By Matthew Keck —

University of Louisville faculty, staff and students filled the Middleton Auditorium in Strickler Hall on Sept. 23 for President Neeli Bendapudi’s unveiling of the 2019-2022 strategic plan.

Bendapudi kicked off the presentation recapping the past year and talking about U of L students. “I think we’ve made great strides, I hope you see that with our students,” said Bendpudi. “We’re beginning to move the needle, but we are nowhere close to where we want to be.”

She began the presentation by mentioning that the university has seen a significant uptick in the four-year graduation rate as an effect of the past year’s efforts. In addition to that she emphasized how important the Living Learning Communities (LLCs) are to U of L’s retention rates.

U of L will have two new residence halls opening in Fall 2021 and 2022. These halls will help accommodate U of L’s four new LLCs: business, sustainability, ethics and music.

Bendapudi mentioned how U of L wants to continue offering students affordable on-campus housing. She said that the administration is aware of the boost that students get from living in these types of communities.

“In my mind, the worst thing is a student who comes, stays here for a year, and drops out,” Bendapudi said.

Bendapudi shared that U.S. News and World Report ranked U of L as a top performer in social mobility, ranking them at 147 on their list. U of L is the highest ranked Kentucky public university.

She closed the recap mentioning the two percent raise that faculty will be receiving in January 2020. With that she mentioned that there will be no budget cuts in the next year. U of L will be implementing multi-year comprehensive budgets as opposed to single-year.

Bendapudi started off her discussion of the strategic plan focusing on the “CARDINAL Principles.” Care, accountability, respect, diversity, integrity, noble purpose, agility and leadership all make up those principles.

“I’m so grateful that this reflects, not my plan, but our plan to succeed,” said Bendapudi. She went on to say how she hopes that these principles will be remembered by faculty in order to promote a better institution.

A great place to learn, work and invest were the next points that Bendapudi brought up in her presentation. “I’ll be honest, on most of these, we gave ourselves big goals,” she said.

In order to make U of L a great place to learn they are focusing on supporting students through purpose-driven learning. Some examples include having students participate in Grand Challenges research, expanding LLCs and establishing experiential learning opportunities.

U of L will also be making sure students mental health is cared for. One of the ways the plan to do so is by expanding the counseling center and having a location more centralized on campus in the SAC.

“If you see someone who looks like they’re lost, struggling, reach out to them. That is the culture we want to create,” Bendapudi said.

The biggest area U of L is looking to make a difference in is need-based financial aid for first-time freshman. By 2022 they hope to increase aid from eight percent up to 20 percent.

Bendapudi said that U of L will be a great place to work because of their dedication to personal growth and development. This means supporting diversity among faculty, improving the onboarding experience for new hires and conducting compensation reviews, along with other implementations.

“If you want to be an inclusive workplace, we will be talking about these,” said Bendapudi.

She highlighted the importance of U of L improving diversity among faculty with this new plan. “I will tell you, we talk a good game, but we do far worse than most public companies,” Bendapudi said.

U of L didn’t have any baseline data for these areas, but they are working with a third-party company to help them set tht these baselines. This will give the university a better idea of where they stand and how they can improve.

Before she segued into a great place to invest, Bendapudi encouraged faculty to participate in climate change surveys. U of L hopes to raise the participation rate from 26 percent to 40 percent by 2022.

“I really hope that people will respond,” said Bendapudi. “We want them to speak up.”

In closing, Bendapudi spoke on what makes U of L a great place to invest. U of L’s impact on individual and community health, the economy, social and cultural health and the well-being of Louisville and the commonwealth are the components that Bendapudi said makes it a great place to invest.

“We are a research one University,” she said. “We cannot ever afford to ignore that.”

To make U of L a great place to invest they are strengthening their research infrastructure, providing existing and potential partners easier access to the university’s knowledge and bringing campus to people.

Bendapudi discussed how U of L is looking to increase their research expenditures with this plan. The biggest increase they hope to see by 2022 are the academic gifts increasing from $94 million to $114 million.

The presentation ended with Bendapudi sharing that Gail DePuy, associate dean at J.B. school of engineering, will be in charge of implementing this plan. “She has been in every single meeting and knows what’s happening,” said Bendapudi.

Bendpaudi closed the presentation when she said, “We’re not justing going to be a top performer. We’re going to be the top performer.”

Matthew Keck // The Louisville Cardinal