New dean of students ready for fall semester

Alicia Krynock

As the new dean of students, Lamar Hylton, said he is excited for the energy the students bring while returning this fall.

“Students are exactly why I’m in this work,” he said. “They drive me. They’re my passion to come to work every day.”

Hylton enrolled at Morgan State University in Maryland and majored in vocal music performance, but he first discovered his passion when he worked at the university’s Office of Student Affairs for his graduate assistantship at Ohio University.

“I thought I was going to sing on the operatic stage,” he said, laughing. “It was not until I got to graduate school until I realized I was interested in this thing called higher education.”

When he worked with improving retention, living-learning communities and inclusion initiatives across the campus during his assistantship, Hylton found his path to higher education.

“I really found a passion for that diversity and inclusion piece of the experience, particularly through establishing what’s called the Urban Scholarship program,” Hylton said. “I remember talking to my supervisor, and she said, ‘You know, there’s a degree program for that,’ and I was like ‘Where do I sign up?’”

Hylton last worked as the assistant vice provost of Student Affairs at University of Minnesota in Twinsburg. He oversaw fraternity and sorority life, off campus living and multicultural student engagement.

“The work we did growing the fraternity and sorority community — there was a really proud accomplishment for me,” he said.

When Hylton came to the University of Minnesota, it ranked near the bottom of Big 10 universities for Greek life involvement. He helped grow the student population and organization infrastructure, and the university met their 2021 goal in 2015.

While at the university, Hylton worked closely with the staff of the Huntly House, a living-learning community for African-American men. Hylton wrote his dissertation on the experience of African-American men at predominantly white institutions. Kent State presently reports about 71 percent of its students as caucasian, and African-American students compose eight percent of the student body.

“I’m a huge proponent of living learning communities,” he said. “I think they offer a really rich engagement opportunities, and students are able to be retained at a higher rate.”  

Kent State’s recent climate survey showed 29 percent of African-American students said they didn’t “feel like they belonged” at the university.

“We think about day in and day out how our campus can be more inclusive to the students,” Hylton said. “I’m looking forward to being a part of those conversations of how we are serving students of diverse identities.”

Hylton said he hopes to start the fall semester with a listening tour to better understand the student experience, discuss with students and faculty what their priorities are and where they see Kent State’s greatest successes or current challenges.

He also said he is most excited to begin forming meaningful relationships with the students.

“I’ve never been the type of professional that does things in a bubble. I like to allow students to define what they need and then how can I engage with them and the institution to meet those needs,” Hylton said.

This fall, Hylton will go across campus as part of his “Dean on the Go” initiative.

“Me and a few of my staff get a table, and we set up in different areas along campus,” he said.

Hylton said this is an opportunity for him to get out of the office to interact with students. “Maybe that’s just them walking by and grabbing a flyer,” he said. “But maybe it’s actually stopping and having a dialogue with me because it’s right next to where their class is.”

“Dining with the Dean” is another initiative to allow students to sign up and stop by to meet and eat with the dean of students.

“I want things that really allow students to access my team in a way that makes sense to them.” Hylton said. “Yes, we could have these sit-down meetings, but not everyone has time for that, or is comfortable with that.”

At the University of Minnesota, Hylton developed unofficial office hours as he formed relationships with the students.

“Students knew I had a big gray couch,” he said. “And students would come to the couch and tell me all the joys in their life or all the sorrows in their life or that they were really tired, and they needed to take a nap and could they use my couch — and I would allow that because that keeps that connection to the students.”

Hylton said he hopes to hold office hours next semester to give all students an opportunity to come in and talk about whatever is on their minds.

“Excellence is the standard and not an option here,” Hylton said. “We really want to be a national model when people think of student experience and student engagement … I’m very grateful for this summer to kind of ease me into the experience, but I’m ready for the students to come back. Bring it on.”

Alicia Krynock is the administration reporter. Contact him at [email protected]