Chair Boehne and Regents, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this morning.
And happy Founders’ Day, everyone. NKU has come so far in 55 years to become a beacon of strength in northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati, providing crucial opportunities to thousands of learners and alumni since 1968. I know you all are as proud as I am to be a part of that rich history.
Founders’ Day is more than a birthday celebration — it is a significant fundraising event for our university. Last year, thanks to more than 840 donors, this community raised $528,915 to benefit academic programs, scholarships, student support services and student life experiences.
Today, we aim to surpass both of those numbers. All day, ambassadors will spread the message of giving through their personal networks. We have giveaways and exclusive NKU gear available as well as a web page on NKU's website dedicated to facilitating donations.
I encourage everyone to participate today as they are able to help us carry on our student-ready and regionally engaged mission.
It is my pleasure introduce Ms. Holly Chason to the Board. Holly joined us last December 1 as our new executive director of Planning and Institutional Research. In just a little more than three months at NKU, Holly has already done great work leading a team that is so critical to the implementation of Success by Design and, ultimately, the success of our student-ready mission.
Holly came to us from Eastern Oregon University where she had served as the associate vice president of Enrollment Management and Institutional Effectiveness for more than seven years. Prior to that, she served in various analyst and research roles at different universities. She has a wealth of experience in defining, collecting, analyzing and disseminating institutional data to facilitate planning and continuous improvement. I am thrilled to have her with us.
I have been in this seat for almost two months – and it certainly has been an interesting journey.
In that time, I have had the opportunity to meet with all of the deans, our constituents and with a few colleges and divisions.
It is clear to me that people are passionate about NKU and they want what’s best for the campus.
It is also clear that there are concerns and trepidation about what the future holds.
As mentioned in my first presentation to the board, my plan was to focus on three areas, and I can share a little of the work that has taken place in each of those areas.
- Under the leadership of our CFO, Jeremy Alltop, we have already implemented or are assessing several key items, such as:
- Assessing Scholarship Strategy and the budgetary impacts
- Ending Carryforward Practice
- Centralizing Receivables
- There are several Policies Currently in the Drafting Phase
- Policy on Policies (revised process)
- Board Approval Policy (identifies actions requiring BoR approval)
- Contract Signature Authority
- Electronic Signatures
- Minors on Campus
- We expect that these policies will move to the next phase, which is socializing the policies across campus with constituent groups and then on to getting final approvals.
- With the addition of new staff and other recent events, I’ve heard from the faculty and staff that the campus feels disconnected.
- To that end, I am encouraging everyone to focus on efforts to bring us together as a community.
- Staff Congress has led the charge by hosting brown bag lunch series. All are invited and it is a perfect time to get know others across the campus. Jeremy Alltop and I attended one and had a great time.
- Also the Benevolent Association, Committee that collects funds and vacation/sick time for faculty and staff in need, held a Chili cook off yesterday. This was the first time we’ve held the event in over 2 years because of COVID. There were over 20 entries, and we had a great turn out. I did not know we had such talented cooks on campus!
- I hosted Sophomore Mallory Bane as President for a Day. Mallory is an Elementary Education Pre-major along with a Special Education pre-major. I attended a class with her and had amazing time connecting with the faculty and the students.
- As a part of our contractual relationship with Chartwells, The President’s Office receives catering funds from Chartwells every year. I have decided to share these funds with VPs and deans to host community events in their areas and asked them to invite Cabinet members to those events.
- More opportunities for engagement will be planned as we head toward the end of the semester.
- Student Success
- The NKU Honors College has become a national symbol for inclusive honors practices under the leadership Dr. Jim Buss.
- It has been cited in national publications and hailed as a national model.
- As a reminder, our Honors College is unique and that it is not just limited only to students with high GPA’s. We offer an honors college experience to any student that wants to engage. That’s what makes our stats even more impressive.
- For example, nearly 22 percent of the 2022 incoming honors class identified as URM students. Compare that to roughly 7 percent in 2018.
- Low income and first-generation college students in honors have retention and persistence rates 20-25 percent higher than non-honors students in the same class.
- Nearly 1 out of every 3 students in honors are the first in their families to attend college.
- In other words, the Honors College has proven that providing access to honors, while maintaining high levels of student success, works.
- With that in mind, it is bittersweet that I announce that Dr. Buss will be leaving NKU at the end of this semester. He has been named the new Honors College Dean at Ball State University and I know we all wish him the best and thank him for the important and inspiring work he has done here. Thank you, Dr. Buss.
- Our Athletics APR and FGE, GSR rates continue to impress: The athletic graduation success rate (GSR) should be at or above 90%: NKU Athletics had a GSR of 90%.
- The federal graduation rate (FGR) for athletics should be 13 percentage points above the general student body: the NKU student-athletes are 32 percentage points above the general student body FGR.
- The academic progress rate (APR), the measure of student-athletes remaining academically eligible and NKU retaining them term to term, should be 985 or better: For the 2021-22 academic year NKU Athletics has an APR of 993.
- Kudos to all of our student athletes.
- Despite the change in my role, we are still progressing with Success by Design. For example:
- Four project teams have strong co-leads who are continuing to move things forward.
- The Transfer work—which aligns with work of Moon Shot and SBD—has moved to ALPS and we have invested in two new positions.
- This should significantly increase the number of transfer students on our campus and will provide better support to our transfer students.
- Speaking of Moon Shot for Equity, Jason Vest will take over that work while I continue serving in the Interim President role.
As you know, the Legislative Session in full gear and I have been busy in Frankfort.
- In early February, I, along with Chair Boehne, Eric Gentry, Carmen Hickerson visited Frankfort to meet with legislators. I was introduced as the new interim President and we were able to provide key updates about the work here at NKU.
- On March 9, I testified to the Higher Education Budget Committee, and we provided details about our success in STEM+H programs, updated them on our financial status and gave an update on our capitol and asset preservation projects. Assisted by Carmen Hickerson and Jeremy Alltop, we were able to respond to questions, and reassure the committee that NKU would not be standing still during this transitional period.
- Regarding the Performance Funding model, I have been engaged with monthly meetings with the other university presidents, CPE staff and legislators to assess the current model and its impact, and to discuss what adjustments could be made to encourage performance, but also provide funding to universities. The plan is to submit recommendations to the Legislature by December of this year.
- The budget is still top of mind for us.
- We have been busy implementing the Repositioning plan.
- The Provost and CFO will update you on the progress we have made thus far shortly.
- But I will say that this has not been without some pain as we will be separating from some of our valued faculty and modifying our programs.
- While our classes and programs may look a little different in the future, we will strive to provide the strong academic education that NKU is known for.
- We are also in the process of planning for the 2023-2024 fiscal budget and will be bringing that to you in June for approval.
While the budget is still top of mind, it has not stopped the work and progress of the institution. We are doing great things and here are just a few examples:
- Our men’s basketball team won the 2023 Horizon League championship last week and will take on top-seeded Houston tomorrow night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Norse and the Cougars will tip off at 9:20 p.m. in Birmingham, Alabama, with all of Norse Nation watching either in the stands at Legacy Arena or on television on TNT.
This is the fourth time in its first seven years of Division I eligibility that our men’s basketball program has qualified for the NCAA Tournament, and we could not be prouder. Go Norse!
- Late last month, NKU baseball made national headlines when junior designated hitter, Liam McFadden-Ackman, hit two grand slams in the same inning and went on to hit for the cycle in NKU’s victory over Western Michigan. Only one player in MLB history has hit two grand slams in the same inning and that was in 1999. Liam was even interviewed on ESPN’s SportsCenter. Congratulations to Liam!
- Congratulations are in order for Dr. Jeff Zimmerman, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science, Criminal Justice and Organizational Leadership, for his selection as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar for 2023-2024.
Fulbright Scholar Awards are prestigious, and alumni include 62 Nobel Laureates, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, 78 MacArthur Fellows, and thousands of leaders and world-renowned experts in academia and many other fields across private, public and non-profit sectors.
Dr. Zimmerman will engage with students and scholars at the University of Pecs in Hungary during fall 2023. His Fulbright Award will allow him to help university students develop and apply essential cross-cultural leadership skills to local, real-world issues, particularly with immigrant challenges resulting from the war in Ukraine.
- Recently, U.S. News and World Report ranked NKU’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) program among the best in the United States. This is the fourth consecutive year that the online MBA program at the Haile College of Business appeared in this ranking. The Haile College of Business achieved its goal of a Top-100 ranking in the United States by 2023, reaching No. 99.
- Chase College of Law’s W. Bruce Lunsford Academy for Law, Business + Technology was named the top law-school program in the United States for innovation and business, according to a new report by Bloomberg Law. The survey evaluated law-school programs nationwide on a variety of pillars but noted the Lunsford Academy’s creative and impactful programming for students. Runners-up in the same category included Harvard Law School, University of California College of Law, San Francisco and Fordham University College of Law.
NKU has been involved in some really out-of-this-world news recently as well.
- NASA has approved a new project, the Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder on the International Space Station (TIGERISS) experiment concept, to be conducted at NKU and five other universities, with the goal of better understanding which stellar processes produce which elements. Regents Professor Dr. Scott Nutter will lead a team of students at NKU in this work. This project will provide students with an opportunity to engage in cutting-edge science and experimentation, working side-by-side with some of the top researchers in the field.
- Also, groundbreaking astrophysical research conducted by NKU associate professor Dr. Dirk Grupe and colleagues at the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany, has been accepted in the Monthly Notices of The Royal Astronomical Society and the Astrophysical Journal. The research shows that one of the universe’s most massive black holes, located at the center of galaxy, nearly 5.1 billion light years away, is the size of 100 million solar masses instead of the previously believed 10 billion solar masses. These new findings have incredible implications in the future research of massive black holes.
Chair Boehne and Regents, that concludes my remarks for today.