Inaugural ambassadorship program tries to make impact

Daniel Moore

Last August, Andre “Thunder” Thornton was named President Lester Lefton’s first ambassador for the 2010-2011 academic year. Halfway through his term, he says he feels he has made an impact.

“My goal was certainly to promote Kent State, to offer my support to the diversity program and talk about ways in which we can increase, develop and grow to engage the student in a meaningful way,” Thornton said.

Thornton said he has made both an internal and external impact on the university.

His internal impact, he says, is that “I use some of the experiences as a businessman and entrepreneur to engage kids and faculty on very meaningful life experience.”

To promote Kent State outside of the students and faculty, he said, “I really try to grow awareness on the benefits of Kent State and the opportunities it affords our young people.”

Thornton has spoken at five Kent State events over the past semester, most recently at fall commencement last month, Fashaad Crawford, the assistant vice president for strategic planning, assessment and research management, said in an e-mail.

Crawford said the newly created ambassador position is part of the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) administration. Its purpose is to showcase local, distinguished minorities and to share their professional knowledge and experience with Kent State students and faculty.

In addition to working part-time as ambassador, Thornton has continued as president and CEO of ASW Global

in Mogadore, which is one of the largest minority-owned businesses in Ohio. Crawford cites this experience as one of the unique qualities that Thornton is able to bring.

“He has over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurial ventures,” Crawford said. “He also has exceptional leadership skills and a passionate commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

Not all students have heard of Thornton, however, but some say they welcome the idea of an ambassador for diversity.

Jackson McGreevy, a junior aeronautics major, said the ambassador’s job seems like a necessary one.

“Kent is very diverse,” he said. “We obviously have a lot of international students here.” This spring, Thornton has tentative plans to meet with KSU student athletes, give a keynote speech at the Minority Leadership Conference and continue to speak at any alumni and diversity events on campus.

But Thornton said the job isn’t about simply scheduling events.

“I’ve enjoyed the job, but I don’t consider it a job,” Thornton said. “It’s an opportunity to engage each other in a meaningful way. How can majority and minority students be better prepared?”

He said this question—and, thus, his ambassadorship—is important because as a university, you are continually growing.

The application process for Thornton’s successor begins this spring and, by the end of the semester, an ad hoc committee will choose a candidate nominated by letters of recommendation.

Thornton would not be eligible for a second term for at least five years.

Contact Daniel Moore at [email protected]