VIDEO: Warren brings enthusiasm for university life to KSU

Jimmy Miller

As she walks into one of her final university council  meeting at Virginia Commonwealth University, Beverly Warren stops in the student commons to ask two girls about the henna tattoos they are selling.

“Oh, we’ve got to get a picture of this!” Warren said, remarking at how “cool” the tattoos are. She shakes their hands, says farewell and heads off to the meeting.

This enthusiasm for university life and students comes highly touted by faculty and staff at VCU as they prepare to say goodbye to Warren, their current provost. Warren will take over for Kent State President Lester Lefton as the 12th president of Kent State on July 1.

The new president from on Vimeo. Video by Brian Smith.

The woman who enjoys working in the yard, loves the movie “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and gets upset when she can’t remember a name is credited with transforming VCU for the better, and Kent State hired her in hopes she can continue to do the same here.

“Fasten your seatbelts,” said Frank Macrina, vice president of research at VCU. “This is a very high-energy person. With Bev, it’s all about the greater good.”

The Daily Kent Stater traveled to VCU to talk to different faculty members and students and observe Warren’s interaction with her staff at a university council meeting. In addition to getting a glimpse of Warren’s personality, Warren also showed us her favorite spots around VCU’s campus.

“Kent State found out about her,” President Michael Rao said of Warren at the council meeting. “[She] really set a high bar, one people will be looking to jump over.”

Student and faculty engagement, growth of living-learning communities, research and campus construction are just some areas Rao said Warren has impacted VCU.

Bev in Brief

Beverly Warren has expressed her views on campus safety, student health and wellness and the direction she wants to take Kent State the next three years. But what is her favorite hobby? Does she likes cats or dogs? What would she bring to a stranded island? A quick Q&A with the president-elect shows a more personal side of the woman who will lead the university effective July 1.

Q: Dogs or cats?
A: I’m definitely a dog person. As a kid, we moved from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Charlottesville, North Carolina, and I was distraught. So the one thing I was promised was a puppy. I love cats, I don’t have anything against cats. I actually love animals.

Q: Favorite drink: Wine, beer, liquor?
A: (Laughs) I am a Diet Coke person.

Q: Favorite season?
A: Well, I’m less enamored by winter.

Q: Favorite place you have traveled?
A: There are a couple. I like going to the Outer Banks, so that’s been a great constant for me.

Q: Best childhood memory?
A: I had a great childhood. I think I remember the family vacations and we always went to a place called Myrtle Beach, and we would go camping. This family outing would be living in tents for a week.

Q: Favorite color?
A: Blue, so I’m lucky, huh?

Q: Do you have a most embarrassing memory?
A: When I can’t remember names, and I see the person again, it just totally upsets me that I can’t latch onto the name.

Q: Favorite hobby?
A: I enjoy working in the yard, I enjoy landscaping. I just enjoy seeing a manicured lawn. That’s a stress release. Well, I love running, but have I done it in the last four or five years? No. (Laughs) I need to find time again to do it. I ran the Boston Marathon twice, broke three hours, so I was a pretty dedicated runner in my younger years.

Q: Favorite movie?
A: I don’t go to the movies regularly, but my favorite one was “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Q: Do you have a celebrity crush?
A: Oh, gosh, no. I mean Harrison Ford, I thought not only was a great actor, but he had a certain strength about him. I don’t know any cool current movies.

Q: What are your thoughts on your fake Twitter account?
A: I feel like you can’t control what other people do, you can only control how you manage. Hopefully everybody knows that’s a fake account. I do want to start a Twitter account, and use it as a great platform to lift Kent State. The truth comes out if you’re patient.

Q: Do you have a favorite cereal?
A: I eat cereal every morning, it’s the Harvest Bran Flakes.

Q: Favorite cereal box character?
A: (Laughs) My cereal comes in a bag. Tony the Tiger, let’s go with him.

Q: Comfort food?
A: Chocolate!

Q: Do you have a favorite type of candy bar?
A: I like all candy bars. I’m a variety kind of person.

Q: What is the song that gets stuck in your head, if any?
A: It’s the one — you let her go? By Passenger. It’s the Passenger one. Ever since that Super Bowl commercial (with the puppies), it’s been stuck in my head.


Warren’s reach has included connecting with students in order to form decisions about what is best for the university.

Brendan Hood and Omnia Elgoodah, undergraduate representatives on VCU’s university council, said they felt Warren’s caring presence from the time they met her.

“From the first day that I came to VSU last fall, she just came and introduced herself to me instead of me introducing myself to her, so she is very nice,” Elgoodah said.

Hood said that although his first meeting was nerve-wracking, Warren came up and wished him luck and told him she was happy he was representing the student body.

“She’s definitely one of those people that’s out and about, and really interacts with students, and that’s something that I really admire about her,” Hood said.

When VCU restructured their tuition rates, Warren created forums for students in order to get feedback about their thoughts on the issue.

“With every controversial decision, she went out of her way to talk to students,” said Jim Coleman, the dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences. “It’s hard for a provost to interact with 31,000 students.”

When Warren visited Kent State’s campus earlier this year, she was confronted with questions about her visibility on campus.

“I think the students are really hungry to feel this connection between administration and the students, and that matches my style and ideas for a university,” she said. “A president has many, many obligations, but I think connection with students is important and that seemed important to the students. Advising and making sure that there is quality advising across the all levels seemed to be of great interest to the students.”

As Warren’s days become limited at VCU, Hood said the university was initially sad to see her go but excited for her presidential opportunity.

“Even students she hasn’t met she has impacted, and you know that’s just something really special about her,” Hood said.

Elgoodah said the university would be a different place without Warren.

“We would not be who we are today if it wasn’t for her,” Elgoodah said.


As Warren walks from building to building, she embraces her fellow colleagues, and nearly all of them say the same thing: Warren will be missed.

“I’ll miss the people. This is a place where you feel like it’s home,” said Warren. “There’s a great, great spirit of collaboration and cooperation, there’s less hierarchy here, but more of how do we do this work together.”

Faculty agreed Warren has made meetings more interesting in her tenure as Provost.

“The university has been engaged intensely for the past years I’d say on building a stronger shared governance culture here at the university,” VCU faculty senate president June Nicholson said.

Macrina said Warren was the primary reason why various parts of the university now report brief updates about what their area is doing. Nicholson agreed.

“She has come to virtually every faculty senate meeting,” Nicholson said.

“She is not only present, but she provides a major update of administrative initiatives and where things stand, and involves us with those issues and is available for questions.”

Coleman said Warren is tough when she needs to be tough but always acts in a polished and polite manner.

“She’s extraordinarily professional,” Coleman said. “[The faculty] feel very good about how she relays decisions.”

Coleman — who mentioned that Warren is known for her 2:30 a.m. emails — said the provost is difficult to keep up with, but will be a “thrill” for Kent State.

“It’s just the way she does business,” Coleman said. “There will be people…who might want [the university] going in a different direction, but as far as the personal characteristics and the leadership characteristics, she’s great. I knew as dean here somebody was going to snatch her, she’s just too good.”

Coleman said Warren’s caring character showed when he interviewed for the dean position at VCU, and he and his wife were invited to meet with Warren.

When Coleman’s wife missed her flight, Warren waited for her at the airport until she arrived later than night.

“Bev stayed and waited and hit it off [with my wife] from the beginning,” Coleman said. “She’s one of my close friends.”

Nicholson said Warren hired a strong team at VCU, and she will do the same at Kent State.

Above all, Warren’s ability to connect with the faculty members has been what makes VCU faculty sad to see her go.

“She’s been able to inspire me with her optimism,” Coleman said. “I’m really scared that she’s leaving.”


Like Kent State President Lester Lefton, Warren is no stranger to fundraising for and taking care of new buildings and improvements.

According to VCU’s 2012-2013 presidential report, the university made progress in building or improving upon at least seven areas of VCU’s campus in just a one-year span.

Those areas include construction for the new VCU Basketball Complex beginning this spring and the university starting to raise funds for its Institute of Contemporary Art.

The report also states that under Warren, the university made residence hall improvements and building improvements that included more flexible and roomier learning spaces in its Academic Learning Commons. VCU also redesigned its student library with better furnishings to create more space for students.

In talks with Lefton, Warren said she looks forward to inheriting projects to transform the look of campus.

“The next president is going to benefit from all of that, in terms of a new architecture building, or for the College of Architecture and Environmental Studies, the science building is coming on board, other kinds of construction projects, so we’ve talked more about that and what opportunities are there because there is such a positive environment.”

Warren did not say for sure exactly what she will do to continue Lefton’s work as a builder on campus, but she said she plans to continue to make Kent a “destination university,” in a sit-down interview earlier this semester.

“I’ve heard so much about how downtown has really evolved,” Warren said. “I’ve talked to the city manager Dave Ruller, and he’s very excited about what we can do together.”


During Warren’s tenure, she was directly involved with the creation of two living-learning communities – Globe and ASPiRE.

“I think that Dr. Warren has been a huge supporter of our program,” said Jill Blondin, director of VCU’s Globe learning community.

Much like the International Village Experience at Kent State, VCU’s living-learning community, Globe, gives students the opportunity to interact with international students to not only exchange culture but also language, customs and friendship.

Blondin said workshops as well as opportunities to speak with international scholars are frequently held in the Globe living learning community.

Earlier this semester, students even met and discussed the Ukrainian crisis with young Russian politicians when the crisis began to get international attention.

“That type of model of applied learning…is something we’ve done really well at VCU,” Blondin said.

The ASPiRE community — Academic Scholars Program in Real Environments — is a two-year residency program where students both live and learn in the building to earn their community engagement certificate. Students also participate in 100 hours of community service.

“We’re going to the city tonight to do a house rebuild, and tomorrow we’re making 1,800 cookies for prisoners for Easter,” said Mary Slade, executive director of the ASPiRE living learning community.

“Enjoy your president, we have thoroughly enjoyed our provost,” Slade said. “She’s going to be great for you.”

Contact Jimmy Miller at [email protected]