UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart to speak at SOAR Leadership Breakfast

Published 4:05 pm Monday, June 18, 2018

PIKEVILLE — Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR) will host a Leadership Breakfast with special guest Mitch Barnhart on June 22 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Pikeville.

Barnhart, the director of athletics at the University of Kentucky, will speak about “Building Champions.” A native of Kansas, Barnhart is in his 16th season as athletic director at the University of Kentucky. He was awarded the NCAA Division I Athletics Director of the Year in 2015.

“As we embark on the new narrative of Appalachia Kentucky, it is critical that we build champions for the region,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR. “Champions can come from all walks of life. They can be champions in their business or organizations, champions in their community, and champions for very important causes throughout our region. Leadership is one of our core values and cultivating leaders is very important in the work we do.”

In late May, SOAR launched its “There is a Future” campaign featuring the website, television commercials and billboards. The idea behind the campaign is to reframe the discussion when it comes to discussing the future of Appalachia.

“We believe the debate is over. There is a future in Appalachia,” added Arnett. “The website is essentially an interactive platform where we can make the case, highlight the plan, show the proof, and highlight the partners that are working to build a 21st Century Appalachia.”

Arnett said having a speaker of Barnhart’s caliber speaks to the importance of the work and progress happening across the region.

“Mitch Barnhart is a leader of an athletics department that is second to none in college athletics,” said Arnett. “His success has been built on team building, strategic planning, and adapting to the ever changing landscape that is college athletics.”

The University of Kentucky has been a presenting partner of SOAR since its inception. Last year, University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari was the keynote speaker at the SOAR Summit.

“The University of Kentucky understands that a strong Commonwealth includes a vibrant eastern Kentucky,” said Arnett. “We work every day to advance the new narrative of Appalachia Kentucky and to bring new opportunities that promote our place and relevance in a 21st century economy.”

Seating is limited for the June 22 Leadership Breakfast. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by calling 606-766-1160 or by visiting