Lefton unveils top programs

Nicole Stempak

Trustees also endorse May 4 Visitors Center

Nearly a year and a half of discussion was reduced to a list of five, possibly six, bullet points at yesterday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

President Lester Lefton and Provost Robert Frank presented the board with what they and the faculty agree are Kent State’s Centers of Excellence, programs that distinguish Kent State from other universities in Ohio. They are:

• Liquid crystals/ bioscience/ nanotechnology

• Information and knowledge management

• Public health and nursing

• Fashion

• Science education

The possible sixth center is sustainability and urban design – an area Lefton said is a strong, but not fully developed program.

In March 2008, Eric Fingerhut, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, introduced the Strategic Plan for Higher Education for the University System of Ohio, the state’s public universities. Fingerhut charged the universities with identifying a series of distinguished programs.

“The key to those centers of excellence is that we all wouldn’t duplicate each other,” Lefton said. “For example, we do liquid crystals at Kent State and are internationally known for it. Clearly, Cleveland State, Youngstown and Akron wouldn’t be doing liquid crystals.

“The idea would be that we should focus our mission, focus our vision as much as possible, recognizing that we’re all going to teach psychology, we’re all going to teach history, we’re all going to teach English,” he said. “That there should be some distinctive competencies and true centers of excellence.”

The trustees also heard a presentation on the development of a May 4 Visitors Center from Cybelle Jones, creative director of Gallagher and Associates, a Bethesda, Maryland-based design services firm.

Jones and her associates are working on the message and look of the center, which is the only effort the university has funded thus far.

Chairman Patrick Mullin said he hopes to raise money and create a budget for the center so they can begin working beyond the design stage.

Trustees endorsed the development of the visitors center and a multimedia self-guided tour of the site. They also endorsed plans to register the site on the National Register of Historic Places.

Other items approved at the meeting were the following:

• Extension of the University Esplanade to Haymaker Parkway. The extension is possible because of the board’s approval to purchase properties on South Willow Street yesterday.

• Approval for Lefton to continue talking with city officials, prospective developers and investors about the establishment of a hotel and conference facility. The board indicated some university investment funds could be devoted to the project.

Contact enterprise reporter Nicole Stempak at [email protected].