The face of Kent State: A look back at Beverly Warren’s first year as president of Kent State University

Beverly Warren began as Kent State president July 1, 2014. She was officially inaugurated May 1, 2015.

Austin Bennett

Beverly Warren began her term as Kent State’s 12th president one year ago with goals of understanding the heart of Kent State and uniting the university’s eight campuses.

Warren’s freshman year has seen excitement, anxiety, changes and obstacles, including a national listening tour, rebranding the university, cabinet changes, the death of a student, a health scare and debate of a credit-hour cap.

Through everything she has faced, Warren said she has been able to succeed with a student-first mentality.

“It’s why I’m here; it’s why I do what I do,” Warren said. “My best days are the days I’m in the presence of students.”

Listening Tour

At the beginning of the year, Warren launched a six-month Presidential Listening Tour, which allowed her to hear the voices of many across the university, state and nation. Its goal was to answer the question, “What is the heart of Kent State?”

“It was really gratifying,” she said. “I heard so many great stories. I think I got a really good sense of Kent State across all eight campuses.”

One of the common threads Warren discovered at the beginning of the Listening Tour was a disconnect between Kent State’s eight campuses.

The 1 University Commission was formed in September in an effort to find solutions to connect each campus.

“I’ve been at the Stark campus for about 20 years, and there’s always been a little bit of tension between what happens at the Kent campus and the regional campuses,” said Lee Fox-Cardamone, associate psychology professor at the Stark campus and chair of the Faculty Senate during Warren’s first year. “What happens with that will be the next important step.”

Warren’s goal is for Kent State to become a university system with eight different campuses that share a single vision with separate campus missions.

“Her approach of extensively reviewing the entire scope of Kent State from its various Kent campus schools to its multifaceted regional sites has demonstrated an ideal approach to her new position—that of acquiring a deep understanding based on its institutional foundations,” said Owen Lovejoy, an anthropology professor who was on Warren’s search committee.


In an effort to change Kent State’s image, the university hired the branding agency 160over90 in March.

The university will launch a Bridge Campaign on Sept. 1, a short-term marketing campaign that will transition to a bigger, more national brand change campaign in January.

Warren hopes the visioning initiative will allow Kent State’s brand to be recognized on a national level.

“I tend to think that’s going to be the greatest accomplishment as we move forward,” Warren said.


Warren faced an Ebola scare and responded to angry tweets, but the challenge she mentions first nearly a year later is the death of Jason Bitsko.

Her first year started with the tragedy of Kent State football player Jason Bitsko. Teammates found Bitsko early on the morning of Aug. 20 in his off-campus apartment. The Portage County Coroner’s Office ruled his death was the result of an enlarged heart.

“I was very impressed with the way that she helped us through that and helped our students through that,” said Joel Nielsen, Kent State’s director of athletics. “That was a very difficult situation to manage, both internally and externally, and fortunately, most things have come back to normal, and she was able again to lead an organization through a very difficult and stressful time.”

Later that semester, the Ebola issue came to Kent State when nurse Amber Vinson visited northeast Ohio. Before she was diagnosed with the disease, she came in direct contact with three relatives who worked at Kent State including Debra Berry, her mother and one of Warren’s assistants.

“How do you keep a community calm through a crisis? I think it’s through transparency, communication, making sure others know what you know, make sure you get the experts in to give the facts because facts are a calming force on the anxieties,” Warren said. 

Administrative changes

Warren’s cabinet has seen major changes at the close of her first year.

Warren is planning to create a new vice presidential position for regional campus administration.

“If we’re going to become a true one university, everyone needs to feel like they’re represented and they have a voice,” Warren said. 

At the end of Warren’s first year, two cabinet members are retiring: Gregg Floyd, senior vice president for finance and administration, and Greg Jarvie, vice president of enrollment management and student affairs. 

Jarvie’s position will be divided into two positions on Aug. 1. T. David Garcia will become the senior associate vice president for strategic enrollment management in the Office of Enrollment Management. Shay Little will become the interim vice president of the Division of Student Affairs. 

Floyd agreed to remain in his position until his replacement is selected.

Early in the summer, Jeff McLain and Paul DiCorleto joined Warren’s cabinet. McLain is the new vice president for institutional advancement and DiCorleto is the new vice president for research and sponsored programs.

One of the biggest changes Warren’s cabinet made was a revision to the credit hour cap.

Former President Lester Lefton and the Board of Trustees implemented a controversial credit hour cap in 2012. The $440 overload fee for credits exceeding 16 helped fund the debt created by the Foundation of Excellence Initiative, which was part of the construction process for the Wick Poetry Center and the Lester A. Lefton Esplanade, among other things.

In June, Kent State’s Board of Trustees voted to increase the threshold for the cap from 16 to 18 credit hours. 

“I’m here to celebrate with you, that I think it’s the right thing to do for Kent State,” Warren said following the June Board of Trustees meeting. “We reflected on students’ comments about how much the overload fee was a detriment to your progress, and so I’m celebrating with you.” 

Marvin Logan, former executive director of Undergraduate Student Government said changes like these, implemented by Warren, are why Kent State is on the rise. 

“I think President Dr. Beverly Warren has given Kent State a lot to be excited about,” Logan said. “The future looks bright for Kent State, and as long as everyone continues to work together and continues to be committed to moving in a positive direction, Kent State will no longer be the best kept secret of northeast Ohio.” 

Contact Austin Bennett at [email protected]