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2023 IEP Designee – University of Kentucky

Author: George Ward – Associate Vice President for Economic Development and Real Estate

George Ward, University of Kansas
George Ward, University of Kentucky

As Kentucky’s land grant flagship institution, the University of Kentucky is committed to educating and empowering the next generation of citizens, providing research that influences community and policy development, and collaborating with economic partners. This commitment represents a mission to foster innovation and drive economic growth for Kentucky.

Furthermore, this commitment signifies a fervent desire to execute our mission to the utmost capabilities of our institution—an aspiration that can only be achieved through the valuable feedback and contributions of our community and stakeholders. The APLU IEP designation process provided a pivotal opportunity to capture this information.

With the support of the University of Kentucky’s president, Dr. Eli Capilouto, the IEP designation application process was conducted by UK’s Economic Development Collaborative (EDC) — a network of campus and community stakeholders who oversee UK’s economic development and business engagement activities. The mission of the EDC is to proactively grow economic prosperity in the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the areas of talent, innovation, place, partnership, and equitable economic development.

The EDC leadership led the data collection process to seek input from internal and external stakeholders. A survey tool was drafted based on those used by previous IEP Universities’ designees. The tool was then vetted by the entire EDC during a monthly meeting. After the Institutional Review Boards’ approval, the final instrument was uploaded to Qualtrics, an online survey software program. The survey was distributed to all faculty and professional staff across the University (including UK HealthCare).

The EDC expected a fairly small response to the survey and complemented this by conducting interviews and focus groups with university, industry, community partners, and economic development organization leaders in Kentucky (including members of the UK Board of Trustees, the UK President, and members of his cabinet). EDC leaders were trained in human subjects’ protection training and led the interviews and focus groups.

This process affirmed much of the work we have done. UK stakeholders identified three areas of institutional strengths in economic engagement. These three areas include:

  1. The formation of a coordinated campuswide economic development effort through the Economic Development Collaborative.
  2. The growth of innovation, entrepreneurship, and research through UK Innovate.
  3. The intentional development and use of real estate and physical structures throughout Lexington to promote research and innovation, including the Coldstream Research Campus and UK HealthCare.

While it is essential to commemorate — and share —our economic development successes, it is the invaluable feedback we have received that now forms a comprehensive roadmap for the future trajectory of our institution. This roadmap encompasses several pivotal priorities:

  1. Elevating the overall stature of business engagement at UK to enhance accessibility to the university and integrate workforce development in curricular and co-curricular activities.
  2. Improving both internal and external communication of the EDC’s work to highlight how UK has contributed to economic engagement in the Commonwealth.
  3. Expanding UK’s reach in multiple disciplines to every county in Kentucky by following the extension service model led by the UK Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and by expanding programming on UK Online.

In the end, the IEP process became more than a designation, affording us an invaluable opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogues — whether across physical tables or through virtual Zoom calls — allowing us not only to hear, but truly listen to our community partners and stakeholders. This experience, beyond offering fresh perspectives and a deeper comprehension of our mission, has also challenged us and, in doing so, has helped pave the way for the forging a stronger Kentucky.

  • IEP

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