Rebekah Radtke: 2024-25 University Research Professor Q&A

Rebekah Radtke, Ph.D.
Rebekah Radtke, Ph.D., joined UK in 2011 and works to bring interior design principles to a broader audience through impactful, global collaborations. Photo by Jeremy Blackburn, Research Communications

UKNow is highlighting the University of Kentucky’s 2024-25 University Research Professors.Established by the Board of Trustees in 1976, the professorship program recognizes excellence across the full spectrum of research at UK and is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research.  

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 2, 2024) — Rebekah Radtke, a Chellgren Endowed Professor and associate professor in the School of Interiors in the University of Kentucky College of Design, has been honored as a 2024-25 University Research Professor.

Radtke’s research is focused on collaborating with communities using design as a method to create more sustainable, climate-responsive areas. She shares the impact of this work through partnerships and international research collaborations.

Most recently, Radtke has been working with colleagues across design disciplines and community partners in Hazard, Kentucky. Together, they aim to reimagine Appalachian climate futures by cultivating place-based design solutions and best practices.

Radtke spoke with UKNow about her latest honor as a University Research Professor in this Q&A.

UKNow: What does it mean to you to be recognized as a University Research Professor?

Radtke: Research takes a lot of heart and determination. Witnessing the legacy of University Research Professors at UK and the impact of their work, it is an honor to be in such good company.

UKNow: How will the professorships program advance your research?

Radtke: The recognition of this award has increased the visibility of my work. My hope is that it will increase participation with more colleagues across UK and beyond to participate in collaborative design research.

UKNow: How does your research address challenges facing Kentucky?

Radtke: As significant flooding events continue to challenge our communities in Southeastern Kentucky, design can play an important role towards community resilience. My research explores how we can establish design pathways for sustainable climatic futures in communities impacted by energy transition in Appalachian Kentucky and beyond. This work highlights the importance of local knowledge and expertise and how Eastern Kentucky can lead the discourse regionally and internationally.

UKNow: What impact will your research have on Kentucky? 

Radtke: Interior design is a nimble profession that allows us to effectively contribute to any area of study and bring added value. Recognizing this value of design allows us to create broader impacts to advance Kentucky communities. In this role, I hope to expand how we think about design and how we can collectively continue to use research to creatively address the needs in Kentucky. I bring this research into my interior design studios that I teach in the College of Design. By expanding the way we think about interior design, we reimagine how design research can shape our environments and behaviors to create great places for Kentuckians to thrive.

About the University Research Professors
Each year, the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees approves a cohort of faculty as University Research Professors. The distinction recognizes excellence in work that addresses scientific, social, cultural and economic challenges in Kentucky and the world.

College leadership developed criteria for excellence within their area of expertise and then nominated faculty who excelled at these criteria. Each University Research Professor receives a one-year award of $10,000 and participates in other events planned around the program.

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.