University thanks employees with Flashes freebies


 Kent State staff ombudsman Karen Watson gives a ticket and door prizes to College of Nursing employee at the men’s basketball against Buffalo, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, on Employee Appreciation Day. The human resources department gave away around 400 hundred tickets to Kent State faculty as a token of appreciation.

Marissa Barnhart

Professor Linda Walker is a sports fanatic who tries her best to never miss a game.

During Saturday’s men’s basketball game, she had a second team to support–her coworkers.

Walker, who has taught for the School of Music since 1990, said Kent State supports its team of employees–one way being employee appreciation day.

“Kent State supports people, and let’s them know they are important. Employee appreciation day does just that,” Walker said. “It walks the walk and talks the talk.”

The Athletic Department gave 400 free tickets to Kent State employees and their families Saturday to not only boost school spirit but to also get its employees more involved in campus life. Saurday’s game was one of seven employee appreciation events the Kent State Athletic Department and the Division of Human Resources has organized this year.

Joe Vitale, vice president of human resources, said there have been various events to recognize employees, but this particular strategy with athletics started in January for the basketball season.

“It allows employees to come with friends and family,” Vitale said. “People work here eight to nine hours a day. We want to make this an enjoyable and fun event for faculty engagement.”

Vitale, who brought his daughter and five of her soccer teammates, said these events are important because it gives employees the chance to come to campus to have fun.

 “For some, it’s the first time people have come to campus other than work,” Vitale said. “As opportunities present themselves, it’s nice to show family where their spouses work, especially for children—to them, it’s exciting; they’ll remember it.”

Chris Muhlberg, account executive for Kent State International Management Group ,or IMG, sports marketing, said Saturday’s game had the most successful turnout.

“There were approximately 80 employees who requested tickets and a total ticket number of 400 employees, their families and their friends out today,” Muhlberg said. “Not only is that good for the employees and the morale of campus and coming out together and appreciating the university they work for and vice versa, but also, it’s great to support the team. We’re all in this together.”


Human resources vice president Joe Vitale enjoys a close game of men’s basketball against Buffalo, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, on Employee Appreciation Day. The human resources department gave away around 400 hundred tickets to Kent State faculty as a token of appreciation. Photo by Jenna Watson.

Muhlberg also said the program was developed after human resources entered an agreement with IMG, which is in charge of the multimedia and sponsorship rights for the athletic program, in November with importance placed on supporting employees.

“A lot of the main points of emphasis were employee engagement, employee appreciation…not only supporting athletics programs by coming out and cheering them on but supporting the employees of the school and giving them an option of doing something fun with their family and their friends that is not going to cost them anything, that they’ll feel valued and appreciated for being on campus,” Muhlberg said.

Dennis Watson, group sales and marketing manager at the ticket office, said giveaways were also included to extend employee appreciation.

“They wanted to give something more to them other than tickets, and I think free pizza today, plus they have lunch pails, water bottles, key chains, raffles—there’s a little bit of everything,” Watson said.

Watson also said some of the free items came from the athletic department, which wants to increase faculty and staff involvement.

“We’re not just in an athletics bubble; we understand the entire picture of the university,” Watson said.

Vitale said there will be more events to show appreciation to employees aside from sports. He said they are coordinating events with theater productions, such as the upcoming “Legally Blonde,” and fashion shows.

Geraldine Hayes-Nelson, executive director of human resources, said employees will receive free admission and up to six tickets for family and friends to attend the games.

The next employee appreciation event for the Division of Human Resources will be March 2 when women’s basketball plays the University of Akron at the MAC Center at 2 p.m.

Contact Marissa Barnhart at [email protected].