Mearns moves planning process forward

Coming back for the new year means a lot for NKU President Geoff Mearns as the process for a new strategic plan is underway. Mearns spent the fall semester gathering information from the campus community through 24 listening tours and email surveys.

With the listening tour and survey responses read, Mearns is ready to begin 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 in effect for five years and end with the university’s 50th anniversary in 2018.

First, 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 soon be a website documenting the process and a timeline that will be updated regularly, according to Mearns.

The committee met for the first time Jan. 11 for three hours. Committee member and College of Health Professions Dean Denise Robinson said it “had a brief introductory time but clearly everyone who is on the committee wants to be there and believes it to be a very important to the future of NKU.”

“I also think the process has had broad input from lots of groups- and that speaks well to the ability for everyone to have input both in the process as well as the eventual strategic plan.”

Working with the committee are seven groups of 10-15 faculty, staff and students to gather research and reports. The groups will present their reports in six to eight weeks, according to Mearns.

Each group will include at least two students, Mearns said, and the committee enlisted the help of SGA in finding students.

The mission of the strategic plan is to create a way for NKU to transition and accomplish new goals that deal with the changing nature of higher education. The plan will last for five years and will focus on many goals Mearns set to research at the beginning of the semester, he said.

Specifically, there will be an emphasis on technology. Mearns asked the question of “How do we respond” to new technologies that students utilize in everyday life. “That’s going to be, in some ways, a very important issue for us to discuss,” he said.

Mearns said about 75 percent of responses to the survey from students included comments on NKU’s personal education experience, and he wants to continue that experience in an enhanced way, “as opposed to creating a separation between our faculty and our students.”

Mearns also identified a “real asset” of the university as diversity. Not just ethnically or socioeconomically, he said, but in terms of the types of students such as transfer, commuter, on-campus resident or non-traditional students.

He compared approaching how to address the needs of every student to the stock portfolio. “They always tell you to have a diverse stock portfolio, so that if one market or one industry goes down, you don’t get crushed,” he said. In comparison, there can’t be too much emphasis on one type of student.

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.