LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 14, 2023) — The University of Kentucky’s mission is to improve people's lives through excellence in education, research, creative work, service and health care.
By raising the aspirations of UK students; assisting students in realizing their highest academic potential; and inspiring progressive reform and innovation in teaching, learning and curriculum development, the Chellgren Center for Undergraduate Excellence works to ensure that the students and faculty of this university see that mission through.
New Chellgren Center director, Isabel Escobar, professor of chemical engineering and chair of the National Governing Board for the Association for Women in Science, is making sure that their presence is felt on campus.
“My primary goal as Chellgren Endowed Chair and director is to foster creative and productive collaborations across students from different backgrounds, provide UK students with an educational experience that assists them in realizing what is possible and inspire innovation in learning,” Escobar said.
Through the Chellgren Student Fellows Program and the funding assistance program, the Chellgren Center has facilitated the growth of over 508 students throughout its 18-year history.
Designed to provide high-impact experiences for outstanding undergraduate students, the Student Fellows Program allows students to go beyond classroom instruction to cultivate extraordinary academic achievement.
The program is open to all majors and takes place during the student's second year at UK. During this time, students receive help understanding the process of research within their discipline, a research mentor to oversee a spring research project and assistance in preparing for the next phase of their career, which may include applications for prestigious national and international awards (such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Truman and Goldwater Scholarships); admission into top tier graduate and professional programs in their field, or taking a gap year for service or to pursue other personal commitments.
For students like Bailey Smith, a senior in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, and Kotomi Yokokura, a senior in the College of Social Work, the Chellgren Center has enhanced their undergraduate experience immensely, putting them in spaces that have catapulted their passions into hopeful future careers.
With the help of the Chellgren Center, Smith was able to attend the 2022 Engagement Scholarship Consortium and present her semester-long research on community violence.
“The overall experience was very enriching,” Smith said. “Along with the opportunity to share my research, I got to learn about other community-based scholarships around the country. I did not realize the large impact universities could have on communities on a large scale. I know that this opportunity will lead to a hopeful career in community engagement and has provided me with a lot of networking opportunities.”
With a passion for public health, Chellgren Fellow Yokokura has started a student organization and a non-profit aimed at providing free women’s health supplies to the greater Lexington area. Through funding from the Chellgren Center, Yokokura has been able to travel to share her passion, which in turn has begun opening doors to new opportunities for the future.
“As part of the Delta Scholars Program, I was awarded the opportunity to present my community initiative to professors and directors at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health,” Yokokura said. “Here, I shared the work of Helping Hygiene, my nonprofit, and Take a Tampon, my student organization, in providing free and accessible menstrual hygiene products across campus and in the Lexington community. This opportunity has enriched my undergraduate experience as I had the privilege of networking with the directors from the College of Public Health. As a result, I will be meeting with one of the individuals to discuss the Master of Public Health program at Harvard. Furthermore, the opportunity aided my professional goals as I received connections to possible funding opportunities for Helping Hygiene. I am thankful for everyone who has helped me to attend this event, including the Chellgren Center and the funding it provided for my flight.”
While the Chellgren Center provides amazing opportunities for students, there are also opportunities for faculty.
Under Escobar’s direction, the Chellgren Center has rolled out the Faculty Fellows Program.
“The new Chellgren Center Faculty Fellows Program will provide grants of up to $4,000 for Faculty Fellows to engage in activities associated with student excellence during the academic year 2023-2024,” Escobar said. “This program will provide resources and support for faculty to design academic courses, research projects and other forms of creative work. This program will provide faculty with membership in a professional learning community to exchange ideas and intellectual support with other Fellows at the Center and beyond.”
Additionally, the Chellgren Center has the Chellgren Endowed Professorship. The endowment funds five new professorships that will be filled for a three-year, non-renewable term. During this time, UK faculty members are able to pursue new and novel projects focusing on undergraduate excellence.
The center was created in August 2005 with an initial gift of $1.5 million from alumnus Paul Chellgren and his family, with an additional gift of $250,000 in September 2006. His total commitment of $2.25 million was matched by the state’s Endowment Match Program, creating a $4.5 million endowment for the Chellgren Center for Undergraduate Excellence.
The Chellgren Center for Undergraduate Excellence is housed within the Office of the Provost. To learn more about the Chellgren Center, please visit www.uky.edu/chellgren/.
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.