A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Northern Kentucky University sets up search for new president amidst gloomy financial pictures

By Jack Brammer
NKyTribune reporter

The Northern Kentucky University Board of Regents took several big steps Wednesday to select a new president after its budget officials outlined financial woes that may lead to higher tuition and student services fees.

The board hired at an undisclosed amount a firm to conduct a national search for a new president and appointed a presidential search leadership team and a committee, as well as launched a website to keep the public informed about the search. It is www.nku.edu/presidential-search.html

Kara Williams

Kara Williams, chair of the presidential search committee and secretary of the NKU Board of Regents, told the Northern Kentucky Tribune in an interview that there is no timeline to find a new president to replace Ashish Vaidya, who abruptly departed late last year as it was reported that the university is facing a budget shortfall of more than $18 million.

Asked what effect NKU’s finances will have on trying to attract the seventh NKU full-time president, Williams said the talent market is tight but the search committee plans to be aggressive and emphasize the opportunities of NKU.

She said she had not thought about what effect, if any, this year’s gubernatorial election in Kentucky might have on attracting a new president. Kentucky governors usually like to have a say in who are appointed as presidents of state universities.

WittKieffer, the global executive search and leadership advisory firm based in Oak Brook, Ill., will conduct the national search of interested candidates, said Williams.  She said she did not know how much the university is paying the search firm.

Williams added that she hopes people will take the survey on the presidential website to express their views and participate in the various public forums the search will hold. Open forums to gauge public comments will be held March 28 and 29.

The NKU board charged the leadership of the search panel to provide it with information that will assist the board in selecting the university’s next president.

They included:

• Conduct a national search to generate a strong pool of candidates for the presidency of NKU.
• Use virtual and in-person forums to solicit from various constituent groups their perspectives about the leadership needs of NKU.
• Reduce the pool of applicants to a reasonable number of semi-finalists, probably five or less.
• Gather additional information about each semi-finalist (such as interview, data, reference checks).

• Host local visits for finalists (if desired by the candidates).
• Ensure that all semi-finalists and finalists receive accurate and thorough information about NKU.

• Work closely with the search firm and advisory groups to assist NKU’s presidential search.
• Carry out all responsibilities in the best interests of the university, regardless of the constituent group with which one most strongly identifies.
Members on the search committee and presidential board include faculty, staff, students, regents, and community partners.

“Each member of the presidential search leadership team brings with them a unique perspective and diverse viewpoint, which will prove valuable for NKU and its next leader,” said Williams. “The team is honored to serve in this capacity for NKU and is looking forward to beginning the next stage of the search process – conducting listening sessions and forums in order to build out the presidential profile.”

“The internal and external stakeholders’ commitment to providing perspectives will be vital to our process and each person’s collective passion for the university.”
Rich Boehne, chair of the NKU Board of Regents, said, “I am confident that the search leadership team will oversee a process that brings forth the strongest candidates excited to lead this university. I know that the team will do so with the highest degree of care and responsibility, consistent with shared governance, and the best traditions of this institution.”

Members on presidential search committee are Marquita Barron, NKU Director of Training & Development; Dr. Janel Bloch, NKU Professor, English; Dr. Hassan HassabElnaby, NKU Dean, Haile College of Business; Ashley Himes*, NKU Regent, Student Services Coordinator at Regional School Programs; Candace McGraw, Chief Executive Officer, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport; Julia Pohl, Sports Business & Event Management Major, NKU Student;  JT Roberts*, Owner of DDX Transport;  Nathan Smith*, NKU Vice Chair BOR, Chief Investment Officer at Flagship Communities LC; Elizabeth Thompson, NKU Search Vice Chair and Regent, Member at Stites & Harbison LLC; Tom Wiedemann*, NKU Foundation President, President and CEO of AAA Club Alliance; Kara Williams*, NKU Search Chair and Secretary of BOR, Owner of The Marketing Collective; and Brad Zapp, NKU Regent, Managing Director of Connetic Ventures. (Asterisk denotes NKU alumni.)

Members of the presidential search advisory board are Rensha Allen*, NKU Black Alumni Council President, Allstate Agency;  Brandon Billiter*, NKU Director of Student Account Services; Mike Borchers*, Local Superintendents Advisory Council, Superintendent Ludlow City Schools; Dr. David Childs, NKU Associate Professor, College of Education; Brent Cooper, President, NKY Chamber of Commerce;  Dr. Charlisa Daniels, NKU Associate Professor, Chemistry & Biochemistry; Dr. Jacqueline Emerine, NKU Associate Professor, Communication; Dr. John Farrar, NKU Faculty Senate President, Associate Professor, Chemistry & Biochemistry; Dr. Fernando Figueroa, President, Gateway Community & Technical College; Lauren Goodwin*, NKU Chase College of Law, Student;  Staci Green*, NKU Director of IT Support Services, President of SAFE;  Karen Mefford*, NKU Interim Comptroller; Darryl Peal, NKU Chief Diversity Officer; Steve Pendery, Campbell County Judge-Executive;  Dr. Sandra Spataro, NKU Professor of Management, College of Business; Jennifer Sheffel*, NKU Alumni Council President, President and CEO at Summit ActionCOACH; and Steve Slone*, NKU Staff Congress President, Manager of Mail and Copy Services.

Financial belt tightening expected

Before the NKU board took up matters of the presidential search committee, its budget officials said the institution’s budget has been adjusted by $39.9 million this fiscal year.

They said that amounted to about 15 percent of the budget and was unprecedented.

They also spoke of losses over the last five years in revenue from parking, food and beverage services, and the Truist Arena.

Increased rates for such services, as well as tuition, are likely when the board approves its next budget in June.

Bonita Brown, who was NKU’s vice president and chief strategy officer, has been interim president since January.  At a meeting earlier this year, the board decided that whoever is selected interim president of the university cannot be in the running to become its president.

NKU is a state university of more than 16,000 students and 2,000 faculty and staff between Highland Heights in Kentucky and downtown Cincinnati.

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