Campus News

Why UK Staff Member Mike Rhodus Has the 'Heart to Step Up'

Mike Rhodus, Mark Cornelison | UK photo
Mike Rhodus. Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 7, 2022) — What makes UK the University of, for and with Kentucky? 

The answer is our people.  

We are a community full of individuals who sacrifice for the greater good. During the past two years, those sacrifices have been magnified as the University of Kentucky continued its missions of teaching, service, research and healing. There are so many people who worked behind the scenes to make the impossible, possible. In this UKNow series, we hope to honor some of those employees who had the “Heart to Step Up,” despite the many obstacles presented to them while working during a global pandemic.  

This month UKNow talked to Mike Rhodus, who works as a grounds team leader in UK Facilities Management.

No matter the time of year, the UK campus is a beautiful and special place. But this beauty would not exist if not for the hard work of Rhodus and more than 70 UK Grounds Department staff. They work year-round to create and maintain around 800 acres of outdoor space — providing a safe, welcoming environment for our campus community.

For the past two years, we’ve seen their commitment more than ever before.

Rhodus shares a little more about his role and how it shifted in response to the pandemic in the Q&A below.

UKNOW: What is your role here at UK?  

Rhodus:  I am a grounds team leader for the horticulture crew on the south side of campus. I take care of the residence halls Woodland Glen, Smith, Baldwin, Ingels, Lewis, University Flats, Donovan, Haggin and Lyman T. Johnson as well as everything from Boone Center to Cooper Drive.

UKNOW: What’s the best part about your job?  

Rhodus:  As the seasons change so does my job — I’m outside in the fresh air, sometimes in the elements. I like working with my hands and don’t mind to get them dirty. There is something about working with plants and flowers that is therapeutic.

UKNOW: How did your role change due to COVID-19? If you could tell yourself one thing pre-COVID, what would it be? 

Rhodus:  When the pandemic started I was the first volunteer to come in at 4 a.m. to clean the parking structure stairwells and handrails before the workers got here. Also, they shut down eating inside anywhere on campus, so the trash we dealt with quadrupled.

Something I would tell myself is to keep more emergency supplies on hand, so I don’t have to get into a crowd fighting over toilet paper — who knew. I would have also switched some stock to Zoom and would have taken myself somewhere special — because it's going to be awhile

UKNOW: What inspired you during this past year?  

Rhodus:  My daughter, though all of this, graduated with a 4.4 GPA while playing softball for Henry Clay High School, travel ball and working a part-time job. She didn’t let COVID-19 stop her and made her dad so proud.


UKNow hopes to highlight different employees from across campus in the “Heart to Step Up” series. If you know someone who went above and beyond during this past year, please email us. 

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.