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New Community Liaison Seeks to Build Bridges Between University and Its Home

Neal Stefanko, Kent State's new University-Community Liaison is paving the way for new unity and understanding between the Kent community and Kent State University students and staff.

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New Community Liaison Seeks to Build Bridges Between University and Its Home

Posted Nov. 8, 2010

One of the biggest obstacles facing the city of Kent is creating a balance between community residents and university students. Residents complain about the noise from rowdy parties and busy streets, while students feel uncomfortable when confronted by their angry neighbors.

special feature neal stefanko inside
Neal Stefanko (above, and front)

Enter Neal Stefanko, Kent State's new University-Community Liaison. Stefanko, who earned a bachelor's degree in emergency management from Kent State, officially began his new position on Aug. 23. He is paving the way for a new unity and understanding between the Kent community and Kent State University students and staff.

"My biggest job is to mesh all these people together," he says.

Stefanko's work involves meeting with city officials such as city council and police, and also meeting with Kent State University departments such as Student Services. Stefanko evaluates the needs of both the city and the university regarding issues such as noise pollution and raucous parties, and mediates between the two groups to create a balance.

Recently, Stefanko has been taking to the streets on foot, to both familiarize himself with the people of Kent and to let the community know that he is their resource and "go-to" man for problems or concerns regarding Kent State students.

"One of my goals is to make people realize that the students here are very good," explains Stefanko. "They do a lot of community service and go on to do great things."

Stefanko also strives to make Kent State students more aware and respectful of their surroundings.

During October, Stefanko focused his work on safe, responsible partying - that is, making sure each student knows that he or she must be responsible for his or her actions. Stefanko's position as a liaison makes him the perfect person to ask for advice regarding these kinds of situations. "If I can help one student - even one - then I feel like I've succeeded," says Stefanko.

Stefanko says that the reception from both the community and the university has been fantastic, and he hopes to reach more people in the upcoming months. Stefanko plans to use the winter months as a behind-the-scenes planning period, and he also aspires to incorporate his safe partying curriculum into the freshman orientation experience.

Stefanko looks forward to forging productive relationships in his new role. "This job is a great opportunity for me to pave the way," he says.

Listen to the audio interview with Stefanko.