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NKU VP Appointed to Program to Close Economic, Racial Opportunity Gaps

Northern Kentucky University's vice president and chief strategy officer has been appointed to the Education Design Lab’s Designers in Residence program. The Education Design Lab is a national nonprofit that addresses the future role of institutions in their regional communities.

Spanning a diverse cross-section of communities, institutional positionality and lived experience and expertise, the Designers in Residence will work together as a design team to co-create a model for colleges to be regional change agents to close economic and racial opportunity gaps as we move into a post-COVID economy. NKU's Bonita Brown will work with national policy leaders and the additional 11 cohort members to eliminate equity and economic opportunity gaps in higher education.

“I’m thankful for this opportunity to collaborate with the Education Design Lab, and to learn and strategize alongside the top industry leaders about how NKU can continue facilitating growth and change in the region,” said Brown. “Our campus has a long-standing commitment to serving as an economic driver. The shared insights will help us underscore our goal of meeting students where they are and expand access to higher education. I’m ready to reimagine the strategies and partnerships that support NKU in meeting the needs of our diverse students and regional collaborators.”

According to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, graduate enrollment at four-year public universities declined 2.1% in fall 2020, and is down 7.3% compared to five years ago across the Commonwealth this year. That trend follows the national data, where 22% fewer students enrolled in higher education than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help address these disparities, Designers in Residence will leverage their collective expertise to co-create a framework that centers on the needs of their learners within a rapidly evolving economy and provide the start of a roadmap for other institutions and innovators seeking to build and scale this system, a news release said. Brown will be building new initiatives to promote student success opportunities for learners at NKU and across the country.

“We hope to emerge from this year with design tools that will position  the scores of learner success partnerships around the country to seize what we all believe is an innovation moment, coming out of the pandemic,” said Kathleen deLaski, CEO of the Education Design Lab. “Colleges recognize that their roles are evolving along with learner views about degrees and employers needs, and with a heightened urgency around what it will take to break down racial and economic barriers to open up liveable wage futures for all.”

Brown joined NKU in 2019 as the university’s inaugural vice president and chief strategy officer. She drives the implementation and execution of NKU’s strategic framework, Success by Design, which has resulted in the university elapsing 16,000 students for the first time, the university said.

-Staff report

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