Our university’s leader says that K-State is getting bigger and better. Students, faculty and administration gathered in the Alumni Center Ballroom Friday at 3:30 p.m. to hear this message from President Kirk Schulz at the 2012 State of the University address and open forum.
The State of the University address provided a snapshot of K-State’s current standings in finances, enrollment and progress toward K-State 2025, President Schulz’s plan for K-State to become a top-50 public research university by the year 2025.
The main theme of the address was the university’s increases in certain areas, including enrollment and financial support.
“We have record breaking enrollment statistics,” Schulz said. “In addition, this freshman class is the largest and most diverse freshman class in K-State’s history.”
The number of Caucasian, African-American, Asian and multiracial students have all increased this past year. K-State-Salina and the newest institution, K-State-Olathe, have also seen a rise in student enrollment. Growth was also apparent in finance.
“We are experiencing new records in fundraising, athletic support and alumni support,” Schulz said.
Alumni participation was especially substantial. Alumni financial support has grown from $67,373 total to $91,975 total in this fiscal year, according to Schulz.
“This is simply an amazing statistic,” Schulz said.
Schulz also highlighted increases in research funding. Students in attendance were pleased to see the university doing well.
“I think things look good,” said Nate Spriggs, senior in agricultural economics and student body president. “It’s exciting to see research grants on the rise and the reputation of the school going up.”
The statistics presented by Schulz were not just available for audience members. A live-tweet station was set up by Schulz’s podium, and tweets of his speech were posted on a big screen as he presented them with the hashtag #KStateSOU. The tweets were posted to @KState’s nearly 9,000 followers.
The Faculty Senate hosted the State of the University address, as it does every year. The Faculty Senate is the administration government that creates and enforces policies for academics, information technology, faculty issues and university planning. Jim Bloodgood, Faculty Senate president, said that the address was beneficial for both administration and students.
“It’s really designed to get information to flow back and forth,” Bloodgood said. “This event provides students, faculty and administration with information.”
Bloodgood also said that K-State-Olathe, a graduate level school specializing in biosciences, is growing.
“I’m not sure what it will look like in the future,” Bloodgood said. “It is definitely evolving.”
Schulz’s State of the University address also touched on campus infrastructure, both completed and in progress. Schulz presented renderings of designs for a new Purple Masque Theatre and a new Grain Science Building.
“Expansion is certainly a part of our mission,” Schulz said. “Over the next year or two, we’re going to be gaining momentum as far as adding high-quality research and teaching space for our core academic programs.”
Schulz gave spotlights to outstanding faculty, staff and students.
“Our faculty has had a tremendous year once again with so many achievements,” Schulz said.
These achievements included national awards for research and teaching, obtaining patents for new designs and success in international studies.
“We want to make sure that our students and faculty are going out to compete and be successful,” Schulz said, “to bring those international experiences back to K-State.”
Schulz presented K-State’s rankings in several college rating systems, including the U.S. News Report, Forbes’ Review and the Princeton Review. Schulz said that it wasn’t necessarily a goal of the university’s to move up in these rankings, but he did appreciate that the work of the university was nationally noticed.
“We’re very proud of the recognition we have,” Schulz said. “We are second in the nation in student life and student happiness.”
Another main aspect of the address was campus budget. Schulz revealed data that showed that, for the second year in a row, the amount of money coming into the university through tuition was greater than the amount coming in by state funding. Schulz said that because of the small difference between the two amounts, this happens frequently to many schools.
“This is probably the most telling part of our new economy and the way that a lot of public universities are supported across the country,” Schulz said. “I think this is the environment we live in and it’s up to us to find creative ways to keep tuition and fees affordable.”
Despite this challenge, K-State has received $27.8 million in new state funding, in part due to engineering initiatives and animal health research.
After the main presentation, Schulz opened the floor for questions from the audience. He received questions from faculty regarding the budget and its allocation to different departments, specifically why more research money is allocated to engineering and other already highly-funded programs.
“My suggestion is to continue to submit these comments to us,” Schulz said. “We want to take those and use them to modify what we’ve done, and put out some sort of revision in the future. This is a draft. We will come back out with revisions.”
Schulz also addressed Zimbra mail during the questioning period, stating that the university will soon be changing mail systems and is currently going through submissions to find which company to switch to.
Schulz’s address was meant to inform both students and faculty, for the purpose of student betterment.
“What we want to do is enhance the student experience,” Schulz said in an interview. “What that means is creating and maintaining outstanding facilities, outstanding faculty and staff and funding.”
According to Schulz, students’ role in this plan is to stay informed.
“Students need to be involved,” Schulz said. “Every student has the opportunity to have their voices heard.”
Students can do this by joining student organizations and opening communication to both the university faculty and the state Senate. Spriggs agreed with Schulz on the importance of student involvement.
“Something unique to K-State is our student government and student organizations, and how they stay involved,” Spriggs said. “Whether they support something or not, students and faculty are always communicating. Just today we saw faculty and students stand to give critiques and support.”
That kind of engagement is what Schulz says is necessary to keep state funding up.
“We need to make sure that the state continues to invest in higher education, to keep us as affordable as possible,” Schulz said. “That’s our biggest challenge, and it’s critical to our success.”
Spriggs said that our current Student Governing Association is involved with the K-State 2025 plan, meeting with Schulz often to discuss improvements and form committees to further enhance educational opportunities and gain more funding. Spriggs described the SGA as an all-around partnership with the faculty senate and administration.
“I’m excited with this State of the University,” Spriggs said. “I’m more excited to see the growth in all these different aspects. I look forward to the year ahead.”
Schulz ended the address by stating how proud and honored he was to be doing what he was doing for the university, and how he appreciated the work of faculty, staff and students.
“This is the fourth address I’ve ever done,” Schulz said. “It’s an honor to serve as your president. I appreciate what you do, what all of you do. Let’s all go out and have a great year.”