Affirmation of our commitment to students, Kentucky March 24, 2023
For several days this week, a panel of senior higher education administrators from across the country visited our campus.
They represented the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the accrediting body that reaffirms universities like ours every 10 years.
Accreditation is required for practical reasons, such as eligibility to receive federal funds for student financial aid. But as important in many respects is the process of having leading experts from outside our campus review our mission and how we are executing as an institution.
Although we won’t receive official word on reaffirmation until the end of the year, I am very pleased to report to our campus community that this panel told me and our internal accreditation team Thursday morning that there will be no areas of noncompliance or concern out of more than 70 standards evaluated.
In other words, these experts are strongly affirming what we do and how we do it.
Most significant to me, though, was how they described you. Over four days, the review team interviewed dozens of people from across our campus. They evaluated a report we submitted, totaling some 600 pages and more than 3,000 points of evidence.
In virtually every exchange, panel members said they heard our community and team members remark about our commitment to advancing Kentucky in everything — everything — that we do.
One review team member, who has evaluated several institutions over the years, said many are obsessed with rankings.
At UK, he said, the focus is firmly fixed on educating Kentucky.
This, of course, has been our unaltered mission for nearly 160 years — to give more students from Kentucky an even greater opportunity for lives of well-being for themselves, their families and our Commonwealth.
I am proud that it is so evident to people — uniformly respected in their fields — who haven’t been with us before, but who quickly felt a sense that they know who we are and what matters to us.
We also discussed with reviewers a new initiative — required as part of the reaffirmation process — to embed enhanced learning opportunities for students across our curriculum and campus.
Our initiative — called Transdisciplinary Educational approaches to advance Kentucky (TEK) — will leverage our distinctive capacity to bring world-class faculty experts together across disciplines to focus on student learning and outcomes. One evaluator said she was inspired by the work we are doing in this new learning space to prepare students for lives of meaning and purpose.
Of course, our success in this endeavor depends on our people who give so much to this institution in their areas of expertise.
Provost Bob DiPaola and a designated team have worked countless hours preparing for the review team’s visit.
Katherine McCormick, a long-time faculty leader and academic administrator, was our point person for this process. RaeAnne Pearson served as director of planning and accreditation and Camille Harmon was the project manager. Professor Susan Cantrell led the effort around the development of TEK, which was a critical area of discussion throughout the review team’s visit, and which now will be a point of focus as we implement it across our campus.
I am deeply grateful to these leaders, their teams and so many others who represented our campus. They embody the “Power of We.” So do all of you, who remain steadfastly committed to our students and to our north star: advancing Kentucky.
Thank you for being a community so focused on what matters — our state and its future.