EHHS Featured Faculty - Jennifer Ray-Tomasek

Jennifer Ray-Tomasek, an assistant professor in the School of Foundations, Leadership and Administration, answered 10 questions for the EHHS Featured Faculty series.

Q: What subject(s) do you teach?

I’m the Undergraduate Program Coordinator for the Professional Studies (PROS) program, a degree-completion program serving students in our own college of EHHS, or students who have returned to college after a long while and simply need a good path forward to obtaining a college degree.  I teach several courses for the program, including a Seminar course, a course on Leadership skills, and I oversee the Practicum experience for our Professional Studies students. In the recent past I’ve also taught the PROS Writing Intensive course.

My doctoral studies, however, were in the field of Health Education and Promotion and I’ve taught courses in the School of Health Sciences, as well as in KSU’s College of Public Health.  I have long been interested in helping people live their lives in ways that promoted health and wellness, supporting physical, social, and mental well-being.  I still get to do that with the PROS degree-completion program, just in ways that are slightly different from my work in Health Promotion.

Q: What inspired you to follow your chosen path of study?

My undergraduate and master’s work were in the field of mental health, and I worked for some time in the community around mental health. Returning to school for a doctorate, the field of Health Education and Promotion allowed me to delve into my other interests around physical health, studying subjects like college drinking and drug/alcohol prevention, with a focus on primary prevention, which seemed to be the better fit for me. When an opportunity came to step into a faculty role with degree completion students (Educational Studies, which is now Professional Studies), I found myself drawn to this population of students who often have some very unique challenges that they are facing and yet they demonstrate some incredible resiliency and determined perseverance. With the loss of our EHHS colleague Laura Buckeye, the former program coordinator for Educational Studies, in 2017, I felt compelled to carry on her work and committed myself full-time to working with our special PROS students. It’s been a rewarding ride since then!

Q: What is one of your favorite memories from your student days?

I absolutely LOVED being a student. My classes, in whatever subject, always felt interesting. Even if things didn’t always go well grade-wise, I typically looked for the inevitable silver lining about the class – the good sense of humor of the professor, maybe, or the opportunity to learn something more about some topic I hadn’t known much about. And college life, in general, held such opportunities to get involved in all sorts of things on campus. I once took a photography class that I had no business being in (I was not particularly good at it!) and the professor opened up this whole new perspective to me about viewing the world around us.

Q: What do you think every student should experience in college?

I’m not sure I would suggest anything too specific or prescriptive in answering this question. After all, students need to choose their own journey to find the most meaningful experience for themselves. However, the main advice I would have is to be intentional and not just let things happen to you. Take initiative about your own learning and tap the professionals and experts around you (this campus is full of them) for how to maximize the time you have in college. Well, perhaps the one prescriptive thing I would say is to join an educational abroad program here at KSU! Going out into the world beyond our own country’s borders has an incredible perspective about people (we are much more alike than we are different) and studying abroad also serves as a super learning opportunity about your own ability to handle yourself when outside your comfort zone. 

Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching?

Simply put, I enjoy helping students get where they need to go. In particular, the PROS program does this in such an obvious way. I may only get to know students for a brief time, but it’s immensely satisfying that students are meeting this very important goal of completing their undergraduate degree. I am aware how important that is for them, personally and professionally, as research shows that even with the rising costs of higher education, a college degree has tremendous payoff over the long run. 

Q: How do you contribute to student success?

I feel that my ability to recognize students’ challenges and support them is a main contribution. Since our PROS students often come with some unique challenges to their situation, listening to them, walking them through, or around, some of their potential barriers to being successful in a class, these are things I’m pretty good at. And all of that is vital for their success in moving forward and getting where they need to go.

Q: What academic or career advice would you give to students?

I alluded to it in my response to another question, but I can’t stress enough the importance of students taking initiative with their learning. Ask more questions, dig deeper on the topic, ask for help or advice or suggestions from the knowledgeable people around you. This is true for both academics, and for one’s career. Be intentional about your decisions (try not to just do something because it’s what others are telling you to do), but also, take up some of the opportunities that come your way, even if they are surprises to you and not what you initially planned. Sometimes the tangents in life end up taking you exactly where you wanted to go, even if you can’t see it at first.

Q: What would students be surprised to learn about you?

As a teenager I competed in ballroom dancing and was pretty good, if I may say so! My favorite dance was the Rhumba!

Q: What’s the best and worst thing about being a teacher?

The best thing is most definitely the ‘light bulb’ moments I get to watch in my students. The worst thing may be the disappointing days when there’s a student not able to take up the opportunity, for whatever reason, that is being offered to him or her. But, I remind myself that they may not yet be ready…and the future will bring the day when they will be ready.

Q: How do you show your school spirit?

I have a tendency to talk a lot, to all sorts of people, about how great Kent State is. There are some incredible opportunities, events, activities that go on all over campus. In some ways, I wish I could go back to college to scoop up experiences that were not necessarily offered ‘back in the day!' Kent State is a great place to teach, and I’m so grateful to be a part of the journey for our PROS students.

POSTED: Monday, October 30, 2023 12:07 PM
Updated: Friday, March 1, 2024 10:59 AM