What it means to be a student at Kent State

Maria Nann

Provost’s new initiative aims to define university environment and improve programs for the freshman experience

Ten years from now, two Kent State graduates meet in downtown New York. Since graduating, one has gone on to become a successful broker on Wall Street, while the other has just recently opened her own fashion design studio.

They haven’t seen anyone from Kent in years and have never even met each other. But as they chat on the subway, they discover they graduated within a year of each other from the same public university in Northeast Ohio.

So what do they have in common?

Kent State Provost Robert Frank charged the 21st Century Initiative to answer that question.

The new initiative is divided into two committees, First Year Experience and the Core Philosophy Statement, and is looking into developing two additional committees to look into liberal education requirements and curriculum.

“It’s a really big year for all those groups,” Frank said.

Stephanie Booth, associate provost for academic quality improvement, said that the initiative is looking to find an answer for that question posed in the above-mentioned scenario.

“(We’re) trying to develop a pathway for the undergraduate students at Kent State that shows what Kent values within its undergraduate education,” she said. “With that, (we’re) looking at different elements – first, the philosophy statement, next, the LERs, the other pieces of the curriculum and then certainly the First Year Experience.”

Undergraduate Core Philosophy Statement

What does it mean to be a Kent State graduate?

Verna Fitzsimmons, interim dean of the College of Technology, said when it was formed, the Undergraduate Core Philosophy Statement committee was charged with answering this question. But as the committee continued meeting, discussions shifted from instructional organization to students being engaged as learners.

Fitzsimmons said the philosophy statement will help different colleges in the university play on others’ strengths.

“It’s a very exciting time,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for us to, I think, help elevate Kent to the next level by having this common understanding. I think it’s a great way to bring all the professional colleges and all of the liberal arts colleges together.

“It just makes us all stronger.”

The philosophy statement committee met every week during the spring semester and presented several drafts of philosophies at town hall meetings. During the summer, using the opinions and ideas received from faculty at the meetings, the committee rewrote the statement. More meetings are scheduled for next week.

The group conversed with other universities, as well as John Tagg, author of “The Learning Paradigm College,” to see how Kent State compared with other schools.

“Hopefully what we’re changing is the culture,” Fitzsimmons said. “What we’re really looking at is a philosophy – what are those guiding principles behind the decisions that we use when we look at our curriculum, when we look at our programs, when we look at how we teach, and hopefully when (students) look at how (they) learn.”

The 21st Century Initiative committees will be holding open town hall meetings the

following days:

Core Philosophy Statement committee:

&bull 4 p.m. Sept. 2 in Room 204 of the Student Center

&bull 11 a.m. Sept. 5 in Room 310 of the Student Center.

First Year Experience committee

&bull 10:30 a.m. Sept. 9 in Room 310 of the Student Center.

&bull 4 p.m. Sept. 12 in Room 204 of the Student Center.

Fitzsimmons said the purpose of the committee is important because it will help students to understand the foundations and guiding principles for Kent State. And although both versions of the statement the group will present at town hall meetings next week cover a full page, she said they are concise and to the point.

“I don’t think it would help to try to trivialize what we’re doing by just creating a sound bite,” she said. “It would be very difficult to boil a philosophy down to a five-word sentence.

“For the discussion period that we’re in, we need to have an understanding of what it is and what

we are.”

First Year Experience

First year programs also will be seeing a lot of changes in programing next year.

The FYE committee has made several recommendations, which Student Success is in charge of modifying. Recommendations will then be sent back to the committee and presented at town hall meetings to inform faculty and get feedback. More town hall meetings are scheduled for Sept. 9 and 12.

The Placement, Advising and Scheduling System is a program for when incoming freshmen and their families visit Kent State. During PASS, students take placement exams, register for classes and receive their FlashCard, among other things.

The FYE committee is recommending that the university makes PASS an overnight experience for incoming students, rather than the one-day event it has been.

Sally Kandel, associate vice president of institutional research and student success, said by making PASS an overnight program the university will be able to offer students more advising time, as well as the opportunity to meet other students and make friends.

One thing the group has been finding is that incoming freshmen are largely concerned with not knowing anyone when they come to college, Kandel said.

“We want to give them an opportunity to feel what it’s going to be like,” Kandel said. “I think that this will help to start (friendships), and they’ll be able to sustain that through the rest of the summer, and when they come back, they’ll be able to see some familiar faces.”

The redesigned PASS program would also offer sessions for parents and even offer parents the opportunity to spend a night in a residence hall.

The 21st Century FYE committee is also looking into making Week of Welcome a smoother process, both interesting and informative, Kandel said. Student Success has modified some of the committee’s recommendations and is looking to make sessions more fun and more interesting for students. It is also focusing on making changes to the orientation course.

Traditionally, all first-year university students are required to take an orientation course their first semester. Kandel said the FYE committee would like to see the first third of the class taught during WOW. This part of the course would give helpful hints to students about how to be successful in classes, and the rest of the course – 10 weeks of the semester – would be left up to individual colleges.

“This is the part where we really want the colleges to design the course themselves,” Kandel said. “We think that by getting some of the things that students need to know done during that Week of Welcome, that will free up the colleges to be more creative.”

Kandel gave examples of what colleges could do with the course, such as taking surveys and bringing in professors from different departments within the college.

“We’re still working out the details, and we certainly need the support of the university on this,” Kandel said. “But those are the ideas, and so far, we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback.”

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