After months of committee meetings, reports, analysis, more meetings and approval from the Board of Trustees, UofL’s 2019-2022 Strategic Plan is officially underway.
President Neeli Bendapudi kicked things off Monday with a launch event on the Belknap Campus and will do the same Tuesday on the HSC Campus. During the event, Bendapudi spoke at length about the work that has been done throughout the past year to prepare for the plan’s implementation, noting, for example, that UofL has experienced a “significant uptick” in the 4-year graduation rate.
“This shows what can happen even within the span of just one year when we put a lot of effort and attention into these efforts,” she said. “We benefited by increasing our academic profile. The more incoming students we have that are better prepared, the better off we are. But we also did things strategically.”
Those strategies included increasing the number of student success coordinators, allocating funds for projects that specifically benefit recruitment and retention efforts, creating a committee focused on enrollment management and more. Bendapudi also touted the tools that have been put into place – namely a degree audit tool and a smart planner tool – within the past year to help students better navigate their time on campus.
“It’s easy to tell a student to stay on track. It’s easy to tell an adviser to keep them on track. But without the right tools, it’s a challenge to actually do so,” Bendapudi said. “Now, in just one year, we have over 200 majors and minors who have access to these tools. We’re just trying to reduce the friction between students and success. It’s not enough, but it’s a start.”
Bendapudi also touched briefly on the status of the budget, noting that UofL is moving to a multi-year, comprehensive budget, which should provide each department with a clearer picture of their finances.
Great Place to Learn, Work, Invest
The biggest drivers behind the strategic plan is how we make the University of Louisville a great place to learn, work and invest while fostering diversity, equity and inclusion.
To achieve “Great Place to Learn” status, we will focus on experiential learning, student mental health, increase access to financial aid and financial aid resources and more. There are specific metrics outlined for this objective; for example, improving undergraduate and graduate enrollment, retention, graduation, underrepresented students and first-generation students.
We’re off to a good start: “Through our efforts, we had the lowest college student debt of any public institution in Kentucky,” Bendapudi said. “I am proud of that.”
She added that we are putting more resources toward student mental wellness, including expanding the Counseling Center.
“If you see someone who looks like they’re lost, struggling, reach out to them. That is the culture we want to create,” she said. “When students stay and succeed and thrive, it’s because we’re meeting their needs as a whole student. We believe in the whole student and their success now, next and beyond. That’s part of our commitment.”
Bendapudi noted that UofL was recently named a top school for social mobility nationally, and the top university in Kentucky for the category. Social mobility is the change in social status relative to one’s current social location within a given society.
“What really matters to me as a public university is that U.S. News and World Report is now tracking (how universities achieve) social mobility – they are finally saying we realize we need to recognize that there are students who have to work a little harder to achieve success because they don’t have the same resources or the same access. And, we are at the top and that makes me so proud,” she said.
To become a “Great Place to Work,” the Strategic Plan is focused on personal growth and professional development opportunities, as well as creating a culture based on Cardinal Principles (Community, Accountability, Respect, Diversity, Integrity, Noble, Agility, Leadership).
Finally, in an effort to become a “Great Place to Invest,” UofL is focused on philanthropic efforts, bolstering our development officers, increasing our business and industry partnerships and focusing on a handful of key topics that make us unique. For the latter, for example, UofL is one of just 69 schools in the country that is both a Research 1 university and Carnegie-designated for community engagement.
Additional metrics by which we’ll hold ourselves accountable, and action items proposed to get there, are available online.
Gail DePuy, professor at the Speed School of Engineering, is tasked with leading the implementation of this three-year plan. A committee will be created to help her, reporting progress updates regularly. Updates will also be provided on the Strategic Plan website.
“We have three years and the clock is ticking now,” Bendapudi said. “What we do matters. We’re not just going to be a top performer, we’re going to be the top performer. We’re going to show that we can grow and that diversity and inclusion are the keys to excellence. I’m up for it. I hope you are, too.”