Lefton’s cabinet reflects diversity

Allison Smith

David Garcia grew up in a predominantly white community. He was never encouraged to go to college.

“I remember the high school counselors trying to direct me and my brothers and sisters to go to vocational school,” said Garcia, the associate vice president for enrollment management. “Not because we wanted to pick up a trade, but because we were good with our hands – or at least the stereotype is that Hispanics are good with their hands, and that’s the direction we needed to go.”

Diversity in Kent State’s administration matches that of three out of five public universities surveyed in Ohio and is more diverse than the other two.

Of the University of Cincinnati, University of Toledo, Bowling Green, Ohio State and Ohio University, all have women administrators, and four have black administrators.

Kent State has three black vice presidents, two of whom are women, and one associate vice president who is Hispanic.

George Garrison, Pan-African studies professor, said the university’s administration has come a long way.

“When President (Lester) Lefton first arrived here, there were no African-Americans in the executive cabinet,” Garrison said. “I was president of the Pan-African Faculty and Staff Association at that time, and that was one of the issues that we raised with him.”

Garrison said Lefton responded to the concerns; however, the changes didn’t happen overnight.

“I think these positions that exist on this cabinet and with the various deans offices and all across this campus, of course, ultimately need to reflect the population of the people who live in this country and the people who live in this area,” Garrison said.

Alfreda Brown, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, said she is impressed with Kent State’s diversity.

“President Lefton’s not just saying diversity is important, he’s living it,” Brown said. “He’s demonstrating it by putting people at those levels who are diverse.”

She said diversity is important to have among Kent State’s administration.

“We have to get to the point where we get a lot more inclusive in our efforts,” she said. “Decisions should not be made by homogeneous groups anymore because it leaves people out.”

Brown said diversity in higher education is important for students to understand what it means to live in a diverse, global society.

Sophomore nursing major Liz Laurel is Filipino-American, and she said having a diverse administration helps address different viewpoints.

“If they were to see things differently in their own culture, it will also help our culture,” Laurel said. “The ideas thrown out there, whether they’re good or bad, you can see different viewpoints and better the way the administration runs the school.”

Garcia said his goal as the associate vice president of enrollment management is to see the minority student population at Kent State grow, especially among the Hispanic population.

“For me, I think the story is I really had to make some critical decisions and turning points in my life,” Garcia said. “Looking back, and looking forward, I’m glad I made that decision. And, quite frankly, I love what I do because I impact students’ lives.”

Contact administration reporter Allison Smith at [email protected].