Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Our campus is buzzing with activity this week. Over the weekend more than 1,100 students moved in to their residence halls, and we will welcome nearly 5,000 more over the course of tomorrow,Friday and Saturday.
Campus may have seemed comparatively quiet over the past several months, but that of course does not mean that important, meaningful efforts were not underway while the bulk of students were on summer break.
In fact, hundreds of students from across the Commonwealth, K-12 to graduate, visited our campus through a variety of programs this summer.
Programs such as the UK College of Education's "See Blue STEM Camp," and the UK College of Design's "Design Discovery Program" provided opportunities for youth throughout the state to come to UK and learn. As the commonwealth's indispensable institution, our commitment to programs like these-- programs that allow young people from across the state to form learning communities, to pursue their passions and discover new disciplines-- is central to our mission.
I'm very proud of what I have seen unfold on this campus this summer.
Here are just a couple of examples, among many:
"See Blue STEM Camp"
The College of Education's Department of STEM Education held its popular See Blue STEM Camp in July, which gave rising 5th-8th graders in Kentucky the opportunity participate in a week-long camp of hands-on projects in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
In partnership with the College of Engineering, the camp offered 144 students a peek into the world of STEM, offering real-world applications that demonstrated what careers in the STEM fields might entail.
Led by Margaret Mohr-Schroeder, associate professor of STEM Education, and College of Engineering professor Bruce Walcott, the camp also gave many UK students volunteers valuable teaching experience, mentorship from faculty, and the opportunity to witness the powerful impact of the camp's unique teaching approach.
"Design Discovery Program"
For the fourth year in a row, high school students and incoming first-year students had the opportunity to explore design fundamentals in the UK College of Design’s Design Discovery Program. This weeklong program is designed to expose prospective students to the type of learning environment they would encounter in a design education setting.
Participants took part in design and drawing exercises, model-making workshops led by College of Design faculty, and field trips to gain an understanding of what constitutes the studio experience of a first-year student at the college.
Students also toured local design firms Ross Tarrant Architects, alt32 and Gray Construction, where they spoke with UK/CoD alumni and design professionals.
My daughter, Mikaela, participated in the College of Design program. She had a wonderful time, formed great new relationships and, perhaps most importantly, fueled her passion for learning.
I'm very grateful for the dedicated individuals who executed and oversaw these programs this summer. Thank you for your commitment to the university and state that we serve.
All the best,
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Last week, I enjoyed the opportunity to learn even more about the University of Kentucky's impact on the Commonwealth.
I met with Bernie Hennig, Director of the UK Superfund Research Center. We had a fascinating discussion about the important work occurring at this center, where UK researchers study a variety of important environmental science and health issues.
Dr. Hennig explained that Kentucky has more than 200 federal Superfund sites, (sites contaminated with hazardous substances), including 14 that are on the National Priority List.
The UK Superfund Research Center is highly interdisciplinary and supports the efforts of more than 50 scientists and students from 15 departments within the colleges of Agriculture, Food and Environment; Arts and Sciences; Engineering; Medicine; and Public Health.
A team led by Dr. Zach Hilt is looking at new ways of finding and capturing pollutants in the environment, while Dr. Dibakar Bhattacharyya's team is studying how nanotechnology can help clean up these pollutants, making a safer environment.
To help those already exposed to these persistent chemicals in the environment, scientists in Dr. Hennig's lab are examining the potential for healthful nutrition to offset some of the inflammatory aspects of exposure that contribute to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Lisa Cassis's team is examining the complex relationship between PCB exposure and the development of obesity and diabetes, while Dr. Kevin Pearson is looking at how exercise during pregnancy can benefit the offspring of exposed animals, utilizing experimental conditions that mimic human exposure. A number of cores led by faculty from across the university focus on analysis, translating findings, engaging communities, and training the next generation of scientists to support this important research.
Just last month, we announced that the Superfund Center received a $12.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health; it will support the researchers in better understanding how to minimize negative health and environmental impacts from hazardous waste sites.
This is particularly exciting because UK is one of only four programs funded in 2014.
Thanks to Dr. Hennig's leadership and the compelling work of our UK researchers, the UK center sits in in a very elite group of just 19 centers nationwide, and has received funding for its Superfund work since 1997.
Of course, our UK Superfund Research Center also provides extraordinary opportunities for graduate research. I was very moved by Dr. Hennig's stories about the graduate students who, like the faculty members who work at the center, are dedicated to environmental cleanup and improving health with their research.
Three of these Superfund trainees, Maggie Murphy, Brad Newsome and Li Xiao, shared their experiences. I encourage you to listen to their compelling stories.
I welcome you to look at the UK Superfund Research Center website to learn more about the Superfund Center activities and about all the UK scientists and students who are part of this Center.
All the best,
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
We have a lot to be proud of at the University of Kentucky. It’s a special place — something I’m reminded of daily. Among the many things that make this place so special is the commitment of everyone —faculty and staff alike — to putting students at the center of everything we do.
Their stories move me. Their journeys, their success, their goals for the future — those stories remind us of why we are and why what we do as a university community is so important.
Consider just one such story among countless out there about our students.
Recent graduate Brittany Wise is from Frankfort, Kentucky. Brittany is a first generation student — the very first person in her family to attend college. Like many other first generation students, Brittany said she arrived on campus unsure of herself and daunted by the prospect of navigating her way through the college system.
But Brittany quickly found her home at UK within the First Scholars Program. Housed in the Office of First Generation Initiatives, the program provides a support system designed for first generation students. It connects students directly with a program coordinator and peer mentors. Those mentors provide a safe place to engage in focused programming that addresses social, emotional and financial needs.
She described the community as a second family-- a network of people who understood her unique needs and empowered her to reach her full potential.
Brittany said that knowing she had this network made all of the difference in the world: from big things like advising, to even the little things, like having someone to text for directions around Lexington.
She graduated last May and is now working in the accounting department at the state’s community and technical college system. It’s the type of job she never dreamed she would have right out of school. But Brittany now sees only possibilities where before she saw only limits.
I was so moved by Brittany's story because it highlights the importance of community on our campus. Programs housed in the Office of First Generation Initiatives, like The First Scholars Program, The Robinson Scholars Program and Student Support Services, create an environment in which these communities can take root, empowering students to succeed.
I'm very grateful to the faculty and staff in this office; and I'm so proud of students like Brittany.
You can learn more about these programs at http://www.uky.edu/1G/index.html. They are part of what make UK special and the speak to the people who make this place our state’s brightest hope for the future.
All the best,
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
This month marked my one-year anniversary as a proud member of the University of Kentucky family. I've been inspired and amazed by what we have been able to accomplish together; it's a great feeling to take into the start of a new academic year.
The initiatives underway and the progress they represent for our institution reinforce that statement. I'm very grateful for the teams of dedicated and talented individuals contributing to these important efforts.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have had the chance to meet many students who are on campus to complete the orientation process. These bright students have inspired me to reflect on the impressive strides that we have made in the arena of student success. Below are just a few highlights of accomplishments from the past year:
Retention Efforts. We know that, as part of our commitment to student success, we must always think about how we can better our efforts in retention. This past year, we implemented, for the first time ever, the use of predictive analytics to identify at-risk students and provide individual interventions. In addition, we created a new campus-wide retention advisory committee responsible for sharing data, establishing best-practices, and planning initiatives for student success. We also revised outreach processes to allow for better collection of meaningful data and identified specific retention practices to implement each year.
Education Abroad. We have made great strides in promoting international education on our campus. Nearly 1,100 students participated in education abroad opportunities for academic credit during the 2013-2014 academic year, representing a 43.5 percent increase of the number of students choosing non-traditional study destinations, outside Western Europe, and a 53.7 percent increase of student participation in programs directed by UK faculty members. Efforts to increase minority student participation and other underrepresented populations are also succeeding, as 17.1 percent of education abroad participants self-reported as being first generation students.
Living Learning Program Expansion. We know that our Living Learning Programs provide a deep sense of meaning and purpose for our students' educational experience. That's why we are rapidly expanding these programs. In a single year, we will more than double the number of students living in LLPs. In the fall of 2013, 960 students participated in 13 LLPs; this coming fall we are planning for 2,115 students in 17 LLP’s. We are projecting that 3,231 students will participate in fall 2015, 4,200 in fall 2016 and 4,577 in fall 2017.
The Living Learning Program Task Force, co-chaired by two of our deans, Ike Adams and Dan O’Hair, began in the fall 2013 and worked diligently throughout to examine the Living Learning Program landscape on our campus, and investigate best practices from well-established and highly regarded LLPs at other campuses. These recommendations can be found in the here in the Task Force's final report.
The Honors Program. The progress taking place within our UK Honors Program is very exciting. With over 3,200 applications and an average ACT of 32 among admitted students, the Honors Program enjoyed a third year of record-breaking numbers. This Fall we expect 480 students in the entering Honors cohort, a figure that more than double the size of the incoming class from just three years ago. Learn more here.
MOOCs. This year further expanded opportunities for current and incoming students to prepare for university-level classes. Through a partnership with Coursera, a leading educational technology company, we offered a free online Advanced Chemistry course, taught by UK chemistry professors Alison Soult and Kim Woodrum. We were very pleased to see that 13,603 students enrolled, and we look forward to continuing to offer opportunities for current and incoming students through this partnership. More information can be found here.
This is just a sampling of the numerous accomplishments and activities that are occurring on our campus. I'm reminded daily of how wonderful it is to work at a place so full of talented people; at UK, we are deeply committed to having a positive impact on our student’s lives - making our campus and our Commonwealth even better. Thank you for making this first year so special.
All the best,
Tuesday July 22, 2014
This year, I’ve been honored to participate in the Leadership Kentucky program.
It’s a six-month program in which educational, civic, business and political leaders come together for two days each month in a different region of our Commonwealth.
We seek a deeper understanding of our state: both its incredible promise and its challenge. We also are afforded the opportunity meet and hear from some of Kentucky’s brightest leaders about how they are working to create a more promising future.
I’ve spent two days with more than 40 leaders at Jabez, a facility UK’s extension service operates more than two hours southeast of here. Together, we discussed issues. We explored our state’s history. And we engaged in team-building exercises, designed to help us learn more about each other and to understand more fully how challenging it is to work together.
Yesterday and today, I am attending the Kentucky Chamber Business Summit and Annual Meeting in Louisville. As the theme of the summit is "the Future of Kentucky," sessions include topics such as Kentucky’s path to economic and workforce competitiveness, the future of the nine economic regions in Kentucky, and national and Kentucky politics, among many other interesting topics. I have really enjoyed these two days talking about the issues facing our Commonwealth and our future plans.
One thing already stands out to me. I’ve gained an even deeper appreciation for our community — the University of Kentucky. It is so evident that we touch and reach every corner of the Commonwealth. Our impact is profound. The respect for our institution and the work of our students, faculty and staff is immeasurable.
We are making Kentucky a better place. I’m so honored to learn from these bright leaders; I’m excited about the future of our state. And I’m always gratified to learn more about our impact because of the work we do together.
All the best,
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
One of my favorite things about summer is the opportunity it affords to take a brief step back to reflect on the progress we are making, together, in so many different areas.
This summer we have followed our students' blogs about their adventures abroad, celebrated large and meaningful research grants and read about faculty members' work in national media publications. These accomplishments, -- just a few examples of all that is happening on our campus -- highlight the indispensable role our institution plays in our state and nation.
Nelson Mandela said that "education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." With that powerful imperative in mind, I like to reflect on the compelling examples taking place across our campus of how the members of the UK family, particularly our students, are doing just that: changing the world.
Last week, we recognized several students who received a variety of prestigious scholarships, internships and fellowships acknowledging their excellence in the classroom, in research and in extracurricular activities. In the 2013-14 school year alone, UK students earned 11 more national awards than the previous year, including a prized Truman Scholarship and two Goldwater Scholarships.
The awards are meaningful in and of themselves.
But what they signify is even more important.
For example, I had the opportunity and honor earlier this year to meet Grace Trimble at a UK Board of Trustees meeting. Grace is a political science junior and UK Women's Tennis Team member who received the prestigious Truman Scholarship; these awards recognize outstanding leadership and devotion to public service. She was among the 59 scholars nationwide selected by the Truman Foundation from 655 candidates.
As a teenager, Grace began a nonprofit organization, Lexington Tennis Club Smart Shots. Throughout her time at UK studying politics, nonprofits and public service, she used her undergraduate research experience to design and implement a survey gauging the effectiveness of her organization.
Grace's passion and devotion to serving others exemplifies how seeing blue empowers individuals to make tangible differences in the world.
Grace is not alone in this pursuit; 35 students received major nationally competitive honors this school year. Two students, Matthew Fahrbach, of Louisville, Ky., and Samuel Saarinen, of Shelbyville, Ky., received Goldwater Scholarships. Three UK students received NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program awards, and 12 undergraduate students were selected to participate in the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates program. They will travel across the country to conduct research in fields ranging from political science to engineering.
In receiving these awards, these students are already using their gifts to push the boundaries of discovery and make a difference in their communities.
I'm very proud. But none of us are satisfied.
I know we all can't wait to see how these remarkable students continue to change the world and what we, as an institution, can accomplish together next year.
All the best,
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
The campus may seem a bit quieter this summer, but the work of our faculty -- here and around the globe is continuing in fascinating -- and pathbreaking -- ways.
In fact, one of the things that makes UK special is the way that our researchers push the boundaries of discovery through collaborative, multidisciplinary projects every day. And that work by our faculty is meaningful, too, for our students.
As one of only eight institutions in the country with the full range of academic, professional and health care programs on one campus, UK offers distinctive opportunities for students to customize their education in ways that help them compete in a global economy.
This past week, many of you may have read of the work of William Endres, a researcher working across, and blending, disciplines in compelling ways.
Endres is an assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies. His digital humanities project focuses on digitizing early medieval manuscripts.
Because of his efforts, ancient texts -- at risk of being lost -- are being made available to scholars worldwide, without compromising conservatory efforts necessary for preservation.
In 2010, Endres created a 3D digital copy of the medieval St. Chad Gospel. He will return to England this summer to continue his project.
The Herald-Leader featured Endres' work earlier this week. You can find that here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/07/03/3321747/university-of-kentucky-scholar.html
His work is another example, among many, if the extraordinary work happening at UK every day across disciplines. Such work is the future of research and of education. At UK, we are at the leading edge of many of those efforts.
All the best,
July 1, 2014
The campus has recently sprung to life again with thousands of young people — the newest members of the UK family — visiting the university for the first time as new students.
It’s all part of see blue. U — a two-day orientation for new students and their families where they can learn everything they need to know about their first year at the University of Kentucky. Over the next few weeks, students and families will get an intense, fast-paced and in-depth look at what they need to know before they officially move to UK in August.
From navigating parking to understanding student code of conduct and the all-important process of registering for classes, see blue. U is designed to help our newest students, and their extended families, get a feel for what it will be like when they begin their studies this fall.
It’s terrific to see the campus abuzz with students and their families. We are expecting a record first-year class again this fall — another sign of the momentum UK has in becoming one of the handful of thriving, public residential research campuses in America.
Students and families are excited about the new living and learning spaces being constructed on campus as well as the distinctive opportunities afforded at UK across more than 200 majors with faculty who are leaders in their respective fields.
It’s a reminder of why we are here. We are an institution that places students first. A campus full of new students — the best and brightest in our state and region — is an exciting and compelling reminder of that fact.
All the best,
June 24, 2014
This past week, I had the pleasure of "seeing global" on the other side of the world: from Beijing to Changchun, to Shanghai.
Associate Provost for Internationalization Susan Carvalho and I travelled throughout China, meeting up with UK faculty, and visiting partner universities and institutions in the region. I was humbled to witness firsthand the power of UK's global partnerships, the leadership of our faculty members, and the true difference this collaboration makes in education and research for us and for our partners.
We recently deepened our ties with Chinese universities by establishing the Office of China Initiatives here on campus, to provide greater coordination, consistency and focus for UK's work in China. Faculty members across campus have expressed a need to maintain and enhance UK's strategic partnership efforts in China. This trip aimed to further enhance these efforts.
Our visits began in Beijing at the Ministry of Education, where we met with Fang Jun, the Deputy Director General of International Cooperation and Exchanges. We discussed the importance of student mobility, and in particular of opening up opportunities for UK students to study in China. He encouraged us to strengthen our ties with the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C., and he spoke about the current shift in higher education policy in China, away from rapid growth and toward quality enhancement and international alignment.
We then travelled to Changchun, the location of Jilin University, and like UK, Jilin University is a large comprehensive institution that includes several health care colleges. This creates numerous opportunities for research and teaching collaborations between our two institutions.
Jilin University President Li Yuanyuan and I signed the Collaborative Framework Agreement, which opens up discussion between our universities on developing leaders in a global community. President Capilouto first visited Jilin University two years ago, and we are now seeing the fruits of our relationship. Along with the Collaborative Framework, we signed an agreement with Construction Engineering, as well as finalized our agreements in Public Health and Business. We began conversations for collaborations in Medical Physics, Radiation Medicine, and Computer Science. Our two universities have a long friendship ahead of them.
At Shanghai University, we celebrated UK Week, where fourteen of our UK faculty were teaching SHU students. Shanghai University is also hosting a group of UK students studying Chinese (led by UK's professor Matt Wells), and a group of Kentucky high school students sponsored by the UK Confucius Institute. With Shanghai University President Luo Hongjie, we discussed the importance of strategic planning, intellectual exchange, and our shared values, especially as regards the importance of global networks and the transnational sharing of ideas.
I am so very grateful to the Executive Director of our Office of China Initiatives and Director of the Confucius Institute, Dr. Huajing Maske, for arranging these valuable conversations. I'm also even more aware of the leadership provided by our faculty across campus, in strengthening our win-win relationships abroad. These collaborations allow us to promote global awareness and literacy on our campus, while also furthering our research efforts and providing opportunities for faculty and students on both sides.
It was a wonderful week.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Over the past year, I've had the privilege of recognizing the outstanding efforts of faculty members across our campus, time and time again. It never gets old.
The close of the spring semester confirmed more than ever to me in a deeply profound way that people make the place — from teaching that changes and touches lives to research that can transform communities and heal families. The last few weeks have seen a flurry of announcements of grants related to research mission. But it’s the people behind those grants and those numbers that demonstrate the special place that is the University of Kentucky.
Three examples of faculty — among so many — highlight what I mean.
Lisa Cassis, chair of the Department of Pharmacology and newly named interim UK vice president for research, and Alison Gustafson, assistant professor in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, were among the participants selected for the 2014 SEC Symposium in Atlanta, Sept. 21-23.
The symposium is titled "Prevention of Obesity: Overcoming a 21st Century Public Health Challenge." Researchers at this symposium aim to identify solutions to this tremendously challenging issue, focusing on a range of topics from genetics, to technology and media, to environmental influences.
I was honored to introduce Dr. Cassis last fall, when we received one of the largest health grants ever made to our institution: an $11.3 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant supporting research focusing on obesity and cardiovascular disease. Dr. Cassis serves as the program director of this grant, which supports the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) focused on obesity and cardiovascular diseases.
Each time I meet with Dr. Cassis, I'm reminded of and moved by her dedication to fighting obesity, a problem that too many Kentuckians unfortunately confront.
Another faculty member whose efforts and dedication move me is Dr. Jayakrishna Ambati, professor and vice chair of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences in the UK College of Medicine. He has been named one of 14 recipients of the 2014 SEC Faculty Achievement Awards, an honor recognizing one faculty member from every SEC university who demonstrates outstanding records of teaching, research and scholarship.
I recently had the privilege of touring his lab, and left it deeply impressed with all that he is doing as a national leader in the fight against macular degeneration — a scourge that confronts millions of Americans.
Achievements such as these showcase and renew our commitment to our state and our nation. As the Commonwealth's indispensable institution, we work each day to improve the lives of our fellow citizens. These three individuals personify that commitment.
As I said, recognizing outstanding members of the UK family never gets old. I'm very grateful for the hard work occurring across our campus by so many people in so many ways that serve our state and our world.
All the best,
When we kicked off our “see tomorrow.” strategic planning process last December, we were dedicated to ensuring that our 103-person planning committee was diverse. Faculty, staff, and students from all 16 Colleges and the Libraries were represented, and our committee was almost equally divided between men and women. To ensure that this diverse group was supported and nurtured by committee leadership, one of the criteria that we used to select our co-chairs was a heartfelt commitment to inclusivity.
The results were astounding. At the end of the process, one of our co-chairs told me that he had watched one of his group members transform before his eyes. She had blossomed from someone who was almost exclusively focused on her area of expertise to someone with a broad and campus-wide viewpoint. She had become a vocal advocate for the inclusion of all perspectives in her group’s discussions and decision-making process, asking questions and seeking counsel from people from a wide variety of disciplines.
A commitment to inclusion has been integrated throughout the planning process, and the committee has been tirelessly dedicated to serving the Commonwealth by being a model of an inclusive community. In the documents that they have composed, our committee has written of the importance of “bringing broad world views into our campus community, integrating those views and experiences thoughtfully and holistically, and creating a welcoming campus environment that is inclusive of people of all identities.”
Inspired by this great work, I recently wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review about the importance of creating an inclusive atmosphere in which all people feel respected and have access to the same opportunities. I hope that you’ll take a few minutes to read it and share your thoughts and questions with me. Here’s the link: http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/06/diversity-is-useless-without-inclusivity/ .
All the best,
P.S. Find me on Twitter @UKYProvost!