Warren embraces Kent State community

Kent State faculty and students give a round of applause for university president-elect Beverly Warren at a meet-and-greet held in the Schwebel Room at the Student Center on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. Warrens presidency will take effect in July, replacing outgoing President Lester Lefton.

Kent State faculty and students give a round of applause for university president-elect Beverly Warren at a meet-and-greet held in the Schwebel Room at the Student Center on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. Warren’s presidency will take effect in July, replacing outgoing President Lester Lefton.

Madeleine Winer

Warm, engaging, open and welcoming — all words the university community used to describe Beverly Warren, Kent State’s next president set to take over in July, following her announcement at a special session of the Board of Trustees on Wednesday.

“She took a selfie with me. She just jumped right in,” said William Jackson, information services network engineer on Kent State’s wireless team. “She was really relatable and down to earth.”

Warren greeted faculty, staff, students and community members at a meet and greet Wednesday afternoon in the Schwebel Room on the third floor of the Student Center. Her interest in meeting each member of the community showed as she mingled with students, alumni and university officials alike.

“Thank you so much for this great welcome. It does make me want to start tomorrow. I look forward to coming back often to campus to keep the momentum going,” said Warren, who vowed to meet with students every time she comes back to the university during the six-month presidential transition.

“What I need to accomplish over the next six months is how to get out into your area and hear these wonderful stories that you have developed. We need to tell the rest of the world that Kent State is a place that has a heart and soul that really captures you when you step foot on this campus. I know I felt that.”

Alfreda Brown, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, said Warren brings an energy and strong background in diversity issues that can help carry out and offer insight on the university’s ongoing strategic plan for diversity.

She said another woman’s perspective will be a strength in cabinet meetings.

“I said Dr. Warren makes four,” Brown said about adding another woman to Kent State’s administrative team. “I’m really thrilled about that. I think she’s going to be a wonderful addition to the leadership team. Having that perspective will be a little different because she is a woman.  She brings a lot of strengths across a variety of levels.”

Warren met with members of the technology team about Blackboard and talked to members of the sustainability department about her initiatives at Virginia Commonwealth University.

David Garcia, associate vice president of enrollment management, said Warren will help with his division’s plan to increase retention and graduation rates by recruiting and shaping a successful freshman class.

Amish Patel, president of undergraduate student government, said Warren was one of his top picks for president when reviewing candidates with the presidential search committee.

“I see the excitement in the air,” Patel said. “Everyone seems to have a smile on their faces. Student engagement is one of her top priorities, and I think she’s very open about talking and meeting with students.”

Alumni Larry and Peggy Schaffer, members of classes 1967 and 1965 respectively, came to the meet-and-greet before heading to the basketball game where Warren made an appearance.

As donors, the couple said they were impressed by her outgoing personality and intelligence.

“I think we have a winner. Good things come in small packages,” said Larry Schaffer, referring to Warren’s short stature. “She’s going to be different, and I think take things in a new direction. I think Lester did a good job, but I think she is strong in the areas he’s not.”

Not all members of the community were happy with the process. Paul Farrell, chair of Faculty Senate and member of the search committee, wished it included wider faculty involvement beyond the five representatives on the search committee.

“I would have wanted to see the finalist meet with the faculty,” Farrell said. “It didn’t happen because the Board of Trustees didn’t want it to happen. Otherwise, they would have made it happen. We can only express our opinion and tell them what we believe are consequences.”

The search committee this time presented only one presidential candidate to the board  for consideration. University policy states that three finalists be presented to the board for consideration.

Warren said despite the search process being kept a secret from students and faculty, she hopes the university community can move forward. She vowed to “be as open as she can be” as president.

“It was defined. It has occurred. I’m hopeful that from here onward, we’re as open as we can be. I’m looking forward now to meeting students. I do want to come back again because I knew that was a great disadvantage, I know there is a lot of momentum with the announcement this week. I’ll be back and have more sessions with students.

“I think that with the process, I’m hopeful that we don’t linger on this but focus on what we can do together moving forward,” she said. “I’m focused on what we can do collaboratively, and I want to listen and learn.”

Farrell said the search committee began considering Warren in November. While she met the search committee in Cleveland, Warren never came for an on-campus interview. Farrell did not know whether Wednesday was Warren’s first time on campus.

He said while faculty may have a negative reaction to the decision because they were not more involved in the search process, they need to consider what skills Warren brings to the university.

“I think it’s important to divorce dissatisfaction from process with feelings toward the finalist selection and encouraging the new president to know what due processes are,” Farrell said.

Gene Finn, vice president of institutional advancement, and Joel Nielsen, director of athletics, declined to comment on the president-elect. Both are members of the LeftonGroup, Lester Lefton’s higher-education consulting firm that he plans to start after retirement.

Contact Madeleine Winer at [email protected].