Olens committed to future, proud of KSU

His criticisms are upsides for KSU students

By MATT NEUENSCHWANDER

KENNESAW, Ga. — Newly appointed Kennesaw State University president Sam Olens met with a communication class Tuesday, and his message was one of solace.

Olens, who moved to Atlanta in 1980, said he wants to be KSU’s president until he retires as he’s from this community and admires the university’s growth. From a management perspective, Olens said he is committed to providing proper resources for faculty and students, and he has experience with complex organizations, managing more than 5,000 employees in Cobb County as the head of the county commission.

Olens’s commitment

“I’m not here for the short-term,” Olens said. “I’m here to make a big difference and then to retire.”

Through his decades in this community and his short time at KSU, Olens has really grown a strong adoration for the university.

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Sam Olens (Photo by Matt Neuenschwander)

“You clearly get the impression that the students have the upmost energy, boundless desire to improve their community,” Olens said. “That is really something special that you need to be proud of.”

Olens said he feels strongly about keeping that progressive, community-centered outlook at KSU, which he feels is just as important as education.

With only a 1,500-student difference between KSU and the University of Georgia, the Kennesaw institution might be the second largest university in Georgia by fall 2017. Olens said he wants a degree from KSU to be something students can be proud of in the future.

“My goal is to move this university so it’s openly competing with the very best in the country,” Olens said. “This university has accomplished great things in a short period of time, and the sky’s the limit if it’s properly managed.”

Concerns of Olens’s qualifications

One student in the class asked Olens about his qualifications as president given his lack of educational experience. Olens expects himself to be more engaged with leadership to improve the institution, he said.

“That is me taking advantage of my weakness and providing a strength,” Olens said.

Some pin Olens’s background in law rather than academia as a weakness, but that’s not how he sees it.

“The university president today isn’t the university president of 20 years ago,” Olens said. “It used to be academics. It’s now academics, budget, fundraising, compliance with federal and state regulations.”

Olens will attend the Harvard Seminar for New Presidents, which is the same program KSU’s faculty suggested he go to. According to its website, the next seminar is July 2017.

Improvements on the horizon

“I can’t go to a single meeting on this campus without being told there’s inadequate dorms,  inadequate faculty, inadequate advisers, inadequate parking, inadequate classrooms,” Olens said.

KSU’s parking issue is notorious among students, causing some students to create petitions. However, Olens said the answer isn’t as simple as some might think.

“These are really complicated problems, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution,” Olens said.

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Sam Olens (Photo by Matt Neuenschwander)

Olens is meeting downtown at the chancellor’s office with a goal to seek changes beginning next year regarding the insufficient accommodations for KSU’s growing population. He plans to reduce this stress on the university.

“Even if I do my best to try to deal with the shortcomings, it’s going to take time,” Olens said. “You can’t get the money and build a building in 30 days.”

Per a meeting in August, a new parking deck is not in the university’s immediate future.

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