Feb. 7, 2007
By George Mauzy
At 36 years old, Ohio University Vice President for Student Affairs Kent J. Smith Jr. would have to be considered a rising star in the ranks of higher education administration.
After holding various Student Affairs titles at Case Western Reserve University, Colorado State University and Auburn University, Smith began his new leadership role at Ohio University in July 2006.
"I am fortunate -- and blessed to have this great job," Smith said. "I am extremely grateful to President McDavis for affording me an opportunity to prove myself at Ohio University. I also realize that this great professional opportunity can be taken away at anytime, so I appreciate it every day and don't take it for granted."
With an engaging personality, limitless energy and the charisma of a motivational speaker, Smith has made an immediate impression on his peers and students.
"Dr. Smith has been a real asset for Student Senate and for all students this year," said Student Senate President Morgan Allen. "Throughout the short time he has served as the Student Senate adviser, he has not only listened to our problems and concerns, but has taken actions to help and provided honest advice just when we needed it. We would not have been able to tackle the issues we are dealing with this year without his guidance and support."
Recently, Smith assigned a committee the task of presenting him with ideas for a Student Affairs strategic plan that aligns with the goals of the university's Vision OHIO strategic plan.
"The committee and I are looking at what is needed for our division to become nationally prominent," Smith said. "Our goal is for the strategic plan to be in place by the end of spring quarter. It also is important for staff to play a major part in the development of the plan, because people tend to support things they had a part in creating."
One initiative Smith is overseeing is the creation of a new university creed that defines what is expected of all members of the Ohio University community and what it means to be a Bobcat. He hopes this document will create a new sense of pride on campus and create clearly stated expectations for everyone to abide by. Student Senate is currently developing ideas for the new creed and will make recommendations to Smith in the near future.
Smith would also like to see students placed on all job search committees on campus. He figures the presence of a student would not only add to the hiring process, but also serve as a great student learning experience.
"Why can't every student on campus have a mentor?" asked Smith. "This concept would help with retention and could eventually boost alumni giving. I think these mentored students would be more likely to donate money back to the university as alumni."
"Kent has been great to work with because he brings a fresh perspective to the division," said Anne Lombard, assistant vice president for student affairs and director of the Baker University Center and Campus Life. "His commitment to the welfare of the students is evident, and he has already displayed an outstanding vision for Student Affairs."
Although Smith says he is in "exploratory mode" regarding his evaluation of the Student Affairs division, he admits to feeling great about its future because of the confidence he has in his team.
"One of the reasons I accepted this position was the seasoned staff already in place in Student Affairs," Smith said. "We also have many good programs in place, and now we must work diligently together to make the division the best it can be."
Does he feel up to the task? Absolutely.
"I live by the old saying, 'To whom much is given, much is required."
George Mauzy is a media specialist with University Communications and Marketing.