Thursday, November 15, 2001

NKU offers master plan with an eye on the market

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Northern Kentucky University revealed a new strategic academic plan on Wednesday that is regional and pragmatic in its orientation and global in its aspirations.

        Programs will be strengthened where employer demand is greatest while funds are allocated to send students abroad and recruit foreign students for the Highland Heights campus.

        Provost Rogers Redding presented the plan to NKU's regents for their information; formal approval was not required.

        Much can be accomplished with smarter budgeting of available funds, NKU President James Votruba said later in an interview, but full implementation requires new money.

        “We can sit on our hands,” Dr. Votruba said, “or we can take greater responsibility for our own financial futures.”

        Counting on state funds during '"daunting” economic times is unwise, Dr. Votruba continued, so NKU's plan rewards academic entrepreneurship that successfully mines markets for distance and weekend classes, expanded summer school and accelerated courses during semester breaks.

        Dr. Redding and chemistry professor Vernon Hicks led the yearlong campus conversations that created the plan, involving hundreds of students, faculty and staff as well as employers and other constituencies.

        In addition to affirming university emphasis on teaching, the plan renews NKU's commitment to becoming a selective-admission four-year campus.

        Now, in addition to four-year and some master's degrees, NKU fulfills its historic community college role by providing developmental courses for hundreds of freshmen whose reading, writing and mathematical skills are inadequate.

        The plan assumes that a two-year community college will open in two years in Boone County, enroll those unprepared freshman and provide their remedial education.

        In return, NKU will create smooth transitions for successful community college students who want four-year degrees.

        Other high points of proposed programs included:

        • New or stronger majors where “current evidence demonstrates significant regional needs in education, health care and information technology.”

        • Graduate degrees will expand to meet those same regional employment needs but not at the expense of undergraduate education.

        Dr. Votruba said distance learning will get more attention, as will courses offered in workplaces and other off-campus sites. NKU also will study whether students need more courses at nontraditional times.

        NKU will continue to offer faculty expertise where local communities and students can benefit, and an initial $250,000 kitty will support that research and professors' participation.

        Recognizing that prospective and current students can find campus bureaucracies frustrating, NKU will “work to create a single point of service” as well as technology assistance, child care, food service and friendlier library hours, especially for students who are on campus at night or during weekends.

        Dr. Redding said the plan does not spell out how these strategic goals will be accomplished because he and Dr. Votruba want maximum tactical flexibility as demands and resources change.


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