Beverly Warren talks change leadership as Kent State University’s new president

 

Newly appointed Kent State University President Beverly Warren wants accessibility and visibility to be the hallmarks of her tenure. Putting that vision into practice means ensuring there’s time on her schedule to fulfill the myriad duties of her presidency and meet with stakeholders, all while driving toward her goal of developing Kent State into a global destination that draws the best and brightest to Northeast Ohio.

The first step she’s taken on that journey is to get the pulse of the community and discover as much as she can. During the months leading up to her July 1 start, she visited the campus regularly to learn from outgoing president Lester A. Lefton and meet as many people at Kent State and in the surrounding community as she could.

“Getting insight from those who actually enact a vision is a really healthy place to start,” Warren says. “And they can help with pacing of change.”

She met with students, the senior leadership team at Kent State and traveled to each of the seven regional campuses, which meant driving 500 miles in two days, to see for herself what life is like at Kent.

Being visible

“I don’t know that I can tell you the name of the president of my university as an undergraduate, and I want students to feel that they know their president and they know their president cares about them,” Warren says. “The same with faculty and staff, so I try to be as visible as I can because I want them to know that I’m engaged and I value what they do.”

College presidencies today are complex positions, she says. They are external advocates, fundraisers, lobbyists and the external face of their universities, all of which takes a lot of a president’s time. Being visible and accessible is a challenge, she says, because there are only so many hours in a day to manage all a president’s duties and maintain the financial viability of the institution.

“I just think it’s worth the investment to make sure that I’m connected internally, because my belief is if I’m visible and I’m connected internally, I have a much better story to tell to the external audience,” Warren says.

Being visible, however, means finding the time to meet with stakeholders. That requires Warren to be strategic with her calendar so that her schedule reflects the core values and expectations she’s set.

“We try to be very strategic about internal visibility and external advocacy, and that sometimes ebbs and flows,” she says. “For example, I’ve been probably quite external at the moment, just trying to meet people, particularly people within Northeast Ohio. Blocking off time for strategic thinking and analysis is probably the hardest one.”