President Caboni gives first convocation address

 President Caboni talked about about Strategic Planning and Strategic Doing that was upcoming, including reinstating the spousal tuition benefit, which reduces tuition for spouses of employees of WKU.

Emily DeLetter

Addressing a packed auditorium at Van Meter Hall, WKU’s newest president Timothy C. Caboni said phrase that earned him enthusiastic applause.

“It’s good to be back home,” he said.

Caboni, who has officially been in office since July 1, addressed university faculty, staff, students and the Board of Regents on Friday morning in his first President’s Convocation.

He announced two programs at WKU, one new and one returning. Sodexo has pledged $650,000 over the next 13 years for their employees and dependents to attend the university, beginning Fall 2017.

Spousal tuition benefits will also be reinstated, beginning during the Fall 2017 semester, Caboni said. Caboni thanked the audience for their work at the university, reminding them that their “work is crucial.”

“Access without success is access to nothing,” Caboni said. “Your work is crucial to our mission.”

Caboni also spoke about his vision for the future of WKU, and where he hoped to lead the university in the coming years. He emphasized working as a community to develop a plan for the future.

“The question posed most often to me is ‘What is your vision for WKU?’ but I would argue that the more important question is ‘What is our collective vision for our university?’” Caboni said. “I want us to engage in that conversation as a community.”

He said he plans to take a closer look at all international efforts, and hopes to streamline all international programs under a “single umbrella.” Gordon Johnson was appointed as interim chief international officer for the 2017-2018 school year, and will lead a task force examining all international efforts.

Caboni noted the difficulty of change, but the optimism and possibility it brings, and began to lay out his plan for change within the university. He said he was beginning by meeting with “dozens” of stakeholders, faculty, staff, students, alumni donors, and other to discuss their aspirations for the university.

“What makes us different and better is we always have been a student-centered university,” Caboni said. “Their success is central to who we are, and that must remain our core mission in which we organize our efforts.”

Caboni said his main goal was to work together to help students succeed in all aspects of university life and beyond.

He said he has plans within the next several months to engage an intense strategic planning process that will reflect the collective vision of the university’s stakeholders, to ensure that they are focusing on the core mission of a student-centered “applied research university.”

Caboni also plans to revamp the university’s system of budgeting. He said the way resources were allocated across the university was constructed in “a different era,” and plans to make the processes more flexible and strategic.

“It is often far more difficult to end than to begin, but we will do both,” Caboni said.

The physical campus was mentioned, and audience members were told while the campus was beautiful, other priorities would be put first, including investments in people and in programs rather than construction.

Caboni will co-chair a 10 to 14 member committee for the strategic planning process. Four to six working groups will also be appointed, and with several major goals. Among those goals are academic excellence, student success, and scholarship and creative endeavors.

Caboni said the university has shifted their financial aid strategy to reach a broader group of students.

“Burdening a young person with loan debt who has reasonable chance of succeeding here stands in direct contrast to our mission, and we should not do it,” Caboni said.

Caboni mentioned the recent events in Charlottesville, and emphasized the importance of reaffirming the university’s values as an institution.

“Bigotry and hate have no place on this campus,” Caboni said.

Reporter Emily DeLetter can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected].