Now that we’ve delved into another school year, we thought this was a perfect opportunity to chat with Northern Kentucky University President Geoffrey Mearns. We spoke with him about the changing academic landscape and how NKU keeps itself ahead of the pack.

After coming from Cleveland State University more than two years ago, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as the president of NKU?

I learned the value of engaging the entire university community in developing a vision for our collective future. As administrators, we don’t have a monopoly on all of the good ideas. To the contrary, we need to foster a culture where everyone is encouraged and inspired to share their thoughts and suggestions.

What does NKU have to do to maintain a reputation as a top-tier university in a region populated with long-established colleges?

In order to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment, NKU must continue to develop quality academic programs that attract outstanding students and that prepare them for successful careers and meaningful lives.

What are your primary goals for 2014-2015 academic year?

I have two principal goals this year. First, we must identify the programs and activities that will be included in our health innovations center, in which the state has invested $97 million. Second, I will travel all across the Commonwealth to spread the word that something special is happening at NKU.

Debt-concerns have become a major factor in determining where prospective students go college. How is NKU ensuring that students get the most for their dollar?

NKU provides a great return on a student’s investment. In fact, last year a national organization ranked NKU as the top college or university in Kentucky for financial return on investment—by computing tuition and career earnings. In order to maintain this ranking, the University has invested more money in financial aid to our students, even though financial support from the state continues to decline.

What NKU programs do you see playing a larger role in the university’s future? Why?

NKU will continue to be a comprehensive university that offers a wide array of quality programs. We will continue to expand our distinctive informatics programs, and the health innovations center will incorporate a large number of health-related programs.

How have reductions in federal and state funding affected NKU, and what is the university doing to mitigate the impact?

The continued decline in state funding has presented many challenges. For example, we have fewer faculty and staff to serve our large student body compared to many of our peers. We are using technology to become more efficient. But there is no real substitute for the personal relationships between a student and a good teacher or an informed advisor.

How do you think the athletic program has managed to compete against larger schools since moving to Division I two years ago?

As we complete the transition to NCAA Division I, I am proud of the competitive success of our teams. Our student-athletes have exceeded expectations because of their talent, tenacity, and courage—and because of the support that they’ve received from our coaches and our fans.

As a former cross-country runner, how often do you run now?

I run four or five miles virtually every day.

What’s your favorite part about being President of NKU?

The best part of my job is the opportunity to meet so many interesting and inspiring people.