By Phillip Lentsch —
The board announced April 3 they found a permanent president in University of Kansas’s Neeli Bendapudi.
The reaction from students at U of L has been mixed. Many are commenting on Bendapudi’s experience as a professor and university administrator. She received several university and national teaching awards, like the Academy of Marketing Science Outstanding Marketing Teacher Award.
SGA President Vishnu Tirumala said he believes the university made the right move by hiring Bendapudi.
“With Dr. Bendapudi at the helm, I believe our university is turning a corner. I have observed that she is a person of great integrity,” Tirumala said on Twitter.
Newly elected SGA President Jonathan Fuller
is also optimistic.
“I was immediately impressed with Dr. Bendapudi. I love the energy and enthusiasm that she has and brings to the university. She puts students first and recognizes the importance of student success. She expressed the importance of students feeling a sense of belonging on campus and within the community,” Fuller said. “I know she will work with everyone within the community to move forward and to grow the university. I look forward to working with her throughout the next year and cannot wait to see the amazing things she is going to do.”
Students said they felt good about her commitment to be here for the long term in a time of employee turnover.
“She seems extremely qualified, and she mentioned how she hopes to stay here for a long time, and I think that’s what Louisville needs,” senior Reese Tannhauser said. “She seems like she is a woman of integrity, which is important to U of L now more than ever.”
Some students, however, are apprehensive about Bendapudi’s experience outside the classroom. They are concerned with the university hiring an outsider, as well as the fact she hasn’t served on the administrative side of her former schools for very long.
“Even though she hasn’t held a lot of administrative positions in the past, I think she’ll do well,” junior Cody Catlett said.
“It didn’t sound like she had too much knowledge on the administrative side of universities, but she has a lot of experience teaching,” sophomore Noah Martin said. “Her awards are impressive, but I’m just unsure of how she’ll do right now.”
Students also said they were hopeful about Bendapudi.
“I definitely feel optimistic about having a new president,” junior Neil Tarr said. “I don’t know much about her, but it sounded like from that press conference that she has her stuff together.”
Senior Kayla Roby said she was excited the university finally hired its first female president, signifying a step in the right direction.
“I think it’s really exciting that U of L is finally breaking the mold by getting a new president,” Roby said. “Our university needed a change and I believe our first woman president was the way to do it.”
Bendapudi previously served as Provost at the University of Kansas, as well as Executive Vice Chancellor since May 2016. She was Henry D. Price Dean of the School of Business since 2011.
University Daily Kansan Editor-in-Chief Chandler Boese agreed that Bendapudi was equally charismatic and personable at KU.
“She introduces herself to every student she comes across, has conversations with them and usually remembers them when she sees them again. It’s kind of a rare thing at KU, so that’s something I’ve always appreciated,” Boese said.
Boese said she didn’t think Bendapudi’s scholarship or fundraising systems were perfect, but she thought it was important that she stepped up to take risks.
“I think you should be guardedly optimistic about having Bendapudi,” Boese said. “She will connect with students, she will take action and she will put on an open front as an administrator. But I do think that she can be a little bit of a politician, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she takes a while to make meaningful change at U of L, like she did as provost here. But, generally, I think you (U of L) could have done a lot worse.”
Boese said KU will be worse for losing Bendapudi and hopes the administration take the opportunity to find a new voice.
Bendapudi is expected to begin her term May 15.
Photo by Arry Schofield / The Louisville Cardinal