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Campus Community,

As we near the halfway mark in the academic year, I wanted to provide an update on an important initiative that will guide much of our future work together as we seek to advance Kentucky in everything that we do.

Our Board of Trustees directed me and our campus community to accelerate our efforts to align with the state’s most pressing needs and opportunities. This initiative is a direct outgrowth of our strategic plan, The UK-PURPOSE, which was endorsed by the UK Board of Trustees in October, 2021.

If our state is to be healthier, wealthier and wiser in the future, we must be responsive to what Kentucky needs from its university. Our board has directed me to focus on five key areas that speak to the state’s future and our role in advancing it. In response, I’ve worked with our elected faculty, staff and students to form workgroups, each facilitated by senior leaders, to build out plans around these areas of focus.

There is no time to waste. The workgroups are meeting now. They will make progress reports at each meeting of the Board of Trustees throughout this academic year. The Board has asked for a substantive progress report at its June meeting. The workgroups and co-facilitators include:

  • More Educated Kentuckians: Enrolling and graduating more students to meet workforce needs across the state as well as preparing plans for the talent and infrastructure we will need to support growth. This group is co-facilitated by Vice President for Student Success Kirsten Turner and Dean of the College of Health Sciences and Professor Scott Lephart.
  • More Readiness: Examining through our shared governance structure the university’s general education requirements – the UK Core – to ensure that our students are gaining the necessary skills and competencies to compete, thrive and lead. Kentucky needs a workforce with technical competence, but also with the capacity and commitment to think critically and act ethically. Co-facilitators for this workgroup are Robert DiPaola, Provost, Co-EVPHA, and Professor and DeShana Collett, Chair of the Senate Council and Professor.
  • More Partnerships: Exploring how we expand the impact of our work through acquisitions and partnerships with the private sector, governments at all levels and other organizations that can help maximize our reach in all facets of our mission. This work group’s co-facilitators are Nancy Cox, Vice President for Land Grant Engagement, Dean of the Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and Professor, and Rob Edwards, UK HealthCare’s Vice President and Chief Strategy and Growth Officer.
  • More Employee Recruitment and Retention: Developing recommendations for how we do even more to recruit and retain the workforce we need to support our growth and the acceleration of our efforts to advance the state. Vice President for Institutional Diversity Katrice Albert and Vice President for Human Resources Melissa Frederick are co-facilitators for this workgroup.
  • More Responsiveness: Reviewing policies, procedures and financing strategies to ensure UK is aligned with the state’s needs. Specifically, this workgroup will examine our relationships with policymakers throughout the state as well as the legislative and regulatory climate, both externally and internally, to determine whether we are positioned to move quickly to respond to what the state is asking us to do. Co-facilitators for this workgroup are Vice President for Research and Professor Lisa Cassis and University Treasurer Penny Cox.

You can read more about the board’s direction for us at this release:

Visit this website for the most up to date information on these initiatives, including the full membership of each workgroup. I will also keep the campus informed through periodic updates.

As always, we don’t do our work in a vacuum. Higher education across the country is the focus of increased interest – from questions about the value of what we provide to our collective responses to and educational efforts around issues that roil our country and world. Close to home, a state legislative session begins in January, one where our institutional budget for the next two years will be determined, and several other critical policy issues will be discussed and debated.

Against that backdrop, this effort to accelerate our progress for Kentucky is an acknowledgement by our Board of two fundamental and profoundly important things.

We are doing more than ever before to advance Kentucky. We are educating and graduating more students than at any time in our nearly 160-year history. We are treating and healing more patients than ever before, extending access to advanced care to more places and more people. Our research has reached record levels, so much of it focused on Kentucky. And we are strengthening our commitment to engagement, a cornerstone of who we are and what we do as a land-grant institution.

But our Board has recognized that there is still much more to do, and the time to do it is now. Kentucky, for example, is garnering billions of dollars in economic development opportunities but is grappling with significant shortages of skilled workers. We are expanding access to the care that only we provide, yet too many indices of health in this state remain among the most challenging in the country.

In other words, our state is at an inflection point – poised between incredible opportunities and still daunting challenges. As Kentucky’s university, we are uniquely positioned to advance our state. And because of who we uniquely are, we are being asked at this promising and precipitous moment to accelerate our efforts.

I hope, like me, you are excited by the prospects of what we can do together. Moments like this are why we were created. Moments like this will define our state’s future and our role in making it one of promise and opportunity.

Thank you for being a community that always responds to the call to advance Kentucky.

Eli Capilouto