UofL academic building more spectacular than artist renderings

A view of the new academic classroom facility from the lobby of the adjacent Geoscience Building.

One of the things that had to greatly impress Neeli Bendapudi when she was being considered for the job of President of the University of Louisville was the construction of a new $83 million academic classroom building in the heart of the campus.

Lots of windows and curves, setting the structure apart from all others, enabling spectacular views inside and outside. It’s going to be a magnet for UofL students and faculty all days long and into the evenings.

The south end of the new classroom building.

The architectural renderings were impressive when they were unveiled three years ago but the actual structure will be even more breathtaking. The finishing touches are currently being placed on the four-story, 161,000-square-foot building with a scheduled opening for the 2018 fall semester. 

Lots of fine architecture, including many historic buildings, already on Belknap Campus but this newest one will be the most grandiose of all, reflecting a stunning commitment from past and current leaders at UofL to academic excellence. Features include:

  • 20 state-of-the-art active learning classrooms
  • Student Success Center, which includes Resources for Academic Achievement (REACH), Exploratory Advising, First Year Initiatives and student success coordinators
  • 11 group study rooms
  • Seven seminar rooms
  • A multipurpose teacher space
  • Six chemistry labs
  • Four biology labs
  • Three physics labs and one anthropology-physics lab

Those rooms not only include the state-of-the-art classrooms, but also large public spaces that are purposefully designed to encourage students to stick around between their classes. John Stratton, Senior UofL Architect, describes them as “quasi library spaces.”

There are no TVs, but the lounge areas are furnished with upholstered, comfortable chairs and coffee tables. There are power outlets and connectivity options for phones and laptops.

“The focus is on students learning in groups, working together, sharing information and working with the latest technologies,” said Stratton. “To support that, there are interactive computer systems within the classrooms. It is different from a traditional lecture-style space. It’s more about the interaction between the instructors and students and learning together.”

Stratton likes the wide open space in front of the building, describing it as a sort of metaphor for reaching out to new students.

“There is a great deal of glass and vision in and out of the building. That is to encourage transparency in a number of ways. We wanted a building where you can see the activity happening in the building and, from the inside, you can see what’s happening outside. This is good not only for security reasons, but to show students that we’re transparent and that we care about them,” Stratton said. 

Kroger goes big for UofL in major expansion

A brand new look and a UofL theme for the renovated and expanded Kroger store at Central Station shopping center at the corner of Central Avenue and Third Street.

A far cry from the days when one considered himself lucky to find a University of Louisville shirt at Bacon’s.  

Bird tracks lead shoppers to the Card Wear section.

A new shopping mecca was recently unveiled for fans and students in South Louisville, across from Jim Patterson Stadium. Not totally new, but it’s a major renovation of the Kroger store which features UofL themes throughout the entire facility.

Shoppers are greeted by the Cardinal theme lights in the parking lot at the Central Station Shopping Center. They are greeted by a “Welcome to Kroger In The Ville” at the front door, and an inviting red and black decor throughout the store.

The store reopened a week ago following a one-year $14 million renovation that expanded from 76,000 square feet to 96,000 square feet. A place any Cardinal fan would be proud of, and it features all of the grocery chain’s latest marketing concepts, including a Starbucks, an Eli’s Barbecue, a Wine and Spirits Shoppe, and a scan-as-you-shop system.

Visitors can follow the bird tracks to get to the Card Wear section, which included a wide array of Cardinal merchandise from shirts to accessories. The restaurant, the bakery, the delicatessen were all distinctively marked with UofL signage. The lights at the checkout counter, the staff and even the trash cans are all wrapped in school pride. 

A fun destination, a don’t miss attraction for University of Louisville fans. Should be on the must-see list for prospective students and athletes. A win-win for Kroger and the community.

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UofL boards opt for hard ball with Jim Ramsey’s team

Sorry to see members of the University of Louisville and UofL Foundation boards go down the road of filing lawsuits against former President Jim Ramsey and others tied to his administration. Throwing more good money after bad, with little chance of recovering any funds.

The really sad thing is that the individuals filing the lawsuits are people who should know better, and one has to question their collective intent. If the purpose is to harass and embarrass Ramsey while destroying his reputation, they have shifted into overdrive. Having permanently damaged his image over the past two years, they now want to drain his wallet and those of his associates.

So now into foreseeable future, the school will be embroiled in lawsuits against Ramsey, Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino, the former faces of the University. Not to mention Kathleen Smith, his former assistant, Burt Deutsch, who headed the foundation, and former finance officers Michael Curtin and Jason Tomlinson.

What all of the people shared in common was love for the University, having made significant contributions to over the past two decades. Some remaining UofL employees have to be looking over their shoulders with the litigious tendencies of the boards.

No one is saying Jim Ramsey was not without flaws. His unorthodox style of managing finances made him an inevitable target in a key leadership role in the community. Initiate a $2 million forensic audit against any university or organization and a buttload of discrepancies will be uncovered. His first chance to refute the charges will come in a courtroom.

Ramsey’s worst mistake may have been not bowing out early when it became clear that the controversy had created sharp divisions within the original board of trustees. By then the divisiveness had spread to the faculty, the financial supporters, the fans and the community.

The timing of the latest lawsuits is curious, circumventing any improvements the Trustees made in the University’s image with the hiring of a new President, Athletic Director and Basketball Coach. UofL supporters and fans were daring to feel more optimistic about the school’s future, thinking the worst was behind them. 

Incoming UofL President Neeli Bendapudi must now begin her new administration on May 15, seeking to rebuild the school’s public image and financial resources against a backdrop of recurring ugly news updates about possible trials and reminders of how the University’s current Trustees turned on the previous leadership. With so many lawsuits, the damaging news will be ongoing.

One has to hope that Neeli Bendapudi is not having second thoughts about her decision after the latest actions of the board members. They have made taking the job much more challenging while greatly extending the time required to restore the University’s reputation. It’s going to be a long haul.

*   *   *

While Jim Ramsey may have been accused of depleting University resources during his 15-year tenure as UofL President, those same people would have to admit that the school made some unprecedented achievements during that time.

He was also generous to the school, giving more  than a half million dollars in contributions to the University. A response to an Open Records Request from UofL indicates that Ramsey and his wife Jane gave a total of $552,259 to UofL from Dec. 21, 2001, through Dec. 30, 2016.

This does not include gifts given by others in their honor or matching gifts, only including money out of their own pockets — or an average of $100.61 per day over 15 years.

They gave almost $214,000 to student scholarships through the Ramsey Scholarship Fund, plus $180,000-plus to the School of Medicine, $91,162 to the Speed School, $21,035 to athletics and $13,050 to the College of Arts & Sciences, among others.

Some may question or impugn his management style, but his track record of contributions to UofL is unassailable.

Attend every UofL game with the Golden Ticket

Two tickets to every University of Louisville basketball and football game during the 2018-19 season? How about the Oaks and Kentucky Derby in May? The Louisville Bats’ season? The Quaker State 400?

That’s what’s up for grabs in the Louisville Sports Commission’s annual Golden Ticket raffle. Only 400 chances are available at $100 each, with proceeds going to the LSC’s ongoing efforts to attract top-flight sports events to the community.

Not that Card Game would encourage it, but the winner would also have the option of selecting UK tickets. Two tickets to the 2019 Paul Hornung Award Banquet would also be included. 

Click HERE to purchase your ticket.

UofL Trustees cleared some obstacles for Bendapudi

While much has been made of all the time needed to hire the new President, the University of Louisville Board of Trustees was not wasting any time filling some other key positions. A number of their recent actions will enable Neeli Bendapudi to focus on other priorities when she assumes the office on May 15th.

Bendapudi had to be pleased that the Vince Tyra has already been hired as Athletic Director and that Tyra had named Chris Mack as Head Basketball Coach.  Starting from scratch wasn’t an option, the positions needing to be filled quickly to avoid losing basketball players from the current team.

Marketing expertise is exactly what the University of Louisville needs right now, and Bendapudi is uniquely qualified to provide the leadership ...

But there were other openings, equally if not more important to the University, that needed to be addressed. 

Just this week UofL announced the choice for the new Dean of the J.B. Speed Engineering School, vacated by Neville Pinto who filled in f0r the UofL Presidency on an interim basis before becoming President at the University of Cincinnati. Emmanuel Collins, chairman of mechanical engineering at Florida A&M-Florida State, will be Dean starting July 1.

An appointment that didn’t get much attention a while back was that of Colin Crawford as the 24th dean of the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law.  Previously he had served as a professor of environmental law at Tulane University. He has a law degree from Harvard Law School and degrees in modern history from Cambridge and Columbia Universities. 

With so many key positions already filled, Bendapudi will be able to turn her attention to marketing and fundraising, which are her areas of expertise. The direction of the school’s fundraising efforts is in limbo, with Bryan Robinson, who last year succeeded Keith Inman as Interim Vice President for Advancement, having resigned in February.

Before becoming Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor at Kansas, she was Dean of the School of Business, where she increased  undergraduate enrollment in the school by 62 percent, improved undergraduate job placement from 55 percent to 77 percent, and oversaw almost $200 million in fundraising for the school.  She also received many department, school and national teaching awards.

With the appointment of a woman, a person of color, and an individual with a foreign heritage, the UofL Board of Trustees has scored a major public relations victory with the liberal mainstream media. The media agenda of advancing diversity for the sole purpose of diversity is clear, and these advantages can not be overstated.

Marketing expertise is exactly what the University of Louisville needs right now, and Bendapudi is uniquely qualified to provide the leadership that has been sorely missing over the last two years.  The new President has a strong track record of success and, early indications are that she is supremely confident, has amazing enthusiasm, and is determined that UofL will be a much greater university.