Kent State Receives $2 Million Choose Ohio First Grant

Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner announced Thursday, Dec. 12, that Kent State University has been awarded a $2 million Choose Ohio First grant to support computer science and related fields and to strengthen Ohio’s workforce. Among the 35 Ohio colleges and universities selected as the new Choose Ohio First award recipients through a competitive process, Kent State received the second-highest award to a public university and the third-highest award overall.

The Choose Ohio First program began in 2008 as a way to increase the number of Ohio residents successfully completing science, technology, engineering, math or medicine (STEMM) majors at Ohio’s public and private colleges and universities. Kent State and the other grant recipients will receive scholarship funds to recruit Ohio residents into the high-demand field of computer science, cybersecurity and related areas. Universities are vital engines for workforce vitality in the state, and the Choose Ohio First program provides support that will advance the economic growth of each region in the state.

“Kent State’s commitment to talent development, particularly in high-demand fields, is among my highest priorities,” Kent State President Todd Diacon said. “I would like to thank Lt. Gov. Husted and Chancellor Gardner for their leadership and investment in our efforts to attract and develop the next generation of high-demand computer science professionals in Northeast Ohio.”

Kent State will use the Choose Ohio First award to attract and graduate Northeast Ohio students, including underrepresented, economically disadvantaged, first-generation and female students, for in-demand occupations in Ohio for a wide array of future-facing computer science areas. These areas include software engineering, data science, cybersecurity and privacy, artificial intelligence (AI) and smart devices. 

Diacon was recently named to the Board of Directors of the regional economic development organization Team NEO. Diacon mentioned the importance employers place on hiring graduates with good critical thinking and communications skills in addition to STEMM training. 

“Kent State is a powerhouse precisely because of the number of students we graduate with the skills employers are seeking,” he noted. 

Kent State’s program will support a multitude of in-demand careers in computer science, as documented by the OhioMeansJobs list of high-demand occupations and Team NEO’s Aligning Opportunities report, including computer network architects, computer network support specialists, programmers, systems analysts, database administrators, information security analysts, information technology project managers, network/computer systems administrators and software developers. 

“Today, we offer one of the most comprehensive set of computer science degree programs in the state, ranging from Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Arts to Ph.D. degrees, as well as a minor in computer science,” said Javed I. Khan, Ph.D., professor and chair of Kent State’s Department of Computer Science and author of the university’s grant proposal. “Our rich curriculum delves into a wide range of computer science areas including the latest: blockchain, AI, machine learning and quantum computing. We also offer optional concentrations in four high-value specialties: cybersecurity and privacy, data engineering, game programming and smart devices/computer engineering. Or one can pursue the Bachelor of Arts degree aimed at interdisciplinary careers, such as e-commerce or digital humanities.” 

Kent State’s Choose Ohio First program is uniquely designed to train graduates for the 21st century workplace, Khan explained.

“Each of these undergraduate scholars will participate in high-impact activities to enhance their educational experience,” he said. “They will receive research experience in state-of-the-art computer science and engineering research labs, working alongside top researchers in the field. Career-integrated and paid co-op opportunities will also be arranged for each of the Choose Ohio First scholars in collaboration with Kent State’s Division of Information Technology and industry partners, and students will earn badges or state credentials in high-demand careers.” 

In addition, Kent State’s Choose Ohio First scholars will participate in a yearly research poster conference, jointly held with Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College and Youngstown State University. These poster conferences have been in place for the last 10 years and have proved to be a very valuable experience for Choose Ohio First students, serving to connect the scholars with industry, provide motivation for their academic studies, and develop independent thinking and teamwork. Each year, Kent State’s industry partners are strongly represented at these events, providing both speakers and judges. 

To facilitate retention, timeliness and low-cost completion, Kent State will put an advanced support system in place that will include mandatory faculty advising and monitoring of grades and coursework to make sure that the students are on track. Students may seamlessly mix courses from Kent State Regional Campuses and the Kent Campus as needed. 

“Kent State University has an outstanding computer science department with faculty who are at the cutting edge in their specialties,” said Paul DiCorleto, Ph.D., Kent State’s vice president for research and sponsored programs. “These professors will provide students with top-notch education and training that will have them ready to enter the Ohio workforce in high-end computing professions.”

For more information about Kent State’s Department of Computer Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, visit www.kent.edu/cs.

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Photo Caption:
Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Kent State University President Todd Diacon and Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner smile at a press conference announcing the new Choose Ohio First award recipients. Kent State has been awarded a $2 million grant to support computer science and related fields.

Media Contacts:
Eric Mansfield, emansfie@kent.edu, 330-672-2797
Emily Vincent, evincen2@kent.edu, 330-672-8595

POSTED: Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 3:52pm
UPDATED: Monday, January 13, 2020 - 4:06pm
WRITTEN BY:
Emily Vincent