Board of Regents November Meeting

Dear Colleagues:

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

Wednesday morning, the Board heard four presentations.  Jeffrey Standen, Dean of the Chase College of Law, shared an overview of the college and highlighted national legal education trends.  Associate Dean Lawrence Rosenthal and Nate Lennon, a law student, highlighted some of the college’s student accomplishments, including moot court competitions and the prestigious victory in the Scribes “Best Brief of the Year” competition. 

Vice President Sue Hodges Moore, Director of Planning and Performance Vickie Natale, and I presented the final draft of the Strategic Plan.  The plan has been informed by extensive involvement of faculty, staff, students, and community members in the planning process over the past 11 months.  Our five primary goals will focus on: Student Success; Talent Development; Academic Innovation; Community Engagement; and Institutional Excellence.  The campus will begin forming teams to work on implementation plans, and metrics and targets will be presented to the Board at the March meeting.  I will also share more about the Strategic Plan and our implementation plans at the January 10, 2014, Winter Convocation.

Vice President Ken Ramey and Comptroller Russ Kerdolff provided an overview of the university’s annual financial report.  The University continued to make significant progress in building its capacity to serve the needs of our students while managing the fiscal challenges of declining state and federal funding.  The University is in a strong financial position as we launch a new five-year Strategic Plan.

Finally, Vice President Ramey, Steve Nienaber, and Rob Knarr shared an overview of the Campus Recreation Center renovation and expansion project.  Construction will start in early 2014, and it is presently anticipated that construction and renovation will take approximately 18 months.  Portions of the Campus Recreation Center will stay open throughout the construction process.

During the afternoon session, the Board approved a number of important items.  The Board formally approved the Strategic Plan, the Tobacco-Free Policy, and the 2014-2016 Capital Budget Request.  The Board also accepted the audited financial statements.

I am also pleased to report that the Board approved the creation of a new scholarship.  The Mary O’Neill Elliott Endowed Scholarship will support students enrolled in the master’s degree in social work program.  The Board also approved, in recognition of a major gift, the naming of a student lounge in Nunn Hall the Timothy E. Eble ’81 Student Commons. 

The next Board meeting is on January 8, 2014. 

As we near the Thanksgiving holiday, I want to again express my appreciation for the efforts of every single faculty and staff member.  I am fortunate to work with such dedicated colleagues.  Thank you. 




New Provost

Two weeks ago, I announced that I have selected Sue Ott Rowlands as our next Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.  I am very pleased to welcome Sue to our team.  I know that she will provide excellent leadership across our entire campus.  Sue is presently the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech.  She will join us on January 6.  She looks forward to meeting you at the Board of Regents meeting on January 8.

Dean Searches

As you know, we are in the process for searching for three new academic deans: the College of Arts and Sciences, the Haile/US Bank College of Business, and the College of Education and Human Services.  Search committees are now in place for each of these positions.  We have also retained Isaacson Miller to assist us with these three searches.  The search committees are presently developing job descriptions and recruitment materials, and building strong candidate pools.  We anticipate interviewing finalists in the Spring.  We will welcome the new deans in July.

Strategic Plan

As you heard this morning, over the last 11 months, the campus community has engaged in an extensive and thorough strategic planning process.  Hundreds of faculty, staff, and students attended open forums in the Spring and Fall semesters to contribute their ideas on what should be included in our five-year strategic plan.  Nearly 2,000 students and 1,000 faculty and staff completed a comprehensive survey online that asked what is important to NKU and what should be important.  In addition, more than 100 faculty, staff, students, and community members served on work groups to provide detailed analyses on trends and issues impacting the university.  We also conducted more than 20 meetings with external constituents to recognize the needs of our community and regional employers.  This participatory process has been transparent.  The end result is something that we should all be proud of. 

This morning, I presented the results of these efforts to you.  Our strategic plan identifies a clear, succinct mission with a vision for 2018 that will guide our work over the next five years.  The strategic plan includes the goals and directions to enable us to achieve that ambitious vision. 

As I have said before, though, our work does not end today.  Today the real hard work begins, because the implementation of the plan is the most important part of this entire process.  Indeed, the implementation is what will make our university distinctive and what will bring us success when we celebrate our achievements in 2018. 

The committee has invested an extraordinary amount of time into this project.  I’d like to thank each of them for their dedication, time, and thoughtful input.  I’d also like to thank Sue Hodges Moore, Vickie Natale, and Kerri Beach for their outstanding support of the committee.   

Faculty Excellence

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Dr. Linda Wermeling, associate professor of social work.  Dr. Wermeling was recently selected as a Fulbright Specialist.  The Fulbright program helps connect scholars in the United States with colleagues overseas for collaborative projects.  Dr. Wermeling has routinely worked with international social work scholars.  She has previously participated in projects in Cuba and Moldova.  As part of her Fulbright responsibilities, Dr. Wermeling will work with a university in Romania on curriculum development and international social work education standards.  Congratulations Dr. Wermeling.  Thank you for bringing honor and prestige to our university.    

Enrollment Management

I have previously reported on the strength of our freshman class.  I am pleased to report that we are continuing our efforts to recruit both outstanding first year students and outstanding transfer students.  Last month, NKU and Gateway announced a major new partnership.  The Gateway2NKU program will allow students to transfer seamlessly from Gateway to NKU to earn a four-year degree in four years.  There are 25 identified degree pathways and advisors at both Gateway and NKU who work directly with students to ensure an efficient transfer process.  We expect to increase the number of transfers from Gateway to NKU, and we anticipate partnering with other Kentucky Community and Technical College Schools and regional community colleges to expand this program.  

Last Spring, a group of superintendents expressed interest in enhancing our School Based Scholars Program.  This program allows high school students to take NKU classes in their high schools or at the university.  I met with several superintendents earlier this year and as a result of their feedback, I recently approved the recommendations of a joint task force of school-district personnel and NKU staff to enhance our School-Based Scholars program. The revisions are intended to increase access to dual-credit courses for students throughout our service region. Specific program changes included: reducing the price from $337 per course to $225 per course, effective Fall 2013. This change resulted in an immediate savings of $83,778 for participating families, increased to eight the number of courses that can be completed through NKU at the discounted rate, and waived the application fee for SBS students who apply to NKU.  We are presently working with school districts on a plan to help their teachers add the credentials necessary to teach college content in their schools, and we are working to develop an innovative hybrid approach that will team NKU faculty with high school teachers to provide intensive online content specifically for high school students. The first course will be piloted in Spring 2014 with approximately 50 students from five high schools.

Further, as part of the Strategic Planning process, we have identified an enrollment management implementation team to continue to work on new student, transfer, and graduate enrollment strategies.  The group is being led by Joel Robinson, our Interim Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management.  I look forward to sharing more about their work at an upcoming meeting.  

Tobacco Free/Commitment to Wellness

Earlier this year, the Board of Regents voted unanimously to adopt a tobacco-free campus policy and to develop recommendations for the implementation of this policy. Over the past 11 months, faculty, staff, and students have worked diligently on multiple aspects of this policy and plan.  This afternoon, I will ask you to approve our tobacco free policy.  The policy explicitly states that the Northern Kentucky University community deserves a healthy place in which to learn, work, live, and visit. Going tobacco-free is a major health initiative that reflects our commitment to a healthy campus.


I am very pleased to announce that we have captured our first A-Sun championship.  J.J. Webber, a junior majoring in nursing, and a cross country runner finished first in the eight kilometer race.  Overall the team finished second.  Additionally, Mr. Webber was named the A-Sun Runner of the Year.  This is a strong accomplishment for our team, and we have much to continue to look forward to.

Thank You

Mr. Chairman, before I finish my remarks, I want to take a moment to recognize a major transition at the University.  In just about 45 days, Gail Wells will finish a nearly ten-year term as NKU’s Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.  That is a remarkable achievement.  Gail has also dedicated many more years of her career to NKU as a professor, Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.  In all, her service to the university has spanned more than three decades.  I’d like to thank Gail for her commitment and counsel.  She has been instrumental in helping the university grow and expand, and it is difficult to find an area where she hasn’t made a significant difference.  On December 3, we will host a lunch recognizing and thanking Gail for her service.  At that time, many of us will share more thoughts about her contributions.  Until then, Gail, thank you for your service, and thank you for your commitment to our faculty, staff, students, and our community. 

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