Provost search: Moerland talks plans, challenges at forum



Carrie Blazina

Rain, sleet and snow-covered grounds may be to blame for the lack of substantial attendance at Friday’s open forum for undergraduate students with provost finalist Timothy Moerland.

Only four people attended Moerland’s forum on the library’s newly remodeled “Fab Fourth” floor, and half of those attendees were from the media.

Despite the low turnout, Moerland answered questions for the small crowd about student engagement, statewide budget cuts to education, diversity and the value of a liberal arts education.

Moerland is the current dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He is the only provost candidate who works at the university, though fellow finalist David Francko is a Kent State alumnus.

Moerland said his experience with the Kent State community will help him as provost.

“I’ve been at Kent State for four years, and in that time I’ve developed an appreciation for the quality of … the entire personnel base of the institution,” Moerland said. “I see our potential and it’s just tremendous. And I would love to be a part of taking us to the next level.”

Moerland said financial cuts across the state will be just one of the factors to change education in the coming years.

“The financial picture is just one aspect of a large array of things that are making higher education undergo a rate of change that is very, very profound,” Moerland said.

Despite what he called a general decrease in support for public universities, Moerland said Kent State is in above-average financial shape.

“[We’re] a valuable institution and an exceptionally sound institution and it is a very good value for students,” he said. “I’m not saying we are inexpensive … but the value students get at Kent State is very, very good.”

Moerland said that as provost he would encourage student engagement in the university’s community through formal opportunities, like study abroad programs and internships, but also through informal events like speeches and concerts.

“I would encourage students to drink deeply from all the opportunities that are here,” he said.

Moerland said he thought the recent changes to streamline Kent Core courses were necessary because the old plan was “confusing, complex and contradictory” to students.

He said employers are looking for students with critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which can only be taught through a liberal arts education and not one three-hour course.

“[Liberal arts education] is not a dusty academic tradition. It provides a vital tool, a vital skill for today’s students in today’s world,” Moerland said.

Moerland is also a fan of Kent State’s plan to acquire the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine.

“My overall impression is that this could be very good for the students and for Kent State. [Podiatric Medicine] has very interesting connections to some of our strengths on campus, notably in biology and in biomedical sciences and public health.”

Moerland suggested that diversity is a very important part of Kent State’s value system, and as provost he would emphasize making it a constant part of the university’s decisions.

“Diversity is so very important and it’s not something you do every third Friday in the afternoon. It has to be a day-to-day thing.”

Moerland’s final thoughts included his assessment of the university’s student body.

“Our student body, I think, is a superb one,” he said. “Many students come from the area, and there’s a Northeast Ohio work ethic many people bring with them to school. They are willing to do the hard work that is necessary to succeed in college.”

The next open forum for undergraduate students is Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the “Fab Fourth” of the library. The visiting candidate is Bernard Mair, associate provost for undergraduate affairs and professor of mathematics at the University of Florida.

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected]