Below is the summary of the presentations and activity that took place at the Board of Regents meeting on September 9, 2020.
1. That morning, the Board heard four presentations as a part of its Joint Policy and Finance Committee meeting.
2. 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 Faculty Emeritus status for three NKU educators:
3. Additionally, we welcomed new Regent Ken Perry to the Board.
The Board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is scheduled for November 11, 2020.
Board of Regents
September 9, 2020
Thank you, Chair Scheben and members of the Board.
And thank you to everyone who is joining this Board meeting in person and via live stream. We appreciate your participation.
I would like to welcome Regent Ken Perry as our newest Board member. Last week, Governor Andy Beshear appointed Mr. Perry to a six-year term to our Board. He lives in Bellevue and is the managing director and chairman of Ken Perry, Inc. He is active in the community and lives our ideal of career and community engagement. Regent Perry, welcome and thank you for joining us.
While Student Regent Lauren Goodwin has been in her role as our Student Government Association President for a few months now, I look forward to her serving on the Board as well. Her impact on the campus has been felt already in a variety of ways.
Opening — Return to Campus
I’ll open my comments today by welcoming our students, faculty, and staff back to a very different fall semester. We are in week 4 of the semester and while we are still very much in the middle of this pandemic, it has been good to celebrate a return to our beautiful campus, even in a limited way.
The plan for fall semester – NKU Moving Forward – has been a wide-ranging effort with engagement across the whole campus and several of our external partners.
Over six weeks, we transformed our classroom learning environments to support hybrid instruction. More than 120 classrooms received equipment upgrades required to deliver remote instruction. While this investment was driven by the COVID-19 response, we will be able to be leverage these upgrades to stream and record classroom instruction well into the future.
Our intention in the spring was to have 45 percent of fall courses include a face-to-face component with prioritizing that experience for the Class of 2024. As the summer evolved, the mix of classes shifted more to online instruction due to a number of factors, including limited numbers of classrooms being available with enough seating to accommodate social distancing, and the number of faculty concerned about the risk of teaching in person during the fall semester because of age or other health factors.
Still, 68 percent of freshmen are participating in classes with a face-to-face component. The final breakdown of 33 percent of courses with a face-to-face component and 67 percent fully online is an exact reversal from fall 2019. Nonetheless, our faculty are making extraordinary efforts to engage and teach using synchronous approaches.
In addition, hundreds of loaner laptops, hotspots, monitors, webcams and voice amplifiers have been procured to enable a successful launch of our hybrid learning environment.
We also have online study rooms to allow students to participate in virtual classes on campus via a digital reservation system that is actively being used.
I am proud of how resilient and adaptable this community has been since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Success by Design strategic framework and its focus on access, completion and career & community engagement has enabled us to live up to those ideals at every step.
Moving Forward Conversations
Over the past few weeks, we have engaged in virtual and interactive conversations about our path forward with different university constituents, including Go Norse Fund Donors, Chase College of Law stakeholders, the NKU Alumni Association, and emeriti faculty. We have shared the planning and progress of our Moving Forward plan.
We will continue these conversations as we adapt to the ever-changing landscape.
Healthy at NKU
As part of our Healthy@NKU efforts, we created a web and mobile app to digitally capture key COVID health screening information for faculty, staff and students. This system includes an extensive reporting structure for all department heads, athletics leadership and trainers, as well as university housing leadership.
As you heard earlier today, we have created a dashboard that provides timely and relevant information on regional pandemic statistics to help guide us in future decision making. Once again, thank you to all who had a hand in creating this important resource.
Additionally, we have adopted the Norse Nine, a set of principles that encourage proper health habits as we fight this pandemic. These principles include requiring facial coverings on campus — including outdoors. To help with this, all current faculty, staff and students are eligible to receive free facial coverings simply by showing their All Card.
Finally, our COVID-19 Preparedness Team, including representatives from Marketing and Communications, as well as Facilities Management, have produced and placed signage all over campus to spread awareness of our efforts and personal responsibilities.
Student Emergency Fund
We also continue to support students through the Student Emergency Fund, which to date, has raised more than $133,000 and awarded nearly $74,000 to students who continue to work to support themselves and their families while pursuing their degrees here.
We have assisted 248 students through this fund among 725 total applications. We have also referred more than 400 applications to the CARES Fund.
Speaking of CARES funds, we have in place a system to automate the distribution of the Federal NKU CARES student grant. The system allows students to apply for funds and receive the same via direct deposit or check.
Through July 31, we have disbursed $2.1 million of the $4 million in funds received for the funding for direct student aid. The remaining $1.9 million will be disbursed this Fall and into the Spring.
NKU has received $4 million in institutional Federal CARES funds to deal with COVID-related expenses, $3.5 million of which has been reimbursed with the
remaining to be reimbursed by the end of September.
Thank you to all involved in the Student Emergency Fund, CARES funds work and all the great work that has been done for our students in need.
Mental Health Initiative
Of course, we know that so much more needs to be done for students. Just a few weeks ago at Fall Convocation, I announced a Presidential Initiative for Student Mental Health aimed at enhancing the mental health and wellness of our learners. We are going to explore innovative ways to connect students with the help they need, providing early and ongoing support as they deal with the uncertainty these times present.
Co-chairs Dr. Christopher Lawrence, professor of counseling and director of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program and Dr. Nita Vaidya, for whom student wellness is a personal passion, will lead the Mental Health Advisory Group that includes faculty, staff, students, community volunteers, and subject matter experts in various fields related to mental health.
Together, they will build awareness about the mental health resources available at NKU and assess gaps and unmet needs in the services offered to students. They will develop a three-year plan around areas of priority need. They will also work to build partnerships and external support for key initiatives directed at addressing the stressors our students face. To that end, we have begun conversations with St. Elizabeth Healthcare about possible opportunities.
Thank you to the Mental Health Advisory Group for your service to this important initiative.
Now here is an update regarding enrollment and our budget.
Budget & Enrollment Update
While national enrollment projections in the spring suggested sharp declines amid the pandemic, I am pleased to share that NKU is on target for a third consecutive year of enrollment growth, with nearly 15,700 students enrolled on the first day of classes.
Our graduate programs increased more than 17 percent while summer was up 13 percent for its highest enrollment in history. This overall enrollment growth follows NKU’s continued increase in the number of degrees and credentials conferred with 3,068 last academic year, helping – in part – our 6-year undergraduate graduation rate to jump 10 percentage points over the past four years. In just the last year, the 2012 cohort had a graduation rate of 43.8 percent while the 2013 cohort had a graduation rate of 47.6 percent.
As of the first day of classes, our overall undergraduate enrollments are lower than last fall including the overall freshmen class. However, we will hit yet another major accomplishment this fall with first-to-second-year retention projecting to be at an institutional all-time high. As of our first census date, the fall-to-fall retention rate for the 2019 first-time, full-time, Bachelor-degree-seeking cohort is 74.3 percent, compared to 71.9 percent at this time last year. This would top NKU’s previous retention high of 74.0 percent set in 2005.
But despite these accomplishments, we still have work to do. As mentioned, COVID-19 did impact new student enrollment behavior patterns. To address this, Undergraduate Admissions has developed three Synergy Teams whose collective goal is to gather and deliver data for decision making, engage the campus community in recruitment opportunities both on and off campus, and create and ensure NKU is delivering engaging communication and marketing to undergraduate students, parents, and influencers utilizing best practices. These three teams: Recruitment Data/Analytics, Recruitment/Engagement Opportunities, and Communication/Marketing Strategies, include enrollment liaisons from across campus including faculty, staff, students and administration.
Regarding the budget, our preliminary projections for gross tuition for the fall show that we are tracking to be around $1 million over budget due to higher accelerated online revenues. We are tracking revenues and expenses closely and will be sharing quarterly with each division.
Last week, State Budget Director John Hicks sent a letter informing state agencies, including postsecondary institutions, of the need to draft preliminary budget reduction plans reflecting an 8 percent reduction in our state appropriations. An 8 percent cut for NKU would be approximately $4.2 million. We will note our contingency budget planning initiatives for the budget reduction plan submitted to Mr. Hicks.
Regarding the pension situation, as you heard this morning, we continue to work with our external consultants in analyzing the various financial options and their impacts on the institution and our employees. Over the next several months, we will also continue conversations with KERS and our legislators while communicating updates to employees and campus constituency groups such as the Staff Congress Pension Committee.
We will have a recommendation to the Board of Regents at the November meeting.
Finally, the Postsecondary Education Working Group has begun discussing whether the state’s performance funding model is functioning as expected, to identify any unintended consequences of the model, and to recommend any adjustments. The working group began meeting in July and will continue to meet monthly throughout the end of the year or until the work is complete.
On September 18, we will have a campus conversation around financial sustainability in which we will discuss the higher education business model and the current status of our budget. I invite you all to join us. Details on how to participate will be coming soon.
We have a lot of great news regarding diversity, equity and inclusion this month.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
I’d like to start by thanking the Board for approving the new Title IX regulations last month during our special meeting.
The Inclusive Excellence Council is also finalizing our diversity, equity and inclusion goals for the three pillars of Access, Completion and Career & Community Engagement for review by the end of fall semester.
In the coming days, students, faculty and staff will be invited to participate in mandatory online training in sexual assault prevention for NKU students. The goal is to learn about everyone’s responsibilities and expectations as we continue to build a respectful and healthy campus community, free of sexual harassment and assault.
Last month at Convocation, I mentioned two new DEI programs already in place for the Class of 2024 — The Common Read Program and Humans of Greater Cincinnati, an Honors seminar. I’m happy to report that both are off to impressive starts.
The Common Read Program will host two virtual webinars and panel discussions for all first-year students in the coming weeks. The first session on September 30 will focus on how the media influences our views on race in America. The second event will be held on October 28 and will discuss racial health disparities. Both sessions will include panelists from the Greater Cincinnati region.
As part of the Humans of Greater Cincinnati project, 53 incoming freshmen were shipped iPads at the end of summer, which they have used to take photographs and tell stories about their journey to NKU.
These photo essays have been shared on the Humans of Greater Cincinnati Instagram, Facebook, and web pages, and represent the vast diversity of experiences that NKU students faced in reaching our campus. The larger goal of this project is to have students use the iPads to connect their personal stories to the region by engaging in a series of social media storytelling projects that will eventually take them into the communities of Newport, Covington, and Over the Rhine next semester. By establishing these connections early in their academic careers, our goal is to have students more thoroughly relate their entire academic careers to the needs of Greater Cincinnati.
Both of these programs are extremely exciting for our students. And I have one more inspiring update on our DEI efforts in the form of a new endowed professorship in the College of Informatics.
STRAWS Endowed Professorship of Computer Science
Thanks to an incredibly generous gift from Dr. Carol Swarts, a cherished and longtime supporter of NKU, we have established the STRAWS Endowed Professorship of Computer Science — the first endowed faculty position awarded to a woman in the College of Informatics. Dr. Swarts wanted to highlight the university's commitment to building the visibility and prominence of women in science and technology career fields, something the College of Informatics has spent more than a decade working on.
Just last week, Dean Kirby announced Dr. Alina Campan as the inaugural STRAWS Professor of Computer Science. Dr. Campan's groundbreaking research on data mining and data privacy earned a Yahoo Research Best Paper award. She collaborates with faculty and students in Journalism, Computer Science and Statistics to understand the spreading of disinformation on social media.
Congratulations to Dr. Campan, to the College of Informatics and thank you to Dr. Swarts.
Collaborative for Economic Engagement
We will celebrate the ribbon-cutting for another important partnership tomorrow with the City of Covington. The Collaborative for Economic Engagement will be a one-stop innovation hub for businesses and entrepreneurs to accelerate economic growth in the area.
Regional agencies and programs, along with NKU's experts in data analytics, health, tech, logistics and entrepreneurial innovation will provide the tools that entrepreneurs need to thrive. We hope that given the financial impact of the pandemic, the Collaborative for Economic Engagement will play an essential role in helping the local economy move from recovery into growth.
We also plan to expand the regional services into rural counties by developing an extension located on the NKU Grant County campus.
E-Sports Program at NKU
I am happy to announce another opportunity for our students. Back in February during the Homecoming Alumni Awards dinner I announced that NKU would be introducing a new sports program thanks to seed funding through the Success by Design 2020 Innovation Challenge. Well we are close to launching a varsity E-sports program at NKU and I am especially proud because the team was looking at next year for the launch.
Led by Honors College Dean, Dr. Jim Buss, we are in the process of submitting official paperwork to the National Association of Collegiate Esports to compete in Rocket League for the fall season.
Our first varsity team will include three players and one alternate, and a junior varsity team will include three more players. Thanks to the Innovation Challenge Grant and a NACE waiver, our newest competition team is ready to launch. Good luck this season to all involved.
We have a lot more good news to report from each of our divisions as well, so let’s move to the latest good news from the Institute for Health Innovation.
Institute for Health Innovation
In collaboration with the College of Health and Human Services, the IHI has received a $2.2 million Federal Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) grant to lead an innovative effort that will increase the number of paraprofessionals that serve children, adolescents, and transitional age youth whose parents have been impacted by Substance Use Disorder. This collaboration will lead to a specialized educational track and paid apprenticeship within the Human Services and Addiction degree program that will begin accepting students this spring.
The IHI has also initiated the Coronavirus Opportunity Grant Program recently in support of faculty-student collaborations that address key issues related to the pandemic and to foster innovative collaborations across disciplines. They have already awarded more than $15,000 to support 15 participating faculty across 11 disciplines and more than 200 students.
Enrollment and Degree Management
NKU’s TRiO Student Support Services’ federally funded grant program has been renewed once again for five years until 2025. This annual award of more $405,000 will continue to provide ongoing, direct coordinated care and wrap-around services to 225 low-income, first-generation students and students with disabilities. This is the largest award for student support services in the Commonwealth and will enhance and broaden our team’s innovative student support programming.
We have more good news to report from the Academic Affairs division, beginning with an exciting honor for Adult Learner Programs and Services.
Academic Affairs Updates
The mural project celebrates the city’s 225th anniversary and was first imagined in service-learning classes at NKU. Recent graduates Gina Erardi and Gabrielle Siekman painted the mural, which can be seen on the eastern section of the floodwall, just east of the I-471 exit going toward Bellevue. The Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement spearheaded this project and provided financial support while SOTA was also key in this project’s progress.
The search firm Isaacson and Miller is vetting candidates and is expected to bring a slate of candidates to the search committee the week of September 14.
VP for Student Affairs Search
The VP for Student Affairs search is also progressing well with virtual interviews occurring with the committee and myself in the next few weeks.
AVP for Government Relations
Let’s continue with reports from other divisions.
Administration and Finance Update
Welcoming America Week
I’d like to conclude my remarks by mentioning two community engagement initiative that representatives from NKU will be participating in over the next few weeks.
First, behind the leadership of our International Student Office, NKU will join the Northern Kentucky Chamber along with Cincinnati Compass, World Affairs Council, Refugee Connect and local nonprofits like Heartfelt Tidbits, The Welcome Project, The Center for Greater Neighborhoods and Kentucky African Women Association, to celebrate Welcoming America Week beginning September 12. This week of virtual events will highlight the contributions of immigrants and refugees to this region with a theme of “creating home together.”
Through Welcoming Week, we hope to build stronger connections with our immigrant neighbors and affirm the importance of creating a welcoming and inclusive environment so that we all prosper. The Week will feature a panel discussion with some of our international students and one featuring some of our faculty.
At NKU, we like to say that you belong here. I’d like to encourage everyone — whether you’re a Board member, student, faculty or staff member, or an alum of NKU, to participate in this virtual event throughout the week. You can participate through the Welcoming Week 2020 NKY and Cincinnati Facebook page, by sharing photos while patronizing immigrant businesses, and use the hashtag #CreatingHomeTogether #GROWNKY and #WelcomingWeek to help spread awareness and encouragement.
And finally, Election Day is 55 days away and NKU is actively encouraging the community to vote.
The Scripps Howard Center, along with Enrollment & Degree Management and the New Student Orientation Office, worked this summer to send all incoming freshman a NKU VOTE imprinted face mask along with a reminder postcard with information about our #NKUVotes website, nku.edu/ivote.
An NKUVotes video with voter information was included in the new student Virtual Orientation program this year.
SGA will also encourage students to register to vote this semester.
And Regent Michael Baranowski’s Election 2020 class this fall, an upper-level political science class includes a weekly podcast about this election. The podcast is available every Wednesday at Politicsguys.com. The class was featured in an editorial in the Northern Kentucky Tribune.
Please note that the campus will be closed for Election Day on November 3 with no classes so all in our community will have the time they need to engage in their civic duty to vote.
Chair Scheben and members of the Board that concludes my remarks for today’s meeting.
Ashish K. Vaidya, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University
800 Lucas Administrative Center
Highland Heights, KY 41099