During the Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents quarterly meeting on March 4, regents discussed the plans to have an in-person spring commencement ceremony.
Bryan Makinen, director of public safety, said that in-person graduation activities are being planned that are structured in a healthy and responsible manner.
“Social distancing and the creation of a healthy environment are certainly paramount in those discussions that are being made,” Makinen said. “But that's exciting for us to announce that we are progressing forward, and we are moving in the right trajectory.”
Board of Regents Chair Lewis Diaz said, “A graduation ceremony is a rite of passage that everyone on this board has experienced. It’s the right thing to do for our students. Our students have worked hard, they’ve endured much, they deserve the same experience and recognition that each of us on the board received when we completed our degree.”
The campus community will be seeing expanded opportunities for in-person interaction during the fall semester contingent on low transmission rates on campus.
The university continues to manage the spread of COVID-19 on campus. Makinen said that there have been zero cases of in-class transmission of COVID-19 at EKU to date.
“Those structured activities that the university has provided have been very meaningful and have occured in a healthy manner, and we’re going to build and capitalize upon that experience we’ve had,” Makinen said.
Vice president of student success, Tanlee Wasson, said that spring 2021 enrollment is down 3.2 percent as of Jan. 26. New freshman and transfer students enrolled at EKU are up 7.2 percent. E-campus students are up 5.2 percent, and graduate students are up 2.7 percent.
Wasson announced the formation of the Eastern Experience Team that will work to collaborate and put together events around EKU to create a new level of excitement around the college experience.
The Eastern Experience Team is co-led by Dannie Moore, vice president of strategic initiatives and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, Matt Roan, director of athletics, and Wasson.
Wasson said that this team will come together to “build a more collaborative and cohesive student experience.”
Student Government Association President Eyouel Mekonnen gave an update to the board about the upcoming SGA elections this month.
Mekonnen said that the SGA elections will be conducted on March 23. SGA is working on a campaign to make sure that the students are aware of the upcoming election and of how to vote.
Mekonnen also highlighted a few SGA members for their hard work and dedication: Tamera Crutcher, Star Robertson, and Britany Bowens. Mekonnen praised their passion and dedication to SGA and to making EKU a better place.
In addition, Mekonnen emphasized the importance of alumni engagement as the semester moves forward.
“We want to make sure that our members have great connections and great networks with their predecessors,” Mekonnen said. “Hopefully I will be reached out to 30 to 40 years down the line by someone who’s in student government that said, ‘I was able to find your contact information through our network.’”
SGA is also working on student investment. Mekonnen said, “Without a very targeted investment into higher education, it will be very challenging to sail a chaotic sea.”
EKU President David McFaddin asked the campus community and board members to think about and reach out to those who have been impacted by the recent natural disasters.
“I would ask everyone to join with me in remembering and supporting the thousands upon thousands of people in our service region who are suffering from the ice storm, to the flooding; we’re seeing some once in a lifetime type of things happen that are catastrophic to those communities,” McFaddin said.
McFaddin addressed how the challenges through this past year have also brought focus to the university when it comes to its goals. McFaddin has been leading the university through the pandemic since it started and will participate in his first in-person commencement ceremony this spring.
“The commencement is one of the events that I look forward to,” he said. “This is going to be an extraordinary opportunity. There will be more details about that coming out in the next several weeks. I’m excited for May to get here and looking forward to celebrating with our students.”
McFaddin said EKU will continue to prioritize the health and wellbeing of the community into the fall semester while also looking to expand opportunities.
The president addressed how the EKU Advantage strategy aims to build recruitment and retention. McFaddin said the EKU BookSmart program is one of the most important elements of the EKU Advantage strategy.
“Not only is this program a critical component of recruiting and retaining our students, but it’s also a part of an overall strategy of putting a focus on student success, access and affordability. It’s important that we all be ambassadors for the BookSmart program, for all of the EKU Advantage programs, and then recruiting, retaining and graduating students is absolutely all of our responsibilities,” McFaddin said.
Multiple colleges around EKU will see realignments,including the creation of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. McFaddin said that the College of Business will stand alone, and a search is underway for a leader for the College of Business.
A search is about to launch for the College of Justice and Safety dean, which will likely run through the summer and into the fall semester.
McFaddin addressed fundraising and alumni engagement during the meeting. Giving Day will be April 14, and this year’s theme is “one day, one goal, one Eastern.”
“I know that my president's cabinet has some big ideas we’re going to roll out about things that we want to do to impact the campus,” McFaddin said. “We would encourage all of those here to be a part of that and be a part of the great things that are coming for this institution for the years ahead.”
EKU has partnered with Baptist Health Richmond to open a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the EKU Perkins Building. The vaccine site opened on March 3 with appointments only.
“We are anticipating the ability to announce very soon some targeted dates over the next two to three weeks where we are very hopefully to be able to have vaccinated 100 percent of our EKU community who wanted to be vaccinated,” McFaddin said.
Diaz reflected on the last year and the impact of COVID-19 on EKU.
“We are pracually one year from the point where we had to adjust our operations in March of 2020. I am and remain inspired by our university’s ability to adapt, to respond and to endure. What we have witnessed in this last year has been amazing. The EKU community is resilient.” Diaz said.
The regents hope to get more students, faculty and staff back on campus and conduct in-person classes in the fall.
“A healthy return to campus is another common goal that unites the Colonel community,” Diaz said.
The minutes for the December 2020 board meeting was approved.
The Recommended Sabbatical Program Participants for 2021-22 was approved by the board.
The board approved the nominations for faculty emeritus status for retiring faculty members. Chang-Yang Lin (School of Business), Michael Roberson (School of Business), Dawn Jackson (Health Promotion and Administration), Jackie Jensen (Applied Human Sciences), Melissa Powell (Associate Degree Nursing), Chuck Fields (Justice Studies), Victor Kappeler (Justice Studies), Robert Brubaker (Chair Emeritus) (Psychology), Jim Gleason (Communications), Esther Randall (Art and Design) and Joanne Glasser (President Emeritus).
EKU Director of Athletics Matt Roan announced that the Fall 2020 semester resulted in the 18th consecutive semester of 3.0 or better overall student-athlete grade point averages.
Men’s and women’s golf, softball, baseball, volleyball, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field and beach volleyball are either competing now or will compete soon this spring.
Roan said that EKU will host a collegiate outdoor track and field meet from April 16-17. This is the first meet EKU has hosted since 2014. The track recently underwent resurfacing and maintenance.
Since Jan. 1, EKU Athletics has hosted 22 athletic competitions on campus.
Roan said that the athletics department has worked to enhance two Begley gymnasium facilities into indoor synthetic turf and plyometrics / agility mat rooms.
Roan told the board that the beach volleyball facility will officially open on April 20 when the EKU beach volleyball team welcomes Morehead State.
The student recreation center is seeing about 3,500 visits per week. Roan stated that Campus Recreation and the eSports club team completed the first ever Special Olympics Unified Champion eSports Tournament. Eight eSports club team members paired with Special Olympics athletes to compete in a single elimination Rocket League Tournament.
The EKU Board of Regents did not go into an executive session or announce new business at the end of the meeting.
To watch the full meeting visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PApTgMPSFtU.
The next EKU Board of Regents meeting is scheduled for June 17.