Community Engagement

Addressing the needs and interests of our diverse communities locally, statewide, nationally and internationally.


UofL wins NCAA community service competition

New clinical site for the School of Dentistry expands reach to western Kentucky

Engage Lead Serve Board's MLK Day of Service garnered 235 volunteers

The student-led Engage Lead Serve Board's MLK Day of Service garnered 235 volunteers Monday, a record turnout. They helped pack warm kits for the homeless, stocked shelves at a food pantry, assembled medical binders, and much more at 12 area nonprofits: Brooklawn and Bellewood, La Casita Center, Critically Loved, The Food Literacy Project, Americana Community Center, KY Science Center, Harbor House of Louisville, Dream Factory Inc, Lampton Baptist Church, UofL composting project, UofL Garden Commons and Dreams with Wings Inc.

UofL research about fighting human trafficking getting extra attention in January

UofL researchers joined Gov. Andy Beshear at a Jan. 7 Capitol Rotunda news conference to raise human trafficking awareness. UofL graduate students Tara Sexton, Emily Edwards and Victoria Dobson are shown with Jennifer Middleton (center), associate professor of social work and director of the Human Trafficking Research Institute. Credit Timothy D. Easley.
UofL researchers joined Gov. Andy Beshear Jan. 7 at a Capitol Rotunda news conference to raise human trafficking awareness. UofL graduate students Tara Sexton, Emily Edwards and Victoria Dobson are show with Jennifer Middleton (center), associate professor of social work and director of the Human Trafficking Research Institute. Credit Timothy D. Easley.

From the state Capitol to Belknap Campus, University of Louisville research about and efforts to fight human trafficking are getting extra attention during National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

UofL will have two new January campus events and offer its 10th annual Human Trafficking Awareness Conference to focus on the issue and to help victims receive aid.

And recent research by UofL’s Human Trafficking Research Institute, announced Jan. 7 in a Capitol Rotunda news conference with Governor Andy Beshear and Attorney General Daniel Cameron, indicates human trafficking, particularly of children and vulnerable youth, occurs at high rates across Kentucky, according to Jennifer Middleton, institute director and associate social work professor.

“These findings serve as a call to action and highlight the need for improved community education and awareness. To respond to this call, we are joining Gov. Andy Beshear, trafficking survivors and our university partners to elevate the conversation here on campus,” she said. “UofL students, staff and faculty can play an important role in preventing and addressing human trafficking in our community.”

The Frankfort announcement included initial results of Project PIVOT (Prevention and Intervention for Victims of Trafficking), which UofL did in partnership with Kentucky’s Department of Community Based Services and the Attorney General’s Office with two-year grant funding of $100,000 from the Kentucky Children’s Justice Act Task Force.

Researchers reviewed 698 reported cases of child trafficking over a five-year period between 2013 and 2018. The review was done primarily to answer the question of what happened to those cases in the child welfare system. Among the findings:

  • A majority of the cases involved family-controlled trafficking, meaning a family member (most often a parent or primary caretaker), gave offenders sexual access to the child in exchange for money, drugs or something else of value.
  • Children trafficked by family members were younger and more likely to have multiple perpetrators than those trafficked by nonfamily.
  • Younger children, rural children and children with previous child welfare involvement were more likely to have multiple perpetrators.
  • The involvement of drugs in child trafficking cases increased significantly during the five-year period.

Project PIVOT results will be used to ascertain gaps, systemic issues and opportunities for enhanced education, training and policy development.

“What we are finding is that the majority of the time, the crime of child trafficking isn’t being carried out by strangers passing through our towns,” Middleton said. “This has implications for how we educate our communities about child trafficking as well as how we prepare child welfare workers and first responders to identify and respond to potential child victims. Community awareness and enhanced training for professionals are key to preventing and addressing child trafficking in our state.”

Beshear invited state leaders, advocates and survivors to help draw awareness to the issue.

“By coercing victims into and profiting from forced labor and commercial sex, human traffickers represent some of the worst of humanity,” the governor said. “As attorney general I was honored to work with so many passionate advocates and survivors to help combat trafficking and as governor I commit to do the same. We will not stop until we end trafficking, and we must all work together to do so.”

Campus events 

Here are details about the free, public campus events:

  • A January 11 film screening and state premiere of “California’s Forgotten Children,” a documentary about child sex trafficking, and panel discussion afterward will be 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. at Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium. Donations will be accepted to fight human trafficking in the community. Reservations are requested and can be made online. UofL’s Kent School of Social Work, UofL’s Women’s Center, Louisville Metro Human Trafficking Task Force and Louisville Metro Office for Women are sponsors.
  • A January 14 Human Trafficking Awareness Resource Fair and discussion will be in the Student Activities Center Ballroom. Featuring numerous agencies, the fair will be 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; stickers and survivor-designed postcards will be provided as part of a national #EndIt campaign. The fair leads into a 1:30-2:30 p.m. Critical Cardinal Conversation on Trafficking and Missing Women of Color by panelists including a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children representative, a parent and former police officer. Sponsors are the Human Trafficking Research Initiative, Project STAAR, Women’s Center, Cultural Center, Office of Diversity Education and Inclusive Excellence and Women 4 Women Student Board.
  • The 10th annual Human Trafficking Awareness Conference is 5:30-8 p.m. Feb. 11 in the Student Activities Center Ballroom. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. for a resource fair and light refreshments. Sponsors are the Women’s Center and the Women 4 Women Student Board.

UofL coordinating global education effort to bring kids together on climate change

UofL earns gold seal for excellence in voter engagement

SGA's FancyVille

The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge recently awarded UofL a gold seal for achieving student voting rates up to 49%. 

“Our institution is proud to receive this national recognition for our efforts. Our faculty, staff, administrators and students are committed to working together to reduce apathy, increase engagement and graduate civic-minded students prepared to solve the most pressing challenges facing our country and the world,” said Pam Curtis, director of the Office of Student Involvement.

UofL won a silver award last year. This is UofL’s first year for a gold award. Data reveals a 9.7% increase in UofL’s voting engagement since 2014.

Student participation in elections nationwide has increased from the 2014 midterm election to the recent midterm election. According to Tufts University’s National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, voter turnout at more than 1,000 institutions participating in the study increased by 21 points from 19% to 40%.

“We are excited to honor University of Louisville with an ALL IN Challenge gold seal in recognition of their intentional efforts to increase democratic engagement and full voter participation,” said Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, executive director of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. “More institutions like UofL are changing the culture on campus by institutionalizing nonpartisan democratic engagement efforts that are resulting in the incredible student voter turnout rates that we’ve seen across the country.”

The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is a nonpartisan, national initiative recognizing and supporting campuses as they work to increase nonpartisan democratic engagement and full student voter participation. The Challenge encourages higher education institutions to help students form the habits of active and informed citizenship, and make democratic participation a core value on their campus.

More than 560 campuses, enrolling more than 6.2 million students, have joined the Challenge since its launch in summer 2016.




Expungement clinic offers Louisville Law students hands-on opportunity

- by UofL School of Law News

Louisville Law students volunteer at an expungement clinic on Oct. 26, 2019.
Louisville Law students volunteer at an expungement clinic on Oct. 26, 2019. Clockwise: Alana Johnson, Elias Kang-Bartlett, Seth Wiseman, Maggie Groot, Sofia Calleja.

Several Louisville Law students volunteered at an expungement clinic hosted by the Louisville Urban League last month.

The Reily Reentry Project Expungement Clinic, named for local lawyer and Urban League board member Stephen Reily, drew hundreds of people who wanted to clear their criminal records.

"In law, 'expungement' is the process by which a record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed from state or federal record. An expungement order directs the court to treat the criminal conviction as if it had never occurred, essentially removing it from a defendant’s criminal record as well as, ideally, the public record," according to the American Bar Association.

Having a criminal conviction can make it more difficult to find a job or rent an apartment. But expungements come with fees that can be a barrier to many people; in Kentucky, to expunge a misdemeanor costs $100 and to expunge a felony is $500. Reily committed $100,000 a year for three years to cover the fees from this clinic and clinics planned for the future. Louisville Law students also volunteered at a February 2019 expungement clinic.

"It was an absolute privilege to help the Louisville Urban League provide a service so desperately needed," says Sofia Calleja, Class of 2020. "An expungement of a record can help lift families out of poverty. It opens doors to better jobs with benefits and access to stable housing. It was an amazing learning experience."

See coverage of the October 26, 2019, clinic from WHAS11.

Startup created by UofL alumni makes clean water accessible

Jarui Desai (’18) and UofL senior Praneeth Goli partnered for a project, called the Droplet Water Project, that is providing clean drinking water to those who need it most. After scoping different places and hiring on-site engineers to test the water in those locations, they are able to find the areas where they can make the biggest impact. After choosing a location, they work to secure funding, figure out the logistics and ensure legal compliance.

As of now, they have completed water projects in both India and Columbia. Desai believes very firmly in the mission of their organization and is rewarded by the smiles on young faces as they take that first drink of clean water.

“For the kids, it was exciting to have someone from a different country come in and play with them, but also provide them water,” she said. “But it’s not just the children; it’s the teachers, and their friends and families. The whole village now has access to clean water.”

The project hopes to expand globally, reaching as many underdeveloped communities as possible.

“There are other individuals that people can’t see right now that are in need,” Desai said. “We’ve been able to open other people’s minds up and get them to realize world topics.”

For the complete story visit

UofL Trager Institute expands health transformation for care of older adults across Kentucky

Students participating in educational curriculum through GWEP funding
Students participating in educational curriculum through GWEP funding

The renewal of a substantial grant will allow the University of Louisville Trager Institute to build on the success of programs aimed at care coordination, professional education, community building and Alzheimer’s and dementia awareness.

The Health Resources and Services Administration has renewed the institute’s $3.75 million grant to expand its Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) throughout Kentucky. The previous funding awarded in 2015 focused on areas in and around Louisville; the new funding will help the institute reach all 120 counties in the Commonwealth.

The UofL Schools of Law, Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing and the Kent School of Social Work will be part of this program to help individuals optimally age by intervening in multiple facets of care which include patients, their families and caregivers, interdisciplinary health professionals, practice models, health care systems and communities.

“This grant renewal speaks to the success of our Trager Institute, and we are deeply honored to be recognized at a federal level for our success and promise of future achievements to dramatically improve the health and well-being of older adults throughout Kentucky,” said UofL President Neeli Bendapudi.

“To date, we have helped more than 300 older adults move toward the goal of optimal aging and we have trained more than 3,500 learners,” said Anna Faul, PhD, executive director of the UofL Trager Institute. “Our outcomes include the development of our nationally recognized Flourish Index which assesses the degree to which a patient is flourishing in six determinants of health. We’ve also had numerous publications and have included our model of care at the Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic.”

During the next five years, the program seeks to address the following core health needs of older adults in Kentucky:

  • High levels of chronic conditions and poor quality of life among older adults
  • Lack of a robust rural primary care system, particularly the low number of geriatricians
  • Lack of quality nursing home care in rural areas
  • The need to create age-friendly emergency departments
  • The need to coordinate coalitions and community stakeholders to maximize the potential of population health initiatives within rural environments
  • The need to train a health care workforce that can deliver culturally appropriate services to the growing Hispanic populations
  • Lack of knowledge among health care professionals about the need for alternative pain management strategies to address the risk of opioid misuse
  • The need for dementia-friendly communities and compassionate care for people with Alzheimer’s and related dementia

Goals of the expanded efforts include strengthened partnerships, professional education for health care providers as well as students, community building and Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias training using the institute’s own Compassionate Care curriculum.

Several hundred ‘Cards Come Together’ to serve community

Several hundred UofL faculty, staff, students and alumni flocked to several sites across the campus and city for the university’s inaugural week of service last week. 
Several hundred UofL faculty, staff, students and alumni flocked to several sites across the campus and city for the university’s inaugural week of service last week. 

Several hundred UofL faculty, staff, students and alumni flocked to several sites across the campus and city for the university’s inaugural week of service last week. 

Cards Come Together service opportunities included a community cleanup in Old Louisville, a composting project, a beautification project with New Directions and volunteering at the Americana Community Center’s fall festival. In addition, daily on-campus donation drives benefited Dare to Care, Volunteers of America Shelby Men’s Recovery program, Jefferson County Public School students and Catholic Charities of Louisville. 

President Neeli Bendapudi and Athletics Director Vince Tyra kicked off the week of service at the Red Barn during the Wear Red to be Fed cookout. Bendapudi asked the crowd to “…think of Cards Come Together as University of Louisville’s love letter to the city of Louisville.”

To show their passion, participants, including a slew of student-athletes, traveled to Old Louisville to begin the community cleanup by landscaping community green space.

Volunteers also painted faces and pumpkins at the Americana Community Center’s fall festival, painted and landscaped a Germantown house at the New Directions Housing Corporation beautification project and sifted worms in super soil and turned compost using pitchforks and shovels at the community composting project.

Niki King, communications and marketing specialist, participated in the community composting project and said the week of service fostered a sense of pride as part of the UofL family.

“I’m passionate about sustainability, so I was excited to have this opportunity to work on composting as part of Cards Come Together,” said King. “During the composting project, we learned that UofL has the only community compost in Metro Louisville, which made me appreciate just how vital UofL’s leadership is for the region’s sustainability efforts.” 

King also pointed out that the service projects offered a rejuvenating change to the normal work day.

“I largely work at a desk all day. It was nice to have a change of pace and work with my hands in the outdoors for a bit,” she said. “It was refreshing.”

UofL Hite Art Institute and Louisville Visual Arts partner for OPEN STUDIO WEEKEND

Open Studio Weekend


Artists from all over Louisville will open their doors Nov. 2 and 3 for Open Studio Weekend 2019. The event, co-hosted by UofL’s Hite Art Institute and Louisville Visual Art, gives everyone the opportunity to step inside studios all over Louisville where they can meet artists and experience how and where local art is made.

This is the seventh annual Open Studio Weekend, featuring more than 100 artists in all visual media. Established professionals, exciting newcomers and students, alumni and faculty from Hite Art Institute will share their work in unique studio spaces. 

This year, the public may visit inside the Hite Art Institute’s new MFA Studio facility, a renovated warehouse at 1606 Rowan St. in the historic Portland neighborhood. Hite faculty and MFA students operate studios there in a range of media, including ceramics, drawing, fiber, glass, painting, printmaking, sculpture, mixed media, book arts and design.

This year also continues a partnership with LouVelo Bike Share, which makes free bike rentals available to OSW attendees from noon to 6 p.m. Nov. 2 and 3.
In addition, a distinguished panel of curators from around the region will select works by participating artists to showcase in the Open Studio Weekend Juried Exhibition at Hite’s Cressman Center for Visual Arts, 100 N. Main St. All are welcome to a free opening reception during the First Friday Hop, 6-8 p.m., Nov. 1. The exhibition is on view through Dec. 14.
Open Studio Weekend is 12-6 p.m., Nov. 2 and 3. Tickets are $12, or $10 for students, art educators and LVA members. A ticket provides access to all participating studios and includes a 60-page publication with maps to studio locations, suggested routes, information, and images of participants’ artworks. Tickets are available on LVA’s website.

All proceeds from the weekend tour benefit the Mary Spencer Nay scholarship at UofL and Children’s Fine Art Classes through LVA.

Participating Hite students, alumni and faculty, with their studio numbers, include: 

Betty Alvarez Painting 14, Britany Baker Drawing 37, Frank Baldwin Painting 29, Megan Bickel Painting 17, Lindsey Bishop Jewelry 36, Anne Borders Painting 29, Tiffany Calvert Painting 14, Rita Cameron Painting 39, Tom Cannady Painting 34, Geoff Carr Photography 20, Don Cartwright Painting 32, Dave Caudill Sculpture 27, Ying Kit Chan Mixed Media 14, Xin Chen Glass 13, Sandra Chu Painting 27, Andrew Cozzens Mixed Media 11, Sabra Crockett Painting 39, Katy Delahanty Mixed Media 12, Linda Erzinger Sculpture 38, Cassie Fischer Painting 36, Elizabeth Foley Printmaking 27, Jeanne Freibert Painting 35, Angie Reed Garner Painting 20, Will Garner Drawing 20, Terri Gilmore Sculpture 41, Johnny Gordon Glass 34, Jen Grove Calligraphy 23, Claudia Hammer Painting 19, Kaitlin Hennessy Mixed Media 23, Bryan Holden Sculpture 17, Noah Howard Mixed Media 12, Casey Hyland Glass 19, Dawn Johnston Painting 33, Joanna Jorgensen Jewelry 33, Kyle Keeney Mixed Media 35, Megan Kociscak Painting 40, Marti Kuehn Painting 34, Lisa Kurtz Ceramics 29, Lori Larusso Painting 11, Erica Lewis Drawing 16, Debra Lott Painting 44, Aaron Lubrick Painting 29, Scott Massey Sculpture 14, James Russell May Painting 37, Helen Merrick Painting 45, Melanie Miller Glass 19, Nancy Gordon Moore Painting 31, Deb Ogburn Mixed Media 34, Chris Owens Mixed Media 38, Peggy Peabody Painting 33, Amy Pender Glass 33, Tara Remington Mixed Media 11, Rosalie Rosenthal Photography 11, Catherine Rubin Painting 32, Debbie Shannon Printmaking 32, Danny Seim Mixed Media 12, Rachel Singel Printmaking 15, Stacy Staggs Painting 37, Debby Stratford Printmaking 31, Chuck Swanson Mixed Media 31, Victor Sweatt Painting 12, Rachid Tagoulla Photography 13, Maria Tinnell Fiber 40, Susan Tolliver Painting 44, Mark Traughber Drawing 19, Caroline Waite Mixed Media 31, Xuanyi Wang Painting 17, Katherine Watts Printmaking 15, Cletus Wilcox Mixed Media 23 and Jingshuo Yang Painting 16.

One of UofL’s first black nursing students receives proclamation highlighting her influence in Louisville

UofL alum Flora Ponder
UofL alum Flora Ponder

Last week, Flora Ponder received a proclamation from former Louisville Mayor Harvey Sloane highlighting her influence in Louisville. Ponder was one of the University of Louisville’s first black nursing students, attending school in 1954 during the peak of segregation. 

She was inspired by her great-grandmother to attend nursing school and was the first African-American nursing student to live in the student nurses’ home. At that time, Louisville General Hospital was the teaching and research hospital for the UofL Medical School.

According to WHAS11, Ponder spent her career working to meet the health care needs of the underserved in collaboration with Sloane, who was a physician. She served as the head nurse of recovery and the Intensive Care Unit at the Louisville General Hospital from 1957-1958, and went on to serve as the head nurse at the Louisville and Jefferson County Health Department form 1959-1965. 

Ponder helped to establish and served as the Director of Nurses at the Park-DuValle Community Health Center. She assisted in establishing the first emergency transportation service at Park-DuValle, which later expanded to the city of Louisville. This evolved into what is today the Louisville EMS Service. 

Ponder currently serves as a nursing consultant to various health organizations. She is listed in the Profiles of Contemporary Black Achievers of Kentucky and the Notable Kentucky African American database.

In 1987, Ponder was recognized as an Adopted Alumna and is now a 2019 Alumni Award winner.

Anne Braden Institute receives award for research on history of the LGBTQ movement in Kentucky

-- via UofL College of Arts & Sciences

The Anne Braden Institute has received the 2019 southern regional W. K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award. The award was given for their collaboration with the Fairness Campaign to research and write the 1st LGBTQ State Historic Context in the nation, housed at the National Park Service.

Visit to read more about it and to download the Full KY LGBTQ Historic Context document.

Also, Cate Fosl, Director of the Anne Braden Institute and Chris Hartman, Director of the Fairness Campaign joined Mark Hebert on UofL Today discuss their project and the history of the LGBTQ movement in Kentucky.

Listen now

UofL prepares for inaugural week of service event, Cards Come Together

UofL faculty, staff, students and alumni are invited to participate in Cards Come Together October 22-25

Registration is now open for the University of Louisville’s inaugural Cards Come Together event, a week of service to improve the campus and community October 22-25.

The goal for Cards Come Together is to have 1,000 UofL community members, including faculty, staff, students and alumni, participate in the event. Participants will complete projects both on campus and at off-campus sites throughout Louisville. 

“One of the things that drew me to this university was its strong to commitment to improving the city of Louisville,” said President Neeli Bendapudi. “I’m so excited for us to work together as a cardinal family to showcase how much good we can do.”

Service opportunities during Cards Come Together include a UofL community composting project, community cleanup in Old Louisville, New Directions Beautification project in the Highlands and assisting with the Americana Community Center Fall Festival. Daily donation drive opportunities on campus will benefit various organizations, including Volunteers of America’s Shelby Men’s Recovery program, Dare to Care, Jefferson County Public Schools and Catholic Charities of Louisville.

“The University of Louisville takes pride in its role as a metropolitan research university,” said Ralph Fitzpatrick, vice president for community engagement and co-chair of the Cards Come Together Committee. “This week of service provides another opportunity for the university community to come together to fully engage in the welfare and vitality of the Louisville metro area.”

Participants must register in advance for Cards Come Together’s service opportunities at Participation is entirely voluntary.  This is not a work-related activity under the university workers compensation program. Staff can use Community Service Leave, but should obtain supervisor approval before registering to participate.


UofL fraternity brothers dedicate summer to service

Pi Kappa Phi brothers and UofL students Antonio Burgess and Mahfouz Matthew Batshoun volunteered for The Ability Experience in the summer of 2019.
Pi Kappa Phi brothers and UofL students Antonio Burgess and Mahfouz Matthew Batshoun volunteered for The Ability Experience in the summer of 2019.

Mahfouz Matthew Batshoun and Antonio Burgess finished the spring semester and were ready to embark on a long-awaited summer – one, looking back, they now call life-changing.

While their friends packed bags for glamorous retreats to international destinations or tropical climates, the pair of UofL students and Pi Kappa Phi brothers chose to be part of their fraternity’s long-standing philanthropic initiative, The Ability Experience.

Each summer, members of Pi Kappa Phi trek across the country and participate in one of six nationally-known programs that are part of The Ability Experience, a nonprofit organization aimed at building relationships and empowering people living with disabilities.

Batshoun found one program that captured him immediately, Build America. The six-week-long event focuses on building or repairing accessible amenities for camps, specifically created to give those who have disabilities a summer camp experience.


Mahfouz Matthew Batshoun working on a project in Arizona during the summer of 2019 as part of The Ability Experience.
Mahfouz Matthew Batshoun working on a project in Arizona during the summer of 2019 as part of The Ability Experience.


“My great aunt was paralyzed from the waist down and before she passed away, she worked incredibly hard to push for equality for the community of people with disabilities in Kentucky, including things like the integration of accessible parking,” Batshoun said.

The sophomore from Northern Kentucky first traveled to Boston, where he and his 10-member team spent time bonding and receiving training on how to correctly use power tools. The group visited with and worked with campers in Ohio, Colorado, Arizona and California. At the end of each trip, Batshoun said his team presented a $5,000 grant from the money raised to each camp to aid in future projects.

Of the many memories he’ll carry with him, Batshoun’s time at Colorado Lions Camp stood out in particular. During a project, his team worked on repairing a wheelchair ramp for the girls’ cabin. One day, the only camper in a wheelchair asked Batshoun if he could test the ramp after it was finished.

“The next workday finished and we finally completed the wheelchair ramp, so I waited until after dinner to tell Easton that we finished the ramp and we were ready for him to test it out,” Batshoun recalled. “We walked up to the cabin and he started to go up the ramp. Once he got to the top, he had the brightest, purest smile I had ever seen on his face, and it was at that instant I truly knew the impact that The Ability Experience has.”

Though it’s impossible to predict memories like that, Batshoun said it didn’t take much convincing for him to dedicate his summer to The Ability Experience.

Batshoun’s friend Davin Newsome, also a Pi Kappa Phi member at UofL, worked with Build America in 2017 and convinced him to do it as well. 

“Davin was not wrong at all. Build America was by far the most impactful and memorable seven weeks of my entire life. From the lifelong brothers I spent every waking hour with for seven weeks to the countless amount of lives we impacted along the way, this was without a doubt the summer of a lifetime,” Batshoun, a sophomore, said.


Antonio Burgess and his team rode from San Francisco to Washington D.C. as part of The Ability Experience in the summer of 2019.
Antonio Burgess and his team rode from San Francisco to Washington D.C. as part of The Ability Experience in the summer of 2019.


Burgess elected Journey of Hope, a cycling trip in which three teams ride to spread a message of acceptance and understanding for people with disabilities to Washington D.C., with starting destinations in Seattle, San Francisco and Santa Barbara.

Training started May 27, and the team left June 9 from San Francisco to begin their cross-country voyage, with all three teams converging on Capitol Hill.

As the north route’s crew chief, Burgess led a 29-member team on a trip that lasted 63 days. One of their stops included a two-day stint in Grand Island, Nebraska, where Burgess recalls spending “every moment” with people, sharing meals and visiting their workplaces. He said lunch at a park constructed by brothers of Pi Kappa Phi was easily the highlight.

“The two mothers who gave us the tour of the park have been around Journey of Hope and Build America for nearly two decades and so have their kids,” the Lake Mary, Florida, native said. “One of the mothers had a daughter with a disability in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Her daughter, because of her disability, always had trouble connecting with people until she met cyclist and brother Jason Tirado. He made a lasting impact on her and her family and stayed active in their lives before he sadly passed away in 2000.

“When my team heard that story, we were all moved to tears because both of the mothers were also getting emotional and you can see how much of an impact he had and what he meant to the people of Grand Island, as well as what Journey of Hope and brothers of Pi Kappa Phi mean to the community.”

Beyond the sentimental impact, the three teams contributed financially, combining to raise more than $600,000 and helping more than 3,000 people.

As much as Batshoun and Burgess know they played a significant role in improving the lives of others, Burgess also realizes how much the program impacted him personally.

“Journey of Hope has made me into a better servant leader and in turn has made me want to become a better man, a better citizen, a better friend, a better brother,” Burgess said. “I will continue to dedicate my time and efforts to helping serve the lives of people with disabilities and continue to give back to my local community wherever I am.”

UofL to collaborate on engineering-focused research with University of Dubai

UofL administrators, including President Neeli Bendapudi, and University of Dubai administrators, including President Eesa Bastaki.
UofL administrators, including President Neeli Bendapudi, and University of Dubai administrators, including President Eesa Bastaki.

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi and Provost Beth Boehm recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the president of University of Dubai (UD).

Eesa Bastaki, president of UD, talked with UofL administrators about cooperation between the two universities that will enable engineering students to collaborate and perform research activities together.

Bastaki said UD is especially eager to give its students more exposure to industry. Bendapudi noted UofL’s industry relationships are one of the school’s many strengths, citing a recent partnership with IBM as one example.

“We’re perfectly poised in Louisville,” Bendapudi said. “We have so many opportunities for growth. We will make sure your students have a rich experience.”

Bendapudi said she hoped the agreement would lead to more study abroad opportunities for UofL students.

“People’s minds change when they travel,” she noted. UD is in the United Arab Emirates.

The memorandum was also signed by Emmanuel Collins, dean of the J.B. Speed School of Engineering. Hussain Al Ahmad, dean of UD’s College of Engineering & IT, will sign at a later date. The agreement will be in effect for five years.

UofL’s Gray Street Farmers Market created to fight a food desert

fruits and vegetables on a table at a farmers market
Fresh produce at the Gray Street Farmers Market

Walking among the booths at the Gray Street Farmers Market fills one’s senses with a vibrancy that can only be a result of fresh produce and summertime. Excited customers exchanged recipes with enthusiastic vendors and as they rifled through local goods during the market’s UofL Day on Aug. 2.

Customers shopping for produce at a farmers market
UofL Day at the Gray Street Farmers Market

The celebration was in advance of National Farmers Market Week Aug. 4-10. Farmers markets act as vital resources for families to get locally sourced produce which increases healthy eating habits and boosts the local economy.

The Gray Street Farmers Market was co-founded in 2009 between UofL’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences (SPHIS) and the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health Wellness. Together, they work toward relieving the food desert that exists in downtown Louisville.

“We’re in the middle of an increased need to provide fresh produce within downtown Louisville, specifically to those on food assistance programs,” said Sara Frazier, Gray Street Farmers Market manager.

Locally-grown produce can often be viewed as a commodity for only those who can afford it, according to Frazier. The Gray Street Farmers Market addresses the issue with its Dollar for Dollar program, which matches SNAP recipients’ benefits up to $20. The service is provided through donations and numerous fundraising opportunities, including a silent auction available on the market’s website during August.  There is also an Elevate campaign for those wishing to donate directly to the Dollar for Dollar program. 

A vendor weighs produce at the Gray Street Farmers Market.
A vendor weighs produce at the Gray Street Farmers Market.

The market runs every Thursday from mid-May to Oct. 31, 2019 – rain or shine. It operates from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with lunch options available through vendors and weekly food truck rotations. The market’s governance committee reviews all vendor applications to ensure the products are local and will be a good fit. They want there to be a variety of high quality options for our customers. 

Visitors can expect homegrown or homemade products including fruits and vegetables, canned goods, hand-crafted products, artisan coffee and more. Most vendors accept cash, card or tokens. Tokens are available at the information booth in order to help those who need currency exchanged onsite.

More information on the Gray Street Farmers Market is available online.

UofL, community college partners hit reverse degree milestone

UofL president Neeli Bendapudi, 55,000 Degrees executive director Mary Gwen Wheeler and JCTC CEO Ty Handy
UofL president Neeli Bendapudi, 55,000 Degrees executive director Mary Gwen Wheeler and JCTC CEO Ty Handy

The University of Louisville and its community college partners have announced a major milestone – 1,000 reverse degrees have been awarded since fall 2013.

Those partners include the Jefferson Community and Technical College, Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, Owensboro Community and Technical College and Ivy Tech Community College.

The announcement was made Wednesday by UofL President Neeli Bendapudi, who was joined by JCTC CEO Ty Handy and Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of 55,000 Degrees, a Louisville organization that works to improve education attainment.

A reverse degree is an associate’s degree or a certificate that’s awarded by community colleges to their former students who have transferred to UofL and earned at least 60 total credits, including a minimum of 15 from the community college.

“This is simply a matter of giving credit where credit is due. These reverse degrees recognize the hard work students are already doing. We’re just giving them what they’ve already earned,” Bendapudi said. “This program is the perfect example of the university and community college partners working together to increase the number of people with secondary degrees.” 

Bendapudi notes that UofL’s is the first formal reverse degree program in the state.

Former JCTC students have been the most frequent beneficiaries of UofL’s program with 777 of them having received more than 1,000 reverse degrees in the past six years.

“We all know somebody where life got in the way and it took them longer to complete their bachelor’s degree than you would expect them to,” Handy said. “Most of us tend to think of college as a four year experience – you’re in, you’re out, you’re on with life – and that is just not the pattern people follow anymore, especially in urban markets like Louisville. This partnership is critical to us because many of these students take longer to finish their degree and that credential gives them an opportunity for better work.”

Indeed, Wheeler said more than 65% of local jobs now require training beyond high school. However, only 43% of people in the community have those credentials.

The reverse degree program tends to motivate students to finish their degrees. The latest data on reverse degree recipients shows that 85% of students are retained at UofL, and 62% of participants who received a reverse degree have graduated with a bachelor’s degree from UofL.

“Increasing those opportunities is important, not just for the community but also because it correlates with a better quality of life,” she said.

Wheeler also points to this program as one of the reasons the city of Louisville has been recognized as an innovation hub

“We want seamless pathways for students in Louisville to be able to complete their bachelor’s degree,” Handy said.

More from the press conference is available below: 


International Service Learning Program offers chance to expand horizons


UofL study results released addressing city’s homelessness

A homeless person's belongings. Photo courtesy of

Louisville Metro Government and the Coalition for the Homeless have released the results of a five-month assessment outlining the process of applying best practices to Louisville’s Continuum of Care (CoC), a process developed by HUD that helps communities address homelessness in a coordinated, comprehensive and strategic way.


Susan Buchino, PhD, OTR/L, led the UofL research team
Susan Buchino, PhD, OTR/L, led the UofL research team


The University of Louisville’s Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky (CIK) and Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research (CCTSJR) conducted the study, thanks to $50,000 from Louisville Metro. With a transdisciplinary research model that spans beyond traditional academia, CIK and CCTSJR provide infrastructure for researchers to find solutions  to complex social problems, recognizing that problem solving requires expertise from multiple disciplines in partnership with the community.  

As a community, Louisville attempts to address homelessness in a coordinated and comprehensive manner, using data to identify gaps in services and streamlining the use of valuable community resources. In the past year, new property developments and attempts to enforce community safety have displaced homeless camps, leaving unsheltered individuals to collect on downtown streets and under overpasses.

In response, Mayor Fischer’s Homeless Encampment Task Force engaged researchers from CIK and CCTSJR to support their work with the following specific aims:

  1. To determine national best practices to address street homelessness.
  2. To provide an assessment of the existing service system for individuals experiencing homelessness in Louisville.
  3. To perform a gap analysis between Louisville’s existing services and best practices, with recommendations on policies, practices and funding, to aid Louisville in progressing toward reducing the number of individuals who remain unsheltered.

The study recommendations are outlined below:

  1. Expand and evolve homeless services. Ensure individuals experiencing a housing crisis have access to the single point of entry system at all times. Reinforce the Housing First model and trauma-informed care within the Continuum of Care, such that a centralized case management team provides the accompaniment needed to navigate a complex system, resolve barriers and move into and maintain a home.
  2. Revise encampment policies. Expand policies to shift focus from clearing to providing needed services, including hygiene facilities and housing assistance. When clearances are required, ensure that campers not only receive notice of a clearing, but that they are required to be offered and assisted with storage and shelter options.
  3. Offer multiple low-barrier shelters in locations throughout Jefferson County. To ensure everyone has access to shelter and feels safe, emergency shelters should be smaller, designed for specific subpopulations, meet Americans with Disabilites Act standards and offer a staff to guest ratio that supports trauma-informed care. Emergency shelters should be used as a touch-point to link guests with wraparound services.
  4. Improve collaboration. Resolving homelessness requires the participation of everyone. Communication and collaboration among service providers and across sectors is imperative.
  5. Housing and community development. Prioritize affordable housing in Louisville, especially to meet the needs of households with income below 30 percent Area Median Income ($25,100 for a family of four). As needed, revise zoning ordinances to achieve this.
  6. Address root causes of homelessness beyond housing. Create policies to raise the minimum wage and revise policies that create barriers to employment and housing for individuals who have been in the criminal justice system.
  7. Promote community education and engagement. Develop a comprehensive public awareness campaign that sets achievable goals, involves multi-sector participation and is aimed at multiple audiences (individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness, advocates and service providers, and the general public).
  8. Evaluate the outcomes of new policies and programs.

“It’s critical to recognize that homelessness is a result of a system that perpetuates discrimination and creates poverty. This study reveals that we must strengthen the connectivity between services and providers, as well as across sectors, and employ an approach of accompaniment, whereby our community meets individuals where they are and walks with them on the journey to stability,” said Susan Buchino, PhD, OTR/L, assistant professor, UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences, and research study lead from UofL’s CIK and CCTSJR.

“We are all aware that we have a homeless crisis in Louisville,” said Natalie Harris, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless. “This problem will only get worse through the proposed cuts to preventative services that are currently funded by Louisville Metro Government. We need the community to step up and demand that vital resources provided by the Office of Resilience and Community Services, the External Agency Funds and Neighborhood Development Funds are preserved and expanded using the guidance outlined for us in the University of Louisville report released this week.”

“We appreciate the hard work and collaboration among all of our partners, and especially the Coalition for the Homeless and University of Louisville,” said Mayor Greg Fischer.  “It will take a united community to address the complex issue of homelessness.”

Featured photo courtesy of

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