Board of Regents - March Meeting

Dear Colleagues:

I write to update you on Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Regents.

In the morning, the Board heard four presentations. 

Catherine Neal, Associate Professor of Business Law, spoke about her new book, “Taking Down the Lion: The Triumphant Rise and Tragic Fall of Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski.”  Professor Neal researched and completed the book during her sabbatical last year.

Ken Bothof, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, briefed the Board on the University’s progress towards becoming a full member of NCAA Division I athletics.  Additionally, Mr. Bothof discussed the academic success of our athletes.  Kayla Thacker, a senior and member of the women’s basketball team, spoke to the Board about her student-athlete experience.

Joel Robinson, Interim Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management, and Leah Stewart, Director of Student Financial Assistance, spoke to the Board about the University’s financial aid program, student debt, and financial literacy efforts. 

Finally, Pat Moynahan, Vice Provost, and Ryan Padgett, Assistant Vice President for Student Success and Assessment, briefed the Board on state-wide and University retention results.  Mr. Moynahan and Dr. Padgett also highlighted just a few of the many programs the University offers related to retention enhancement efforts.  Among the specific programs they highlighted were the Department of Theatre and Dance’s first-year performances and NKU R.O.C.K.S.

During the afternoon meeting, the Board took action on a number of items, including approving the reappointment, promotion, and tenure recommendations.  I congratulate those faculty who were reappointed, promoted or achieved tenure this year.  The Board also approved emeritus status for David Bishop, Professor in the Department of Teacher Education, and Gayle Sheard Grout, Professor in the Department of Music.  Congratulations, David and Gayle.   

The Board approved three naming actions.  As the result of charitable gifts to the University, Nunn Hall Room 565 will be named the Henry L. (Steve) Stephens, Jr. Faculty Conference Room.  Further, two new endowed scholarships were approved: The Lee Cordray Endowed Scholarship, and The Janice Mabry Cantrall Nursing Scholarship.  The Lee Cordray Endowed Scholarship will support undergraduate students who are residents of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and demonstrate financial need.  Preference will be given to women 25 years old or older who are also single parents.  The Janice Mabry Cantrall Nursing Scholarship will support students in the accelerated bachelor of science in nursing program.  It will be awarded based on academic achievement and demonstrated leadership.

The Board approved a new Gift Acceptance Policy.  The policy was updated to better align with best practices and to align gift solicitations with university priorities.  Further, the updated policy allows for more efficiency in the acceptance of gifts. 

Finally, the Board approved revisions to the Code of Conduct.  Minor revisions included updating the University’s core values to align with the core values approved as part of the Fuel the Flame Strategic plan.  Further, as a result of the Board’s request, the Code of Conduct has been revised to reflect new language and reporting mechanisms and informs employees of the annual requirement to acknowledge their understanding and adherence to the Code.  And this year, at my direction, all senior administrators (Deans and above) will also be evaluated on their ethics and ethical decision-making. 

The next Board of Regents meeting is on Wednesday, May 7.  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 will be held in Student Union room 104. 




Follow-up to External Audit

In September 2013, I wrote a letter to Mr. Repenning, Chair of the Board of Regents, outlining the findings and recommendations of an independent accounting firm that conducted a thorough review of the University’s procurement card policies and practices.  In the letter, I indicated that, in March 2014, I would provide an update related to the University’s implementation of these recommendations.  Yesterday, I provided a written status report to the Board.  I will share my written status report with the campus this week. 

State and University Budget

Last month, I sent an email to the campus to provide information on the state’s budget and the potential subsequent impact on the University’s budget.  As I shared, the Governor’s budget recommended a 2.5% reduction in operating support for the public universities.  In addition to this challenge, our University faces the additional burden of a recurring increase of $5 million to our annual Kentucky Education Retirement System contribution. 

As a result of these budget pressures, and an inevitable increase in other fixed costs, I asked each vice president to prepare a budget reduction plan of 5%.  These plans are due to me by April 2. 

Our University is very efficient.  And I know that the potential of cutting an additional 5% from the budget is going to be difficult.  I am grateful to our outstanding faculty and staff for their good and constructive ideas on how we can meet this challenge.  We have done it before, and I know we will do it again. 

We will know more about our budget situation in mid-April, when the Kentucky Legislature adjourns.  In addition to monitoring the state budget situation closely, we are also working very hard to increase next year’s enrollment through enhanced recruiting and retention efforts.

Long-term solution will arrive when elected officials demonstrate leadership in implementing higher education funding methodology that reflects productivity and measurable results.

Health Innovations Center

As you know, the University’s top legislative priority is the health innovations center.  I remain hopeful that this very important capital project will prevail in the budget process.  In order to assist us in translating this concept into a specific action plan, I have appointed an internal and an external advisory group to obtain expert input.  When our collective efforts are successful, we will improve the health of our community, the Commonwealth, and our metropolitan region.  We will also promote economic growth and vitality by producing graduates who earn good incomes, by providing trained talent for healthcare providers, and by improving the productivity of the broader workforce.  And our innovative approach will be a model for other educational institutions and communities to emulate.  I will continue to keep you apprised of our progress.

Strategic Plan Implementation Update

I have appointed nine Strategic Plan Implementation Teams to enhance key components of the strategic plan.  These teams have been meeting regularly since January.  Additionally, many of the teams have held open forums and created surveys to gather feedback from all across campus.  And all team leaders meet monthly with me and our vice presidents to report on their progress and to share information that is relevant to multiple teams.

Marketing Proposal

Our strategic plan calls for the University to “develop and execute a comprehensive marketing, communication, and branding plan.”  To execute this strategy, the University has engaged the services of Landor, a worldwide marketing leader, with a major office in our metropolitan region.  Over the next several months, Landor will inventory our current marketing and branding positions, evaluate our marketing and branding effectiveness, conduct extensive qualitative and quantitative research, and help the University articulate our key attributes and distinctive advantages.  I look forward to sharing the outcomes and findings of Landor’s work.

Dean Candidates

Over the past five days, the three academic dean search committees conducted initial interviews with semi-finalist candidates.  The committees will narrow the candidate pools and bring the three most qualified candidates for each search to campus in late March and early April.  I understand that we have very strong candidates.  We are on target to have all three new deans start by July 1.

Student of the Year

Yesterday, Chris Hammann, a junior majoring in social work here at NKU, was given the award by the American Council on Education as the Adult Learner of the Year.  Mr. Hammann is a Marine Corps veteran and president of our veterans student organization.  Chris also works for the University in our facilities management department as a heavy equipment operator.  This award is a national honor.  In fact, Mr. Hammann is presently flying back from San Diego, where he received the award.

Mr. Hammann is just one of our outstanding students.  And he is a shining example of our post-traditional students who handle many other responsibilities while they obtain their college education. 

High School Visits

I have had the pleasure of meeting with a number of local high school principals.  As a result of these meetings, I have been invited to present at several schools.  In fact, on Monday, I spoke to an assembly of all of the students at Covington Catholic High School.  Last semester, I was pleased to visit with the Conner High School senior class.  Later this month, I will speak to 7th to 12th graders at Dayton High School. 

I believe that these meetings, and talking to these groups, is one of the ways that I can help the University reach our enrollment targets and continue to be a university of choice for our local students. 


While we face some challenges, I remain confident and optimistic about the opportunities we have.

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