University Stewards add additional voice for students

Hana Barkowitz

Starting this week, students can schedule an informal appointment with a new “University Steward” who can help with any experiences students have with diversity at Kent State, good or bad. 

The stewards are 12 administrators specially trained to listen to students, offer advice, and tell higher-level administrations about concerning situations without identifying anyone.

“The history of the idea really came out of student concerns from last year. Realizing students can experience a lot of different things on campus, we asked the question, ‘who can students go to talk to?’” said Dana Lawless-Andric, the associate vice president of Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Lawless-Andric emphasized how the one of the goals behind University Stewards is to make it informal, which will in-turn make it easier and more comfortable for students to express concerns while still being heard by the administration.

“These are people to go to if [students] haven’t built that relationship or connection and they’re not ready to elevate a formal report, but they want the university to hear them informally and they want advice,” she said.

University Stewards are available to discuss negative and positive situations. 

“We also have these great examples of really affirming and welcoming experiences that happen, like somebody helping someone else through the rain. We want to hear more examples of that. We are creating this layer of great people who’ve served as what we came to call ‘stewards’. This idea of a steward really is someone who stewards something on behalf of the university, or is stewarding this place of care, concern, or value.”

While most students agree that the program would be a valuable addition to Kent State, some say University Stewards should be broadened and diversified.

“It sounds like it’s diversified, but they should implement it on the regional campuses. I also think they should reach out to commuters. Being a formal commuter, I feel like we’re pretty unheard, and commuters make up so much of the student population,” said Brian DiPaolo, a junior history major.

DiPaolo also said he likes the premise of the idea and thinks people will benefit from it, but he is not sure if he would utilize it. “Whenever I have a problem, I usually go directly to the source.”

Jennifer Kulics, the interim associate vice president for the Division of Student Affairs, knows first hand that students can feel troubled by the idea of going to the administration to voice their concerns.

“A student who is scheduled to meet with the Dean of Students or the Student Ombuds may feel apprehensive,” she said. “It’s very innocuous, like ‘Who are these people? Am I in trouble? Will I be received by an administrator?’’

“A steward seems to be a friendly name. These people are a point of referral and support. We have to know our university resources. The worst thing that can happen is that a student comes to us and we go, ‘yeah, we can’t help you, you have to find somebody else.’ That’s the whole point of having long-term engaged individuals in these positions.”

Christina Joyce, sophomore nursing major, likes the idea and can see herself taking advantage of it, depending on the situation.

“I think it could be very good who don’t have a good person to go to to get advice or who don’t have connections. I would use it depending on the situation, if it was something that I needed to discuss anonymously.”

University Stewards will now be explained to parents at every Destination Kent State. Parents like Jeff and Colleen Joyce, like the initiative but expressed concerns of effectiveness.

“It sounds like a good idea, but there has to be some sensitivity that someone doesn’t go so through the informal route that it’s not effective. You want to get to the right people,” said Jeff Joyce. 

Shana Lee, one of the 12 Stewards, says that she was already a resource for students and now she can actually help to make change.

“I don’t think that all of our student issues pertain to Kent State, so there might be situations that they’re involved in that have absolutely nothing to do with Kent but they’re Kent State students, so they have somebody they can go and talk to about those issues for advice,” she said.  

“I’m one of those unofficial individuals that students come and talk to about various aspects of their life, whether that’s issues at Kent State or personal issues. It felt like a natural progression for me to be one of the stewards.”

Students can anonymously sign up for a time to meet with a Steward at 

Hana Barkowitz is a diversity reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]