Clinton Lewis/WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell says it’s every employee’s job to help the school retain as many students as possible.

Addressing faculty and staff at Friday morning’s convocation at Van Meter Hall, Dr.Ransdell cited examples of academic progress, including an increase in the average ACT score of first-time baccalaureate students.

But he added that the school is still allowing too many students to leave campus without finishing their degrees.

“We are graduating just over 50 percent of our students in six years and we are still losing 25 percent of each freshman class within one year of their initial enrollment. So, for our students’ sake—if not for our own financial stability—please become part of the solution to keeping our students at WKU until they graduate.”

The WKU President said he was concerned about the value of the school’s remedial courses that many freshmen take. Ransdell added he’s worried the school is losing students who return home after their first semester with only three to six credit hours.

Clinton Lewis/WKU

Earlier this summer, Dave Tatman was named the first executive director of the Kentucky Automotive Industry Association. Now he’s joined WKU’s Center for Research and Development. The university says Tatman will act as an interface between the newly-formed association and WKU.

“Dave is a very talented leader and he wants to give back to education,” said Dr. Gordon Baylis, WKU’s Vice President of Research. “WKU has been interested in economic development and in providing technical assistance for industry. And that’s what we’re doing through the Center for Research and Development and our applied research programs. We need people with real manufacturing experience to help us help industry.”

Tatman spent 34 years with General Motors before retiring as plant manager of the Corvette Assembly Plant. 


The WKU men’s basketball team will open its first season as a member of Conference USA with 18 league games, as well as home contests against Louisville and Belmont.

The Hilltoppers start the season at E.A. Diddle Arena Nov. 14 against Austin Peay, and will play home-and-home series against Conference USA opponents Marshall, Charlotte, Old Dominion, Florida Atlantic, and Florida International.

The rest of WKU’s first-ever Conference USA league schedule features home games against Texas-El Paso, Texas-San Antonio, North Texas, and Rice. The Hilltoppers will go on the road to take on Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, Alabama-Birmingham, and Middle Tennessee.

You can see the entire 2014-15 schedule here.

WKU hosts Belmont Nov. 22, and the Louisville Cardinals Dec. 20.


The overwhelming majority of in-state students who get bachelor’s degrees from Kentucky’s public universities are remaining in the commonwealth.

A new report from the Center for Education and Workforce Statistics shows over 80 percent of Kentucky students who got a four-year degree from a state-funded school were working in the commonwealth a year later. On the other hand, only 30 percent of out-of-state students who graduate from Kentucky’s undergraduate programs stay in the commonwealth to work.

The report also gives a school-by-school breakdown of how many graduates stay in Kentucky versus those who leave the state, as well as a comparison of the average wages of each school’s degree holders.

You can see what the report had to say about the employment outcomes of WKU graduates here.

Charles McGrew, the executive director of the group behind the report, said schools can use the information to get a better idea of where their graduates are, and how they are doing.

“I think it’s difficult for faculty to know where all of their students go. Sometimes colleges do alumni surveys, but they may not be able to catch many of their alumni after the fact. So they don’t necessarily know how well they’re doing in the workforce, or possibly how long it takes to find a job, or whether they go on to graduate school,” McGrew told WKU Public Radio.


The new school year brings a new leader for one of Western Kentucky University’s most prestigious programs.   

For 24 straight years, the program has won the Kentucky Forensic Association State championship. The speech and debate program has also won numerous national and international awards.

But the person who has overseen that program for the last four years, Jace Lux, was recently named the Director of Recruitment and Admissions at WKU That opened the door for Ganer Newman IV to return to the university as Director of Forensics. 

He spent the last year at Illinois State University, but before that earned his degree from WKU and was an assistant coach for the forensics team. Newman starts Monday.

Photo by WKU Public Radio photojournalist Abbey Oldham

"It's an exciting time to be a Hilltopper."

That's how first year head coach Jeff Brohm started off WKU football media day inside Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium Saturday morning, just hours before the first of the team's 23 scheduled practices that afternoon.

Besides a new head coach, the third in the past three years, the Tops begin the season in a new conference, moving to Conference USA this summer after decades in the Sun Belt Conference. They finished 8-4 last year, their eighth season in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

"We're excited about joining the new conference," Brohm said, "It'll be a challenge for us and we'll have to earn respect but that's what college football is all about if you want to become the best."

Brohm said the team had a good summer working on strength and conditioning to get in the best shape possible so a lot of players can see game action on both sides of the ball and they can stay fresh. But right now, all the team is thinking about and working towards is the first game of the regular season.


A former PBS star known as “The Science Guy” and one of America’s most famous jazz musicians highlight the 18th season of WKU’s Cultural Enhancement Series.

Here is the lineup for the 2014-15 Cultural Enhancement Series, released Friday by the university:

Sept. 30: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, 7:30 p.m. at Van Meter Hall. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, comprising 15 of the finest jazz soloists and ensemble players today, has been the Jazz at Lincoln Center resident orchestra since 1988. (Note: CES Premier Event; tickets available Aug. 25.)

Oct. 15: Bill Nye, 7:30 p.m. at E.A Diddle Arena. The scientist, engineer, comedian, author and inventor is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. (Note: CES Premier Event; tickets available Sept. 15. Co-sponsored by the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky.)

Oct. 28: National Dance Company of Ecuador, 7:30 p.m. at Van Meter Hall. Performance is part of WKU’s celebration of the International Year of Ecuador. (Note: No ticket required; free seating on first-come, first-served basis.)

Nov. 18: Kentucky Glory: Gospel Music from the Commonwealth, 7:30 p.m. at Downing Student Union Auditorium. Performance will feature John Edmonds, Paul Moseley and The Northern Kentucky Brotherhood. (Note: No ticket required; free seating on first-come, first-served basis. Co-presented by the Kentucky Folklife Program at WKU.)

WKU Collaborating on Space Project

Jul 29, 2014
Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

Kentucky scientists and engineers are collaborating on a project involving research aboard the international space station.

The University of Louisville says a NASA grant is making possible the joint project with scientists and engineers from the University of Kentucky and WKU.

The research involves experiments on colloids, mixtures of microscopic particles suspended throughout a substance. U of L mechanical engineering assistant professor Stuart Williams says the space station setting will help scientists explore how particles interact in zero gravity. U of L says results may include advances in solar energy, advanced manufacturing and other fields.

Williams is the principle scientific investigator. UK's Suzanne Smith is the managing principle investigator. Also involved are U of L's Gerold Willing, WKU's Hemali Rathnayake, UK's Janet Lumpp and NASA partner Ronald Sicker.

Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture

WKU is beginning to prepare its employees for likely changes to the school’s health plan. At a forum Wednesday afternoon, representatives from the school’s Human Resources Department told workers that WKU’s self-funded model is coming under significant strain.

The school says it saw a 13.3 percent increase in medical expenses in 2013 compared to the previous year, with expenses exceeding revenue by more than $2 million.

WKU is predicting that unless changes are made, the school’s health plan expenses could increase by 8 to 10 percent in 2015.

No definitive announcement was made, however, about whether employee premiums or deductibles will be increasing. Speaking to WKU Public Radio after the forum, Assistant Director of Human Resources Kari Aikins described the school’s timeline for announcing any changes.

“We’re going to continue to evaluate and model these options financially over the next month, month-and-a-half, and then start making some formalized recommendations to our leadership and President--through our benefits committee--and hopefully have something set in stone by the end of August,” Aikens said.

WKU Athletics

After 32 years as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, WKU has now officially become a member of the newly re-aligned, 14 member Conference USA. It's a move Athletic Director Todd Stewart has been working toward for several years, but even he admits it's a high-risk, high-reward situation.

Stewart spoke with Joe Corcoran about leaving the comforts of the Sun Belt for the new challenges ahead.


The WKU Board of Regents has voted to privatize the campus Health Services center. Graves Gilbert Clinic will take over operations ahead of the fall semester.

The idea of giving up control of the health center was first announced by WKU President Gary Ransdell in March. Privatizing the health center that serves students, faculty, and staff gave the school nearly $1.1 million in relief for the budget that went into effect July 1.

None of the three doctors or one nurse practitioner currently employed by the school will be kept on after the health center changes management.

WKU Vice President for Finance and Administration said at Thursday morning's regents meeting that Graves Gilbert will make decisions on whether or not to retain the center's remaining employees within 10 days of the contract being finalized.

Mead added both parties have a lot to do in a short amount of time.

“We’ll be moving into helping Graves Gilbert transition to opening on Aug. 1. We want to facilitate Graves Gilbert’s family practitioners to be able to meet our leadership on campus, and start having the campus understand what services are going to be provided at our on-campus facility.”


The WKU Board of Regents is delaying a vote to privatize the campus Health Services Center.

At a meeting Thursday morning, board members requested that the university provide them with more information about the proposed agreement with Graves Gilbert Clinic. Regents specifically asked for copies of the “request for proposal” that was submitted to those interested in bidding on the health services contract.

The university announced earlier this year it would seek to privatize its health services operation, in an effort to save nearly $1.1 million in the 2014-15 operating budget.

Regent John Ridley of Bowling Green says today’s move by the board should not be seen as a vote of no confidence in either the proposed contract or the school’s administration. Instead, Ridley says the regents want to make sure they’ve had time to thoroughly review the proposal and have any questions answered before a vote is taken.

“The issue is that we have a board responsibility when we’re about to enter into a contractual arrangement, and if anyone has a question we need to get it answered, and then everybody’s happy,” Ridley said after the meeting.

Faculty Regent Dr. Patti Minter said it’s important that the regents make sure any and all concerns are addressed before conducting a vote on such an important matter.


Members of the WKU Board of Regents will vote Thursday morning on a contract with Graves-Gilbert Clinic to run the school's Health Services.

WKU announced earlier this year it was seeking to privatize the campus facility that serves students, faculty, and staff. The university estimates such a move would cut nearly $1.1 million from the 2014-15 operating budget.

Under the agreement to be voted on Thursday, GGC would use about 47 percent of the facility, with WKU continuing to utilize the remainder of the building.

The special called meeting of the WKU Board of Regents begins at 10 a.m. Thursday, in the Cornelius A. Martin Regents Room on campus.

In a campus-wide email sent earlier this week by WKU Health Services, it was announced that the three doctors and one nurse practitioner on staff would not be retained by GGC.

The last day those employees will see patients is July 24.

The WKU Board of Regents has approved a budget that gets nearly half of its funding from student tuition and fees. By a 9-2 vote Friday morning, regents passed a $392 million spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.

The new budget contains a $3.1 million dollar cut to Academic Affairs, which includes the elimination of 26 vacant faculty positions.

WKU History Professor and Faculty Regent Patti Minter was one of the two who voted against the budget. She said while some can argue it makes sense that academic departments face the toughest cuts since they have the largest overall piece of the budget, such decisions are harming WKU’s ability to attract and retain the best teachers and researchers.

“All of this would impact the students negatively,” Dr. Minter told WKU Public Radio. “Because this is the core mission, this is why Dr. Cherry built this college on a hill in 1906. And as he said in the depths of the depression, in these times we have to cut out all the extracurriculars, and we have to get back to the basics, which if the academic mission.”

Less than 19 percent of the next WKU budget comes from state funding, with nearly 49 percent made up of student tuition and fees.

As part of the budget, the Regents also approved a 4.8 percent tuition increase for resident undergraduate students, who will now pay nearly $4,600 per semester. The spending plan also includes a one percent cost-of living adjustment for WKU employees, with a minimum increase of $500 per worker.

WKU President Gary Ransdell told reporters after Friday’s regents meeting that declining state funding for higher education is a trend that has to be reversed soon.

“If we can get to the point we’ve gotten beyond state budget cuts, that would be a modest satisfaction. The victory will be if we can finally get Kentucky to invest in higher education, because it’s been now six years.”

WKU Health Services Deal Imminent

In addition to passing a budget, WKU regents were also told the school is close to signing an agreement with Graves Gilbert Clinic to run the campus Health Services operation which serves students, faculty, and staff. The school announced in March it would seek to privatize the campus facility, with an estimated savings of $1.1 million dollars.

A former Henderson County star and future WKU Hilltopper has been named Kentucky’s co-Mr. Baseball.

Third-baseman and outfielder Kaleb Duckworth recently graduated from school after hitting for a .450 average, with 40 runs scored and 35 runs batted in. Duckworth is sharing Mr. Baseball honors with Devin Hairston of Tates Creek, marking the first time there has been a tie for the award.

Duckworth led the Henderson County Colonels to back-to-back state semifinal appearances in 2012 and 2013. He committed to play his college baseball at WKU following his junior season, when he led the state in home runs and stolen bases.

Duckworth was also recently named Kentucky's Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year.