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To: Faculty and Staff
From: President Ashish Vaidya
Date: 11/22/21
Subject: November 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 November 16, 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 Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer Bonita Brown and Assistant Vice President for Enrollment & Financial Aid Leah Stewart for the Annual Enrollment Report.
  • Interim Vice President for Administration and Finance and CFO Mike Hales joined Assistant Vice President and Comptroller Russell Kerdolff for the Annual Financial Report.
  • Vice President for Student Affairs Eddie Howard provided an update from Student Affairs.

2.      In the afternoon, the Board approved all of the recommended items, including Academic Affairs and non-academic personnel actions, major gifts acceptance and a new master’s degree in cardiovascular perfusion in the College of Health and Human Services. 

The Board’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be January 19, 2022.




Presidential Comments

Board of Regents

November 16, 2021

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.

Before I begin my formal remarks, Chair Ward, a moment of privilege. We have with us, Melissa Gorbandt. I ask her to stand and be recognized. As many of you know, Melissa is our Director of Undergraduate Admissions, and she is retiring at the end of this month on November 30 after 26 years of service. Melissa, thank you for your service to NKU and we wish you the best in your retirement.

Opening — Commitment to NKU

I would like to begin my remarks today by once again expressing my gratitude to the Board for the extension of my contract and for your faith in what we are doing at NKU. I appreciate the Board’s confidence and I am eager to continue to lead this wonderful university.

I’ve often mentioned that I was drawn to NKU because of its legacy of regional stewardship and a commitment to a mission of access and opportunity. I believe we are continuing down that path as powerfully and intentionally as ever. We have accomplished a great deal during this time, even amidst a global pandemic, because of the amazing faculty and staff.

I know we will continue to deliver on the hopes and aspirations of this region as we contribute to its economic, civic, and social vitality.

Reimagined U Update

Part of that future is our work as a reimagined hybrid university. Earlier this semester, we formed a task force chaired by Provost Matt Cecil and CIO Tim Ferguson to recommend a blueprint for that goal.

Vice President for Student Affairs Eddie Howard, Chief Human Resources Officer Lori Southwood and Senior Director for Strategic Communications Anna Wright have joined a group that includes faculty, staff, students and an alumni representative, as well as Regent Rich Boehne. The group met for the first time earlier this month and I am thankful for their service.

It is clear that at NKU, we do not simply let things happen to us. We are intentional about what we want to accomplish. Consistent with Success by Design, this work will create a model that supports all students where they are, whether they are traditional, post-traditional or lifelong learners.

Look for more from the Hybrid U task force in the weeks and months to come.

Fall Campus Conversation

In fact, we have a Campus Conversation event this Thursday titled, “The Future of the Hybrid U: Meeting the Needs of NKU’s Students in a Hybrid Environment.”

I hope you will be able to join us for this virtual campus conversation via Zoom that day between at 1 and 2:30 p.m.

Our conversation will include two panel discussions covering national trends on the hybrid learning environment and the perspectives of our own NKU students on how the campus community can better serve their needs.

Ongoing Vaccination Efforts

As COVID-19 cases continue to decline in our region while vaccination rates climb, I would like to congratulate NKU Health Services for having administered more than 875 COVID-19 vaccines since April 2021.

Though that is an impressive number, their work is not finished. Health Services has also begun giving flu vaccines to prepare our campus for an uncertain flu season. A flu vaccine clinic held on October 27, helped to protect 335 individuals. Additional doses are available by appointment for those who missed that opportunity.

I would encourage you all to take advantage of this on-campus service if you have not already. Let us do all we can to stay safe and healthy during the upcoming winter months.

Acting on the recommendations of the Mental Health Advisory Group, NKU students were enrolled in a 1-unit Human Services course on Norse Support.

  • In total, 14 students, drawn from a broad array of student organizations, earned passing grades in the first seven-week session of the Norse Support Training course (offered through the undergraduate Human Services & Addictions program).
  • Feedback on the experience was extremely positive as these students get ready to support their peers next semester.
  • The second iteration of the course began October 22nd, and recruitment for next term’s courses is underway. 
  • In collaboration with TiER1 Performance Solutions, the Mental Health Advisory Group (MHAG) will be piloting the Start the Conversation Initiative on campus this spring. Start the Conversation is a program designed to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and to encourage conversation about mental health. At present, the Athletics Department and the First-Year Student Success Hub (through Advising) have signed on to participate in the pilot. Feedback from the pilots will be used to inform a campus-wide roll-out next fall.

Steely Library Collaboration on Student Wellness

  • The MHAG will collaborate with Steely Library to develop a wellness collection, a list of 20-30 recommended titles to assist in fostering student well-being. The purchased titles would form a browseable wellness collection. The library has also offered to highlight the advisory group's work and serve students by promoting available NKU mental health and wellness resources alongside the collection.

Master Advisor Mental Health Competence Certificate

  • The MHAG will collaborate with Advising to develop a “Mental Health Competence in Advising Series.” This will afford advisors an opportunity to earn Master Advisor Certification or Re-Certification with a special distinction in mental health. Content experts (on and off-campus) will develop a series of workshops open to any advisor, faculty, or staff member interested in learning more about trauma-informed practices, mental health, and their relation to advising work.

Winter Well-Being Event

  • In conjunction with the university’s Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT) and University Wellness, the MHAG is working to develop a Winter Well-Being Event for staff and faculty. The event would utilize wellness as a lens to acknowledge the shared experiences (e.g., COVID, social/societal change) of staff and faculty over the past two years. Modeled on the university's Meet, Greet, & Grab a Seat Conference, the event will consist of a series of breakout sessions conducted by each of the participating groups (i.e., the CCRT, Wellness, MHAG) aimed at providing entry points for and resource literacy in matters pertaining to mental health and well-being.  

As we move ahead, I want to thank Dr. Christopher Lawrence and Dr. Nita Vaidya for their leadership of the Mental Health Advisory Group. The work being done will have a truly immeasurable impact on learners, their families and the community at large.

Opportunity House

The Opportunity House project is another outreach initiative at NKU that seeks to support vulnerable learners. This partnership with the Brighton Center and Highland Heights 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.

Over the summer, Governor Beshear announced a $1 million award to Highland Heights to help fund this endeavor. Now we begin the work of turning a vacant building into a beacon of hope for learners with a specific need. We celebrate the official groundbreaking tomorrow.

Moon Shot for Equity

Back in September, NKU joined Gateway Community and Technical College, Miami University and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College in the Moonshot for Equity national initiative to close those gaps. This program has been designed and run by the education firm EAB and it will guide us in taking needed steps to help more students from historically underserved populations graduate from college.

Each school has committed to implementing more than a dozen research-based best practices proven to remove systemic barriers to student success. The commitments range from updating academic policies, to working together to establish common academic pathways, to providing equity-mindedness training to university leaders.

Surveys have been sent to leadership groups across campus so that EAB can collect baseline data. This is taking place at all four Moonshot schools. I am looking forward to working with each of our partners on this critical project.

Office of Inclusive Excellence

  • Chief Diversity Officer Peal’s team has added Brandon Colbert as the new Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and he will begin his role here on November 29. We are look forward to welcome him to the NKU family.
  • We have also unveiled new DEI goals to the Academic Affairs Council and will be disseminating them to other departments and divisions in the coming weeks.
  • To date, CDO Peal has done more than 50 implicit bias trainings with search committees in various departments and divisions.

Institute for Health Innovation

  • The IHI has received a $210,000 grant from the USDA to support telemedicine for students and families in Pendleton, Owen, Carroll, Grant, and Gallatin County Schools in partnership with St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Three Rivers District Health Department. The goal is to expand the telehealth offerings in these regions for NorthKey Community Care and to develop a robust telemedicine and telehealth clinical program for nursing student trainees at NKU.
    Congratulations to Vice President for Health Innovation, Valerie Hardcastle, and her entire team at the IHI.
  • The Kentucky Center for Mathematics housed here at NKU, received a grant of nearly $260,000 from the Kentucky Department of Education to create Mathematics Teaching Practices Modules for grades 3 to 5 and for grades 6 to 8. They will be able to impact students throughout the commonwealth by helping teachers learn to use effective evidence-based practices in their classrooms.
  • The NSF-funded S3OAR Scholars program is now in its third iteration providing scholarship funding, as well as faculty mentorship and career shadowing opportunities, to low-income students majoring in STEM fields. About 36 students are accepted into the program each year and Cohorts 1 and 2 demonstrated a higher retention rate at NKU and in STEM than their non-participating peers. 

    Mentoring and shadowing components of the program continued throughout the pandemic, moving to virtual options when necessary, and opening-up new opportunities in some instances. 

    The third cohort that began this fall focuses on sustainability and scalability. It is the most diverse group yet, with 65 percent of the students identifying as Black/African American or Hispanic. A third of the students have been participating in shadowing this fall with companies such as Medpace, The EW Scripps Company, St. Elizabeth Physicians, and Post Glover Resistors. 
  • With support from CINSAM and IHI, NKU faculty Axel Brandt, Ankur Chattopadhyay, Zeel Maheshwari, and Chris Curran have created STEM resource boxes for high school classrooms in the fields of mathematics, cybersecurity, engineering, and neuroscience, respectively. The mathematics and cybersecurity boxes are “virtual” boxes that are available to any teacher who puts in a request. The engineering and neuroscience boxes are being distributed to high-needs school districts through IHI’s Teen Science Cafes and other channels.  
  • Three undergraduate students mentored by Assistant Professor Allison Parker won first place for best undergraduate poster in their division at the Entomological Society of America conference recently in Denver. They are biology majors Noah Weidig and Brandon Riley and environmental science major Regina Utz. Their research focused on identifying areas where the mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus are most likely to lay their eggs.
  • The School of the Arts has successfully and safely re-launched live productions and concerts. I am so happy to report that our student performers are back on stage and the seats are once again filled with live audiences.

    Currently, two exciting guest artists are working on an upcoming production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

    Jason Danieley is a well- known Broadway actor with an impressive professional resume and is in residence with us this semester to direct and provide insight into the profession for our students. Tao Wang is a scenic designer with expertise in the latest theatre projection technology. 

    With new state-of-the art projection mapping equipment and Mr. Wang’s real-world expertise, NKU SOTA productions will take leaps forward and our students will be trained in the latest theatre technology. This will situate the Theatre and Dance program at the very forefront of theatres in the region in industry-leading productions.

We are thrilled to have both Jason and Tao with us. 

  • The Spotlight on Scholarship event last month was organized by the University Research Council with support of the Office of Graduate Education, Research and Outreach and financial sponsorship of the NKU Foundation. The event featured research and creative activity presentations by 25 faculty.

    Provost Matt Cecil presented the Spotlight award to Assistant Professor of Engineering Technology Zeel Maheshwari for her research on sustainable development in remote rural communities. The community building award went to Missy Jones, Professor of Teacher Education, for her research on building inclusive communities through peer mentoring. Congratulations to all for their work and for a successful event highlighting the important research and creative work being done here at NKU.
  • The Society of Professional Journalists has recognized NKU’s program called “Unblurring the Lines Between Fact-based News & Misinformation,” as the Campus Program of the Year for Region 5.

    Region 5 includes Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. Lynn Walsh of the Trusting News Project and Walter Smith-Randolph, formerly of the Local 12 television station and a part-time faculty member at NKU, led the discussion on journalistic ethical guidelines for building trust and information literacy strategies for distinguishing credible journalism from misinformation.

    The program was part of the NKU Quality Enhancement Plan called GEARUP with Information Literacy. Congratulations on this important work in an age of growing distrust in the information around us.
  • Last month, the College of Informatics and Chase College of Law partnered to present the 14th Annual NKU Cybersecurity Symposium with more than 230 IT and security professionals in attendance as well as security and privacy attorneys. Lead sponsors were Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions, KMK Law, Kroger, Proofpoint and Western & Southern. Cybersecurity expertise is an ever-growing need in our world today, so thank you to all who helped bring the symposium to life.
  • The Chase College of Law is now part of the USDA Rural Business Development Enterprise grant to expand the newly founded Northern Kentucky Collaborative for Economic Engagement into the northern Kentucky rural regions.

    With this grant, the Chase Small Business & Nonprofit Clinic will deliver legal services for business development in the covered areas.
  • The Chase Finish Line Fund, which was established in 2019 to support graduates with stipends and commercial bar courses as they prepare for the bar exam, continues to enjoy success. After four administrations of the bar exam, Finish Line awardees have posted a 90-percent passage rate. Thanks to tremendous donor support, the fund will continue to make awards for the February and July 2022 bar exams.
  • Chase also recently launched the Veterans Discharge Review Clinic to assist military veterans with applications for upgrades to their military discharge. Law students will work with volunteer licensed attorneys to address negative discharges from the military that impact access to a host of benefits, compensation and health care. Through a partnership with the Northern Kentucky Bar Association, the Cincinnati VA Medical Center and Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, Chase students will have the opportunity to meaningfully impact the lives of those who have served our country.
  • Another project that NKU has been engaged in is the new park at 6th and Watkins streets in Newport. The trees and other landscaping represent the culmination of four years of NKU engagement with residents of the Westside through our Strategic Depaving initiative, which brought 21st century water management ideas to this 19th century neighborhood. A variety of NKU classes, from environmental science to anthropology, worked on this incredible project. I would encourage the NKU community to pay a visit to the park and see the work first hand.
  • The Center for Global Engagement has organized several great events to celebrate International Education Week this week. Particularly noteworthy was the World Culture Fest held in the SU Ballroom yesterday and a Keynote lecture tomorrow by Ronald Nkuranga about the genesis of Rwanda's genocide and the journey of unity and reconciliation in Rwanda. In the spirit of collaboration, students from UK, UofL, EKU, WKU and Murray State University will be able to attend the keynote lecture.
  • Northern Kentucky University students voted in record numbers for the 2020 presidential election, according to a new report by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE). Student voting on campus increased in the 2020 election, rising to 67.5% from a rate of 61.1% in 2016.

The IDHE report also showed an increase in voter registration between 2016 and 2020. In 2016, NKU had a voter registration rate (percentage of voter-eligible students who registered to vote) of 83.4%. In 2020, that rate jumped to 88.2%. Additionally, the voting rate of eligible voters (the percentage of registered voters who voted) jumped from 75.7% to 76.6%.

Student Affairs Updates

  • From September 15 through October 15, NKU celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans who have inspired others to achieve success. This year, Latino Student Initiatives hosted three bands at the Carneval del Barrio at the Eva Farris Amphitheater. Also, in partnership with the Mexican Consulate of Indianapolis, 15 scholarships of $1,000 were awarded to Mexican or Mexican American students attending Northern Kentucky University.
  • October was LGBTQ History Month, a 31-day celebration to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer achievement and influence on the world and a time to learn more about the history of LGBTQ rights. LGBTQA+ Student Initiatives celebrated by hosting the LeCamerons drag artists and collaborating with other departments on events such as an SGA Town Hall and “Date the Rainbow: Establishing Healthy LGBTQA+ Relationships.” The keynote speaker for the month was Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the Pulse massacre.

    Thank you to all involved in these inspiring monthlong celebrations.

Administration and Finance Update

  • As part of our new contract that took effect in July, Chartwells has committed more than $4 million in capital funding for program enhancements, renovations, and new and upgraded retail locations.

    In preparation for the Fall 2021 semester, approximately $2.2 million of the funding was used for a number of capital projects that are now in place for student enjoyment, including the construction of QDOBA Mexican Eats, construction of the Student Choice Concept, construction of Create, the transition from Mondo Subs to Norse Street Subs, and the creation of the Teaching Kitchen at Norse Commons.
  • In IT, a new graduation application was designed to give students an updated and automated user experience. This includes a mobile-friendly responsive design with simplicity in mind. The process was improved to enable the student to clearly view the fees, indicate whether they plan to complete their classes in a sub-session before the end of the term, and quickly see the current status of their application. 


  • After going through another RFP process, Norse Athletics has agreed to continue its partnership with Adidas as the athletics department’s official apparel and gear supplier. NKU has been an official Adidas partner since 2015 and the new agreement is for another five years with an option for a three-year renewal.
  • Fans were back in the stands for Norse Athletics this fall. The NKU Soccer Stadium and Regents Hall hosted men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball matches. And, as I mentioned, last week the BB&T Arena finally welcomed fans back into the building to see men’s and women’s basketball in person.
  • Women’s soccer recently ended its season in the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament. The Norse have reached at least the semifinals of the tournament in six of the last seven seasons. Congratulations to our women’s soccer team for a great season and that impressive seven-year run. The Women’s volleyball team secured the #2 seed in the Horizon League tournament which will take place in Milwaukee this weekend. Congratulations and best wishes to our volleyball team as well.
  • Earlier this year, the NCAA formed a committee to examine its constitution, which governs athletics for more than 1,000 colleges and universities at three levels of competition. The committee has been charged with identifying the core principles that define college sports and propose a new governance model that allows for quicker change without sacrificing values. The first working draft of the proposal was released yesterday and our athletics leadership is currently unpacking the draft and preparing to make recommendations we feel are prudent.

Veterans Day

Last week on November 11, we recognized the servicemen and women, and veterans at NKU and across our country at an event arranged by the NKU Veterans Resource Station.

NKU is proud to support student veterans and their families. In fact, NKU has once again been rated as one of the best universities for veterans, according to the 2021 Best for Vets: Colleges 2021 ratings.

The publication evaluated hundreds of institutions across the country on university culture, student support, academic policies, academic outcomes, cost and financial aid. This is NKU’s eighth straight year being nationally ranked by Military Times, and we are the only Greater Cincinnati educational institution to make the Top 100.

We are thankful for that distinction and devoted to the cause behind it.

  • On December 2 at 9 am we will host the Fall Forum in which I will share highlights of the fall semester and news and updates on the budget and enrollment. A formal email invitation will be forthcoming.
  • Last week at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), President Millie Garcia announced that to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its 2002 seminal report – Stepping Forward as Stewards of Place – a refresh would be in the works. The 2002 publication argued that the regional, comprehensive universities that form the AASCU membership have a distinctive role and relationship with their communities and region. The report suggested that AASCU institutions—because of our connections and relationships with local communities and regions and the makeup of the students we serve—have a unique role as "Stewards of Place.”  And since much has changed over the past two decades - demographics, online teaching and learning, more meaningful discussions around race and equity and we are far more aware of issues around climate and natural resources…. just to name a few – a refresh is in order.

President Garcia has appointed a special taskforce of presidents and chancellors to oversee this work and has asked me to chair the taskforce.

Some of you may recall that the 2002 report was produced by a similar task force and was chaired by President Jim Votruba, so it is a great honor for me to be able to do so twenty years later.

Commencement and Thanksgiving

Finally, Fall Commencement is on the horizon. I always look forward to seeing our students celebrate the culmination of all their hard work. It is truly the highlight of every semester.

This year we will hold two ceremonies in BB&T Arena on Saturday, December 18, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

We all work hard to help students achieve their educational goals and I hope each of you are able to take some time to reflect on the work we’ve done and the accomplishments of our graduates as they embark on exciting and fulfilling lives ahead.

We are also just a week away from Thanksgiving and I would like to express my gratitude to the entire NKU community for their commitment, resilience and spirit during another tumultuous yet fulfilling year. And to all of you – members of the Board – for your dedication to and support of the university and of me personally.

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


Ashish K. Vaidya, Ph.D.


Northern Kentucky University 

5320 Campus Drive

800 Lucas Administrative Center

Highland Heights, KY 41099

Phone: 859.572.5123 | Fax: 859.572.6696