Student and Academic Life

This week, we implemented steps in our efforts to realign resources in the newly formed unit reporting to the Office of the Provost, Student and Academic Life (SAL).

There’s no putting it lightly; this week was a difficult one for our university family.

As we have announced previously, the realignment includes position eliminations, as well as the reclassification of existing positions and creation of new ones.

Transitions like this one are not a numbers game to anyone involved in this process. Real people are involved—people who have made valued contributions to our campus community. Therefore, it was and is crucial that we approach any decision of this magnitude with consideration and compassion.

I would ask that we all work together, and with a sense of compassion and humanity, to work with those affected by these moves and to be mindful of the impact on everyone across these critical areas of student support.

At the same time, I believe it is important to remind ourselves, as a community, why we’ve chosen this path.

This realignment underscores our ultimate vision: creating the best possible environment to support student success. We are realigning our resources to create the best organization—structurally—to accomplish this important goal.

A merging of the critical efforts within the Division of Student Affairs and Undergraduate Education to form the unit of Student and Academic Life will provide a more integrated, collaborative support structure to guide students through their academic journey at UK.  The new structure reallocates more resources from administration to frontline staff working with and directly supporting our students on a regular basis.

We are investing more – and investing more strategically – in our students. They are, and they must be, at the center of everything that we do.

For example, over time we are creating eight additional counseling positions in the UK Counseling Center, significantly expanding the center’s capacity to support the health and well-being of our students. That is in addition to the more than $5 million spent in recent years on safety measures, including more police, counselors, and technology.

Our goal in creating this new structure—for Student and Academic Life as well as for other units reporting to the Office of the Provost—is to better function as a seamless team, rather than as islands of effort.  From the students’ perspective, their educational experiences should be integrated as one experiential process.  Yet, far too often despite the best efforts of so many of us, the educational services and support we provide our students can be segregated and fragmented at times, especially with respect to how central Provost Office units connect to, and work in support of, the colleges.

Against that backdrop, our goal is to create a truly integrated, holistic model: one that aligns functionality of the Provost Office units with the efforts of the colleges.  Our new approach will further expand our efforts to support students and underscore our commitment to put them first in everything we do.

Over the last several weeks we’ve had meaningful discussions with college leadership, including the deans and associate deans, as the new Student and Academic Life organizational structure has taken shape. We’re very grateful for this invaluable input.

As we head into the beginning of a new academic year, we are reminded of our ambitious objectives outlined in our Strategic Plan. The plan charts our course to become one of the country’s leading public, residential research universities, envisioning 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 know that making this kind of swift and dramatic progress will require a more seamless and integrated approach to our efforts. To reach these goals, we must think and act differently. And we must make dramatic change now.

The steps we are taking are focused entirely on aligning our resources to support those efforts and priorities—matching money to mission.

I know we can get there. I believe deeply in our shared vision and priorities.

And while this process involved very difficult decisions—that were not taken lightly—I’m hopeful that our UK family will work humanely and collaboratively with our ultimate goal in mind: our promise to the students we serve.

Thank you for everything you do.


Tim Tracy