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I write to provide a brief report of the activity at the regularly scheduled Board of Regents meeting on Wednesday, March 14.

The Board heard three presentations in the morning as a part of its joint policy and finance committee meeting.

Joan Gates and Dawn Bell-Gardiner presented on NKU’s compliance program. The presenters shared updates on compliance challenges in Higher Education and specifics about the evolution of NKU’s compliance program including the formation and function of NKU’s Compliance Committee and university-wide compliance training.

CFO Hales presented an update on the University’s budget including the status of the current year budget cut and the planning for the fiscal 2019 budget.  The presentation discussed the assumptions that are being used in planning for the fiscal 2019 budget and also reviewed a couple of budget scenarios.  Finally, the advocacy efforts in Frankfort were also discussed.

Dale Stephenson, dean of the College of Health Professions, introduced some of the meaningful work being done in the college to improve the health of the Northern Kentucky Community and implement innovative academic programs at NKU. Mary Kishman, Assistant Director of the Nurse Advocacy Center for the Underserved, and Chris Bradburn, Director of Resident Services for the Housing Authority of Covington, described the services provided to the community through the NACU and their impact upon the health of the region. Terry Ray, Director of the Nurse Anesthesia Program, and Evan Angus, student in the College of Health Professions, spoke of NKU’s innovative and in-demand Nurse Anesthesia Program.

In the afternoon, the Board approved all of the recommended items. Of particular note, the Board approved the granting of honorary degrees for Mr. C. Bruce Johnson, Ms. Alice Sparks, Mrs. Ellen Rieveschl, and the Honorable Amul Thapar. All of these distinguished individuals will receive their honorary degrees at the May commencement.

The Board also approved all faculty who were recommended for reappointment, promotion, and tenure. Congratulations to all on this achievement.

Additionally, the Board approved the housing, dining, and parking rates for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

Two faculty in the School of the Arts received emeritus status at this meeting. Congratulations to Dr. Diana Belland, professor of Music, and Dr. Samuel Zachary, professor of Theatre, on this tremendous honor.

The Board’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be on Wednesday, May 2.  



Presidential Comments
Board of Regents
March 2018

Founders’ Day Luncheon

We just finished a wonderful Founders’ Day Luncheon today as another event in our 50th anniversary celebration for our campus. We had the opportunity, with the help of some wonderful students, to take a trip back in time of those 50 years to focus a great deal on those amazing people who were here at the very beginning to help build the foundation for this university. It took this special group of folks to do that, people who are willing to step up when there was nothing and to create from that. And of course, we all sit here today as the beneficiaries of the work they’ve done to get us started. We’ve been carrying the load, some for a few years and some more years than that. We also have the future leader in the room as well. We want to thank all of those founders for the work they did in establishing the strong foundation for our future.

Homecoming Recap

It has been just over a month since we celebrated the university’s 50th anniversary kickoff and homecoming, but the events of that weekend were so wonderful and inspiring, I wanted to share just a few of the highlights.

We honored some of our most outstanding alumni at the awards ceremony that weekend. Bruce Lunsford, a 1974 Chase grad, was honored with the Outstanding Alumnus Award. Senator Wil Schroder, also a young Chase grad, was recognized with the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award. Our own Board of Regents Secretary Andrá Ward was given the Distinguished Service Award for his many contributions to the campus and our community. Congratulations Andrá. And last but certainly not least, Dr. Jacqueline Emerine, associate professor of Communication and a former faculty regent herself, was recognized with the Faculty/Staff Strongest Influence Award for her impact on our students’ educational and career aspirations.

We are fortunate to have faculty like Jacqueline and people like Andrá who dedicate so much of their personal and professional talents to work for the betterment of our students and our university. NKU would not be what it is today without your service and dedication.

Also as a part of Homecoming, students, faculty, and staff participated in Service on Saturday. These monthly events coordinate service activities throughout the area to help local organizations. Over 1,000 hours were logged during that February event. For anyone interested in participating in the future, the next Service on Saturday is this Saturday. If you can’t make it this Saturday, you can make it on April 21 and join Peggy and me there. You are all invited. You can sign up on the Community Service webpage.

Individual Recognition

One of our sororities has also made a recent impact on our community. Delta Gamma has raised over $18,000 through their philanthropy events for two local nonprofits – Service for Sight and the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Congratulations to the women of this chapter for making such an outstanding contribution to the community.

Two of our faculty members were recently recognized nationally as being at the top of their respective fields. Dr. Kristine Hopfensperger and Dr. Kirsten Schwarz were highlighted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science as two of the top 15 researchers in the country within the food and water security community for their commitment to engage the public on these vital issues.

Dr. Hopfensperger is an associate professor of Biological Science and the director of the Environmental Science Program. Dr. Schwarz is also an associate professor of Biological Sciences and directs our Ecological Stewardship Institute.

Congratulations to both of these individuals on this wonderful honor that brings recognition to them individually of course, but also reflects great credit on our university and our region. 

There is also great work being done by our junior faculty as well. Assistant professor of psychology, Dr. Justin Yates, has earned two prestigious awards this year. He is the recipient of the American Psychological Association Division 28 Young Psychopharmacologist Award as well as the Division 25 B.F. Skinner Foundation New Researcher Award. Wonderful professional recognition by a junior member of our faculty.  Congratulations!

These are a few examples of the kind of quality that we have scattered throughout our faculty. We try to highlight a couple at these meetings that we can identify so that over time we get a sense of appreciation for the excellence of our faculty at NKU

We also recently learned that our Board Chair Rich Boehne will be inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame on April 9 for his outstanding contributions to journalism and media during his illustrious 30 year career in the business. Congratulations Rich.

Reappointment, Promotion, and Tenure

In just a few moments, I will ask the board to approve my recommendations regarding the reappointment, promotion, and tenure of several faculty members. I’d like to especially recognize those faculty who I am recommending for tenure and promotion. This is a significant accomplishment and milestone in a faculty member’s career and deserves special recognition. I’d like to extend my congratulations to:

Dr. Jeffrey Zimmerman, Political Science, Criminal Justice, and Organizational Leadership
Dr. Marcos Misis, Political Science, Criminal Justice, and Organizational Leadership
Dr. Ryan Salzman, Political Science, Criminal Justice, and Organizational Leadership
Ms. Corrie Danieley, Theatre and Dance
Dr. Christopher Lawrence, Counseling, Social Work, and Leadership
Dr. Jennifer Sharp, Counseling, Social Work, and Leadership
Dr. Jessica Averitt Taylor, Counseling, Social Work, and Leadership
Dr. Rachele Vogelpohl, Kinesiology and Health
Dr. David Childs, Teacher Education
Dr. Susan Griebling, Teacher Education
Dr. Julie Hart, Nursing
Dr. Kesha Nelson, Nursing
Dr. Lynn Smith, Nursing
Dr. Lynne Zajac, Nursing
Ms. Shannon Alexander, Allied Health
Dr. Kalyani Ankem, Business Informatics
Dr. Abdullah Al-Bahrani, Economics and Finance
Dr. Carole Cangioni, Management
Ms. Ursula Doyle, Law

I’d also like to recognize the faculty members who are being recommended for promotion to full professor:

Dr. Christine Curran, Biological Sciences
Dr. Robert Wilcox, History and Geography
Dr. Matthew Zacate, Physics, Geology and Engineering Technology
Dr. Danielle McDonald, Political Science, Criminal Justice, and Organizational Leadership
Dr. Shauna Reilly, Political Science, Criminal Justice, and Organizational Leadership
Dr. Andrea South, Communication
Dr. Yi Hu, Computer Science
Dr. Stephanie Hughes, Management
Dr. Tracey Sigler, Management
Ms. Ursula Doyle, Law

Men’s Basketball

Last night the team took on the University of Louisville. Now the outcome wasn’t exactly what we’d hoped for, but to have the opportunity in our first two years of eligibility for postseason play to have to encounter the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, two perennial powerhouses in college basketball in our state, says something about the rapid advancement of our program here at NKU. We’re really proud of the way our team and our athletic department overall has acquitted itself as junior members in the NCAA DI arena.

There is much to celebrate individually about this team as well. For starters, several players received individual all-conference honors. Drew McDonald was named to the All-Horizon League First Team. Lavone Holland II was named to the Second Team, and Jalen Tate earned spots on both the All-Freshman Team and the All-Defensive Team. Congratulations to these players for these honors.

Military Friendly Campus

I am also proud to report that we have been designated with gold status as a 2018 Military Friendly School by Victory Media, which is the premier media entity for military personnel transitioning into civilian life. We are the only gold status institution the Tri-State area.

Congratulations to the team at the Veteran’s Resource Station and to all faculty and staff who have played a part in recruiting, serving, and retaining these students.  

Budget/Pension Update

Finally, let me speak directly about work in Frankfort affecting our financial posture in very significant ways.

First, a note about our budget challenges that you heard about this morning from Mike Hales, our CFO. The greatest single challenge is our pending nearly $13M increase in our KERS contribution for FY19. That represents a 70% increase in one year. That Frankfort-directed unfunded mandate will require dramatic personnel cuts if relief is not obtained in some manner.  Understand that 90% of our discretionary budget, that portion from which we can take cuts to meet this obligation, is personnel costs. A $13M hit represents about 140-150 positions based on average compensation level of both salary and benefits. That’s a major hit. And that is what is at stake from just our increased pension costs alone.

In response to this challenge and other budget pressures, our advocacy efforts have focused on two priorities:

1.       Equity funding to complete the effort started last biennium to bring NKU’s state appropriation level in line with that of other KY public universities. Seeking at least another $5.1M based upon the recognized funding disparity between other KY public universities and NKU. 

a.       The CPE included $14.7M in its budget request for higher education that includes $5.1M for NKU, representing our share under the state’s performance funding model.

2.       Pension relief and reform – that is reform that significantly reduces the cost that we bear or direct relief from the nearly $13M increase in our mandated contribution.

a.       One way would be passage of pension reform legislation that dramatically reduces the cost to the system and, in turn, reduces our required contribution;

b.       Another way would be to provide NKU a direct state appropriation to cover the increase, as is done with all state agencies, except for higher education – the CPE requested $47M in its budget for that very purpose to cover the increase of the KERS cost for all the comprehensive universities. They don’t have to request anything for UK or U of L because none of their employees are in the Kentucky Retirement System. They are all in a defined contribution plan.

c.       Another way would be to enable NKU to exit the KERS system under terms that remove or reduce dramatically this significant and increasing KERS burden while minimizing, at the same time, the potential impact that such a change would make on those employees moving from KERS to a defined contribution plan.

In our discussions with legislators and the Governor’s office, we have made it very clear that the dramatic pension impact also aggravates the funding disparity among KY comprehensive universities because NKU has the largest increase in mandated KERS contributions of all the KY comprehensives.

To date, here is what has transpired in Frankfort:

1.       The Governor introduced pension reform legislation in partnership with legislative leaders in both the House and Senate that would have not only reformed the state pension system, but also would have reduced our pension obligations. Essentially, it established a system that would gradually migrate from a defined benefit program to a defined contribution program, by doing the following things with the KERS system:

a.       All new hires would be placed in a defined contribution plan;

b.       All Tier 3 employees (roughly less than 5 years) would be moved from KERS to a defined contribution plan;

c.       All other employees would have the option to opt out of KERS and into the defined contribution plan;

d.       Over time, all employees would be in a defined contribution plan, but it would be phased in; and

e.       No action on that pension bill has been taken by the General Assembly.

2.       In addition, the Governor presented his budget bill, which he explicitly described as the budget that is needed assuming no pension reform and no tax reform. And that bill included the following:

a.       No equity funding, either direct for NKU or higher education under CPE’s request under the performance funding model;

b.       No state appropriation to NKU or other universities to provide direct relief for the nearly $13M mandated increase in our pension contribution;

c.       A 6.25% cut in the state appropriation for all state agencies to address the pension financial crisis which produced for us a cut of $3.2M under that budget; and

d.       A directed cut of the funding for the Kentucky Center for Mathematics – a state mandated program run by NKU, and that’s another $1.3M cut in that budget.

3.       In response to that, we argued that NKU’s state appropriation cut of 6.25% and the KCM cut were designed specifically to help solve the pension problems. While at the same time, we were being required to pay our own share of the pension costs and that was essentially a double tax on NKU. The House responded to that in its budget bill:

a.       The House removed the 6.25% cut in our state appropriation;

b.       But it retained the cut in funding for the KCM;

c.       And like the Governor, however, provided no appropriation to relieve us of the nearly $13M KERS increase; and

d.       Provided no equity funding.

4.     These matters are now in the hands of the Senate.

a.       The most visible action by the Senate has been the introduction of two bills addressing pension reform and pension relief:

                          i.            SB1 is the broad-based pension relief bill, an alternative to the Governor’s pension reform bill, which provides much more modest changes than the Governor’s bill, but is still designed over time to reduce the cost of our pension system and makes reasonable and fairly modest changes in benefits to make the system sustainable.

                        ii.            SB66 is a separate bill that is much more targeted to address the needs of KY comprehensive universities and some hybrid state agencies, by establishing a more economically favorable way for NKU and select others to exit the KERS system entirely, if they choose to do so. At the moment, however, SB66 is being held pending action on SB1.

                      iii.            There is no doubt in my mind that the combination of SB1 and SB66 is more beneficial to NKU and our people than the conditions we face today. I would strongly urge as part of our continuing advocacy effort that we let the Senate and other legislators know that we support those efforts. This is not the only solution to the problem, but among the solutions that are being examined seriously at the moment, it offers the best opportunity for us. 

                       iv.            SB66 in particular, from my perspective, is the only action in Frankfort that offers any opportunity for us to gain some meaningful pension relief from our nearly $13M hit that we are going to confront in only 108 days!

b.       Senate leaders are also seriously considering and working toward including some equity funding in their budget, but that also may depend on the outcome in passing pension reform and relief legislation. The other challenge with introducing equity funding by the Senate, while many want to do it, two years ago the Governor included it in the budget. The House took it out. The Senate was able to put it back in. As the Senate has described to us, it is much easier to put it back in, if the original budget had it included even though it later came out. There’s a challenge there. There are a number of champions, and they’re not only from Northern Kentucky’s caucus. There are some other strong supporters for that equity funding. And that would go a long way toward offsetting whatever other fiscal challenges we are confronting as a result of whatever the budget is as well as the pension situation.

c.       I can’t stress enough the importance of continuing our advocacy efforts, meaning your calls, emails, and personal contacts to let our legislators know you support their work on SB1, SB66, and equity funding.

Mr. Boehne, that concludes my report.


Gerard A. St. Amand
Interim President
Northern Kentucky University
Nunn Drive
800 Lucas Administrative Center
Highland Heights, KY 41099
Phone: 859-572-5123
Fax: 859-572-6696