By Emily Leayman
While the KU Council of Trustees searches for a permanent president for the university, Dr. Carlos Vargas-Aburto, acting president, has many goals for improving academics.
“I believe that we need to work on enhancing the student learning experience,” he said.
To do so, Vargas is looking at all areas of the university: faculty, staff, coach and student perspectives.
He believes student recruitment and retention is a critical part of this, since enrollment decreased in the past few years. One action he has taken was meeting with department chairs across campus to discuss retention.
Many chairs expressed concerns of offering enough required classes for students. Vargas said that times when classes are held might cause conflict, since several required classes may run at the same time for a student. In addition, some departments may not have enough faculty.
Because Vargas does not want students to face obstacles to receiving their degrees, he will consider how the number of faculty affects students. Another topic he wants to discuss more is curriculum innovation. He will continue conversations with department chairs this year.
Vargas said that appointing vice president of Enrollment Management Kimberly Scranage is working well to recruit students and the new marketing campaign that started in the spring is being well-received.
KU pride is another one of his focuses. On move-in day, Vargas went to develop a sense of pride among new and returning students by completing the ALS ice bucket challenge. Many students came to thank him for doing the challenge.
“I think the students had pride, something I want to promote this year.”
The KU Council of Trustees recently began a nationwide search for a permanent president. According to Matt Santos, director of University Relations, a new president will likely be appointed for the 2015-16 academic year.
Vargas told The Keystone in a recent interview that he plans on applying for the unfilled president position.
Vargas became acting president in July after Dr. F. Javier Cevallos, the former president, accepted a new
job at Framingham State University in Massachusetts. Before this position, Vargas served as provost and vice president for Academic and Student Affairs. If he does not obtain the permanent position, he plans on returning to his old position. He said he and his wife Pam “love this place and prefer not to go anywhere.”
Vargas grew up in Mexico, attending the National University in Mexico City and obtaining a bachelor’s in physics. At the University of Michigan, he earned master’s degrees in physics and aerospace science along with a Ph.D. in physics. Previously he taught science labs at KU before dedicating himself to the provost and vice president position.
Even as president, he hopes the students will see him “as a real person.” On weekends, the campus community can find Vargas playing soccer with faculty, staff and sometimes students.
“[Faculty and staff] have the ability to push me aside…without retribution,” he said, laughing.