I write to update you on last Wednesday’s regularly scheduled Board of Regents meeting.
The morning Policy and Finance Joint Committee meeting featured a number of presentations, including an update on our university’s executive dashboard. Sue Hodges Moore, Vice President for Planning, Policy, and Budget, and Vickie Natale, Executive Director of Planning and Performance, presented the executive dashboard with updates on how the university is performing on the metrics. The university has made progress on 18 of the 22 metrics, with seven of the targets set for 2014-2015 already having been met. I have appointed a task force to evaluate the metrics and recommend changes to the executive dashboard in support of the goals and objectives that will be identified in the 2013-2018 strategic plan.
Gail Wells, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, gave a presentation highlighting our Fall 2013 enrollment. The freshman class has an average high school GPA of 3.30 and an average ACT score of 23.3. This represents the highest average ACT score for any class in the university’s history.
Dr. Michael Carrell, Regents Professor and Director of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Center, provided an overview of the center, its mission, and its services. Dr. Carrell was honored as our newest Regents Professor at the Fall Convocation. I’d again like to extend my congratulations to Dr. Carrell on this prestigious honor.
John Crum, a senior Biology major, shared his research on the MSH5 gene and its impact on cancer risk. John completed extensive research over the summer under the supervision and mentorship of Dr. Erin Strome. John’s presentation was truly impressive, highlighting the high-quality undergraduate research that is happening in virtually every academic department at the university. John also spoke with passion about the positive impact the experience, including his relationship with Dr. Strome, has had on his life. I want to extend my deepest gratitude to every faculty member who mentors our students and enables undergraduate research opportunities. Thank you.
Finally, Vice Provost Pat Moynahan, and Ryan Padgett, Assistant Vice President for Student Success and Assessment, shared an update of the integration efforts for student services in the Student Success Center.
At lunchtime, the Board had an opportunity to participate in the Grand Opening of the Student Success Center. I want to thank all of the faculty, staff, and students who attended the Grand Opening. This Student Success Center is an important component of our retention and graduation strategy and a valuable resource center for every student.
The Board took action on a number of items in the afternoon session, including officially awarding the Frank Sinton Milburn Outstanding Professor award to Dr. Alar Lipping. Congratulations, Alar.
The Board also voted on changes to the Faculty Senate Benefits Committee By-Laws, Faculty Policies and Procedures Handbook, and Department Chairs’ Handbook, which were endorsed by the appropriate governing bodies.
As is customary, I gave a report to the Board. The full text of my report is below.
Finally, I have enjoyed the Strategic Planning meetings to date, and I appreciate your meaningful feedback on the draft plan. There are still two open forums left. Details on the forums can be found at http://strategicplanning.nku.edu/openforums.html. And it is not too late to submit your comments electronically. You can do so at http://strategicplanning.nku.edu/comments.html.
The academic year is off to a great start. Thank you for all that you do to make our university truly outstanding.
Comments to Board of Regents
As you heard this morning, our incoming freshman class is very strong. Compared to last year, we enrolled about 140 more freshmen this year than last year. And most importantly, the average ACT score for the incoming cohort is 23.3 compared to 22.7 last year.
But we must continue to focus on our retention rate. As you know, we have implemented a number of measures, most notably the Student Success Center, to help improve our retention rate. The preliminary retention number for this year shows a slight increase over last year. We have made some modest progress, but frankly not enough.
We continue to make good progress on our strategic plan. On August 30, I sent an email to the campus community that outlined our progress to date. I also shared the draft plan, and I invited the campus to join the members of the Strategic Planning Committee and me at one of five open forums to provide input and feedback. We are also gathering feedback from an online form for those who are not able to attend one of the open meetings. We remain on schedule to share a final draft of the plan with the Board at your November meeting.
We are also making progress on our major construction projects. Earlier this summer, we began the renovation of the north end of the Central Plaza. This project will complete the transformation of the entire plaza into a welcoming gathering space with more trees and plants, a second outdoor amphitheatre, and a water feature. This is a project that students enthusiastically supported. We expect that the renovation will be completed later this year.
And just as we finish up the plaza, we expect that our next major project will commence. In December, we will begin preparations for the renovation and expansion of the Albright Health Center. This project will nearly double the available space in the Campus Recreation Center and will allow for needed upgrades to the HVAC and other critical building systems. At a minimum, we expect that this renovation will earn a LEED silver designation. The expansion will also feature the first geothermal unit on our campus. The pool will be completely heated by the geothermal system and we expect that approximately 15% of the building will also be heated and cooled by the system.
For the first several weeks of this semester, Lakeside Terrace, our newest residence hall, housed students in temporary assignments. Now that those students have permanent assignments, we will begin the process of renovating the facility. When completed, the facility will house approximately 200 students. We anticipate that this residence hall will be open for the start of the 2014 academic year.
As you know, the university owns several acres near the Nunn Drive entrance to campus. For years, it has been our intent to work cooperatively with a private company to develop that land into a mixed-use property. Ideas for use have included everything from restaurants to hotels to high-end office space for businesses that complement our academic offerings and would offer internships and job opportunities for our students. Recently, we circulated an RFI, or Request for Information, to developers to gather ideas and feedback. We anticipate releasing an RFP, or Request for Proposal, in the near future. This project will be a front door to the university and an attractive development.
Starting on January 1, with your support, NKU will be a tobacco-free campus. A comprehensive awareness campaign began last month. In addition to the banners, elevator wraps, and other signage, the University is also offering smoking cessation options. Several workgroups of faculty, staff, and students have been working on the many aspects of the implementation of our new policy.
This year the University welcomed 55 new full-time faculty and 69 new part-time faculty. I’d like to offer a special welcome to these men and women and thank them for their commitment to the academic growth and success of our students. I am grateful for the constructive and collaborative relationship with my faculty colleagues, and I look forward to continuing our important work together.
I would also like to offer my congratulations to faculty members Dana Harley, Willie Elliott, Karen Tapp, and James Canfield from our Social Work department in the College of Education and Human Services. They received an award for Innovative Teaching in Social Work Education by the Council on Social Work Education. The Council was very impressed with their work in photovoice, a research methodology that combines photography and narrative description.
In addition to new faculty, we have also welcomed some new administrators. I am pleased to welcome Ken Bothof, our new Athletics Director; Jeff Standen, the Dean of the Chase College of Law; and Eric Gentry, the Vice President for University Advancement who will join us at the November meeting. Mr. Gentry will start on October 1.
As you know, we also have several other searches underway. Later this month, the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Search Committee will meet with semi-finalist candidates. They will work to narrow the list to three or four candidates for on-campus interviews. We are presently targeting dates in October for these interviews. This position is very important for the entire campus and the committee will provide regular updates about its progress and information about the finalists.
We are also in the beginning stages of searches for several dean positions. I will inform the campus community as committees are formed and their work begins.
I am confident that we will continue to attract outstanding people to serve our university and our community.
The year is off to a very good start. I remain grateful for the opportunity to serve with you.
Geoffrey S. Mearns
Northern Kentucky University
800 Lucas Administrative Center
Highland Heights, KY 41099