August 31, 2020 | By: Jay Blanton

LEXINGTON, Ky.The University of Kentucky will elevate and expand its commitment to diversity, student success, accountability and its historic land-grant mission of service as part of an expansion of UK President Eli Capilouto’s leadership team.

The reorganization results in a more diverse and representative leadership team focused on the university’s core strategic imperatives, Capilouto said. You can read Capilouto’s campus message and more details about the major reorganization here:

“As Kentucky’s university, we cannot afford to think only about surviving. We must commit ourselves to thriving. We must position UK now for the future — with the goal of ensuring that one day COVID-19 is a page in a history book and racial injustice seems as ancient and antithetical to who we are as slavery,” Capilouto wrote to the campus in an email Monday afternoon.

“The minds and voices of UK’s leadership team must better represent our strategic imperatives. They also must better reflect our increasingly diverse world — not as symbols of our intent, but as partners who drive our progress.”

Masked students in class

Photo by Pete Comparoni

As further evidence of the university’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, the budget of the Office for Institutional Diversity (OID) will undergo a significant expansion that includes oversight of scholarships, resources for faculty and staff recruitment of color and strengthening relationships with communities.

George Wright will continue to serve as interim vice president for institutional diversity and add to his portfolio the permanent position of senior adviser to Capilouto. UK will launch a national search in the coming weeks for a permanent vice president for institutional diversity.

UK is increasing OID’s budget of $3.1 million to $19.3 million with addition of a number of programs — moves that reflect its central position in our mission. Specifically, moving to OID will be:

  • The Parker Scholarship program with $14 million annually that many students of color and first-generation students apply for and receive.
  • The Faculty Diversity Fund of about $2.75 million, as well as new funds for staff and faculty diversity and recruitment, to target and aggressively recruit more faculty and staff of color and help them succeed.
  • The Office of Community Engagement, which currently reports to the Office of University Relations, to expand and strengthen relationships with communities of color and other stakeholders in Lexington and the region.

A broader, more inclusive leadership team

In addition to Wright’s additional role, Capilouto is adding three other direct reports to lead renewed commitments to student success, accountability and UK’s land-grant mission.

Kirsten Turner, currently associate provost for academic and student affairs, will assume the position of vice president for student success. She will lead a greater emphasis on student success from recruitment through enrollment and, ultimately, graduation.

  • This new unit will contain many of the functions currently in Student and Academic Life (SAL) and will, significantly, add enrollment management.
  • Some critical academic units — the registrar’s office, the Gaines Center for the Humanities and the Chellgren Center for Undergraduate Excellence — will remain with the Office of the Provost. Undergraduate Research will move from SAL to the Office of the Vice President for Research.
  • These collective moves will align academic excellence, as represented by the colleges and specialized academic programs, under the provost. Units that support student success — from recruitment, to the preparedness of students, to graduation — will be part of the portfolio of the vice president for student success.

Nancy Cox, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, will take on the additional role of vice president for land-grant engagement, reporting directly to Capilouto. “The land-grant mission — the idea of service — is part of our DNA. It is as much a part of our identity as the name of the state we bear,” Capilouto said. “An important part of successfully confronting the challenges we face today, I believe, can be found in translating the ethos of extension services found in our College of Agriculture, Food and Environment into programs and initiatives throughout our campus.”

UK is creating the position of chief accountability officer and audit executive, which will serve as a direct report to Capilouto. Joe Reed, currently chief auditor, will move along with the division he oversees from the Office of the Executive Vice President for Finance Administration, into this new role. “This move sends a powerful signal that such transparency and accountability will be expected throughout our institution,” Capilouto said.

Capilouto said Monday that the major reorganization is focused on the strategic imperatives, critical to UK’s capacity to not only survive, but thrive as the institution confronts what he calls the “twin pandemics” of COVID-19 and systemic racism.

“Expansion of our mission is more important now because of these pandemics confronting our campus and the world we serve,” Capilouto said. “It is important — but not enough — to simply meet the moment. We must fast-forward on our future. And doing that will take all of us, working together as a community to achieve our shared goal — a brighter future for the Commonwealth and all those we serve.”

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.


Jay Blanton,