Three winning ideas for UK

Big Blue Nation can be proud of significant wins scored by the University of Kentucky last week.

UK announced three projects that hold the potential of making our commonwealth healthier, wealthier and wiser.

Each of the three — an endowment for a scholar to study the roots of violence against women of color, a cooperative effort with the Fayette Public Schools to improve math readiness among high school seniors and a big investment in reducing utility use on campus — represents the kind of on-the-ground work envisioned with the establishment of land grant institutions like UK.

Some details:

■ The Georgia Davis Powers Endowed Chair of Study on Violence Against Women, named in honor of our state's first black female state senator, a fearless fighter for women, children and equality for all, will be the first in the nation to focus on the distinct issues associated with violence against women of color.

African-American, South Asian and Hispanic women are overrepresented in the horrifying statistics of battered women but are less likely to call the police or seek other help.

Domestic violence, as terrible as it is for the individuals involved, is also a curse on society. It begets violence in future generations, is associated with poor performance in school for children who witness it and perpetuates poverty.

As Powers, 87, said when UK announced the chair in her honor last week, knowledge is the first step. "At least we are going to have research to find out the root cause of the violence and then when we find out, we can search for solutions."

■ It's long seemed like common sense that colleges should work with high schools to design classes to assure students are ready for college when they get there. Sadly, common sense has not always prevailed. However, last week, UK and the Fayette County Public Schools said they are working together to design a math prep class to help high school students get ready for college math.

Currently, too many students enter higher education unprepared for the math challenges before them. That means they must take costly — for both the students and the institutions — remedial classes that don't contribute to the credits they need for graduation.

So UK's math department and the public school system are working together on a yearlong course aimed at high school seniors who have not reached a certain level in math proficiency based on their scores as juniors on the ACT.

David Royster, math outreach professor at UK, said the goal is not just to raise math scores but to help students be more comfortable with math. "More than anything, I'd like to get students to understand that solving problems is doable and might actually be enjoyable."

■ UK also announced last week a $25 million, yearlong push to retrofit 61 campus buildings to reduce energy and water consumption.

Improvements will include more efficient lighting, water conservation, insulation, upgraded boilers, steam system improvements, solar water heating and HVAC system replacements. The end result, UK said, will be "a dramatically lower carbon footprint."

It's a plan that will pay for itself. UK estimates that savings on utility bills in the first year will pay for the $2.2 million payments on the bonds the school is selling to fund the improvements.

Go Big Blue!