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State of the University | September 2010

Welcome, I am always excited to gather back together after the quiet pace of summer with renewed energy for the upcoming year.

My intent today is to bring you up-to-date on where we are now and then talk about my vision for Baker as we grow and look to the future.

First, I want to acknowledge, once again, the challenges each and every one of you—each and every one of us—faced last year. We made due with much less then we ever thought possible and always, to the best of our abilities, worked to minimize the impact on our students. Amidst all the complex decisions in front of us last year, I was continually astonished and moved by the dedication, generosity and strength you were able to summon to support the University. Thank you.

Last year, similar to many other private institutions of higher education, we adapted to great changes within our organizations. It was imperative to realign our business practices so that our financial foundation matched the high goals we set for our academic vision. At this time, we have incorporated new fiscal policies that will allow us to refocus on our primary mission—educating students.

As we turn our gaze forward towards a new chapter, I am also feeling a strong sense of urgency for us to grow, to more fully define who we are and who we want to be. Of course we have the HLC (312.263.0456, ncahlc.org) self-study process to help inform, but as I have told Administration Cabinet, we will use 2011 to re-launch in 2012. I am calling this process BAKER 2012 and Beyond. And for the remainder of our time together today, I would like to talk about our visioning and strategic planning process—Where we are going and what it will take to get there.

Vision & Strategic Planning

Our Vision Includes Building on Our History

As we all know, Baker is the first University in Kansas. We began with a vision: to light the lamp of knowledge in every individual regardless of gender or race so that they may inspire and lead others by their contributions. In 1858, thirteen Methodist ministers defied the odds and forged a university out of a rough Kansas prairie. They built their dream stone by stone, student by student, building upon building and now city after city as Baker’s vision forges partnerships across regional and international boundaries.

Today, we are the modern day founders — looking towards building on our heritage and history while leading Baker in this century. Our aim is to define and intensify our core strengths and continue to deliver on the promise of our mission – to provide the academic and professional skills our students need to become confident, competent, and responsible contributors to society.

We have grown from a single liberal arts institution to one that includes three additional well-respected schools. We have changed and adapted ourselves with great foresight.

The combined strengths of our four schools are an asset for Baker and have helped sustain us. Over the last two years, we have learned how to better communicate our identity as a multifaceted University. We have worked to create standards for visuals, language and academic purpose and have achieved cohesion in many areas while maintaining unique missions and goals for each of the schools. Our discussions have allowed us to highlight our commonalities and our differences. And in some cases this has led to conversations about the relative strength or importance of each school/college.

Let me be clear, Baker University has its roots and foundation in the liberal arts tradition right here in Baldwin City and the College of Arts and Sciences will continue to be our anchor campus. But let me be just as clear, our other three newer schools are equally vital to the rich fabric of our entire University—we are not One Baker—but we are quite simply Baker University.

So, where is Baker University going?

Our Current Vision

Baker University is a premier private university with a tradition of academic excellence and student engagement in a respectful, inviting and values-based learning community. The faculty provides creative, student-focused learning experiences challenging students to analyze issues with depth and clarity. Students fully engage in their learning; connect with peers, faculty and staff; and develop lifelong relationships with diverse groups of people. Graduates realize their potential to become confident, competent contributors to society.

Our mission, values and vision continue to be a strong foundation and have served us well. But it will take a new level of thinking and courageous conversations to define specifically how we will consistently lead our students to be responsible contributors to society. This will require us to sharpen our focus on where we are going and develop academic and community structures that reflect our ideals and enable us to accomplish our goals.

Today, I would like to share a more focused vision and identify areas of concentration for the future. Over the last month, I began unfolding my vision to the Administrative Cabinet and a small group of faculty. Since that time, with input from over 40 people, a collective vision for Baker’s future is starting to take shape:

Focused Vision

Building on its heritage, Baker University will expand its academic presence as a first choice institution by inspiring students to gain knowledge, perspective and compassion so they may contribute meaningfully to an increasingly complex, interdependent and global society.

Baker will continue to build on the collective power and distinctive missions of our four schools by focusing on:

  • B – Buildings, facilities, grounds and technology
  • A – Academics
  • K – Key Focus: Serving Our Students
  • E –Enrollment Growth
  • R - Resources

As you leave, you will be given a handout that clarifies the proposed vision and focus areas. My charge to members of the Administrative Cabinet is to discuss this with their departments. Your feedback and input into this vision and process is essential.

But for now, let me talk about some specifics from each of these focus areas:

We have appointed leaders for each concentration area to work toward:

  • Establishing task forces (or use existing structures) with representatives from across the University
  • Determining strategic goals and actions for each task force
  • Dr. Rob Flaherty will provide training and support to each task force on the development of short-term initiatives

B – Buildings, Facilities, Grounds & Technology

Team leaders are Simon Maxwell and Patrick Mikesic.

Our Vision

We will maintain facilities that are inviting and pristine with contemporary tools for student engagement and innovative teaching experiences.

What does that mean?

  • Facilities and grounds must be clean, inviting and safe at all times
  • All facilities outside of Baldwin City must have clear identification with the Baker University identity through signage and artwork
  • Service and safety for our students is the top priority
  • Immediate decisions on future renovations will be based on the impact for attracting new students and retention of current students to facilitate our academic goals.
  • Technology plan will be developed and funded to meet most immediate needs of students

A – Academics & Accreditation

We must have a successful accreditation process, and I thank Simon Maxwell and Randy Pembrook for your leadership and to the Criterion Chairs for your dedication and hard work.

I will come back to academics in a few minutes.

K – Key Focus: Serving Our Students

Peggy Harris and Cassy Bailey are leading this initiative.

Our Vision

Respectful and caring faculty and staff who place a priority on the needs and best interests of students.

Baker students pay for and deserve the very best customer service. We must develop a culture of assistance. Policies should be designed to protect academic integrity:

  • Easy to navigate procedures and practices designed to promote student success and growth
  • Seamless services
  • Students are treated with respect.

In addition, a key focus on serving students means unique and value added student engagement opportunities, activities and experiences intentionally designed to encourage team interaction, service to others, communication among diverse populations, and personal and spiritual well being.

E – Enrollment Growth

This initiative will be led by Mark Bandre and Pete Stobie.

Our Vision

Admission, enrollment and retention opportunities are maximized for a diverse student population based on careful planning and programming to allow all students to successfully complete their degrees.

Enrollment growth is imperative for the financial health of the university and for enhancing the student experience.

To accomplish this, we will:

  • Institute realistic growth and enrollment objectives
  • Determine resources needed to achieve the goals
  • Establish realistic and stretch retention metrics
  • Develop a reasonable discount rate

R – Resources

This initiative is being led by Susan Lindahl and Lyn Lakin.

Our Vision

We must have the resources to support the continuous improvement of the academic, social and culturally diverse foundations of the institution.

Goals for this initiative:

  • Human resources to achieve our mission
  • Fundraising objectives must be met
  • Revenue exceeds expenses
  • Debt reduction
  • Begin to restore compensation levels

Now, back to academics.

Baker’s three deans are leading this initiative: Rand Zeigler, Peggy Harris and Kathy Harr.

Our focus is on distinctive, relevant and high quality academic programs, taught by our passionate, devoted and inspiring faculty who motivate students to become engaged citizens of the world.

To attract new students, we must identify, support and market the distinctiveness of our programs:

  • The innovation of our new Liberal Studies Program
  • The relevance and success of our distinctive majors
  • The reputation and respect of our high profile majors/programs for our School of Nursing, School of Education and the MBA program
  • Use of multiple delivery systems: on-line, on-ground, experiential, learning teams, alternative calendars
  • Targeted fundraising for specific program growth and development

Let me go back to the vision I stated earlier:

Focused Vision

Building on its heritage, Baker University will expand its academic presence as a first choice institution by inspiring students to gain knowledge, perspective and compassion so they may contribute meaningfully to an increasingly complex, interdependent and global society.

To accomplish this, we need to focus and more actively pursue specific aspects of the liberal studies initiative:

  • Contribute meaningfully: Service and civic engagement
  • Complex interdependent: Interdisciplinary
  • Global society: International and multicultural focus

To help jump-start this initiative, I am dedicating funds from the Kopke gifts and the President’s Vision Fund toward a program that will distribute micro-grants or seed funding for small projects that represent our goal of serving the community and the common good. If you need seed money to support a project in your class or student organization around the topic of Service, Diversity/Multiculturalism/Global, or Interdisciplinary learning, you can apply for a grant to accomplish small yet important services or initiatives. The grant can be obtained by sending your Vice President a simple description of the project and what you intend to accomplish. A short summary of what was achieved will be required after the project is complete.

Project examples:

  • Textbooks to support an innovative class idea
  • Organize a system to work with local farmers to distribute produce to families in need
  • Develop a two- to three-hour workshop on tolerance by inviting representatives from four faiths to lead a discussion about hate
  • Research community business needs and link to a global partner
  • A senior citizen project that addresses issues of loneliness and alienation
  • Transport the choir or CAS comedy groups to perform for disadvantaged youth or a senior center
  • Set up a local history lecture series that encourages community members to tell their stories and contribute to the historical record

This is our vision and our direction. I believe we have a great opportunity before us and together we can accomplish much. We need you involved in the process and your input is important. To assure you have a voice, let me talk quickly about one initiative I am personally concentrating on this year to increase effective communications across the university.

First, New Administrative Structures

  • Enlarged Executive Cabinet: Members are people who report directly to me. The Executive Cabinet meets twice monthly and is charged with University-wide leadership and decision-making.
  • Extended Administrative Cabinet: Consists of 41 members including the Executive Cabinet and their direct reports.

The purpose of the extended Administrative Cabinet monthly meetings is to:

  • Improve communication across units and across the University
  • Define, lead and provide accountability for Strategic Initiatives for “BAKER 2012 and Beyond”
  • Support a successful HLC process
  • Assist in determining budget priorities for 2012

New Communication Initiatives

Over last two weeks, I extended an invitation to meet with the entire faculty on the CAS campus. I listened to concerns and have taken common themes back to the Administrative Cabinet. The deans and operating officer have been charged with task force assembly to address changes in both a short term and long term plan. You will hear more about this later.

Staff Input & Feedback

  • Staff will have the opportunity to participate in Change and Communications Workshops. Dr. Tim Buzzell and Dr. Larry Sullivan will work with eight administrators who will facilitate these workshops. Facilitators are: Darla Prather, Erin Joyce, Andy Jett, Patrick Mikesic, Kelly Belk, Cassy Bailey, Connie Deel, Matt Mills and Amanda Kulp.
  • All workshops will be completed by October 15.
  • Feedback will be noted and prioritized for use in strategic planning.
  • SharePoint Site for HLC Self-study

Ongoing Communications Systems

  • University Cabinet: We will continue with the University Cabinet and meet twice a semester. For those who don’t know about University Cabinet, it is comprised of over 60 faculty, staff and students. If you would like to become a member, send an e-mail to my office.
  • Coffee and Conversations: This year, I will return to holding open informal meetings where faculty and staff are invited to ask questions and hear updates.
  • Town Halls and Special All-University Meetings: Each semester a formal University-wide meeting is held in Baldwin City and Overland Park to provide updates and to answer questions.

I believe each of these efforts will help us to move forward.


I know for many of you, I have not gone far enough in setting the stage, for others I have gone too far, and for some you are thinking, “Why do we need to change?” I will tell you I believe we have great opportunity. Baker University will continue our promise of social responsibility and the exploration of critical solutions for an increasingly complex and interdependent global society. Like our Methodist founders, we face both challenges and opportunities that will require renewed courage, candid conversations and creative solutions developed by a genuine community of learners with a commitment to explore and embrace change. I cannot do this alone; a few administrators cannot do this alone. It will take all of us working together to fulfill this vision. I am ready, I am committed and I have the courage. I hope you will join me.

As a symbol of new beginning and our journey, when we leave here we are going to gather just south of Parmenter to plant a new tree. We invite you all to come out and be a part of this ceremony. The journey begins today and together we will build our future.