Kent State Students Win $1,000 For Unique Reflections on May 4 Books

Ten Kent State University students were awarded $1,000 each for their creative use of videos, podcasts and Adobe Spark® pages to reflect on the events of May 4, 1970, as part of the university’s Design Innovation Common Reading Challenge.

In the past, all first-year students were required to participate in the Common Reading Experience by reading the assigned books, writing essays and participating in book discussions.

As a new twist to this year’s experience, students could write an essay or use tools from Adobe Creative Cloud to create podcasts, videos or Adobe Spark® micro websites. All students who chose to create submissions in one of the three alternative formats became eligible to win one of the ten $1,000 awards to celebrate the best submissions.

This year, with the 50th commemoration of May 4, 1970, approaching in 2020, the annual Common Reading Experience created an opportunity to incorporate the books “This We Know” by the late Carole A. Barbato, Laura L. Davis, Ph.D., and Mark F. Seeman, Ph.D., and “Thirteen Seconds: Confrontation at Kent State” by Joe Eszterhas and Michael D. Roberts.

Nearly 300 students submitted digital responses to the following prompts:

  • Prompt 1 – Remember and Honor: How can the Kent State University community honor and commemorate these students?
  • Prompt 2 – Impact: Reflect on one or more impact(s) of the May 4, 1970, events and share how we can use the lessons from the past to influence the future of this institution, the nation, or the world.
  • Prompt 3 – Inspire: As a new Kent State student, how does the legacy of these events inspire you to “be the change you wish to see in this world”?

The following 10 students were selected as the $1,000 winners for the Design Innovation Common Reading Challenge.

  • Ayla Danes, sophomore, political science major, Adobe Spark® page, (Prompt 3: Inspire).
  • Jessalyn Cruz, freshman, fashion design major, Adobe Spark® page, (Prompt 1: Remember and Honor).
  • Katie Carpenter, freshman, visual communications design major, Adobe Spark® page, (Prompt 2: Impact).
  • Kirsten Gude, theater design/tech/production major, Adobe Spark® page, (Prompt 3: Inspire).
  • Miranda Sepulveda, freshman, visual communication design, Adobe Spark® page, (Prompt 2: Impact).
  • Shiah Kleinman, freshman, American Sign Language major, Adobe Spark® page, (Prompt 2: Impact).
  • Veronica Rodriguez, freshman, aeronautics major, Adobe Spark® page, (Prompt 3: Inspire).
  • Caitlin Klein, freshman, nursing major, podcast, (Prompt 3: Inspire).
  • Camryn Calderwood, freshman, fashion merchandising major, video, (Prompt 1: Remember and Honor).
  • Dominique Nguyen, sophomore, nursing major, video, (Prompt 3: Inspire). 

In addition, the review team chose to award one submission with an honorable mention for the creative approach that was undertaken: Madison Pelle, freshman, theater studies major, (Prompt 3: Inspire) podcast/video.

The Challenge was launched in partnership with Yvonna Washington-Greer, director of Student Success Programs in the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, J.R. Campbell, Executive Director of the Design Innovation (DI) Initiative and John M. Rathje, Vice President, Information Technology and Chief Information Officer at Kent State.

“Through the lens of Design Innovation, we wanted to create an opportunity for these new students to express their own meaningful voices through shareable and compelling digital formats beyond simply writing an essay response,” Campbell said. “As such, it allows us all to hear the thoughts and perspectives of the students who are entering Kent State University fifty years after the events of May 4, 1970. The Design Innovation Initiative at Kent State University aspires to harness the remarkable potential of people – our students, teachers, employees, volunteers, and the rich diversity of our communities – to make aspirations real and heard. We recognize the many ways digital media tools can empower people to successfully improve our world and initiate lasting positive change.”

Funding for the awards was provided by John M. Rathje, vice president for Information Technology and Mary G. Parker, vice president for Enrollment Management.

Sixteen members of the Design Innovation (DI) team at Kent State conducted the initial review of the nearly 300 submissions from the first-year students. This first round of reviews narrowed down the list to 50. A second team reviewed the 50 finalists to select the final 10 award winners. The team selecting the awards was comprised of:

  • Mindy Farmer, Director, May 4 Visitors Center
  • Lori Boes, Assistant Director, May 4 Visitors Center
  • Stephanie D. Smith, Associate Professor, Journalism and Mass Communications
  • Daniel Alenquer, Director of School of Visual Communication Design

Kent State’s May 4 Visitors Center and University Library staff compiled royalty-free content, such as the university’s collection of images, videos and audio clips, for use in student reflections. 

Kent State University’s Design Innovation (DI) Initiative offers courses and curates co-curricular projects, such as the Design Innovation Common Reading Challenge, that function as part of a larger “challenge-based-innovation” strategy.

The DI Initiative will open its Design Innovation Hub in Fall of 2020. The Hub, a renovation of the old Art Building, “sits at the center of the Kent campus and will serve as an open-access, collaborative, co-working, co-making, idea-generating, and innovation-accelerating environment for students and the Kent State community at large,” Campbell said.

For more information about the Common Reading Experience at Kent State, visit  

For more information about the May 4 Visitors Center at Kent State, visit

POSTED: Tuesday, November 19, 2019 - 12:40pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, November 19, 2019 - 12:41pm
Design Innovation