Kennesaw State University President Daniel Papp delivered his annual State of the University Address Wednesday and Thursday morning in the auditorium of the Bobbie Bailey and Family Performing Arts Center.
Papp has been president of the university since July 2006 when he took over for Betty Siegel, who spent 25 years in charge. Over the course of his nearly seven-year tenure, Papp has seen the KSU community grow substantially in both student enrollment and national recognition.
Papp began his information- packed speech by welcoming the audience and thanking them for attending before diving into major issues concerning the university in its 50th year.
“KSU today is a major institution,” Papp said, “a community of almost 30,000 students, faculty and staff.
“Our overall economic impact is almost $900 million,” he continued. “But it hasn’t always been this way.”
He reminded audience members that KSU began as Kennesaw Junior College in October 1963.
“KJC had zero students, zero faculty, zero staff and zero facilities,” Papp said. “We’ve come a long way in 50 years.”
Papp said accreditation expectations have heightened over recent years, effecting how the school handles internal processes and documentation. He congratulated several faculty members for their work in compiling the university’s Five-Year Interim Report, which was submitted to the Southern Association of Colleges last month.
Papp said he is highly confident that SACS will favorably view this report.
“I know it’s been a burden, but in this era of increased accountability, we have no choice but to comply and comply well,” Papp said.
Papp continued by congratulating the school on a long list of recent accomplishments before recognizing students who received recognition for their academic and extracurricular accomplishments.
Kennesaw State was one of 21 colleges and universities in the nation to receive an “A” for its core curriculum requirements, according to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.
Papp also announced several academic leadership changes, saying four of the university’s nine colleges are, or soon will be headed by new deans.
He then discussed how Gov. Nathan Deal’s “Complete College Georgia” program will effect the school.
Deal launched the program last year with the hope of increasing the number of Georgians with college degrees, improving the quality of higher education in the state and tying college completion to economic development.
“We are moving in the right direction but we still have a ways to go,” Papp said. “The reality is that four other University System of Georgia comprehensive universities, whose entering freshman class is similar to ours, graduate a higher percentage of students in six years than we do.”
Papp said he wants to get the university to become more engaged and prominent in the local community, the state and in the nation.
“We must do a better job of packaging, promoting and marketing what KSU and its people do in external communities.”
Papp said the school continues to make progress concerning the development of new facilities and infrastructure.
He announced the General Assembly’s approval of $4.4 million in bonds for renovating the Sturgis Library.
“In three years we will have devoted almost $6 million to improving the library.”
KSU has also opened begun construction on three new academic buildings, including the Science Laboratory Building, the Zuckerman Art Museum, and the $20 million Bagwell of College Education Building expansion.
Papp announced that construction will begin on the $39 million Dr. Betty Siegel Student Activity and Recreation Center, which will feature indoor and outdoor pools, five basketball courts, a multi- activity court, eight tennis courts, a weight and fitness area, a rock-climbing wall, an indoor track, a wellness center, and volleyball and racquetball courts.
Finally, the president announced the construction of a $20 million overpass, which will connect Frey Road to the west of I-75 with Busbee Parkway east of the interstate.
He said the construction will take about two years to complete.
“Our budget remains tight as the state and country struggle to emerge from the recession,” Papp said. “For five years, the state has provided no funds designated for salary increases.”
After the speech, Papp said he isn’t sure that there is a classroom shortage facing teachers and students in the fallw, referring to it instead as a “distribution issue.”
“We have put in place a new system where classrooms, instead of being owned by individual departments, are owned by the university,” Papp said.
He said students and teachers in certain departments may have to utilize classroom space in different buildings next semester.
Dean of Student Success Michael Sanseviro said the annual address is “critically important because it lets everyone, both internally and externally, know where KSU [stands].”