President Neeli Bendapudi kicked off the three-year strategic plan process last week
President Neeli Bendapudi kicked off the three-year strategic plan process last week.

Faculty, staff and students filled the SAC ballroom Jan. 24 to help President Neeli Bendapudi launch UofL’s strategic planning process.

“This is a really important moment for the university. And I am nervous, but it’s a happy, excited, I-can’t-wait-to-see-what-we-all-do-together nervous,” Bendapudi said.

She said she was asked by the board and members of the community to have a first-100-days strategic plan to unveil, but noted that’s not quite how it works at universities.

“It’s important to come into an institution, learn, understand what’s already happening and get a sense of the place. Universities are inherently much more complex. Think about the number of constituencies we have and programs we offer and challenges we have,” she said.

After being in the role for about eight months, Bendapudi said she is confident now is the right time to launch the strategic plan. In doing so, she reminded the UofL community that we have to keep our mission, vision and values in mind.

Mission statement

“Our strategy needs to be in line with our mission. It is a fine start for who we are and who we aspire to be,” Bendapudi said. “We’re going to keep this front and center to everything we do.”

UofL’s mission statement reads: “The University of Louisville pursues excellence and inclusiveness in its work to educate and serve its community through:

  1. teaching diverse undergraduate, graduate and professional students in order to develop engaged citizens, leaders and scholars;
  2. practicing and applying research, scholarship and creative activity; and
  3. providing engaged service and outreach that improve the quality of life for local and global communities.

The University is committed to achieving preeminence as a nationally recognized metropolitan research university.”

Vision statement

Bendapudi’s vision is for the University of Louisville to be a great place to learn, work and invest.

“At the core, we need to be a great place to learn. That’s why we exist. In order to do that, we’ve got to make this a great place to work. To do that, we need resources,” she said. “We need to make this even stronger and say this is a great place to learn, work and invest because we celebrate diversity. Our inclusivity is the key to our excellence because we foster equity and strive for inclusion. This is a point of pride and strength for us.”

How to get there

  • Great place to learn: “We will accomplish this by supporting the whole student. It means the student is not just a number. We focus on the student through transformative, purpose-driven and engaged learning. We are going to teach students how they will make a difference from day one,” Bendapudi said.
  • Great place to work: “It’s a work place dedicated to growth and professional development. We will do that only if faculty, staff, administrators live our institutional values,” she said.
  • Great place to invest: “The University of Louisville is a great place to invest because of its demonstrated impact on the economic, social and cultural health and wellbeing of Louisville, the Commonwealth and beyond. We’re not just going to say, ‘Take our word for it.’ We will be demonstrating our impact,” she said. “We will accomplish this through innovative teaching, research, scholarship, creative activity, principled leadership, responsible stewardship and engaged partnerships.”


Bendapudi outlined the values of UofL, which she calls the “CARDINAL” principles:  

Community of care: “We care for ourselves, we care for one another, and we care for the community beyond us. We must be a community,” she said.  

Accountability: “We’re not perfect. We keep our word. If we make mistakes, we own up. We run to a problem, we don’t run away from a problem.”

Respect: “This is key. Respect irrespective of position. I don’t care where you are in some real or imagined hierarchy – we are all working for the University of Louisville. We respect each other even if we vehemently disagree on some position.”

Diversity and inclusion: “This is a foundational value for us. We celebrate diversity of thought, of life experiences. We want a full person in the richness of all the intersecting identifies to feel welcome here.”

Integrity and transparency: “You build trust by what you do. It’s walking the walk, not just talking the talk. Together, integrity means when we make decisions, we make them to the best of our abilities for the good of the institution.”

Noble purpose: “I believe fundamentally we each want to make a difference. How fortunate are we? We get to work with the next generation. Who knows what they’ll go out and do. It’s our job to help them find their noble purpose.”

Agility: “None of this is possible if we are rigid. There is so much change in the environment. If the speed of change outside outpaces the pace inside the organization, the organization won’t win.”

Leadership: “We want a culture where we’re all leaders. Leadership is an activity, not a position. We must all take our mantle as leaders in influencing this community for the better.”

What’s next

With the mission, vision and values as a guide, UofL will embark on two three-year plans, from 2019-2022 and again from spring 2022-25.

Bendapudi picked the three-year target so we can hold ourselves accountable and know what progress is being made.

Bendapudi has put together a leadership team that consists of vice presidents, vice provosts and deans. Some work has already been accomplished prior to the strategic plan launch, including a new CPE performance model and the development of new committees – the provost’s enrollment management advisory committee and the revenue target committee among them. Also, UofL has joined the CEO Action for Diversity, earned its reaccreditation and completed an institutional benchmark study.

Also to facilitate the strategic plan, the committee structure includes an executive committee – 10 members and three co-chairs who are responsible for managing the process and coordinating the effort of the steering committee groups. The XC is co-chaired by Bendapudi, Gail DePuy from the Speed School, and Jeff Bumpous, from the School of Medicine. Members also include Beth Boehm, Rob Keynton, Toni Ganzel, Brad Shafer, Krista Wallace-Boaz, John Smith, Jonathan Fuller, John Drees, Bob Goldstein and Michael Wade Smith.

The steering committee includes the XC and nine work group co-chairs. It is responsible for coordinating the effort of all work groups, as well as communication to campus. It is co-chaired by DePuy and Bumpous.

Work groups will be assembled to focus on how to ensure UofL is a great place to learn, work and invest. They will consist of 20 to 30 employees each from throughout campus and are responsible for preparing and presenting a final strategy plan to the steering committee by May 31. The “learn” work group is co-chaired by Jasmine Farrier, Jeff Sun and Nat Irvin. The “work” is co-chaired by Karan Chavis and Brian Buford. The “invest” group is co-chaired by Jon Klein.

These work groups will begin meeting at least once every two weeks to conduct an environmental scan, determine strategies, tactics, metrics and timelines to achieve their goals and engage internal and external stakeholders. The groups, which include self-nominated employees and those who were nominated by someone on campus, will report to the steering committee following each meeting.


From March through April, community feedback will be solicited through emails, focus groups, attending group meetings, etc. It is during this time when strategies will begin to emerge. Tactics will be in an ideation stage.

From April through May 31, community feedback will be solicited through emails, focus groups, meetings, etc. Strategies will be confirmed, and tactics, metrics and timelines will be developed. Work groups will begin to prepare and vet the final strategy deliverable.

June 1 through June 30 is the public comment period. The steering committee will edit, consolidate, clarify and produce the final version of a cohesive strategic plan. A final reviewed copy will be provided to the Office of Communications and Marketing by June 30.

From July through August, OCM will copyedit the final copy and produce marketing collateral for the strategic plan, such as a booklet and a website.

The official strategic plan launch event will take place at the beginning of the academic year in August. An implementation committee will work throughout the three years to ensure we meet our stated goals.

Alicia Kelso
Alicia Kelso is the director of social media and digital content. She joined UofL in 2015 as director of communications at the Brandeis School of Law. She also serves as a senior contributor at, writing about the restaurant industry, which she has covered since 2010. Her work has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Bloomberg, The Seattle Times, Good Morning America and Franchise Asia Magazine.