Every day Tim Caboni goes to work at Western Kentucky University, he said he’s thankful for the work of his predecessor, Gary Ransdell.
“My job is to continue that trajectory and accelerate it as much as possible,” said Caboni, the university’s 10th president.
Caboni, who started the job two weeks ago, is touring the university’s regional campuses this week and started with Elizabethtown. He met with community members at a reception Wednesday hosted by Hardin County Schools. Before the reception, he sat down with The News-Enterprise’s Editorial Board to talk about his plans for the university.
When looking at Western Kentucky’s role in the state, Caboni wants to think bigger. He said the institution has a role to play in national conversations about higher education regarding affordability and value.
“To me, given all the conversations around higher education nationally, we are the type of institution that is a model,” he said. “We take students — almost half of them first-generation college students — and get them a four-year degree, and they leave with the ability to make a good living,” he said.
Right now, Caboni, who earned his master’s degree at WKU, still is getting to know the institution and its communities. Some of his priorities include graduating more students, making the university more accessible and casting a wider net to bring more people to the campus. He’s also rethinking the relationship between the institution and the regional workforce demands.
The three regional campuses play a key role in the university’s accessibility.
“It doesn’t matter to me on what campus you take classes, you are a hilltopper and a WKU student,” he said.
Caboni said his focus is less on which campus students are on or whether they take classes online, but rather the commonality of the experience and what it means to be a WKU student.
“What does it mean to be a Hilltopper?,” he said. “We are the only Hilltopper, that’s a special thing for us. What are the common values we share and what are the things that bind us together as a university community.”
During his visit to Elizabethtown, Caboni met with Juston Pate, president of Elizabethtown Community and Technical College. He said he’s looking forward to working with Pate.
“For me, having a partner who is also a new president in town who has some great energy, understands the landscape and has interesting and innovative ideas, its great for the community and it’s great for WKU,” he said.
Caboni said he would like to see joint marketing between ECTC and WKU on programs they both offer.
“I want Juston to be successful at doubling the number of his students, because you know why, that’s going to double the number of WKU students we have,” he said.
Fort Knox is an important part of this equation as well, he said.
“What’s good for E’town Kentucky is good for Western Kentucky and vice versa,” he said.
Katherine Knott can be reached at 270-505-1747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.