Mearns talks with students, faculty on listening tour

In the second stop of a 26-part listening tour, Northern Kentucky University President Geoffrey Mearns met with a small group of campus constituents Wednesday afternoon to discuss what they think of the university.

Students and faculty spoke about what they liked most about NKU, but also about what problems they’ve faced. Students said that they feel safe on NKU’s campus, and that they can tell that the teachers and administration really care about their success.

A member of the faculty said that one of his favorite things is that there is conversation between the academic departments, which doesn’t always occur at other universities.

All of these positives come together to form the small community feel that students and faculty both repeated as their favorite things about NKU. One student said, “We may have 15,000 students, but it never feels like there are 15,000 students here.”

However, this may have led to some of the problems that students said they were facing. Something that many repeated is a large problem is that students don’t get involved enough here on campus.

A large part of this, they said, is the large commuter make-up of the student body. According to Mearns, approximately 1,800 students live on campus, and the rest commute.

Another issue that NKU might face in the future is a new kind of college class: massive open online courses. These courses are general education courses offered online by larger colleges for free.

According to Mearns, NKU is not currently planning on offering any of these courses, or planning on accepting these credits. But NKU does face competition from larger schools that can afford to hold these classes without taking too much of a hit to their revenue stream.

When asked how much of a threat these free courses posed to NKU, Mearns said he did not know. Instead, he said that we need to be mindful of them, and start to plan for how NKU is going to respond if these become popular and if this is how students will receive the majority of their education.

This was not just a complaint session, though. Mearns and the students and faculty brainstormed constructive plans to address these issues.

Student Government Association President Erik Pederson, in response to Mearns’ remarks about the massive open online courses, said that, in order to be able to compete with these free classes and larger universities, “We have to redefine how we sell NKU and higher education overall.”

When addressing the issue of lack of student involvement on campus, students said that the issue comes mostly from how college is presented. Students said that currently NKU emphasizes the small class sizes and, while this is a very important aspect about NKU, students need to know coming into college that it isn’t all about the classroom—there’s a larger social aspect that students need to experience as well.

This listening tour came after Mearns sent out a survey to the NKU community several weeks ago. He said that he has received close to 600 responses to the survey, with the largest group of respondents being students. Mearns said that the responses in the surveys are similar to what was said in the meeting.

If you would like your voice heard by Mearns, there will be more listening tours in the coming weeks. One more specifically for students is also on the way.