UK Strategic Plan Highlights Research in Addressing Kentucky Challenges

As an academic, research and health enterprise, discovery is at the core of the University of Kentucky’s mission — which is why research and scholarship serve as one of the five strategic objectives outlined in the 2015-2020 UK Strategic Plan. 

As one of only eight public institutions in the U.S. with colleges of Agriculture, Engineering, Medicine and Pharmacy on a single campus, UK is especially poised for groundbreaking discoveries and unique interdisciplinary collaboration.

"Our research and scholarly endeavors offer the brightest hope for transformation and change for our Commonwealth and the broader world we serve," said UK President Eli Capilouto. "Our sense of connection to those we serve and our steadfast commitment to changing lives is an integral part of what makes our campus community special."

UK is already home to many nationally recognized programs in aging, cancer, and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disease, as well as emerging areas in renewable fuels and plant-based alternatives for industrial manufacturing. The Strategic Plan aims to enhance and expand UK's research enterprise by the following measures:

  • Invest in UK’s existing strengths and areas of growth that benefit and enrich the lives of the citizens of the Commonwealth and beyond
  • Recruit and retain outstanding faculty, staff and students who support research across the range of disciplines at UK
  • Improve the quality of the research infrastructure across campus
  • Strengthen engagement efforts and translation of research and creative work for the benefit of the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world

“I want to make sure that what we are putting down on that paper is what we effectively realize in the next five years,” said Lisa Cassis, UK Vice President for Research. “(The Strategic Plan) is becoming my own mission, and my colleagues and I are working to develop these initiative and action items. We know we need to focus some of our efforts and investments so that areas that are strong can be the best in the nation — if possible, the world. And those areas should relate to problems or issues in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Last fall, UK broke ground on a $265 million research building that will be dedicated to addressing health disparities in Kentucky, such as cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, and drug abuse. Scheduled for completion in spring 2018, the new facility will be linked to other major research space in the heart of the campus, further fostering collaborative and multidisciplinary work. Being referred to as the “Appalachian Translational Trail” this connecting conduit will house the nucleus of translational researchers who bring together all disciplines.

“It gives us the space and resources that we need, and it’s a great time right now to do that, when we’re competing for very tight funding across the nation,” said Cassis. “We’re engaging the best and brightest here, and we hope to also use this as a recruitment tool to bring even more people here who can add dimensions to what we’re currently able to do. In my experience that is really how you do the best work.”

In addition to building and optimizing infrastructure to support all types of research and creative work, Cassis said a critical part of the plan is community impact and engagement.

“Making a difference can be from improving cardiovascular health or from writing a poem that elevates someone’s soul,” said Cassis. “All types of research and activity we do can make people’s lives better.”

The entire strategic plan can be read here. Over the next several weeks, UKNow will be exploring different facets of the plan, focusing on each of the five strategic areas:

  • Undergraduate student success
  • Graduate education
  • Research
  • Diversity and Inclusivity
  • Community engagement

MEDIA CONTACT: Jenny Wells, 859-257-5343;