Faculty sees public health service in Kent State’s future

Maria Nann

Lefton emphasizes investment in tough economic times

Kent State faculty decided yesterday that public health research is in the university’s future.

Faculty Senate unanimously approved a proposal from the provost’s office that would establish a college of public health.

Lefton explained the college would attract students, something that would benefit the university, especially during tough economic times.

“We see this as a big investment opportunity to increase the overall quality, let alone the financial health, of our university,” he said.

The college would focus on educating students in community-based research in areas such as aging, violence, obesity and mental health in Ohio. It will prepare students in seven key areas: biostatistics, clinical investigation, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, behavioral and social sciences, health services management and policy and an experienced professionals program.

Ohio State University is the only other university in the state that offers such a program.

Laura Dzurec, dean of the College of Nursing, said such a college would not just benefit the university but also the entire state.

“The demand for health care just points to this as a necessary move for the state of Ohio,” she said. “And for Kent State (to be) leading the charge – I can’t even say what impact this would have on the people of Ohio. The problems that are happening statewide just beg for this kind of thing.”

Senate Chairman Tom Janson was pleased that the faculty showed such approval for the proposal.

“It’s important,” he said, “that any proposal go through the senate and that the faculty have full knowledge of all the details before the administration

acts on it.”

The approval of the college was preceded by lengthy faculty discussion, during which senate members raised concerns about funding, finances, curriculum and staffing.

Evelyn Goldsmith, who has been working with Provost Robert Frank on the proposal, assured senate members that the new college would not be “stealing” any faculty, but she hopes there will be an effort toward collaboration.

“There will be no stealing of faculty, no backdoor negotiations,” she said. “We don’t want to hurt (any) wonderful departments and programs. We want this to be a win for everyone.”

Goldsmith also explained that such a program must be housed in a college, not a school, in order to be accredited.

Lefton said that the provost had estimated the establishment of such a college would require a $3 million, one-time investment, and in three years, he expects it to be self-sustaining.

“I am totally convinced that this will not only be academically a fabulous opportunity for our students, but it will be totally self-sustaining,” Lefton said. “As a college, it has to be self-sustaining. The potential for research funding for this college probably supersedes any other college on this campus.”

Senator Paul Farrell, computer science professor, said the proposal looked promising for Kent State financially.

“I would be significantly in favor of it on those (financial) grounds alone,” he said. “It sounds like a good idea. I hope it can be profitable.”

During the meeting, Lefton also spoke about the university’s future and financial situation. He explained that the current stock market situation has lost Kent State somewhere between 14 and 30 percent of its investment portfolio.

“We’re doing better than the market, but it’s not pretty,” Lefton said. “If the current trends continue, we may see a third state budget cut before the end of the year. The governor’s commitment to higher education is really going to be tested.”

Lefton said budget cuts and no additional tuition revenue could cripple the university’s financial outlook.

“If we get no tuition increases and budget cuts, which will result in a decrease in services, we will not be able to continue doing business as we have done,” he said.

Lefton stressed that the best way for Kent State to come out of the financial downturn in a positive way is to invest now, in ways like the public health college.

“The markets always come back,” he said. “The finances always come back. If we don’t invest when times are difficult, we are assigning ourselves to a low place on the totem pole.

“We will come out of this, and those who position themselves well will come out of it better.”

Contact academic affairs reporter Maria Nann at [email protected].