Lefton: Kent State ‘on the right path’

Ben Wolford

Address outlines goals

President Lester Lefton delivered his State of the University Address yesterday at the Kiva. Caitlin Sirse | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

President Lester Lefton summarized his “nine-point roadmap” for the future of Kent State in his “State of the University” address Thursday afternoon.

The speech echoed many of the same goals he talked about in his first address in 2007: increasing enrollment, retention and graduation, cleaning up Liberal Education Requirements and making the university more inclusive.

“Kent State is on the right path in every way that matters,” Lefton told about 200 students, faculty, staff and administrators in the Kiva.


1. Continue and expand efforts to increase the enrollment of high-quality students (including out-of-state and international students).

2. Continue and expand efforts to retain students and keep them on the path to graduation in a timely manner. This includes a review of and recommendations for simplifying Liberal Education Requirements.

3. Continue to support efforts to increase the number of state and federal grant proposals submitted by faculty and staff members.

4. Thoughtfully implement the Responsibility Center Management financial system for all colleges

and campuses.

5. Enact all feasible recommendations of the Commission on Inclusion and engage in a multiyear effort to enhance inclusiveness on all of our campuses.

6. Find outstanding successors for vacant or soon-to-be vacant decanal positions.

7. Complete the planning process for an accredited School of Public Health and a master’s degree program in health informatics.

8. Establish a Presidential Task Force on Sustainability with an initial charge to explore the addition of a sustainability component in the university’s

strategic plan.

9. Serve as a proactive partner in pursuing the goals of the University System of Ohio strategic plan for

higher education.

He did acknowledge progress in some programs that have begun since first announcing his goals.

During the summer, Lefton said he wanted to make Kent State environmentally sustainable and has since hired a professional consultant to find ways to do it. He said he plans to take that a step further.

“I’m pleased to announce my decision today to form a Task Force on Sustainability,” Lefton said.

Verna Fitzsimmons, interim dean of the College of Technology, and Tom Euclide, executive director of facilities planning and operations, will co-chair the operation.

“One of the highlights of the speech was he talked about sustainability,” said Egerton Clarke, associate professor of sociology at Kent Salem. “It’s something that I would like to work in, maybe to work toward developing a course in sustainability.”

Clarke was equally impressed with Lefton’s attention to regional campuses.

“Regional campuses are being asked to expand baccalaureate degree offerings,” Lefton said, “and we should expect to see more two plus two degrees – two years at a community college followed by two years at a regional campus.”

For Clarke, it was just nice to be noticed.

“He spent a lot of time talking about regional campuses,” he said. “He said in no uncertain terms that he is serious about getting the regional campuses greater visibility.”

Another point in his roadmap is to “enact all feasible recommendations of the Commission on Inclusion,” Lefton said.

The commission, led by Rev. Ronald Fowler of the Arlington Church of God in Akron, has been holding forums since June to find out how tolerant the university is.

So far, they haven’t recommended anything and nothing has been enacted, but Lefton said “we can all make differences” right now.

Dylan Sellers, who is on the board of Black United Students, said he supports Lefton’s moves toward inclusion.

“He seems really genuine,” Sellers said. “And I think this step to inclusion and the things that he’s done thus far have been great.”

He said BUS has not formed an opinion on the commission.

Lefton made clear in his speech that his vision for Kent State is progressive.

“The tendency to cling to the status quo is only human,” he said in his introduction. “Doing the same things in the same ways is no longer a viable strategy for success.”

Outlining those changes, Lefton gave a crash course in the Responsibility Center Management budget model, set to take effect in July.

He restated his goal to have plans for a School of Public Health by April, and he set goals for research – to double research support in five years.

“We’re going to make a pretty big jump this year,” said John West, vice president for research. “At the end of September, it may not be logged on the books, but we have guarantees of over $30 million.”

Lefton also cited the importance of being a part of the global economy.

“We understand that it’s no longer enough to offer a few study-abroad and exchange programs,” he said. “All of our students must be able to interact with people beyond the borders of geography and ideology.”

Gregg Floyd recently assumed the role of vice president for finance and administration, the lead coordinator of RCM. He said Lefton has a great sense of how Kent State should fill its niche.

“The president embraces the reality of the world rather than trying to make it fit a mold,” Floyd said. “It’s very easy to fall into a pattern of sameness, but I think you heard very strongly today that he’s not in that mold.”

Contact administration reporter Ben Wolford at [email protected].