Q: You’ve made a commitment to the undergraduate experience on campus. What’s next in this endeavor?
A: We’re working to expand and improve our honors experience. We also want to expand scholarships, living learning communities such as A&S Wired, and other innovations.
Q: The Board of Trustees passed Phase I of the privatized housing plan. When can we expect it to consider Phase II (in which almost all of UK’s dorms would be transferred to Education Realty Trust)?
A: I want to move as rapidly as possible because we have severe excess demand for housing. We need the approval of this by the General Assembly … by April.
Q: What feedback have you heard on the housing plan, both positive and negative?
A: It’s mostly been positive. But the way this is structured we are paying property taxes. But it’s still cheaper than doing it (building) ourselves. To address another concern, the historic dorms are staying.
Q: How will the state budget cuts affect UK?
A: I do regret the cuts. Dealing with expenditures in our state is still very challenging (since the recession). Some states are bouncing back, but we don’t have the luxury here yet. Continued state budget cuts do put pressure on tuition.
Q: Regarding the Student Forum held last Wednesday, what concerns were addressed that are now on your radar (such as accessibility on campus)?
A: I had heard about advising before. I think we need to take a closer look at that. In regard to accessibility, some areas, such as the quad, are not handicap accessible. Installing elevators in some of these older buildings would be enormously expensive. We’re making sure our new facilities are accessible.
Q: The last administration focused heavily on the Top 20 Business Plan. Are you focused on that?
A: The best way to advance our rankings is to enhance the undergraduate experience. Graduation rates are consistently used as a measure. All the things we’re doing will move those measures, but we’re doing it for the right reasons. We want to put students first, not just go up in the rankings. We have a responsibility to the General Assembly, but we’ve added some additional paths for getting there.
Q: UK has been ranked low in diversity. You came from Alabama, which has a tumultuous history with diversity. How do you plan to improve diversity here?
A: I think increasing the number of minority groups, more international students and more black faculty are all example of progress. I’ve asked (Vice President for Institutional Diversity) J.J. Jackson to work with me on enhancing programs. We’ve taken some very good steps. I would like to continue that momentum.
Q: When it comes to implementing changes at UK, did you think of it as a blank slate or how did you build on what was already here?
A: I never looked at it as a blank slate, and I think if I did it would be a disservice to the people here who have made things happen. Nobody could tell you one person made all that possible. Great things are going on here on campus.
Q: What do you think of Kentucky overall?
A: We’ve been pretty honest with ourselves in developing systems of accountability. It’s always about people. People are great. It’s pretty neat to re-pot yourself and have a positive experience.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge as president so far?
A: Beating Tennessee. I did in one semester what hadn’t been done in 26 years.
Q: But beside that?
A: It’s been hard consuming so much information and so much history so quickly.
Q: If you turn on your iPod, what are the first three songs you see?
A: 1. “Empire State of Mind,” 2. “All I Do Is Win,” 3. “Sandstorm (Radio Edit).” It’s my exercise mix.