Kent State’s EXCEL Learning Community Supports Student After Devastating Loss

Mackenzie Bailey faced the typical challenges during the start of her academic career, including  choosing a major and getting good grades. But that all paled in comparison her sophomore year when she received devastating news: Her father had terminal cancer.


“When I was home for winter break, he ended up passing away,” Ms. Bailey says.


The emotional toll left her with some difficult choices to make. Should she leave Kent State University? Should she stay with her family in Toledo and commute? Or should she honor her father’s wishes and return to campus, despite the pain of losing him?


“He really wanted me to stay here, to keep my mind straight and stay motivated,” she says.


Ms. Bailey chose to return to the Kent Campus with the encouragement of her mentors in Kent State’s EXCEL Learning Community. EXCEL is open to first-year exploratory students residing in Lake Hall, Honors College students residing in Stopher and Johnson halls and students commuting to campus. It is designed to help students explore careers, succeed in classes and cultivate leadership skills with the goal of guiding them as they select a major by the end of their freshman year and remain on a four-year track to graduation.


When Ms. Bailey entered the EXCEL Learning Community her first year at Kent State, she did not have any idea about which major to choose. But over the course of that first year, working with her advisor and the student mentors in EXCEL, Ms. Bailey eventually found her passion.


“I really liked psychology, but when I started taking social sciences, I changed to human development and family studies,” she says. “It was more people-oriented.”


With her coursework on track, her interest in her classes grew, as did her grade point average.


She eventually became an EXCEL mentor, in addition to serving as a student success leader and Flashguide for incoming freshmen in Kent State’s College of Education, Health and Human Services. She enjoys helping others the way she was helped as a first-generation college student.


“It’s nice talking to other families and making them feel better,” she says.


When she started her senior year this fall, Ms. Bailey began serving as a resident assistant in a residence hall. She is on track to graduate in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies. After graduation, Ms. Bailey hopes to earn a master’s degree in higher education student personnel, eventually working as a college advisor and later progressing into student development.


Kent State, she says, helped her become the student and leader that she is, raising her level of self-confidence throughout the process.


“They have provided me with some really good experiences that brought out my leadership style and a lot of resources that made me successful as a student, and that helped me help other people too, which is what I am really passionate about,” Ms. Bailey says.


For more information about Kent State’s EXCEL Learning Community, visit


POSTED: Wednesday, November 28, 2018 01:46 PM
UPDATED: Friday, July 12, 2024 01:05 PM
Lisa Abraham