In February of 2010, Kansas State University launched a new, long-term initiative to become a top 50 public research university by the year 2025.
The plan was named 2025, and has been President Kirk Schulz’s biggest goal since coming to Manhattan in 2009.
“2025 is our strategic, visionary plan that seeks to move Kansas State University to be recognized as one of the top 50 public research universities in the country,” Schulz explained. “We want to raise the national visibility of K-State.”
Raising the university’s national image will add value to K-State’s degree programs, help attract great faculty, retain great faculty and bring more companies to campus to visit with students about jobs, Schulz said.
It’s also Schulz’s hope that 2025 will raise national recognition of K-State graduates in the work force, adding value to a K-State student’s degree.
“What it does is add value to degrees, whether it’s a Ph.D., a master’s or bachelor’s degree,” he said. “It makes the opportunities for our graduates so much more rich than what they might currently have.”
It was important to Schulz that he get a broad range of people around the university to have input into the plan to make it work. He said that the university’s faculty and staff have to be part of the process to make the plan a success.
“You start getting creative energies of our 1,500 faculty and staff thinking, ‘How can I raise the profile of my department?’ ‘How can I have richer experiences for my undergraduate students?’ ‘What kind of facilities do we need?’ So now we got people thinking more broadly about ‘what do I need 10 years from now’ to really help us get here,” Schulz said.
During Schulz’s tenure as president, K-State has seen gains in its fundraising efforts – which Schulz made a priority to improve upon.
“We’ve gone from $82 million, to $92 million, to $107 million, to we’ll be substantially above that this year (in private fundraising),” he said.
Schulz said it’s important for K-State to make gains in private donations to help retain current faculty, bring in new faculty and make facility improvements around campus as well.
“It’s great to say, ‘Well, we want all this stuff,’ or ‘we need higher salaries,’ or ‘we need this or we need that.’ You got to figure out some way to put resources behind that,” Schulz said. “That goes hand-in-hand with private fundraising.”
He said people like investing in an organization that appears to be going somewhere. “That’s why we’re seeing some of those resources coming our direction, because the governor likes where we’re going, the legislature likes where we’re going, our major donors like where we’re going,” Schulz said.
Going into its second year, 2025, has already improved upon some of Kansas State’s on campus facilities, such as the expansion of Justin Hall, adding scholarships and providing more support for faculty and staff.
“We’ve added somewhere around 200 new, endowed scholarships over the last couple of years that have been talked about in the undergraduate experience. We’ve added some endowed chairs that provide faculty support to allow us to retain a really good faculty,” said Schulz.
But if the university wants to reach its goal of becoming a top 50 public research institution, Schulz said keeping its professors and attracting others from around the country are priorities.
“The place that we’re going to continue to lag is in that K-State has compensated or paid our faculty and staff at a below market amount for 50 years,” Schulz said. “If we’re going to be a top 50 public research university…we’re going to have to find some creative ways to make sure that we’re paying a reasonable and nationally competitive salary,” he said.
Schulz said that students should get involved in the 2025 process. One way they can do this, he said, is by graduating and going out in the work world, and then giving the university advice on how to prepare current students.
“When people graduate, we need them to continue to be involved and engaged with what (K-State) can do better. We want to make sure, though, that we’re checking along the way, that we keep that focus on students – our friendliness, our getting to know our students. If we start losing those things, then we won’t be happy with where we are, even if we are No. 48,” Schulz said.