Greek philosopher Aristotle observed, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit." Under the leadership of President Lester A. Lefton, Kent State has been relentless in making excellence an institution-wide habit through an action-oriented Excellence Agenda. The agenda is a commitment to operating at the highest standards in all university operations, and especially in teaching, research, creative activities and public service, including service as an economic catalyst for Ohio.
Kent State’s Excellence Agenda has yielded a range of positive results:
In accordance with Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Higher Education, Kent State will cultivate existing programs of distinction (called Centers of Excellence), in high-demand and emerging fields that have the capacity to boost regional, state and national economic development; expand Kent State’s global reach; and lead to greater national renown for the university. Kent State’s Centers of Excellence are in the areas of:
• Liquid Crystals/Bio-Science/Nanotechnology: Kent State is home to the world’s leading academic center for liquid crystal research. Its landmark research and education are helping to define the future of the $60-billion liquid-crystal display industry, particularly the development of flexible liquid-crystal displays — the very first of which was produced at Kent State. Kent State’s pre-eminence in liquid crystals has led to the development of FLEXMatters, a Northeast Ohio industry cluster drawing upon the unparalleled combined research strengths of Kent State, the University of Akron and Case Western Reserve University. FLEXMatters development earned Kent State global rankings by the Milken Institute and spawned the creation of the Kent State University Centennial Research Park.
• Information and Knowledge Management: Kent State programs in library and information science, journalism and visual communication design are ranked among the nation’s best. Industry leaders have heralded Kent State as a national power in specialties such as scholastic media and children’s literature and librarianship. Based on core faculty strengths in these fields, the cross-cutting area of information literacy/knowledge management is one that has been targeted for attracting increased federal funding.
• Fashion Design and Merchandising: Fashion is a $250-billion business worldwide and a key industry for growth. Kent State’s fashion design program is ranked in the top 10 by the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America. The university’s fashion design and merchandising programs attract students nationwide and place students and graduates in the world’s fashion capitals, including New York City, Florence, London, Paris and Hong Kong. Kent State fashion faculty have joined forces with liquid crystal researchers to explore high-tech fabrics that could ultimately be capable of changing colors and appearance on demand.
• Public Health and Nursing: New Models of Care for Communities and Individuals: Graduates of Kent State’s College of Nursing, the largest nursing program in Ohio, constitute the majority of RNs in major Northeast Ohio hospitals. As the College meets the region’s growing demand for highly skilled nurses, its faculty are engaged in federally funded research that addresses real-world health issues from osteoporosis to dating violence. As Kent State considered the global and interdisciplinary nature of many public health issues, it was clear that the university is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this interdisciplinary nature by creating Ohio’s second College of Public Health. In doing so, it will play a key role in providing public health professionals in areas from epidemiology to health services administration. Kent State stands alone in the region in the breadth and depth of its ability to facilitate public health education, research, and community services, and to engage public- and private-sector partners from across the nation and around the world.
• Science Education: Training Educators in Science and Mathematics: Kent State understands that Ohio’s economic future hinges in large part on the availability of a highly skilled workforce in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and on STEM education. The university’s College of Education, Health and Human Services is providing Northeast Ohio with educators who are equipped to teach K-12 STEM classes and to excite future generations about careers in these critical fields. Kent State was chosen to lead a $2 million Choose Ohio First Scholarship Program consortium that is giving Northeast Ohio students a wealth of opportunities to gain the sophisticated knowledge and skills needed for scholarship and employment at the leading edge of biomedicine and biotechnology. The program provides hundreds of scholarships for students at the university’s eight campuses and at partner institutions Cuyahoga Community College, Lakeland Community College, Lorain County Community College, and Stark State College of Technology. As it helps prepare the next generation of STEM majors, Kent State and its partners host activities for middle- and high-school students to spark their interest in science and science careers.
• Environmental and Natural Resource Sustainability/Urban Design: The College of Architecture and Environmental Design offers the only architecture program in Northeast Ohio. Its graduates consistently perform among the nation’s best on the architecture credentialing exam. One of the College’s most visible and distinguishing features is the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC), a professional architectural practice that gives students experience working with designers, architects, community leaders and city residents as they help revitalize aging urban neighborhoods. The CUDC recently became the first tenant in the downtown area envisioned as Cleveland’s “District of Design.” The site houses graduate architecture programs and the Urban Design Center, which provides urban-planning services across Northeast Ohio.
Kent State will expand research that contributes to the economic vitality of Ohio and the nation through the creation of new knowledge, new products and new processes with commercial potential; and that addresses real-world ills and issues confronting individuals, families, communities and society as a whole. With faculty continuing to set new records for federal and state research funding, the university’s goal is to generate $100 million annually in extramural funding for research. Faculty, students, and staff already are pursuing solutions for many of the most pressing issues of our time – from pollution to poverty; from mental illness to illiteracy; from developing new sources of energy to developing peaceful solutions to violent conflicts. A significant share of Kent State research holds enormous potential to create new industries and new jobs for Ohio, including the development of the next generation of liquid-crystal displays and a device that instantly detects bioterror agents.
Kent State will strive to ensure the success of all students through a range of programs, services and initiatives that help keep college accessible, affordable and responsive to the needs of 21st-century students. The university is smoothing the pathway to graduation by streamlining and updating the curriculum through the Twenty-first Century Graduate Project. Resulting curricular changes are focused on student learning — learning that provides the knowledge, insight, commitment to engagement, and sense of personal responsibility to succeed in a global society.
Kent State will continue to lead innovations in P-12 education, primarily through its nationally respected College of Education, Health and Human Services. The College remains a major provider of the highly trained elementary, middle-and high-school teachers, and college professors that are needed urgently in Ohio and nationwide. In particular, the College plays a vital role in preparing teachers for 21st-century classrooms. Its Research Center for Educational Technology and its state-of-the-art AT&T Classroom allow teachers and students to explore topics using technology-rich tools. The Center is respected nationally for its leading research, which is supported by the National Science Foundation. Its faculty produce a wealth of information about the impact of technology on teaching and learning, sharing it statewide and nationwide to inform decision-making about technology investments and improvements in classroom instruction.
Kent State is meeting the challenge of college access by offering open admission to its seven Regional Campuses. Because the university continues to enroll a large population of first-generation college students, it provides a wide range of support services to ensure that these students succeed and graduate. This commitment to accessibility fuels efforts to offer academic options such as online courses and weekend programs; and to streamline the curriculum, allowing students to complete degrees in the shortest time possible. It also led the university to join Cuyahoga Community College and Cleveland State University in creating a dual-admissions program that—for the first time—allows Ohio students to select both a community college and a university upon admittance to a community college.
Kent State’s significant commitment to workforce development continues to expand, with professional workforce-development staff at all eight campuses proactively engaging employers throughout Northeast Ohio, and providing a wide range of customized employee and organizational development services. During just the last quarter of FY 2008, Kent State delivered 207 professional development and continuing education programs to 1,735 working adults. Kent State will continue to provide state-of-the-industry training and certification to thousands of adults and hundreds of companies; help companies remain competitive in a global economy; and attract millions of dollars in state and federal grant funding for its training activities. Kent State University at Trumbull was chosen to serve as one of 12 Ohio Skills Bank coordinators, an indicator of the university’s leadership role in regional workforce development.
Kent State views efforts to make college affordable a key part of its commitment accessibility. It will continue to welcome a broad constituency of learners – students from high school, graduate school, and the school of life; students from across Ohio, across the nation, and around the globe; and students who make its campuses diverse in every sense of the word. The university has been aggressive in seeking private support for student scholarships. Supporters of Kent State committed more than $37 million to scholarships and other priorities during fiscal year 2009, shattering the previous annual record. The Centennial Campaign, the university’s second major fund-raising initiative, has a goal of raising $250 million, including $5.4 million for student scholarships.
As Kent State works toward its short- and long-term goals, it will do so with a continuing commitment to accountability — to taxpayers, donors and students — and with a focus on measurable outcomes. In addition to revising the undergraduate curriculum to reflect the demands of the 21st century, Kent State will continue to improve and refine advising, including the expansion of the new Graduation Planning System, a user-friendly Web site that allows students to explore the university’s 250 bachelor’s degree options; plan a four-year roadmap for every major; and track their progress toward degree completion.
Kent State will build on its tradition of engagement throughout Northeast Ohio and beyond. The university will continue to be highly proactive in forging collaborations that strengthen the region by leveraging the considerable intellectual, physical, cultural and economic resources — and the unparalleled regional reach — of the Kent State University system. In the process, the university will seek new ways to engage the talents and support of its significant alumni body.
In a win-win endeavor, the university will continue to be a proactive partner in the development of the city of Kent’s downtown. Students are involved in a number of ventures located downtown, including a marketing firm run by students in the College of Communication and Information, a vintage clothing store operating in collaboration with the fashion school and a snack shop run by students in the university’s entrepreneurship program. The university is supporting the development of a downtown hotel and conference center that will be linked to the campus.
Each of Kent State’s seven Regional Campuses was created with the goal of engaging its local community as it offers the scope of education, workforce-development, cultural-enrichment and outreach programming that only a major university can provide. In fact, the Corporation for National and Community Service honored the Stark, Tuscarawas and Kent campuses with a place on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. Kent State’s commitment to engagement is evident in many Regional Campus facilities. When the new Performing Arts Center opens at Kent State Tuscarawas this year, it will do more than give students a jumpstart on many of the “hottest” careers in arts, entertainment and related technologies. It will provide the larger community with unprecedented cultural-enrichment opportunities and open its doors for use by area schools, community groups and social service agencies. The new Robert S. Morrison Health and Science Building at Kent State Ashtabula offers state-of-the-art education in nursing and a range of allied-health fields as it fills an urgent regional and state need for nursing professionals. And The University Center at Kent State Stark provides 55,000 square feet of state-of-the-art conference and training space that has proven to be a vital addition to Stark County and all of Northeast Ohio.
Knowing that it must prepare students to compete and cooperate in a global society, Kent State will continue to expand its broad array of international connections. Each promises new academic and cultural benefits for students; new scholarly opportunities for faculty; and significant financial benefits for the university and surrounding communities. For example, the university will expand the work of its new center in Beijing; implement academic agreements with seven major Chinese universities; and provide entrepreneurial instruction and curriculum development to Saudi Arabia’s largest university. These developments can be expected to yield significant international enrollments and augment the diversity of students and faculty across the university.
Kent State’s 100-year voyage from a Normal School with 144 students to an eight-campus research university of 38,450 students has been nothing short of remarkable. As the university begins the next legs of the journey, its commitment to excellence has produced a spectrum of exciting options that will allow the fulfillment of its multi-faceted mission to even greater degrees: educating and shaping the characters of tomorrow’s leaders; generating knowledge, ideas and innovations that solve real-world problems; lifting the human spirit by creating and interpreting art of every kind; and keeping our region, our state, and our nation strong and competitive by producing well-educated and responsible citizens, and serving as a beacon for ideas and economic energy.