The new Office of University Outreach and Engagement is set to connect with the surrounding community with the goal of getting students to Kent State and, more importantly, college. 

Dana Lawless-Andric, Ph. D., is the newly-appointed associate vice president to the Office of University Outreach and Engagement. The office was created to centralize the university’s efforts to spread knowledge about what Kent State can offer students and how achieving a college degree can strengthen the community. 

The office combines three separate programs within the university and brings them under one roof. The K-12 Pipeline and Pre-College Engagement, Town-and-Gown Partnership and Community Relations and Development programs all now are overseen by the office and its staff.

The K-12 Pipeline focuses on getting involved with first generation and low-income students in order to prepare them for college. The program offers campus tours in order to show students how college can be an option. 

“We want to be intentional in building these pipelines,” Lawless-Andric said, “and the Akron I Promise School is a great example of what that could look like.” 

Kent State offers I Promise students programs to learn more about college and get them excited for their future. Staff members from Kent visit with seniors and their families and offer virtual college visits to ensure the students are ready to move on from high school. 

The program started locally, but Lawless-Andric said that the number of schools looking to partner with Kent State is growing.

“We’ve had other out-of-state, local-based programs reach out and say they want to build a partnership with Kent State because we have a lot to offer.” 

Pre-College Engagement includes partnering with local public schools to invest in their high school students looking to head to college and the LeBron James Family Foundation and the Akron I Promise network. First Star Academy, a program focused on helping foster care youths made homeless by the opioid crisis, also falls under this program.

The Town-and-Gown Partnership maintains the university’s relationship with the city of Kent and allows the university to collaborate with the city on events going on within the community.

“Recently, we’ve been dealing with making sure we’re all on the same page as it relates to the safety of our students and community members as it relates to the pandemic,” Lawless-Andric said. “Town-and-Gown is more based on the need and situation versus a program. It’s relationship building.” 

Community Relations and Development programs ensure that Kent State has a seat at the table in the broader community of Northeast Ohio. 

“This is a new office,” Lawless-Andric said, “but it’s combined of existing things.”

President Todd Diacon and Interim Provost Melody Tankersley brought together Lawless-Andric’s position as the associate vice president for diversity and inclusion leadership with the Upward Bound and First Star programs to create the Office of University Outreach and Engagement.

“I have big ideas, so I see lots of room for improvement!” Lawless-Andric said. “As a public university, there’s a mission that you serve, and part of that mission is how are we responsive to the communities in which we serve, and the only way to do that is to be out in them.”

Megan McSweeney is an administration reporter. Contact her at mmcswee2@kent.edu.

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Hi, I’m Lauren Sasala, a senior journalism student from Toledo. I’m also the editor in chief of The Kent Stater and KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important news about Kent State and the Kent community. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.

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