K-State administration launches Next-Gen K-State

K-State announced K-State Next-Gen at the 2023 State of the University Address. The event was followed by a reception on Anderson Hall Lawn. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Hollingsworth)

At the 2023 State of the University Address Sept. 8, Marshall Stewart presented the plan for Next-Gen K-State, a new initiative to reframe how Kansas State views its students and expand opportunities.

“The most important people [here] are what we historically have called ‘students,’” Stewart, senior vice president of executive affairs, said. “Well today we’re going to shift that narrative from ‘student’ to ‘learner.’ … When you reframe what learning is about and you open it up to the world, you can truly change the world.” 

Stewart said to understand Next-Gen K-State, you must understand what it means to be a land-grant university.

“In the middle of a civil war, Abraham Lincoln signed the land-grant act,” Stewart said. “It created access and opportunity for generations. You see, prior to that, only the affluent and the well-connected could go to a university. If you weren’t from a ruling class, you didn’t get to go. There were masses of people in this country who had no opportunity for higher education.” 

K-State’s President Richard Linton said Next-Gen K-State will redefine land-grant universities.

“One thing that excites me greatly about this process is how we are using this moment to reclaim our place in history as the nation’s first land-grant university and redefine what it means to be a modernized land-grant university,” Linton said. 

To launch Next-Gen K-State, the university will invest in several areas around campus, Stewart said.

“The first thing we’re proud to announce today is we’re going to invest $7.9 million in this whole area of learners,” Stewart said. “If you look at how that money is going to be invested, it’s going to go into a student success playbook, for instance. That’s going to better enable us to be better at advising and retaining students to keep them in. … Another investment we’re getting ready to make is $6.5 million in research.” 

Stewart said K-State will also invest in creating equal opportunities for every student.

“We want every student to have access to international opportunities, access to intentional meaningful internships, to ensure that they’re taking advantage of the Staley School of Leadership with all the leadership content that’s there,” Stewart said. “If we do that, we distinguish ourselves and make ourselves unique. And when you’re unique and distinct, people want to come here.”

Stewart said Next-Gen K-State also aims to solve problems caused by Kansas droughts.

“We’re going to build a water institute,” Stewart said. “It’s going to be interdisciplinary. It’s going to pan the entire campus, and it may even pan other universities before it’s over. Because what we want to do is solve that issue once and for all for the state of Kansas.” 

Stewart said K-State administrators chose several themes to base Next-Gen K-State around.

“Community health and well-being, sustainability, global food security, biosecurity, enabling technologies,” Stewart said. “Those are some of the themes we’ve chosen because they play to our strengths. They’re also strengths that the state needs. They’re also globally where the country and the world leads us.” 

Karen Goos, vice provost of enrollment management, said Next-Gen K-State is important for improving enrollment at the university. 

“We’ll see a steady growth of highschool graduates until 2026,” Goos said. “Then we’re going to see a gradual decline, so about a 3% decline in highschool graduates in the state of Kansas between now and 2030, the end of our strategic plan. Beyond that we’re going to see a pretty significant decline, so it’s now that we need to be prepared.”

Linton said every K-State student and faculty member should be proud of the improvements Next-Gen K-State will create.

“When I think about K-State, there’s one clear method I’d like to say,” Linton said. “Be proud of who you are and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. I ask you in the journey ahead to get energized and excited about what K-State can be, and what your role can be in the journey for excellence.”