Provost Blackwell hopes to do more with academic improvement programs


Provost David Blackwell addresses members of UK Staff Senate on Jan. 23, 2018 in Lewis Honors College. Blackwell assumed his role on Jan. 8. 

McKenna Horsley

Soon after stepping into his new position, UK’s new provost met with the UK Staff Senate and other staff members for a “chat.” 

Provost David Blackwell told UK staff members on Tuesday afternoon that he is exploring ways to improve UK’s student enrollment and academic infrastructure.

Blackwell, who officially began his role on Jan. 8, said he is in the middle of meeting with every dean and associate provost and visiting each of UK’s 18 colleges.

“I am trying to make my way around campus—all over campus—to meet with all the units and learn as much as I can and that’s really an early focus for me,” he said.

Blackwell and members of the University Staff Senate discussed the provost’s future plans and expectations for the university. Blackwell regularly mentioned that increasing student enrollment and exploring innovative academic programs are at the top of his list.

The provost said he is interested in UK targeting different demographics with the state, such as veterans and those with college credit but no degree. If possible, Blackwell would like to see UK serve students from across the state as most in-state enrollment comes from Central Kentucky, he said.

He said he also wants to increase the number of international students and faculty at UK. Not only could they benefit from what UK has to offer, but American students can benefit from shared experiences, he said.

A few Staff Senate members asked Blackwell about his thoughts on Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget cuts. Blackwell said that all of the cuts together would total roughly 10 percent of UK’s current state appropriations.

“That is significant. It’s going to require a lot of creativity in addressing it and it’s going to require a lot of entrepreneurial activity,” Blackwell said. “I can assure you that we don’t want to slow down the momentum of the university. We have to keep going despite those coming issues from Frankfort.”

Blackwell said that his office, the deans and the Vice President of Administration has been working since November to create a five-year financial plan to address potential budget cuts in the future. Currently, the group is still reviewing methods. 

As for seven vacant dean positions at UK, Blackwell said that it is a lot of shoes to fill in a short amount of time and hopes to have that process underway soon. 

Staff Senate Chair Jon Gent said that Blackwell appeared passionate about his role during his interview process last December.

Tuesday’s forum was a part of a regular series the Staff Senate started almost a year ago. This event had the largest turnout with almost 40 UK employees in attendance. Blackwell said he would like to continue the tradition.