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July 5, 2023 - NKU has been awarded the largest “Cornerstone: Learning for Living” grant of any public institution in the Commonwealth. Designed to enrich the educational experience of our students, the $250,000 grant enables NKU to implement the STAR Program for at least 30% of our undergraduate community. STAR stands for Study, Think, Apply and Reflect and the program ensures that students will study with full-time, tenure-track or tenured faculty for their general education courses. 

Often general education classes are overlooked as merely prerequisites to graduate. The STAR Program integrates gen ed curriculum with students’ individual majors to enhance the breadth and depth of their knowledge and education while at NKU. “The needs and passions of our students are paramount. It is so exciting to lead an initiative that recognizes that, while also emphasizing the value of the humanities to professional and public life,” says Tonya Krouse, Professor of English and Director of the Transformational Thinking for Community and Career Certificate. “The STAR Program’s experience will prepare NKU students to be the flexible thinkers and creative problem-solvers that employers in our region most value.” 

Courses in the STAR Program this fall will include a range of introductory writing courses each with themes that connect the class to various majors (STEM, Social Justice, Environmental Sciences, etc). The program will also pilot STAR versions of Literature of Inclusion and Poverty, Prosperity and Opportunity which fulfill general education course requirements. 

NKU’s Interim President Bonita Brown explains the meaning of this grant-supported program for NKU, the region, and the state: “It is gratifying to have our campus recognized on a national level for a program that embodies Northern Kentucky University’s mission. The faculty-led, reimagined approach to general education that this grant supports contributes to our Success By Design strategic initiative, the Moon Shot for Equity, and the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education’s initiative to ‘produce work ready postsecondary graduates to support the state’s economy.’ This program can be a model not just for other institutions in the state of Kentucky but for institutions across the country.” 

Students who complete the STAR first-year experience and three additional STAR general education courses can earn the Transformational Thinking for Community and Career Certificate, a credential that distinguishes them from others who share their pre-professional training. 

Dr. Tonya Krouse and Dr. Tamara O’Callaghan are available for interviews and further information on the STAR Program and what it will mean for NKU students.

About NKU: Founded in 1968, NKU is an entrepreneurial state university of over 16,000 students served by more than 2,000 faculty and staff on a thriving suburban campus nestled between Highland Heights, Kentucky and bustling downtown Cincinnati. We are a regionally engaged university committed to empowering our students to have fulfilling careers and meaningful lives. While we are one of the fastest-growing universities in Kentucky, our professors still know our students' names. For more information, visit