Warren presents State of the University address amidst protests


Kent State president Beverly Warren gives her State of the University address in the Kiva on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015.

Ian Flickinger

Kent State President Beverly Warren had to deal with more than just nerves before delivering her first State of the University address Thursday. Outside the Kiva, Black United Students showed solidarity with Missouri students and faculty members picketed the speech in protest of ongoing contract negotiations.

However, inside the Kiva, Warren highlighted the school’s success and revealed her plans for the future.

The speech’s main talking points shared a namesake with the speech, titled, “Celebrating Today…Imagining Tomorrow.”

State of the University from KentWired.com on Vimeo.

Provost Todd Diacon began the event by introducing senior football standout Jordan Italiano, who was named “College Football’s Smartest Player” by NFL.com.

Italiano welcomed the crowd and talked about his love for the university before introducing Warren.

Warren, whose voice was noticeably raspy after a bout of laryngitis, began the address by thanking those in attendance, as well as the university’s students, faculty and staff.

“These are trying times in higher education,” Warren said. “Students are feeling the stress of the rising cost of a college degree and the challenge to have their voices heard…Faculty members are facing increasing challenges to excel in the distinctive blend of teaching, research and service and often feel that in the noise, their value is overlooked or under-appreciated.”

She said she understands those challenges and perceptions, and said the journey to becoming a more prominent university comes directly from both students and faculty.

“I want everyone in this community to know that you do matter,” she said.

Warren spent the first half of the address celebrating the many accolades of the university and its members.

She highlighted faculty, programs and students who made major accomplishments, including physics professor Declan Keane and chemical physics professor Jonathan Selinger for being named fellows of the American Physical Society; associate economics professor C. Lockwood Reynolds for being named one of the world’s top 100 economists; the university’s Institute for Applied Linguistics for its Spanish film festival; senior fashion and computer science double major Robin Bonatesta for being named a University Innovation Fellow by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation; and the Kent Clarks student a cappella group for performing for President Barack Obama and on the “Today Show.”

She also highlighted some of the university’s successes, including student-enrollment and retention records, the academic quality of this year’s freshmen class, the student-athletes record-high 3.189 cumulative GPA and the 45th anniversary of May 4.  

“Literally thousands of you expressed your views during the Listening Tour, One University Commision, Be Bold campaign and the Strategic Visioning initiative,” Warren said. “As a result, our community will begin 2016 with a clear vision—a shared vision—of who we are, where we are headed and most importantly, why.”

Warren said the community population strives to make the world a better place above all else and stressed that type of work cannot happen anywhere but on campus.

“Preparing students for great careers is a fitting goal,” she said. “But I stand with those who believe that the value of higher education extends far beyond job preparation. It is believing based on seeing. Every day, we see the profoundly positive domino effect that work sets in motion.”

She also discussed the changing views of higher education, addressing concerns that college is becoming too expensive or that leadership can be out of touch with the current world. She referenced the university’s new vision, stating her goal for expanding its relevance worldwide in an effort to show the world what Kent has to offer.

That message proved to be the event’s turning point; from there, Warren looked toward the future, divulging her planned changes for Kent State.

“You have heard me promise to dance on Risman Plaza when we reach the goals of an 85 percent first-year retention rate and 65 percent, six-year retention rate,” she said. “But I want you to know that I am ready, willing and eager to consider and work with you towards even bigger dreams—dreams that are as bold as they come.”

Warren gave a glimpse of her future goals, asking the audience to “imagine” a multitude of different scenarios, including getting more recognition for the school’s fashion, visual communication design, journalism, aviation and interior design programs.

Warren also wants Kent State to become one of America’s healthiest universities. 

“In short: Imagine that the world knows what we know: that Kent State is among the best American research universities that focus on the distinctive blending of teaching, research and creative excellence,” she said.

She did not offer any concrete plans for implementing any of her goals, instead focusing more on presenting all the ways the university could improve.

Warren concluded the speech by saying the university is already exceptional in many ways, but hopes that by next year’s address the community has continued to develop and improve upon its stellar qualities.

“I hope that 12 months from now, you are joining me to celebrate the many new ways we have built on our momentum and strengthened our sense of community,” Warren said. “Knowing that Kent State is closer to becoming the distinctive and purposeful university that I believe with all my heart we are destined to be.”

Read the full text of Warren’s address here

Ian Flickinger is the administration reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].