U of L Strategic Plan update shows improvements in diversity, investment Wednesday, Feb 23 2022 

By Joe Wilson — 

On Feb. 22, U of L published an update to its 2019-2022 Strategic Plan, outlining the progress the university has made in improving education, employment and investment.

The Strategic Plan Implementation Report cites changes made at the university in 2020-2021, year two of the overall strategic plan.

Among its many developments, the report highlights changes to the university intended to attract a talented and diverse student body. The report touts new academic programs such as a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science and a Bachelor of Science in General Studies, which will be offered beginning in Fall 2022. Additionally, the report announced that enrollment in U of L’s online programs for fall 2021 increased by nearly 20 percent compared to the previous year. The report also mentions that students from Southwest Ohio are now eligible for in-state tuition.

Other achievements noted in the report include an increase in the undergraduate graduation rate from 43 percent to 61.6 percent over the past 15 years. The report further praises U of L for producing more Fulbright scholars than any other Kentucky public higher education institution. 

The report also provides an update to the university’s commitment to make U of L a better workplace. UofL’s progress in making the workplace more diverse and equitable is shown by pointing to the creation of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) handbook and implementing mandatory DEI training for employees. The report additionally notes that the university has offered sign-on bonuses, referral bonuses and adjusted minimum qualifications for 42 job positions that have been difficult to fill.

Finally, the Strategic Plan report outlines improvements in investment at U of L. With the goal of increasing innovative research and productivity, the report highlights the $23.4 million increase in annual research expenditures compared to the 2018 baseline. The Strategic Plan update also notes the $61.8 million in total donations to U of L’s academic and athletic programs in 2021.

Originally announced in 2018 by former University President Neeli Bendapudi, U of L’s 2019-22 Strategic Plan was created to generate recommendations from faculty, staff and students to strengthen the university’s mission, vision and values.

“We are 7,000+ employees strong – each offering their personal and professional gifts to a vital ecosystem that creates thriving futures for our students, our community and our society. The gratitude I feel for all who commit their time and talent to our university’s success cannot be overstated,” said Interim President Lori Gonzalez. “Looking ahead, I am excited about a strong finish to the current Strategic Plan. Our Cardinal Community is laying the groundwork for sustainable success.”

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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New Cultural and Equity Center aims to increase inclusivity on campus Monday, Nov 1 2021 

By Tate Luckey —

On October 22nd, the University of Louisville reopened its new Cultural and Equity Center inside the new Belknap Residence Hall. The upgraded facility features the Cultural Center, LGBT Center, Women’s Center, and various study/multipurpose rooms for students of all backgrounds.

This reopening comes after the University was recognized for the 8th year as a Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award recipient, joining other universities like Clemson and Florida State. “Now that we have a whole building, and there are banners and flags all over it, we’ll get a lot more attention. I think it does help U of L become a more diverse campus,” junior Agustina Cisterna said.

Ashton Beckham, Porter scholar and finance major, felt similarly but thinks that the university can do a bit more. “I do think U of L is diverse, but I wish [the university] put more effort into enrolling black students in honors-level courses,” he said. “[The new space] is definitely better than the space in Strickler.”

The new center provides a more centralized location for the various diversity departments around campus. “It’s a really modern space that offers many helpful resources. Students of color now have easier access to the Parrish LLC, which is very convenient,” Beckham said.

In an interview with U of L News, President Neeli Bendapudi said that the center represents one of many major efforts the university has made in striving to become anti-racist and more inclusive to the entire Cardinal community.

If you’d like to learn more about the space and programs it offers, you can do so here. 

File Photos // Facebook, The Louisville Cardinal 

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New and revamped positions contribute to cardinal anti-racism agenda Friday, Apr 16 2021 

By Madelin Shelton —

As part of U of L’s goal of becoming a premier anti-racist institution, the university has detailed its efforts to create new and revamped diversity-focused positions.

The varied positions have a variety of responsibilities, including creating an inclusive culture on campus, improving retention and graduation rates among minority students, recruiting minority faculty, creating better opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses to work with the university and more.

These revamped and new positions include the following:

  • Brigitte Burpo, assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, College of Education and Human Development
  • Valerie Clay, coordinator for diversity, equity and inclusion, J.B. Speed School of Engineering
  • Crystal Rae Coel, assistant dean for student affairs and diversity, Brandeis School of Law
  • Cherie Dawson-Edwards, associate dean for diversity, engagement, culture and climate, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Marc D. Ellis, assistant director of procurement diversity and inclusion, Office of Procurement Services
  • Audra French, assistant director of student affairs and diversity equity and inclusion, School of Dentistry
  • Amalia Gomez, Latinx admissions counselor, Office of Admissions
  • Leondra Gully, director of Black and multicultural initiatives, Cultural Center
  • Anna Hinton, assistant dean for administration and diversity, equity and inclusion, School of Dentistry
  • Trinidad Jackson, assistant dean for culture and liberation, School of Public Health & Information Sciences
  • Emma Sterrett-Hong, associate dean of equity and inclusion, Kent School of Social Work
  • Nakia Strickland, associate director for diversity engagement, U of L Alumni Association
  • Morgan West, new student financial aid advisor, Office of Financial Affairs

In addition to the above, the university also said that the Cultural Center will be filling a director position for Hispanic, Latino and Indigenous initiatives, and new positions are being considered in other U of L departments.

When discussing these positions and how they fit into the Cardinal Anti-Racism Agenda, U of L President Neeli Bendapudi outlined that anti-racism is about believing that skin color does not confer any inherent inferiority or superiority to anybody else and that these positions help advance that idea.

“Being an anti-racist university means that on the individual level and the structural level, we examine what we are doing to see if we have conditions in place to make it possible for every human that’s here to achieve their full potential and not have their race be a factor in that,” she said.

Bendapudi explained that these new and revamped positions indicate that these ideals aren’t happening in one place, but that every school and every unit are taking it seriously.

For how these positions foster a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion Bendapudi said that these positions will ensure that U of L is trying to stay diverse. In addition, they will help foster equity by being close to problems and being able to argue and advocate for equity.

“Having all these people visible in each unit is an invitation to others and hopefully makes them feel more included,” Bendapudi said.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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The Cardinal interviews incoming University Provost, Lori Gonzalez Tuesday, Jan 19 2021 

By Madelin Shelton — 

Dr. Lori Gonzalez, the newly selected executive vice president and university provost (EVPUP), was recently interviewed by The Louisville Cardinal and outlined her upcoming position at the University of Louisville.

“The things that drew me to the University of Louisville are some of the initiatives around anti-racism and improving retention rates to keep our undergraduate students enrolled and to ensure that they graduate on time,” Gonzalez said. She also enjoyed reading U of L’s Strategic Plan because it succinctly presented the university’s goals of making itself a great place to learn, work and invest.

Gonzalez further noted President Neeli Bendapudi’s involvement with students as a pulling factor.

“When I saw President Bendapudi and her videos to students, her writing to students, I just thought this was a president who cares about higher ed, cares about the students and is going to be sure that the institution is a student-first place for people to learn,” she said.

Gonzalez said that her leadership in education has prepared her best for her new role as university provost.

“I started out as a faculty member and moved into administration at the college level. I’ve been a dean, I’ve been a provost, and now I’m a vice chancellor,” she said. “I think the thing that prepares you best for leadership is enjoying the mission of the institution and believing passionately about the mission, and then enjoying working with people.”

When asked how she has worked to uphold the Cardinal principle of diversity and inclusion in the past, Gonzalez first elaborated on how she came to appreciate diversity and inclusion in her own life. Being from a small town in eastern Kentucky, Gonzalez said she didn’t have experiences with those who were different from her until she got to college.

“I started my own quest to understand my own bias that I brought from where I was raised and focusing on learning more about diversity and inclusion,” she said. “When I became dean, I brought in training opportunities for our faculty and staff around diversity and inclusion. As provost I worked really closely with the equity and diversity office to make sure programming was going. I did small things like meeting every semester with transgender students.”

When she officially takes on the role of provost, Gonzalez said she wants to help foster an environment where undergraduate students come into U of L and study their respective subjects while also learning their civic duty as citizens.

“That’s a personal passion of mine to make sure that students become more than whatever their discipline is because they’re going to be the ones to change our world for the better and I think the university has to give you the tools to know how to do that,” she said.

To specifically improve the student experience for U of L students, Gonzalez wants to work with Bendapudi to expand the experiential learning strategy that is under the “Great Place to Learn” component of the Strategic Plan. She believes focusing on this component will further help with cultivating civically engaged learners.

Gonzalez will begin serving as the EVPUP starting April 1.

Photo Courtesy // The University of Louisville 

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U of L named as top institution for diversity and inclusion Wednesday, Oct 28 2020 

By Madelin Shelton — 

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine has named the University of Louisville as a 2020 HEED Award recipient and a 2020 Diversity Champion.

According to INSIGHT Into Diversity’s magazine, “The INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education in Diversity (HEED) Award recognizes colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

For this recognition, U of L will be featured in the November 2020 issue of the magazine along with the other 89 universities also designated as recipients.

U of L was one of a limited number of colleges and universities also named a Diversity Champion. Diversity Champions are chosen for their exceptional commitment to diversity and inclusion throughout their campus communities.

Dr. Faye Jones, U of L Senior Associate Vice President for Diversity and Equity and Associate Vice President for Health Affairs/Diversity Initiatives, said Diversity Champion status is only awarded to those institutions who rank in the top tier of HEED Award recipients.

Colleges and universities that receive this award are the gold standard for other higher education institutions seeking to improve their diversity and inclusion practices.

The magazine chose U of L for these high honors after looking at its achievement and commitment to broadening diversity and inclusion. According to INSIGHT Into Diversity’s website, this encompasses campus initiatives, programs, and outreach; student recruitment, retention, and completion; and hiring practices for faculty and staff.

Holly Mendelson, a Publisher for INSIGHT Into Diversity, said of U of L, “It was clear from the institution’s efforts to recruit, retain, and support diverse students and employees, as well as the ways in which diversity, equity and inclusion are pulled throughout U of L’s campus, that the university is dedicated to this mission.”

While U of L has been named a HEED award recipient for five years, this is the first year they have attained Diversity Champion status.

Jones commended U of L’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, including the university’s numerous diversity committees and employee resource groups, while still acknowledging the work that needs to be done at U of L.

Jones mentioned that with the leadership role U of L has in the Louisville community, the university must continue to create opportunities for difficult discussions that help lead to solutions.

“As a long-time faculty and administrator at U of L, I would like to see us improve our efforts to not only recruit faculty of color, but to retain BIPOC, with special emphasis being given to decrease the turnover of Black faculty in recent years and increase the number of Hispanic/Latino faculty,” Jones said.

Jones also hopes to see the university work to decrease health disparities and achievement gaps that negatively impact underrepresented and underfunded communities.

File Photo//The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L student podcast discusses race and LGBTQ+ issues on campus Friday, Oct 23 2020 

By Tate Luckey —

The University of Louisville was recently recognized as both a top university for diversity and among the best of the best for LGBTQ+ friendly universities. In an effort to explore this topic as well as create more ease-of-access, COVID-friendly programming, the Student Activities Board is producing a new podcast called U of L: UNCENSORED. 

In U of L: UNCENSORED, hosts Leah Hazelwood and Lilah Kahloon (Diversity chair and vice-chair for the SAB, respectively) spotlight their fellow students and foster an open dialogue about diversity and social inclusion at the University.

“We have chosen our topics based on what is happening in and around campus,” the pair said. “Our goal is to have conversations about relevant and pressing topics.”

A description of the guests on the first UNCENSORED podcast.

Case and point, for their first episode, Hazelwood and Kahloon interview Eli Cooper, a junior poli-sci major and director of the Community Peace Board, and Madison Fogle, a sophomore history major and co-director of the Community Peace Board.

Students and alumni are encouraged to tune in, as this podcast shines a light on the experiences of fellow Cards that aren’t easily known.

“It’s easy to not know about certain issues on campus if they don’t directly impact you,” Kahloon explained. “To us, it’s a great way to have conversations with multiple people, about many different subjects.”

While SAB’s diversity committee plans to continue the podcast into the spring semester, they also hope to create a bigger event for students to send in short videos introducing themselves and sharing their diversity experiences at U of L.

You can click here to watch the most recent episode of the podcast.

Photos Courtesy of Student Activities Board

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In New JCPS Student Assignment Proposal, ‘Choice’ Is At Odds With ‘Diversity’ Wednesday, Oct 7 2020 


There are a lot of problems with the way Jefferson County Public Schools currently assigns students to schools, according to the Student Assignment Review Advisory Committee. The committee of teachers, community members and district staff met virtually Wednesday evening to evaluate the current plan for how well it promotes racial equity.

JCPS’ current student assignment plan is nationally recognized for creating more racially integrated schools than most other large districts, like Chicago or Detroit. Research shows Black, Latino and Indigenous students who attend integrated schools benefit because they have greater access to the funding and political power that follows their white classmates. But many argue the plan is unfair, because it places the onus on Black students in the West End to leave their neighborhoods to attend schools in majority-white suburbs.

“About 95% of our Black students leave the community,” JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said. “And only about 5% white students. And I think that is incredibly inequitable.”


LGBT students are safe and supported at U of L Tuesday, Oct 1 2019 

By Rei Taylor —

I first came out as bisexual at the age of 11. Later, I came out again as pansexual, which was less of a coming out and more of a clarification. Now, at 18, I am an active member in Louisville’s LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning) scene and an advocate for gay rights, just like the University of Louisville.

Being voted several times as a top LGBT-friendly university by three national groups, U of L makes an effort to create a supportive and caring environment for LGBTQ students.

“These awards are a direct result of U of L’s commitment to building an inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly environment on campus and in our community,” said U of L President Neeli Bendapudi. “I am so proud of our efforts and look forward to seeing how we continue to grow in the future.”

U of L offers many services for LGBTQ students, such as the Bayard Rustin Community, a housing community based in University Towers Apartments. Being the first of its kind at a Kentucky college or university, it offers a safe living space for LGBTQ and allied students.

Research suggests that membership in a themed housing environment supports student retention and academic success. These residences are extremely beneficial to incoming students, especially LGBTQ students, allowing them to make friends with people without fear of being judged for their sexuality.

Another service U of L offers is Pride Week, a week where the university holds multiple events based around being LGBTQ and LGBTQ culture. With everything from fairs to keynote speakers, U of L pulls out all the stops to engage and involve their LGBTQ students. They offer free food, informational panels, game nights and HIV testing throughout the week, as well as a flag hanging ceremony of two gay pride flags off of the belltower.

They also offer blood drives based around destigmatizing gay men giving blood, something that has been restricted since 1992. This, along with all of the other events, allows visibility for LGBTQ students, creating an open and accepting campus.

Every semester, U of L offers classes based around LGBTQ students and culture. They have diversity classes through the women’s, gender, and sexuality studies department that are made for LGBTQ students to be understood and to create allies. These classes allow students to feel free to discuss their sexuality and gender identities freely in class without fear of judgment.

Overall, the U of L has done an excellent job of being inclusive and accepting of LGBTQ students and allies within the institution.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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Inaugural Moon Festival shines light on east Asian culture Thursday, Sep 19 2019 

By Jordan Geisler —

Lights and decorations were all around the Red Barn for its first ever celebration of the Moon Festival Sept. 12. The holiday is celebrated in eastern Asian countries during the eighth lunar month to give thanks for the harvest, as well as to celebrate fellowship and family.

Other than the Chinese New Year festival, U of L doesn’t have a lot of events recognizing the eastern Asian population on campus. Taleah Gipson, chair of the student activity board’s diversity committee, took it upon herself to change that.

“I wanted to bring the Moon Festival to U of L’s campus because there isn’t a lot of East Asian representation on campus. I wanted to throw an event that celebrates people and also brings them together,” she said.

Gipson worked with other groups on campus including the Vietnamese Student Association, the Chinese Scholars Union, the Japan Club and the Chinese Club. Together they created an event that brought people together.

Students could learn how to write Japanese and Chinese calligraphy and there was a station for painting your own paper lantern. There was even moon cake, a traditional dessert eaten during the Moon Festival.

The Moon Festival also had several performances from local groups and students on campus. There was an extreme Chinese yo-yo act, a martial arts session and a dance from U of L’s own Cardinal K-Pop dance team. Attendees also enjoyed a recital involving the Chinese instrument the Erhu, some traditional Chinese dances and a festive lion dance featuring the River Lotus Lion Dance Team.

“My inspiration is to make everyone feel welcome and make them feel that they’re seen,” Gipson said.

Mariko Chou, a junior majoring in social work, is a member of the Vietnamese Student Association. She came to the Moon Festival and felt represented.

“I really love going to student events,” said Chou, “and I think it’s really cool that we’re getting our names out there because a lot of students don’t know about our clubs or cultures as much as others.”

Photo by Jordan Geisler / The Louisville Cardinal 

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WorldFest: Bringing the world to Louisville’s doorsteps Thursday, Sep 5 2019 

By Joseph Garcia — 

Every year on Labor Day weekend, the Belvedere is flooded by thousands for four days to celebrate the rich cultural diversity that lives in Louisville.

“It’s a festival to honor and bring nationalities and cultures together so people can be educated about the world,” said Jalen Todd, a volunteer at this year’s WorldFest.

WorldFest doesn’t just invite attendees to experience these cultures. It gives people the chance to truly celebrate and learn about them from that culture’s people.

“This festival has taught me to learn about different communities and overcome stereotypes about people that aren’t true,” Todd said.

Todd said almost 30 countries spanning the globe were represented this weekend of celebration.

It’s immediately obvious that cultures are represented by the array of vibrant colors from national flags and the mouth-watering aromas blanketing the festival.

The food alone was enough to make a trip to WorldFest. There were common items like tacos and pad thai, but WorldFest offered more exotic foods to excite your taste buds like Ethiopian cuisine.

Just about every corner had a view of an open grill that sizzled with kabobs or large pans of noodles being tossed.

But these are not the only things lining the packed pathways.  Both local and visiting vendors sold items that represented their nationality or heritage.

Items like vibrant dresses, small jewelry, traditional masks and wooden decorations were everywhere.

There were also three stages among the festival that offered unique performances throughout the day. Performances included belly dancing, flamenco dances and various bands performing traditional music.

Junior Computer Information Systems major Levi Walton described WorldFest as diverse and accepting.

“I enjoyed seeing so many cultures represented in such a small section of Louisville,” Walton said, “I love knowing that I live in such a culturally diverse city that not only welcomes but celebrates the differences in its people’s cultures.”

Photo by Joseph Garcia // The Louisville Cardinal


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