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State of the University Address: Creating Bright Futures; it's All About Talent; it's All About Hope.   

I want to again welcome our special guests, particularly our "founding" faculty and staff who are with us today. They instilled in NKU a spirit of innovation, a belief that anything is possible, a commitment to both excellence and access, and a recognition that the University's  strength is to be found in its relationship with its students and its community. Those early years were characterized by a great sense of hope.  Today, we can see all around us what that hope has produced.

This is my 10th report to you on the state of the University. Columbia President Lee Bolinger once said that college presidents, like breakfast cereal, have a limited time of maximum freshness. My hope is that there is still a little freshness left in yours truly!

Since 1997, this University has traveled a bold and ambitious journey. Today we are a much larger campus. Our undergraduate enrollments have seen strong growth, only to be outpaced by our graduate increases. Today, our entering students are better prepared, our support for their success is much stronger, and higher education leaders from throughout the nation are looking to NKU as a model for community engagement.  Our various centers and institutes are thriving, many receiving national recognition. We have new colleges and departments that align with the evolving knowledge needs of our region and beyond, and we are recruiting outstanding faculty and staff who embrace our vision and core values and who will shape our campus well into the future.

Our research and creative activity continues to expand  and we are crafting new strategies for knowledge-based innovation, application, and commercialization that will help advance the economic and social progress of our region. NKU has become a national model-albeit an evolving model-of the modern comprehensive university. This was one of the reasons that the White House chose NKU for President Bush to highlight his American Competitiveness Initiative last May.

As much as our campus has changed over the past nine years, our world has changed even more. As many of you know, I spent much of the past 18 months co-chairing the Northern Kentucky Vision 2015 regional planning process. To give you an example of how fast our world has changed, 10 years ago a similar regional visioning process made no mention of the Internet or its anticipated impact on our lives! How things have changed! 

What I learned from Vision 2015 was both inspiring and sobering. 

Today our world is both flat (according to Thomas Friedman) and spiky (according to Richard Florida). Flatness is reflected in the new globalization where economies are deeply interconnected and nations like India and China have become strong competitors in what is today an intensely knowledge-based and innovation-driven global marketplace where talent rules.

At the same time, our world is increasingly spiky in that talent is concentrating in cities and regions around the world. What's clear from all of the research is that highly educated and talented knowledge workers are choosing where to live based on two considerations: professional opportunity and quality of life as measured by a combination of physical, social, and cultural assets. The point is this. In today's world, regions that can effectively compete for talent will thrive. Those that can't compete will face an uncertain future.

Vision 2015 was launched with these realities in mind. While our region has experienced nearly 30 years of remarkable growth and development, it is clear that sustaining our competitive edge in this new world requires new perspectives, new strategies, and a new focus on positioning ourselves to win in the competition for talent. 

Vision 2015 was comprised of a Leadership Council of nearly 100 members representing every dimension of our region and every point of view.  It involved five action teams focused on areas where significant progress must be made in order for the region to compete. It involved input from thousands of citizens from across our nine-county region.  And it involved our University faculty, helping to inform and guide the process every step of the way. 

Here are some of the highlights of the Vision 2015 recommendations:

 Northern Kentucky will reinvent its economy to outpace the national growth rate in new jobs and average household income. Over the next 10 years, we'll create 50,000 new high-paying jobs.

Northern Kentucky will meet or exceed national performance standards at every educational level, from early childhood through postsecondary education.

Northern Kentucky will become nationally recognized for its "livability" through strong healthcare, healthy lifestyles, a sustainable and protected environment, vibrant culture and arts, an integrated system of regional parks, and expanded public transportation.

Northern Kentucky will become international in its perspective. We'll be a region that attracts, retains, and celebrates people from diverse backgrounds, races, cultures, ages, incomes, and family structures. We will create a culture of tolerance and inclusion where all can thrive.

Northern Kentucky will restore its urban core as the heart of our region with 3,000 new affordable housing units, expanded arts, retail, dining, entertainment, and strong local neighborhood associations.

Northern Kentucky will become a model for "networked" governance by retaining the strength of local jurisdictions while developing a more regional and shared approach to services.

Finally, and I quote from the Vision 2015 final report:

We must cultivate the next generation of regional stewards who are civic entrepreneurs, integrators, boundary spanners and coalition builders...leaders at every level and across every sector who care deeply about overall regional progress and are committed to turning Vision 2015 into reality.

Vision 2015 is the voice of the region that we serve. Its vision of our collective future transcends politics and ideology. Indeed, it draws from what have been traditional Republican and Democratic agendas and weaves together a regional strategy that will enable us to compete for the talent that will be necessary to drive regional progress.

Now, I expect that some of you may be wondering what all of this has to do with the state of the university.

It's not coincidental that, without exception, regions that are recognized for their capacity to recruit and retain talent are anchored by first-rate universities. Furthermore, they're not always research-intensive universities. Take San Jose State, Boise State, Portland State, Towson, North Florida, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and a host of other comprehensive universities that are helping to drive their region's future.

In fact, no institution in this region is more central to implementing Vision 2015 than NKU. Everything we do is about talent. Our work involves nurturing young talent at the P-12 level, preparing talent through rigorous and accessible collegiate study, sustaining talent through our lifelong learning initiatives, and applying the talent of our faculty in partnership with our community in order to advance regional progress. Nurturing, preparing, sustaining, and applying talent- this is what we do.

In 1997, we defined ourselves as a metropolitan university that would be deeply rooted in this region that we serve. We said that we would measure ourselves by our impact on the economic, social, cultural, and civic progress of our region. Vision 2015 will provide the context for much of the University's development over the next 10 years.

Successful implementation of Vision 2015 will have reverberations far beyond Northern Kentucky. Our region is a major economic driver for the entire Commonwealth. If Vision 2015 is successful, the entire state will benefit. NKU is strongly positioned to help support that success.

NKU in 2006:

This year finds the University more strongly positioned than at any time in our history. The reason for this is simple and straightforward. Our administrators, faculty, and staff have embraced our institutional vision and have given it life in every corner of our campus and every dimension of our mission. In addition, we've had the strong leadership and key support from community leaders, our legislative caucus, Governor Fletcher, the leadership of our general assembly, our congressional representatives, and the Council on Postsecondary Education. While they may differ on some things, all of these leaders have united to help ensure that the University is positioned to support regional progress as defined by Vision 2015. To all of them, we say thank you!

It's not possible in this setting to mention all of our progress over the past year, but let's focus on some of highlights.  


While we won't have final numbers for several weeks, our enrollment this fall is likely to exceed 14,200, which is the largest enrollment in our history and reflects roughly a 2-percent increase over 2005. Our entering class is about 200 students larger than last year and the best prepared in our history. Over 300 of our first-year students have ACT scores of 25 or above. This is a 40-percent increase over fall 2005. The result should be higher levels of student success and stronger retention and graduation rates. Our two-year implementation of more rigorous admissions standards is now complete and it has been a terrific success.

We anticipate that our African American enrollments will increase slightly this year and we expect another substantial increase in our Latino student population.

With the advent of new academic programs geared to working adults, we also expect to see a considerable increase in the number of adults enrolling on our campus. Our new Program for Adult-Centered Education, or PACE, will enroll over 100 students this fall. Our recent success in putting  general studies on-line will allow us to offer complete undergraduate degree programs through the Internet. 

A major challenge that we need to address involves getting our international enrollments back to their pre-9/11 numbers. However, the good news is that this year our international enrollments are holding steady. In addition, the number of our domestic students studying abroad continues to increase.

We're currently projecting that graduate enrollments will increase by nearly 9 percent, which maintains the annual growth level of the past several years. I expect that we will continue to see growing demand for access to professional master's degrees as a broad range of career fields continue to professionalize. This year's increase also reflects the creation of new masters programs in communication, executive leadership and organizational change, the on-line master's degree in education, and the new nursing education track in the MSN program.

Chase enrollments are again strong with 1,117 applications for 151 spaces. This year, Chase vaulted into the top 100 law schools worldwide in scholarship output. The Mock Trial and Moot Court teams also distinguished themselves in national and regional competition. 

Finally, we expect to see over 300 high school students enrolled in our early admission program. Why is this important? Because it helps get college on their radar and builds confidence that they can succeed in college.

In summary, enrollments look strong and are aligned with the needs of our region.  I want to thank every person on our campus who has worked to support student recruitment and retention. Together, we are making great progress!

Academic Programs:

We continue to create new academic programs and expand and adapt existing programs to meet the evolving needs of our students. An example is the new interdisciplinary Bachelor of Health Science degree, which will make it possible for professionals with associate degrees in radiologic technology and respiratory care to earn a four-year degree.

Another example is the Doctorate of Education proposal that has been developed under the leadership of Dr. Mark Wasicsko, our Bank of Kentucky Endowed Chair in Educational Leadership. The program is designed to support three tracks: P-12 instructional leadership, P-12 administrative leadership, and postsecondary leadership. The program will be practitioner focused and designed to support the continuing professional development of men and women who are leading our educational systems.  The program design has received strong support from educators in the region and throughout the state and will support Vision 2015. It also is within the scope of work described for comprehensive universities in the Postsecondary Education  Reform Act of 1997. NKU's mission is not to become a major doctoral research university; however, it is clearly within our mission to support the continuing professional development of educational leaders across the educational spectrum. It's essential for continued educational improvement.

The creation of our new College of Informatics, the College of Education and Human Services, and the School of Nursing and Health Professions all reflect our commitment to expanding our efforts in areas important to the region as recognized in Vision 2015. Over the next several years, we'll focus our attention on ensuring that these units are positioned to meet the needs of our students and our community. 

The University's externally funded research and scholarly productivity continues to increase. This past year, NKU grants and contracts increased by 14.4 percent to $12.5 million, marking an 81-percent increase compared to three years ago.

As most of you know, we are in the process of replacing a large number of faculty who are moving into retirement. What I find in our new generation faculty is the same strong commitment to NKU and its mission that characterized  the generation that they're replacing. Like our founders in their early years, this new generation is also full of hope, sometimes impatient, always questioning, and they believe that just about anything is possible. If we can sustain this spirit, NKU will continue to thrive. 

Public Engagement: 

Our engagement in the community continues to grow and to receive national as well as state and local recognition. 

One of our most recent and most ambitious community engagement initiatives was announced earlier this week. Over the past 18 months, leaders from both sides of the river representing P-12 education, higher education, business, government, philanthropy, and the non-profit sector have been developing a new partnership to strengthen urban education, enhance community support for student success,  and expand the college pipeline for students enrolled in urban schools. The initiative, called "Strive," seeks nothing less than to produce the best system of urban education in the nation. 

CINSAM continues to nurture thousands of P-12 students and teachers each year in the areas of mathematics and science.

The Department of Theater has done a magnificent job of reaching out to our six southern tier counties.

This past spring, NKU was awarded the Kentucky Center for Mathematics, which is charged by the legislature to improve mathematics preparation across Kentucky. Recurring funding of $1.5 million was also provided. The Center reflects the close working relationship that exists between our College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Education and Human Services and is the University's first center with a statewide mission.  

I earlier mentioned the University's strong involvement in supporting the Vision 2015 process. Our involvement included Roxanne Qualls and her public leadership team drafting the final report. This was a textbook example of how a university can support the regional planning process.

The Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement and Non-Profit Development continues to expand the number of students involved in service learning and other forms of civic engagement. NKU is the home of Kentucky Campus Compact, which is housed within the Center. We are currently working with the United Way and the Greater Cincinnati Foundation to develop programs that support asset mapping and non-profit leadership throughout the region. Vision 2015 emphasizes the need to foster the next generation of regional stewards. The Scripps Howard Center is a major focal point for our efforts in this area of informed citizenship. How important is this? Earlier this week it was reported that, in a national study, more people could identify the Three Stooges than the three branches of government. We've got some work to do!

NKU's public engagement efforts have focused very heavily on supporting regional economic growth. Bob Farrell and his team have provided strong leadership in this arena.  The launch of the new Infrastructure Management Institute is but one example of innovation that will not only spur economic competitiveness but also involve University faculty and students in cutting-edge work.

These are just a few examples of our rich array of public engagement involvement.  One of the major developments this past year was revisions in the Faculty Handbook that provide greater definition for what constitutes outreach and public engagement and how it should be evaluated for purposes of reappointment, promotion, and tenure.  I want to congratulate and thank Faculty Senate President Bill Oliver and the entire senate for getting this accomplished. Once again, NKU has taken a national leadership role in advancing higher education's public engagement mission.

Finally in the area of public engagement, I want to congratulate Tom Layzell and his staff, Governor Fletcher, and the General Assembly for their leadership in creating the Kentucky Regional Stewardship Trust Fund. This fund will provide $600,000 to each of Kentucky's comprehensive universities to support their public engagement efforts.  Kentucky thus becomes the first state in the nation to create a public revenue stream for this purpose. Tom Layzell has announced his retirement as president of the CPE effective next April. I want to publicly thank him for his work on behalf of Kentucky's future and thank him for his leadership on behalf of the public engagement mission. He's made an important contribution to our Commonwealth.

Student Life:

Student life at NKU continues to reflect a growing appreciation for extracurricular involvement. Students today are more involved than ever in student organizations that grow out of their social, civic, and academic interests. We're seeing major increases in student community service involvement as part of our emphasis on education for citizenship. And we've seen major increases in co-op and other active learning options.

Our intercollegiate athletic program again won the GLVC All-Sports Trophy, the fifth time in seven years. Our women's basketball team was honored by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association as one of the top academic teams in the nation. Our women's team was fifth highest in the nation with a 3.5 GPA. We continue to reflect in our athletics a strong commitment to the importance of academic as well as athletic success.

This year we'll see the retirement of our Faculty Athletic Representative, Professor Tom Kearns. Tom has served in this role for 26 years and has set a national standard for performance as an FAR. On behalf of our entire campus, we thank Tom for his commitment to athletic integrity and his willingness to do whatever was needed to support NKU athletics.

A major challenge this fall has been our lack of sufficient residence hall space. You may have read that we've located students in area hotels at least for the next several weeks.  We estimate that we need about 400 additional bed spaces within the next few years.  For us to continue to grow, we'll need to expand residence hall space as rapidly as possible.  Our residence hall staff has shown real creativity on this issue and I applaud them.

Facilities and Environment:

Those of you who have not been on campus over the summer will find a few changes in our facilities and campus environment!

As of this fall, NKU has gone wi-fi! Congratulations to our IT folks for getting this done.

Loch Norse (formerly Lake Inferior) is now completed. The new Oakley and Eva G. Farris Amphitheater is nearly completed. Aren't they both wonderful additions to our campus?

The new Student Union is underway with an anticipated spring 2008 completion.

The new greenhouse and planetarium are being constructed over at the Hermann Science Center. 

Our new lighted tennis courts are under way over by the Grien Softball Field.

The Bank of Kentucky Center location has now been cleared and construction will begin this fall. Also this fall, we'll see work begin on the adjoining Foundation property.  This development will include a 100-bed hotel, office space, and retail. The combined investment in both parcels will be close to $100 million. Ken Ramey assures me that we'll have spring 2008 commencement in the BOK Center.

Add to all of this the new College of Informatics building, the Three Mile connector road, the widening of Johns Hill Road, and a new parking garage and we're looking at approximately $230 million in construction over the next several years- half of which is publicly funding. This is going to require patience from all of us, but the result will be a transformed campus.

We continue to be Kentucky's most under-built campus, which constrains progress across the full breadth of our mission. We will again ask the CPE, governor, and General Assembly to approve renovation of Founders Hall, construction of a new Health Science Center, as well as the addition of other academic facilities.

This year we'll update our campus master plan. Growth of the campus has brought us to a point where we can anticipate a serious shortage of land for further expansion. We need to ensure that our campus planning makes the best use of available land in a way that supports our core mission. The CPE would like to see our enrollments above 20,000 by 2020, which further underscores the need for wise use of existing land. I will also ask Vice President Ramey to conduct an analysis of new construction approaches that can help us save on utility costs and be more environmentally friendly.

I want to once again congratulate our physical plant employees for their hard work over the summer. The campus looks more beautiful than ever and we begin the year with new renovations and a lot of fresh paint. Thank you! 

PRISM implementation will continue to capture a considerable amount of our human and financial resources. PRISM has had its ups and downs this year, but I believe we're now on track and moving forward. There is probably nothing more complex, costly, and frustrating than the implementation of a new management information system. I know that people have worked day and night to get the work done and I want you to know how much it's appreciated. As I talk to presidents around the country, I hear stories that are not unlike ours....two steps forward, one step back. It is so important that we keep our focus and use this implementation process to redesign and re-engineer our core processes and the way we go about our work. To miss this opportunity would be an enormous loss.  Again, thanks to all for your efforts related to PRISM. We'll get it done.

Funding Our Mission:

The 2006 legislative session produced great outcomes for the University. NKU received nearly $7 million in increased operating support, much of it coming in year two of the biennium. This is the largest percentage increase of any of the universities and helps correct our historic under-funding. In addition, we were awarded $35.5 million for the new Informatics building and second-phase approval for our new Student Union. All of this, coupled with the Regional Stewardship Trust Fund, made the 2006 legislative session a success by any measure. Again, I thank our legislative caucus, Governor Fletcher, the General Assembly leadership, and our community leaders for their strong support.

In the area of private donor support, we are fortunate to have former Chase dean Gerry St. Amand as our new Vice President for University Advancement. Gerry takes the helm at a time when the University is working to broaden our campus fund-raising capacity through the collegiate structure as we prepare for our next comprehensive campaign. To underscore the importance of private support, the Farris Amphitheater and Loch Norse are both funded entirely with private donations.

Looking Ahead to 2006-07:

As we look ahead to this academic year, there are four areas that I believe require special attention.

The first involves institutional planning. Writing about high-performing organizations, Jim Collins emphasizes that largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline. The Vision, Values, and Voices strategic planning process has served us well. It's helped us focus on the type of institution we are going to be, the core values that inform our work, and the priorities on which we need to focus. The process was great for establishing institution-wide priorities, but it did not go far enough in the development of unit-level goals and measures of progress. This year, we'll work to improve our planning process which will include the alignment of our own priorities with those of the CPE and Vision 2015 as well as meeting the requirements of SACS.  

Second, Vision 2015 reflects the collective voice of our region in defining Northern Kentucky's future. Over the course of this year, Provost Wells will work with the deans, chairs, and faculty to align the University to support the Vision 2015 goals. In the process, we need to address some basic questions. What value do we bring to each of the major Vision 2015 goal areas? Are there elements of the University that need to be strengthened in order for us to provide the support needed for long-term success? What are the limits of our support? How will we ensure that our involvement in Vision 2015 benefits the education of our students as well as the community? If Vision 2015 is to succeed, it will require that the University play a central role. However, our role must flow from our core mission to teach, to discover, and to apply knowledge. We are well positioned to support Vision 2015, but we'll need to think even more deeply on this subject during the coming year.  

Third, one of the greatest contributions that NKU can make to our region is to become a more internationalized campus. Vision 2015 emphasized the need for the region to become more global in its perspective and the University can and should lead the way.  This would involve more of our domestic students studying abroad, more international students studying on our campus, more partnerships with international universities, more faculty exchange programs, more partnerships with international companies, and revisions in our curriculum to make it more international in its scope. It's clear to me that, for our students to succeed in their careers and as citizens, they must  have an international perspective. We need to become a more international campus for the sake of our students and our region.   

Fourth, it's time for the University to play a more important and visible public intellectual role. NKU is not aligned with any political, ideological, or religious point of view. One of our greatest strengths is as a safe and neutral place for difficult conversations. Our planet, our nation, our state, and our local community all confront a range of very complex issues; issues that often generate more heat than light. It's not coincidental that our University seal has a lamp of learning at its center. In my view, it's higher education's responsibility to help frame the consideration of complex and often highly charged issues by doing what we do best-creating powerful learning opportunities for both our students and our community. 

There are many other things that will occupy our time this year. PRISM and the SACS reaffirmation process will draw large amounts of time and their success is essential to our continued development. Academic program review, new CPE performance indicators and a new funding model, capital construction, the master plan update, and a host of other major initiatives will compete for time as well.

As we begin this year, our strengths are many, but the greatest strength of all is the leadership that we enjoy at all levels and across all sectors of the campus. Leadership matters and NKU has an abundance of it.     



There's a story of a university president who was in a hot air balloon and realized he was lost. He reduced his altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago but I don't know where I am."

The woman replied, "You are in a hot air balloon hovering about 30 feet above the ground. You are between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude." 

"You must be an engineer," said the president.

"I am," replied the woman. "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the president, "everything you said is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost. Frankly, you haven't been much help."

The woman below answered, "You must be a university president."

"I am," replied the president. "But how did you know?"

"Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you are going.  You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You have made a promise you have no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is, you are in exactly the same position that you were before we met, but now somehow it's my fault!"


My friends, I believe that I know exactly where I am. I'm at one of the most dynamic universities in the country-a university that embraces its vision, lives its core values, and celebrates the impact that we have on both our students and our region.

To everyone in this hall I say, don't ever forget the power of this university to advance the hopes of both our students and our community. During the 18 months that I was involved in leading the Vision 2015 process, I was constantly reminded of NKU's importance to our region's future.

There's not a single dimension of this region that is not touched by NKU. The arts, business, education, healthcare, government, the law, criminal justice, entrepreneurship, non-profits, and the list goes on and on. We impact these areas by producing well prepared graduates and nurturing the lifelong learning process. We impact through our scholarship and creative activity, much of which occurs within our regional context. And we impact through community partnerships that involve the creative application of knowledge in order to advance regional progress. 

It seems to me that our responsibility to our students and to our region is to not only educate but to advance a sense of hope. Hope is optimism. Hope is belief in oneself and our collective future. Hope inspires. Hope causes us to believe that we can direct our own future. Hope is the antidote for doubt, pessimism, defeatism, and fear. We in the academy focus our attention on the life of the mind, on the intellect, and on the power of reason in the educational process. Ronald Aronson writes that reason combined with hope provides a gritty sense of limits with a lofty sense of possibility. It has always seemed to me that hope is a necessary precondition for both individual and social progress.

What I saw in Vision 2015 was an enormous expression of collective hope. What we'll see in the faces of over 14,000 students when they arrive next Monday will be hope.  One of our responsibilities will be to nurture that hope. To help reinforce and sustain it at times when our students, and possibly even our colleagues, find hope in short supply. Each of us at the University has the opportunity to be a bearer and nurturer of hope-hope in our students, hope in our colleagues, hope in the University itself, and hope in our community.

My hope for each of us as we begin this 2006 academic year is that hope will be at the center of who you are and the work that you do. Theodore Roosevelt once wrote that, "Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." We all work hard and I hope that you feel, as I do, that your work is important and worth doing. I can think of no more important work that I could be doing and it's an honor to be doing it with all of you.  

Thank you, and now it's time to get to work! Best wishes for a wonderful year!