Twenty-six high school students and the operators and founders of the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science (KAMS) kicked off the institution's inaugural year in a ceremony this afternoon at Fort Hays State University, the academy's host institution.
"We have the opportunity to announce many initiatives and accomplishments here at Fort Hays State University, but this one truly is special for several reasons," said FHSU President Edward H. Hammond.
KAMS, the state's premier academic program for exceptional high school students, was established by the Kansas Legislature in 2006. After reviewing proposals from several schools, the Kansas Board of Regents selected Fort Hays State to serve as the host institution. KAMS provides a unique residential learning experience for select high school juniors and seniors.
Hammond said today that KAMS is "living proof that our brand is more than an image."
"It is the substance of who we are and what we do," he said.
"Finally: the beginning," said Ron Keller, KAMS director, who briefly outlined the development of the academy, beginning in 2000 with an idea and progressing through the legislation that created it, the selection of FHSU as the host university and on through hiring a staff and selecting the students in the first class.
"The academy was created out of concern to establish an innovative program to involve some of Kansas' best and brightest students to prepare them in mathematical and scientific problem solving," said Keller. " It is an effort to provide a rigorous curriculum to bright and motivated young people with the knowledge that they will be a part of the future of our state. They will potentially play a key role in strengthening the economic challenges with the state. We are truly investing in enhancing the future intellectual capital of Kansas."
In his comments, President Hammond, who introduced the university's new brand and tagline -- Forward thinking. World ready. -- at the Fall Convocation on Wednesday, proceeded through the five themes behind the brand and related them to KAMS.
"These young KAMS students will give new meaning to exceptional depth of learning, and they'll do it years before their high school peers," he said, explaining the first theme, or brand driver: Learning opportunities with exceptional depth, inside and outside the classroom, from the beginning of the college experience.
KAMS students will discover the truth of the second theme, he said: Outstanding faculty and staff who deliver exceptional attention and support. These new students, like FHSU students before them, will find that "our faculty take a personal interest in their success."
They will also learn that "an education at FHSU involves much more than classroom activities, and they'll become part of an institution that engages with the larger world," he said, illustrating the third theme: An expectation of social, civic and professional engagement.
Hammond said the academy itself illustrates perfectly the fourth and fifth themes: Partnerships and learning experiences that bring together cultures, perspectives and thinking from around the world; and Innovation that drives solutions.
"What could better illustrate this spirit of cooperation than KAMS, which became a reality only through the combined efforts of political leaders, business leaders and education leaders?" he asked.
And as for innovation, he said, "KAMS is a resounding example of innovation, and the result will be not just a better education for these students but a brighter future for Kansas."
Keller introduced one of the two people credited with founding KAMS, Dr. Donald C. Norwood, former teacher, professor and administrator, and Jerry Magliano, professor and administrator at Johnson County Community College. Both, said Keller, have worked since 2000 to make KAMS a reality.
Former Kansas senator Nick Jordan, who guided through the Legislature the senate bill that created KAMS, was scheduled to speak but could not attend.
Kansas Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, congratulated the 26 students in the inaugural class and said, "This is a red-letter day for the state of Kansas and Fort Hays State University, to see this happen. You as a class can make a difference."
"As far as I'm concerned," he said, "the funding will always be there for KAMS, and hopefully we'll get it back up to the original funding that we talked about."
Citing the difficult economic times and the bad news surrounding them, he said, "There's nothing any more important than our education in these difficult times. This is our future. This is what we need to do."
Morris had a special message for the students. "One thing I would ask you as a class to do is seriously consider going to one of our Regents universities when you graduate from this program, and once you graduate from there, I would hope you would stay in Kansas and help us grow our great state. We need you."
He gave special thanks to the parents of the new KAMS students, saying he knew what a sacrifice they are making. As hard as it is to send your children off to college at age 18, he said, it's even harder at age 16.
"I want to thank you very much, too. You won't be sorry," said Morris.
The final speaker on the lineup was Dr. Paul Adams, Anschutz Professor of Education at FHSU, who is also director of the university's Science and Mathematics Education Institute, which oversees KAMS.
"I join Ron and President Hammond in thanking all the people across the state of Kansas who shared in the vision for KAMS and had the resolve to see it through despite historic economic challenges," he said.
"Those of us who teach like to refer to STEM," he said. "That is the acronym we use for the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We believe it is important -- essential, really -- that we establish STEM leadership and move beyond just 'knowing facts' to be innovators and cross-disciplinary thinkers."
"KAMS fits this niche perfectly," he continued. "This innovative new institution, rooted in solid knowledge, will lead to economic growth for our state and will provide an opportunity for the best and brightest of our young students to realize their potential. We needed a place like this. It did not exist before today."
"KAMS," he concluded, "will provide the four defining characteristics of STEM education. They can be stated very simply: know, do, think across disciplines, and interact with others."
KAMS provides a unique residential learning experience for select high school juniors and seniors. These exceptional students, who represent urban, suburban and rural communities from across the state, will earn a high school diploma from their sending school and 68 hours of college credit from FHSU.
For more information on the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science, go to the Web site at http://kams.fhsu.edu. To contact KAMS, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (785) 628-4690.