Competition and Collaboration

Thanks to the historic tradition of our collegiate athletics program, the University of Kentucky is a prominent feature during the month of March. Our student-athletes offer formidable competition and represent the University and Commonwealth with pride – playing for the name on the front of their jersey, instead of the back.

Throughout various competition seasons, the Kentucky Wildcats face a host of opposing schools from across our state and nation. That’s especially true this year as our men’s basketball team tips off against the Norse of Northern Kentucky University (NKU) in the first weekend of the NCAA Division I Tournament.

We’re reminded, though, that our institutions partner in research and community engagement far more often than they compete on the hardwood, gridiron, track, course, or field. We have more than $258,000 in research partnerships with Northern Kentucky University, including our study of the behavioral effects of alcohol and energy drinks, and our work to improve math education in elementary schools.

Last month, the University of Kentucky College of Medicine announced plans to develop a regional medical school campus at Northern Kentucky University to train physicians in our state. The program is the third regional medical school campus partnership, building on UK’s work with Western Kentucky University (WKU) and Morehead State University – two in-state competitors our student-athletes find at the opposite end of their various arenas.

We have a multi-year partnership with Morehead State University to advance the Appalachian Rural Dental Education program that is addressing oral health needs in Appalachia. Ultimately, the long-range goals for this project are to increase opportunity for Kentuckians to pursue dental education, provide easier access to oral health care, and improve oral health literacy in the region.

Last year, we collaborated on $3.5 million worth of sponsored research with the University of Louisville. Our work includes a National Science Foundation-funded partnership in nanoscience to support nanotechnology development throughout the state; the Kentucky Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network that supports infrastructure, capacity, and training in biomedical research; and the Kentucky Cancer Program that supports cancer screenings statewide, to name a few. We are also the two anchoring research universities in the multi-partner push to expand advanced manufacturing known as the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement.

In total, we conducted nearly $5 million in sponsored research initiatives with Kentucky’s public universities in 2016. This does not include our program partnerships, collaborative service engagements, and graduate student pipeline agreements.

Our sister institutions in Kentucky are not our only partners. We work with West Virginia University, West Virginia State University, and Marshall University (in addition to in-state partners WKU, the University of Louisville, Kentucky State University, Centre College, and Bluegrass Community and Technical College) on the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation. Together, our collaborative effort is enhancing and expanding programs that engage high-achieving, under-represented students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.

UK faculty in the department of plant and soil sciences are engaged in collaborative work with faculty from Duke, Carnegie Mellon, Howard, Virginia Tech, and Stanford universities through the Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (CEINT). Recently receiving a grant extension, CEINT explores the potential environmental, biological, and ecological effects of a variety of manufactured nanomaterials. Part of the partnership includes the development of innovative curricula for high schools, museums, and undergraduate research opportunities.

These partnerships are important reminders that there is more that unites than divides us in higher education. As we gather in March, clad in our favorite colors to cheer on our alma maters and favorite teams, we should remember and celebrate the colleges and universities that anchor their communities, yielding healthier and more prosperous places to live, work, and learn. Institutions of higher education are the economic engines of our day, preparing the next generation of business leaders, artists, and public servants, while pioneering new knowledge and creativity, and providing a healing hand to countless people in need of complex care.