January Board of Regents Update

Dear Colleagues:

I write to update you on yesterday’s Board of Regents meeting.  The Board met as part of its regular meeting schedule.

The Board heard four presentations.  Kevin Kirby, Dean of the College of Informatics, shared an overview of the college.  He was accompanied by Yi Hu, Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and coach of NKU’s Cyber Defense Team, to discuss the team’s history and success.

Our new provost, Sue Ott Rowlands, presented an overview of the three faculty development programs offered at NKU – sabbatical leaves, summer fellowships, and project grants.  Recent faculty development award recipients, Tamara O’Callaghan, Associate Professor in the Department of English, and Julie Mader-Meersman, Associate Professor in the Department of Visual Arts, shared their research experiences with the Board.

Vice President for Student Affairs Peter Gitau and Director of University Housing Arnie Slaughter shared the University’s plans for the renovation of Northern Terrace, formerly Lakeside Terrace.  Dr. Gitau and Mr. Slaughter also presented the proposed housing rate increases with the Board.  I am pleased that, through good management and high occupancy rates, we were able to present a $0 increase for eight of our 12 room options.  The proposed 2014-2015 rates were approved by the Board during the afternoon meeting. 

Joel Robinson, Interim Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management, provided an update regarding final Fall 2013 enrollment, a preliminary look at Fall 2014 enrollment, and the work to-date of the committee charged with developing enrollment strategies to implement the strategic plan.  I shared additional information about our Spring enrollment in my comments to the Board; these comments are at the end of this email.

During the afternoon session, the Board approved a number of important items, including the creation of a Bachelor of Science degree in Radiologic Science and a Bachelor of Science degree in Respiratory Care.  The Board also approved sabbatical leaves. 

The next Board of Regents meeting is on Wednesday, March 12.  The Policy and Finance Committee meets at 9:00 a.m., and the Board of Regents business meeting starts at 1:00 p.m.  Both meetings are open to the public and are held in Student Union room 104.  

Finally, I want to remind you of the January Convocation tomorrow (January 10) at 9:00 am in the Student Union Ballroom.  There will be a continental breakfast available starting at 8:15 am.  I will be discussing the strategic plan and next steps in our implementation strategy.  I encourage you to attend.

In just a few days, we will welcome back more than 15,000 students.  Thank you for all that you do to provide the best possible education for our outstanding students.  I hope you have a productive and fulfilling start to the Spring semester!




New Provost:

It is my pleasure to welcome and to introduce you to Sue Ott Rowlands, our new Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.  As you know, Provost Ott Rowlands comes to us from Virginia Tech, where she was the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, one of Virginia Tech’s largest colleges. 

I am pleased that Sue is joining our team.  She will provide outstanding leadership for Academic Affairs and for the entire campus. 

Enrollment Update:

Preliminary Spring semester data indicate that our enrollment is down slightly when compared with last year at this same time.  But, students are continuing to enroll this week prior to the beginning of classes on Monday.  I am pleased with the continued growth among diverse populations of students.  Preliminary Spring enrollment data indicate that Latino student enrollment is up 10% over last year, African-American student enrollment is up 4%, and the enrollment of students identifying two or more races is up nearly 11%. 

In addition, the outlook for Fall 2014 enrollment is positive.  Presently, applications from new freshmen for the Fall are up 14% and new transfer applications are up 9%, compared with last year.  So far, we have received nearly 7,200 applications from new freshmen.

Dean Search Update:

Our three academic dean searches are progressing well.  Each of the dean search committees is presently evaluating preliminary candidates.  The committees will conduct semi-finalist interviews in late February or early March.  On-campus interviews are tentatively scheduled for late March and early April.  I anticipate that our new deans will start in July.  More information about the searches will be available on the college websites.

We are also in the process of searching for a new Associate Provost for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies.  The committee is actively working to generate a strong pool of qualified candidates.  The committee anticipates that on-campus interviews of the finalists will take place in late March or early April.   

Athletics Update:

Our winter sports are well underway.  This year, a number of our athletes have already been honored as the A-Sun Athlete of the Week. 

·        Women’s basketball player Melody Doss was named Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Week three times during the first four weeks of the season and earned her fourth Player of the Week honor this week.

·        Jalen Billups was named Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the week in men’s basketball after leading the Norse to an overtime win against Tulane.  Jalen was also featured on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 for his dunk against the University of North Carolina.  And his teammate, Daniel Camps, was featured on the Top 10 for his dunk against Florida Gulf Coast University. 

·        NKU track and field team member Danny Keller was named Atlantic Sun Conference Athlete of the Week in December after setting the school record in shot.

·        J.J. Webber was a four-time Atlantic Sun Conference Runner of the Week during the cross-country season. The junior had three first-place finishes this year, including an individual win at the Atlantic Sun Conference championships in Nashville.  These honors led to J.J. being named the Atlantic Sun Runner of the Year.

·        Goalkeeper A.J. Fleak was named the Atlantic Sun Conference Defensive Player of the Week in men’s soccer.  A.J. was honored for his game winning goal – you heard that right.  He scored an improbable goal after he punted the ball from the Norse goal.  The ball bounced over the opposing goalie and clinched the win for the Norse.

·        Finally, goalkeeper Tanner Ruberg was named the Atlantic Sun Conference Defensive Player of the Week for women’s soccer following the season’s opening weekend, posting a 13-save performance in a scoreless draw against in-state rival Murray State.

Legislative Session:

The annual Kentucky legislative session started yesterday.  Between now and April 15, the legislature will develop the state’s biennial budget.  In addition to our normal discussions around university operating funds and capital funds, we will be very engaged in discussions related to the Kentucky Employee Retirement System.  If this year’s KERS increase is not funded, NKU’s contribution to the state retirement system will increase by approximately $5 million.  This increase is in addition to increases in the University’s other fixed costs, which are unavoidable. 

Bond Sale:

The University received some very good news about our bond sale for the renovation of the recreation center and our newly acquired residence hall, Northern Terrace (formerly known as Lakeside Terrace). 

A record number of bidders competed for these bonds.  The final interest rate, including closing costs, will be 3.73%.  That interest rate is substantially lower than our fiscal agent had anticipated; our fiscal agent had estimated 4.35%, based on current market conditions and similar offerings.  As a result of this lower rate, our total expense for interest and principal over the life of the bonds will be approximately $4.3M less than we had projected.

This result was the product of many positive attributes of NKU and the work of many good people.  And it demonstrates the confidence that external professionals have in the future of our University.

Health Innovations Center:

The health innovations center continues to be one of the University’s top priorities.  I am presently leading a small group to refine the concept.  Soon, I will establish an internal working group and an external advisory group to help determine the programmatic and funding plans.    We aspire to build a facility that will enable students, faculty, and practitioners in health disciplines to teach, learn, and conduct research in innovative and collaborative ways to help the public make better, more informed decisions about their health and well-being. 

January Convocation:

On Friday, during the January Convocation, I will share information about the Strategic Plan implementation teams and plans.  The entire campus community is invited to this important gathering at 9:00 am in the Student Union Ballroom.  I will discuss the bright future of our University as we embark on the path that will lead us to 2018 – the 50th anniversary of the founding of our institution. 

Geoffrey S. Mearns
Northern Kentucky University
Nunn Drive
800 Lucas Administrative Center
Highland Heights, KY 41099
Phone: 859-572-5123
Fax: 859-572-6696