Welcome to Kent State, a world of opportunity

Lester Lefton

Credit: DKS Editors

Most of you have arrived on your Kent State campus equipped with essential items such as laptops, flip flops and iPods. Odds are strong you’ve also come armed with lots of advice from your family, friends and teachers. As someone who taught and mentored college students for 34 years, I have many suggestions to share about how to succeed in college – all “field tested” by countless students (including my two daughters). They all boil down to this: Kent State is a cabaret; come to the cabaret! To translate for those of you who are not up on musical theatre: You’ve landed at a great place, so don’t waste a minute of your time here. From academics to social activities, jump right in right away.

I especially urge you to take advantage of the intellectual integrity you’ll find at Kent State. Think of the schedule of classes as a smorgasbord of ideas to be sampled and savored. Take courses in the arts and sciences, the humanities, technology and the professions. No matter what career path you ultimately choose, having a broad liberal arts foundation will expand your options and make the world a more interesting place at every point in your life.

Make a pact with yourself about the kind of student you will be. Resist the temptation to be academically passive – a “warm body” that fills a seat, reads only assigned materials and regurgitates memorized information for tests. Resolve to be an intellectual explorer. That might mean when you study Sartre in a philosophy class, you set the goal of reading his work in the original French before graduation. Or maybe it means instead of limiting yourself to basic requirements, you take additional mathematics and science courses to sharpen your thinking and, in the process, sharpen your competitive edge.

To make the most of your college years, make a conscious effort to interact with faculty members. At Kent State, many of your professors will be nationally and internationally respected scholars, and more than a few will be true pioneers in their disciplines. Soak up the knowledge they impart, recognize and relish the passion they have for their areas of expertise and, by all means, feel free to approach them with your questions, your thoughts and your interest in their research. At the same time, get to know the multi-talented staff members you’ll find everywhere from the Student Recreation and Wellness Center to our University Libraries. They really know their stuff and they really care.

Take advantage of the diversity of people around you. Kent State attracts students, faculty and staff from across America and nearly 100 other nations. Make the effort to connect with people from different cultural, ethnic and geographic backgrounds. It will help prepare you for living and working in our global society. And you’ll probably discover some great food in the process.

And, by all means, be a frequent consumer of the remarkable range of cultural, social and recreational options offered on every campus. Attend campus plays, dance performances, concerts, operas and art exhibits. Tear yourself away from your Xbox and go to lectures by our renowned faculty and guest speakers. Visit the magnificent Kent State Museum. Join a student organization. And don’t even think about leaving the university without experiencing the fun of cheering your lungs out at Dix Stadium, Schoonover Stadium or the M.A.C. Center.

In short, whether you’re a resident student or a commuter, don’t wait to become involved in your university. As soon as you do, you’ll be on the way to new friends, new interests and a new appreciation for the truly great American university of which you are now a part.

Lester Lefton is president of Kent State. Contact him at [email protected].