Andrá Ward never thought his relationship with Northern Kentucky University would extend decades beyond his four years as an undergraduate student.
Growing up in Cincinnati, Ward was a theater major at the School for Creative and Performing Arts and didn’t know much about NKU until his senior year of high school. He worked part time as a production assistant at WLWT TV 5, and several of the young men whom he became friends with were NKU students. When they talked about college, Ward liked what he heard.
He decided to enroll and never looked back.
“I’ve been here since the fall of 1981, and I have had and enjoyed a relationship with this university every day since,” he says. “I fell in love with this campus. It was where I felt at home. I did a lot of growing up here. I did a lot of soul searching here. Some of the greatest friendships and relationships I have personally, professionally and socially started here.”
Currently, Ward is president and CEO of KhafreWard Corporation, a boutique human resource development firm, and also serves as the secretary to NKU’s Board of Regents. He is now serving the fifth year of his term.
During the 37 years since he joined campus as a student, Ward has seen NKU’s diversity grow from very few students of color to thousands.
“When I first came here as a freshman, we weren’t even using terms like diversity and inclusive excellence,” he says. “It would have been easy to feel isolated. It would have been easy to feel disconnected. I felt not only embraced, but NKU gave me an opportunity to flourish. I was able to do things here that people talk about—leaving a footprint, leaving a legacy.”
Ward’s footprint comes in the form of mentoring and providing guidance to dozens of students on campus every year.
“I do it because I want students on this campus to know, both as an alumnus and a member of the board, that their success is critically important to me,” he says. “One of the roles that we are charged with is to assist in creating policies and direction that allow for experiential growth of every student who steps foot on this campus—regardless of their disability or different ability, ethnicity, gender, orientation, military service, etc. All of that and all of them, in their uniqueness, is who we are charged to support in their success.”
NKU’s success is something Ward says he’s extremely proud of, but he knows we have a way to go.
“Does it mean we have arrived? Absolutely not. We’re nowhere near where our potential is,” he says. “I don’t think we have experienced our best potential yet in a lot of different ways. The good thing about being an institution that is as young as we are is that hopefully it means we’re a lot more flexible and more nimble than other institutions who are more historically embedded in traditions.”