KSU President Sam Olens delivers first State of the University address
Outlines key initiatives and recognizes faculty, staff and student accomplishments
KENNESAW, Ga. (Apr 26, 2017) — Samuel S. Olens has seen Kennesaw State University make several strides during his first six months as president thanks to “tremendous work by the entire campus community,” he said during his first State of the University address.
In his speech, given Monday at the Marietta Campus and Wednesday at the Kennesaw Campus, Olens discussed KSU’s recent successes and outlined strategic steps to continue moving Kennesaw State forward. He declared that “the state of the University is good,” but added that more work remains to be done.
“There is a lot to do and so much that I want to accomplish, but I can’t do it alone. We must work together,” Olens said. “I am convinced that together we can become a world-class comprehensive university recognized for excellence in education, research and community engagement.”
Olens explained that he has focused on improving Kennesaw State’s operations and fundraising while entrusting Provost Ken Harmon to lead the University’s academic mission. A number of policies and procedures have been revised, he said, enabling KSU’s operations to “function much more efficiently.”
“This is especially critical for a University that has grown as fast as ours and has brought together two very distinct cultures – Kennesaw State and Southern Polytechnic,” Olens said.
Kennesaw State is “known for its excellence in teaching,” Olens said, and the University’s top priority will continue to be providing an outstanding education for all KSU students. That includes growing Kennesaw State’s graduate programs and, as a designated Carnegie doctoral research institution, increasing the University’s research output.
“Research is an exciting area and one that KSU has been gradually gaining steam,” Olens said. “Through Kennesaw State’s Research and Services Foundation, we are stepping up our efforts to secure more federal grants in support of research activities.”
In addition to the dedication faculty members show in the classroom, Olens encouraged them to be active in the on- and off-campus communities. Olens described community engagement as “an important part of the mission of KSU”; for example, nearly 500 people volunteered their time and effort at 13 sites this past weekend for the annual KSU Day of Service.
“Service beyond campus represents one of the greatest promises of higher education – to improve the lives of people near and far,” he said. “The energy on this campus is palpable, and it is clear that the community is engaged with Kennesaw State and excited about what we are doing.”
Kennesaw State set another record enrollment this year, with more than 35,000 students. The University System of Georgia recently adopted a fixed-seat enrollment model, which utilizes a formula to calculate an applicant’s highest SAT scores and high school grade point average to determine eligibility.
“This model will strengthen enrollment management and increase the quality of incoming students,” Olens said. “While this does mean that students who meet the University’s minimum requirements no longer will be guaranteed admission, it will help us better serve the students who are here so that they can get the classes and services they need to graduate on time.”
Also approved by the state was $5 million for renovations to the science lab on the Marietta Campus. Olens added that this summer should see the completion of the new science labs on the fifth floor of the Science Lab Building on the Kennesaw Campus and the start of construction on the English Building addition and renovation.
A major task currently involving several University leaders is the development of a Quality Enhancement Plan to enhance student learning. The QEP is a key element of the process for Kennesaw State’s reaccreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 2019, as required every 10 years.
“A successful reaffirmation requires that everyone be committed to the effort,” Olens said. “The information we gather – on both our accomplishments and our areas for improvement – will contribute to KSU becoming a stronger institution more capable of carrying out its mission.”
Olens reiterated a promise he made when he became Kennesaw State’s fourth president – to listen, learn and make informed decisions. He pointed out that, since his first day on November 1, he has conducted town hall-style meetings on campus; met with more than 400 faculty, staff and students; participated in more than 50 meetings with campus groups and governing bodies; and met with more than 60 donors, prospective donors, civic leaders and business groups, and potential partners.
“I pledge my commitment to working with the various student, faculty and staff governing bodies on campus to provide more transparency, and to encourage a diverse and inclusive community where free expression of all opinions will be encouraged and nurtured,” Olens said. “My goal is for everyone to feel vested and engaged in the process so that we can continue to move this University forward.”
— Paul Floeckher