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Ky. University Announces “UK Engage” Initiative to Support Innovation in Land-Grant Engagement

By Chris Crumrine
University of Kentucky

Recognizing its integral role as Kentucky’s flagship institution and land-grant research institution, the University of Kentucky is launching the “UK Engage” initiative to envision and support innovation in land-grant engagement .

The effort, led by Nancy Cox, vice president for land-grant engagement and dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, and Mary Shelman, executive-in-residence, will identify strategies and priorities for improving land-grant engagement on campus. and in Kentucky communities.

Nancy Cox is Vice President for Land Grant Engagement and Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and the Environment. (Photo from UK)

“The UK Engage effort is about embracing and rethinking our legacy of over 150 years of service to our state,” Cox said. “Throughout its history, the College of Agriculture, Food and the Environment has been embedded in communities, working hand-in-hand with county partners who share a special trust with our people on field. UK Engage will build on this foundation and bring more of the university to Kentucky communities.

The role of Vice President for Land Grant Engagement was created in August 2020 to help facilitate more focused collaboration on campus. A year later, the UK’s Governing Council adopted the university’s new strategic plan – the UK Plan for Unprecedented Research, Useful and Optimal Service and Education (UK-PURPOSE) – which recognizes the important role of engagement in the areas of student success, health and wellness, innovation and diversity. Together, these shared goals represent a firm commitment to expanding and improving our service to the state.

“The University of Kentucky is of, for, and with the state we serve. We’re reinforcing that commitment through our new UK-PURPOSE strategic plan, which more thoughtfully challenges us to expand, improve, and to expand our land-grant mission across our campus,” said President Eli Capilouto. “Advancing Kentucky means ensuring health and well-being, in all aspects, for Kentucky – a a strong workforce, an engaged and educated population and physically and mentally healthy people.Through UK Engage we will identify key priorities and strategies that will help us achieve the goals of our strategic plan.

Executive-in-Residence Mary Shelman will identify strategies and priorities for improving land-grant engagement on campus and in Kentucky communities. (Photo from UK)

The Initiative and Vision Partner Group will engage with and be led by Executive-in-Residence, Mary Shelman. Alumnus and current President of the UK Alumni Association, Shelman is an internationally renowned expert in agribusiness and agtech innovation who has worked with the agribusiness industry and advised governments, corporations and investors around the world.

“As an alumnus, I am thrilled to help lead this important effort as the university develops creative strategies and prioritizes new opportunities to serve our state,” Shelman said. “The visionary partners brought together by President Capilouto and Dean Cox bring a diverse set of experiences and ideas that will help the university set a direction for new engagement opportunities.”

Over the next few months, under Shelman’s leadership, UK Engage will solicit and engage a number of academic and external stakeholder groups. The effort builds on the first year of engagement planning. “As Kentucky’s land-grant university, all parts of our campus work in and with counties and communities — engagement is a fundamental pillar of the entire university,” Cox said.

Building on past successes and early cross-campus partnerships, UK Engage will:

• Review existing programs, collect data and gather community feedback on engagement to plan best practice models and strategic priorities for future success;

• Examine other similarly structured land-grant universities with robust engagement models;

• Identify opportunities, structure and processes to secure and distribute funding for pilot engagement programs;

• And create a means to evaluate the success of land-grant engagement and community programs in alignment with the evaluation of other strategic plan priorities.

The visionary partners supporting UK Engage will serve as a ‘think tank’ for the planning process; providing support, expertise and guidance to frame the future of land-grant engagement. Visionary partners include:

Nancy Cox (Organizer) – Vice President for Land Grant Engagement and Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

Al-Cross — Professor and Director of the Institute of Rural Journalism and Community Issues

Alison Davis — Professor and Director of the Kentucky Community and Economic Development Initiative

Seth Debolt — Professor and Director of the James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits

Jeff Fugate — Extension Associate Professor, School of Architecture and Associate Dean for Administration at the College of Design

Kim Henken — Director of Outreach Engagement and Administrative Initiatives
Clint Hardy — Agricultural Extension and Natural Resources Officer, Daviess County

Brooke Hudspeth — Associate Dean of Pharmacy Practice/Chief Practice Director at the College of Pharmacy

Jennifer Hunter — Deputy Director of Family and Consumer Sciences and Professor of Extension

Brad Lee — Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in Plant and Soil Science

Trudi Matthews — Senior Director of Quality and Value Strategy for UK HealthCare

Ian McClure — Associate Vice President for Research, Innovation and Economic Impact

Brad Olson — Assistant Professor of Community Development and Leadership

Melynda Award — Director of the Gaines Center for the Humanities and Professor

Quentin Tyler – Director of Michigan State University Extension

Neighborhood Georges — Executive Director of Coldstream Research Park and Real Estate

Laura Stephenson — Associate Dean and Director of the Cooperative Extension Service
Management and animation

Mary Shellman (Executive in Residence) — Founder and Partner of the Shelman Group; chairman of the Visioning Partners discussions

Chris Crumrine — Director of State and Federal Relations, College of Agriculture, Food and the Environment

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