Think tank created to help regional campus enrollment

Mary Jo Spletzer

In response to Ohio Education Chancellor Eric Fingerhut’s 10-year strategic plan for higher education, Kent State has created a think tank to help its regional campuses.

Chaired by Provost Robert Frank, the think tank is aimed at helping campuses realign themselves within the community they serve.

Fingerhut’s plan called for more junior colleges to be created so associate and bachelor’s programs would be available within 30 miles of every Ohioan. It seemed to some that the plan could draw enrollment away from regional campuses. Administration, however, is using the think tank to capitalize on the plan.

Susan Stocker, dean of Kent State Ashtabula, said the regional campuses should not think of the chancellor’s vision for higher education as needing to protect their turf, but rather an opportunity to expand programs to individuals.

“At Ashtabula we are looking at programs that we can sustain,” Stocker said. “For example, we need to consider what resources we might need to implement a new program and ways we might partner with others.”

Gregory Andrews, dean of Kent State Tuscarawas and interim executive dean of regional campuses, said the think tank is still in the brainstorming phase and no final decisions have been made.

“The state of Ohio has created this initiative to realign higher education within communities,” Andrews said. “We have this chance to look at the communities we serve and find ways to be more responsive to their needs.”

“I believe if we are strategic, the plan can help us build enrollment,” Stocker said. “Each regional campus is unique, therefore the degree programs we implement may be different based on employer needs in our communities.”

David Mohan, dean of Kent State Geauga, said if the think tank evolves the way it should, it will enable the regional campuses to collaborate with junior colleges and even better serve what Fingerhut hopes will occur.

“We, as regionals, can work with the junior colleges to help students complete their degrees,” Mohan said.

Mohan does not serve on the think tank, but he said it has been a very inclusive and transparent process. He said the ultimate hope is to be more receptive to the local communities because that’s what regional campuses intend to do.

The think tank is also looking for ways the regional campuses can be more independent.

“The regional campuses must be given more autonomy in order to be more responsive,” Stocker said. “The mission of the regionals has been and always will be different than the Kent campus and it is time to finally recognize that it is different, not less (important).”

Andrews said the think tank is looking carefully at the curricular process so the regional campuses can be more flexible. He said they tend to not be as responsive as they’d like to be.

As the think tank continues working toward its goals, Mohan and the other deans see the program as very positive.

“It is extremely critical that we have the flexibility to serve the local communities,” Mohan said. “The think tank allows us to provide this greater opportunity to the communities.”

Contact regional campuses reporter Mary Jo Spletzer at [email protected].