Faculty moves, enrollment update & more: Here’s what happened at KY colleges in January

Welcome to our first edition of a new monthly story bringing you a round-up of higher education news in Kentucky.

This year, the Herald-Leader will publish a story each month with news about colleges and universities from around Kentucky. The focus will be on Lexington-area schools, but the goal is to highlight news from schools around the state, too.

We’ll highlight several different aspects of higher education news involving faculty, campus, healthcare, awards, research and other bits of news that may otherwise fly under the radar.

Have something that should be considered for next month’s round-up? Contact higher education reporter Monica Kast at mkast@herald-leader.com.

Faculty changes at UK

At the beginning of the year, UK named Danelle Stevens-Watkins as the acting dean of the College of Education. Stevens-Watkins is the first woman of color to serve as the dean of the college, according to a release from UK.

She has been the associate vice president for research and inclusion at UK since 2020.

“I am honored to serve the College of Education and the university in this capacity,” Stevens-Watkins said. “I am a proud UK College of Education alum. Our faculty, staff and students are leaders in impacting positive change across the Commonwealth of Kentucky and beyond. As a native Kentuckian, I take pride in this historic moment.”

The previous dean of the college, Julian Vasquez Heilig, left UK at the end of last year to take the position of provost and vice president for academic affairs at Western Michigan University. He had been the dean at UK for three years.

Another former dean was also up for a new position: David Brennen, who was the dean of the College of Law from 2009 to 2020, was a finalist for the president of Eastern Illinois University. Brennen is still a law professor at UK, and one of four finalists for the job in Illinois. The new president was named on Friday, with the position going to Jay Gatrell, the university’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

UK also announced the search committee for the next executive vice president for health affairs, who will lead UK HealthCare. The committee will be led by Seth Himelhoch, professor and chair of the department of psychiatry, and Nancy Cox, vice president for landgrant engagement and dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Provost Robert DiPaola and executive vice president for finance and administration Eric Monday are the co-executive vice presidents for health affairs of UK HealthCare, after Mark Newman, who previously held the role for five years, became the university advisor for health care innovation and growth.

People walk along the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington, Ky., on Monday, Aug. 22, 2022.
People walk along the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington, Ky., on Monday, Aug. 22, 2022.

KCTCS president steps down

Paul Czarapata, who has been president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System since 2021, stepped down last week for a new role outside of education.

Czarapata has worked for KCTCS for more than 20 years, the college system said in a news release.

“The 23 years I have been here have been some of the most fulfilling not only in my career, but in my life,” Czarapata said. “My passion and career background have been in technology, and I am at a point in my life that I want to head back in that direction. I want to thank the faculty, staff and KCTCS Board of Regents for all of their support during my tenure and I wish the system nothing but the best as it plays a most vital role for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Larry Ferguson, president and CEO of Ashland Community and Technical College, will be the acting president of KCTCS while the board assembles a committee to appoint an interim president and begin a search for the next president, according to the release.

UK enrollment continues upward

UK is reporting an enrollment increase for the spring semester, with over 1,000 more students enrolled this spring compared to last, President Eli Capilouto said in an email. There were 31,000 students enrolled at UK at the start of this semester, he said. This comes after UK reported a record enrollment in the fall.

UK’s retention rate — the number of students who returned this semester from the previous semester — is at a record 95%, up almost 1.5% over last spring, Capilouto said. Retention also up among students of color, first-generation students and out-of-state students.

“These powerful numbers speak to the outstanding quality and persistence of our students,” Capilouto said. “But they also are undergirded by the tireless commitment and efforts of thousands of faculty and staff.”

Other news

UK announced a partnership with Simmons College of Kentucky, a private historically Black college in Louisville. Administrators for both schools signed an agreement in January, giving Simmons College students opportunities within three UK colleges: The J. David Rosenberg College of Law, the College of Arts and Science and the College of Education, according to a news release.

The partnership will include Simmons College students in activities and events hosted by UK, allowing students from both colleges to participate.

“We know there is tremendous promise in the idea of the University of Kentucky and Simmons College of Kentucky working together, guided by our shared commitment to students and service,” said UK Provost Robert DiPaola. “The collaborative, transdisciplinary, interconnected nature of this agreement stands at the core of how we will move forward together.”