“This Is Who We Are and What We Stand For”
Kent State University President Beverly J. Warren challenged the university community to embrace transformation at the annual State of the University Address.
“Serious transformation is never easy,” she said. “It challenges us to let go of predictable ways and embrace something new and unfamiliar.”
President Warren says the campus community is well-positioned to both embrace its future and to take the reins driving it toward world-changing successes.
“The future has arrived,” President Warren said. “A visionary university has no choice but to respond. Will Kent State choose to tread water? Hunker down in our silos, turning our energies to self-preservation? Or have we arrived at a moment of singular opportunity and power?”
In delivering her annual address to the Kent State community, President Warren discussed her “Students First” legacy and how that mantra is truly a calling to take action to help both present and future students to find their purpose and mission.
“That commitment alone is a clear case for change because students of today are out in front of us,” she said. “They are already transforming. They expect to learn differently. They respond to different stimuli. They team up. They explore. They generate insight in unexpected ways.
“Supporting students in discovering their purpose means more than accruing requisite skills and knowledge within rigid curricular confines,” President Warren continued. “Kent State transforms lives and communities through the power of discovery, learning and creative expression in an inclusive environment.”
This year’s address took on greater meaning for the university community following President Warren’s announcement on Oct. 23 that she will step down from her post on July 1, 2019, with five full years of service leading Kent State. She addressed her future at the beginning of her speech by thanking so many who have offered their support.
“This has been the most gratifying and fulfilling job of my career, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had this time with all of you,” President Warren said. “Yet, it is time for change. We all change as we move through life. The key is to get comfortable with regular transformation – to shed our fear of evolution and embrace whatever is next.”
Laina Yost, a senior journalism major from Troy, Ohio, was selected to introduce President Warren for the address. Ms. Yost said her first thought at hearing of President Warren’s departure was that of reflecting on the university leader’s legacy.
“What has meant the most for me is her respect for student journalists, and her understanding of the importance of a free press at a university, especially at a time when our industry and even the reporters themselves are under attack,” Ms. Yost said. “I am honored to be part of the last group of graduates who will walk across the commencement stage, shake your hand, get a hug and call you ‘my president.’”
President Warren challenged the community to think broader and to seize opportunities to solve problems without focusing on the obstacles to reaching the solution.
“If we could innovate without penalty, how would we act?” she said. “What if we all felt empowered and secure enough to say, ‘Everything is on the table, no sacred cows,’ all with the goal of inventing new models of teaching and learning and interaction that are meaningful, relevant and forward-facing?”
In reflecting on the most recent academic year, President Warren praised several faculty, staff and students by name for their successes. She again thanked the community for their support and reminded all in attendance to believe in themselves and know that each person has the power to make effective change.
“We display the courage to march into the future as a unified community, dedicated to learning – a place where every student, every faculty member and every staff member are devoted to a life of purpose and to making the world a better place,” President Warren said.