Meeting the administration crowd

Kate Bigam

Provost Paul Gaston

What he does:

The Office of the Provost is responsible for all academic matters pertaining to the university, including programming, faculty relations, oversight of university research and the hiring and professional development of deans and department chairs.

What he’s working on:

“Pedagogy is always a focus,” Gaston said. “How can we create learning for our students even more effectively?”

This year, creating a more strategic approach to distance learning will be one of Gaston’s major focal points. He said the university is examining successful distance learning programs already in effect at Kent State, such as nursing, library science and public administration.

“We’re looking at modifying what we’ve got and determining where we should invest in terms of influence and progress,” Gaston said.

Although this year will be his last as provost, Gaston insists he is not retiring.

“To me, retiring means moving to the lake and fishing or whatever,” he said. “I expect I’ll be as busy, if not more so, as other teachers.”

After leaving his provost position at the end of the upcoming academic year, Gaston will teach English classes at Kent State, which he has continued to do throughout his career as an administrator. While teaching a Shakespeare class last year, Gaston said he threw out the notion of lecturing and engaged his students in discussions, simulations and activities, a method of teaching he would like to maintain.

As provost, though, Gaston said he’s often frustrated by the lack of direct contact he has with students.

“Anytime they invite me to some kind of meeting or event, I will be there,” he said. “I encourage that!”

His advice to freshmen:

“I wish someone had told me that I’d probably change my mind in terms of my career ambitions and to be a little flexible,” Gaston said.

Determined to be a lawyer as an undergraduate, Gaston went to work for a Texas law firm for several years and said that in the meantime, he missed out on many of the opportunities college offered.

“I would tell freshmen to take ambition seriously, but suggest that sometimes things change,” he said.

David Creamer, vice president for dministration

What he does:

Creamer described his duties as overseeing a hodge-podge of different areas. The areas that most directly affect students, he said, include parking, billing, public safety, campus police and grounds construction. He also oversees payroll, so students may recognize his name, if not his face, from seeing his signature on their paychecks.

What he’s working on:

“Most of the things I do make things easier for students,” Creamer said. “Their focus needs to be on academic issues and student life.”

Creamer said the most visible aspect of his job is the construction going on campus-wide. Construction workers recently finished working on the esplanade, the walkway tying the old section of campus to the Student Center area, which Creamer said will significantly improve the flow of pedestrian traffic in the area.

This year, Creamer said, the administration will finalize plans for a new Oscar Ritchie Hall, which houses the Pan-African studies program. Construction on the building is slated for next summer.

Creamer also noted the demolition of Terrace Hall and said the new parking lot, which should open in October, will make commuting more comfortable for students taking classes in White Hall.

One of Creamer’s primary focuses is helping make a college education affordable for students, he said.

“As state support increases, it creates less pressure on us to increase tuition,” Creamer said. When Ohio’s new governor is elected into office, Creamer said he will push to create a “a positive situation for Kent State.”

His advice to freshmen:

Depending on the rigor of their high school academic experience, Creamer said incoming freshmen may not realize how different college academia can be. He said the most important thing for freshmen to do is to discipline themselves by improving their study habits.

And when they’re not studying?

“We’re constantly hoping students will see that there are things to do here on the weekend,” Creamer said. “There’s more going on on campus and in the community than students really appreciate.”

Pete Goldsmith, vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs

What he does:

Goldsmith oversees 13 subdivisions within the Division of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs devoted to enhancing the quality of student life at Kent State. Admissions, the Center for Student Involvement, the Career Services Center, Student Accessibility Services, and Financial Aid all fall under Goldsmith’s supervision.

What he’s working on:

Goldsmith said his primary focus is always student admission and retention, especially in a year when total enrollment is down. Although he does not have exact figures, Goldsmith said he estimates total enrollment is down by 2 to 3 percent.

“We’re not an inexpensive place,” Goldsmith said, “so we have to give students reasons to come to Kent. We want students to find their place here so that this is an opportunity for them.”

To do this, Goldsmith said the Division of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs tries to think innovatively about how to retain current students.

Another one of Goldsmith’s divisions, Student Accessibility Services, works to ensure students with disabilities are properly accommodated at Kent State by assisting with transportation, technology, testing and more.

“We have a supportive environment and excellent staff who are experts in helping students with needs be successful,” Goldsmith said, adding that any incoming student who may require assistance should get in touch with Student Accessibility Services and be prepared to provide documentation of his or her disability.

His advice to freshmen:

Goldsmith said he cannot stress enough the importance of taking advantage of all college has to offer.

“Never in a student’s life will they have so much that’s available to them — and it’s free,” he said, citing several examples.

He also says time management is an issue every college student must tackle and encourages students to use the services Kent State offers for problem-solving.

Carolyn Pizzuto, vice president for Human Resources

What she does:

Pizzuto oversees all the functions relating to the employment and benefits of Kent State faculty and staff, including university policies, record keeping and government compliance. She’s also in charge of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action and the Women’s Resource Center.

What she’s working on:

As Kent State prepares to upgrade its computer information system, Pizzuto said her primary goal this year is helping faculty and staff get comfortable with the changes.

“My focus is to help the entire university adjust to a new way of doing things,” she said. The new system, Enterprise Resource Planning, will increase information security and make it easier for students to access records and functions.

This year, the Office of Human Resources will also focus on its new health promotion program, which launched in March. The program, called One Well University or OneWellU, is designed to help faculty and staff make healthy lifestyle choices with the goal of uniting the university in wellness.

Pizzuto is also currently filling the role of director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action and the Women’s Resource Center until a search committee can fill the position, which has been open since March.

“I like to take my time hiring people,” Pizzuto said. “I really want to respect the views of the search committee.”

Pizzuto said there is no projected date by which she’d like to have a new director hired.

Her advice to freshmen:

Recalling a time when she personally escorted a lost student across campus, Pizzuto advised new students not to be afraid to ask campus employees for help.

“Ask anyone, any time,” she said. “You don’t have to look for anyone standing behind a desk or an information booth.”

Kathy Stafford, vice president for University Relations and Development?

What she does:

Stafford and her office work with the university’s external constituents, spreading the word about Kent State through public relations, advertising and fundraising. They also oversee all alumni relations and work with the state legislature to increase educational funding.

What she’s working on:

Describing her administrative work as primarily behind-the-scenes, Stafford said students often don’t realize the administration is working to benefit students.

“We work very hard. All the things we do are for students,” she said.

This year, Stafford’s primary focus will be the launching of the university’s new capital campaign, a major effort to bring more funding to Kent State. The Centennial Campaign will culminate in 2010, when Kent State celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Finally, Stafford said her office is always focused on keeping in touch with alumni. In the fall, the university will launch an online community she compared to Facebook, through which Kent State alumni will be able to keep in contact with one another more easily.

Her advice to freshmen:

Stafford said students today face more hardships than they did when she was in college during the Vietnam era. The biggest issue facing today’s students, she said, is figuring out what to do post-graduation.

“I would think it would be the competition of the world these days and how you’re going to fit into it,” she said. “How do you tailor your education to fit such a rapidly changing world?”

Stafford said because of this, it is important freshmen understand the opportunities they’re given at Kent State.

“Work damn hard and make sure you get every ounce of material out of the opportunity you’re given,” she said, “because you’re really going to need it.”

Ed Mahon, vice president and chief information officer for Information Services

What he does:

Mahon is responsible for nearly everything technological that goes on across campus. He manages and delivers electronic infrastructure to Kent State’s student and faculty services, including e-mail, Internet access, residence hall data communications, laptop support and educational technology.

What he’s working on:

Information Services’ biggest undertaking this year will be replacing Kent State’s core informational system with Enterprise Resource Planning, a new, updated system that will increase information security by replacing students’ Social Security numbers with random identification numbers. The system, which will be phased in beginning in January, will simplify online processes and enhance students’ access to online information.

“We’re also working with the student body leadership to determine where we should focus our efforts,” Mahon said. He plans to increase wireless access, which is currently available on about 50 percent of the campus, and said he is interested in creating mobility centers for students with PDAs, laptops and iPods.

Mahon said overall he hopes to significantly enhance Kent State’s Web presence by integrating the university’s Web site to more fully serve students.

“It’s going to be one-stop shopping, so to speak,” he said. “You’ll be able to link to all sorts of other Web sites as well. It’ll make it easier and simpler.”

His advice to freshmen:

Mahon stressed the importance of bonds between professors and students.

“Develop good relationships with the faculty and other students,” he advised incoming freshmen.

Contact administration reporter Kate Bigam at [email protected].