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COMMENTARY: A university for the 21st Century

Dr. James Ramsey
UofL President

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Nov. 13, 2013) — The University of Louisville has been on an amazing trajectory the past few years – in academics, research and, of course, athletics – and we plan to continue that same upward trend.  To accomplish our goal, we must be willing to adapt to meet the needs of students and marketplaces of the 21st Century.  So we’ve embarked on an ambitious, eye opening initiative designed to take a hard look at ourselves and ask the tough questions:  What do we do well?  What needs improvement?  Where should we focus our energies and resources?

Dr. James Ramsey is president of the University of Louisville.
Dr. James Ramsey is president of the University of Louisville.

At the University of Louisville we have a responsibility, even a mandate, to be a premier metropolitan research university. Today we are an internationally recognized research school but our aspiration is to continue to grow our programs to be among the country’s very best. This is why we have embarked on this initiative called the 21st Century University.

When one looks across the country in search of the most vibrant, economically sound and culturally rich communities, a common element is found – a major research university. Every leading economic center in the United States has at its core a research university. It’s from research universities that new ideas are developed that reshape our world. It’s the place where creative minds are free to discover and where new knowledge is openly created and broadly shared.

Research universities are unique and are the engines that create new industries and improve the quality of life for our citizens. In fact, leaders in cities and regions such as Boston, San Diego, the North Carolina Research Triangle, Seattle, and the Silicon Valley often point to the contributions of their nearby research universities as the drivers of their economy and their quality of life.

We’ve engaged our entire campus community, community leaders and our Board of Trustees in this ambitious endeavor to figure out how we can better serve our students, the Louisville community and the commonwealth. We are on an amazing academic trajectory from recruiting better and better students, to graduating more undergraduate and graduate students, to world-class research and to our daily involvement in the life of our community. We have some of the best minds in the world, an outstanding faculty, an exceptional staff, aspirational leaders and tremendous students. The 21st Century University initiative is about ensuring that in this difficult financial environment we can continue on the trajectory toward becoming one of the best research universities in the world – to allow our university to take an exponential leap that will pay extraordinary dividends for our students, our community and our state.

The 21st Century University initiative has four guideposts to shape our university and for shaping our conversation moving forward:

• Enhance and enrich our scholarship, teaching and research

• Be globally engaged, accessible, and student centered

• Foster a culture of excellence

• Serve as responsible and effective financial stewards to protect the investments made by the commonwealth, our students and their families, our donors, and our many partners.

We have much to be proud of, but more to do. Focusing on the future to maintain our trajectory will enhance the quality of life of our citizens through increased educational attainment, additional discoveries and innovation. We will produce more college graduates, prepare them to compete in a global economy, expand our social and community engagements, enhance access to and knowledge of the arts, and continue to serve as a center for healing as we work hard to find cures to our most serious health challenges.

Our best days as an institution are ahead.

Dr. James Ramsey is president of the University of Louisville.