What makes a town like Kent, Ohio special? The people, right? What about the special events?  

Throughout the year, the City of Kent and Kent State University play host to a wide variety of amazing events. It takes dedicated volunteers to organize and put in the hard work to pull off these events. Often these efforts unfortunately get overlooked or go unnoticed. But, in this case, congratulations are definitely in order for one of our own College of Arts and Sciences staff members, Ed Butch, director of strategic initiatives and communications!

Earlier this month, Butch was named the Heritage Ohio Volunteer of the Year at the 2022 Heritage Ohio Annual Conference for his volunteer work with Main Street Kent. The awards honor Ohio’s best projects places, and people who create lasting impacts through historic preservation and community revitalization. 

Main Street Kent
Main Street Kent is a nonprofit organization based in downtown Kent that focuses on promoting small businesses and hosting events that attract engagement for all members of the Kent community. 

Heather Malarcik and Leslie Sickle, both employees at Main Street Kent, nominated Butch for the award because of his continuous efforts on different projects within the organization.  

“Main Street Kent's mission is to make downtown Kent a fun, vibrant and thriving place” Malarcik, executive director at Main Street Kent, said. “We accomplish this through marketing, events, downtown beautification, public art and collaborative work with many partners.” 

Butch first volunteered with Main Street Kent five years ago when he led a team of volunteers during the Wizardly World of Kent event. He then volunteered for numerous other events including becoming the race director for the Main Street Kent 5K and the event chair for the Wizardly Weekend. He has also been a member of Main Street Kent’s Business Enhancement Committee for the past two years and started serving on the Board of Directors earlier this year. 

“I'm very much a person that does stuff in the background,” Butch said. “I'm not always the person up front, so I don't always love getting called up on stage or anything like that. But, to just have that little bit of recognition for the entire state was really nice.” 

Malarcik feels it is vital that students and faculty at the university are just as involved in the engagement of downtown Kent as other Kent residents.  

“It's super important that we work with our city and university partners because we all have a lot of talent and resources to share with each other,” Malarcik said. “All the work we do for our downtown makes Kent State a more attractive place for people seeking higher education, as well as our community and visitors to the area.” 

“There's always something to do here, and lots of interesting things to see, people to interact with and community to be a part of,” Malarcik said. “There are lots of options for outdoor recreation, shopping, studying, dining, relaxing and just being a part of this community. We're happy to help make Kent such a wonderful place!” 

Upcoming Main Street Kent events include Small Business Saturday on Saturday, November 26, and a new event called “The Cookie Walk” which will take place on Sunday, December 4.  

To learn more about Main Street Kent, visit https://www.mainstreetkent.org/ 

About Ed Butch 
Working for the College of Arts and Sciences at Kent State since 2011, Butch has worked in academic advising, recruitment and retention positions before recently taking on the role of Director of Strategic Initiatives and Communications. His primary responsibilities include overseeing the marketing and communications team, project management, and strategic planning for the college.  

He completed his undergraduate degree at Walsh University and received his master’s degree from Oklahoma State University. He then began his professional career in residence life at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio before coming to Kent State. He is also currently pursuing an Ed.D. in Interprofessional Leadership from Kent State University and plans to graduate in May 2023. 

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A class of communication studies students earned top prize in the Outstanding New Service Initiative category at the Kent State University’s Office of Experimental Education and Civic Engagement (OEECE) annual awards program.

Students enrolled in “Communication as Community: Communication in Small Groups and Teams,” taught by part-time School of Communication Studies faculty member Molly Taggart, earned the award at the OEECE’s Celebration of Service event in April.

According to OEECE, the Outstanding New Service Initiative award is given to groups or individuals whose projects “exhibited depth of understanding of the community needs or social issues, made a distinct impact on the community/community issue/population being served and demonstrated growth over time and sustainable opportunities for others in the community to get involved.”

“The communication course successfully created six community-based projects with different regional partners,” said Amanda Paulus, M.A.Ed., director of OEECE. “Thirty dedicated students held various roles at these nonprofit organizations to learn about theory and research related to communication in small groups and teams.”

Projects for the course led students to create donation and awareness campaigns for organizations like the International Institute of Akron, Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, Miller House, McGuffrey House, March of Dimes and Access, Inc.

The class had multiple projects occurring simultaneously in the community as a result of the ideas generated from this course.

"(My group) chose the International Institute of Akron (IIA), a refugee resettlement organization in Akron, for our nonprofit group,” said junior Hannah Holliday. “Working with the International Institute was a different experience for us because of the recent immigration ban. We focused on raising awareness for the International Institute and for the executive order and how it affects Akron and the country as a whole.”

The goal for each of the partnerships built was to help each nonprofit organization raise funding for their cause, create a social media campaign to bring awareness to the central social justice issues of that organization, and have each group member dedicate 10 or more hours for each nonprofit organization they were working with.

“I was able to learn extremely valuable information from International Institute about the benefits of immigrants and refugees, beyond sharing culture and diversity, such as their outstanding economic impact,” Holliday said. “This information, when used well, is just as powerful as volunteer work and donations, if not more. Having a chance to be informed and to speak up for the voiceless, in Akron and in other countries, was an amazing opportunity and honor.”

Specific projects included fundraising events at local restaurants, compiling Easter baskets and various toiletry items to donate to organizations, organizing food pantries, spending time with residents and clients of the nonprofits, and assisting with the Tri Sigma Night Live which raised $22,918 for March of Dimes.

For more information about OEECE and the Celebration of Service awards, visit www.kent.edu/oeece/showcase

Suzy D’Enbeau, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the School of Communication Studies (COMM), and 12 Kent State students will travel to Columbus Feb. 24 – 26 with the Office of Experiential Education and Civic Engagement (OEECE) to participate in the ‘Human Trafficking Educational Immersion’ program. COMM student Delaney Cordova is also attending.

Designed to inform participants about victims of human trafficking, attendees will connect with local nonprofit organizations who work to rescue victims through increased public and law enforcement awareness and restore lives by providing social service support. Participants will learn about the collaborative community response to human trafficking in central Ohio through education, services, advocacy and prosecution.

The trip is being led by COMM alumna Amanda Bevington who is currently a master’s student in Kent State’s higher education program.

“The itinerary is jam-packed with volunteering, panels of women who got out of trafficking, a presentation by a former john, meetings with lawyers working to address this issue in Ohio and more,” D’Enbeau said. “As the faculty chaperone, I will help facilitate discussion and reflection throughout the weekend.”

The Office of Experiential Education and Civic Engagement (OEECE) promotes a culture of active and engaged learners by integrating opportunities for students to apply theories and knowledge into real world experiences. OEECE cultivates civic involvement and community building across Kent State, the surrounding community and the globe. Through one-time and on-going volunteer opportunities and course-based experiences, OEECE fosters a deeper understanding of course content and civic commitment in students. OEECE welcomes the opportunity to help academic departments across campus plan and develop experiential learning trips for students and faculty. Learn more at https://www.kent.edu/oeece.