The Academic Commons is planned to be physically located in the Steely Library. (Emory Davis)
The Academic Commons is planned to be physically located in the Steely Library.

Emory Davis

Committee begins planning for Academic Commons, what to expect

January 29, 2023

In Northern Kentucky University’s Reposition Plan of financial and strategic realignment, the Academic Commons is among the most prominent items. A committee comprising faculty, staff and students have started meeting this semester to develop a working framework for the commons, though very little has been planned so far.

Once implemented, Academic Commons will centralize various student support units on campus into an encompassing one-stop physically located in Steely Library. The goal is to gather and coordinate resources where students can access everything they need at once, without having to search around campus. Currently student support offices are spread across multiple buildings: Stego Studio and academic resources in the library, Veterans Resource Station, Adult Learner Programs & Services and the Writing Center within the Learning PLUS suite in the University Center, to name a few.

“We don’t want students to have to go to Writing Center here, Tutor Center there, all sorts of everywhere, and I think putting [Academic Commons] in the library creates a hub of innovation, hub of creativity, hub of support,” said Bonita Brown, NKU interim president and one of the committee co-chairs. “We think creating something like that can be a unique beacon for NKU. We just want to be a vibrant, supportive place and atmosphere.”

For John Farrar, Faculty Senate president and one of the committee co-chairs, Academic Commons can address the needs of diverse student demographics—young scholars, school-based scholars, adult learners, veterans, online learners—who may need support beyond that required by campus-accessing young college students.

“If you’re an online student, commuter or evening student, what meets your needs and what not? Those kinds of things, what are we doing that’s working? What are we doing that’s not working?” Farrar asked.

The Academic Commons committee held its first meeting on Jan. 11, where members brainstormed their expectations and guidelines for the commons, as well as what resources are available at NKU and what other institutions are doing. According to Farrar, they are working on a basic framework for the Board of Regents to approve by March 15, for the moment eschewing details for a quick timeline.

Farrar said that NKU might see progress in implementing Academic Commons by July 2024, but nothing will be firmly realized until the committee has figured out how to mesh and mingle the various offices and support units. He added that preparing Steely Library as a commons hub might require renovation, which in turn necessitates state funding. Additionally, whether and how such centralization will affect existing staff positions at NKU is yet to be determined.

The committee is looking for student input on Academic Commons, with listening sessions similar to last semester’s faculty listening sessions scheduled to begin in March. Students that they want represented on the committee include library workers and the Student Government Association, and some faculty members would be asking their classes about the commons, Brown said.

Announced as interim president at last week’s Board of Regents meeting, Brown said that she is going to discuss with Provost Matt Cecil on what Academic Commons will look like going forward. Though her position will affect her work on the Success by Design strategic framework, Brown reassures that the framework and student success will remain a priority.

As the new semester sets into pace, Brown would like to see vibrancy and activity back on campus, as well as more students graduating. Farrar wants to see a continual moving forward.

“We’re doing some good work here. We still care about students and we just need to keep doing that,” he said. “There’s been some negative press and setbacks and all these things which may take our eyes off what our purpose here is, but we’re still planning to go forward and make progress. You’ll start to see that soon.”

Correction: This article previously stated the Writing Center is physically located in the Steely Library. While the center offers drop-in hours in the library two days a week, its permanent location is within the Learning PLUS suite in the University Center. The online version of this article has been corrected, but the error remains in the print version.

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