The changing face of KSU administration

Jackie Valley

Lefton says new hires present KSU opportunities for growth

The second floor of the University Library recently underwent a transformation. New paint and artwork adorn the walls and new furniture greets students looking for a cozy getaway to study.

Behind the glass doors at the top of the escalator, a similar transformation is taking place inside the executive offices – except this time, it involves personnel.

In the past two years, Kent State has seen the arrival of a new president, followed by a new provost and an entirely new position, vice president for institutional advancement.

Soon more new faces will occupy the executive offices following the departure of several top administrators.

David Creamer, senior vice president for administration, will begin his new role at Miami University in June. Kathy Stafford, vice president for university relations, will retire at the end of June.

Ron Kirksey, the university’s longtime spokesman, retired yesterday. Carolyn Pizzuto, the former vice president for human resources, accepted another position at an Akron company in November.

President Lester Lefton said yearly staff changes are expected, given the amount of faculty and administrators at large institutions such as Kent State.

Although Lefton said no one has been asked to leave, he said anytime a new president arrives, universities typically experience changes in the make-up of the administration.

“When a new president comes on board, there’s a lot of energy and a lot things going on, and it challenges people to do things differently,” he said.

Change forces people to re-examine what they really want to be doing, Lefton said.

“I try to look at these situations not as lemons but as lemonade,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to grow the institution and rethink how we do things.”

Cheryl Casper, chair of the Faculty Senate, said changes in leadership at the university represent a “two-sided coin” – offering both challenges and opportunities.

“On the plus side, there’s an opportunity to take a fresh look at issues and see a new way of looking at things,” she said. “On the negative side, when people come from the outside, it’s as if the place never existed.”

Lefton said the university will conduct national searches to fill the vacant vice president positions. Kent State already hired an executive search firm to find candidates for Creamer’s position with candidates expected to visit the campus in the summer.

Willis Walker, chief university counsel, is currently serving a one-year appointment as the interim vice president for human resources.

Casper said it is important for new hires to “take time to understand the history” of Kent State. So far, however, she said faculty reaction to the new additions to the administration has been positive.

Lefton said Kent State has the chance to reinvent itself in light of Chancellor Eric Fingerhut’s master plan for higher education and the new hires across campus.

“I like to think of the reinvention as not a recreation but rather an evolution, making changes to bring us into a national marketplace,” he said.

Doing so, Lefton said will challenge the university to draw more national attention to a few of its strengths.

“Sometimes doing a few things really well is a better strategy than doing a lot of things well,” he said.

Contact administration reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].