Western Kentucky University President Tim Caboni recently wrapped up his first year on the job, and is using the summer months to get more familiar with the university's service area.
The journey led Caboni to Simpson County on Wednesday, July 11, where he met with community leaders to discuss Franklin's growth and the Hilltoppers' vision.
"This is an incredibly important marketplace for us. We have 250 students from Simpson County studying with us this year and we have 1,200 alumni in the county," Caboni said. "You're right next door to Warren County and we need to make sure as we think about the region and WKU's role … that we're developing relationships in Simpson County."
As a border county, Simpson accounts for
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a significant amount of WKU students. However, the area fell just outside its top 10 most represented Kentucky counties according to the university's 2017 Fact Book, with 268 students enrolled in Fall 2016 (Oldham County ranked 10th with 282 students).
"As a first-year president of a university, [this trip is] partially about coming to understand where our students come [from]," Caboni said. "For me it's also about reaching out to counties that surround us to help them understand that WKU is your university."
During his visit, Caboni said he was particularly impressed with Simpson County's progress in drawing new industries to the area, noting that WKU aims to be a driving economic force in its sphere of influence by partnering with various counties.
"The international interest in Simpson County is tremendous - three Japanese companies, two German companies - it's a wonderful, thriving economy," he said. "For us to be successful as a region, we need to make sure we're not in our silos. Sometimes it's easy just to sit around and think about Warren County because that's where we are."
According to Caboni, the next step for the Hilltoppers is to unveil a new strategic plan in August, a collaborative effort that spanned the first year of his presidency.
"One of the thing that is so special about WKU is that it is a remarkably student-centered, live research university," he said. "Full-time faculty know students' names, teach them from their freshman year, see them outside of class and help them get to graduation in four years."