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Northern Kentucky University board unanimously names V.P. Bonita Brown to be interim president

By Jack Brammer
NKyTribune reporter

The Northern Kentucky University Board of Regents unanimously approved university official Bonita Brown Wednesday to be NKU’s interim president until its seventh president is selected.

The board also unanimously set up a presidential search committee, appointing five regents to the panel that is to be chaired by Kara Williams. Other regents on the committee are Ashley Himes, Nathan Smith, Elizabeth Thompson, and Brad Zapp.

Board chairman Richard A. Boehne said other members will be appointed to the search committee, probably at the board’s March meeting. The search committee will make recommendations to the board, which will choose the president.  There was no indication how long the search would last.

Bonita Brown

Brown, who currently serves as NKU’s vice president and chief strategy officer, cannot be chosen president of the university. At a meeting earlier this year, the board decided that whoever is selected interim president of the university cannot be in the running to become its president.

The search for a new president is due to the abrupt departure late last year of President Ashish Vaidya. Vaidya came to NKU in 2017 and renewed a five-year contract with the university last year. But he signed a separation agreement with the university in November that ended his contract. He said he and his family were returning to their home state of California. He received a $1.3 million severance package from NKU.

It was reported late last year that the university is facing a budget shortfall of more than $18 million.

Interim President Brown has been at NKU since May 2019. She oversees NKU’s, Success by Design, which focuses on student success and external partnerships and has resulted in the university reaching its highest graduation and retention rates.

In a press release, she said, “I am deeply grateful to the board for the opportunity to work in service to the university as we navigate this transitional period.

“NKU has a strong reputation for supporting students in this region in reaching their academic goals and I look forward to collaborating with the NKU campus community to continue this important work.”

Rich Boehne, chair of the NKU Board of Regents, said, “On behalf of the Board of Regents and the whole university community, I offer deep and sincere thanks to Bonita for stepping into this crucial interim role during a period of transition for NKU.

“We’re working quickly and aggressively to turn a period of economic challenge into a season of opportunity for our current and future students, and Bonita is the best leader to drive this effort.”

In a letter to NKU employees, Boehne said Brown has agreed to be interim president until the seventh president is selected.

Boehne is to work out a contract with Brown for her services as interim president.

Prior to her role at NKU, Brown served as the vice president for Network Engagement at Achieving the Dream, a national non-profit that champions evidence-based institutional improvement in community colleges across the country.

In that role, Brown was responsible for supporting a network of over 220 community colleges in 41 states as they tried to implement sustainable, campus-wide student success efforts.

Over the course of her career, Brown served as the director of Higher Education Practice with the Education Trust in Washington D.C.

While at the Education Trust, she created and led an initiative entitled Optimizing Academic Success and Institutional Strategy (OASIS), which was a national network of regional, comprehensive, minority serving institutions that enroll large numbers of low-income students and students of color.

Brown served as the vice chancellor and chief of staff, and as assistant secretary to the Board of Trustees at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She has also served as the chief of staff at the University of North Texas, general counsel at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and assistant attorney at Winston-Salem State University.

She has participated in the HERS Leadership program, the AASCU Millennium Leadership Initiative and is a graduate of the Harvard Institute of Educational Management.
Brown received her bachelor of arts degree in history from Wake Forest University and her law degree from Wake Forest University School of Law.
She is married to Wesley Brown and has two children, Joshua Brown, a recent marketing graduate of Morgan State University and newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant Infantry Officer, and Myliah Brown, who will study early child education.

NKU is a state university of more than 16,000 students and 2,000 faculty and staff between Highland Heights in Kentucky and downtown Cincinnati.

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