In my career as an independent educational consultant, I don’t take normal vacations. As a horse person, I don’t even take normal “show-cations” (that is, a vacation that doubles as a horse show or a horse show that doubles as a vacation). Instead, I, like so many of my colleagues, can never let a trip away from home pass by without squeezing in at least one campus visit.
…which is how I ended up at the University of Kentucky during my recent horse show-cation at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Since the USDF Region 2 Championship schedule allowed me one day off from competing in between my two championship classes, I took advantage of the time and popped over to campus to meet up with a family friend who is a sophomore at the university and who had agreed to be my tour guide on this trip.
(Remember, students, how I’m always telling you to talk to students who aren’t employed by the admission office while you’re on campus? They’re the ones who give you the real scoop – and this tour was a perfect example of that!)
UK is, of course, a substantial university of over 18,000 undergraduates and 7,000 graduate students, but aside from some parking challenges (which is a similar story to all large, urban universities I’ve ever visited), the campus doesn’t feel expansive or overwhelming. One particular challenge that my guide noted for me, however, is the distance between the South Campus neighborhood where she lived as a freshman (and where many of the freshman are placed) and the academic buildings. While the campus recreation facilities and many of the athletic facilities (excluding, of course, the famous Rupp Arena, home of Wildcats basketball) are conveniently located a short walk away from Blanding Tower and its surrounding residence halls, it’s a substantial walk to the majority of the academic buildings.
(Now, while that might not seem like a big deal in general, I always make note of these things because there will inevitably come a frosty morning in November or February when a particularly exhausted student will decide against getting out of a warm bed and making the trek across campus to go to class – but he or she will go work out or play pick up basketball because it isn’t as far to go.)
The South Campus neighborhood dining hall also features a Starbucks for those looking for a quick caffeine pick-me-up but is also well-lit and modern without any of that lingering “dining hall smell” that many campus cafeterias emit. So after checking that out, we headed over to the very impressive William T. Young Library, which is guaranteed to impress both fans of architecture and fans of libraries in general. (I’m a fan of both, so you can tell I was doubly impressed.) The library is also famous to YouTube fans who watched UK students mob the building after the Wildcats basketball triumph over UNC in 2011.
Following our time in the library, we headed over to the academic building where my guide spent most of her freshman year for her classes. Class sizes at UK vary widely depending on the subject, from 20 or so in the UK 101 freshman seminar class to 250 in a lower-level math class, but my guide was emphatic that every professor she’s ever had has been very accessible during their office hours and she’s never felt uncomfortable – even in her large math class – going in to ask questions and get help. Her saying that really emphasized the feel that I was getting that the UK manages to keep the small-campus feel in their large university – which is no mean feat for any school.
As we passed by the statue of former UK president James Kennedy Patterson (the one whose right toe students are supposed to rub for good luck before an exam), my guide said that she was really satisfied with her choice to become a Wildcat and the only two things she would change about her university would be to have better parking (no surprise there!), but also to require all students to live on campus. She feels very close to her classmates and the friends she’s made, but as a sophomore she’s living off-campus (as are many other UK students) and she sometimes misses the interconnectedness that comes with living in a dormitory. Not many other students at large universities would probably say the same thing and that tells me that UK has done a tremendous job of fostering community among their students.
Conclusion? The University of Kentucky is not only a top basketball school with strong academic programs, but it’s also home to a tremendous student body.
Want to know more about UK or other campuses I’ve visited? Contact me today!