Record student success results, strong financial performance, COVID-19 response, comprehensive strategic planning and newly elected and reappointed board members highlighted reports to the EKU Board of Regents during their regularly scheduled September meeting.
Eyouel Mekonnen was sworn in virtually by Richmond Mayor Robert Blythe as the newest student regent to the board. Mekonnen replaces former student government president Madison Lipscombe as the student representative on the board. Regent and Vice chair Alan Long was also sworn in after being re-appointed to the board.
President Dr. David McFaddin announced the EKU budget will be re-written to align directly with the University’s strategic plan. He also announced a reformation of the president’s cabinet to include some additional layers of leadership that will focus on engagement and leadership with expanded areas of the University.
- President’s Cabinet (Formerly known as the President’s Council)
- President’s Leadership Council
- President’s Council for Institutional Excellence
- President's Inclusive Excellence Advisory Council
“While there are many challenges still on the horizon, we are taking full advantage of the opportunities to innovate and create during this time of disruption. If we are willing to come together, trust one another and embrace this change, Eastern will be better for it. We continue to leverage the Eastern Advantage and deliver on the promise of opportunity at EKU. I am very much looking forward to embarking on our new strategic planning process. For the first time in recent history we are completely rewriting our budget to support a new and innovative strategic plan. After all, budgets are an expression of values. We must invest in those areas that are strategic, transformative and essential to EKU’s success today and into tomorrow” McFaddin said.
Board reports from several areas show that the University is effectively managing the COVID-19 pandemic thus far into the 2020 Fall semester.
Dr. Bryan Makinen, executive director of public safety and risk management, reported to the board that the EKU dashboard, available at https://staywell.eku.edu/dashboard, has been an integral part of the strategy to allow an in-person return to campus this fall. “This is a place where our population can see the latest information on our COVID-19 response,” Makinen said. “This dashboard gives our community a sense of what is happening so that everyone can make informed decisions as they make their daily walk around our campus.”
Makinen said contract tracing and data collected by the University with its partnership by the Madison County Health Department shows that the University’s efforts to use social distancing, handwashing, masking and socially distanced classrooms, as well as other efforts has resulted in no classroom exposures thus far. “The strategies are working,” Makinen said.
Vice President for Student Success Dr. Tanlee Wasson’s enrollment report reflected record performance in student retention, significant growth in student outcomes among underrepresented student populations and stable overall enrollment. EKU currently has a preliminary enrollment of around 13,700 students. Final figures won’t be available until next month.
The report detailed that the University has more than 3,200 new students, including 928 transfer students, e-Campus enrollment is up nearly 10 percent, graduate students are up more than three percent, and freshman retention is up 5.8 percent. Wasson said enrollment is not just weathering the pandemic, but making some important gains for now and in the future.
“Given the challenges we faced this year, we’re pretty proud of the outcomes of many months of hard work. Our early models predicted a much higher loss of enrollment,” Wasson said. Wasson said goals set at an enrollment summit held in January were lofty, but student success and student affairs have spent countless hours working on retention and enrollment.
Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Barry Poynter reported the university was able to close out the 2020 fiscal year with a strong financial performance through cost saving strategies across the University. The year over year position for the institution improved about $6 million.
“We needed a strong finish and I’m glad to say we were able to produce this,” Poynter said. Poynter added that in the current fiscal year, because of conservative budgeting and a keen eye on costs, the University is ahead of budget on tuition revenue by more than $4 million.
Vice President for University Development & Alumni Engagement Betina Gardner reported the University’s SAFE Fund has awarded $53,390 to 150 students. The SAFE fund provides short-term financial assistance to Eastern Kentucky University students who are unable to meet immediate, essential expenses due to an unexpected emergency or crisis situation.
New Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Dr. Dannie Moore reported that newly rehired Director for Faculty Diversity and Development, Dr. Roger Cleveland will start on Sept. 15 and will play an integral role in recruiting and retaining diverse faculty and staff, and building and expanding diversity and inclusion curriculum and initiatives.
Associate Vice President of Facility Services and Capital Planning Brian Wilcox said several construction projects are either underway or about to be underway across campus. Wilcox’s staff has produced nearly 9,000 signs and 229 shields, as well as sanitary stations in all the buildings in order to meet safety mandates for the return of students to campus. “Our staff created those, engineered those and distributed them across campus (in response to COVID-19),” Wilcox said. In addition, repairs are nearly complete on concrete and brick at Keene Hall, and construction has begun on a pedway across the EKU bypass.
Vice President and Athletics Director Matt Roan reported on the football team’s eight-game schedule, and that student athletes continue to excel both on the fields and in the classroom. Health measures in place, including frequent COVID-19 testing, are proving effective.EKU will continue its football schedule on Saturday against West Virginia.
Board Chair Lewis Diaz closed the meeting with inspirational words about the resilience of EKU during a time of global pandemics, social unrest, and economic downturns. “This is the fight of our lives of which we have not seen,” Diaz said. “We are in a period where we are fighting a pandemic. We have social unrest. And there is economic uncertainty for many, many families. “When I look at what EKU is doing, and when I look at what your team is doing, Mr. President, I believe in my heart that you are doing all the right things to put Eastern Kentucky University in the best position to move forward.”
The next scheduled meeting will be held Dec. 10, 2020.