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Stark News Details

Graduates Earn Degrees through Project Win-Win

Posted Dec. 9, 2011

Some of the graduates walking across the stage during Kent State University at Stark’s commencement ceremony on December 16 haven’t taken a college course in quite a few semesters, yet they still qualify to receive an associate degree. Kent State Stark is one of three Ohio regional campuses included in Project Win-Win, a national program that authorizes institutions to identify former students – no longer enrolled anywhere and never awarded any degree – whose records qualify them for an associate degree and grant it to them retroactively. The institutions are also encouraged to find former students who are “academically short” of an associate degree by no more than nine to 12 credits and urge them back to complete the degree.

Fifteen of the 26 associate degree candidates who will accept their diplomas on the commencement stage during Kent State Stark’s ceremony were identified through Project Win-Win. More than 70 students accepted the offer when contacted about the program and will receive their Kent State University associate degree this semester.

“Project Win-Win positively impacts the educational attainment of our region, providing individuals with a degree that not only makes them more marketable to potential employers, but also can encourage them to pursue additional courses to obtain their bachelor’s degree,” says Dr. Walter F. Wagor, dean of Kent State Stark.

The Institute of Higher Education Policy instituted Project Win-Win to encourage college completion by adults with prior college credits but no degree. The organization expects to award 6,000 associate degrees by August 2013.

Delivering the address for Kent State Stark’s 2011 Fall Commencement Ceremony is Eric Smer, executive director of the Stark County Hunger Task Force. The ceremony, to be held on Friday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. at Umstattd Performing Arts Hall in Canton, is a ticketed event. Representatives of the media are welcome upon request. 

A graduate of Jackson High School, Smer attended Kent State University at Stark, where he achieved repeated semesters of academic excellence and compiled a long list of campus involvements – President of Business Administration Students at Stark, co-founder of Student Government Founders’ Association, mentor and council member of the Honors Program and student representative for several campus committees, such as the Dean Transition Team and Campus Complaint Committee, to name a few. His proudest accomplishments were generating motivation and interest amongst his peers to get more involved with their campus and community.

In 2007, Smer graduated magna cum laude with a dual-major business management and marketing, while also receiving honors and distinction in marketing for his efforts through the Honors Program and his senior honors thesis. Following graduation, he assumed the role of Kent State’s AmeriCorps*VISTA Service Leader and extended his efforts at the Kent and Stark Campuses to expand community service and service-learning opportunities amongst administration, faculty, students and community partners, such as the Stark County Hunger Task Force.

After his one-year contract with VISTA expired, Smer went on to serve at one of his favorite community partners with whom he had worked in several capacities through his Kent State years – the Stark County Hunger Task Force. Now, in his fourth year of employment at the organization, he serves as Stark County’s youngest executive director of the oldest countywide hunger relief program.

For more information, please contact Cynthia Williams at 330-244-3262 or