2017: The Year of #KentStateUnited​

I always look forward to the beginning of a new semester when our campuses come back to life with the vibrant return of students, faculty and staff. It is especially gratifying to launch the spring semester following the day in which our country acknowledges and celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We will host our campus celebration of the legacy of Dr. King on Jan. 26 at 4 p.m. in the Kent Student Center Ballroom. Dr. King's words resonate with us even today as we strive to move forward with activities and initiatives designed to enhance our learning environments, campus climate, student success and our rising collective capacity to make a positive difference for the world. As Dr. King stated in a commencement speech in 1965, "The time is always right to do what is right."

I will be providing university updates throughout the semester to share with you some of the outstanding work that occurs every day across our eight campuses. Welcome back, and may this be the best semester yet for each and every one. I look forward to working with you to advance our highest ideals and to better our society in all that we do.


Next week, we will host a series of presentations and conversations stemming from your input for our comprehensive Campus Climate Study. I encourage every member of the Kent State community to make plans to attend one of the presentations on Jan. 23 and Jan. 24. These results will drive the actions of our university community focused on the establishment of a Great Place Initiative that builds upon our core values of respect and kindness in all that we do and results in empowered and engaged campus communities.


In an effort over many years, dedicated faculty, staff, students and alumni have advocated for the inclusion of our May 4 site as a national historic landmark. I am exceptionally pleased that U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced last week that the Kent State University May 4, 1970, Site was officially designated as a National Historic Landmark on Dec. 23, 2016. The site joins more than 2,500 historic places that bear this national distinction.

We are indebted to the team whose tireless commitment resulted in a successful National Historic Landmark application, ensuring that the story and lessons of May 4 are regarded and remembered in perpetuity. I particularly wish to acknowledge the tremendous work of the faculty group led by Laura Davis and Mark Seeman who developed the extensive application. This milestone promises to further highlight the important memory and lessons of our history while positioning us to more fully emerge as a global convener of the world's most critical conversations on conflict resolution and civil discourse.


We launch in full force this semester our Brain Health Research Institute , approved by the Board of Trustees in December. This center brings together some 40 distinguished faculty researchers and research agendas, all making a contribution to our understanding of the brain and many of the world's most daunting challenges in the field, especially in the areas of learning, cognition, traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer's disease. We are making good progress on our national search for the inaugural director of the institute with an anticipated hiring date of July 1. During the 2017 Spring Semester, we will identify faculty leads for the remaining four areas of research distinction: materials science, environmental science and design, healthy communities and global understanding.


We have received nearly 200 proposals and $1 billion in suggestions from the colleges, Regional Campuses, departments and general campus population as part of the Think Big campaign. Launched in December, the Think Big campaign invited the Kent State community to envision ideas and initiatives to inspire the hearts and philanthropic interests of our alumni and friends. These submissions are being reviewed and vetted by the senior leadership team as we continue the planning for the largest comprehensive fundraising campaign in the history of the university. You will hear more about this soon and you will be engaged early and often in the vetting of the ideas presented.


As we move through the second half of this academic year, you will see significant evidence of our universitywide commitment to unity and inclusiveness. A cross-divisional team composed of representatives from Academic Affairs; Regional Campuses; Student Affairs; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; University Relations; and Human Resources has collaborated to develop a series of #KentStateUnited initiatives, events and opportunities. These programs will facilitate and encourage meaningful engagement and actions by staff, faculty and students by modeling examples of unity within the university community, demonstrating value and respect for all and exemplifying the power of collective action. Please watch for additional invitations and information about these #KentStateUnited initiatives.


I want to make sure that all members of our community are aware of the many support services that are available for our students. One of those areas of support is the University Stewards Program that engages faculty and staff who volunteer to serve as points of support, resource and referral for students. The role of a steward is to serve as an informal and neutral resource for students. This effort is coordinated between the divisions of Student Affairs and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and is designed to offer personalized support to students who experience issues related to climate on campus. For a list of University Stewards and contact information, please go to www.kent.edu/universitystewards.


We are also preparing for an exciting universitywide event on Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center. All students, faculty and staff are invited to attend the Men's Basketball game that evening — free of charge. (Students are admitted free with their I.D. Faculty and staff click here for free ticket information). You will not want to miss this landmark event that ushers in A Brand New Gameday. New traditions, excitement and inspiring demonstrations of pride are all part of our national strategic communications plan.

In closing, I express my deep and abiding appreciation for the many ways every member of this university community is contributing to our vision as outlined in A Strategic Roadmap to a Distinctive Kent State. I have thoroughly enjoyed my visits to academic departments to discuss our roadmap and to hear of the many exciting activities and initiatives that are happening every day at Kent State. I look forward to visiting with many more academic departments in the coming months. May we all work together to make the 2017 Spring Semester a most enjoyable, productive and purposeful conclusion to a remarkable academic year.

With best regards,

Beverly Warren

POSTED: Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - 4:30pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, January 24, 2017 - 12:03pm