What is your proudest accomplishment as leader of your university? Describe your university in three words.
Persistent. Big-Hearted. Life-Changing.
Why do I say that?
Consider what our people and students have accomplished in a short time – all because their hearts and minds are focused on our students and their success, in the classroom and in life.
In the last seven years alone, we’ve completed a $2.3 billion campus transformation, achieved record retention and graduation rates, created a greater capacity to heal patients in need of complex care, and developed deeper partnerships with more communities across Kentucky.
The UK family has been able to achieve more through its resilient spirit and unwavering commitment to community. We’ve boldly embraced a difficult vision and executed in the right way, so that the promise of the University of Kentucky is as strong as it has ever been.
How do you stay engaged with students on campus?
One of the most important things a university president does is connect with students. Doing so helps an entire university community support student success inside and outside the classroom. This is a commitment that everyone shares at the University of Kentucky.
I believe that the best conversations unfold when people come together to break bread. For that reason, on many occasions I’ve invited small groups of students to my home for lunch or evening conversation throughout the academic year. These are open table discussions about topics that are most pressing and prominent for our students—the issues that matter most to them. I’ve hosted students in my home for Rosh Hashanah and to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Along with other administrators and staff, we welcomed some 20 students to my home to discuss issues of diversity and inclusivity at the University of Kentucky. In addition to these rich opportunities for respectful and honest dialogue, I regularly walk the campus in the evenings and listen to students share their experiences, ask questions about and contemplate current events, and support one another in their coursework and personal lives.
What’s your favorite university tradition?
The greatest traditions at the University of Kentucky are those created by our students. UK’s DanceBlue is a year-long fundraising effort culminating in a no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon that raises money for the fight against pediatric cancer. Over the last 13 years, students have raised more than $13.4 million dollars to support pediatric cancer research and patient care. Equally important, though, is that DanceBlue illustrates the diversity of our community, with students from all walks of life, perspectives, and experiences coming together for a common cause.
What is your favorite way to spend your free time?
I enjoy reading a good book and spending time with my wife.
What is the best book you’ve read recently?
I recently finished Hamilton and am now reading Grant, both by Ron Chernow. Before the global sensation of the musical, Alexander Hamilton was an often-overlooked founding father. What I find compelling about his story, though, is that we confront some of the same issues today: the integrity of our leaders, opportunity for all people, and the importance of compromise. It’s a story of conflict between ambition and our better angels.
What is your favorite TV Show?