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Dear Colleagues:

Below is the summary of the presentations and activity that took place at the Board of Regents Zoom Webinar meeting on May 13, 2020.

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

  • Director of Athletics Ken Bothof and representatives from Intercollegiate Athletics offered a yearly wrap-up and update from Norse Athletics.
  • Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Sue Ott Rowlands joined Executive Director of the Institute for Health Innovation Valerie Hardcastle, Interim Vice President for Administration & Finance and CFO Mike Hales, Chief Human Resources Officer Lori Southwood and Co-Interim Chief Student Affairs Officer and Dean of Students Arnie Slaughter for an update on the university’s COVID-19 response and preparedness.
  • Mike Hales provided the Board with an update on tuition and the annual operating budget.

In the afternoon, the Board approved all of the recommended items including Academic Affairs and non-academic personnel actions and major gifts acceptance. The Board also approved a new doctorate program in occupational therapy and a new Bachelor of Science degree in applied software engineering.

During my comments to the Board, I paid tribute to the late Dr. Tom Rambo, a founding faculty member in Biology at NKU. Dr. Rambo passed away recently. He was an academic adviser and mentor for Dean Diana McGill and was committed to this university’s student-centered mission. Please read more about Dr. Rambo in my comments below.

The Board’s annual retreat is scheduled for July 15-16, 2020, and the next regularly scheduled meeting is scheduled for September 9, 2020.



Presidential Comments
Board of Regents
May 13, 2020

Thank you, Chair Scheben and members of the Board.

And thank you to everyone who is joining this Board meeting via live stream. We appreciate your participation.

Before we get to my formal comments, I would like to take a moment of privilege and thank the entire NKU community for their tremendous work these past two months. When we had our last Board meeting we were just in the early stages of our response to the pandemic. In two months we have demonstrated how as a community we came together to serve our students, each other and the community.

Opening — Virtual Commencement

I’ll open by recognizing the more than 1,800 graduates we honored this past Saturday during our Virtual Commencement celebration.

Our graduates have persevered through these difficult circumstances, in addition to the trials and tribulations most students face during ordinary times.

Because of the COVID-19 situation and to abide by the guidelines of public health agencies and the Governor, we were unable to host the traditional Commencement exercises in BB&T arena.

While it was not the send-off we anticipated, it was important that we honor them the best way we could.

Graduates, their families and friends were able to hear congratulatory remarks from myself, Provost Sue Ott Rowlands, Student Regent Jarrett Lopez, faculty, senior student award winners and Maria Reynolds the president of the Alumni Association.

We included many of the traditions associated with commencement exercises, such as the official conferring of academic degrees and a student vocal quartet’s rendition of alma mater and performances from the student orchestra. Names of the graduates were also displayed at the end of the program.

The ceremony streamed live on the NKU website and has been viewed more than 1,250 times since debuting on Saturday morning. It was the top local news story all weekend with more than 2 million story views online and on TV in 10 news segments.

The event is available to view now at

In addition to the virtual ceremony, we have expanded our December Commencement to include graduates from May, August and December. There will be four ceremonies,
separated by college, to celebrate the graduates from December 11-13, 2020.

I would like to thank everyone involved in making the virtual commencement a success.

I would also like to offer congratulations once again to all of our graduates. I hope many of them are able to join us again in December and I wish them the best as they embark on their lives and careers.

Commencement was just one event impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and the faculty and staff have been up to the task of meeting the needs of our students in every way possible from transitioning to online learning to assisting with their finances through the Student Emergency Fund.

Student Emergency Fund

As the Board is aware, many of our students work to support themselves and their families while pursuing their degree.

In the wake of the economic impact on the country and the region, NKU created the COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund to support students.

A cross-divisional team from University Advancement, Administration and Finance, Student Affairs and Enrollment & Degree Management worked to get this fund started quickly once the crisis set in.

The fund has raised more than $100,000 and has provided funds to nearly 1000 students in need.

NKU Masks

We also have an opportunity to support the Student Emergency Fund and receive an NKU mask. For a minimum donation of $15, you can get one of two very attractive facemask designs.

The design is the work of Smoove Creations, a company owned by new alum Isaiah Kelly. Isaiah is a May 2020 graduate and current student in the MBA program. The masks are being produced by Reis Promotions & Apparel, a company owned by 1998 NKU alum Brandon Reis.

This is a chance to support students and show your Norse pride!


We have received federal funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) allocation, often called the CARES Act.

To further assist students in managing financial challenges, we are going to distribute this funding in a fair, equitable and efficient manner to eligible students through CARES Student Emergency Grants.

Just like our Emergency Fund, these grants are intended to help students with financial need for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19. They also include costs such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and childcare.

To be eligible, students must be enrolled for Spring 2020, be at least half-time degree-seeking, Title IV eligible and enrolled in a non-AOL program.

As of Monday we have received 942 applications from students seeking funding.

More Funds for the NKU Community

The Chase Bridge Fund is a student emergency fund that has received a grant award of $25,000 to assist our law students in need. To date, Chase has made
approximately 70 awards to law students impacted by the current crisis.

We have also raised more than $20,000 for the Benevolent Fund in support of NKU employees facing need.

IIE Scholarship: Chinonye Izú

Just last week we learned that Chinonye (Chee-known-yeah) Izú (Ease-Eew), who is a senior nursing student from Nigeria, has been awarded an Institute for International Education (IIE) Emergency Student Fund award for $2,500.

Chinonye had not been aware that she was nominated by faculty and staff at NKU until she learned of her award. She is immensely thankful to IIE and to this community for its support.

Chinonye is a role model for other students and for the profession of nursing.

Checking in with Students

As a student-ready university, support for our students must go beyond monetary aid in a crisis such as this. We have to connect with our learners on a personal level as well. So a cross-divisional team is developing an outreach initiative that will involve administrators, faculty, and staff calling each NKU undergraduate and graduate student this summer to “check-in” with them to see how they are doing. We are calling this NKU’s 15K Initiative! Or maybe more like the 10K Initiative after factoring in those who graduated and in AOL programs.

I will be sending out a call to campus with additional details to ask for volunteers to connect with NKU students with these calls.

Community Support

Since this crisis began, NKU has been a leader in the region’s fight against COVID-19, offering the use of our buildings to house first responders on the front lines and to house St. Elizabeth patients if needed. The College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Health and Human Services have donated Personal Protection Equipment to St. Elizabeth and to others.

I am proud of how the NKU community has come together to put our students’ and community’s needs first. We are truly embodying our role as a steward of place.

Going Forward

With all the challenges this pandemic presents, it is even more important that we accelerate our vision of becoming an even more student-ready and regionally engaged university.

Later this month, the COVID Preparedness team will share their recommendation for what our fall operations will look like. We would like the campus community to share their feedback before we make a final decision on or before June 15. Earlier this morning you heard an update from members of the team about our efforts in preparation of the fall recommendation.

The COVID-19 preparedness team has also begun to explore a phased transition to on-campus operations in certain key areas beginning in July, and will communicate any updates to the campus when appropriate.

“Re-Opening” Community meeting

Earlier today, the Board heard about last week’s meeting with community members regarding resuming fall on-campus activities and operations.

One of the key takeaways was that NKU must demonstrate safety to parents and the community as we re-open.

Healthy at NKU

As part of that last suggestion, we are partnering with St. Elizabeth Healthcare, the Northern Kentucky Health Department, Gravity Diagnostics and RESTART to help ensure safety on campus.

This partnership will explore near-site and on-site testing for all faculty, staff, and students and supporting the university in meeting St. Elizabeth’s guidelines and practices for employee health.

It is clear that regardless of the approach we take to resume our regular on-campus operations and face-to-face student learning experiences, there will be a significant negative impact on our financial situation. The likely budget challenge will require some very difficult choices.

In order to build a contingency plan that accounts for at least a $10 million deficit, I have requested interim VP Mike Hales and Dr. Karen Miller, Chair of Political Science, to co-chair an Ad Hoc Group consisting of faculty and staff to make recommendations that will be vetted across the campus, with a final plan to be submitted to the campus by June 30th. I would like to express my thanks to the faculty and staff who have agreed to serve on the Ad-Hoc group.

I shared with the group that in developing this plan we need to be deliberate, creative and intentional about the way forward.

The focus of the group would be to bring forward conceptual ideas that not only generates savings and revenue opportunities, but also positions NKU as an innovative leader in student success. The work must be mindful of the need to preserve NKU’s core mission as a steward of place, our differentiation and distinctiveness, our ability to innovate and generate revenue, and our future competitive advantage.

Summer Work

In order for us to meet the expectations of the community, we will be taking advantage of the summer months to engage the entire campus with various professional development opportunities. These opportunities will cover everything from effective online teaching strategies to organizing in a hybrid environment, to different ways to better support our students.

We will also engage in Summer Campus Conversations on strategic topics around our mission of teaching, learning and economic engagement, student support, as well as academic and administrative operations. While COVID has caused a significant disruption for all of higher education, we plan to accelerate the change we feel is needed to continue on our quest to become a more student-ready regionally-engaged institution in a post COVID world.

Now I’ll share some highlights and key updates from across the University, beginning with our Staff Award Recipients.

Staff Award Recipients

We were unable to celebrate Employee Appreciation Week during the last week of March when we would have honored service-award recipients and enjoyed some time together in celebration of the great work NKU employees do.

This year we honor 102 service award recipients who reached milestones in 2019 ranging from 5 years of service to 40 years of service, totaling 1,145 years of institutional knowledge.

I would like to specifically acknowledge David Knight of Visual Arts for his 30 years of service and Mary Paula Schuh of Campus and Space Planning for her 40 years of service.

We thank them for their service and all that they do to support student success.

In addition to the service awards, we also honor three deserving staff members with the University’s highest staff award, the Regents’ Distinguished Service Award.

Earlier today, Chair Scheben announced Michele Kay, David MacKnight and Lisa McElfresh as this year’s winners. Congratulations to each of the winners!

Academic Affairs Awards and Millburn Recipient

Academic Affairs announced its Faculty and Staff Honors and Awards last month on a special website dedicated to the occasion. We were pleased to honor two Academic Affairs staff, 14 faculty and four academic units with awards.

Among the winners was Dr. Mark Bardgett who was honored with the prestigious Frank Sinton Milburn Outstanding Professor Award. The honors and awards also recognized 27 recently promoted faculty and 17 retiring faculty.

Regents Professor, Dr. Scott Nutter

Additionally, Dr. Scott Nutter was named as NKU’s next Regents Professor in April. This important award recognizes full professors who, “at the apex of their careers, have an exceptional record of achievements in scholarship or creative activity that has brought acclaim to the university and is consistent with the university’s core values… The award celebrates the accomplishments of the recipient and provides support through time and resources for the processor to focus on his/her work.”

Congratulations, Drs. Bardgett and Nutter.

The Safest Colleges Campuses in America in 2020

NKU has been ranked No. 23 in the 2020 Safest Colleges Campuses in America rankings.

We were recognized especially for our impressive safety website. The publication noted that NKU, “gives students a breakdown of every emergency action plan, so they’ll know what to do in the event of a tornado, active shooter, and even a psychological crisis. Even better, the school has a brag-worthy violent crime rate of 0.75 per 10,000 people.”

Thanks for Chief Gaffin and the entire University Police team for this impressive and noteworthy achievement.

The Young Scholars Academy

At the March Board meeting I mentioned the agreement between NKU and the Kenton County School District to launch the Young Scholars Academy. I am pleased to report that we have offered admission to 100 students who will be in the inaugural class of the Northern Kentucky University-Kenton County Young Scholars Academy this fall. 

This innovative program will give high-school students an early start toward their higher education goals by giving them a full-time collegiate experience and the opportunity to complete a baccalaureate degree at NKU with only an additional two years of study.

The Young Scholars Academy is a competitive program for high-achieving juniors and seniors in Kenton County. Early College Academies such as this will not only increase access to higher education, but also strengthen the educational pipeline from Kenton County to NKU. I’m looking forward to welcoming these young scholars to NKU in a couple months.

CPE Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan Report Evaluation

The 2020 CPE Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan Report Evaluations were shared in a public forum late last month. Four-year universities must obtain a minimum composite score of 24 out of 36 in order to be automatically eligible to offer new academic programs. NKU received 26 out of 36. Our Equity Academy and the Success by Design Framework were praised as state and regional models for higher education. Institutions that do not meet the minimum composite score are denied the opportunity to forward new academic programs for approval by the CPE.

Campus Climate Survey

Earlier this month, the Campus Climate Survey was formally presented to University Council and campus leadership. This study compared differences in perceptions of campus climate by ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status and veteran status. The conclusion was that our greatest areas of opportunity for improvement was with students and staff of color, female students and faculty, and faculty and staff with disabilities. A detailed presentation of the report to the campus community is in progress.

New Title IX Regulations

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education released new regulations to guide the application of Title IX. Our team is reviewing the new regulations to understand the compliance expectations of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and we will keep the community informed as we evaluate what will need to be put in place.

It should be noted, this is a large undertaking to revamp our policies, training materials and website while navigating the pandemic. The mandated date for completion is August 14.

We have a lot more good news to report from each of our divisions as well, so let’s start with the latest good news from the Institute for Health Innovation as they continue to find innovative ways to positively impact the health and wellness of our region.

Institute for Health Innovation

The IHI is part of an international collaborative research team that has been awarded $2.4 million from the American Heart Association. NKU’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics and the College of Health and Human Services will join the IHI on this research team.

In addition to NKU, this team includes Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the University of Washington, the Rheumatic Heart Disease Research Collaborative in Uganda and Caption Health, a private company.

The team will address rheumatic heart disease and will provide research experiences for our students on the ground the Uganda, new cross-disciplinary courses in developing and implementing novel healthcare technologies, and opportunities for NKU faculty, staff, and students to help evaluate and learn from a country-wide effort to decrease impact of the Rheumatic Heart Disease.

Congratulations to the IHI, the College of Health and Human Services and to the Department of Mathematics and Statistics for this exciting opportunity.

We have more good news to report from the Academic Affairs division, beginning with an important new scholarship fund in the College of Health and Human Services.

Academic Affairs Updates

  • A new matching scholarship program through our partnership with Seven Hills Anesthesia’s St. Elizabeth Division will provide financial aid to qualifying students who are enrolled in the nurse anesthesia program.

    Their generous gift in excess of $195,000 ($390,000 total) will be wholly matched to establish the Seven Hills Anesthesia-St. Elizabeth Division Scholarship Fund. This fund will also help students persist toward earning their degrees before transitioning into careers as nurse anesthetists with Seven Hills Anesthesia’sSt. Elizabeth Division.

  • The Council for Postsecondary Education has approve the new Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity degree in the College of Informatics. This degree program will prepare graduates for unfilled jobs in cybersecurity, addressing a need in our region.

  • The Haile/US Bank College of Business has been recognized among the top 25 business schools in the world in the 2020 Innovations That Inspire Challenge by the AACSB International accrediting body. The Innovations That Inspire challenge recognizes institutions from around the world that serve as champions of change in the business education landscape. This recognition is for the Underground Agency championed by David Raska. Congratulations to Dr. Raska and the College of Business.

  • The Chase College of Law has established the Chase Center on Addiction Law & Policy. The plan is to partner with interested departments across campus and within the region to launch programming and outreach in the Fall.

  • Finally, 235 students presented their research at NKU’s Online Celebration of Student Research and Creativity on April 29 and 30 when more than 400 visitors visited the web pages. The pages earned 21,900 views during those two days!

Thank you to the faculty and staff who made a quick pivot to present this annual event online in the middle of the semester, and to the many who tuned in to see the work presented by our students. I’m grateful to all who made this important event happen in the virtual setting.

Let’s continue with reports from other divisions, beginning with Administration and Finance.

Administration and Finance Update

  • The annual CIO 100 Awards named the HIC Project as a 2020 CIO 100 award winner in March.

    This award celebrates 100 organizations that are using IT in innovative ways to deliver business value, recognizing innovative organizations around the world that exemplify the highest level of operational and strategic excellence in IT.

    Our award was based upon all the innovative technology implemented in the Health Innovations Center, including:
    • Classroom technology with full lecture/capture and hybrid instruction mode,
    • Technology in collaboration spaces,
    • Radio-frequency identification (RFID) inventory tracking technology,
    • A 3D printing program,
    • Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Innovation Lab,
    • Infrastructure innovation with our wired and wireless backbone,
    • and the way we have integrated the SIM labs and other technologies in the building.

      This honor puts NKU in good company because other winners included McDonald’s, Allstate Insurance, Accenture and Verizon. I’m proud of our Information Technology team’s abilities to transform and unlock a classroom’s true potential.  Congratulations to all involved.

  • Construction on the new residence hall began in April. The building will be located on the front section of Lot F and will include 297 semi-suite-style beds featuring two double-occupancy bedrooms. We expect the project to be complete by July 2021 in time for the Fall 2021 semester. A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for later this month.


  • The Department of Athletics moved its annual student-athlete celebration, The Victors, to a virtual setting late last month. This celebration recognizes the achievements of our student-athletes in a setting similar to the Oscars. With the event on Twitter this year, it was widely viewed beyond the athletics department. It generated more than 243,000 impressions and viewers saw more than 14,500 minutes of video content, honoring the Norse student-athletes.

  • Athletics has also transitioned its reporting to a more feature-based style during this time without competition.

We have heard some incredible stories of personal triumph, including women’s basketball player Taylor Clos facing several daunting set-backs on the road to recovery from a knee injury, as well as volleyball’s Miranda Wucherer wearing pink shoes during every match in honor of her late mother who passed away due to breast cancer more than 12 years ago.

These stories show the resolve and character of Norse student-athletes in all that they do.

Dr. Tom Rambo

It is with sadness that I share the news that Dr. Tom Rambo, Emeritus faculty in the Department of Biology and one of our founding faculty, passed away earlier this month after a long illness.

Tom is survived by his wife, Elinor, also a retired biology faculty member. Of note, Tom taught and was the biology advisor for Dean Diana McGill when she was a student here. He later served as a mentor for Dr. McGill when she joined the faculty.

Dr. Rambo’s family has asked for memorial donations to be made to their church or to NKU’s COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund, demonstrating Tom’s love for this community and our students.

Farewell to Terry Mann and Jarett Lopez

I would like to thank Regents Terry Mann and Jarett Lopez for their service to NKU. Both of their terms end on June 30.

Jarett graduated Saturday, earning his Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in history and international studies. Jarett, thank you for your service this year as student regent and as Student Government President. It was an honor to work alongside you and I wish you luck as you embark on your next chapter.

Regent Mann received his graduate degree in education at NKU and has been committed to this university as regent for two consecutive terms from 2008 through 2020. Regent Mann also served as Board Chair from 2011 through 2013.

Terry, your perspective as a former schoolteacher, principal, and member of the house in Frankfort has served NKU well and I wish you well.

Clare Birkeland Learning from Home in Michigan

I began my comments today with an update of how we’re dealing with this pandemic and what we are doing for our students. I’d like to close with an email I received from one of those students who just completed her first year as an NKU student and is now about 380 miles away at home in Rockford, Michigan.

Clare Birkeland told me she had experienced the best few months of her life during the Fall 2019 semester at NKU. She said she came to campus knowing no one but left a few weeks ago with an NKU family. In fact, it was very difficult for her to leave campus when the COVID-19 crisis began.

She also wanted to share a package sent to her from her uncle in Seattle who knew how disappointed she was to leave her new NKU family. He had written her a letter with a sign to hang in her room welcoming her to “Northern Kentucky University – Rockford!”

Clare is and will always be, in her words, a proud member of the Norse community and she is grateful to the NKU staff and faculty for all that we have done during this Covid-19 crisis.

As we conclude a unique academic year, and we continue our commitment to student success, I echo what so many of the faculty and staff are feeling – Clare and her peers are why we are here and we long for the day we can welcome them back to campus as an NKU family again.

Chair Scheben and members of the Board, that concludes my remarks for today’s meeting.

Ashish K. Vaidya, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University
Nunn Drive
800 Lucas Administrative Center
Highland Heights, KY 41099
Phone: 859-572-5123
Fax: 859-572-6696