Community Engagement

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


Internship and co-op opportunities rise despite global pandemic


Amber Kleitz '18 interned at KFC during her undergraduate years at UofL.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on health guidelines, business operation procedures and how students are able to receive their education. But for UofL students, the pandemic hasn’t dampened one vital area of the college experience – experiential learning opportunities.

According to the University Career Center, internships, co-op and experiential learning listings for 2019-2020 increased by 72% over the previous year. The bulk of the listings increased prior to the pandemic, but while COVID-19 stalled the workforce, it didn’t stop Cardinals from seeking and finding outside-the-classroom opportunities – even if they looked a little different.

Stuart Esrock, faculty-in-residence at the University Career Center, and Bill Fletcher, director of the University Career Center, acknowledge the increase in experiential learning opportunities during a global pandemic is surprising, but they say it makes sense from an economic perspective.

Listings of internships and co-op opportunities initially took a dive in March and April, when stay-at-home orders were issued, but the center began to see a slight increase in June. “Some of that increase in June was really because we began to see an increase in the economy overall,” Esrock said.

The increase is good news for students. UofL strongly encourages adding a real-world component to the undergraduate experience. Participating in internships and co-ops helps students build a skill set that extends past a classroom setting, network with future colleagues and business contacts, discover what they are passionate about and what they dislike, and earn work experience while still completing an undergraduate degree

Fletcher and Esrock said experiential learning offers a well-rounded educational experience, but most importantly, sets UofL students apart in the competitive job market. That’s even more crucial as the pandemic continues to affect the workforce. As Fletcher believes it will take longer than expected to recover economically from the pandemic, he stressed the importance of gaining work experience where available.

He added that the University Career Center has adapted its services to make sure students are prepared for a new sense of workplace normalcy, when everything from interviews to hiring is being done virtually.

The center has a plethora of resources to prepare students for the virtual workplace. It has virtual interview etiquette tips, mock interviews, appointments with a career coach, resume review, and other resources to help students figure out what career path they are interested in pursuing.

“We want to give students a realistic view of what’s going on in the world right now, about the job market, but we don’t want them to give up hope,” Esrock said. 

UofL’s contribution to Louisville’s ‘equitable economic recovery’ featured in Forbes

The University of Louisville is teaming up with business leaders to launch the Artificial Intelligence Innovation Consortium, a first-of-its kind alliance for the city.
The University of Louisville is teaming up with business leaders to launch the Artificial Intelligence Innovation Consortium, a first-of-its kind alliance for the city.

The City of Louisville was recently in the spotlight for a Forbes article about “equitable economic recovery.” What that means exactly is the ability to meet the demands of various industries and the educational and training opportunities available to employees in all stages of their careers.

This idea of equitable economic recovery is critical right now, especially. The story cites data that shows from February through August 2020, the number of workers who lost their jobs permanently due to COVID-19 rose by 2.1 million to 3.4 million — an over 60% increase.

The author identified Louisville as a benchmark city for equitable recovery, looking at Humana’s role specifically, and a partnership the company has with other community organizations, including the University of Louisville. As one of the city’s largest employers, Humana and the health insurance sector at large have been less impacted by the pandemic than other industries. Conversely, the company represents a sector of the economy that is still growing and, therefore, building in-demand skills.

Technology is Louisville’s fastest-growing job sector, Humana SVP Roger Cude told the publication, which is driving local business leaders to increasingly adopt a “digital-first mindset.”

“But like other communities, Louisville-area businesses are struggling to find qualified applicants for those jobs,” he said, adding that the pandemic is “creating new and unexpected challenges and accelerating the imperative for businesses to evolve.”

Simply put, there is a greater need than ever for digital and analytical skills. This is where FutureLou comes in. The coalition entails private, public and academic leaders in the region, including the University of Louisville. These players are combining resources to “create a future-ready local workforce through training and development in high-demand data science skills and capabilities,” Cude explained.

Notably, that training is free for Louisville residents.

“The goal of the FutureLou initiative is to provide a pathway for displaced or underemployed workers to upskill into industry-aligned careers that provide stability and resilience during this period of disruption. By providing both financial support and job search guidance, we’re reducing the barriers to reskilling for digital jobs and helping Louisville residents earn credentials that will have high demand now and for the future,” Cude said.

The program is a partnership between Microsoft and Louisville Metro Government, in tandem with the General Assembly, Kentuckiana Works and a virtual “micro-campus” team.

Also as part of this effort, UofL’s Center for Digital Transformation website became a strategic partner in Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s 30-day Data Upskilling Challenge Initiative earlier this year. The program encouraged residents to access free online, self-paced, data skills training through a COVID-19-related effort by the city’s Future of Work Initiative, also powered by Microsoft.

This isn’t the only “future-proofing” effort UofL is involved in to advance the city of Louisville and its equitable recovery. 

Last year, the university teamed up with The Humana Foundation and Interapt to bring a paid, immersive training program that teaches high-demand IT skills to the underemployed and unemployed in the community. The program, called “Louisville Skills,” provided individuals with the opportunity to build the technical, business and life skills necessary to work in fast-paced, high-tech environment, preparing them to launch promising careers in the tech industry.

Interapt’s training program has been called “a national model of creating next-generation opportunity.” The Louisville Skills program marks the first time Interapt partnered with a major university.

Also last year, UofL became part of a new Artificial Intelligence Innovation Consortium, an alliance that also includes Amazon Web Services, GE Appliances, Amgen, V-Soft Consulting and other companies. This alliance is the first-of-its-kind for the city. 

In February, UofL received a nearly $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to build a program that prepares students for the ever-evolving, technology-enabled “jobs of tomorrow.” The UofL Modern Apprenticeship Pathways to Success (MAPS) program is funded through the DoL’s “Apprenticeships: Closing the Skills Gap” initiative. UofL was one of just 28 public-private partnerships funded under this federal program in its most recent round, and is the only one in Kentucky.

Finally, last year, UofL and IBM announced a partnership that includes the establishment of an IBM Skills Academy focused on digital learning and technology skills. Like Interapt’s initiative, this skills academy is the first of its kind that IBM has developed with a higher education institution.

Specifically, the academy will provide curriculum and educational tools concentrated on eight fast-growing technology areas: artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, cybersecurity, cloud computing, internet of things, quantum computing, data science and design thinking.

It is estimated that over 120 million jobs will be affected within the next three years by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, that number may even be higher and upskilling through these areas is more important.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg of what UofL is focused on, or plans to focus on in the near term. One of UofL’s identified “Grand Challenges,” for example, is “engineering our future economy.” This means, in part, honing our research to focus on developing and harnessing technological advancements for the digital and robotic transformation of the workforce.

As President Neeli Bendapudi said when the IBM partnership was announced: “It is important for us to be nimble with this, to be truly transformative, to say, ‘We see what’s coming, how can we be proactive?’”

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UofL receives new funding to support innovative health programs for Kentucky high school students

School of Nursing faculty help administer first group of COVID-19 vaccinations to eligible Kentuckians


School of Nursing faculty, pictured with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, help administer first group of COVID-19 vaccinations to eligible Kentuckians


Kentucky joins states across the United States administering its first COVID-19 vaccinations. The vaccination is being offered to health care workers and medical first responders. A mass vaccination site opened on Jan. 4 at Broadbent Arena in Louisville.

At least 15 School of Nursing faculty members are helping provide the manpower for this vaccination initiative and using it as an educational opportunity for students, who will begin volunteering on Jan. 18. Nursing students will help with check in as well as administer vaccinations under faculty supervision.

Each shift will include students primarily from the Master's Entry into Professional Nursing and undergraduate global public health programs.

The School of Nursing is scheduled to volunteer through February and will offer staffing for as long as the immunizations are being offered.


UofL engineering students help K-4 kids learn STEM concepts at home

UofL students and faculty helping with city’s COVID-19 vaccination effort

UofL med students aim to reduce health disparities, engage others in community project series


Amid the turmoil of 2020, Onu Udoh, a second-year student in the University of Louisville School of Medicine, decided it was time to take action to reduce the health disparities that plague underserved communities across Louisville.

So he founded GROW502: A Health Disparities Series to highlight these disparities and begin to make changes. Two other medical students and an undergraduate student from UofL joined him to lead the project, which will include anyone from across the university and the community to who would like to participate in the project’s education, engagement and advocacy events.

First-year medical students Lisa Anakwenze and Zoha Mian, along with Chidum Okeke, a senior UofL undergraduate student and Udoh outlined a multimodal approach to transforming  the 2017 Louisville Health Equity Report into a living representation of the current state of health in Louisville. Through art, new media and virtual workshops, the group will educate community members, students, staff, faculty and health care professionals about health disparities revealed in the report, while simultaneously empowering them to enact change. 

Beginning the week of Feb 8, students across the university are invited to join project leaders and community members in weekly activities focused on education, community engagement, advocacy and edutainment focused on ways to reduce health inequity.

Education panels will be led by Udoh and medical interest groups in ob/gyn, pediatrics, nutrition, neurology and psychiatry.

Anakwenze is leading community engagement by working with community partners such as Feed the West - Change Today, Change tomorrow, Family Health Centers, Louisville Lead Prevention Program, the Kentucky State Health Department and Healthy Babies to provide direct avenues to make a change within the Louisville Metro area.

Mian will lead weekly advocacy workshops to bring local policymakers together with students to advocate for a brighter tomorrow.

Okeke’s team will work to package and market the project, using the power of creative media to present unique perspectives on health disparities in Louisville. With edutainment ranging from infographics to videos to cartoons, the marketing team will create an engaging virtual environment to increase community awareness of the disparities that exist, with the goal of reducing their effects. 

“Overall, the mission of this project is to plant seeds of information and inspiration in our local community that will lead to a long-term reduction in Louisville’s health disparities,” Udoh said. “Our role is to support the sustainable growth of our community as we GROW a better tomorrow.”

Students, professionals and community members are encouraged to participate in the events by signing up through EventBrite. The activities, both live and virtual, and a schedule of events will be published on the group’s website

Over 220 UofL Cardinals participate in Valentine’s Day service project

UofL medical students encourage youth affected by violence to become future healers

UofL College of Business joins OneWest accelerator to help minority business owners succeed

College of Business at night
College of Business at night

The Plan Room, a new business accelerator created by OneWest to assist minority-owned construction companies in developing their businesses, is receiving support for its mission from the University of Louisville College of Business.

The Plan Room, specifically designed as a resource for racial minority contractors and construction business owners to help them grow their businesses, launched with a virtual workshop in February based on curriculum recommendations from UofL College of Business leaders.

“We met with OneWest leadership and developed a focus group to assess the needs of the business community and then developed a curriculum plan,” said Robert Garrett, director of the UofL Forcht Center for Entrepreneurship and chair of Management and Entrepreneurship, who coordinated the effort. “We then identified six areas for workshops to help participants learn specific skills.”

Those skill areas include: landing great projects, developing project management skills, effective networking, management skills and financial management and technology skills specific to the construction industry. Early users of The Plan Room also received access to the College of Business’ Project Management Certificate. UofL faculty will develop the curriculum for project management and management skills.

“We are fortunate to have the partnership and expertise of the UofL College of Business as we develop the curriculum for The Plan Room,” said Evon J. Smith, president and CEO of OneWest, a community development corporation committed to elevating the city through commercial development growth in west Louisville. “Their executive education team jumped right in to get to the essential knowledge and skills related to this industry. This approach is so important, and the UofL team gets it – you have to start from what the clients want, not from an assumption based on any one group’s perspective.”

Garrett said the project is the kind of opportunity the college is eager to engage in to empower the local business community.

“We want to be valuable partners with the community by supporting minority enterprises and helping all constituents of the population be successful. It is our opportunity to be a good neighbor,” Garrett said. “I am genuinely excited to be participating in this project. The Plan Room is very professionally run by committed and passionate people.”

Todd Mooradian, dean of the UofL College of Business, hopes the college will share its strengths in more of these types of projects in the community.

“We hope this is the first of many collaborations between the College of Business and OneWest for the purpose of economic development and wealth creation in our city, with a special commitment to ameliorating legacy disadvantages and improving access for everyone,” Mooradian said. “This effort targets the construction industry, but the college’s core competencies revolve around teaching business skills across sectors, and our mission compels us to invest in using those strengths to improve social and economic justice.”

Emily Vitale, director of business development for OneWest, said the needs assessment and curriculum plan developed by the UofL group were important assets to guide The Plan Room’s activities.

“Thanks to the UofL data collection process, we know the specific areas of competency to focus on with our Minority Business Enterprise construction accelerator programs at The Plan Room – from building and managing the business and projects, to growing and implementing the technology skills that are so prevalent in the construction industry today,” Vitale said.

The first workshop, held Feb. 27, focused on teaching entrepreneurs how to create, discover and take advantage of business opportunities, and the second workshop is in development. Although the workshop was held virtually, The Plan Room soon will inhabit a physical space where it will support business owners through education, training, mentorship and networking opportunities.

Along with the workshop series, The Plan Room provides the business owners with services ranging from procurement and bid opportunities to technical assistance, and aims to help business owners connect with minority-owned firms, mentors and professional service providers who understand the construction industry. Additional support for The Plan Room is provided by Louisville Central Community Center, KPFF Consulting Engineers and the 7PM Group.

UofL Health – Urgent Care Plus expands to west Louisville

Six UofL student-athletes recognized for community service

Student-athletes who have shown excellent commitment to service for the 2020-21 school year.
Student-athletes who have shown excellent commitment to service for the 2020-21 school year.

University of Louisville athletes Kaylee Wheeler, Katlyn Harbsmeier, Makenzie Kelley, Sam MinrathMeghan Schneider, and Jenna Servi were named as the Cardinals’ recipients of the 2020-2021 ACC Top 6 for Service Award.
Each year the Atlantic Coast Conference honors six University of Louisville student-athletes that have shown a commitment to service throughout the school year with the Top 6 for Service award.
Wheeler, a junior on the women’s swim and dive team, collected the majority of her hours over the past year through her work with CrossRoads Missons, University of Louisville research, and Southeast Christian Church. She worked to manufacture medical masks with CrossRoads Mission, served as an undergraduate research assistant with University of Louisville research, and was a disabilities ministry volunteer for Southeast Christian Church. Wheeler has dedicated a total of 234 hours to the Louisville community.
Servi, a sophomore on the softball team, has been an avid volunteer for the Kentucky Humane Society. She has fostered dogs over the past year and participated in events for the shelter. She has also volunteered with Feed the West, Air Force Reserve, and Blessings in a Backpack. Servi has dedicated a total of 200 hours to the Louisville community.
Schneider, a senior on the field hockey team, has done a great deal of volunteer work with the American Red Cross. She has consistently served as an ambassador for the American Red Cross and was an active volunteer for the San Diego Food Bank over the summer. Schneider has dedicated a total of 106 hours to the Louisville community.
Minrath, a junior on the field hockey team, has a diverse community service portfolio. She has spent many hours donating her blood plasma and platelets for COVID ICU patients to the American Red Cross. She also ran the Cardinal Cupboard on campus, served as a facilitator for One Love programming, and was a note taker for the University of Louisville Disability Resource Center. Minrath has dedicated a total of 78 hours to the Louisville community.
Harbsmeier, a sophomore on the Ladybirds dance team has participated in a wide variety of service opportunities over the past year. She has worked with the American Heart Association, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Kentuckiana Stroke Association, the Louisville Urban League, and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Harbsmeier has dedicated a total of 68 hours to the Louisville community.
Kelley, a sophomore on the Ladybirds dance team, is being recognized with the Top 6 for Service award for the second year in a row. Kelley participates in many different service opportunities that impact the youth of Louisville. Makenzie has served as a Backpack Buddy, a Card Pal, an elementary math helper, and participated in many Read Across America week opportunities. Kelley has dedicated a total of 67 hours to the Louisville community.

UofL student-athletes place second in NCAA community service challenge

UofL to help lead in development of 911 alternative response model for Louisville

Downtown Louisville


During a time when local and national attention is focused on calls for changes in policing, collaborators from the University of Louisville, Spalding UniversitySeven Counties Services and the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities, have initiated planning for a community-centered alternative response model for Louisville 911 calls best served by mental health and social services professionals rather than traditional police engagement.



Susan Buchino, assistant professor in the School of Public Health and Information Sciences and assistant director of the Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky
Susan Buchino, assistant professor in the School of Public Health and Information Sciences and assistant director of the Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky



Diversion Options: Voice and Empowerment (DOVE) Delegates is a research and development partnership that will design an alternative response model that meets Louisville’s unique needs, based substantially on input from the city’s residents and those directly impacted.

The need for an alternative response model derives from community concerns about instances in which law enforcement officers engage with individuals experiencing behavioral health crises.

Susan Buchino, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health and Information Sciences (SPHIS) and assistant director of the Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky (CIK), will co-lead UofL’s research effort with Tony Zipple, an executive-in-residence at SPHIS.

“We have the opportunity to create a program that reduces the criminalization of intellectual and behavioral health conditions by using community-care practices and linking people to appropriate health and social services,” Buchino said.

Those involved in the project will assess best practices from other cities, analyze local data and organize community forums. Although similar models have been highlighted nationally, Louisville’s DOVE Delegates planning process is intentional about learning from the work of others while ensuring the model fits the context and climate of Louisville. DOVE Delegates will seek input of invested community members, as well as city leaders, behavioral health and social service providers, and representatives from advocacy organizations.

The Spalding University School of Social Work will concentrate on organizing focus groups of Louisville residents to learn about their experiences and to integrate their input into planning and decision-making. A community survey launched this month with focus groups to be held throughout the city. School of Social Work Chair Shannon Cambron will lead Spalding’s involvement, and Louisville social worker and community organizer Khalilah Collins will serve as a project manager on the forums, which aim to elevate the voices of those whose lives may have been negatively impacted by current systems and practices.

Experts from Seven Counties Services will contribute insight from the perspective of a mental health services provider, focusing on behavioral health crisis response.

The work of UofL, Seven Counties and Spalding will be combined into a progress report that will be presented this summer to Louisville Metro Government, which is providing support to the DOVE Delegates through funds focused on reimagining public safety, including forfeiture monies from the Louisville Metro Police Department.

Recommendations will be made for implementation of a pilot program in the city’s 2022 fiscal year. The goal of implementing such a model is to create a positive health and economic impact on the community.

The Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities is supporting DOVE Delegates through a federal Transformation Transfer Initiative Jail Diversion grant from the National Association of State Mental Health Project Directors.

Key to its community engagement, DOVE Delegates has seated a 20-person accountability/advisory board made up of representatives from around the city and from a range of professional and personal backgrounds. The board was formed to ensure accountability and transparency to the community, and it will provide recommendations and insight into the planning and development process while supporting outreach and engagement efforts of the project.

UofL nursing student helping to increase healthy food access in Perry County

The Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge. The project is overseen by UofL Professor Frances Hardin-Fanning

Paige Newquist, a UofL School of Nursing graduate student, is on a mission to increase access to healthy foods in Perry County, Kentucky.

Paige Newquist, a UofL School of Nursing graduate student
Paige Newquist, a UofL School of Nursing graduate student, is on a mission to increase access to healthy foods in Perry County, Kentucky.

Newquist and Nikki Enlow, a graphic design student at Hazard Community College, have launched a public health information campaign as part of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge. The project is overseen by UofL Professor Frances Hardin-Fanning and is sponsored by Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties.

Newquist, a research scholar, also works at UofL Hospital as a physical therapy technician and has been an active member of the UofL COVID vaccination team. She will graduate in May 2022 with plans to work in orthopedic nursing in Louisville. She uses her skills from her undergraduate research courses to review scientific evidence about the health impact of foods, which is guiding her work with the Perry County program.

As part of the educational campaign, Newquist shares spotlight information on different fruits and vegetables each week on the Perry County Facebook page; for example, “Garlic can be made into an extract and it has been effective in lowering blood pressure in people with uncontrolled hypertension … Garlic can help improve our artery’s flexibility, which results in lowered blood pressure, improved heart health, improved aerobic fitness and a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease.”

The Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge is a grant-funded project aimed at increasing access to foods that support healthy eating patterns. Perry County, located in Eastern Kentucky, has an adult obesity rate of 47% – 12 percentage points higher than the 35% average for Kentucky. Seventy-four percent of adults who live in Perry County are overweight, and just 10% get their recommended fruit and vegetable intake. The Aetna Foundation issued the grant to Perry County in July 2020.

UofL’s School of Nursing also leads the Food & Faith Coalition, a partnership with either other organizations. In addition to increasing access, the coalition aims to increase food security screenings, grow retailers’ donations to nonprofit food programs and improve the interconnected work of 16 county organizations that provide food to community members.

Read more about Newquist’s work with this project on the UofL School of Nursing website here.

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