Kent State University president Beverly Warren’s last day on the job is this Sunday. Warren is stepping down after five years leading the university. We sat down with her to talk about her tenure as the university’s 12th president.
A student's president
When Warren first came to Kent State she set out to establish a personal relationship with students, something she said was lacking at her own alma mater. She said students knowing and interacting with their president is essential to the fabric of the university. Warren began building this relationship on her first day. She told students to call her Bev, and it quickly endeared her to the university.
Warren said one of the greatest challenges facing higher education is showing the value of a college degree. She's happy with the work her administration has done to articulate the value not just in getting a college degree, but getting one from Kent State. Warren said changing demographics present difficulties for enrolling and retaining students. "With fewer high school graduates, and certainly more students with high financial need as a consideration in terms of affordability, that's been a struggle for us. We've lost 2,000 students over the last two years." She said hiring Mary Parker as vice president of Enrollment Management has helped significantly.
The future of higher education in Ohio
Warren also talked about the state of higher education in Ohio. She said Kent State has been collaborative with other Northeast Ohio colleges offering dual degree programs. “At my last commencement in May, I actually awarded some University of Akron degrees in Audiology because that program is a dual program,” she said. In coming years, Warren anticipates universities will better articulate which programs are best for their college and which might be better taken at other colleges.
As state funding for colleges shows minimal growth, Warren is confident Kent State is in good shape. She said the university’s stable footing is due to treating a college budget like a family budget, by cutting expenses and managing revenue.
Recognizing May 4th
On recognizing May 4th, Warren said what’s important for her is that the university understands the importance of honoring, remembering and reflecting on the memory of May 4th. She also mentioned the importance of the May 4th Task Force, which Warren said should be celebrated for its 40 plus years of organizing the commemoration of the day when national guardsmen opened fire during protests on campus, killing four students.
In March, Kent State’s Board of Trustees passed a resolution assuming responsibility for the commemoration. The task force criticized the university for the resolution, but Warren said it will allow the university to put the resources, investment and commitment needed for the commemoration. Warren said she will be back for the 50th anniversary of May 4 in 2020.
Warren said she hopes people will remember her for caring deeply about every individual at the university. “Voices matter, and people matter.” she said, “We became a stronger university by virtue of the boldness we took into our work, and by virtue of the value we placed on one another.”
Warren’s legacy is not one of just accomplishments, as she’ll tell you it’s about building from the ground up and establishing relationships which benefit the university.
Warren advised her successor, Todd Diacon not to get bogged down by all the meetings and paperwork. “The beautiful part of the job, one of the highest responsibilities is making sure we’re accessible, and connected to our university in very tangible ways,” she said. Warren said she admires the tradition of U.S. Presidents leaving a note for their successors. “I think there’s something really compelling about that,” she said, “They’re insightful. That’s a good tradition.”