Thank you to all who were able to attend our Spring Convocation last Friday. I hope you enjoyed the performance of our musical theater students as much as I did. For those who were unable to attend or watch online, I am writing to update you on what I discussed.
In the Fall, I held 24 open forums with faculty and staff in every college and division at the university, as well as meetings with our students. I also received more than 600 responses to the email survey that was distributed. What I learned was that you genuinely care about this university and are proud of the excellent work being done here. There is a palpable, collective sense of optimism regarding our future. Three terms that repeatedly emerged were “caring”, “community” and “dreams.” Those words distinguish this university and make it a special place to learn, teach and work.
Our single most important objective is the ongoing focus on student success. We must enroll, retain and graduate qualified students at high rates, and we must prepare them to obtain meaningful employment and to lead rewarding, fulfilling lives. A number of initiatives such as the Student Success Center, the Norse Advising unit and our new proactive scholarship process are already underway to improve student retention and graduation rates. I was pleased to announce that applications for Fall 2013 are up more than 40 percent compared to last year; the number of admitted students has increased more than 45 percent. I also expressed our continued commitment to fostering a diverse student population. I reported that enrollment of African-American and Latino students has steadily increased and retention of minority students has also increased. As the six-year graduation rate also increased, the graduation rate gap has decreased. Plus, the number of degrees conferred to underrepresented minorities has increased.
As we begin our 2013-18 strategic planning process, I told those in attendance Friday about a recent experience that reminded me how important it is to have broad campus participation. In a meeting with the facilities staff last summer, I offered to provide $50,000 to fund one or more campus beautification projects. They took the offer and ran with it, forming a beautification committee and giving an impressive presentation of five projects to improve our campus. Those projects, which include more landscaping at the traffic circle, more campus directories, and aesthetic improvements to the bus stops, will be completed over the next year or two. The lesson: Everyone on this campus has the experience and knowledge to offer constructive suggestions and sound solutions to the challenges we face.
We will develop a strategic plan this year that will guide us to our 50th anniversary in 2018. It will articulate a clear, succinct mission and vision for the university; set strategic priorities that will guide our work and our investments; promote a shared sense of direction; and provide a system for measuring progress toward our goals. This roadmap from where we are today to what we aspire to be in five years will be our plan. A preliminary outline of the plan will be shared with the Board in July and a draft plan will be presented to the campus community for review and comment at the beginning of the fall semester. The final proposed plan will be considered by the Board in November. Additional details about the strategic planning process, including the membership of the Strategic Planning Committee, can be found at http://strategicplanning.nku.edu.
In studying the history of this university, I have been inspired by the remarkable progress we have made in such a short span of time. I hope that you are inspired as well. But now, it is our time. It is our time to write the next chapter in our history. It is our time to create a legacy that our future colleagues will remember fondly – and with great pride. It is our time to do that which will inspire those women and men who will follow us. Let us embrace this special responsibility with courage – the courage to believe that we have the capacity to thrive in these challenging times. Let us also embrace this special responsibility with humility – the humility to listen to the ideas of others with an open mind and an open heart.
As we embark on this journey together, let all of us model those attributes we seek to nurture in our students. We must strive to be excellent. And, let us aspire to create an ambitious vision for our future – let us envision and pursue a bold institutional dream.
The full text of Friday’s Spring Convocation is available at /content/inside/president.
I hope your semester is off to a strong start. Thank you for all that you do to support our students.
Geoffrey S. Mearns
Northern Kentucky University
800 Lucas Administrative Center
Highland Heights, KY 41099