NKU graduates

2015 President’s Annual Report

NKU President Geoffrey Mearns

Two years ago, I had the honor of unveiling the new strategic plan for Northern Kentucky University. This plan, Fuel the Flame, is guiding our University to our 50th anniversary in 2018.

As you will see in this Annual Report, we are making progress toward the goals articulated in our plan.

Last Fall, we completed the expansion of our Campus Recreation Center, now the largest university recreation center in Kentucky. We also broke ground on a Health Innovation Center that will allow us to grow our existing healthcare programs and create new programs that will improve the health of the Northern Kentucky workforce and reduce the amount we spend on health care.

This Spring, we will continue our push for a new higher education funding model in Kentucky that ties state funding to basic metrics related to student success. Momentum has never been stronger for us to change the outdated, unfair funding model that has resulted in decades of underfunding for our University.

Fair funding will help us to attract and develop talent. As we continue to expand our outreach around the state, more Kentucky high school students than ever have our University on their radar. They will bring from every corner of the Commonwealth, and from around the world, a unique spark of curiosity and a desire to understand and to improve the world around them.

The goals articulated in our strategic plan seek to ignite that spark into a flame – a lifelong endeavor to learn and to serve others. Thank you helping us to Fuel the Flame.

President Mearns Signature

Geoffrey S. Mearns


As a public comprehensive university located in a major metropolitan area, Northern Kentucky University delivers innovative, student-centered education and engages in impactful scholarly and creative endeavors, all of which empower our graduates to have fulfilling careers and meaningful lives, while contributing to the economic, civic, and social vitality of the region.


To put our students first.
To lead with excellence.
To make a lasting impact.

NKU class of 2019

The class of 2019.

Student Success

At NKU, students find a supportive environment, one where they can succeed academically, expand their knowledge, and graduate on time.

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NKU awards more than $5 million in academic scholarships to the incoming freshman class each year. Scholarships are awarded based on academic merit, as well as other factors such as educational diversity and an interest in STEM disciplines.

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The NKU R.O.C.K.S. program assists first-year African American students with the transition to college through mentorships, a summer transition experience, living clusters, special University 101 sections, and other programming. This year, the Fall-to-Fall retention rate for R.O.C.K.S. participants was 53% higher than that of African American students who did not participate.

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The Military Times ranked NKU among the nation’s top universities on its “Best for Vets” list in 2015. The honor recognizes the collaborative work being done at our University to support our military veterans and their family members. NKU enrolls about 500 veterans, active service members, National Guardsmen, Reservists, and ROTC students.

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Now in its 10th year, the NKU first-year production allows first-year students to immediately become involved in theatre productions either in performance or technical roles. This year’s show— She Kills Monsters—will involve 49 freshmen. Since the creation of the program, freshman retention in the Theatre program has increased to 97%.

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As they compete in their first season in the Horizon League, NKU’s student athletes continue to succeed on the playing field and in the classroom. Last Spring, the Norse boasted an average overall GPA of 3.2. It marked the eighth consecutive semester our student athletes have collectively earned at least a 3.0 GPA.

Miki Abraham, ’15 as Eponine in Les Misérables.

Miki Abraham, ’15 as Eponine in Les Misérables.

Talent Development

At NKU, we are raising our own academic expectations, as well as those of the region. We serve more students, produce superior graduates, and promote lifelong learning.

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The Haile/US Bank College of Business has again been ranked one of the nation’s best business schools by The Princeton Review. Students ranked the University highly for its rigorous curriculum, experienced faculty, small class sizes, and flexible scheduling. NKU is also a U.S. News & World Report “Best Undergraduate Business Program.”

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Chase Law graduated 119 students last year. In its history, nearly 150 Chase graduates have gone on to serve as judges at the local, state, and federal level.

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The NKU School of the Arts boasts the largest theatre program in Kentucky. SOTA programs reach about 25,000 P-12 students per year through outreach activities and draw 32,000 patrons per year.

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During the second year of our Road to NKU initiative, NKU faculty and administrators visited 4,000 students from 30 high schools throughout Kentucky. We also expanded the tour to include schools in Ohio and Indiana.

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NKU graduated the largest class in its 48-year history in May, conferring degrees upon more than 1,780 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and law students. NKU graduated another 1,333 students in December, bringing the total for the year to more than 3,100 graduates.

NKU's Health Innovation Center, opening in 2018

Health Innovation Center, opening 2018.

Academic Innovation

At NKU, students are learning like never before, and they are participating in programs that are innovative, distinctive, experiential, and transdisciplinary.

The NKU INKUBATOR has been ranked among the top 5 programs in North America in the competency development category by the University Business Incubator Index. The INKUBATOR receives applications from students representing every NKU college and provides resources necessary for a successful startup process.

The Health Innovation Center will allow the University to grow existing programs and create new ones that will improve the health of the regional workforce and reduce the amount we spend on health care. The building will feature state-of-theart technology, including a simulation center that is enhanced by an $8 million gift from St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

More NKU students are taking online classes than ever before. Last year, 20 percent of all student credit hours were earned online. The University offers online undergraduate and graduate degree programs as well as minors, concentrations, certificates, and endorsement courses.

Last year, NKU became the first institution in Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati to be designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense, positioning the University on the frontlines in preparing students to deal with the cybersecurity challenges businesses and governments face on a daily basis.

Last May, NKU faculty and students began excavating the Parker Academy, the first school of its kind in the United States to offer fully integrated classrooms open to all races, religions, and genders. Students are using the Parker family papers and unearthed artifacts to piece together a history of how the school came to be.

Parker Academy excavation.

Community Engagement

At NKU, we realize that part of education is giving back. We engage with the community to make it a better place and to increase regional growth and vitality.

The College of Education and Human Services engages more than 400 community partners each year through its numerous outreach initiatives, such as the Institute for Talent Development and Gifted Studies and the Northern Kentucky Center for Educator Excellence.

Last year, CINSAM (Center for Integrative Science and Mathematics) reached more than 7,000 P-12 students by integrative teaching, learning, and scholarship into the STEM disciplines.

Informatics students are designing a customized robot to assist the Newport police department in dangerous situations. The robot, called N.O.R.S.E., can assist with everything from a bomb threat to suspicious packages, barricaded suspects, and hostage situations.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching selected NKU to again receive its 2015 Community Engagement Classification. This classification renewal reflects a depth of programming and an institutional culture where community engagement is valued within the University’s classrooms and beyond.

Community engagement work can be dirty business, as NKU environmental sciences and journalism students learned during a recent transdisciplinary project in which they collected and analyzed dirt from residential sites in Newport and then partnered to report their findings of unsafe levels of lead.

Newly renovated Campus Recreation Center.

Institutional Excellence

At NKU, we see a future of influence, passion, and financial security. We are preparing our students for the modern world, with innovative facilities and the continued fulfillment of mission, vision, and promise.

The NKU Master of Business Informatics program has been ranked No. 11 in the nation for 2016 by The Financial Engineer Times. The rankings look at GMAT scores, undergraduate GPAs, acceptance rates, postgraduation employment, and starting salary.

NKU has been ranked among the nation’s top higher education institutions by Forbes magazine for the seventh consecutive year. The rankings focus on student satisfaction, post-graduate success, student debt, graduation rate, and academic success.

Highland Heights is the seventh safest college town in America, according to Safewise. The ranking noted NKU’s safety workshops and presentations, and its integration of citizens into planning and implementation processes.

NKU is one of the most transit friendly destinations in Greater Cincinnati, according to a coalition of environmental, business, and transit groups. The group awarded the University Diamond Level status for its efforts to expand access to public transit and to integrate transit into the campus culture.

Last Fall, we opened our renovated and expanded Campus Recreation Center. The state-of-the-art facility features an aquatic center, six basketball courts, 17,000 square feet of weight/fitness space, a multiactivity court for indoor soccer and field hockey, and a bouldering wall.

Go inside.

NKU Magazine is mailed twice each year to all University alumni. A free magazine iPad app, including all of the print magazine and other exclusive, interactive content, is also now available at iTunes and in the Apple app store. Stay up-to-date with the latest happenings at Northern Kentucky University with NKU Magazine.