Blueprint Leads to Student Success at Kent State University

When Megan Burnett enrolled at Kent State University in 2019, she knew she wanted to major in a field which would give her the opportunity to help people. The university’s Exploratory Program in University College has given her a blueprint to help her reach her dreams.

Now Burnett will be entering her junior year as a Human Development and Family Studies major. She will be joining other students, staff and faculty for a robust fall 2021 semester fully back on campus following a year of mostly-remote learning during the pandemic.

“I knew the passion that I wanted to chase, but I had absolutely no idea how to reach my goals,” Burnett said. “I credit the (Exploratory Program) and my academic advisor for the whole journey that helped me click with my major.”

Whether students are enrolled in Kent State’s Exploratory Program in University College, are the first in their families to attend college or are students in a single-parent learning community, Kent State offers a plethora of programs that promote student success. For instance, University College has a tradition of offering students innovative, award-winning programs. University College has won eight national awards, earned three internationally certified programs, and received more than $7.5 million in grant funding in the last 6 years.

Burnett credits the Exploratory Program advisors and mentors for bringing out skills that she didn’t know she possessed.

“Without the support of someone to lean on and someone to count on who has my best interest at heart, I honestly would not have found my major or minor without their guidance,” Burnett said. “The people are so hardworking. They connect with students.”

Award-winning Programs Make a Difference

Recently the University College Exploration Plan’s Major Action Plan (MAP) was selected as the 2021 Outstanding Advising Program Award Winner from NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising as part of the 2021 Global Awards Program for Academic Advising.

The award recognizes advising programs that are innovative and/or offer exemplary practices resulting in improvement of academic advising services. The Outstanding Advising Program Award application was judged on the following criteria: innovative quality, creativity, currency, institutional commitment, impact evident by assessment, and transferability.

The goal of the MAP is to assist Kent State’s Exploratory students with confidently declaring their major based on their career readiness via the exploration of majors that align with their strengths and career interests. In addition, the Center for First-generation Student Success recently recognized Kent State’s commitment to improving the experiences and advancing outcomes for first-generation students by designating the university as a 2021-22 First-gen Forward Institution.

“Through the application process, it was evident that Kent State is not only taking steps to serve first-generation students, but also is prepared to make a long-term commitment and employ strategies that foster an environment of success for this important population,” said Sarah E. Whitley, Ph.D., vice president of the Center for First-generation Student Success. The center is an initiative of NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation.

In making its decision, the center considered Kent State’s I Am First campaign, an initiative launched two years ago to celebrate first-generation students during a week of events and activities meant to increase campus awareness and engagement. The university’s application also demonstrated that senior leadership is committed to the success of first-generation students.

Leadership Emphasis in Student Success

Many will recall that President Todd Diacon highlighted first-gen students in his 2019 inaugural address.

“It is an honor to be named a leading First-gen Forward university,” Diacon said. “This award demonstrates our deep commitment to helping all first-generation students successfully navigate the college experience and earn their degree.”

For those who work on the frontlines in helping first-gen students to thrive, each student's success is a personal victory for all involved.

“Students who are first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree are really resilient students who bring a lot to our university and campus life, and we want to make sure they graduate,” said Liz Piatt, Ph.D., assistant dean of academic diversity success, who worked on Kent State’s application for the First-gen Forward designation. “Our philosophy is based on the strengths and talents that make them invaluable to our university. We want to celebrate them.”

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POSTED: Tuesday, July 27, 2021 02:40 PM
UPDATED: Tuesday, July 23, 2024 07:40 PM
April McClellan-Copeland