BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — We’re continuing our series looking at some of the fastest-growing communities in our state.

This week on In Focus Kentucky, we’re highlighting south central Kentucky and specifically discussing the importance of city/county-university partnerships and their impact on the region.

Western Kentucky University was founded by the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 1906. It is a public university, which operates regional campuses in Glasgow, Elizabethtown-Fort Knox, and Owensboro and has about 20,000 thousand students enrolled at the University.

Dr. Tim Caboni is a 1994 Western Kentucky University graduate. He returned to the campus in July 2017, as WKU’s 10th president and under his leadership, he launched a comprehensive strategic planning process aimed at developing a roadmap for the University’s next decade of growth. 

“So one of the things we wanted to do was do some difficult things. And a lot of universities will have a three-year focus or five-year focus and we really wanted to do transformational work. We thought a 10-year horizon was what we should focus on. So we’re focused on several areas. The most important one for me, though, is students’ success. We set a goal and we’re approaching an 80% retention rate. That’s on par with flagship universities nationally. So young people who come to the Hill, we want them to stay. I’m not interested in recruiting first-year students. I’m interested in recruiting eventual graduates because access without success is really access to nothing... We’re focusing on retention and programs that retain students. The living environments completely different now. We just opened last year, our first year village where young people will come instead of living or having 3000 friends and colleagues. They have 23. They live in a pod. They have a faculty mentor. They take class from that faculty mentor with the 23 other folks with whom they live. And what we’ve seen is tremendous retention gains,” explains Dr. Caboni.

You can watch the full In Focus segment in the player above.