Wick Poetry Center assistant director departs, leaves legacy of passion and outreach

Nicole Robinson

Isabel Kiefer

Sitting on a grey exercise ball, Wick Poetry Center Assistant Director Nicole Robinson rocks back and forth, recalling her past eight years at the center.

Robinson originally started at the center as the program and outreach coordinator in 2009, replacing David Hassler after he was promoted to director. Now, nearly a decade later, Robinson will depart from the center to focus on her own writing.

As an involved Kent State professor and administrator, her poetry outreach in the Kent City School District and Akron Children’s Hospital has been hard-hitting.

“She has a sort of boundless love for poetry and for connecting with people from all backgrounds,” Hassler said.

Ellie Ovsenik, a former Wick Poetry intern and employee, recalled Robinson’s passion for her work.

“She’s truly a ball of energy, and she’s radiant,” Ovsenik said “That’s what makes her so good with outreach.”

Later promoted to assistant director, Robinson played a crucial role in expanding the center’s programming. Some of her most valuable work was helping to create the Wick Juniors Writing Club in 2010, Robinson said.

Wick Juniors — a 60-person overnight poetry camp — began with five elementary school children from the Kent City School District. Robinson worked to teach poetry in Kent schools, connecting with several students at the end of the 2010 school year.

“These kids came up to me and they were like, ‘What are we gonna do over the summer?’” Robinson said. “I said, ‘Well, it’s still poetry, you can still write.’”

Dubbed Wick Juniors by the students themselves, Robinson began organizing a poetry summer camp for interested students.

“I don’t want to claim to even really have credit over it because it was more (to) honor the kids (that) came to me, and I said, ‘okay’ and helped them guide it how they wanted it,” Robinson said.

Hassler attributed much of the center’s growth in the past several years, including Wick Juniors, to Robinson.

“(Robinson) has been a tremendous force with the Wick Poetry Center and has been central in our growth and expansion in the last eight years,” Hassler said.

Ovsenik said Robinson’s outreach work not only inspired her but helped her connect with students in local schools that proved to be nervous or guarded.

“With Nikki’s support, I knew how to break down barriers,” Ovsenik said. “She left the impression on me that poetry is for everyone.”

Robinson’s last day is Sept. 1. Hassler said the center will need someone to fill the position, but Robinson brought something special to the job.

“We’ll miss her at Wick. She’s one of those people you can’t replace. There’s a quality about (Robinson) that’s irreplaceable,” Hassler said.

It has been several years since Ovsenik was at the center, but she said Robinson will be missed.

“Her legacy is going to be that she made poetry on campus vibrant,” Ovsenik said.

Robinson said she plans to stay connected to the Kent community if possible, explaining her deep gratitude for the Wick Poetry Center and Kent State.

“I’m really thankful for my colleagues,” Robinson said. “The Wick Poetry Center means a lot to me and always has and will always continue to play an important part in my life.

Isabel Kiefer is the dining, housing and DKS reporter, contact her at [email protected].