Case Managers: Rare to Ohio Universities, Valuable to Kent State Students

At its core, the Kent State University CARES Center is a place dedicated to supporting students in finding solutions for resolving unmet basic needs. One of the main ways the CARES Center is able to effectively accomplish this goal is through the presence of dedicated case managers on campus whose job is to connect students with these resources. Kent State is one of the only colleges in Ohio to have several dedicated case managers as full-time, on-campus employees dedicated to addressing basic needs insecurities. 

Even with case managers at Kent State dedicated to connecting students with basic needs resources, some students still find it challenging to ask for help. So, what exactly is the job of a case manager at the CARES Center, and how can they help students with finding resources that meet their needs? Let’s break it down with Mike Finklestein, M.Ed., LPCC-S, a case manager at the CARES Center.

Finklestein is one of two dedicated case managers at the CARES Center. He is a licensed professional clinical counselor and a two-time Kent State alumnus who has dedicated his career to helping others. Finklestein finds case management rewarding because “It is extremely rewarding to be able to provide not only tangible support to students but hope and confidence in managing the challenges they are facing,” Finklestein said.

Case managers can connect students to direct resources like the Flashes Food Pantry or the CARES Center Emergency Grant for students with qualifying needs. Case managers can also provide support by connecting students to resources across campus and in the local community. “We partner with a number of amazingly supportive departments and personnel across campus, including regional campuses, who can also provide support,” Finklestein said. “This includes mental health support, academic support, loaner laptops, assistance with accessing textbooks and course materials, and additional emergency financial assistance, among other things. Lastly, we can provide referrals to community resources (local, state, and federal) who may be able to provide additional assistance and support.”

The existence of the CARES Center with dedicated case managers reflects Kent State’s understanding of the impact of basic need insecurities on a student’s ability to be successful. Not only are case managers a consistent listening ear, they are also determined advocates who seek to connect students to resources within the eight-campus system and local communities. 

“The presence of dedicated case managers to help students navigate life’s challenges is still a rare thing across the country. Many colleges only offer websites with links to campus and community resources,” Finklestein said. “As case managers, our primary responsibility is providing support to students. Many students provide feedback saying we are the first department they’ve had contact with across campus that made them feel heard and cared for and gave them hope that they could make college work. That, I believe, is what is significant about higher-ed case management.”

POSTED: Thursday, November 23, 2023 02:05 PM
Updated: Thursday, November 23, 2023 02:27 PM
Taylor Cook