Campus News

Where We Stand: DEI Project 14

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Officer Advance Day.
Arden Barnes | UK Photo.

Throughout the upcoming months, UK will highlight each of the projects under its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), including the work they are currently doing across campus and what they hope to achieve in the future. To follow along, search ‘Where We Stand’ on UKNow.  

LEXINGTON, Ky. (August 1, 2022) — Starting in the fall of 2020, the University of Kentucky began a new chapter in its journey to become a more diverse and equitable campus. 

Against the backdrop of increased racial turmoil and a global pandemic, UK President Eli Capilouto announced a comprehensive, collaborative 17-project Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Plan. Designed to empower agents of change, embolden existing DEI efforts and introduce additional initiatives to engage more of the community in this work, this plan has ignited a holistic overhaul to the university's approach to advancing diversity at UK.

Since 2020, project leads and the members of each of the 17 project teams within the DEI Implementation Plan have worked diligently to set the groundwork for what is to become a roadmap to inclusive excellence. 

Motivated by a continual commitment to reflection and renewal, Project 14: Expand Supplier Diversity Purchasing Program, has made significant progress. 

The goal of this project is to increase UK’s expenditures with diverse suppliers. This team also considers similar opportunities around Kentucky and throughout the country.

Prior to the commencement of Project 14, UK operated a traditional Supplier Diversity Program. Responsibility was assigned to a staff member who also was responsible for numerous other duties. This allowed for reactive services to be provided that were responsive to requests for assistance but did not allow for proactive activities.

“It was readily apparent that sustainable success toward our goal would require a multifaceted approach,” Barry Swanson, chief procurement officer at UK and Project 14 team lead, said. “From this realization sprang the UK Supplier Diversity Impact Model. This model drives everything we do in our supplier diversity program. UK Supplier Diversity Manager, Marilyn Clark, works tirelessly on each aspect of the Impact Model.

“The impact to campus will be more diverse suppliers, offering products and services that meet our needs,” Swanson continued. “Growing the number and quality of diverse suppliers will also provide increased availability and competition that allows cost savings to be achieved as well. Even more importantly, the fruits of the program will have a positive impact on the community at large as the diverse suppliers serve other customers in the community and their businesses grow and prosper. Positive community impact is our ultimate goal.”

Since its implementation, Project 14 has: 

  • Developed a diversity program structure. 
  • Hired a UK supplier diversity manager and support staff.
  • Conducted monthly committee and community partner meetings. 
  • Identified, trained and connected with new diversity suppliers.
  • Created processes to measure progress and bidding of diverse suppliers.

Next month, the university will be participating in Lexington’s Minority Business Expo, the premier business conference in Kentucky for minority and women-owned businesses, as a Gold Sponsor. 

The sponsorship is split evenly between Purchasing/Supplier Diversity and the UK Office of Community Engagement. Here, Swanson and Clark, along with other members of the UK Community, will participate in the Business Opportunity Exchange where UK will be matched with suppliers seeking work with UK, participate in a panel discussion focused on small businesses, and overall connect with business owners for the purpose of networking, learning, and finding opportunities for growth. 

“UK has been an Expo sponsor for 15 years, so there’s a lot of excitement,” Clark said. 

As a university, we understand that dismantling institutionalized oppression in higher education is not a project to complete, it is forever ongoing. And while the work of these individuals and our collective community is just beginning, this multigenerational endeavor is one that the university is all-in to tackle. 

Together, we are finding ways to answer the challenge that we have been called to grapple with — bringing the prospect of hope and healing, reckoning and reconciliation, to this generation and to those who will follow. 

For more information on the university's diversity and inclusion efforts, visit the DEI website. To learn more about Project 14 and its effort, click here. The DEI website is home to information about DEI-related resources available to faculty, staff and students; events and organizations; news and campus messages; and updates on DEI efforts around campus.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.