Writing in the final days leading up to the 2012 presidential election, I am struck both by the importance of higher education to the presidential contest and the deep engagement of our College faculty and students with the election. As our nation debates its future, it is no surprise the future of higher education has become a key issue. Our future depends on increasing access to college; affordability of a college education and the availability of student loans are thus essential. Funding for research is equally essential. Public research universities, including the University of Kentucky, are responsible for more than sixty percent of the nation’s academic research and educate over seventy percent of the scientists, engineers, doctors, and professionals that we produce in this country. Continued public investment in our basic and applied research is therefore essential to the health, prosperity, and technological advancement of our nation.
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting all of our entering A&S students during the University’s K Week events, wherein we welcomed our largest undergraduate class ever. The official numbers are not in yet, but the University was set to enroll as many as 4700 new first-year students, up from 4100 last year. The total number of A&S majors is also set to achieve an enrollment high. As the College teaches 85% of all UK Core and 60% of all undergraduate students credit hours we will see almost all these new first-year students in our courses this fall. Educating such a large number of students can be exhilarating. On this issue, I am continually impressed, at the innovation and dedication of the A&S faculty. Over the last several months many departments have taken on curricular revisions. For just a few examples I offer the following: the Department of Mathematics offered a calculus boot camp for incoming students two weeks before classes started. Dubbed FastTrack, first-year students came to campus in early August for an intensive, two-week, 8-hour a day calculus study, and by all measures this pilot program was a success with plans for further expansion next year. The Chemistry Department has completely reimaged their General Chemistry courses, which is the most populous course in the entire University.
The start of the new academic year has arrived. I am pleased to welcome our returning students back to UK’s College of Arts & Sciences.
And I am thrilled to have so many new students joining us.
The College of Arts and Sciences is the home of knowledge. It is the home of Aristotle and Plato. It is the home of Einstein and Galileo. It is the home of DuBois and Skinner. It is the home of Darwin and Goodall. It is the foundation of all professions, it is home to the scholarship, written communication, and quantitative reasoning of all major discoveries.
And now it is also your home. For the next four years, you have been granted the time and space to learn to live a life driven by the mind. Spend the time wisely. It is the biggest investment you will ever make. Use it to explore some of the most pressing questions of our time, challenge major assumptions, adopt new opinions, investigate long-standing theories, discover new worlds, dream big dreams, and sharpen your critical thinking skill sets. Use it to be tested and tasked, to define yourself for yourself and to begin your professional and personal life.
As the 2011-12 academic year comes to a close let me thank you for all the incredible work, dedication and commitment you have exhibited throughout the year. Without a doubt, our faculty and staff rival those at the most prestigious institutions in the country.
Over the last year we have welcomed and educated a record-number of new students; we have successfully launched a new general education curriculum (UK Core) and a new residential college (Wired); we have made progress on shortening time-to-degree through our online and summer school initiative; we have greatly expanded our international efforts through faculty exchanges, short-courses, new education abroad programs, and our passport to the world initiative (Year of China); among many, many other successes.
Our faculty and staff have been recognized by countless national organizations and agencies, as well as by the University community. The following are just a handful of the many successes achieved this year:
Students - don’t forget to check out and register for A&S summer classes. A&S is offering nearly 200 courses both online and campus-based for summer 2012. These courses are designed for students who want to make progress toward a UK degree over the summer, gain extra credit hours, explore new topics, and have flexibility with busy summer schedules. With courses ranging from anthropology and chemistry to political science and statistics, A&S has something for everyone.
The courses will be offered in two summer sessions:
Summer Session I
4-week Session (May 8-June 5)
First 6-week session (May 8-June 19)
Summer Session II
8-week session (June 7-August 2)
Second 6-week session (June 21-August 2)
I would like to remind everyone about the upcoming A&S Distinguished Professor Lecture on Thursday, April 12. This year’s lecture, “Seeking the Good Life in America: Lessons From the Appalachian Past,” will be given by Ronald Eller from the Department of History. The lecture will begin at 7:30pm at the W.T. Young Auditorium with a reception immediately following in the W.T. Young Gallery.
Please join us in honoring our 2011-2012 Distinguished Professor Ron Eller.
Recently I sat down with Professor Eller to discuss his newest book, Uneven Ground: Appalachian Since 1945 and his ties to the Appalachian region.
Greetings! UK basketball fever has hit campus and everyone is looking forward to the Final Four games. I was in China visiting Jilin University and Shanghai University and missed the first couple games of the NCAA tournament but managed to link my portable computer to my desktop in Lexington so I could watch them online. The computer kept me connected but for the Final Four games, I’m heading to NOLA to catch them live.
To get an idea of the excitement on campus, aside from the sea of blue and white shirts, check out a new UK Army ROTC video. They have their weekend set – how do you plan to cheer on the Cats?
GIS (Geographic Information Services) is empowering new ways faculty can teach in their classrooms and the way students interact and learn. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Department of Geography. Jeremy Crampton and his class surveyed part of UK’s campus with a camera, 2-liter soda bottle, a balloon, rubber bands and string. Find out more about how a do-it-yourself project like this makes it easy to be an active participant in data collection.
Matt Wilson’s students are also putting GIS to use by working with community members and organizations. Ranging from health and cultural advocacy, food systems, open data, environmental issues, historical preservation – the students collaborate with people and places in the community to provide a needs assessment that GIS technologies can offer, whether it is web-based mapping tools, information that can help with grants, or just general GIS analysis. Listen to this podcast to find out more.
To view full stories on these interesting topics, check out these helpful links:
Looking for some extra credit hours this semester? Don’t forget to check out our mid-semester, 2 credit-hour courses. This spring A&S is offering Passport to China, which is part of the larger Year of China programming, Community 101, Composing with Visuals, and the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
These classes are a great way to explore new topics and gain extra credit hours – for more information, contact your advisor.