No Ivory Tower; World-class Experts Bring Valued Research to Stark County
Kent State University at Stark’s faculty are a force in the community, working to better the region by oﬀering their academic expertise in a tangible way. Kent State Stark brings immeasurable value to community organizations, the health care industry, environmental groups and more.
Faculty tackle the kind of real-world issues that touch Stark County, making our home a better place to live. These campus leaders guard the region against some of the country’s most pressing concerns – from water quality to end-of-life care choices to navigating an online presence on the “anything goes” information highway. They are on the frontlines researching, addressing, educating.
Professors Angela Guercio, Kim Garchar and Robert Hamilton are part of the knowledge base at Stark County’s hometown university.
“We are not meant to be the ivory tower,” said Garchar. “We are meant to share the talents that are housed in our university.
"Contributing to the good of the community does not just happen in the four walls of our classrooms, it is the impact we have outside of those walls.”
Angela Guercio, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Computer Science
Angela Guercio’s passion for computer science extends beyond the classroom. Her students help develop websites for organizations located throughout Northeast Ohio. But the longtime Kent State Stark faculty member does much more than create webpages for area nonprofits; she fosters purpose in computer science students who see the impact of an online presence.
“Creating a website requires more than simple I.T. knowledge,” said Guercio, who has been teaching at Kent State Stark since 2005. “When nonprofits request help, we do it because it is not only an I.T. learning experience; it is a community experience where students learn to translate the needs of an organization.”
The nonprofit may harness the power of a website to educate the public, solicit financial donations, promote upcoming events and more. Guercio’s class has made prototypes for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Magnolia Historical Society. Students also designed websites for the Navarre-Bethlehem Township Historical Society and the Italian-American organization, Il Cenacolo Italiano di Cleveland.
Guercio expects the addition of web-programming courses during the 2018-19 academic year to expand service-learning opportunities.
During her time at Kent State Stark, one of her primary goals has been to grow the computer science discipline on campus. And she has. Enrollment has increased from 42 students in fall 2010 to 103 students last fall.
A native of Italy, Guercio is active in the Ohio Celebration of Women in Computing (OCWiC), which encourages and supports both minorities and women, who are currently a minority in the discipline, to engage in computer science studies. Guercio’s students also have designed websites for the organization’s annual conference.
“Students have to prepare for the world out there since technology is always in a state of transition and evolution,” said Guercio. “What is better than practicing and learning by offering a service to the community?”
Kim Garchar, Ph.D.
Associate Professor OF Philosophy
Kim Garchar talks about death and dying a lot. She forgets the conversation is not a normal one.
But, it is her primary area of research. As a member of Summa Health System’s ethics committee, Garchar often deals with end-of-life issues.
“This is, to me, the second most important part of my job, with the first being teaching students,” she said. “Assisting health care providers and servicing the community, both of those things are supported by my research and scholarship.”
Garchar’s field of research in ethics, which is about a good life, and health care, which is about providing a good life, go hand in hand.
Garchar first began working at Summa’s Akron Campus 10 years ago, when she became a faculty member at Kent State Stark. The ethics team handles requests for ethics consults, education within the hospital and organizational communication.
Anyone can request an ethics consult – patient, family member, nurse, doctor and so on. “We try to analyze situations where there are values conflicts,” she explained. “The care team could feel something is inappropriate that the family is requesting. We try to understand and name the different values represented and offer suggestions and recommendations, not answers.”
Garchar’s work as a bioethicist also includes analyzing hospital policies where there are values conflicts, such as futile treatment, which is defined as care that is non-beneficial to the patient. “We need a policy for those instances.”
Originally from Colorado, Garchar said she couldn’t be happier to invest in Northeast Ohio.
“I am motivated by the problems we encounter in health care,” she said. “Honestly, I am able to teach better because of the work I get to do out in the community. I bring all of those real-life experiences back to the classroom.”
Robert Hamilton IV, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biological Sciences
As a child growing up in the city of Canton, Robert Hamilton played in Nimishillen Creek. Today, he’s working to save it.
A collaborator with Stark Parks for the past 10 years, Hamilton and his students began a new phase in the Cottonwood Wetland Restoration Project.
“All waters affect one another; they are all connected,” explained Hamilton. “So, when you better one, another also benefits.”
Sippo Lake’s 4.3-acre Cottonwood Wetland recently was restored by Nick Morris, former education department manager at Stark County Park District and now an adjunct professor at Kent State Stark.
“It is a team effort,” said Hamilton, who worked with Morris on the restoration project. “We all work together to protect the environment.”
This summer, Hamilton and his students examined the restoration’s progress, paying special attention to sediment and water flow, bacteria and fungi in the water, as well as water chemistry. “Any environmental project that you restore, you have to ask – is it functioning?” he said. “Wetlands are supposed to provide habitat, filter sediment and more.
“This wetland acts as a buffer zone between the surrounding land and water, enhancing conservation,” said Hamilton, adding that the Cottonwood restoration contributes to the larger regional water system, the Muskingum River Watershed.
For this 13-year faculty member at Kent State Stark, giving back is part of his DNA. An Eagle Scout, his love of the outdoors began early. The graduate of McKinley High School found a natural fit at the Stark Campus.
“We are the resident experts. We live in these communities, so we have a vested interest,” he said. “Not only do I have a desire to improve the water quality, but I have fond memories of good times in the Nimishillen.”