Kent State administrators offer advice for freshmen

Christina Stavale


Lester Lefton, president

The president is not the only person in charge of a university.

“A team is really what runs the university,” President Lester Lefton said.

The “team,” he said, is made up of vice presidents, department chairs, deans, professors and the Board of Trustees who have ultimate authority over everything.

Board of Trustees members are appointed by the governor and set a broad academic policy. They also charge the president with running the university, which is where Lefton’s job comes into play.

Lefton said it is important for him to work well with the Board of Trustees. As the university’s president, his job involves making sure he has officers that will take charge of the university and run things consistently with himself and the Board.

Every day on the job is different, he said. On any typical day, he may attend a cabinet meeting, do paperwork, host a luncheon for donors or meet with different members of the university, from vice presidents to students.

He said his interaction with students also varies on a day-to-day basis.

“Sometimes, I have a lot of interaction (with students), and sometimes I just see them,” he said. “It varies.”

How he remembers college

Lefton still remembers his first day of college. On that day, he said, his entire freshman class was taken into the auditorium where they were told to look at the person to the left of them and then to the person to the right.

“One of you is not going to be here at the end of this year,” Lefton recalls them saying.

He said he does not want this to be the case at Kent State, and the most important thing he would like to see from this year’s freshman class is seeing them back again.

Lefton also admits college was not easy for him at the start.

“I had a bumpy start despite a lot of hard work,” he said. “Once I learned how to do it, I was the student who had the term paper done a week before it was due,” he said.

His advice for freshman

Lefton has four pieces of advice for freshmen:

• Set up a study schedule: Think of it as a job, he said. The most successful students are the ones who live regular lives. You can still have fun, he said, but creating a balance is important.

• Get enough sleep: Irregular sleep patterns cause chaotic and hectic schedules, he said. Instead of cramming the night before a test, he suggests studying multiple days before the exam, in order to relax and get enough sleep the night before.

• Exercise: “Your sense of well-being and your ability to wear the same jeans you came to school with are dependent on exercise,” Lefton said. “The Freshman 15 is a real phenomenon.”

• Stay in touch with your family: “They need reassurance that you have not gone over to Voldemort,” he said.

His hopes for freshmen

“I would like to see a commitment to academic excellence, seriousness of purpose and to see them back in January, and again, next September,” he said.

Lefton said he also hopes this year’s freshmen will take pride in Kent State, and get the full college experience – read books in their original languages, study art history and philosophy and go to the theatre.

“Everyone is here because of (students),” he said. “That’s why I feel so passionate about wanting them to succeed and take advantage of the gift that’s been given to them.”

Robert Frank, provost

Robert Frank is beginning his first full semester as provost.

“The provost really manages the university’s academic programs, ensuring that the classes are there and that there are quality programs,” he said.

The provost is also responsible for the university’s academic vision and academic outreach to the local community.

This year, Frank said he will focus on managing retention. He is in the process of implementing a program that will help students who have trouble early on. He said he hopes this year’s freshmen will have more attention and better response to their problems than ever before.

Frank said he would also like to focus this year on providing students with experiences that will prepare them for the challenges and diversity of the real world.

How he remembers college

Frank said he went to college about 300 miles away from his home and was sometimes lonely. It also took him awhile to get the hang of things.

“I didn’t do as well my first semester as I could have done,” he admits.

He said an important part of his college experience was realizing everything a university had to offer and taking advantage of it.

His advice for freshmen

“I’d like to see them all graduate, and see Kent State as a place that changed and touched their lives,” he said.

Frank advises students to make friends with their syllabi – not just people – and to stay on top of their studies.

“The most important thing is not getting caught up in being away from home,” he said. “Don’t change your schedule too much.”

He said he would also like students to realize that they can all contribute to the university.

“We really want to help students appreciate they wouldn’t be admitted if we didn’t think they would be successful,” Frank said.

Pete Goldsmith, VP for student affairs

Pete Goldsmith’s job involves representing students and student affairs to the rest of the administration. He works to help resolve issues that may come up in a student’s life at the university.

“Sometimes it’s concern about financial aid, and sometimes it’s concern about working with someone here at the university – all the things that deal with a student’s life,” he said.

He also oversees a number of departments, such as admissions, residence services, financial aid and career services.

“My job is to supervise them and keep us all moving in the same direction,” Goldsmith said.

He said he is always working to improve enrollment and retention, and this year, will be paying close attention to enriching the environment for students so they have not only a solid academic grounding, but also develop other skills.

How he remembers college

Goldsmith knows what it’s like to go to a university far from home – he grew up in Maryland and went to college in Indiana. For students who may be in a similar situation, he encourages them to get involved and meet people.

“What I remember most (about college) is the friendships from the residence halls,” he said.

Goldsmith was also involved in student government and other organizations during his college years and said this gave him an enriched experience.

His advice for freshmen

“Get involved in something,” he said. “Don’t get involved in excess, but get involved in something to enhance your academic experience.”

Goldsmith suggests treating college like a job, and spending at least 40 hours a week going to class, studying or participating in academic activities.

David Creamer, senior VP for administration

As senior vice president for administration, David Creamer is responsible for a variety of things around campus.

“I’m the vice president who seems to have the things that are ‘catch-all,'” he said.

Some of the things he is responsible for are public safety, including police and parking services, the university budget, the Bursar’s office, building and grounds, new construction and research planning.

Students may recognize his name from their university paychecks, as he also oversees payroll.

In addition, Creamer does data analysis in the areas of retention and graduation rates.

How he remembers college

When he began his freshman year of college, Creamer said he had no idea what to expect, as he was the first in his family to attend college.

He said he also had to juggle a number of responsibilities, with school, his job and family responsibilities.

Since then, he said college has gotten more expensive and more complex. Students schedules these days, he said, contain more than just classes, and balancing time is more important than ever.

His advice for freshmen

“The thing that I’m always hoping is that (freshmen) come in and are very focused on academics early on,” Creamer said.

He stressed the importance of getting off to a good start and spending a great deal of time focused on class. This is sometimes difficult for freshmen because of their newfound freedom, he said.

Creamer suggested students work hard on midterm grades, as they are critical for success. Also, if students plan on getting a job or getting involved in an extracurricular activity, he said to be certain academics do not slip.

“You want to have a good time,” he said. “But focus on academics.”

Patricia Book, VP for regional development

Patricia Book has two main focuses as vice president for regional development. First, she serves as the administrative representative to the seven regional campuses, where a third of the university’s students attend.

“It’s important to keep Kent State thinking of the university as eight campuses,” she said. “We have to make sure we’re sensitive to the needs of every campus.”

In addition to her duties in connecting with the regional campuses, Book is responsible with connecting the university with the workforce needs of Northeast Ohio.

She said she helps the university develop relationships with businesses to assess needs in terms of what Kent State can provide.

“I enjoy being a culture broker between Kent State and the community,” she said.

Her advice for freshmen

“Really focus on your courses and do really well in the first few weeks,” Book said. “College is very different than high school, and it’s a lot more responsibility.”

Book said this is particularly important in today’s world because a college education is more critical than ever.

She also advises freshmen to get involved in student organizations.

“That’s where you will make friends and connections with those who have common interests,” she said.

Carolyn Pizzuto, VP for human resources

Carolyn Pizzuto is responsible for employment at places such as the DeWeese Health Center, the Student Recreation and Wellness Center and the financial aid office.

Stafford said she spends about half her time thinking of Kent State’s future and the other half working on issues that need special help and consideration at the present time.

For example, she recently worked to implement the state’s new minimum wage law at Kent State.

“If the state legislature passes a new law, I ask, ‘what is my time frame to implement it and how?'” Pizzuto said.

This year, she said she will be looking at the university’s organizations that best deliver customer service, and put together materials that help managers run offices.

Her advice for freshmen

Pizzuto said her biggest advice is to establish work habits before social habits.

“Put a little bit of structure about what you’re going to do,” she said. “Otherwise, you’re always going to be catching up.”

She said she would also like for students to be engaged with the university and take the time to attend functions.

“If you don’t have the time to do things, you can have time to know things,” she said. “Knowledge is power, and that’s why we’re here.”

Kathy Stafford, VP for university relations

Kathy Stafford oversees much of the university’s relations with the public.

“I do anything related to communications and marketing,” she said.

She said she helps to produce e-Inside, a communications Web side for Kent State employees and Kent State Magazine, in addition to working with WKSU, the university’s public radio station. She also deals with government relations.

“In the area of government relations, I deal with budgeting and policy issues that the government is working on,” Stafford said.

This coming year, she said she will spend a great deal of time working on the Centennial Celebration. This event will celebrate the university’s 100th anniversary in 2010.

“Indirectly, I help advertise to show (students) what Kent State is,” she said.

Her advice for freshmen

“Study hard and don’t blow it,” Stafford said. “You have every opportunity in front of you, and you need to be the ones to take advantage of that.”

She said she hopes freshmen have a great experience at Kent State because it is something they should enjoy. She also asked freshmen to remember the administration is here because of students.

“All of us in the administration work hard on their behalf, although we’re sometimes a little bit apart from them,” she said.

Gene Finn, VP for institutional advancement

Gene Finn began working for the university in April, and since then has been responsible for fundraising for the university.

“Of all the vice presidents, I’m probably the one (students) will have the least contact with, but (fundraising) has some of the most contact with their daily lives,” he said.

Finn said his job involves a lot of contact with alumni and donors, and he spends much of his time traveling with President Lester Lefton to speak with potential donors.

This year, Finn said he will spend a great deal of time prepping for the public launch of the Centennial Campaign, a major fundraiser, which will coincide with the university’s 100-year anniversary in 2010.

“Fundraising involves connecting Kent State alumni and friends with the university and fulfilling a philanthropic need,” he said.

How he remembers college

“I had a wonderful undergrad education,” he said. “It was a great opportunity to explore.”

When he began his undergraduate education, Finn said he did not know what he wanted to study, or how he wanted to spend his life.

“I think that’s a good thing,” he said. “You need to be open.”

His advice for freshmen

Finn advises freshmen to enjoy their experiences and to be open to opportunities.

“Take a course in Shakespearean drama,” he suggested. “It’s the last time you’ll be able to do it.”

In addition, he said not to be shy or embarrassed to ask for help because the campus offers numerous resources for support.

Ed Mahon, vice president for information services

Ed Mahon is responsible for much of the campus’ technology and managing the university’s information infrastructure department.

His goals for this year include giving students more enhanced access to class registration and the online course catalog. He said he has ongoing contact with students, faculty and staff.

“I meet with students to ensure I understand their technology needs,” he said.

How he remembers college

Mahon said he remembers his college courseload being demanding because he also worked full-time while he was a student.

He said he also remembers the relationships he built with faculty and students, and still talks to a number of them to this day.

The biggest difference between now and then is the “use of technology to assist the learning process,” he said.

His advice for freshmen

Mahon encouraged freshmen to take risks and build relationships.

“Work hard, particularly in the beginning,” he said.

His hope, he said, is that all freshmen return for the following years.

Contact principle reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].