KSU TRUMBULL New dean is full of ideas, enthusiasm

CHAMPION -- The new dean of Kent State University's Trumbull Campus has ambitious goals to boost student enrollment and add certificate and associate degree programs in the health professions.
"It has a great potential for growth," Dr. Wanda E. Thomas said of the campus. Thomas, a Kent State graduate, became dean of the 2,400-student campus on June 1. Fall classes start Monday.
"It's got great facilities. It's not a campus where you need to do a lot of remodeling and renovation," she observed. The work force development and continuing studies building is just over a year old, and the technology building is about 3 years old, she said.
"There's great room for expansion, great room for new program development, and a tremendous ability to partner with community agencies," for economic development projects, she added. "You've got a huge university of resources available to this community through this campus."
Eager to expand
Among new programs Thomas is proposing are an associate degree program in nursing, which would prepare students to be registered nurses at a time of critical nursing shortage; and certificate or associate degree programs in nuclear medicine, radiation therapy and diagnostic medical sonography (ultrasound).
Training programs for CAT scan or MRI technicians should also be explored, she said.
Dual certifications are especially helpful for professionals who will work in smaller health care institutions, where they must perform multiple functions, she observed.
"We're really looking at creating a cluster of health career programs," she said, adding that the Ohio Board of Regents must approve any new academic programs based on a demonstrated need for them. Thomas will seek suggestions this year from the faculty, administration and community concerning new programs for which they think there is a projected need. The university will then do a needs assessment.
"Kent Trumbull has to be sensitive to grow in the areas that Trumbull County is proposing to grow," she said. "Health care is an obvious one," she observed, noting the abundance of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
The campus offers great potential for "economic development and continuing education for those people who are in the work force, who need to upgrade their skills or want to advance themselves in their chosen professional field,'' Thomas said.
There's also substantial potential to assist companies needing professional training for their employees or help in planning for their company's future, she said.
"We are eager and certainly have the capacity to grow in enrollment on this campus," Thomas said. The goal is to achieve a 10 percent to 20 percent annual student enrollment increase, she said. To help achieve that goal, she proposes expanding student financial aid availability through an endowed scholarship fund, together with a revamped promotion and marketing effort for the campus.
Community connections
She said she wants to establish a program under which companies could provide scholarships for students who would agree to work for the sponsoring company for a stated period of time after graduation.
Thomas said she is working with the university's urban design center, which has helped Warren city planners, to create a "more collegiate appearance" for the exterior of the campus.
With nearby streets named Educational Parkway and Research Highway, planners originally envisioned that companies would build research facilities in a "tech park" adjacent to university buildings. Such a complex of nearby high tech businesses "would be our dream," Thomas said.
Thomas said she plans to spend half her time "working with business, industry and the community to find out ways that Kent Trumbull can better serve them" and enter into partnerships with them.
Thomas replaced Dr. Robert G. Sines Jr., who had been interim dean here since Dr. David Allen retired in July 2003. Sines continues as assistant dean for academic affairs.
Thomas, 57, who resides in Howland, was most recently vice president for community and resource development at Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Thomas said she wanted to return to Ohio because she enjoys working with people who are fully committed to the success of this community and because she has a sister living in the Chagrin Falls area.
In contrast, many people in Florida, where she spent 24 years, are either tourists or reside there only seasonally and don't have the same commitment to the community, she observed.
Thomas, who arrives on campus between 6:30 and 7 a.m. daily and usually leaves at about 6 p.m., said her goal is to establish "a team spirit" among administration, faculty, staff and students. "We're a small enough campus that we should be able to work in a collaborative fashion," she said.
Campus details
The Trumbull campus is a commuter campus offering a host of associate degree programs, including those in accounting, business management, computer, laboratory, industrial trades, electrical engineering, manufacturing and plastics manufacturing technologies, high technology manufacturing, legal assisting and justice studies.
Bachelor's degrees can be completed at the Trumbull campus in English, justice studies, business management, general studies, technology and industrial technology. Thomas said she'd like students to be able to complete additional bachelor's degree programs here, rather than having to transfer to the main campus at Kent or elsewhere.
The student to faculty ratio is 16:1, with more than 90 percent of the faculty holding master's or doctoral degrees. Sixty percent of students on campus are non-traditional students -- those older than traditional college age.
Students are taught in small classes by faculty -- not graduate assistants -- even in introductory courses, Thomas said.
"It is an environment which supports the success of the student," she said.

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