Former professor, UC grad named new NKU president

A former Northern Kentucky University professor and near-forever Cincinnati resident is “coming home” to serve as the school’s new president.

The NKU Board of Regents unanimously voted on Wednesday to make Cady Short-Thompson, Ph.D., the university’s seventh president.

The appointment is a homecoming of sorts for Short-Thompson, who started her career in academia at the Highland Heights campus in 1996. Over the course of 14 years, she served as a professor of communication, graduate program director and department chair. 

A published scholar, her expertise in political communication crosses the disciplines of communication, political science, and marketing.

Short-Thompson earned both her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts at nearby University of Cincinnati. She joined the faculty at NKU a year before completing her doctoral work at UC.

Cady Short-Thompson

“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,” said Short-Thompson, who is married with three children currently in college.

“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,” she added. “I love NKU and believe that it is entirely fitting that my first and final positions will be here.” 

Short-Thompson’s resume includes more than 25 years of experience working in academia. She’s worked as an instructor, researcher and held leadership positions.

From 2010-2017, she served as dean of the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College. There, she played key roles in the school’s renaming and rebranding efforts, and held positions on several UC and state of Ohio advisory councils.

She left Greater Cincinnati in 2017 to become provost at Hope College in Holland, Mich. She also taught classes.

Most recently, Short-Thompson was the CEO and executive director of Breakthrough Cincinnati, a nonprofit focused on educational equity. The organization creates college preparatory programs for high need, high potential middle and high school students and works to recruit and train college students to become teachers.

(Courtesy Northern Kentucky University)

Short-Thompson steps into the presidency role at a time of transition for NKU. Described as an entrepreneurial state university, NKU has grown rapidly in recent decades, and currently has nearly 16,000 students. It now offers more than 90 majors, 22 graduate-level programs and a law school, and has developed new buildings across the sprawling suburban Kentucky campus.

But like many post-secondary institutions across the country, the school has faced financial struggles in recent years that it must address moving forward. Short-Thompson told reporters Wednesday that the university’s most immediate and critical need is finding ways to attract new students, according to an NKU spokesperson.

NKU Board Chair Rich Boehne noted that Short-Thompson’s combination of “passion, skills and experience” make her the ideal candidate for the role. He specifically referenced her background in leading what he called “organizational transformation” during times of “dramatic external change.”

“(She’s) a great choice for NKU in 2023 and the years to come,” he added. “It’s also a huge added advantage that she knows… our campus community and the region, and she in fact credits mission driven NKU for building the foundation of her career in higher (education) leadership.”

In a release, the university described the search and selection processes as “extensive and inclusive” that “engaged stakeholders from across the NKU community.” 

Kara Williams – the chair of the search committee and an NKU regent – thanked the presidential search committee and advisory board for the “tremendous time and effort” they dedicated to identifying the right person for the position.

NKU had not released details about other applicants at the time of publication.

“The (committees’) hard work, combined with the outstanding quality of our candidate pool, underscores the depth of talent and commitment within our institution and community,” Williams said. “I couldn’t be prouder of where we stand today.” 

As part of Wednesday’s vote, the NKU Board of Regents approved a four-year agreement for Short-Thompson’s employment. Her term begins Oct. 2.

Interim President Bonita Brown is staying on to help with Short-Thompson’s transition. Brown has been in the position since Jan. 18, following the departure of the former president, Ashish Vaidya, in December of last year.

“Bonita Brown deserves much credit for the progress we’ve made across the university during this time between permanent presidents,” Boehne said on behalf of the board. “We owe her a huge thanks.” 

Northern Kentucky University

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