With the rise of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. over the past few weeks, public spaces like restaurants, shopping centers and universities have implemented increasingly strict restrictions to minimize the spread of the virus.
These regulations are evident at Kent State University, where on-campus tours have been cancelled “until further notice.” This change was made in early October after Portage County reached a Level 3 risk for COVID-19 concerns.
As a result, Kent has created KSU2U, a drive-in event where potential new students and their families can learn more about campus life from the safety of their cars. The first of these events occurred on Nov. 9, and the final event was on Nov. 19.
“We really wanted to think outside of the box to our prospective students’ needs,” said Vince Slomsky, director of strategic communications with enrollment management at Kent State. “So we came up with KSU2U.”
Slomsky is the brains behind the idea for a drive-in college tour, but he made sure to accredit his fellow university staff for aiding in the process.
“It was certainly a team effort to make it happen,” Slomsky said.
When Kent State released its statement that campus tours would be canceled due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, Slomsky made it his goal to find a way for high school seniors to still get the on-campus touring experience.
“Because of COVID, we had to cancel our campus tours. … It was tough for prospective students,” Slomsky said.
“I gotta be honest,” Slomsky added. “This is an idea that I pitched in a leadership team meeting that I had probably less than a month ago.”
His pitch idea was eventually accepted by the university and from there he started making phone calls to drive-ins.
In a matter of two weeks, Slomsky reached out to drive-in theaters in Hamilton, Oregon, Columbus, North Ridgeville and Chardon, Ohio.
“It’s tough to get a hold of drive-in theaters because they’re typically only open on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and evenings,” Slomsky said.
However, upon contacting numerous drive-ins, Slomksky said they were willing and excited to host Kent State.
“This is additional business for them (drive-ins),” Slomsky said. “Honestly, I think this is an opportunity for drive-in theaters. … In the age of COVID, I think they should take advantage of things like these.”
Slomsky’s goal for KSU2U is to help possible students learn more about what Kent State has to offer.
“We want them (prospective students) to know how welcoming we are, we want them to know how easy it is to apply to Kent State…we want to be able to provide a resource for them in their hometown, or at least close to their hometown,” Slomksy said. “Since they can’t come to us right now, let’s bring Kent State to them.”
With this in mind, the drive-in events last from 5-7:30 p.m., and students and their families can stay in their cars for the duration of the event.
“We’re making it convenient for them,” Slomsky said, “and doing it in a way we can make sure we can be COVID-friendly.”
The evenings are broken up into timed sections, which allow students to ask questions, watch a video presentation and get a feel for Kent’s environment in a socially distant setting.
The first hour, from 5-6 p.m., is a drive-in question and answer session.
“As these families arrive, we want to answer their questions right away,” Slomsky said.
He added, “Our admissions counselors are there, our financial aids are there, so any questions prospective students have, they can ask it right there.”
During this time, prospective students can also purchase hot dogs, drinks and other snacks available at the outdoor concession stand.
After the Q&A forum, there is an hour-long video presentation that includes a virtual campus tour.
“I’ll be honest,” Slomsky said. “Nothing will ever beat an in-person campus tour on the Kent campus. As we know, the Kent campus is beautiful…but I think this is a really great alternative.”
While the videos are playing, admissions counselors from various Ohio regions are also available to answer any questions.
As the videos come to an end, the final 30 minutes of the evening is set aside for any final questions. Participants are asked to follow Kent State Admissions on Instagram, where they can view and comment on a live video.
Slomsky said the drive-in events have had a considerably high turnout.
In fact, he said there were 50 families in attendance in Toledo, 75 in Cincinnati and Columbus, 120 in West Cleveland and over 175 in East Cleveland.
Along with its recent success, KSU2U has also been gaining the attention of popular news outlets.
“We appeared in Yahoo! News, and all the Cleveland news stations have covered this,” Slomsky said. “What we’re really getting credit for right now is thinking out of the box.”
As a former Kent student himself, Slomsky’s pride for his alma mater runs deep.
In a word of advice to future college students, Slomsky said, “Don’t let COVID dictate what you’re gonna do after high school. … Coming to Kent is the best decision you can make.”
As a result of KSU2U, Slomsky hopes collegiate applicants will be better prepared and informed in deciding whether to attend Kent State.
“I want prospective students and families to feel comfortable that Kent State University is for them,” he said. “We’re all about people. We’re all about Flashes Take Care of Flashes.”
Contact Morgan McGrath at email@example.com.
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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.