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Dear Colleagues:

The Fall 2020 Semester came to a close this past Saturday with our December Commencement celebrations. Although the ceremony was virtual, it was impactful to see the nearly 1,700 students reach this educational milestone. Our 2020 graduates had to overcome new challenges and learn to persist despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic. We wish them well as they enter the next chapter of their journey as proud NKU alums.

As we approach a new year, we can reflect back on 2020. It certainly was a year full of the unexpected, but these challenges also brought out the best in us. Our campus community joined together to support each other in the pandemic and continues to do so. A major endeavor this year was finally resolving the university’s pension predicament. The Soft Freeze decision is an investment into our people as well as a path to exit an underfunded pension system. It underscores the university’s belief that attracting, supporting and retaining the most capable and motivated individuals will drive and sustain the change needed to thrive in the post- COVID world.

Back in January, I informed campus NKU’s institutional accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), placed the university on warning. We implemented a plan to address the issues SACSCOC identified and submitted our monitoring report in September. At its December meeting, the SACSCOC Board of Trustees reviewed our report and removed NKU from warning and reaffirmed our 10-year accreditation without any additional report. The SACSCOC Board of Trustees was very impressed with the progress made by NKU. I would like to express my thanks to so many faculty and staff across the university who worked tirelessly to ensure our university’s reaccreditation.

We can now enter 2021 with the pension uncertainty resolved and our SACSCOC accreditation reaffirmed. The search for our new Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs continues to move ahead. Over the last two weeks, candidates met with several constituency groups. I would like to thank the various constituencies that provided input to the Search Advisory Committee (SAC). The SAC has provided me with a summary report of the candidates. Working with our search firm, Isaacson Miller, we are engaged in some additional reference checks on the candidates. After completing that process and finalizing schedules, I will announce the individuals who will be invited for virtual campus open forums in January. As each stage progresses, please know that the process of determining fit continues – from our perspective, and the candidates’. Selecting the candidate that has the greatest potential to advance NKU’s mission and help fulfill our vision of becoming an even more student-ready, regionally engaged institution, is of utmost importance. And if we need to be more flexible in our timeline in order to do so, then we will. You can expect to hear details about the open forum schedule when we return from the holiday break.

The first week of the Spring 2021 Semester will bring our 2nd Annual Student Success Summit and our Virtual MLK Day of Service. I look forward to bringing the campus together for these events that have become an annual tradition. The Spring Forward plan that I shared last week, highlighted ways we are making it easier and more affordable for students to stay on track while finding new avenues for engagement and supporting health and wellness. More details on those latter activities will be rolled out in January.

Thank you for your continued support of our students, and a special thank you to those who will be working during winter break. I wish you all a safe and healthy holiday season. Please remember to follow our Norse Nine and social distancing guidelines as you celebrate. Best wishes for the New Year, and we will see you back on campus in 2021.

Ashish Vaidya