Reflecting on 2015
In 2015, we celebrated our 150th anniversary – a century-and-a-half of service through teaching, research and health care. We acknowledged the impactful work of the UK family who, every day, foster lives of meaning and purpose for our students and forge a path toward greater prosperity and wellbeing for communities across our state, nation and world. In purposeful and constantly evolving ways, we are a University for Kentucky.
This week, we shared the incredible stories that defined our last year, the people who we welcomed into the UK family and the moments that will impact our future. Please enjoy this collection of highlights from our past year.
“A #seebluereview of 2015 at the University of Kentucky”
By Amy Jones-Timoney and Brad Mancuso
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 4, 2016) — The stories told in 2015 about the University of Kentucky family weave together a tapestry of discovery, community and transformation, setting a foundation for a promising 2016.
2015 marked the culmination of a campus-wide discussion of UK’s new strategic plan. In October, the Board of Trustees endorsed the plan’s five strategic objectives: Undergraduate Student Success, Graduation Education, Diversity and Inclusivity, Research and Scholarship, and Community Engagement.
In the area of undergraduate student success, 2015 was filled with stories about the quality of our students, the faculty and staff working to make their experiences special and the facilities fostering creativity and community.
Fall 2015 enrollment numbers demonstrated advancement in academic preparedness and retention within the student body as UK strives to become a first-choice university.
Students stepped foot onto a transformed campus in August, moving into new residence halls in the Woodland Glen neighborhood, eating in a brand new campus dining facility and taking first classes in a new section of the Gatton College of Business and Economics.
Crews broke ground on a new and renovated Student Center on North Campus designed to help students be successful outside of the classroom while construction continues on a state-of-the-art facility designed to enhance the student experience inside new classrooms and labs.
Construction is also set to begin on a new Honors College, thanks to the largest single gift in UK’s history — $23 million from UK alum Thomas W. Lewis and his wife, Jan. The goal is to enhance the student experience by creating one of the country’s leading honors programs.
Campus transformation is enhancing the graduate student experience, too.
Visual art students at all levels are taking advantage of new spaces for creative scholarship in the new Art and Visual Studies Building, which opened earlier this semester.
Students in UK’s graduate and professional programs are making names for themselves around the state, country and world. Two UK vocalists were named Kentucky Metropolitan (MET) Opera National Council Audition winners and will advance to the next round as they compete to earn the opportunity to sing on the MET stage.
Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion graduate students who planned and implemented the Walk [UK] campaign received a “tweet of approval” from the U.S. Surgeon General applauding their efforts to promote health and wellness on campus.
During 2015, UK continued its efforts to be a campus that promotes diversity and fosters inclusivity.
Thanks to this year’s first-year class, the UK campus is now the most diverse in its history.
This past August, the university honored the late civil rights pioneer who became the first African American admitted as a student to UK by naming a new residence hall the Lyman T. Johnson Hall.
The mural in Memorial Hall spurred dialogue about diversity issues on campus in late 2015. The mural has been shrouded as part of the process of creating space for a dialogue about how it will be displayed long-term as well as other important issues of concern.
Diversity and inclusivity efforts also focus on helping all students, faculty and staff feel safe, secure and part of a larger community while on campus. That is why students filled out a campus safety survey before registering for classes last spring as part of a five-year initiative to understand and assess student perceptions and experiences regarding violence and/or harassment. Officials hope to use the results to better inform policies to make campus safe for everyone.
The past year proved fruitful for research and scholarly work across campus.
Brent Seales combined his experience in computer science with an interest in the humanities to collaborate with international partners to “virtually unroll” ancient Scrolls. The professor’s team of students joined him in Paris, France, to present their findings at Google last spring.
“Working with communities, for communities” is what motivated the faculty and staff behind a multidisciplinary grant funded by the Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) to study weight and circadian rhythms in children in Clay County. The project allowed the students to become “junior researchers” and taught them the importance of education with a field trip to the UK campus.
Collaboration across campus will become much easier thanks to a new, technologically advanced space for researchers. UK broke ground in October on a research facility designed to address Kentucky’s health disparities.
Innovation in research and health care allowed UK faculty, staff and students to expand outreach and community engagement initiatives in 2015.
UK HealthCare expanded its outreach across the Commonwealth as the University of Kentucky Transplant Center set a new state record for the number of new heart transplants.
The College of Pharmacy announced a statewide outreach initiative to train pharmacists how to use naloxone, a medication used to treat suspected opioid overdose. The hope is to bring the research “from the bench to the bedside.”
Students learned first-hand the importance of community engagement as they raised more than $1.6 million at the annual DanceBlue dance marathon. Students, alumni, faculty and staff celebrated 10 years of the no-sitting, no-standing dance marathon that has contributed more than $8.1 million to the Golden Matrix Fund and the DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic.
The stories summarized above demonstrate the strides made in undergraduate student success, graduate education, diversity and inclusivity, research and scholarship and community engagement at the University of Kentucky in 2015. The foundation has been laid for even more progress as UK faculty, staff and students set new goals in 2016.
As UK's Frank X Walker reminded us in his poem honoring our 150th Anniversary, “There is no vaccination against ignorance, but there is us. There is this university.”
Indeed, there is this place that carries the hope and aspirations of the Commonwealth it serves. But without those who inhabit our campus, who contribute their time and talents to fulfill the promise we uphold to others, we would fall short if we didn’t move forward, together.
Welcome back and we look forward to a productive and prosperous 2016.