National Committee Recognizes Flash Connections Exemplary Work With Exploratory Students

Choosing a career path at age 18 can be overwhelming for some students. As a part of Kent State University's University College’s Exploratory Program, Flash Connections are enhanced sections of the required First Year Experience course created especially for Exploratory students. The Flash Connections program is designed to help students considering multiple majors find a community while discovering their major. This program’s exemplary work with undecided students was recently recognized, receiving awards from the Global Community for Academic Advising (NACADA).

Nicole Kotlan, senior director of the Exploratory Program, sees the impact the program has on students first hand. The Exploratory Program was recently awarded the NACADA Region 5 Innovation in Advising Award for the staff’s work. Flash Connections also won the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Excellence Award—Gold in Enrollment Management, Financial Aid, First-Year, Other-year and Orientation.

Flash Connections is a program that features exclusive faculty-led, out-of-class and overnight experiences either before the start of, or during, the semester. As part of the Exploratory Program, Flash Connections program incorporates these excursions to connect students with professionals in fields they are interested in. Since the trips are focused on specific interest areas such as healthcare, business, community impact and social change and celebrating African American experiences, students can explore various areas of interest all while connecting with their peers with similar interests.

Students in the Exploratory Program have a wide range of interests. The program accommodates this range by offering trips to Cleveland to meet with healthcare professionals and even going as far as Atlanta, Georgia, to learn about broadcasting and media.

“I believe the Flash Connections program is unique to the Exploratory Program at Kent State and sets us apart,” Kotlan said. “The fact that students are not only building a community with their peers through these experiences, but they are also learning about careers, your interests, strengths and what you value is really important.”

NASPA recognizes the outstanding contributions for exceptional programs and innovative services. The Flash Connections program was recognized by NASPA by winning gold in its categories, the highest distinction given for the category.

The recognition is not only for the Exploratory Program and the Flash Connections program, but the partnerships established with all campus and community partners that help make this program possible.

Flash Connections utilizes their partnerships to help create meaningful experiences for the students. They work with on campus partners such as the Community Engaged Learning or Career Exploratory and Development programs, Student Success Programs, the Dean’s Office and the Department of Recreation Services. These partnerships, as well as ones with professionals within the community, provide valuable information and experiences to the students in the program.

The awards Flash Connection received recognizes the collaboration between all of these individuals that make the program possible.

“To me it was exciting not only to be recognized and selected, but it’s exciting to win the gold level, which is the highest within the category,” Kotlan said. “I think it really contributes to the work of the Exploratory Program’s team I work for and their innovation and commitment to student success.”

Due to the pandemic, the program took a brief pause for public safety. However, the staff is excited for it to return in 2023.

“I’m proud to see students are engaging in the experiences, discovering their strengths, their interests and confidently declaring their major,” Kotlan said. “It’s nice to be recognized for the outstanding work the team has done and the results are evident that it’s making a difference.”

To learn more about Flash Connections and the Exploratory Program visit

Image Caption: ​​Flash Connections: Community Impact and Social Change Flash Connections experience in Columbus, Ohio, 2018.

Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 06:24 PM