Candidates engage campus



By Anne Halliwell

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The audience at Thursday’s public forum was given a choice between “coaching” and “service” when David Blackwell and Tim Tracy described their vision for the provost’s office in the coming years.

The two candidates for the open position were asked to speak about student success, graduate education and research, and increasing inclusivity on campus.

Blackwell and Tracy each spoke for an hour beginning at 3 p.m. in the M.I. King Library.

Blackwell, the current dean of the Gatton College of Business and Economics, focused on the role of the university’s research efforts in his remarks.

“If we’re going to be a thriving, residential research university … I think we need to do more to involve our undergrad students in research,” Blackwell said.

He emphasized the role of researchers partnering with undergraduates in retention, recruiting and the relationships that can be fostered in many years of work together.

Tracy, the dean of the College of Pharmacy and former interim provost in 2012, said that student success would depend on increased retention — five percent more students staying for their second year in five years.

He also stated that UK must assure class availability for graduation requirements and make advising switches more “seamless.”

Blackwell’s view of UK’s diversity efforts would start, he said, with a collaboration between the provost and the vice president for Institutional Diversity, Judy Jackson. He equated diversity and exposure to different cultures on campus with competitiveness.

“At graduation, employers demand diversity,” Blackwell said. “They know that students who have had an experience on a diverse campus will be more successful in a global economy.”

Tracy said that the committee currently working on diversity in the spring strategic plan has done a good job of making it a priority in the future.

He suggested that the school put more funds toward scholarships and recruiting minorities.

Tracy declined to answer concretely whether UK was a “hospitable” place for female leaders, but admitted that the university “can do better.”

Blackwell chose to focus on hiring more African-American faculty, then “creat(ing) a climate that is conducive to all people from all backgrounds wanting to be here.”

Both provosts also addressed the need for better accommodations for students with disabilities.

“Physical access is a challenge, I mean, look at some of our buildings,” Blackwell said. “Help me find the money and I’ll be happy to fix the problem.”

Blackwell made undergraduate research a priority for the new strategic plan.

“As a research institution, we have a unique ability to enhance what our students (experience),” Blackwell said. He argued that research, especially by faculty members, and teaching mesh when researchers bring their newest experience into the classroom.

Tracy said that arts and humanities research was also a vital part of UK, even though it may be harder to secure funding for it.

“That’s the richness of experience,” Tracy said. “It may take some internal funding, but if that’s something we believe makes our experience richer, why wouldn’t we support it?”