LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 2, 2011) -- The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees today unanimously voted to urge President Eli Capilouto to move forward quickly with a plan to dramatically transform the UK campus, paying particular attention to actions that will enhance undergraduate education and improve facilities on the nearly 150-year-old campus.
"The message is it is time to act," Capilouto said at the end of a two-day retreat of the UK Board. "We've got to be very strategic and creative to accomplish these things on behalf of our students and the Commonwealth of Kentucky."
Specifically, the board urged Capilouto to act on two fronts relative to improving undergraduate education at UK:
Strengthening the student population, including:
• Continuing to improve student quality,
• More aggressive recruiting of students, both first-time and transfer students, and students from Kentucky and out-of-state;
• Greater outreach to Kentucky's elementary and secondary schools and
• Increasing scholarships for the best and brightest students, while recognizing the need to serve the state and provide opportunities to more Kentuckians.
Strengthening the student experience, including:
• Immediate plans to be developed for improving facilities and campus infrastructure, including residence halls and learning spaces;
• Incorporating greater use of technology into those spaces; improving academic programs, such as the Honors Program
• Increasing the commitment to diversity and inclusion.
"We have to be the first choice for the best and brightest because we can provide a unique educational experience that is also highly consistent with our mission," Capilouto said, referencing the fact that students who come to UK as undergraduates can also spend time studying with world-class researchers. "Students have always been first to me and Kentucky students have always been first for our university."
Capilouto and board members acknowledged that transformations of the campus' physical infrastructure and continued changes to academic programs, among other things, will be a challenge against the backdrop of an economy still struggling in Kentucky and across the country.
For example, only about 500 of UK's residence hall beds out of a little more than 5,000 are modern. Updating those facilities and expanding them so more students can live on campus would carry an expensive price tag.
At the same time, as several board members pointed out, such a large undertaking would also potentially create thousands of construction jobs and have a large economic impact across the state. Board members spent about two hours this morning, touring the campus, focusing on residence halls and classroom space.
With that in mind, the board and Capilouto discussed exploring in short order creative ways to finance infrastructure improvements, which could include a combination of state and federal support along with increased private giving and public-private partnerships that might help pay for certain projects.
In addition, they discussed working more aggressively with alumni, faculty, students and staff to communicate the "unique value to the Commonwealth" that UK brings to the table as a flagship, land-grant institution. That can include greater leveraging of the university's significant research capacity as well as its extension offices.
Capilouto pledged to give board members an update on his progress on the initiative at their next meeting, Oct. 25.
"It's a new day. We've got to think creatively and I believe we can," Capilouto said. "How we navigate and create our strategy will be critical. The big picture at the end of the day is that it's not just about our campus, but our state. The immediate economic engine we create in the state through this process will help us build a platform for the future."
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