Dear Colleagues,
This month’s BRT Update is encouraging. It includes some good news from the Human Resources team that will benefit many of you as individuals. Also, in February, the Communications BRT group conducted listening sessions across the four campuses with the aim of developing ideas related to campus publications as well as how to use promotional items more strategically. Take a look at some of the takeaways that came out of the conversations they held; they are informative.
Finally, this Update includes information from the Digital Education BRT. Their report identifies the goals of that team—as well as some ideas about how individual units could contribute to enrollment growth and new program development. We anticipate that these strategies could help us enhance our work with students as we reach out to new learners in Nebraska and world-wide.
The other BRT groups are working hard, slogging through a lot of details that don’t make exciting reading right now, but which will ultimately influence how well they accomplish their goals. Typical tasks include developing internal operational strategies, determining lines of communication, figuring out what activities can be consolidated and how, as well as creating ways to genuinely provide excellent services with fewer resources. Those teams will have more to tell you next month. In March, we will also post our next fiscal report so you can see how we are progressing in terms of achieving our ‘dollar’ goals.
Allow me to conclude by thanking you for the hundreds of reactions, suggestions, observations and informational items you have passed along to the BRT groups. That material has been vital to shaping the strategies being pursued. Finding the 30 million dollars we need from the operational BRTs is hard work. Although I am confident we will achieve our goal, getting there requires collective effort and imargination. Take a moment to tell someone you know on your campus who is doing this work that you appreciate it.
If you have additional ideas for how we might proceed send them to the team to which they apply, to the web address at the end of this communication, or to me directly at I am available by phone at 402-472-2111. The teams appreciate hearing from you.
Marjorie Kostelnik
Senior Associate to the President

Communication Update

The Communications BRT team just completed listening sessions on all four campuses regarding printed communication pieces and promotional material. They spoke to over 200 communicators, admissions staff, business managers and faculty. The discussion was robust, and the comments, questions and thoughts that were shared are much appreciated.
Takeaways include: analyzing all dollars spent in this area regardless of funding source; cleaning up communications-related G/L codes and doing some education around them; working with units to determine annual budgets and help develop plans; prioritizing what may be important to have a unit name/URL printed on it and what could be purchased jointly using the campus brand; and creating strategic guidelines that all departments can use as they make decisions, such as business justification and measurable outcomes.
The next steps will be to create a collective report that categorizes comments, feedback and takeaways across all campuses. The Communications BRT team—in conjunction with Kyle Means from the Printing BRT, Sara Luther from the Procurement BRT, and legal representation—will then begin developing draft guidelines. The guidelines are intended to provide direction and best practice on communication-related print and promotional purchases, and help ensure communication and marketing dollars are spent strategically across the institution.
The goal is to do another round of listening sessions mid-May, where the draft guidelines will be shared and feedback solicited.
Feedback, observations and sharing of best practices is welcome as the reports are being drafted. Faculty and staff are invited to submit feedback via email to the BRT Communication Team Chair, Jackie Ostrowicki, at, or to their campus’s Chief Communication Officer.

Human Resources Update

As you may know, one of the HR/Payroll BRT strategies was to engage a Benefits Consultant to provide an impartial, third-party analysis of our collective offerings. The consultant who was retained to examine the University of Nebraska’s benefits options, Gallagher Benefit Associates, has been actively reviewing our health, dental, pharmacy and life insurance programs. The review has already yielded improved benefits in the area of life insurance. Here are two examples:
  1. Gallagher Benefit Associates and NU has negotiated significant reductions to voluntary life insurance rates that will reduce employee paid premiums—with no extra cost to the university. Employee savings will range from 20-30 percent, and will vary depending on the age of the employee, tobacco/nicotine usage, and the amount of coverage. The effective date of these savings will be May 1, 2018.
  2. We have also negotiated the ability for employees to increase the amount of life insurance they may purchase without evidence of insurability. Currently, new employees may enroll for voluntary life insurance up to $50,000 without providing any medical history. During the first part of April, all benefits-eligible employees will now be able to enroll in voluntary life insurance up to $250,000 without providing medical history—as long as they have not been denied life insurance coverage with Assurity Life Insurance in the past and are under the age of 70.
Please look for a separate Human Resource announcement in the near future that will explain, in detail, how this process will work.
NOTE: A faculty and staff committee is currently working on a Request for Proposal for the University’s health, dental and pharmacy programs.

Digital Education Update

The Digital Education BRT was established to help address NU’s current fiscal challenges through enrollment growth, efficiencies and collaboration.
Our digital education strategy impacts all of our students. During the last academic year, more than 33,000 NU students took at least one online course. The flexibility and access that online education gives our students—both those who study at a distance and those who study primarily on campus—provides opportunities to increase retention and reduce time to degree.
Over the past three years, the number of students enrolled entirely online has increased nearly 11%. This growth represents access for students who need—and want—the flexibility our fully online programs offer. Last academic year, students enrolled entirely online accounted for 14% of NU’s total student body. Two-thirds of our students who study online are Nebraskans. These are students who are finishing a bachelor’s degree—or earning a graduate degree to gain advanced skills to meet Nebraska’s workforce needs.
The Digital Education BRT recommendations outlined ten strategies to recruit, retain and graduate more students. The strategies were approved by the BRT Steering Committee, President Bounds and the Chancellors. Among them are the following:
  1. Increase volume of online course sections.
  2. Expand number of fully online programs and certificates.
  3. Create efficiencies in distance education recruiting and promotion.
  4. Improve retention and persistence through digital course design and support systems.
  5. Enhance collaboration between campuses.
The Digital Education BRT members have been working diligently over the past year with campus stakeholders. Several initiatives that have been completed include:
  • Working with the Nebraska Student Information System (NeSIS) team to develop and launch a new intercampus registration system that streamlines the process for students wanting to enroll in classes from another NU campus.
  • Increasing instructional capacity in high-demand courses that are critical prerequisites for higher-level courses and/or a major course sequence (commonly referred to as ‘bottleneck’ and ‘gateway’ courses).
  • Create efficiencies in distance education recruiting and promotion.
    • Summer 2017: 40 new sections and 5 section cap increases, resulting in 948 additional enrollments.
    • Fall 2017: 26 new sections and 1 section cap increase, resulting in 705 additional enrollments.
  • Colleges at UNK, UNL and UNO are working with the UNMC College of Nursing to identify needed prerequisite courses for that program, enabling the College of Nursing to better ensure admission of RN-BSN students.
  • Developing new, key online courses that will increase access to online offerings for students and improve time to degree. The courses being developed are currently not offered online, serve a high percentage of students and/or often have more students who wish to enroll than can be accommodated. Built into the process is a research element that will help NU gain a deeper understanding of what instructional elements in online courses most influence student success.
  • Held first Instructional Design Summit in fall 2017, bringing together NU instructional designers to discuss challenges and opportunities as well as share ideas and effective practices with one another across the four campuses. Subsequent summits will be held quarterly.
  • Expansion of an Open Access Textbook initiative for the University intended to find and develop open access, academic resources to replace traditional textbooks—while assessing the economic impact on students of using such resources over a multiple-year period.
  • 25 new online programs across all four campuses have been added to the NU Online website since January 2017.
Distance education has a rich tradition at the University dating back more than 100 years, and is rooted in our mission of access. NU Online is the system-wide collaborative initiative to support, promote and grow our efforts to create access and opportunity for students.
Number of NU students studying online during ’16-’17
Number of states where online students live
Number of online programs offered across all 4 campuses
We want to hear your thoughts and comments. This is a very important time when we are testing our assumptions and refining how these plans will be executed. Please email direct feedback to, or submit anonymous feedback through this form. You may also provide comments directly to each team using links incorporated throughout this update.