Mearns, committee to start work on strategic plan for NKU

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Photo credits: Kody Kahle

Northern Kentucky University President Geoff Mearns is off to an early start for the spring semester after the spring convocation this morning, where he took the time to review his listening tour and survey results and announce plans for the university’s new strategic plans.

One of his biggest, and most apprehensive, points was that Mearns will soon be tweeting, which he said he has never done before. “My 18-year-old daughter is very embarrassed right now,” Mearns said as the crowd in Greaves Hall laughed and applauded.

His Twitter handle will be @PresidentMearns. As of lunchtime today, the Twitter-verse is still waiting to hear from NKU’s president.

In addition to the Twitter announcement, Mearns reflected on last semester’s listening tour and survey he took to “listen and learn” about the campus community and prepare for what the next strategic plan will need to include.

During the fall, Mearns held 24 listening sessions where he would talk with students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community about what they want to see done at the university. He also sent out an email survey that included six open-ended questions to the same group of people.

Mearns said he received about 600 responses and read every single response. Through the responses, Mearns read the words care, community and dreams the most often, when respondents talked about NKU and its faculty and students.

He also acknowledged that there are still areas of concern and issues with the campus. The top responses included a need to visit the problem of “institutional fatigue,” which is happening nationwide, the university’s need to be more selective in student selection and a need for more transparency.

Mearns said he is working on some issues immediately, specifically to be more transparent he began sending out summarizing emails to NKU after important meetings and appearances. His move to Twitter is another move to be more transparent, especially with students. He said social media is one of the most effective ways to reach out to students.

Another issue Mearns said he will continue to focus on is an increase in professional salaries and development. “I’d like to see us implement a comprehensive intentional plan for professional development for all faculty and staff,” he said at the convocation.

With the listening tour and survey completed, Mearns begins the process of putting together NKU’s next strategic plan. The current plan, put into place by former president James Votruba, expires this year and the next plan will be for five years and end at the university’s 50th anniversary in 2018.

To start the process, Mearns put together a strategic planning committee made up of one student, two external members, three faculty members, two staff members, a department chair and a college dean. There will also be a website documenting the process and a timeline that will be updated regularly, according to Mearns.

The committee will present preliminary plans, findings and common themes in March of this semester. The process will continue throughout the summer and the fall semester, with the Board of Regents voting on a finalized plan proposal in November 2013.