In 2007, Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education issued a challenge to the Commonwealth’s public, private and technical and community colleges through “Double the Numbers: Kentucky’s Plan to Increase College Graduates” which outlines strategies for Kentucky to increase the number of college graduates to the national average by 2020.
The University of Kentucky is asked to increase its number of graduates by 93%, in line with what my estimates are for what would be necessary to bring the annual number of bachelor’s degree engineering graduates in Kentucky on a per capita basis to the national average by 2020.
Such an increase cannot be realized conducting business as usual. Over the past year, we conducted a study of college-bound students who have expressed an interest in engineering and who have the necessary credentials to succeed in a rigorous engineering undergraduate program. As a result of the survey findings, we added two recruiters to our staff, hired a director of marketing and communications, and have begun to develop an integrated marketing and communications plan, focused on the targeted recruitment of students, both in Kentucky and in strategically selected locations elsewhere.
Initial results are promising as the number of outstanding students who have been admitted to our freshman class has increased significantly over recent years. Moreover, the average standardized test scores and high school grade point averages have remained at levels that indicate that we are not sacrificing quality for quantity. The College of Engineering incoming freshman class is among the most academically talented group attending the University of Kentucky.
However, in order to remain competitive for top students with other nationally renowned engineering programs, we must offer educational opportunities and facilities that are commensurate with their demonstrated academic capabilities and aspirations. Toward that end, I am excited about a major development relating to the UK’s Digital Village concept – a high-tech hub and center of innovation, creativity and discovery that will be crucial in helping attract and retain talented faculty and students.
On December 8, 2008, friends of the College of Engineering and Computer Science gathered to celebrate the announcement of Phase II of the Digital Village; an $18.6 million building to house high-technology research on visualization, computer science and electrical and computer engineering. Phase I is the James F. Hardymon Building which houses UK’s Alliance for Networking Excellence that supports research of evolving network and communications systems.
Phase II, which will be known as the Davis Marksbury Building, will provide nearly 25,000 square feet of space for research activity conducted by faculty in the UK’s Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Computer Science. Groundbreaking will be in October, and the project is expected to be complete in January 2011. Please see the article and photos in this issue for more information this planned facility.
This facility is the direct result of significant financial support from three College of Engineering alumni. The Marksbury Family Foundation, created by Davis and Beverly Marksbury, made the lead gift to the facility by contributing $6 million. Mr. Marksbury is a 1980 graduate of civil engineering and co-founder of Exstream Software. Two million dollars is being given by James F. Hardymon. A gift of $328,000 has been provided by James F. McDonald, president and CEO of Scientific Atlanta. I am hopeful that another gift of $1 million will be forthcoming in the near future.
The remaining capital for this project is being provided by a dollar-for-dollar match by the state’s Research Challenge Trust Fund (RCTF). This is the first academic building in the state to be funded solely from private donations and the RCTF. At the press conference to announce the Marksbury gift, UK President Lee Todd, Jr. noted that given the inventive nature of the College of Engineering’s Digital Village concept, it was quite appropriate that such an innovative financing model be used.
The College of Engineering plays a significant role in the UK’s push to become a top 20 research institution by 2020. It is the support of our alumni and friends that will provide the scholarships for students and faculty, and state-of-the-art facilities that will enhance the academic experience that our students and faculty not only need, but deserve.