Craig Turner, Eastern Kentucky University’s Board of Regents Chair, was named chair emeritus as he stepped down from his position during the boards quarterly meeting on Wednesday morning.
Turner’s resignation was met with a recognition from the board for his many years of service to EKU. Joining in 2006, Turner has helped to raise the bar for students at EKU, helped to create the first public/private partnership at the university, which resulted in the funding for Martin and North Halls, the new parking complex and garage, and Carloftis Gardens, as well as having a role in some of the more difficult decisions the university has had to make in the last few years.
“Everyone in this room does make a differences. It hasn’t been easy at times to make some of these decisions. We spend a lot of time in life reacting to events we didn’t create but have to address but I believe EKU is in a better place because we are all here,” Turner said.
The board voted and approved to have Lewis Diaz fill the spot being left behind by Turner, effective Wednesday afternoon. The board also approved Barry Poynter as treasurer, Bryan Makinen as secretary, and Alan Long to Vice Chair.
Also in Wednesday’s board of regents meeting was a construction update from Kelly Crocker, project administrator. The two biggest projects being undertaken at EKU include the new student recreation and wellness center and updates to the Powell building.
Crocker said that the aimed for completion date for the student recreation and wellness center was slated to be November 15, 2019, but that renovations to Powell won't be completed until January of 2020. Currently, Powell has added a Starbucks and a Steak 'n' Shake, along with bathrooms. The Powell building renovation contingency fund for the project has used 11 percent of its funds, which Crocker said put them in reasonable good shape finance-wise.
The student recreation and wellness center has used 43 percent of its contingency funds, according to Crocker. Most of the masonry work has been completed and the steel structure inside is almost complete. Progress has been made on area where the pool will be constructed as well. The two-ply roof has almost completed its first-ply stage, and the mechanical and plumbing work is going on pace, too, Crocker said.
"Work is generally proceeding well," Crocker said.
Board members questioned what would become of any leftover contingency funds from the projects, to which Crocker said would most likely stay with those projects to be used, but would be considered by the board when it reached that point.
The board of regents also heard an update from Gene Palka on student success. During the fall semester, the university held many events across campus that drew out high numbers of attendees.
Among the events was the family weekend and winterfest, both of which drew more than 1,000 attendees, homecoming, zips and zombies, registration games and the EKU job fair. Palka noted the collaborative effort that took place to bring together Latino Heritage Month and its subsequent events for students from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
"All of these types of activities are designed to give them a sense of place, engage them, and give them a sense of Eastern pride," Palka said. "And I believe it provides them with health and wellness, too."
Palka also presented the board with an enrollment and retention update. The current freshman retention rate for 2017 sits at 73.1 percent, which is up 10 percent from 2006, but still a slight dip from the previous year. Palka noted that the slight dip was only the difference of seven or eight students.
As far as enrollment goes, Palka said they are seeing a positive trend upward when looking at the university's past. Since 1996, enrollment has continued to improve, from 1,999 students then, to 2,445 in 2018. But, that number is down 141 students from 2017.
A quite drastic change is the number of enrolled students online. According to Palka, the university saw a 413 student increase for online classes from last year.
The number of degrees awarded has increased steadily year by year as well, Palka said. In 2009, the percent of degrees awarded sat at 16.6 percent, whereas 2018 sees 22.2 percent of degrees awarded.
The board also heard of several ways the university is trying to retain students after their first year. Palka said last year, the school sent 560 freshmen home on academic probation, meaning 560 students' GPAs fell below the 2.0 they are required to maintain, of which only 25 percent returned in the fall.
After looking at other universities around the state, Palka said they noticed their GPA for academic probation starts at 1.5. If EKU implemented the same, 118 students would have been sent home instead of the 560.
Another way the university is looking at keeping students is by changing the general math requirements. Before, students had to take a math course but now they take a quantitative reasoning course within their college or program.
"Many on probation would attribute getting through core math requirements as their biggest problem," Palka said.
In other business:
• The board of regents approved the demolition of three properties on Oak Street that had been deemed as surplus. The reasoning behind the demolition was due to age and condition of the properties.
• The board received a clean and fair audit report, performed by Crowe, LLP.
• The board was presented with three resolutions by Jeremy Raines, the first giving pilots in the aviation program hazardous pay. The other two recognized Conferencing and Events and Division of Public Safety on their jobs well done in the event of President Donald Trump's visit in October.
Reach Kaitlyn Brooks at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynskovran.