Position Description


Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences - Northern Kentucky University

Northern Kentucky University, a comprehensive public university located in the Cincinnati metropolitan area, seeks a committed and inspiring leader to serve as the dean of its largest college, the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Setting
Located where Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana meet on the Ohio River, the Cincinnati metropolitan area is home to 2.1 million people. Ten Fortune 500 companies have their headquarters in the area, which has a thriving arts and culture community. Northern Kentucky University is located on the I-275 beltway, a 7-minute drive from downtown Cincinnati. Urban, suburban and rural living options are within commuting distance from campus. The Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky International Airport is 20 minutes away.

The University
Northern Kentucky University was founded in 1968 and is now a regional comprehensive university comprised of six colleges: Arts and Sciences, Informatics, Education and Human Services, Business, Health Professions, and Chase Law, in order of enrollment.  The university offers 78 bachelor’s degrees, 23 master’s degrees, and three doctorates (DNP, EdD, and JD). The university has a full-time faculty of 583, including 390 tenured/tenure-track, and a full-time staff of 942.  This year marks the completion of the university’s transition to Division I athletics.

Over 14,500 students currently attend NKU. Of these, approximately 12,500 are undergraduates. Currently about 2,000 students live on campus, and there are plans to grow on-campus housing by 50% over the next ten years.  The average ACT score of incoming freshmen is 23.7.  The average class size at the university has been holding steady over the past two decades, at about 26 for lower-division undergraduate, and 20 for upper division and graduate.

The university is led by President Geoffrey S. Mearns, who joined the university in 2012 after serving as provost at Cleveland State University. With degrees in English from Yale and a JD from the University of Virginia, President Mearns brings in several years of experience as a federal prosecutor. One of his major accomplishments this year is obtaining a $5.1M equity adjustment in state funding beginning in 2017-18, which will address the historically low share of state appropriations allocated to NKU.

The Academic Affairs division is led by Executive Vice President and Provost Sue Ott Rowlands, who joined the university in 2013 after serving as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech. She has an academic background in Theatre and is an accomplished actor and director.

A university-wide planning process culminated in NKU’s 2013-18 strategic plan, Fuel the Flame.  This plan takes the university to its 50th anniversary in 2018. It is currently in the planning stages of a major fundraising campaign associated with this milestone.

The university is in the process of moving to an incentive-based budget model, with the transition to be completed in FY 2018.  In this variant of a responsibility center model (RCM), revenues (e.g., tuition and state appropriations) flow into the colleges, which in turn fund their operations and the university’s operations. This model is designed to provide a simpler and more transparent system for budgeting and is expected to create additional opportunities for deans to innovate.

New construction continues to enliven NKU’s 420-acre campus. The $105M Health Innovation Center, currently under construction, will be a landmark building in which all NKU colleges will have a footprint. The Center focuses on transdisciplinary innovation around population and consumer health. Designed by the Los Angeles-based firm CO Architects, it includes the total renovation of an older NKU building, Founders Hall. 

The College
The mission of the College of Arts and Sciences is to create and sustain a community of lifelong learners in a nurturing environment that emphasizes literacy, critical thinking, and humanistic and scientific inquiry across diverse fields of disciplinary and interdisciplinary study. The College promotes the free and rigorous pursuit of knowledge, respect for differing points of view and global cultures, appreciation for personal expression in all its artistic forms, and challenges and rewards of community involvement.

The College of Arts and Sciences provides the foundation for all of the educational programs offered at the university, and currently instructs over 54% of its credit hours, including the vast majority of courses offered in NKU’s general education program, Foundations of Knowledge. It offers 5 master’s degrees, 50 bachelor’s degrees, and 2 associate degrees. Its various programs are accredited by the American Chemical Society, the National Association of Schools of Music, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, and the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration.

The College consists of the School of the Arts and 10 academic departments. The School of the Arts, established in 2015, has programs in Music, Theatre & Dance, and Visual Arts. The College’s academic departments are Biological Sciences; Chemistry; English; History & Geography; Mathematics & Statistics; Physics, Geology & Engineering Technology; Political Science, Criminal Justice & Organizational Leadership; Psychological Science; Sociology, Anthropology & Philosophy; and World Languages & Literatures.   The College also runs five centers: The Center for Applied Anthropology, the Burkhardt Consulting Center, the Center for Integrative Natural Science and Mathematics, the Center for Environmental Education, and the Center for Public History. It also works closely with the Kentucky Center for Mathematics, which is housed at the university.

The College of Arts and Sciences has 280 full-time faculty members, of which 192 are tenured/tenure-track. The ratio of enrolled majors to tenured/tenure-track faculty members in the college is 25.8; the ratio for the university is 39.6.

The Dean
The dean is the chief academic officer of the college and reports to the provost. The dean’s principal responsibilities are to maintain and promote academic excellence; to provide leadership and vision for the college; to develop and support students, faculty, and staff; to enhance and effectively allocate college resources; and be a key collaborative player on the academic leadership team of the University. The dean serves as the main public face of the College of Arts and Sciences to the internal and external community.

Among the dean’s direct reports are 10 department chairs, the director of the School of the Arts, two associate deans, two center directors, a college development director, a college business officer, and a director of the college advising center.

The dean should have academic qualifications and experience sufficient to be appointed to the rank of Full Professor in one of the College’s departments.

Characteristics of a successful candidate for dean include: 

  • A deep appreciation of the importance of the liberal arts and a liberal education.
  • A talent for communication, as a visibly energetic leader able to tell a compelling story about the importance of the College of Arts and Sciences and NKU to a variety of audiences. 
  • The ability to bring together teams of faculty and staff that leverage their diverse expertise to successfully solve problems and create opportunities. 
  • A love of learning, intellectual curiosity, and a commitment to advance excellence in teaching, scholarly and creative activity, and service. 
  • Excellent planning, management and financial skills. 
  • Knowledge of and interest in keeping abreast of current trends and best practices in higher education. 
  • Comfort analyzing qualitative and quantitative data, with the ability to wisely use such data in context and effectively communicate any insights it yields.
  • A desire to make a long-term commitment to the success of the college and university. 
  • Skill in cultivating and stewarding donors, and an interest in devoting effort to promoting corporate and individual philanthropy, leading to successful fundraising.
  • Respect for faculty, staff and students and their wide range of backgrounds, talents, and interests. 
  • An appreciation of and commitment to diversity and shared governance, with an interest in promoting a healthy campus climate. 
  • The courage to lead a large and complex college in a manner that is firm, fair, transparent, and inspirational.
  • An intense focus on student success and retention. 
  • Outstanding interpersonal skills, including humor, empathy, appreciation, a positive attitude, and exceptional listening skills, combined with a sincere and contagious sense of joy in one’s work. 
  • An interest in working across college and division lines to advance the university and its students. 
  • The highest ethical standards. 
  • The ability to embody NKU’s promise to put students first, to lead with excellence, and make a lasting impact.

Northern Kentucky University has a strong commitment to the principles of inclusive excellence and to enriching its educational environment and its culture through the diversity of its staff, faculty, and administration. The University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer and we encourage applications by members of diverse groups and by persons with interest and experience in advancing practices of inclusive excellence.