Dr. Ashish Vaidya took over as president of Northern Kentucky University on July 1, 2018, becoming NKU’s sixth president. He was unanimously selected by the presidential search committee after an eight-month process. Vaidya most recently served two years as interim president of St. Cloud (Minn.) State University where he had previously served as provost and vice president for academic affairs.

He is married to Nita Vaidya, a sociologist. They have two children: Jaanhvi and Avaneesh and a prized Chihuahua mix, Coco.

Q What was it about NKU that drew you to the university?

A I was drawn to NKU because of its national reputation as a regionally engaged university. NKU is a young university and very entrepreneurial with a can-do attitude in a dynamic region. The work over the past several decades has positioned NKU to continue to this strong trajectory and the region really has embraced and supported NKU and vice versa.

Q St. Cloud State University is similar to NKU in size, scope and complexity, however, every school has its own culture and issues. What do you perceive as the biggest challenge facing NKU?

A The biggest challenge facing all higher education institutions is the widespread perception that a college education may not provide a strong return on investment for students. While I am steadfast in my belief that state universities in America are engines of economic and social mobility and facilitate regional prosperity, we have not had the best results in advancing student success goals of access, completion and career preparation. We need to do a better job of focusing on our core mission while communicating and advocating for the value proposition of a college degree, credential or certificate.

Q The University ventured into Division 1 recently. How important do you think athletics are to the school and the community?

A A successful Division 1 athletics program that develops student athletes to be competitive both in the classroom and on the field is something that I am proud to see here at NKU. Athletics also is a great way to engage people. It builds pride and excitement throughout the campus, amongst our alumni and within the community. Whether you’re a student walking to the game or an alumni driving back to campus, we all come together to cheer on our Norse.

Q You grew up in Mumbai, India and have spent time professionally working in California and Minnesota before accepting this role. How does Kentucky compare to the others?

A It’s hard to compare it with other places I’ve lived except to say there’s a vibrancy here that makes me excited to learn more about the region and Commonwealth. Of course, I am hoping the winters here are milder and shorter than in Minnesota!

Q You are the sixth president of the University and your predecessors have left their mark. What do you hope your legacy will be?

A NKU is a young institution that has accomplished a great deal over the last 50 years. I am deeply grateful for the work of my predecessors and it is an honor and a privilege to lead NKU. It is my goal to see that we never lose sight of our purpose—that we are here to serve our students first and foremost and the region. I hope we continue to meet the hopes and aspirations of the students and the region.

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