a weird answer but we have to figure out as part of 2025 what it is that we would like to do. One of the things that you’re going to hear coming out of this office is in the previous times we said we are going to be a top whatever land grant institution without a medical school if you look at US news and world report we’re in the top 70 national universities they don’t have to worry about land-grant public private you just list out the best universities and we’re listed in that top 70 now if you realize there’s several hundred national universities that’s a pretty notable achievement so we’re going to continue to work on elevating our national stature and why is that important if I’m a student I need good classes and all that what’s critical is that when you’re out there no matter whether your in California, New York, Kansas City, Salina you want that K-State degree to be respected and you want people to go wow I know something about your university that’s a great place to go to school so national exposure means that more companies come and they look and hire our students. more people just sorta want to be here and say hey if I can get somebody I’d love to get a K-State business graduate or an engineer or somebody out of agriculture econ or theater or whatever it is that’s where I think we need to be. So when we talk about where it is I want to go I don’t have a specific number but I sort of have a good idea that raising our national reputation and exposure is really where I want to see and we’ve just got to quantitate what that needs to be.
Q: How are you handling the current economic situation?
A: We’ve done a couple things already for one we’ve eliminated one of the vice president positions that Mr. Krause held, the vice president for institutional advancement so we’ve taken that and we just eliminated that position and we’ve taken those salary dollars back into the general pool and we’re going to continue to lean up the administrative structure at the institution but we’re also going to spend a lot of time this next year looking at what sort of things we can do to help control cost where we might do some cuts so for example we’ll spend maybe 3 to 4 months putting ideas, putting out there on the table and they did a lot of this, this last year and after that I want to take our Vice President for Finance and Administration and say Bruce, here’s a list of 40 ideas we need to do financial analysis on here to find out are they going to save us money. We need to talk to the provost and see do these things make sense pedagogically. Can we do a better educational experience by combining or changing and if the provost says we’re not going to do anything much better and Bruce says we’re not going to save much money then we need to take that idea off the list and not spend much time on it and focus in on some things where we think we can actually focus in and save some resources.
Q: What is your favorite K-State tradition?
A: I love the color purple my wife’s favorite color has been purple when i met her when she was 18 and so – She’s gone out and bought all this purple stuff, I’ve go a purple coat, I just love the fact that that’s one of the school colors it’s a terrific thing. We still have a strong focus here on agriculture and in these agricultural states that is so so critical that that land grant school be proud of the fact that ‘hey we’ve got people in animal science and those kind of majors’ and I’ve been to a bunch of men’s basketball and I’ve been to a women’s basketball game, I’ve been to a baseball game; the passion of people here the other thing that is really outstanding every university says oh we got passion and fans but I’ll tell you I’ve been very impressed. We may not have the biggest crowds in the Big XII but we’re certainly going to have a crowd that will support our student athletes.