By Katherine Michalak
In the shadow of Kennesaw Mountain rests the third largest university in the state (and one of the 50 largest public universities in the nation), Kennesaw State University (KSU). The university illuminates a bright path for the thousands of diverse students who thrive in the student-centered culture that has placed KSU in the “Top 10 Schools of Choice” by U.S.News & World Report, based on the percentage of students who upon applying and receiving acceptance to the school then choose to attend. From academics to athletics, KSU enjoys continued growth and success, cultivated by its campus community and nurtured by its dedicated leadership.
In June 2018, Dr. Pamela Whitten was named the fifth president of KSU, following her post as provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at the University of Georgia (UGA). During her time at UGA, Whitten established the school’s Women’s Leadership Initiative; she brings a similar charge to KSU with her commitment to facilitating opportunities and empowerment for women. That commitment earns her a spot as one of Engineering Georgia magazine’s “Top 100 Influential Women In Georgia,” a list noting those who through their own careers strive for the betterment of the state. On joining KSU, Whitten extolled, “I believe that this university is at an exciting crossroad. We have a great student body, faculty, and staff who are ready to step up and take KSU to the next level and I wanted to help lead that effort.”
At the start of the year, Whitten appointed Dr. Kathy Schwaig as provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, the fourth individual to hold this office, making the KSU leadership cabinet more than 60-percent female. Dr. Schwaig joined the KSU faculty in 2002, and most recently served as dean of Coles College of Business, leading the strategic plan that lifted the EMBA, Online MBA, and part-time MBA programs to first-place rankings in the state and in top slots in the nation. Allan Bishop, the director of recruitment and business development for the Coles’ EMBA program, says “As provost, [Schwaig] will be able to have a much broader impact on the university. We are proud of all she has accomplished. She has left the Coles College a better place and has left us in good hands with the appointment of Dr. Robin Cheramie as interim dean.”
In her new position, Schwaig reports directly to the president and holds responsibility for the overall academic mission of the university. She oversees the deans of all 13 KSU colleges, and does so with a supportive approach that elevates the academic community.
The efforts to position KSU ahead of any competition already have been rewarded by the esteemed Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Learning, which now designates the university with its R2 status, indicating recognition as a doctoral university with high research activity. Such a classification ranks KSU as part of a Top 6 percent of accredited institutions and helps effectively generate attention to the vast research opportunities offered within the system of KSU colleges. “[R2 designation] provided us with new ways of looking at what we have to offer our students,” Whitten explained, “The door was already open to the expansion of research and scholarship potential by our faculty, but now we have shown that we can take the next step to become one of the top-tier universities in the nation.”
Recently, KSU became the first Georgia host for the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), the largest of its kind in the world. The university leadership plans to use this R2 designation to establish an expanded framework for the enhanced development of those opportunities — encouraging undergraduate, graduate, and faculty research while also increasing student engagement in internships and service-learning initiatives. Bishop asserts, “The R2 classification is another important milestone in the growing reputation of KSU. With this classification, increases in pedagogical research will aid in relevant curriculum enhancement.”
This hands-on approach to education has become a hallmark of KSU, bolstering its solid reputation for high-quality education with realistic, purposeful applications that prepare students for productive ventures after graduation.
The success of enhanced programming depends on the strength, knowledge, and experience of the team behind it. “We are committed to student success and that starts with a leadership team that is passionate about putting students first,” Whitten declared, “…every decision we make must first answer the question, ‘how will this benefit students?’”
With that goal in view, President Whitten adds four new academic deans to the faculty. As the new dean of the College of Professional Education, Dr. Tim Blumentritt, who joined KSU faculty in 2005, continues the innovative work he began as director of strategic planning, using that lens to focus the vision for this college. The Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (SPCEET) welcomes Whitten’s appointment of Dr. Ian Ferguson as its new dean, who brings with him an impressive academic background in research, funding, instruction, and administration. Dr. Shaw Long moves from University of North Carolina at Charlotte down to Kennesaw, assuming office as dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences with an agenda prioritizing both student and faculty success. Coming into leadership as dean of the College of Arts, Dr. Ivan Pulinkala draws on his experience as founder of the KSU Department of Dance to maintain momentum in advancing the university arts programs system-wide.
Positive changes call for a bold announcements, and KSU reports the active stages of a full rebranding campaign designed to realign their marketing presence with the growth of the university. Heralding the intentions of an overall forward march, an updated logo presents a visual talisman illustrating the collaborative spirit of the university. The rebranded image moves away from the use of the traditional Kennesaw Mountain silhouette and replaces that with interlocking, varsity-style letters “K” and “S” along with a more prominent treatment of “university” in the written title. This new image not only serves as a strong emblem for the school’s athletic teams, but also represents the cohesive connection between all the schools within the university system.
“Part of our mission addresses our student-centric focus and our ability to unite a diverse spectrum of backgrounds and talents,” Whitten said. “I believe the new unified ‘KS’ logo embodies that spirit.”