My Kentucky Travels

Between September 23 and October 10, I traveled 1,886 miles across Kentucky and neighboring states, representing you and our university in several cities in Kentucky and the region -- from Pikeville to Owensboro, and Corbin to Covington, with five visits to Louisville and stops in places like Henderson, Evansville, Elizabethtown, Cincinnati, Maysville, Ashland, Inez, Prestonsburg, Pikeville, Richmond, London, and Somerset.

In those three weeks, I met with more than 100 high school counselors, talked to hundreds of your fellow alumni, met generous supporters, and spoke to some 2,000 high school students considering the University of Kentucky.

I was on the radio, conducted two news conferences highlighting unique research and our continued campus rebuilding, and met with editorial boards. I talked with lawmakers individually in restaurants, hotels and places of businesses and presented to nearly 70 supporters that form the core of our legislative advocacy network across the Commonwealth.

In the coming weeks, I'll visit many of you in Chicago, Atlanta, New York, and Dallas, along with Somerset, Madisonville and London again as we continue to spread the word about our institution and how we are extending our enduring mission to Kentucky and the region.

The travels underscore one important and irrefutable fact: unlike any other institution, our campus is the Commonwealth. We educate students, we conduct groundbreaking research that offers the potential of extending and enhancing life in innumerable ways, and we heal communities in need of our sophisticated care and treatment.

But we also serve -- directly -- needs throughout our state. Service is part of our DNA and we do it unlike anyone else in Kentucky. Whether it's advising the coal industry on reforestation practices in Hazard or expanding transplantation services to western Kentucky, we impact every county in every region of our state.

That is our mission. Who we are won't change. But how we provide that service -- and the manner in which we educate students at all levels and conduct research -- will have to undergo a fundamental transformation.

With a strong senior management team now in place, capped by the arrival of Dr. Chris Riordan as Provost, more and more of my efforts, time and focus will be devoted to communicating externally about our critical importance to Kentucky.

To continue our work, it will take the support of many partners. The state will be one of those partners if we are to recruit or retain our state's next National Book Award winner. We need the state as a partner if we are to build the research and educational space that will attract the next group of cancer specialists, cardiologists and pharmacologists who will lessen the scourge of disease that afflicts Kentuckians at disproportional levels.

We will also deeply examine the way we do business if we are to appropriately address the questions that parents, students, and policy-makers are asking of us:

•   How are we ensuring affordable access to a differentiated educational experience?

•   Are we harnessing the liberating force of technology, combined with the highest-quality classroom instruction, to maximize the potential of our students?

•   Are our world-class faculty and clinicians optimally producing both funded research that addresses the needs of Kentucky and beyond, while engaging deeply with students in ways that prepare them to compete and succeed in a competitive global economy?

My time out in the state has only deepened and renewed my sense of optimism about UK's future. I believe we have a window of opportunity, if we seize it now. We can be a leader in providing the highest-quality, residential educational experience in Kentucky and the region -- one infused with technology and emboldened by research and service that gives our students and our state unparalleled opportunities.

But we have to determine, together, as a Wildcat family, how we move forward to address and answer these questions. I look forward to that journey together and continuing to represent you to our Commonwealth and beyond.