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To: Faculty, Staff and Students
From: President Ashish Vaidya
Date:  9/9/21
Subject: September Board of Regents Summary

Dear Colleagues:

Below is the summary of the presentations and activity that took place at the Board of Regents meeting on September 8, 2021.

1.      That morning, the Board heard three presentations as a part of its Joint Finance and Policy Committee meeting.

    • Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Matt Cecil joined Dr. James Buss, our Dean of the Honors College, as well as students Alixandria Harris and Ariana Tulay for an update from the Honors College.
    • Chief Human Resources Officer Lori Southwood and Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel Joan Gates gave an update on flexible workplace procedures at NKU.
    • Dr. Cecil presented a comprehensive COVID update as it applies to NKU and our region.

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 an extension of the Success by Design strategic framework, an update to the Code of Student Conduct Rights and Responsibilities, and Faculty Emeritus status for visual arts faculty, Mr. Steven Finke and Ms. Lisa Jameson, and for nursing faculty, Dr. Carrie McCoy. 

The Board’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be November 16, 2021.


Ashish K. Vaidya, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University 
Nunn Drive, Lucas Administrative Center 800
Highland Heights, KY 41099
Phone: 859.572.5123 | Fax: 859.572.6696


Presidential Comments
Board of Regents
September 8, 2021
Presidential Comments


Thank you, Chair Ward and members of the Board.

And thank you to everyone who is joining this Board meeting here in person and via live stream. We appreciate your participation. I would like to acknowledge the service of Ms. Wendy Peek who served in support of the Board for nine years and welcome Ms. Tina Peebles in her new role as assistant to the Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Secretary to the Board.

Welcome new Regents

I would like to begin by welcoming new regents Elizabeth Thompson, Kara Williams, Cori Henderson and Aliya Cannon.

Regent Thompson is with us for a second time after serving previously from 2010 to 2016, including as vice chair in 2013. We are thrilled to have you back and I am looking forward to working with you this year.

It is truly an honor to welcome Regent Williams back to the board as well. She is an NKU alum who has a degree in organizational communication and previously served on the Board as Student Regent while she was SGA President.

Student Regent Canon has been in her role as the Student Government Association President for a few months now, but I look forward to her service on the Board as well. Along with Regent Henderson, Regent Canon is among the first two African American women elected to serve as Regents.

Finally, Regent Henderson joins us as Staff Regent. She is the assistant director of Institutional Research.

Again, welcome to all of you. Thank you for your service. I look forward to a successful year together.

Opening — Return to Campus, a reimagined U

Last month, we were able to welcome our students, faculty and staff back to a reimagined hybrid university.

We began the new academic year with the annual Fall Convocation on August 16 — the first campus-wide in-person gathering since February 2020 and classes began the following Monday.

It is now week three of the fall semester and I know our community has been enjoying getting back together on campus even with lingering restrictions in place to maintain the campus’s health and safety.

At the start of the semester, the Division of Student Affairs held the annual welcome-back series of events called Victorfest. It brought some much-needed vibrancy back to campus with 10 days of activities for all NKU students. Highlights included Freshfusion, a student engagement fair, a hypnotist, paint wars, and an outdoor movie on the soccer field.

A new event this year was Victor’s Voyage, which involved turning the Student Union into a cruise ship with different activity ports including a casino, BINGO, paint night, photo coffee mugs and many other activities.

At the Campus Recreation Center, RecFEST was an overwhelming success with nearly 1,000 students in attendance. The Rec Center was full of engaging activities, including inflatables, a smoothie bar, a sports club fair, an eSports lounge, and a tie-dye station. I understand students had a wonderful time.

August 19 was move-in day here when staff, students and community volunteers welcomed 700 new student residents to campus. Overall, we have approximately 1,300 students living on campus this fall.

Of course, this year was a special move-in for NKU as we opened the new residence hall. The residents who moved into the new building were very impressed and excited. Staff and volunteers were happy to have students on campus again and provided a wonderful move-in experience.

Most important, however, was the start of the academic semester with the vast majority of classes taking place in person. I cannot fully express how wonderful it was to walk around campus and see the comings and goings of the students, faculty and staff who make this such a wonderful place.

Ongoing Pandemic Efforts

This morning you heard a comprehensive COVID report from Provost Cecil. Last week the campus moved to the red zone as cases continued to rise.

As a result, we added a recommendation to mask outdoors in addition to a facial covering mandate indoors on campus for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

In an effort to provide transparency and benchmarks, the COVID-19 Decision Indicators will inform our mitigation decisions using evidence-based criteria from health officials. The indicators cover most situations and are color coded to align with the Commonwealth’s system. We will monitor the campus and regional trends and make decisions to keep our campus safe and healthy with the counsel of the COVID-19 Preparedness Team, which continues to meet regularly. I want to acknowledge the tremendous work and guidance of the team.

Our message has been consistent about the effectiveness of vaccines and to promote free and readily available vaccination. NKU’s Office of Health, Counseling and Student Wellness has the Pfizer vaccines and, thanks to the Northern Kentucky Health Department, is able to give $25 gift cards for Amazon and Kroger to anyone who completes their vaccinations with the clinic.

The IT department has developed a self-reporting COVID-19 vaccination app for all NKU users to add their vaccine information so we can measure the percentage of faculty, staff and students who are fully vaccinated. We will continue to strongly encourage everyone to share their vaccination status with the University confidentially so that it may inform our COVID-19 Decision Indicators and provide an accurate campus dashboard.

Those who enter their information are also entered into NKU’s vaccination incentives contest that will award 1,000 prize drawings for $100 each, followed by a week of grand-prize drawings. So far, we have had two of our seven weekly drawings of 125 winners with a third scheduled for today.

Reimagined/Hybrid U

Later this month we will form a task force to recommend a blueprint for the design and an implementation plan for building a hybrid university. You will recall that it was one of the three essential goals that I shared with the campus during Fall Convocation. Based on lessons learned from the last 16 months, a blend of offering classes both face-to-face and online, can be expanded to student services and workforce and become a more permanent feature of the University.

By rethinking of the academic portfolio, reshaping of campus work, workforce, and workplace, and redefining the students’ experience for a lifetime of learning and success, we can deliver a reimagined student/learner experience for a tech-enabled world. More information about the task force will be forthcoming.

Update on ARPA funds – student aid and institutional aid

We formed a committee with representation from faculty, staff and administrators to guide us in our use of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). That includes institutional use of $11.4 million and a student-grant portion of $11.9 million.

  • We developed guiding principles to ensure recommendations that are based on our mission, vision, values and strategic framework.
  • Recommendations for the $11.4 million in institutional funds include:
    • $2.8 million of indirect costs from grants to use for non-recurring strategic investments;
    • $5 million to offset potential revenue losses from Covid impact on enrollment, housing, parking, and more to help balance the FY22 budget;
    • $2.1 million for $250 book vouchers for undergraduate students to use to offset expenses related to books, technology and supplies;
    • $660,000 for debt relief for students with outstanding NKU balances from spring ’20 through spring ’21;
    • $255,000 to provide funding for mental health initiatives;
    • $120,000 for vaccine incentives including the vaccine incentive contest;
    • $20,000 to provide funding for digital textbooks as part of the Textbook Affordability Program to help save students money on their textbook costs;
    • And the remaining $400,000 will include a combination of recommendations including loaner laptops for students, diversity/equity/inclusion initiatives, other strategic high-impact practice initiatives, and other Covid-related costs such as quarantine meals and PPE.
  • Recommendations for the $11.9 million student-grant portion include three phases:
    • During Phase 1, $8.4 million would be used as block grants to Pell-eligible students and for those with unmet needs. Pell-eligible students would be provided $1,000 for the fall semester and $1,000 for the spring semester. Students with unmet needs would be provided $500 for fall and $500 for spring.
    • For Phase 2, $2 million would be used for all other students to apply for grants of $500 that would apply to their student account or be directly paid to them per Department of Education guidelines. That would include non-FAFSA filers, international & DACA students.
    • Phase 3 would include $1.5 million to use for emergency grants for unpaid balances, unforeseen hardships, and more. As with Phase 2, these would be applied for with the option to post to student accounts or paid directly.

Opportunity House

We have partnered with the Brighton Center and Highland Heights on this innovative project that will create 16 affordable apartments for foster care alumni ages 18-to-24 and other vulnerable youth who are pursuing a college degree or professional certificate.

Earlier this summer, Governor Beshear announced a $1 million award to Highland Heights to help fund this endeavor. It is remarkable that we can take a building that was already vacant for several years and turn it into a beacon of hope for learners with a specific need. Construction is expected to begin very soon.

Moonshot for Equity

Next Wednesday, I will join colleagues from around the region at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to launch this region’s participation in Moonshot for Equity, a national effort to close equity gaps in higher education.

The Moonshot aligns well with the work we have been doing on campus through Success by Design and takes that vision into the region at large. With the added support of resources and national experts such as Georgia State, the northern Kentucky/southern Ohio ecosystem will become the second major region to join EAB’s national initiative along with the Milwaukee region.

I look forward to working with Gateway Community & Technical College, Cincinnati State and Miami of Ohio to advance this important work.

Institute for Health Innovation

  • The IHI recently received a $1 million, three-year grant from the NIH to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with substance use disorder in Carroll County.
    IHI will use this grant to support nine NKU faculty and staff and one graduate research assistant, as well as our partnerships with St. Elizabeth, NorthKey Community Care, Carroll County Schools, Three Rivers District Health Department, NKYADD, and the Life Learning Center. The work ahead will strengthen, expand, and integrate prevention, treatment, and recovery services across the care spectrum and assist the county in developing a deeper culture of health.

    This grant money is quite timely now as overdoses increased 53 percent in Kentucky last year – the second-highest rate of increase in the nation.

Overall, HRSA awarded $78,000,000 to 78 grantees this fiscal year. While Kentucky received more of these awards than any other state with $6 million total, we are the only university in Kentucky to receive the award.

In fact, in the past three years, IHI has brought in more than $10 million in federal and state grant dollars to fund a variety of important projects and partnerships. Congratulations to Vice President Valerie Hardcastle and her team as they pursue this important work.

Enrollment and Degree Management

  • NKU has once again been recognized nationally by the Military Times as a Best for Vets College! The Military Times Best for Vets is the largest and most comprehensive ranking of schools for military service members and veterans in the nation.

The rankings were developed to help service members and veterans make important decisions about their educational pathway after their service to our country. This is an important national recognition, and I would like to recognize Travis Roy, the former coordinator of our Veterans Resource Station, our new VRS coordinator Rusty Mardis, and the entire team of veteran-certifying officials who help support our student veterans and their dependents each and every day.

  • Earlier this year, NKU was awarded a grant from CPE to fully fund the Summer Academy, a summer transition program developed to support at-risk students and provide them with an opportunity to earn scholarships through their first year at NKU based on academic performance, student engagement, and participation in vetted good practices.

    The Summer Academy was another wonderful addition to the variety of programs that NKU offers during the summer to help support first-year students transition into the first year. Thank you to all who made this happen.

Academic Affairs Updates

  • The recently finalized agreement with Hubei Polytechnic University will allow Chinese students to take their first two-to-three years in China at HBPU and then complete their Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technology Degree at NKU.

    The first cohort of students will begin this September and is expected to start classes at NKU in the fall of 2023 or 2024.  Our partner has let us know that 100 students have already expressed strong interest in this program and that they expect as many as 50 students will transfer to NKU in fall 2024. Congratulations to all involved in making this a reality for our students and the region.
  • Northern Kentucky University has signed a partnership with Nahda University in Beni-Suef (NUB) in Egypt. The memorandum of understanding, signed on August 2, allows NKU to offer an online MBA degree to eligible students enrolled in NUB and will also provide NUB undergraduates a pathway to earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) degree through NKU.

Under the agreement, students will enroll at NUB for two to three years in a pre-approved, accelerated series of courses that mirror the lower level BSBA courses offered by NKU. Once completed, students will be able to apply, transfer and enroll at NKU for the completion of the BSBA degree.

Congratulations to Dean HassabElnaby and everyone involved in bringing this opportunity to life this summer.

Each of these partnerships are consistent with our internationalization effort and they expose our students and faculty to a different culture and mindsets. 

  • Speaking of the Haile College of Business, you will notice that it has been rebranded with a shorter name while still honoring the investment from of $15 million in 2008 from the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr. Foundation.
  • In the College of Arts and Sciences, three tenure-track faculty members were awarded federal grants from the NIH and NSF totaling more than $700,000 in support of research experiences for our students. Congratulations to Assistant Professor Molly Hopper in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry for her NSF grant of $335,114 toward equipment that will be used for undergraduates in traditional research labs and in our newly developed course-based undergraduate research experiences (CURE) in organic chemistry labs.

    Congratulations also to Department of Psychological Sciences Assistant Professors Ty Brumback and Kinsey Bryant-Lees on NIH grants for more than $357,000 and $100,000, respectively.
  • This summer, neuroscience major Katie Clough received the James Bradford Memorial Award for outstanding poster presentation at the virtual annual meeting of the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention. She conducts her research with Dr. Chris Curran in the Department of Biological Sciences. Well done, Katie!
  • The NSF-grant funded STEM Ready math bridge program had 14 participants this summer. Each participant improved their math placement ALEKS score, indicating an improvement in mathematics preparation. Nine of the 14 improved their score so much so that it changed their math placement, meaning they essentially skipped a course, and for some, that meant starting their sciences courses sooner.
  • The College of Education has received full accreditation for their advanced-level programs from the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Advanced CAEP accreditation is provided at post-baccalaureate or graduate levels leading to licensure, certification, or endorsement. Our accreditation visit and feedback report identified no areas for improvement or stipulations. Congratulations to Dean Ginni Fair and the faculty and staff who did an outstanding job in this effort.
  • In the College of Health and Human Services, our Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs received full accreditation for 10 years from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CNNE). Additionally, our Master of Science in Nursing program received accreditation for three years from CNNE.


The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) has given us the go-ahead to admit our first cohort in the new entry-level Doctor of Occupational Therapy program that will begin this January. That is wonderful news.

Congratulations to Dean Stephenson and everyone from the School of Nursing and the School of Kinesiology, Counseling, and Rehabilitative Sciences for their hard work on these accreditations.

  • Assistant Professor of Computer Science Dr. Nicholas Caporusso and his undergraduate student, Joseph Clark, received the Best Paper Award at the 2021 Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics Conference. Their work originated from NKU’s Human-Computer Interaction class and from work funded by an NKU Health Innovation Coronavirus Opportunity Grant. Dr. Caporusso managed to do this while stranded in Italy for the 2020-21 academic year. What a phenomenal effort! Congratulations, Dr. Caporusso and Joseph.
  • Northern Kentucky University received national attention during the month of July when The Academic Minute program featured several NKU professors on a broadcast designed to spotlight research at colleges and universities.

The Academic Minute provides professors with a platform to talk to a broad audience about their published and ongoing research. It is carried by 75 radio stations in the United States and Canada and streams from Inside Higher Ed. It is available from NPR as a podcast.


Six faculty members have been featured so far:

  • Dr. Linda Dynan of the Department of Economics and Finance discussed her research on how to reduce hospital errors that put patient safety and health at risk.
  • Dr. Christine Curran of the Department of Biological Sciences discussed her research on how traffic-related air pollution might damage the human brain. Her research is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Services.
  • Dr. Kristy Hopfensperger of the Department of Biological Sciences discussed her research on how restoring pollinator habitat could provide new pathways for migrating monarch butterflies. Her research collaborator is Dr. Denice Robertson, also of Biological Sciences.
  • Dr. Zach Hart of the Department of Communication discussed his research on “sensemaking” for parents of children with disabilities who must navigate complex medical, educational, and social information related to their child.
  • Dr. Rachael Clark from the Department of Psychological Science discussed her research in Newport’s Westside neighborhood, where economic disadvantage has not erased hope or meaning in life.
  • And Dr. Megan Downing from the Department of Political Science, Criminal Justice and Organization Leadership discussed her research with Dr. Julie Olberding on the use of experiential philanthropy in online classes.

Dr. Joe Cobbs of the Department of Marketing, Sports Business & Event Management, and Construction Management will appear on the show in early October as the Major League Baseball playoffs begin. That will be the perfect time to share his research on sports rivalries such as the one between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Dr. Cobbs collaborates on this work with NKU faculty Dr. Marius Truta and Dr. Seth Adjei, and with students Jonah Krebs, Zach Beal, and Lilly Ronin.

I want to thank Mark Neikirk and the team at the Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement for coordinating NKU faculty appearances on The Academic Minute, as well as Chris Strobel, who teaches in our Electronic Media and Broadcasting Program, for his support in recording these sessions.


  • NKU has been selected to participate in the Association of American Colleges and Universities Institute on Open Educational Resources. We are the only university in the Commonwealth joining this year-long program designed to support educators in launching, expanding, or hastening campus adoption of free and affordable instructional materials.
  • Open educational resources (OER) are educational materials, from single lessons to entire textbooks, that are free for faculty and students to use, customize and share. They have been proven to be a viable affordability strategy for higher education, saving students—and often institutions—money. Providing all students with free materials on the first day of class also tends to level the academic playing field. Research on OER has demonstrated that performance gaps have been narrowed and failure and withdrawal rates have been reduced in some contexts.
  • Steely Library and the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs collaborated on this initiative.
  • The R. C. Durr Foundation awarded a grant of $500,000 to NKU for the Student Success through First-Year Career Advising Program which aims to increase retention and graduation rates via a career counselor and peer leaders who assist with choosing a major and also who connect students with necessary school services. This grant is to be paid $100,000 per year for the years 2021-2026.
  • Adult Learner Programs and Services is currently wrapping up a two-year deep dive to find past NKU students who had some college and no degree with the national Degrees When Due initiative. After being awarded a CPE Grant, NKU ALPS was able to connect with students who had stopped-out of NKU for various reasons and present them with incentives to return.

    Within one year of intensive communication and recruitment, ALPS increased the returning student population — who had at least 80 hours upon return — by 31 percent. In addition, year-to-year graduation of these student increased by 26 percent. Thank you and congratulations to ALPS Director Amy Danzo and her great team.
  • ALPS also partnered with NKU Admissions and Campbell County Skills U to create a GED-based scholars program that allows students to begin working on their bachelor’s degree while completing their GED at the same time. The program maintains momentum for learners and provides a smooth transition to their post-secondary degrees. Enrollment for fall 2021 has already picked up with our new GED-Based Scholars students.

Student Affairs Updates

  • This summer, 16 juniors and seniors from five area high schools lived in University Suites for four weeks to learn about college life. They attended classes during the day and participated in activities in the evenings that had been planned by RAs. Each Thursday, they visited historical sites such as Shaker Village, as well as several college campuses to help them make an informed college choice.

    At the end of their time here, each student had participated in a symposium, presenting on a topic of their choice. Even those intimidated by the thought of public speaking were able to accomplish this goal. The program ended with a banquet and students received awards to honor their accomplishments. Thank you to Upward Bound Director Eric Brose and his team for making this fulfilling time for many of our future NKU students a reality.
  • This summer, 40 new scholars from a wide range of backgrounds joined NKU ROCKS, our signature program out of the office of African American Student Initiatives that is designed to ease the academic, personal and social transition from high school to college through a summer institute and yearlong program. Participants were able to connect with key stake holders and supporters across campus and within the local community.
  • The Office of Parents Attending College received a Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program grant totaling more than $145,000 in support of low-income student-parents in alignment with the KY Cabinet for Health and Family Services mission. Congratulations to Coordinator Amanda Johnson and the team in PAC for this important award.
  • Finally, the Office of Student Conduct, Rights & Advocacy has partnered with UCAP to create “Care. Consult. Connect (CCC).” This is a series of conversations to initiate discussions about how student care is coordinated among service-aligned offices across the institution, help answer questions and connect with other faculty and staff to reduce barriers for student support and services. I know these conversations will go a long way in benefitting our learners.

Administration and Finance Update

  • IT worked with the Registrar’s office to transform the business process for students applying for graduation, streamlining the process through automation to improve response time to students. This is a significant improvement to overall student experience.
  • Earlier, I mentioned that we opened the newest NKU residence hall a few weeks ago. The building houses up to 297 students, providing the latest in amenities for modern residence hall living. It is the first building on campus equipped with 100 percent geothermal heating and cooling equipment and is tracking for LEED-Certified certification. Thank you to the designers at Moody/Nolan Architects and to our builders at Messer Construction.


  • The Norse men’s and women’s soccer teams began the defense of their 2020 Horizon League regular-season championships by hosting Cincinnati, Kentucky and eastern Kentucky. With students and fans back in the stands, we have enjoyed a fun environment.
  • Last year, NKU had nine Academic All-Americans between the prestigious annual CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) awards as well as the coaches organizations. Women’s basketball player Kailey Coffey became our fourth CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team honoree ever.
  • Women’s soccer standout Kailey Ivins was named Horizon League Player of the Year last year, giving the Norse the league’s player of the year for the fifth time in the last six seasons. Ivins was also named a Third-Team All-American, making her only the second player in NKU’s Division I era across all sports to earn All-American status.
  • Name, Image and Likeness legislation went into effect in July, allowing our student-athletes to be compensated for their name, image and likeness. So far, five Norse student-athletes have entered into such agreements. The Department of Athletics is working through an RFP to secure a partner to assist with education, compliance and branding for our student-athletes so they are fully prepared to take advantage of this opportunity.
  • Finally, Norse Athletics received a naming rights gift for the field at the soccer stadium. In October, branding will go into place above the entrance and on the turf for Richard Scudamore Field at NKU Soccer Stadium.



I am pleased to announce that I have signed the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge. This important coalition includes nearly 2,000 CEOs across 85 industries and is the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion within the workplace. NKU and Miami University are the only universities in the greater Cincinnati/northern Kentucky region participating at this point.

On September 2, I was the keynote speaker at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Monthly Member Briefing. It was an opportunity to share some of the great work that NKU is engaged in to serve this region.

Next Friday, I will participate on a panel at the Advancing Healthcare Innovation Summit in Cincinnati where I will present our work in regional partnerships for health innovation in this region. The theme for this year’s summit is “Using Innovation to Reduce Disparities in Healthcare." I will be joined on the panel by Michael Fisher, CEO of Children’s Hospital and Mike Venerable, CEO of CincyTech.

And on September 21, I will make a presentation at the Metropolitan Club as part of their Courage to Fail Speaker Series featuring stories of success through failure, mistakes and difficult moments.

Finally, I am honored to note that late last month I was appointed chair of the Horizon League Board of Directors after two years as vice chair. It is my honor to serve our student-athletes and coaches as well as everyone involved in our league this season during a time of major change within the NCAA.

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