Vision 2015 to help region thrive

The president of Northern Kentucky University, along with the faculty and staff, is trying to see into the future – 10 years into the future, to be precise.

President James Votruba is co-chairing a community organization called ‘Vision 2015.’ According to its Web site, the organization promises to “define the future of Northern Kentucky by producing a 10-year strategic blueprint” of what the region will be like in the year 2015.

Votruba has a strong faith in the ability of both the program and those working on it. “I wouldn’t be spending the time that I’m spending on this planning process if I didn’t believe that we can do it,” he said. “The work we’re doing won’t be easy. Frankly, planning our community’s progress and shaping a vision for our future shouldn’t be easy. If it were, we would surely be doing something wrong.

“Our biggest challenge will be to ensure that the progress over the next 10 years is as breathtaking as the past 25.”

Vision 2015 is divided into five teams that investigate the different ways that the Northern Kentucky region can improve and thrive. Each of the teams has at least one NKU faculty or staff member working on it.

Ken Jones, the chair of the theater department is a member of the Livable Communities team. “We’re looking at the region and seeing how to improve and incorporate NKU into the community,” he said. “We’re looking at everything from local politics, seminars and curriculum changes to help students, multiculturalism and diversity – issues to improve the region.”

Jones believes that NKU has always been a community-driven university “from the day that it was conceived,” he said. This is a very important project for NKU to be involved with, according to Jones, because “as the region grows, we have to grow with it,” he said. “We have to know where the business and politics are going.”

Rob Snyder, the executive director for the Metropolitan Educational and Training Services (METS), agrees. “Dr. Votruba’s position has always been that (NKU) needs to be embedded in the community,” he said.

There are certain questions that need to be addressed when you’re working for the community, though.

“What actions can we take between now and 2015 to enhance Northern Kentucky economic competitiveness and thereby raise the standard of living for all residents of Northern Kentucky?” Snyder said. “That’s the question that we’ve been asking ourselves, and we argued about that for weeks. It might be something like getting a better mass transit system. Possibly an elevated train or light rail, like other cities have.”

Despite the arguing, Snyder has enjoyed the work that he’s done on the team. “It’s been great working with everyone. They were kind of selflessly dedicated to making Northern Kentucky better,” he said. “It would be hard not to enjoy being around that.”

Phillip Sparkes, director of the Local Government Law Center, is part of the Effective Governance team which is “looking at the way local government is organized and operated,” he said. “We make suggestions for increased efficiency, greater response to citizenry, ways to reduce costs and to promote the community’s wider interests.”

Sparkes said that the work the team does indirectly affects NKU “to the extent that government provides the infrastructure that all of us at NKU use, such as roads.”

One example of what the effective governance team looks at would be the relationship between how two cities might cooperate using a joint service such as a medical squad.

“Our faculty provides invaluable insight and expertise,” Votruba said, “which will add critical perspective, focus and experience as we proceed to develop a vision for Northern Kentucky’s future.”