By Madelin Shelton —
At the conclusion of the Spring semester, Interim President Lori Stewart Gonzalez spoke with The Louisville Cardinal about her role so far and where she would like to see U of L go during her tenure.
Gonzalez came to U of L in April 2021 as the new executive vice president and university provost. Following the departure of former U of L President Neeli Bendapudi in December 2021, Gonzalez was appointed by the Board of Trustees as the acting interim university president.
Gonzalez says the biggest challenge for U of L is the numerous transitions the university has endured over the last decade. She said Bendapudi’s departure added another transition U of L had to go through. “I’ve been trying to hold it steady and do everything and be out there so people know that somebody’s watching what’s going on, but I think all the transitions are difficult for our campus.”
Despite these difficulties, Gonzalez highlighted what U of L has been able to accomplish following her appointment. “One of the things I’m most proud of for our employees has been that we’re able to provide a one percent raise in March,” she said. “That’s good because we need to invest in our most prized resource, which is our people.” Gonzalez also commended the way the university was able to smoothly return to in-person instruction.
Looking forward, one thing Gonzalez is focused on addressing is student success. She said U of L’s current graduation rate is 60.4 percent and she would like to see that number go up. “That will mean providing services for students who need them.”
Specifically, Gonzalez mentioned potentially expanding REACH and hiring more academic advisors. Gonzalez said there is currently a committee that is assessing how U of L can improve student success and it will provide recommendations in June.
She also wants to focus on communicating what makes U of L distinct. “We have interesting programs, we have our focus on research, and we need to share that with our community and with the larger higher education community and, frankly, nationally. I don’t think we’ve communicated our distinctiveness well,” she said.
The last major value Gonzalez would like to advance during her tenure is financial sustainability. Part of that, she said, includes routinely rewarding employees and keeping tuition as low as possible while still meeting the university’s financial needs.
Overall, Gonzalez sees higher education as a transformational experience and U of L is no different. “When I listen to students and alumni and hear the passion of this place, I know it is a transformational experience for people and it goes on after graduation,” she said.
Gonzalez also noted her optimism for U of L going forward. “Our budget is stronger, we had the best year in our General Assembly, we got tons of support from our legislators and the governor’s office, our enrollment is looking strong for the fall, so the state of U of L is strong and I’m very optimistic and excited about the future.”
Photo Courtesy // U of L News