Academic Program Director uses personal experiences to empathize with students

Jay Hays headshotAcademic Program Director and three-time Kent State University alum, Jay Hays, Ph.D., fell into the advising role. Upon completing his M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration in 2001, Dr. Hays had initially searched for a position working in Greek Affairs. “That was my background and my first professional job. I wanted to continue in that area.” Instead, he felt compelled to accept a position where he saw he could make an impact on the larger community. Dr. Hays served as  Program Officer at Kent State East Liverpool from 2001 through 2005, assisting with admissions, academic and financial aid advising and student activities.

Dr. Hays learned about the newly established Academic Advising office within the College of Nursing from Curtis Good, Ph.D. who offered him the opportunity to make the switch to the Kent campus in 2005. “I was ready for professional advancement, and it was the perfect time to make a change. The Salem and East Liverpool campuses were in the process of joining together and I had been reporting to an individual on a different campus for some time.” Dr. Hays recalled that when he first came to the Kent campus, housing professional academic advisors inside the individual colleges was a new concept not widely adopted across campus. Initially hired by University Studies as a Retention Advisor, Dr. Hay’s office was housed in the College of Nursing where he worked closely with freshmen and accelerated students for several years.

“I enjoyed challenging freshmen to think differently about Kent Core courses, helping them realize those classes were designed to teach students that every individual looks at the world differently,” said Dr. Hays. “I explained how it would benefit them as a nurse, or whatever they decided to be as a citizen in our democratic society, to understand how other people think and see the world.”

Today, Dr. Hays works with an entirely different group of students, those interested in advancing their education in graduate school in the College of Nursing. Through email and phone correspondence, he assists students and prospective students in figuring out what is realistic and achievable. The typical student Dr. Hays speaks with is a working mother who is trying to balance family and career. Dr. Hays explained that adding graduate school into the mix can be a difficult thing for some. “Graduate school demands it be the first priority and for many, it’s third at best. That has the potential to cause problems, so I do my best to work with each student to prevent problems from happening.”

Dr. Hays uses his own experiences from when he attended graduate school while balancing family responsibilities to empathize with his students. “I was the only person in my program who went to school part-time. I had class once a week, stayed up all night to read and spent my weekends in the library trying to keep up. I understand that balance – working all day, going to school at night and trying to find time with family.”

Jay Hays at a graduate fair
Jay Hays represents Kent State at a recent graduate fair at a local hospital.

For students thinking about doctoral programs, he provides insights into other areas. According to Dr. Hays, until students begin exploring doctoral programs, the thought of completing a dissertation or doing research may be a foreign concept. “I get them to start thinking about their interests, passions or concerns, the aspects of their job that may keep them up at night.” That kind of thinking is perfect for DNP students says Dr. Hays, because those individuals are not looking to do research per se, but develop or change procedures, policies or how something in the field of nursing is done. For students interested in the Ph.D. program, his conversations center around theory, methods and statistics. “Nursing scientists develop the knowledge others need to reference before it can be applied to different situations.”

Dr. Hays acknowledges the success of graduate students is a team effort. “Many of their questions we can answer as advisors, but sometimes we have to direct them to their professor or coordinator. The faculty provide professional mentoring and we take care of the structural nuts and bolts of what it means to be a student.”

His favorite part about working at Kent State College of Nursing is the close relationships he’s formed with his colleagues. “Many of us have worked together for 15 years and we’re like a family. We’ve experienced weddings, funerals and the birth of many children.” Additionally, he enjoys spending time on front campus taking in its serene beauty. “I had many of my graduate courses on that end of campus. If you aren’t paying attention, you could forget for just a second that you are right in the middle of the city, even though Route 59 is right there. The ancient oak trees and old buildings create a classic campus feel.”


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