Kent State Wants to Enhance Education, Sports to 'Distinguish' Itself
The board of trustees held an informal meeting to discuss the future at the new Twinsburg Regional Academic Center.
Kent State University President Lester Lefton thinks the university has the product in place, now he wants to focus on how to attract even more students to it.
“You can create product all day long but that’s not gonna’ convince people,” Lefton said. “They’ve got to believe in you.”
The board of trustees held an informal meeting to discuss visions for the university's future and ways to establish these ideas.
Lefton said creating a successful sports program mixed with new developments in education and facilities will propel the university into the next decade.
Provost Todd Diacon agrees, and said by changing how the university looks at students can make it a "destination university."
“The purposes of a college education are two: To form the worker and to form the person,” Diacon said.
Diacon said people know the economical reasons to go to college, but he doesn’t want students to be subordinated to their work, but to be “masters of their own domain” and change the world around them.
His plans to implement such a mindset include creating an "unparalleled residential campus experience" with a robust and high-quality online education program and living up to its promises.
By looking at the universities strategic plan, Diacon said there are several areas the university can improve, helping both current and prospective students.
A significant way to do that is by creating new buildings to give the campus a better look to campus and draw students in by using state-of-the-art facilities.
Diacon said he doesn't like the idea of just using the buildings you have, which don't match the university's hope for the future.
One example is the new $24 million, 44,000-square-foot Twinsburg Regional Academic Center, which opened this fall.
Academically, one challenge is to identify academic policies that are hurting the university in student success. While they may have been implemented with good intentions, some rules can be a barrier for students.
“Usually for unintended reasons, academic policies sometimes harm student success,” Diacon said.
Diacon also wants to see Kent State become more of an international university, become "more narrow but deep" in research and better recognize the faculty members.
Lefton also believes a strong athletic standing is key in attracting people to a rising university. Many universities can be distinguished based on their collegiate sports alone.
“They [students] get that the whole school is wrapped up in athletics, and they go to it because of it,” Lefton said, mentioning schools like Ohio State and Notre Dame.
Athletic Director Joel Nielson said that as far as success goes, Kent State sports are on top.
Over the last five years Kent State had 46 MAC Championships, including eight last year.
“The athletic department at Kent State is in great shape,” Nielson said, adding they are solid academically, competitive, and socially responsible.
Nielson noted that on the athletics front, new and remodeled facilities are vital to success.
“We’ve fallen behind and fallen behind in a big way,” Nielson said. “We need to have more buildings that have the “wow” factor.”
The athletic department currently has a $50 million master plan with with priority projects including the field house team locker rooms, gymnastics locker room, the baseball stadium, and renovating the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center.
Nielson said winning is a big help too, especially in football, and thinks the right people are in place to make sure that happens.
For the future, Lefton feels like the university is heading the right way.
“We’ve got the product, now we’ve got to create the stuff that goes around it.”