Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Our Strategic Plan calls upon us to be the University of choice for aspiring undergraduate students, within the Commonwealth and beyond. Focused on our most precious priority, student success, we are charged with providing transformational education that promotes self-discovery, experiential learning, and life-long achievement.
You see these efforts across our campus, and I’m thankful each day for the dedicated faculty and staff who work tirelessly on behalf of our students.
I had the opportunity to see some of these efforts on display last Wednesday.
The Showcase for Undergraduate Scholars celebrated student involvement in research and highlighted a wide variety of our students’ research productivity. Ese Ighodaro and Marcel Roman, both of whom engaged in undergraduate research locally, nationally, and/or internationally, delivered Keynote presentations, sharing the enormous benefits they gained from this experience with the attendees. Fine Arts (music; percussion) student, Alex Smith, described his rigorous research project, which culminated in a piece he demonstrated, called “Bone Alphabet.”
Of course, research is an extremely valuable, high-impact experience for undergraduate students across all disciplines. Our world-class faculty serve as mentors, preparing and guiding students for success as emerging scholars.
I particularly enjoyed seeing two of our faculty members honored by their mentees for their extraordinary guidance and mentorship: Dr. Jonathan Golding (Psychology), and Dr. Jeffrey Osborne (Biology). Both commented that being recognized by students was the greatest of honors—a sentiment with which I agree completely.
Congratulations to each of the student presenters and to the faculty award winners.
An event with more than 350 student presenters cannot be successful without extremely hard work and a great amount of dedication. The Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, Dr. Diane Snow, and I would like to formally thank the following individuals who organized and implemented this event:
- staff members Evie Russell, Lynn Hiler, and Jennifer Stevens,
- student workers Danna Spears and Shelby Fairchild,
- members of the Society for the Promotion of Undergraduate Research (SPUR President, Jay VanDoorn),
- the Student Outreach Team (SOT),
- Bessie Guerrant, Associate Director for Undergraduate Research,
- “Electric Kool Aid", Dr. Cody Birdwell, and the Music Dept. for the jazz entertainment,
- and all the faculty and other mentors who show their commitment to student success everyday through their work with undergraduate students.
Thank you to all who made this event a huge success. We look forward to the growth and continued success of this event in years to come.
Timothy S. Tracy
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Last Friday, I wrote to our community about an important step in our shared commitment to students. A reorganization of the five units that constitute our commitment to academic excellence will embolden and animate our vision to foster a transformational educational experience for all students.
UK is — and must be — a community that promotes self-discovery, experiential learning, and life-long achievement.
Under the leadership of President Capilouto and our Board of Trustees, we are charting an ambitious course to become one of the country’s leading public, residential research universities. Our Strategic Plan — adopted by the board last October — reflects a core principle: putting students first in everything we do.
In doing so, it envisions retention rates of 90 percent, graduation rates at 70 percent, and a significant closure of the gap in retention and graduation rates that exist for underrepresented student populations.
We have made great progress in these areas over the past several years; however, to spark the dramatic improvements that we seek, to make a dramatic impact on the students we serve, we must make dramatic change now.
This process of refocus will take several months, and I know that can create some sense of uncertainty, but working together, I'm confident we can create an organization focused intently on what matters most. And that is an exciting notion.
We have the opportunity to make real, consequential and meaningful change: change that benefits the lives we’re charged to serve.
Last year, our first- to second- year retention rate was 82.7 percent—our largest number of returning students at 4,253. That represented roughly 463 additional students since the same time the previous fall.
Think about what that means.
463 more students continuing their path to a degree.
463 potential graduates who can serve our state.
463 lives and families impacted by continuing education.
This is at the heart of our efforts. We must continue to build upon our momentum, because these figures are not simply numbers. They represent the lives we’re called to serve.
We’re building our capacity to serve them as best we can.
Today, we have too many islands of effort, where instead we need a seamless and integrated organizational structure among all our units in support of students and their success.
We must create an organization that allocates every available resource toward directly supporting enhanced student success and academic excellence through innovative teaching and learning, and enrichment experiences.
We must invest more in advising and front-line student support, such as counseling, by eliminating administrative bureaucracy and providing more professional development and career advancement opportunities for advisors.
To do so, we will take critical services in what is today Undergraduate Education and merge them into the colleges and Student Affairs, where they can more directly support student success. We’ll also blend the services of Student Affairs directly into academic programming.
Between now and August 15, we will create this process and develop a plan for investing more in front-line student support, as we prepare for the next group of first-year students.
Later this week, members of my team and I will be travelling to North Carolina State University to meet with a member of the UK family, Mike Mullen. Mike, vice chancellor and dean of the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, who previously served as UK associate provost for Undergraduate Education. He and his team have engaged in a similar realignment of these crucial areas at his new institution.
This month, we’ll also visit UT Knoxville, another institution that has made significant strides in retention and graduation rates through enhanced student support. We will use their experience and expertise to complement efforts on our campus.
We are committed to continuing a dialogue with the campus, as we work through these changes together. To that end, we’ve created a website that will be continuously updated as we receive questions from the community.
Thank you for everything you do each day on behalf of the students we serve.
Timothy S. Tracy
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
The questions we face in confronting complex care, chronic illness, and intractable health challenges require a multidisciplinary approach that includes clinicians, researchers, and care givers with diverse backgrounds and expertise. The UK Center for Interprofessional Health Education (IPE), led by Director Jim Norton, prepares students for collaboration with other disciplines in real-world health care environments, and develops team-oriented faculty committed to improving health care delivery.
“Students who understand the value of interprofessional collaboration are poised to become better health care providers,” said Dr. Leslie Woltenberg, associate director for UK’s Center of Interprofessional Health Education. “When there are multiple health professionals from different backgrounds working together with patients, families, careers, and communities the highest quality of care is delivered. This creates an opportunity for a more holistic view of clients’ or patients’ needs, and thus better care.”
As the University for Kentucky, we are dedicated to developing and preparing our students to deliver the highest quality of care to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. With a goal of “creating systems-based, holistic decision-making by teaching and empowering learners to solve complex problems and address issues that surpass the scope of any one profession,” the Center of Interprofessional Health Education exemplifies UK’s commitment to multidisciplinary research and healthcare.
Recently, sixteen faculty members representing the UK College of Medicine, the UK College of Public Health, the UK College of Nursing, the UK College of Health Sciences, the College of Social Work and the UK College of Pharmacy were named associate or full fellows to the Center for Interprofessional Health Education’s inaugural class. Fellows are recognized as champions of multidisciplinary education through their involvement in research, learning, and service opportunities bringing together a diverse group of professions.
Dean of the College of Nursing, Janie Heath, recently commented on the new class saying, “The new fellows and associates are incredibly impressive. They have been on the forefront of IPE long before we even knew what IPE was. Because of their work, faculty members across the health professions have embraced IPE and are now teaching, learning, and working together as teams.”
I want to extend our congratulations to the new fellows and associates and the UK Center for Interprofessional Health Education for showcasing our efforts to create a healthier future for Kentucky.
Recognizing early success and extraordinary potential, sophisticated health-related research and care at UK is marching steadily toward providing the most advanced care closer to home for Kentucky families. UK’s vast network for clinical outreach practices across Kentucky, our Center for Clinical and Translational Research, our diverse array of health colleges, the new research building, and the work being done in UK’s Center for Interprofessional Health Education position us to be a major player in this important, national endeavor.
It’s one of many ways we are a university for Kentucky.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is the final day of March. While the spring semester has seemed to fly by, dedicated faculty and staff across our campus have continued to work tirelessly on behalf of our most precious commitment—student success.
Indeed, ensuring our students receive both support and preparation begins the first time they step foot on our campus and begin engaging with our community. With that in mind, I’d like to recognize Associate Provost for Enrollment Management Don Witt and his team for planning and overseeing three extremely successful Merit Weekends, which took place throughout this past month: March 4-5, March 11-12 and March 18-19.
Throughout these weekends, we welcomed 1,127 top students from across Kentucky and the surrounding region to our campus. This represents the largest number in the history of the program, and an 8 percent increase over last year’s record. The students represented 89 different Kentucky counties, along with 28 different states.
These two-day events, hosted by the University Registrar and the Office of Undergraduate Admission, allow top potential students to register early for classes and to take one last look at campus before they make their final decision about where to enroll.
Merit Weekends provide us with the opportunity to demonstrate the richness, diversity and academic excellence that our campus has to offer. Students not only meet with individual advisors to register for Fall 2016 classes, but they have the opportunity to talk to current students about what it's like to be a Wildcat. Current students offer special insider information to prospective students as peers, on a more personal level.
Students who attend a Merit Weekend also gain a wide perspective of the opportunities for involvement that await them at UK, through a variety of information sessions. UK provides countless opportunities to become involved on campus, offering a diverse array of more than 550 student organizations.
And of course, these events result from meaningful collaborations across our campus. All 13 undergraduate colleges were represented in the enrollment along with 85 different majors.
Don Witt told me that the feedback he received from students and family members was overwhelmingly positive. One very consistent theme centered on the personal recruitment approach UK takes with our prospective students. This comment is not at all surprising—you can sense the passion and care with which our enrollment team approaches recruitment by just speaking with the fantastic staff that work in that office. We, as a community, are very grateful for their work.
Please join me in congratulating all involved with the 2016 Merit Weekends for a job well done. We look forward to welcoming these outstanding students into our freshman class next fall.
Timothy S. Tracy
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Last Wednesday evening, President Capilouto provided an update to the campus after the Kentucky House of Representatives approved its version of the state budget.
In his message he noted a simple, but crucial fact: it’s time to reinvest in higher education.
It’s time to reinvest in Kentucky’s future.
A robust system of higher education, led by a flagship and land-grant research university, supports nearly every positive measure of a healthy, safe, prosperous, and productive society. This is our story. President Capilouto continues to share it across our state and with policymakers, noting how investments in education build a quality workforce and mitigate growing public expenditures for corrections, health care, and public support services.
These outcomes are evident in every corner of and community across Kentucky.
An October 2015 report by UK’s Center for Business and Economic Research, for example, concluded that the income benefits through education are not limited to Kentucky’s urban areas, but also experienced in the western and eastern parts of the state. These statistics have an enormous impact on Kentucky.
Other states understand the inextricable link between higher education and progress, and they are acting on it.
Right now, all but four out of 20 states in our region, are investing more— not less— in public higher education.
You can see the impact of higher education across our Commonwealth through the education we provide, the research we conduct, and the service and care we render.
Take one of these areas for example: research. Our role as a major research institution not only improves health outcomes for Kentucky families, but also brings innovations to the marketplace through successful collaborations with business and industry.
In an analysis conducted in 2015, an independent research firm concluded that UK’s research enterprise has an estimated $580 million economic impact on the Commonwealth of Kentucky, affecting some 8,100 jobs and $21.3 million in state and local taxes.
I’d like to share three examples—among so many—that show the economic and societal impact of our research enterprise through start-up companies, research, development, and patents. They underscore the power of investment in higher education.
Currently, there is a global discussion around Zika virus, its health impact, and its potential international impact. It’s garnered the attention of the World Health Organization, Congress, and the White House.
But here at the University of Kentucky is a potential key to prevent the mosquito-borne spread of the Zika virus.
Dr. Stephen Dobson along with faculty in our College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment developed technology that uses male mosquitoes to effectively sterilize females through a naturally occurring bacterium and without using chemical pesticides or genetic engineering.
With the help of the National Institutes of Health, the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, and the Gatton College’s Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship, Dobson commercialized the research and launched MosquitoMate, which is currently conducting field trials of the product.
Dobson and his former graduate student, Jimmy Mains, intend to take the evidence they gather back to the EPA and apply for a full registration, which would enable them to market their technology throughout the United States and, in time, to other countries around the world.
This critical discovery may hold a key to limit mosquito-borne transmission of this and other deadly diseases; not just Zika Virus, but also diseases like Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, and Malaria, to name a few.
"To play a key role in helping to reduce or eliminate a significant health threat to our population while building a company which potentially will create a large number of new jobs is a thrilling proposition," Mains said recently. "We believe MosquitoMate can do just that."
This research—with potential global impact—underscores the importance of reinvesting in higher education.
Take another example, from the UK College of Pharmacy.
Last year, more than 1,000 Kentuckians died from an overdose. In response to this devastating public health problem, UK Pharmacy professor and researcher Dan Wermeling developed a nasal spray version of naloxone—a medication used for the treatment of suspected opioid overdose—designed to be much easier to administer than the traditional syringe version. He developed the technology through his startup company AntiOp, Inc.
Recent legislation now allows pharmacists, acting under a physician-approved protocol, to fill naloxone orders in their communities without an individual physician's prescription. Increasing access to naloxone through the new legislation, coupled with the ease of use in the nasal spray device, has the potential to profoundly reduce the opioid overdose death rate.
To facilitate getting this life-saving product out in Kentucky communities, last October the UK College of Pharmacy announced a major outreach initiative aimed at training pharmacists across the state for the prescription use of naloxone. More than 500 Kentucky pharmacists have already received training on the new naloxone prescription guidelines and protocols from the Coalition.
UK researchers, focused on Kentucky problems, developing new technology and fighting devastating health statistics—this is a compelling, illuminating story of who we are and who we must be for our state. This is why we must reinvest in higher education.
UK research has also made Lexington an attractive business location on an international stage.
For example, technology developed at UK became a foundation for international animal and food-safety giant Neogen Corporation’s animal-safety focus. The company announced an expansion of the company's Lexington-based division just a few years ago.
Neogen's Kentucky roots date back more than 20 years, when the company became interested in technology—focused on the horse racing industry—developed here at UK and one of its first successful spinoff companies, WTT. Neogen later set up a new division in Lexington based on animal-safety, purchased WTT, and licensed the technology from UK.
WTT was established in 1988 and named by its founders David Watt (Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry, College of Medicine), Hsin-Hsiung "Daniel" Tai (College of Pharmacy), and Thomas Tobin (Gluck Equine Research Center, College of Agriculture).
Tobin was approached by the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council and the Kentucky State Racing Commission three years before to find a solution to the opiate abuse problem plaguing the horse racing industry. He proposed developing a panel of tests for these high potency drugs, which were difficult to detect, and enlisted the help of Watt and Tai.
WTT licensed the technology with UK and developed 29 ELISA (enzyme-linked) diagnostic tests for prostaglandins, steroids and other drugs.
Today, Neogen’s Lexington operation manufactures and distributes a variety of animal health care products, including diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, veterinary instruments, wound care, and disinfectants. The company employs hundreds of people at its various Lexington locations.
UK’s ability to partner with business and industry—to bring new technology to market and to create jobs—underscores our role as Kentucky’s indispensable institution.
These three stories represent three very different ripple effects of impact and innovation that occur across our campus.
They represent different dilemmas and different disciplines, but each echoes the same, profound chord:
Our transformative research offers the brightest hope for our Commonwealth and its future. We must continue to move forward, together, by reinvesting in higher education.
You can learn more about our Office of the Vice President for Research—the office that supports these and other investigators in research—here: http://www.research.uky.edu/
Additionally, you can learn more about our work as Kentucky’s indispensable institution, here: http://www.uky.edu/see/UK4KY
Timothy S. Tracy
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Last week in his blog, President Capilouto described the importance of higher education and its uniting, uplifting power on our economy.
Higher education levels are positive indicators of employability and higher income. Incarceration rates, the utilization of public services and health care costs decrease as our more of our population earns a postsecondary credential.
These statistics have enormous implications for our state. They also highlight our indispensable role as the University for Kentucky.
We are educating more students, treating and healing more patients with complex illnesses, conducting more transformative research and serving more communities than at any time in our 150-year history. This is who we are—and who we must be—for our state.
Through the work of our people—our dedicated faculty and staff—over the past several years we’ve seen students succeed in record numbers at the University of Kentucky. Our Strategic Plan, focused on academic excellence in every phase of our mission, particularly focuses on our students and their success. It positions us to build upon this progress.
It positions our state to build a better future.
Since 2008, we’ve experienced a 9 percent increase in the number of those graduating, and our retention rates are the highest in our history. We’ve also seen a 15 percent growth in total student enrollment.
And, importantly, our doors are open widest to Kentuckians.
Twenty-five percent of our undergraduate, full-time students from Kentucky are from families with a median income of less than $19,000. For these students, grants and scholarships—aid that does not have to be repaid—covers 95 percent of tuition and mandatory fees. From Paducah to Pikeville, students are coming to the University of Kentucky to build a better future for themselves and their families. In doing so, they’re also forging a brighter future for Kentucky.
That’s why, as part of our commitment to student success, UK is investing more in scholarships. Over the last several years, UK has increased its total institutionally funded scholarship total from $75 million to more than $103 million while holding tuition increases to historic lows.
In fact, when adjusting for inflation and taking into account the average award size, UK’s average net tuition price has only increased 6.7 percent since 2007-2008.
This is why more than half of our students graduate without debt. Of those who do, the average debt burden is below the national average.
And after our students graduate, they contribute to perhaps our most enduring legacy as an institution. Earlier this week in his blog, Eric Monday told the stories of two UK alumni who have established businesses and created jobs here in Kentucky.
Their stories paint a compelling picture of our role—the driver of the state’s workforce development.
Since 2009, UK has seen a 40 percent increase in graduates in engineering, 18 percent in business, 15 percent in medicine, 11 percent in health sciences, 10 percent in nursing and 22 percent in other STEM-related disciplines so in demand today.
The University of Kentucky is positioned to be a partner for progress in addressing the state’s most pressing issues.
These are the questions of our day: How do we help more people prosper? How do we manage growing cost of critical safety net programs? How do we build a quality workforce in Kentucky? How do we position the Commonwealth as a place for business? How do we improve the health and welfare of the people we serve?
Our progress and potential— as the University for Kentucky—touch each of these questions.
The decisions we make today about investments in higher education will determine how bright our shared future will be.
Learn more about the progress we’ve made, together, here: http://www.uky.edu/see/UK4KY
Timothy S. Tracy
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
The Recital Hall at the Singletary Center was overflowing with people and ideas calling on this campus to act.
Led by our students, Monday night's dialogue— sponsored by the University of Kentucky Black Graduate and Professional Students Association and other student groups— was both stimulating and, at times, disconcerting.
Together, with more than 400 members of our community engaging and participating, we talked of progress that has been made on our campus and bright hopes for more to come. But we also discussed how we still fall far too short in being a place that welcomes, includes and celebrates all people in all places.
We heard stories reminding us that still, too often, the better angels of our nature can succumb to darker voices and impulses. Sometimes, it is the unintentional slight, carelessly uttered word or the unconscious bias that can influence us all. Sometimes, though, it remains the overt action, fueled by ignorance, drenched with hate.
Monday’s conversation was important because it was an opportunity to hear our students, faculty and staff in a forum that invited our entire campus to engage. Already, a substantive dialogue has been engaged on our campus, with student leaders meeting for several hours over two meetings in recent months with President Capilouto and senior members of his team.
But now we must act more intently, building upon the foundation we’ve begun to construct, guided by President Capilouto's vision of— and commitment to— being a special community where everyone can belong.
Our Strategic Plan—the blueprint for how we make progress as an institution— has as a cornerstone the goal of creating and sustaining a more diverse and inclusive campus. We can't be the community we want to be for Kentucky and beyond unless we achieve that goal. That plan is backed by a team of caring faculty, administration and staff, as evidenced Monday night by the considered presentations of Interim Vice President for Institutional Diversity Terry Allen and other members of our UK family, who represent my office, student affairs, counseling and the faculty.
They believe in UK and they want all of our students to succeed.
But as our student leaders— deeply prepared, principled and thoughtful— reminded us Monday night, words on paper are just that. They are words. Actions, sustained and resolute, will be necessary to create the change we desire.
We have to readily acknowledge where we are falling short and commit to a collective strategy for action. Any time a member of our community feels marginalized, we are all lessened. It's clear that such experiences still happen on our campus. It's also clear that even though we have enhanced training, and created a core curriculum that has diversity embedded throughout as a core value, it is not enough.
Some efforts have promise. But some clearly are not creating the change we desire, or succeeding.
A survey, for example, conducted by students found that too few students feel like they know about existing resources to report harmful incidents when they occur. And many students reported that they didn't feel comfortable or trusting when reporting incidents in any event.
The result is that too many students feel isolated on campus, as they have experienced harassment or other troubling behavior.
We cannot take solace in growing enrollments or increased scholarships and student resources, if we have students reporting that they don't know what help is available, or don't trust that their voice of concern will be acted upon or heard.
To that end, the Violence Intervention and Prevention Center (VIP) has expanded its scope of services to provide support and advocacy to those who have experienced violence or threatening behavior toward race, ethnicity and other aspects of their identity or perceived identity.
At the same time, we must understand what progress has been made, so we can assess what's working and where improvements still must come. I appreciated the opportunity that we had to discuss our common goals and some of the progress, built over a long time, that has taken place.
Today, we are more diverse than at any time in our history. We have, step-by-step, increased scholarships and fellowships that go toward underrepresented populations, and we are nearly doubling our efforts to recruit and retain a more diverse faculty and students at all degree levels.
We are increasing counselors and support services for underrepresented student populations, and we are strengthening our Student Code of Conduct to make clear our commitment to values such as civility, tolerance and mutual respect.
We also recognize that an ongoing commitment to training and education are critical. Senior administrative and academic leadership are undergoing extensive unconscious bias training as we speak; a process that will extend to all students, faculty and staff next year. Additionally, and as importantly, this will extend to faculty and staff who serve on search committees across our campus.
And today, our Board of Trustees— along with senior and administrative and academic leaders— is participating in a half-day training session on unconscious bias.
A more robust bias incidence response process is being put in place, which will expand bystander training and other protocols for response and action when incidents occur over the next year.
A proposed center for social justice will take the same scholarly and interdisciplinary approach to issues of inequality and racial and ethnic disparities that we do to chronic disease and complex illnesses.
The numbers and supportive actions demonstrate our commitment— an unyielding vision driven by President Capilouto and his entire team.
There is much to do, but our progress has created a foundation upon which to build.
Finally, while action is necessary, a continued dialogue must undergird it. Ideas, discussion and debate are central to who we are and what we do. President Capilouto initiated this dialogue at his home with more than 25 students three months ago. It continued a couple of weeks ago at The 90 with another two-hour session, where we discussed our current efforts and some future plans.
I am gratified by the commitment to that process by our student leaders, who Monday night organized a broader forum and discussion on these important issues for our entire campus. The warm applause, the openness to hearing different ideas, tells me that there is a thirst for continued discussion and action on our campus.
I am excited to be part of what we are trying to build at the University of Kentucky. After all, we are the University for Kentucky.
Now, though, we must turn our attention together— to finishing the task at hand. Indeed, we are called to act.
Timothy S. Tracy
Wednesday, Feb.24, 2016
For more than 150 years, the University of Kentucky has served as the University for Kentucky.
But what does this mean?
It means we put students first in everything we do, and that our world-class faculty and staff prepare our students for lives of leadership, meaning and purpose.
It also means that UK’s research enterprise not only drives discovery—offering the brightest hope for change and advancement in our Commonwealth—but also economic growth. Our position at the intersection of innovation and impact not only improves health outcomes for Kentucky families, but also brings innovations to the marketplace through successful collaborations with business and industry.
In an analysis conducted in 2015, an independent research firm concluded that UK’s research enterprise has an estimated $581.2 million economic impact on the Commonwealth of Kentucky, affecting some 8,100 jobs and $21.3 million in state and local taxes.
UK’s patent portfolio reflects a strong and diverse research enterprise that mirrors some of Kentucky’s most vital industries: drug development and design, plant biotech and equine health, as well as innovative materials for medical devices, implants, and drug delivery systems. We recently established partnerships with leaders like GE-Appliances and Alltech to strengthen the research and development pipeline – an essential driver of our state's economy.
This impact underscores why the state should invest more—not less—in the University of Kentucky. State investment is the first dollar in. It helps leverage our ability to attract hundreds of millions of dollars each year, which expand our capacity for discovery and healing.
Indeed, that's what the vast majority of states are choosing to do. Of the 20 states in the south, only four, including Kentucky, are decreasing their state funding for higher education. The remaining 16 states have increased their funding over the last two years.
The proposed cuts, if enacted, would touch every corner of our campus.
UK is one of only eight public institutions in the United States with colleges of Agriculture, Engineering, Medicine and Pharmacy on a single campus, leading to groundbreaking discoveries and distinctive interdisciplinary collaboration. And our sponsored research enterprise includes nationally recognized programs in aging, cancer, and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.
These areas of excellence, combined with our commitment to serve the Commonwealth, power our ability to positively impact lives—to turn the tides of health disparity and preventable disease in the Commonwealth. Kentucky suffers from some of the highest rates of preventable deaths related to a number of chronic illnesses, and the life expectancy of Kentuckians is below the national average. We also have higher utilization rates of health services, which compound the cost of health care. These issues are made more complex by low educational attainment, low socio-economic mobility, geography, and low health awareness.
As a result, addressing these health disparities requires a multi-disciplinary approach. UK is uniquely positioned in our state to meet these demands.
Through a spirit of partnership, our researchers are battling still lingering questions while daring to pioneer the questions yet asked. Importantly, we know that working together is the best way to positively impact lives and address complex challenges; only when you’re working in and with communities—shoulder to shoulder with people—do you fully understand what is possible.
That's why we're partnering with communities to improve health, education, the economy, the environment and quality of life, through our research enterprise.
Groups of UK researchers focused on poverty are shedding light on issues like food security that exist throughout the state. We currently have more than 330 funded projects underway that address these disparities and preventable deaths.
Since our NCI-designated Markey Cancer Center received its federal designation of excellence, our researchers now have greater access to clinical trials, more resources for the development of new drugs and novel treatments, and increased capacity for interventions for screenings for cervical and colorectal cancers.
In 2014, a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy developed a new, lifesaving product aimed at reducing the death toll from heroin abuse. Last year the college announced a major outreach initiative aimed at training pharmacists across the state for the prescription use of the medication.
A UK engineering professor, Samson Cheung, working with researchers in the colleges of Education, Arts and Sciences, and Medicine, has developed therapy technologies for children with autism, as well as aids for the therapists and teachers who work with the children.
This work—these tangible outcomes in communities and among Kentuckians in need of our care—this is who we are. This is what we must continue to be.
Our Strategic Plan provides a compelling path forward, guiding how we reach our ambitious goals to expand our scholarship, creative endeavors and research across the full range of disciplines, focusing on the most important challenges of the Commonwealth, our nation and the world.
These commitments offer the brightest hope for the Commonwealth we serve. Spearheading progress for Kentucky is part of our DNA.
It will always be crucial to who we are, and to how we move forward—together—to shape a better future.
Timothy S. Tracy
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Last week, President Capilouto shared a compelling story with the Kentucky House of Representatives Budget Review Subcommittee on Higher Education.
It was our story — the story of the University for Kentucky.
He described how four years ago, under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, we began charting an ambitious path forward — one focused on academic excellence in every phase of our mission, but particularly on student success.
He expressed how the state’s investment has helped students succeed in record numbers at the University of Kentucky.
He reported that the growth we’ve seen with our various programs mirrors trends in Kentucky’s workforce needs and development.
And he called upon the state to continue supporting this momentum, noting that our progress is at risk under the current budget proposal. This is a risk Kentucky cannot afford to take.
In fact, our record of success on behalf of the Commonwealth speaks forcefully that the state should be investing more—not less—in higher education. Indeed, that’s what most states — the vast majority — are choosing to do. They recognize that putting resources into higher education is an investment in the future.
Look at what we’ve been able to do in the past four years:
Thanks to our investments in our academic enterprise, our retention rates have risen to the highest levels in our institution’s history. In addition, our graduation rates are also among the highest we’ve ever seen. We’ve achieved these results while simultaneously growing our total enrollment by 15 percent.
How were we able to do this? By providing more academic advisors and counselors to support students, and more faculty to instruct them. By providing more police officers, cameras, locks and lights to improve safety.
Our Strategic Plan, adopted by our Board of Trustees in October, positions us to continue building upon this progress in retention, graduation and student support.
We’ve also maintained our commitment to access and affordability for all students. More than half of our students graduate without debt. Of those who do, the average debt burden is under the national average.
We’ve opened our doors even wider to those Kentucky families who need support. Twenty-five percent of our undergraduate, full-time students from Kentucky are from families with a median household income of less than $19,000. For these students, grants and scholarships (aid that does not have to be repaid) covers 95 percent of tuition and mandatory fees.
Against that backdrop, in the past four years, UK has initiated more than $1.9 billion in capital construction projects, focused on living, learning and dining spaces, as well as classroom and research facilities to further facilitate this academic excellence. Importantly, only 10 percent of that total capital investment is supported by state appropriations. The remaining 90 percent is possible because of private partners, donors, UK Athletics and strong fiscal stewardship.
Our campus transformation embodies our commitment to act creatively, to earn our way forward as a partner for progress. However, it in no way suggests that state funds aren’t crucial to what we do.
Currently, UK receives $280 million dollars in state appropriations. This support from the state is the first dollar into the University’s operating and capital budget – it supports all other revenue-generating endeavors and is key to UK’s central missions of teaching, research and service.
Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Eric Monday posted in his blog this week a breakdown of why this $280 million touches every corner of our campus, driving our growth as Kentucky’s economic engine.
He rightly noted that state funds are vital to our mission. They ensure that our momentum and what we do for the Commonwealth continues.
We can’t make Kentucky better tomorrow by reducing our investments in education today.
We’ve made great progress. We must continue moving forward.
Of course, this is just the beginning of a long process throughout this legislative session. We’re very grateful for our legislators’ willingness to converse about these important issues. And, as we continue these conversations, we will keep you updated on our progress.
Thank you for all you do—and all you have done—to strengthen our role as Kentucky’s indispensable institution.
Timothy S. Tracy