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President's Convocation - August 24, 2012

President Ransdell's Convocation Speech

Welcome back everyone! And welcome to our 2012 Opening Faculty and Staff Convocation. I look forward each year to this opportunity to speak with you to acknowledge some of our successes during the past year, to discuss what lies ahead in the coming year, and to focus on some important themes for the 2012-2013 academic year. This event also provides the opportunity to recognize some of our faculty, staff, and students for their outstanding achievements.

Before we get started, I want to recognize various groups that are with us this morning. First, will members of the Board of Regents with us this morning please stand? Will members of our Administrative Council please stand and be recognized? Will our academic Deans please rise? Will members of our faculty please rise—instructors, assistant professors, associate professors, and full professors? Finally, will members of the administration and our staff please rise? Let’s all give each other a big round of applause and say “thank you” for the critical roles you play for WKU!

There are only a couple of times a year—this event and Commencement—that I have the opportunity to publicly recognize and thank Julie for her unwavering efforts on behalf of this University. It has become her lot in life to work hard at my job, and she does it with style, grace, and a smile! Her grandson calls her Jules, so stand up Jules—thank you!

I recently asked Julie when we were leaving some event on campus if “in your wildest dreams when we were students together over 40 years ago, did you ever think we would have the opportunity to do the things that we’ve been able to do here at our university?” She paused for a second, and said, “no—but just so you know…you’re not in my wildest dreams!” It’s been that way since we got married as WKU seniors 40 years ago!



I know it’s risky to start singling out individuals when hundreds of faculty and staff across our campus have done remarkable and noteworthy things this past year, but I want to mention four of them.

Congratulations to Stuart Foster, who is the Kentucky State Climatologist and a member of our faculty in Geography and Geology. Stuart currently directs the Kentucky Climate Center, manages the Kentucky Mesonet Weather Network, and has just been named the new President of the American Association of State Climatologists! Congratulations, Stuart.

Chris Groves, a hydrologist and a University Distinguished Professor in Geography and Geology, has been named by China’s Ministry of Land and Resources as a finalist for the 2012 People’s Republic of China Friendship award. That award is China’s highest recognition honoring foreign experts working in China. Congratulations, Chris.

Josh Meltzer, a professional in residence in our Photojournalism program, was enjoying a trip at the beach with his family in July when the former captain of the Carleton College swim team helped save Erica Gagnon’s life. Erica Gagnon and a pre-teen girl had succumbed to rip currents and were in serious trouble. Josh was able to go into the water and bring them both back safely to shore. Josh was described as a hero in national news stories. Great job, Josh!

Claire Donahue. What a story! A member of our WKU swim team from 2008-2011, Claire knew she ranked high on the international swimming stage when she won a handful of gold medals at the Pan-American games last year. By swimming a personal best in the 100 meter butterfly, she qualified for the U.S. Olympic team, made it to the finals in her event, and then won a gold medal on the U.S. women’s medley relay team. Claire was the summer of 2012 pride of WKU!



I’m not going to dwell on this, but the recurring theme since 2008 prevailed again this past year when the state cut another $5 million out of our state appropriated budget. Not to belabor this point, but I continue to take pride in the fact that we were able to endure this budget cut with no layoffs, no furloughs, and still provide a 2 percent salary increase. This is a tribute to the teamwork, creativity, and the perseverance of our Administrative Council, our Deans, Department Heads, and particularly the staff in Finance and Administration. Thank you to everyone for a job well-done.

The single most important variable in the budget that we were able to put together for the current year is the 83 new faculty hires we created while nearly everyone else in the country is freezing or cutting faculty and staff positions. Those 83 new faculty are now on the job and here this morning. Had we not protected Academic Affairs, had we mandated that Academic Affairs take its share of the cut, then we would have had to reduce faculty lines by some 40 positions in order to achieve a balanced budget.

It may not seem like much, but I am proud of the fact that we have been able to achieve some level of compensation enhancement for all of our full-time employees each year since this recession began in 2008. While the last 4 years were not as good as the previous 6, we’ve still maintained a pretty good compensation record over the last 10 years.

Congratulations to our staff in Academic Affairs, our University Senate, and everyone in the academic community for creating a new pedagogical track for faculty, and we have, indeed, hired our first pedagogical faculty member under this new provision. We also implemented in this past year a new minority staffing plan, which provides central support over a six-year phase in after which these minority faculty positions are fully budgeted within their college, and we have already hired our first two faculty under this plan to strategically increase the number of minorities holding faculty positions across our campus.

Thank you to our University Senate and to all the faculty who played important roles in the creation of a new General Education core curriculum. The aptly named Colonnade Plan goes into effect in the fall of 2014. It was finally approved this summer by the Board of Regents following four years of discussion—and sometimes debate! Well done, faculty!

This past year, we recruited our first Doctor of Nursing practice students, and we received SACS and CPE approval for our new Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program. This brings our total number of doctoral degrees to three with more on the horizon. Both the DNP and the DPT will move into a new building currently being built on the Medical Center campus, just a few blocks from our campus. It is into that building that we will move our entire School of Nursing along with these two doctoral programs, double the size of our School of Nursing, and better serve the healthcare needs of Kentucky. Congratulations to everyone involved in the initiation of these two doctoral degree programs.

Our Music faculty is hitting a high note after moving into the new Music Rehearsal Hall. We opened this building last spring, and it provides a marvelous new enhancement for our orchestra, band, ensembles, and choirs.

While we are on the matter of construction, we have completed this past year a major portion of the construction of the Augenstein Alumni Center located directly at the north edge of our campus. This wonderful new home for our alumni is funded entirely by alumni and friends and will open this coming spring.

The biggest construction challenge that we have had since I have been president was initiated early this summer. The complex and massive construction project to renovate the Downing University Center has created quite an unpleasant work site right in the middle of our campus. This renovation will unfold in phases and will take two years to complete, but we will enjoy a spectacular building in the summer of 2014. In the meantime, we will have to endure this temporary dining facility, which just opened on the South Lawn. It will provide swing space for the various restaurants and dining operations in the Downing University Center during the two-year construction period. Please help us to spread the word that this is a temporary facility and that we will restore the South Lawn to green space in the summer of ’14. In fact, we have already sold this metal building to a local construction firm.



Five things come to mind when I think about the many achievements of our faculty, staff, students, and alumni this past year. First, congratulations to all of the donors who helped us reach an ambitious $200 million goal in the New Century of Spirit Capital Campaign. We announced this effort in September of 2008 and persevered through the recession of the last four years to complete our goal just two months ago. I can’t share the final number with you because that number will be revealed on September 21 at our Annual President’s Circle Gala. It will suffice to say, however, that we handsomely surpassed our $200 million goal and carved an important niche in the philanthropic history of this University. Thank you to staff in the offices of Development and Alumni Relations and to each of our Foundations—the WKU Foundation, College Heights Foundation, the Hilltopper Athletic Foundation, and our Alumni Association. Congratulations everyone! For this audience, however, the real applause needs to be for you. Our faculty and staff contributed $7,250,417 in gifts and pledges to this capital campaign. What a great tribute to your dedication and loyalty! To further make this point, this past year alone, 906 faculty gave $713,304.65. Our retirees contributed nearly $500,000 more, meaning that our current and retired faculty and staff contributed over $1.2 million just over the last twelve months. That is the Hilltopper spirit!

The biggest national news of the year happened in June when Newsweek magazine named the Gatton Academy as the #1 high school in America. Outside of our School of Journalism and Broadcasting and specifically our Photojournalism program, never before has Kentucky had anything in education ranked #1 in America, and certainly not at the elementary or secondary level. We started the Gatton Academy just five years ago, and what’s most encouraging is the fact that there is a pretty big gap between #1 and #2 on this list. I told several hundred 7th graders gathered for our Duke Talent Identification Program last May not to ever let anyone tell them that Kentucky kids can’t achieve greatness. The Gatton Academy is comprised 100% of Kentucky’s gifted and talented high school juniors and seniors. We conceived it, built it, and you, the faculty, provided the classroom, lab and research experiences; and together, we have achieved something quite remarkable for our University and for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Congratulations to all of you who engage our Gatton Academy students.

I can’t leave out our School of Journalism and Broadcasting which once again achieved a national ranking for Schools of Journalism and Broadcasting across American higher education. Three times since 2000, this school has achieved a #1 ranking, and we are awfully proud of last year’s #4 ranking. Well done, faculty, staff, and students in Journalism and Broadcasting.

For the last several years, I have taken great pride in acknowledging our National Champion Forensics team. This past year, they were pretty bummed out when we finished #2 among all intercollegiate debate teams in America. In my mind, however, that is still better than every Forensics team in America, except one. These outstanding students are ready to go to work this year to reclaim that title!

Finally, and maybe the most significant measure of institutional transformation that we can identify, is our students who earned major national and international prestigious scholarships. Last year at this convocation, I challenged you to be more engaged in identifying, nurturing, challenging, and mentoring our best students who should be competing for these prestigious honors. Thank you! You went to war on behalf of our students, and we went from 16 such awards in 2011 to 27 awards in 2012. This is among the most at the universities in Kentucky and puts us in the company of some of our nation’s great private universities. WKU students and recent graduates won over $500,000 in such scholarships last year. Only 11 colleges or universities in America matched or topped WKU in the number of Goldwater scholars in science, engineering, and math. WKU leads Kentucky in Udall scholars, Department of Defense SMART scholarships, and NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. We also had our first Boren Award and first Fulbright to United Kingdom Summer Institute Award. Congratulations to all of the students, and to you, our faculty and staff, who worked hard to help these students achieve their full potential. Students who received these awards will experience handsome benefits throughout their professional life. Keep up the great work and congratulations to our staff in the Office of Scholar Development, which by the way, works with all WKU students and faculty. Some may think that the Office of Scholar Development is for Honors College students, but this is the not the case. Any student with the ability, drive, and dedication can get help from the Office of Scholar Development and go for it.



Let’s shift our attention to this new academic year, which we kick off this week with the arrival of the Class of 2016. Our M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan students arrived last weekend. They completed a terrific week of learning about WKU, about this academic community, and about what it will take to graduate on time with their class in 2016—or sooner. Regardless of the finish date, however, we want to make sure that as many of these students as possible do, indeed, graduate from WKU.

We just opened the new parking garage in Alumni Square. New adult student apartments wrap the garage which will serve faculty and staff, commuting students, and users of the conference center, which is on the ground floor of the Augenstein Alumni Center.

Perhaps the most important thing we do today is publicly announce the completion of the Challenging the Spirit Action Plan that has captured our attention for the last 18 months. Many of you have worked to refine this University Plan of Action which will prioritize our work and our decisions between 2012 and 2018. It contains four goals, which include academic excellence, a dynamic and diverse university community, a higher quality of life for us and those we serve, and support for our campus infrastructure. The Action Plan can be viewed on the University’s website using the link on the card you received when you entered the building this morning.

The key to this Action Plan is the revenue assumptions found on the last page of the Plan. These revenue assumptions anticipate funding from a 5 percent tuition increase each year of the Plan, from modest growth in enrollment due to better retention, from Navitas revenues—Navitas being one of our international student recruitment programs, and the use of one time carry-forward funds—both centrally and across the divisions. Just so everyone is aware, I have agreed with Provost Emslie and Vice President Mead that revenues generated from enrollment growth will be split 70/30 percent with 70 percent going to Academic Affairs for academic and faculty needs and 30 percent going centrally to meet needs across the remainder of the campus.

The last point I will make in these remarks about this Plan relate to the capital project priorities on page 20 of the Plan. You will find our priorities for new construction which the University will fund with agency bonds, facilities which we will lease in the future, and facilities that will be dependent upon state appropriations for their construction.

Another important student service that we will initiate next week includes extending the WKU shuttle throughout our community—especially the downtown area—each day including evenings and late night provisions. It is important that we create convenient and safe ways to engage our students across our community. We are particularly mindful of supporting our local merchants and bringing the energy of our student body to the revitalization of downtown Bowling Green.

I am also pleased that we have placed 35 Chinese teachers throughout 41 different public schools in 12 different school districts across our region—and on our own campus. This volunteer teacher program is an important dimension of our Confucius Institute, and we are leading the way for Confucius Institutes across American higher education to create teacher certification opportunities for teachers in Kentucky and other states as well. I will be in China in two weeks to try to create opportunities to further enhance our teacher certification programs for Chinese teachers coming to the U.S. More importantly, we are helping thousands of young Kentucky students gain a higher level of confidence in gaining an understanding of the Chinese language and culture. These are our future Hilltoppers and potential WKU Chinese flagship students!

As I mentioned earlier, on September 21st we will, indeed, celebrate victory for our New Century of Spirit Capital Campaign. More importantly, the completion of this Campaign is a major barometer in how the transformation of WKU has unfolded over the last 15 years. Our first Campaign raised $102 million between 1998 and 2003. This Campaign, with more than $200 million in gifts and pledges, marks dramatic progress in the philanthropic behavior of our faculty and staff, alumni, and friends. While the new endowed faculty positions, new scholarship endowments, new programmatic endowments, new gifts for brick and mortar, and new gifts for operations are important; perhaps equally important is the confidence which six and seven figure gifts breeds in the minds and hearts of our faculty, staff, and students. When our alumni are giving sacrificially to allow us to become A Leading American University with International Reach, we are much more capable of achieving and much more inclined to pursue that vision. The successful completion of this campaign does, indeed, signal a transformed philanthropic culture at WKU.

One of the new initiatives that we are pursuing this year will be the creation of a new governing Board for the Kentucky Museum. This Board will preside over a separation of the Kentucky Museum from our Libraries. Our special collections will remain with our WKU Libraries, but the Museum will enjoy an independent not-for-profit status that will allow us to pursue museum accreditation through the American Association of Museums. My compliments to those who have been involved in this transformative process for our campus museum, including the University Senate who helped shape the principles for this transition.

The most significant project at the Kentucky Museum, however, relates to a brand-new exhibit, which we will unveil on September 21. I am pleased to publicly announce for the first time the creation of the Instruments of American Excellence exhibit. A small campus committee led by a local friend of WKU, Mr. Dan Murph, has been hard at work for nearly two years to build this exhibit. It will display an extraordinary collection of the ordinary instruments which Americans have used to achieve greatness. We have been so fortunate to have received nearly 200 contributions of the important instruments which great Americans have used in the scientific, medical, art, music, dance, manufacturing, and athletic worlds. To quote Mr. David M. Kennedy, a national historian, “This collection at WKU is history come alive and history in the concrete, a record of ideas made real and dreams come true.”

I also want to introduce to you Mr. Alan Schneller. Alan was a student in Matthew Tullis’s Studio Design class last spring. He competed with all of the students in that class to design the logo for this marvelous new WKU museum exhibit. This is Alan’s winning work. Congratulations, Alan. Stand up and be recognized. I invite all of you to come to the second floor of the Kentucky Museum. Just proceed up the grand staircase, and visit the Instruments of American Excellence collection when it opens on September 21.

While there are many initiatives that we will be pursuing this fall, there are seven things that I want to touch on this morning. We are continuing our focus on retention through our Retention Task Force. Our goal is retain 78 percent of our incoming freshman class who persist and come back for their sophomore year. We are currently at about 73 percent, which means that we lose some 1,000 students between the freshman and sophomore year. This is unacceptable. These students are spending money with little to show for it. We are spending money on them with little to show for it. Kentucky is losing the opportunity for these students to earn degrees and join the Kentucky workforce. I realize that one year of college is better than no college at all, but that is hardly something to brag about when, with a serious effort on our part, we can help more of these students persist and graduate. This is a long-term project with long-term payoff. The initiatives that we created this past year, and will be in play for the students who begin their WKU experience this week, will not be fully measured until 2018, the end of the Action Plan I just described. We must start now to make a difference in the lives of as many of these students as possible. First and foremost, it is the right thing to do, but secondly, it is the primary measure by which state funding will be distributed in the new higher education funding formula—that is if and when the state ever gets around to funding higher public education again!

The second point I want to emphasize is that we are rethinking how we spend our scholarship dollars. Each year WKU spends over $10 million on merit academic scholarships. We are redistributing how those funds are allocated to high-achieving students. We will continue to recruit the very best into our Honors College, but there has historically been a gap in students with high ACT scores which have fallen below our scholarship GPA minimums. We are losing too many of these students to other campuses for the want of modest scholarship support. It is also appropriate to let you know that we are beginning to gear up for our next fundraising focus on which we will embark later this year. It will be a modest campaign to raise private funds for academic scholarships. We are currently thinking through the best strategies to build scholarship endowments that will serve our students for generations to come.

Another matter that is going to get considerable discussion this year is the opportunity to consider increasing the number of courses offered in an accelerated learning bi-term mode. Provost Emslie has led a discussion over the summer, and will be leading considerably more discussion in the months ahead, about creating opportunities for students to take fewer courses over a bi-term and, thus, pursue varying degrees of aggressiveness in their scheduling. Students who choose to pursue a predominantly bi-term calendar can graduate in as little as three years, enter the workforce more quickly, save the cost of that 4th year of tuition expense, and thus reduce the cost of their WKU degree.

Two of the benefits of a bi-term approach is that it will provide the impetus to shift to a per-credit-hour pricing schedule where the students will pay for each course they take rather than pay on a full-time/part-time pricing basis. Many universities are shifting to a per-credit-hour pricing format, and we, too, are exploring this possibility. The other important variable in a bi-term approach is that a fewer number of courses taken by a student at one time will help reduce course shopping among our students. I encourage all of you who advise students to help students refrain from course shopping. Each semester, we open over 80 class sections, corresponding to 5,000 credit hours and the teaching load of 20 full-time faculty, all of which are dropped in the early weeks of each semester. This has resulted in the investment of significant resources in our academic staffing plan that has proven to be unnecessary. This is a huge cost to Academic Affairs, and it is a significant drain on your time as well. These are dollars that can be used elsewhere in Academic Affairs to support other dimensions of academic quality.

For those of you who want more detail, on the proposed bi-term concept, you will find a complete description on our website. The web addresses for the Action Plan and the bi-term plan are outlined on your card, so I hope each of you will have the opportunity to study both documents.

The fourth point brings us back to our emerging emphasis in the prestigious national and international scholarships. I again challenge you to work with our students to build research and creative agendas, submit proposals to the Faculty Undergraduate Student Engagement (FUSE) Program, identify national and international scholarships which match your students’ work, provide students with the intensive writing support they will need in the application process, and let the Office of Scholarship Development know when you identify students with big dreams or who are capable of achieving big dreams but are not aware of the possibilities.

The fifth point I want to touch on that will be a focus area this coming year is wellness. I challenge everybody in the WKU campus family to live healthier. We want to hold off this year on premium increases for health insurance; but in doing so, we must challenge you to pay attention to our Wellness Program, live healthier, take care of yourself, and reduce our healthcare costs. If we can do that, we can keep our premiums in check, and more importantly, live longer and healthier. I remind all our new faculty and staff that we are a self-insured health insurance campus, so we are the insurance company. Our employee healthcare costs are paid for through employee premiums and the University’s contributions to our healthcare. Live well and live strong Hilltoppers!

We will also be bringing our internal auditing functions along this year to better assess risk across our campus and improve our operating systems.

Finally, we will be strengthening the relationships we have with seven KCTCS institutions where we have joint admissions agreements and where we have WKU regional campuses. These cities represent the heart of our student population and our welcome mat for adult, place bound, and traditional learners.



We’ve covered last year and this coming year, so for the balance of my time this morning, I want to turn our attention to the matter of quality in the WKU experience. We are investing heavily in a broad range in academic quality initiatives. Even with the economic challenges we face, we have spared our academic community for the most part in dealing with over $15 million in budget cuts over the last four years. Sustaining a high level of quality, however, in this academic community is an ongoing challenge.

Normally, I am pushing you to think globally in pursuit of our vision of becoming A Leading American University with International Reach. I am usually challenging you to lead us from the regional to the national to the global. But today, however, I want to think a bit differently, though hardly unrelated. In recent years, with our emphasis on internationalizing the WKU experience, we have done a terrific job in growing the number of students studying abroad. And, thank you to the Kentucky Institute for International Studies for your partnership in getting our students abroad. We are growing the number of students coming to us from across the globe, the number of faculty being engaged in international teaching and research, and the number of faculty we enjoy from around the world. We have, indeed, been guided by the worldly belief that all people are created equal. The world, including our present and future students, will be a better place if everyone of every religion—or no religion—anywhere on the globe lived by the belief that everyone is created equal. For us, however, while keeping that belief in both our hearts and our minds, I want us to think about the core value of our national identity—that in this nation, everyone has an equal opportunity to become unequal. Every student who enters this University has the opportunity to work hard, to be challenged by highly credentialed faculty and a rigorous curriculum, and to excel. Not everyone will, but everyone who enters has an equal opportunity to do so.

Every child born in America has the opportunity to rise above whatever social or cultural limitation that might be thrust upon them. Many don’t, but some do. I challenge you, all of you, faculty and staff alike, to help our students become unequal. To help them excel in the classroom, in the laboratory, in the library, in the residence hall; on the intramural field, on the field or court of intercollegiate athletics; in the students in free enterprise competitions, in the competitions amongst civil engineers who race concrete canoes and build steel bridges, in the dozens of debate tournaments in which our forensics students will compete this year; in the spectrum of undergraduate research posters, presentations and projects in which our students will be engaged; and in whatever medium, forum, or context in which our students work, study, and compete. Let’s help them to become unequal. Let’s exceed our number of recipients of national and international prestigious scholarships which we so successfully earned this past year. Let’s live by the mantra that all Americans have an equal opportunity to become unequal. Some of our students might be able to do this by themselves, but most need our help. It is our job as faculty, administrators, and staff to help them achieve their full potential. If we do that, many of them will, indeed, become unequal among peers in higher education and that will set the stage for them to become unequal in the fields of business, education, science, the arts, healthcare, and all the other dimensions in which WKU alumni can lead. Only you can put our students in a position to become unequal—mentally, physically, spiritually, and ethically. We owe it to all of our students, from the gifted to the at-risk. That is what has continued to set us apart. That is the WKU spirit.

I tell incoming students at each ATP program that the WKU experience—our motto of The Spirit Makes the Master—is as much about the heart as it is the head. It is about the will to achieve, the desire to be unequaled, the passion to be all in at anything we attempt, and most importantly, the capacity to lead. Continue to make these the traits of the WKU experience. Continue to set the example for our students. Push them, nurture them, and cheer for them as they succeed.

On the international stage, fully understand what we mean by “international reach.” We are not growing our international reach to help China, or England, or Ecuador, or France, or Kenya. We are growing our international reach to help our faculty teach better, to help our students learn more, and to help everyone in this university family to learn in ways that are relevant to our shared future. It is about a willingness to embrace other cultures, languages, and religions. Our governments may debate economic and social issues, but our people—our WKU people—can learn about each other and embrace each other and help lead our local, regional, and national businesses and governments in the future. One other thought about international reach—particularly study abroad. As we grow our study abroad programs, make sure we stay focused on meaningful academic content, pre- and post-travel, expectations, and learning outcomes. Our students can learn by being there, but that alone is not study abroad.

I have said many times that there is not much I can do to help facilitate what our faculty do in the classroom every day. I especially challenge you, the faculty, to meet the needs of all of our students, especially the 90 percent of our students that fall outside the Honors College. Yes, we will build an Honors College of world-class status, but I want that same quality for all of our students.

A few weeks ago, I delivered remarks in Louisville at the statewide Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting of Business Leaders. I was asked to speak about what higher education is doing to enhance Kentucky’s workforce. I focused on quality, quantity, and relevancy. I illustrated the point for all of higher education, but especially WKU which has gone 2,000 to 4,000 graduates each year, from 14,000 to 21,000 enrolled students, and made the point that we are on the road to delivering the necessary quantity to help Kentucky’s business community thrive. Then I turned my attention to quality aspects and that our universities, especially WKU, must prepare the best and brightest among us to be leaders in Kentucky’s business community. We must first keep the gifted and talented students in Kentucky—thank you Gatton Academy and Honors College—and then we must challenge them with the best faculty, the best facilities, and the best opportunities to engage in meaningful undergraduate research and to study across the globe. We must allow the best and brightest among us to be challenged and achieve their full potential. We must focus on creation rather than consumption. And finally, I told them it is our responsibility to ensure that we have relevancy in our curriculum; that we are focused on the disciplines which will produce students for the emerging jobs in the Kentucky workforce; that we must be technologically sound; that we must produce students in the science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines; that we must prepare our business leaders with sound business acumen; that we must prepare the very best students who are good enough to get into our nursing and physical therapy programs and other healthcare disciplines; and, that we must train and prepare the best teachers and school administrators that Kentucky has ever known. But, I also assured them that, at least at WKU, we understand the value of the humanities and the liberal arts and that we are producing graduates who can think and reason and who understand the value of culture and creativity throughout our society. I also told them how important it is that our graduates understand the globe, have confidence in an international context, and not just understand people different from themselves, but embrace them. I was proud to be asked by the State Chamber of Commerce to speak on such matters because it assured me that what we are doing at WKU is being noticed across the Commonwealth. The business community is beginning to understand what this transformation at WKU is all about. People are beginning to recognize that we are, indeed, becoming the intellectual heartbeat of Kentucky. Because of our Center for Gifted Studies, the Gatton Academy, and our Honors College, the very best students are coming here in greater numbers. That is why we are producing more prestigious national and international scholarship recipients. These are the things that leading American universities do. These are the reasons why international reach must be paramount throughout our campus and our curriculum. These are the emerging passions that will define the Spirit that makes masters out of our students in the future. These are the things that the Red Towel will symbolize for students who are here now and who come here in the future. These are the reasons why I am so proud to serve as President of this University and why I am so confident that we can achieve our goals, not just this year but throughout the life of the Action Plan we discussed a few minutes ago. Join me in an unwavering pursuit to become unequal as an institution and to help our students to become unequal in the working world that they will soon be entering.

Thank you each and every one of you for what you are doing to become unequal in your chosen disciplines and what you are doing to make this University A Leading American University with International Reach. Thank you

President Gary A. Ransdell

 WKU President Gary A. Ransdell


 Downloadable Documents (PDF)


Challenging the SpiritChallenging the Spirit 

Action Plan 2012-2013 to 2017-2018









An Increased Emphasis on Bi-Term Courses at WKU?An Increased Emphasis 

on Bi-Term Courses at WKU?





Spirit of EngagementSpirit of Engagement Magazine







 Instruments of American Excellence

Making its debut on Friday, September 21 is the new Instruments of American Excellence exhibit at the Kentucky Museum. This unique collection showcases the ordinary means by which American Icons in many fields have achieved extraordinary success- the actual "tools" that have shaped the course of this nation's history. The Kentucky Museum is open 9am-4pm Mon. - Sat. 


Awards announced during Convocation:


President's Award for Diversity

Faculty/Staff - Dr. Aaron Hughey

Student - Mr. Thomas Harris

Community - Mr. Eric Logan


President's Award for Service

Faculty/Staff - Dr. Paul Markham

Student - Ms. Sarah Hagan


President's Award for Sustainability

Faculty/Staff - Dr. Terry Wilson

Student - Ms. Morgan Michaelson


Spirit of WKU Award - Dr. Julia Roberts


Academic Awards

Teaching - Ms. Susann Davis

Research/Creativity - Dr. Keith Philips

Public Services - Dr. Saundra Starks

Student Advisement -  Ms. Virginia 'Ginny' Pfohl


University Distinguished Professors

 Dr. David Keeling


K. Ann Mead

K. Ann Mead, VP for Finance and Administration and Treasurer of the University, has consistently supported efforts to enhance diversity at WKU. Her continued support of WKU’s minority community and her ongoing commitment to nurturing students are testimony to her selection for this award.

Trenton Dunn

Trenton Dunn is a recent WKU graduate. During his undergraduate career on the Hill, he made it a priority to serve as a resource and an advocate to many special interest groups that promote the diversity that WKU has to offer. Dunn also served as a Spirit Master and Student Representative on the WKU Diversity Plan Committee.

Captain Michael Delaney

Captain Michael Delaney, a member of the Bowling Green Police Department and Commander of the SWAT Team, has served as President of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Planning Committee for 2 years. Michael is the epitome of a community servant, and he works diligently in many ways to promote diversity within our community.

Bryan Reaka

Bryan Reaka, an associate professor in the Department of Architectural and Manufacturing Sciences, is an advisor for the WKU campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Bryan has been a Habitat volunteer for more than 15 years and participated in projects in the United States, Mexico and Fiji.

Alex Kimura

Alex Kimura, the Grilled Cheese girl, started the WKU Chapter of FeelGood, which is a student-run, non-profit deli that makes grilled cheese sandwiches in exchange for donations. Alex has organized benefit concerts, forums on global poverty, and has spearheaded a bone marrow drive in partnership with the Be The Match organization.

Brian Sullivan

Brian Sullivan is an associate professor of management in the Gordon Ford College of Business. Early in his teaching career at WKU, he taught seminars on environmental policy. In the past year, Brian has been a leader in adding a sustainability emphasis to WKU’s MBA program and has worked with academic programs, WKU administration and the community to get it done.

Nick Asher

Nick Asher, a May 2011 graduate embodies the sustainable lifestyle – take little, use little, give back to that which nurtures. After arriving at WKU in 2007, Nick began promoting sustainability from every angle on campus and in the community. He was an active member of the GreenToppers, worked for the Recycling Department, helped expand the Big Red Bikes bike share program and co-founded the student sustainability garden at the WKU Farm.

Freida Eggleton

Freida Eggleton’s enthusiasm, loyalty and love for WKU have been evident throughout her career, and especially at WKU Commencement ceremonies. She has been involved with Homecoming and Parents Weekend activities, has been an honorary coach for men’s basketball and football and has been inducted as an honorary member of the W Club for her work with student-athletes. Freida is a member of the Cupola Society, which recognizes individuals for continuous financial support to WKU – this year marked her 30th consecutive year!

Fabian Alvarez

Mr. Alvarez, who teaches Enhanced ENG 100, ENG 200, and ENG 300 almost exclusively, uses his specialized training in composition, rhetoric, and literacy to make reading with understanding, writing effectively, and thinking critically something his students learn to enjoy and value.

Dr. Ferhan Atici

Dr. Atici has worked with well-known mathematicians on difference equations and boundary value problems, with application to areas such economics. In addition, she has directed one doctoral dissertation and several master’s theses and senior projects, on topics from Lebesgue Nabla Measure and Quantum Calculus to Contra and Square Dancing.

Dr. Donna Blackburn

For Dr. Donna Blackburn of the School of Nursing, service to public and professional organizations has been the cornerstone of a successful career. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Medical Center at Bowling Green, the Leadership Council of the local chapter of the American Cancer Society, the Board of Directors of Christian Care Communities, Inc., and the Editorial Board of The Kentucky Nurse.

Deanna Hanson

Ms. Hanson advises pre-nursing students and students in the nursing program. She received both the WKU SGA Advisor of the Year award and a Master Advisor Certificate in 2008. Dedicated advisors like Deanna, who constantly communicates with her advisees on topics such as tutoring options, new classes, employment and volunteer opportunities, and scholarships, will be critical as WKU pursues its campus-wide goal of increasing student persistence and retention.

Dr. Farley Norman

Dr. J. Farley Norman of the Department of Psychology joined WKU in 1996. He has been recognized with several awards including the College Award for Faculty Excellence in Research/Creativity for the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences no less than four times, and the University Award for Faculty Excellence in Research/Creativity at WKU in 2000. Dr. Norman is recognized nationally and internationally as one of the top researchers in his primary area of specialization, perceptual psychology. He served for six years as a Consulting Editor for the journal Perception & Psychophysics. No less than eighty-four students have served as co-authors on his published articles. Last but not least, Dr. Norman was recognized as the ‘Friendliest Professor’ by the 2001 Psychology Graduate Students at WKU!

Dr. Robyn K. Swanson

Dr. Robyn K. Swanson of the Department of Music first joined WKU in 1988. She has received several awards including the WKU Potter College Award for Teaching, the WKU Kelly Autism Program Faculty Contribution Award, the Kentucky Music Educators Association College/University Teacher of the Year Award, and a Kentucky Colonel Award presented in 2006. Dr. Swanson excels in all three of the traditional faculty roles of teaching, research and service. She is passionate and committed to student success and learning in the classroom. She is an outstanding university citizen dedicated to the improvement of WKU and the development of Music Education Policy through service in leadership positions with the Kentucky Music Educators Association, the Kentucky Department of Education, and the Kentucky Education Standards Board. Dr. Swanson’s work in the field of music education has influenced many at WKU, in the state of Kentucky, across the nation, and throughout the world.

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 Last Modified 2/19/18