Lefton, trustees set goals for the year, ‘big picture’

Jackie Valley

President Lester Lefton’s goals for the 2007-2008 academic year, which highlight fundraising, retention and research, reflect the future of Kent State, said Sandra Harbrecht, chair of the Board of Trustees.

“They are goals we expect him to accomplish in 2007-2008, but they are tied to big goals in the next three to five years,” she said.

The goals, made and approved by Lefton and the Board of Trustees this fall, contain “Big Picture Goals” and “Specific Objectives” to reach the broad goals. The goals fall into five categories: institutional advancement, student recruitment and retention, academic excellence and research funding, financial resources and management, and politics and advocacy.

Within those categories, the “Big Picture Goals” aim to:

-Build an infrastructure to support significant and enhanced fundraising.

-Create an enrollment management strategy that will ensure increasing excellence to make Kent State a magnet school for high-achieving students in Northeast Ohio and beyond.

-Create a culture change that reinforces, promotes and builds excellence in teaching and scholarship, and that promotes Kent State in the state and country as a center for student and faculty excellence.

-Continue to optimize investment returns while being forward-thinking and strategic in making new academic and infrastructure investments.

-Ensure state goals and objectives for Kent State align with the university’s Board-determined goals for the present and future.

Harbrecht said the goals are similar to the issues discussed when the university hired Lefton in 2006.

“It’s all there. It’s consistent,” she said. “It’s the same kind of things we talked about in the search process.”

Harbrecht said the board will review Lefton’s progress toward these goals this summer during his evaluation. His level of achievement of the goal objectives will determine the amount of a performance bonus.

Lefton said he must provide the leadership to implement the vision he shares with the Board of Trustees.

“When an institution hires a president, they want someone with a vision, not someone who is flip-flopping,” he said.

By working with the provost, vice presidents and academic departments, Lefton said he will “make incremental progress to meet these goals” this year as part of the larger vision for the university.

“The president is not turning out widgets, but moving the university ahead on a variety of fronts,” he said.

Harbrecht said “job number one” is to create a university that attracts and retains the best students.

“We’ve got to get great kids to want to come to Kent State, and then want to stay,” she said.

In addition, Harbrecht said Ohio’s higher education funding has left universities at a “comparative disadvantage” to other states.

“We’ve got to find more money,” she said. “There’s a real sense of urgency to accomplish very rapidly the contributions coming to Kent State from private sources.”

Lefton accomplished one objective earlier this month — revise mission and vision statements — with the completion and Board approval of the Strategic Plan.

Meanwhile, Lefton said he has been working with Chancellor Eric Fingerhut and participating in the Northeast Ohio Universities Study Commission to advance Kent State’s interests in state and regional initiatives, which is another goal objective.

So far, Harbrecht said the Board has been pleased with Lefton’s progress within the Kent State community, despite the hard work ahead to fully implement the vision.

“What really is going to make Kent State successful is everyone lining up behind the president,” she said. “It’s going to take a village.”

Contact administration reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].