Kent State implements a new program to increase student success rates

Lydia Taylor

Kent State administrators began a new program this semester to raise the success levels of minority groups on campus.

Dynamic Education and Engagement of Diverse Students provides peer counseling, group activities, personal financial education and career development for minorities.

Dana Lawless-Andric, associate vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and N.J. Akbar, assistant dean for Academic Diversity Success at the University College, proposed the idea of DEEDS in 2015.

“I think DEEDS works well and will do well because it’s a part of the bones that the two of us are,” Akbar said. “It’s taking a piece of who we are and infusing it into the campus.”

Lawless-Andric and Akbar said their main reason for creating DEEDS is because they feel it is the university’s responsibility to give every student access to the resources he or she needs to succeed, both in college and in their professional careers. 

The gap between the overall graduation rate and the minority graduation rate, as well as the minority retention rate, are other factors that led to the creation of DEEDS.

Lawless-Andric said the more programs the university provides for diverse students, the more the retention rate will increase and the gap will start to narrow.

In 2014, the Office of the Provost listed completion goals on its website for the next two years. One of the goals is to lower the graduation gap from 9.6 percent to 8.6 percent.

“When you have someone working with students and working with faculty, you see a growth in graduate admissions for diverse students — a growth in retention,” Akbar said.

Lawless-Andric and Akbar plan to combine the existing resources available in diverse student organizations and programs on campus, such as the Pan-African Studies program and Black United Students, to make sure all students feel they belong and can succeed while they attend Kent State.

“When you create a fabric, an institutional commitment that is unified and really embraces inclusion at its core from an equity perspective, all of us benefit,” Lawless-Andric said. “The university raises and uplifts.”

DEEDS began this semester with the expansion of Kupita/Transiciones, a four-day cultural orientation that helps diverse students acclimate to campus and the social atmosphere. The program helps students learn about cultural resources on campus and build strong relationships with their mentors, students and staff.

“We increased it by 200 students to get to five–to 600–entering freshmen that are a part of that program because what we know is freshmen who experience the Kupita/Transiciones program have a higher retention rate and higher six-year graduation rate than those who don’t,” said Todd Diacon, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs.

Diacon said another main aspect of DEEDS is to advance career opportunities, so by the time students graduate from the university, they feel as though they are ready for any challenge in their careers.

“We want all 8,000 Kent campus freshmen and sophomores to have had some sort of career development and exploration experience,” Diacon said.

This may include shadowing someone at a business for one day or visiting different industries. 

Devon Parker, a Kupita/Transiciones mentor and junior public relations major, said the implementation of DEEDS helps students feel more comfortable on campus. He said he wished the various resources DEEDS provides had been more available to him when he started at Kent State.

“My freshman year, there were different things that I just didn’t know about or I just didn’t have access to because I didn’t see it on campus, such as advertisements of events, advertisements of financial aid that I could get, or help (I could receive) for my freshman year or (to) further my education,” Parker said.

Parker described his experience as a culture-shock when he transitioned from a diversified high school, Winton Woods High School in Cincinnati, into a college with low percentages of minority students.

In 2015, there were 28,981 undergraduate/graduate students that attended classes on main campus, and 14.6 percent were minority undergraduate students, according to Kent State’s student body profile.

Chynna Baldwin, president of Black United Students and a junior psychology major, said the implementation of DEEDS into Kupita/Transiciones and the utilization of the diverse student groups already available is a step in the right direction by the administration.

“The people elected for those positions have an ear on campus and have great understanding of what students want and need in order for them to stay until graduation,” Baldwin said. “I think whatever program is developed should be centered around taking what’s already in place and just giving university support in any way the organizations see best fit.”

Although Parker agrees the implementation of DEEDS is a great start to help minority students succeed at Kent State, he said he would like to see more administration attend cultural events on campus and see the issues students are going through.

“Yes, things are getting better now than they were before, when I was a freshman, but there are still things that we need to tackle today and in the future,” Parker said. “They need to make sure students have a successful retention rate and have that successful mindset in classes and out of classes.”

Lawless-Andric and Akbar are eager to continue DEEDS and connect more diverse student organizations together to help make students feel supported.  

“We accepted students because they are successful,” Akbar said. “They’re successful and they have the potential to be successful here at Kent State University.”

Lydia Taylor is an administration reporter, contact her at [email protected]