Board of Regents Biennial Visit to Campus a Success

Renee Ballenger

Seven NU Board of Regents members, accompanied by President J.B.Milliken and NU Corporation Secretary Mr. Donal Burns, made their every-other-year visit to UNK February 12 and 13. Their gathering here was not a regular business meeting, but intended to provide the Regents a chance to observe recent progress on campus and in instructional programs in several areas. In spite of the heaviest snow of the season that nearly scuttled the meeting, most of the members of the governing board made the trek to Kearney, even if their visit had to be cut a couple hours short at the end because of the storm.

They arrived Thursday evening for a reception and dinner at the Frank House, hosted by Chancellor Douglas A. Kristensen and Frank House director KrisAnn Sullivan. After dinner, Chancellor Kristensen gave a presentation summarizing UNK’s strategic plan and campus progress followed by Sullivan’s trademark mini-lecture on the history of the Franks in Kearney. The evening concluded with a Sullivan-conducted tour—including intriguing parts of the house that are generally off-limits to visitors.

Friday morning began with a breakfast buffet in the Chancellor’s Dining Room, complete with fresh, prepared-while-you-watch omelets made by the regional supervisor for Chartwells Food Service (who happened to be in town that week for meetings with UNK’s chef James Paul). Breakfast was followed by a tour—led by Interim Dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences, Dr. Bob Rycek—of some of the new labs and classrooms taking shape in Bruner Hall, followed by a walkthrough of the new Central Utility Plant—led by Director of Facilities Lee McQueen.

The setting for formal presentations after the tour was Room 312 in the Nebraskan, sometimes known as the Chancellor’s “skybox,” overlooking Foster Field.

Leading the agenda, a panel of three seniors who had studied or interned abroad shared their enthusiasm for their UNK-sponsored academic experiences. The group included 1) Talon Gorgen from Grant, Neb., who participated in a business internship in Dublin, Ireland, through the Global Scholars program; 2) Kassandra Montag from Kearney, who also traveled to Ireland, as a Study Abroad student at University College-Cork; and 3) Ben Allemann of Wayne, Neb., who studied at Palacky University in the Czech Republic. Allemann also has plans for another semester abroad this year at Shandong University at Weihai, China—positioning him as the first UNK student to study at that university. Each student described how his or her experience “changed my life” and motivated, in most cases, an entirely new academic and career direction.

Following the student panel, the Regents heard a succession of presentations by faculty around the theme, “connecting UNK’s curriculum to community need.” The presenters and their topics included: 1) Dr. Suzanne Hayes, accounting/finance professor who discussed her analysis of the real cost to students of extending their college experience beyond four years. She also described ways that UNK is providing personal financial training for students; 2) Dr. Valerie Cisler, department chair of music and performing arts, accompanied by two strings faculty, Dr. Noah Rogoff, director of UNK’s newly established National String Project Consortium, and Dr. Ting-Lan Chen, also on the string faculty. They described the new project, its uniqueness to this region of the country, and explained how it was impacting UNK music education students, as well as many elementary school aspiring musicians in the region; and 3) Dr.Maha Younes, department chair and professor of social work, provided an overview of recent successes and growth in her department, and the impact UNK’s social work program is having on current discussions of family and children’s needs in Nebraska.

The last scheduled presentation of the morning by Deborah Murray, director of UNK’s Center for Rural Research and Development, had to be cancelled to give Regents a bit more time to escape the worst of the weather driving home. Her materials were distributed.

The Regents who visited Kearney included Timothy Clare of Lincoln (District 1), Chuck Hassebrook of Lyons, (District 3), Bob Whitehouse of Papillion (District 4), Kent Schroeder of Kearney (District 6), and NU student Regents Tim Hruza of UNK, Emily Zimmer of UNL, and Neal Bonacci of UNO.

Also in attendance were UNK administrators, including: Vice Chancellor of University Relations Curt Carlson, Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance Barbara Johnson, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Campus Life Charles Bicak, and Interim Dean of Students Gail Zeller. UNK Student Ambassadors Cade Craig, Lindsey Wendt, Claire Bryan, Brad Green, Brandon Bohn, Julia Lyons, and Kristi Scott assisted with hosting duties during the VIP visit.