The Northern Kentucky University Board of Regents unanimously voted to appoint Cady Short-Thompson, as Northern Kentucky University’s seventh president during their meeting Wednesday.
Short-Thompson is currently the Executive Director/CEO of Breakthrough Cincinnati, per a release from the university. She previously served as the Provost of Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and as the Dean of the Blue Ash campus of the University of Cincinnati. From 1996-2010, she was employed at NKU in a variety of roles.
She will formally begin her role as president on Oct. 2.
“I am ecstatic to return home to NKU, where my professional journey began, and to give back to
the people and place that invested so fully in me,” Short-Thompson said in the release. “NKU’s values of excellence, engagement,
student-centeredness, and belonging are deep in me and I am eager to serve alongside NKU’s
talented faculty, staff, students, and alumni to lead this great institution forward. I love NKU and
believe that it is entirely fitting that my first and final positions will be here.”
NKU vice president and chief strategy officer Bonita Brown was appointed by the Board of Regents to serve as the interim president in January. The decision came after the abrupt departure of former NKU President Ashish Vaidya, which was announced in November 2022.
As the interim president, Brown was ineligible to apply to be the permanent president, as voted on by the board of regents.
In March, NKU Board of Regents Secretary Kara Williams, who served as chair of the Presidential Search Committee, said there would be a search committee and an advisory board in their search for a permanent president. The search committee and select advisory board members would conduct interviews with candidates. However, the final decision of who is named president would ultimately come down to the board of Regents.
Williams told LINK nky in March that they were not putting a timeline on the search process because they would stick in any phase until they got “exceptional candidates.” Approximately six months after naming its search and advisory committees, the board of regents named — NKU’s new president.
The presidential search has been closed to the public despite requests from the NKU Faculty Senate for an open search. Faculty Senate President John Farrar told LINK nky in May that the faculty was committed to ensuring the university had an open and transparent process for the new president.
Part of the faculty senate’s statement on engagement with the board of regents, made in May, included a proposal that “all finalists must deliver public presentations on-campus that provide an opportunity for faculty, staff, and students to provide meaningful input before a candidate is selected.” Those presentations were not held.
In the May statement from the faculty senate, they related part of the university’s current budget situation to the decision to hire Vaidya, which was also a closed process.
“NKU’s current financial crisis stems, in part, from the decision to hire the University’s most recent president,” the statement reads. “The prior president was the first president NKU ever hired using a search process in which no finalists made public presentations on campus to the University community. Consequently, the faculty had no opportunity to raise any concerns prior to his appointment.”
Farrar said that though faculty would have preferred a more open search, many faculty members who worked with Short-Thompson when she was previously at NKU had a positive experience with her.
“I feel like the faculty feels like she’s one of us,” he said. “Glad to have a president who is one of us that we can start now setting a new course to the future.”
Short-Thompson said she has a long track record of working with high-functioning teams and knows finance.
“I’ve worked in higher education and worked with budgets for many, many years,” she said. “My intimate knowledge of how a university runs and the finances needed to be successful, all of those expectations and qualities are met in my leadership. I will say that I want to spend a whole lot of time looking forward. I am committed to working with my team and the great people of Northern Kentucky and Northern Kentucky University to usher in a new day to look forward over the horizon and usher in a much healthier and far brighter future than some of the days they’ve experienced recently.”
Farrar said issues on the minds of staff include the budget and enrollment.
“Our biggest weakness, I think, is our undergraduate enrollment,” he said. “We need to make a lot of progress there. And that plays into the budget, right? Because we’re so tuition-driven.”
Short-Thompson addressed the university’s enrollment during a press conference after she was announced as the new president.
“I really want to have conversations with the cabinet and the board, as well as the faculty and staff,” she said. “I like to compete, I’d love to grow, and I would love to see more students here on campus in person, as well as in our online programs. I do believe that one of my first initiatives will be to lead a strategic enrollment management plan.”
During the press conference, Short-Thompson was asked about the raises and bonuses NKU handed out to the university’s presidential cabinet, which some university staff called “bad optics” amidst budget issues.
“I understand that there are always two sides to a point, and in this case, I do believe that making sure that the interim president has had a stable cabinet and working with her is a motivator to offer bonuses to help her lead through this transition, and so I always understand the optics and the importance of being mindful of how things might feel or appear, and there’s no question that there’s some healing ahead for the faculty and staff of this institution,” Short-Thompson said.
NKU Staff Congress President and presidential search advisory board member Steve Slone told LINK nky that he is looking forward to working with the current administration and the new president to continue the university’s focus on student success.
“I will work diligently to ensure that this transition is a smooth one for our entire campus,” Slone said. “I thank Regent Williams and Regent (Elizabeth) Thompson, and all the regents for the opportunities that myself and other staff on the search committee and the advisory board had to participate in the search process.”
Short-Thompson is the first woman to be named the university’s permanent president, and she recognized the significance alongside Brown.
“As we were sitting on stage, I said this is very powerful,” Brown said. “I said this is a historical moment. As she said, It’s time we’re here. We’re ready to serve, and I think it’s amazing.”
Brown said as she has served in the interim role, she has had women and minority students approach her and tell her that she is a role model for them.
“You don’t even know what will come from this years from now,” Short-Thompson said. “There are young girls and boys across the commonwealth right now seeing two women leading a major public institution. And there are lessons that come from what’s possible and what they might pursue for themselves and their bright futures.”