Campus News

UK’s Strategic Vision Must ‘Meet Students Where They Are’ to Serve State’s Needs, Future

photo of student walking passing student on bike around the bowl of Young Library
Pete Comparoni | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 18, 2019) — After an intensive daylong retreat, the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees on Friday charged President Eli Capilouto and the institution with developing a strategic vision and plan that “meets our students where they are and gets them to where Kentucky needs them to be.”

“If we are to be the University of, for and with Kentucky, then we must act with a sense of urgency and purpose to develop and articulate a vision for our state’s university that meets the needs of students and our state in a rapidly changing 21st century economy and world,” said UK Board Chair Robert Vance. “Our challenge — and our direction to President Capilouto — is to develop a plan that responds to a compelling vision for our university and our Commonwealth.”

On Thursday, the Board engaged with 80 faculty, staff, and students in three future-focused scenarios that encouraged the expansion of the range of available strategies; the avoidance of the pitfalls and blind-spots in traditional strategic planning; and the consideration of how best to develop a campus that accommodates the learning and career needs of tomorrow’s undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.  

The daylong discussion was facilitated by Educational Advisory Board (EAB) and designed to encourage thinking about the challenges, opportunities and obstacles confronting higher education in the 21st century as UK moves into creating its next  Strategic Plan. The higher education landscape is challenged by changing demographics, rapidly developing technology that is transforming how education is delivered as well as the expectations of students and families, and evolving needs of businesses, government and nonprofits that are demanding students come to them job-ready with adaptable skills.

“Our Board and our campus are committed to thinking more creatively about our work and to plan differently for our future.” Capilouto said. “The time has come to cast aside the tired and numbing routines of planning that lead to generic and uninspired results. The time has come to commit ourselves instead to new approaches as we seek new solutions. The time has come to plan not for what is, but for what is next."

During the retreat, general themes emerged, which, when combined with thoughtful consideration of the University’s other essential missions of research and service, will lay the foundation for the University’s next Strategic Plan. Soon the University will engage in a campus-wide conversation.

The framework includes:

Vision: “Meet Our Students Where They Are; Get Them To Where Kentucky Needs Them To Be”

Key Themes:

  • Tailor High-Impact, Goal-Oriented Experiences
  • Constantly Evaluate and Cultivate Tools for Success
  • Make Academics Challenging; Navigation Easy
  • Redefine Achievement and Consistently Reward It
  • Leverage the Value of Diversity
  • Harness the Power of Technology
  • Engage Within and Beyond the Campus
  • Prepare For First Job and Next Job​

Result: Be The University Of, For, and With Kentucky

UK is in the final year of its current five-year Strategic Plan, a period in which UK has reached historic highs in retention and graduation rates, research expenditures, and levels of diversity among its students — key milestones informed by goals and metrics contained in the current plan.

A new strategic plan, led by Provost David Blackwell, will be developed in consultation with faculty and the entire campus over the next few months. The UK Board will review and adopt the plan in Spring 2020. Blackwell said UK’s deans and academic leadership will meet later this month for a planning session around the development of the Strategic Plan.

“The Board has articulated a compelling vision and principles to guide our path over the next several years,” Blackwell said. “Now, our campus community must go to work to take the framework and develop it into an ambitious, but achievable, plan that informs our work on behalf of our students, faculty, staff and the Commonwealth that we serve.”

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.