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Sixth Northern Kentucky University President Ashish Vaidya steps down; leaving December 19

By Jack Brammer
NKyTribune reporter
Northern Kentucky University is looking for a new president.

It was announced late Thursday at a special meeting of the university’s board of regents that Ashish Vaidya will be departing as president on Dec. 19.  He took over the office July 1, 2018, as NKU’s sixth president.

There was no mention at the meeting why Vaidya was leaving but a news release later from the university said the board and he “determined that the time is now for a leadership transition as the university embarks on a multi-year repositioning effort in response to changing market and financial pressures impacting all of higher education.”

Dr. Ashish Vaidya

There was no elaboration to the departure statement. It said Vaidya and his partner, Dr. Nita Vaidya, plan to return to their home state of California.

Northern Kentucky University’s independent newspaper, The Northerner, reported earlier this year that NKU had an unexpected multimillion-dollar deficit.

Vaidya, in a statement, said, “It has been a privilege and honor to lead this university over the past four-and-half years.

“Thanks to the great work of the faculty, staff and students, I believe significant progress has been achieved during the past several years. Driven by Success by Design, we have achieved record retention and graduation rates, strong results in the Commonwealth’s performance funding model, completed the most impactful capital campaign in our history and successfully resolved the untenable pension crisis.

“The fact that we executed on so many fronts, while navigating a global pandemic, speaks volumes about this institution’s resilience and tenacity.” 

Vaidya said Nita and he have been away from California for nearly eight years now and are ready to return home to our roots and explore opportunities there.

“I would like to thank Chair Rich Boehne and members of the board for this opportunity. Nita and I are grateful to the community for welcoming us into the region as well.”

The public portion of Thursday’s  board meeting lasted less than 10 minutes, adopting a resolution concerning Vaidya’s exit. It then went into closed session to discuss personnel but conducted no more business.

Several members thanked Vaidya for his work at NKU.

“On behalf of the Board of Regents, I’d like to thank Ashish for his many accomplishments at NKU, and also express our deep appreciation to Nita and the whole family for the sacrifices they have made over the past four-and-a-half years in service to our mission, our students and the region,” said board chair Rich Boehne.

“We know that transitions in leadership can be difficult, and often sad, but when embraced as opportunity, transitions can serve to reinforce our most essential goals and accelerate our efforts to achieve them. We won’t miss this opportunity for NKU, as it often has in the first 50 years of its adventure, to focus forward and boldly demonstrate its commitment to changing lives and lifting the whole of our community.”

At NKU, Vaidya tried to include both campus and community voices in the discussion of the university’s future.

He also focused on enhancing NKU’s commitment to equity, inclusion and diversity, creating the chief diversity officer position and establishing the chief strategy officer position to support NKU’s core values and goals.

Vaidya not only kept the university’s pension for long-term employees solvent but also will save the university over $73 million in cessation costs which will translate to annual savings on the bond payments of approximately $4 million. His active presence in Frankfort also resulted in increases for NKU in the Commonwealth’s Performance Funding Model.

In his time leading NKU, Vaidya has raised the university’s profile with his work as chair of the Horizon League Board of Directors, on the American Association for State Colleges and Universities’ Board of Directors, on the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s Cincinnati Branch Board of Directors and as part of EAB’s Moon Shot for Equity.

“Nita and I have been away from California for nearly eight years now and we are ready to return home to our roots and explore opportunities there,” Dr. Ashish Vaidya said.

Vaidya came to NKU as interim president of St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. He took over from Gerard St. Amand, who served as NKU’s interim president for 14 months. St. Amand postponed his retirement to lead the university when former president Geoffrey Mearns left at the end of his contract.

Prior to serving as St. Cloud State’s interim president, Vaidya served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at St. Cloud State from 2015 to 2016. Previously, he served California State University, Los Angeles, from 2010 to 2015 as provost and vice president for academic affairs, and as special advisor to the president for regional economic development.

He also served California State University Channel Islands as dean of the faculty from 2005 to 2010, as the MBA director from 2003 to 2005, and as founding director of the Center for International Affairs from 2004 to 2006. Prior to that, he served as the MBA director for California State University, Los Angeles, from 1997 to 2001. He has served on the faculty of California State University, Los Angeles, and California State University Channel Islands.

Vaidya holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from St. Xavier’s College (Mumbai, India), and a Master’s and a doctorate from University of California, Davis.
Founded in 1968, NKU is a state university with more than 16,000 students served by more than 2,000 faculty and staff near Highland Heights and about seven miles southeast of Cincinnati.

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