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Dean's column: Champions off the court

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Living in the heart of Jayhawk Nation, conversations about basketball and brackets flow freely during March. Championship performance is a tradition at KU. While the Jayhawks’ record of success in athletics is undeniable, so too is our record of success as scholars and leaders. As we enter into March Madness, I want to take the opportunity to celebrate the ways in which KU and the College are champions off the court.

Consider, for example, a few recent pieces of alumni news. Juan Manuel Santos won a Nobel Peace Prize. Ashlie Koehn, an award winner many times over as a KU student, won a competitive Schwarzman scholarship to support graduate study in China. And William McNulty, founder of a non-profit that supports veterans and disaster relief efforts, will receive an honorary degree from KU at Commencement this spring.

When we look at how our programs match up against peers, we are exceptional in many ways. Our KU Debate Team is known as one of the best in the country and next week will host the National Debate Tournament. For a third consecutive time, the University Honors Program has received a top rating from “Inside Honors: Ratings and Reviews of Sixty Public University Honors Programs.” And several of our programs consistently rank among the top graduate programs, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Our students frequently earn awards reserved for a select few. This fall, senior Shegufta Huma became the 27th KU student to be named a Rhodes Scholar. Over the summer, senior Olivia Hernández won an international film festival award for her work. KU is one of the few universities selected to award Astronaut Scholarships and Beckman Scholarships. And students from the College are frequent recipients of university-wide recognition, such as Undergraduate Research Awards, TRIO McNair Scholarships and Chancellor’s Doctoral Fellowships.

The accomplishments and impact of our faculty and staff encompass several areas, including prestige in their disciplines, leadership on campus and innovation in higher education.

The accolades our faculty receive for their scholarship are too numerous to list in full here, however, I encourage you to regularly check out our Kudos listing. Our faculty receive awards recognizing innovations in research, including the inaugural Moore Inventor Fellowship awarded to Joanna Slusky in molecular biosciences and computational biology; and the National Endowment for the Arts grant awarded to an interdisciplinary group of humanities and arts faculty for their project on a computerized musical instrument that allows people of all abilities to participate in group improvisation. They’re also recognized for early career accomplishments. For example, Christopher Cushing, psychology and applied behavioral science, was honored with an early career award from the Society for Pediatric Psychology; and Marco Caricato in chemistry is KU's newest recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER award. And distinguished careers garner accolades, too, such as Alice Bean from physics and astronomy, named a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

And in their disciplines, our faculty are recognized for their contributions, service and expertise. A few examples include Bozenna Pasik-Duncan from mathematics serving as global chair of the IEEE Women in Engineering Committee (the world’s largest organization for women in science and engineering); Joan Sereno from linguistics, who was elected chair of section Z (Linguistics and Language Science) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; David Ekerdt from sociology who was elected president of the Gerontological Society of America; and Robert Warrior from English and American studies who is president of the American Studies Association, following colleague David Roediger from history and American studies.

The ways the College leads on our own campus makes for a long list, too. A few highlights include recognition with Diversity Leadership Awards, Women of Distinction, Men of Merit, Staff Fellows, Senior Administrative Fellows, Chancellors Club professorships, University Distinguished Professorships and the C.L.A.S.S. Award.

And when we look at our involvement in shaping the future of higher education, the College is at the forefront in many ways. We are partnering in KU’s role as a Language Training Center for military personnel. We helped KU secure a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for alternative academic doctoral training. Our faculty are also involved in efforts to improve teaching through projects supported by organizations such as the Association of American Universities and the Bay View Alliance.

The list above is long but it represents only a small fraction of the prowess the College possesses as a community of scholars and leaders. It’s even more incredible to consider that this covers just the current academic year up to this point. If we were to look back just a few more years, the tradition of accolades would be all the more impressive. So, as you watch the tournament and our champions on the court, keep in mind our champions off the court and the many ways we are making a name for KU and the College across our state, nation and world. 


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