New COO brings inclusive approach to old problems

By on September 2, 2018

By Joseph Lyell —

Chief Operations Officer Joseph Han came to U of L in March with his work cut out for him. Trustees raised tuition and slashed program budgets over summer in response to a 6.25 percent state funding cut.

Han said his biggest challenge is the same that every university is facing now.

“It has to do with finding new, innovative ways to provide better service for less resources, and balancing the people’s needs with the university’s need for increased services,” Han said. “The people part of it is probably the most invigorating, in a fun way, and also probably the most challenging.”

U of L’s operations include supporting groups for the school’s academic programs. This means those involved with building and maintaining facilities, IT, food services, mail, and ULPD all work under Han.

Han replaced Harlan Sands, who was an “agent of change” in his roles of COO and CFO.

Han chuckled at the juxtaposition of himself and Sands.

“Harlan and I have a different approach,” Han said, “Similar goals, but a different approach.”

Han said transparency and inclusion are critical to how he leads. He echoed president Neeli Bendapudi’s continuing theme of making U of L a great place to learn, work and invest.

He said he often asks himself “How do we take care of team members in such a way that we have a great place to work?”

“Because if we don’t have that, we can’t handle the primary goal of creating a great place for students to learn,” he said.

Since Han’s arrival, U of L has finished two construction projects: the SAC extension and the new Belknap Academic Building.

Han also hired a permanent chief of police, Gary Lewis, who worked with Han at Cleveland State.

Han is forming what he calls “Innovation teams,” comprised of university staff volunteers that will use their skills to find untapped resources and areas for improvement within operations.

He said this gives staff a voice, and allows them to be a part of the solution to problems from the beginning.

Han said he is excited for Canon’s new print shop in the Academic Building, which will open in two weeks.

Twenty-two employees were given reduction-in-force (RIF) packets in April after Canon won the bid for university printing and design services.

Han said one former print shop worker resigned before meeting with Canon. Of the 21 employees offered new jobs at Canon, 19 accepted.

He said university printing was already a good program, but now it’s better and cheaper for students.

“The upgrade of the equipment and infrastructure is very costly, so having Canon come in and bid that basically allows us to not have to invest in the capital,” Han said.

Photo by Joseph Lyell / The Louisville Cardinal

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