KSU in Review: A Year to Remember

KENNESAW, Ga. | Dec 24, 2020

In a year unlike any we’ve experienced before, Kennesaw State University students, faculty and staff remained steadfast in their commitment to scholarship and service. Owl Nation enjoyed success and made a difference in the classroom, through research initiatives, in academic competitions and through community engagement. Along the way, another record fall enrollment established Kennesaw State as Georgia’s second-largest university.

Pandemic Pivot

Not surprisingly, Kennesaw State students stepped up to the challenges of these unique times. Also answering the call were University faculty transitioning their courses to remote learning and staff shifting crucial services fully online. In the early stages of the pandemic, KSU launched the Moving Forward fund to support students financially impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

Kennesaw State’s response to the pandemic extended well beyond its campuses, however. Owl Nation helped in many ways, including KSU staff members producing medical face shields to be donated statewide, student nurses serving on the front lines in hospitals, students mapping COVID-19 testing sites and aiding small businesses, professors decontaminating respirator masks for reuse, and alumni constructing mobile hospitals, making personal protective equipment for frontline workers, and helping to create COVID-19 tests.

With safety measures in place, Kennesaw State welcomed students back to on-campus housing in August and celebrated the start of the fall semester. Students were able to stay connected to each other through more than a thousand activities and programs offered during the semester.

Unprecedented Support for KSU

Just as Owl Nation continues to help others on campus and beyond, an increasing number of supporters continue to invest in our students – as evidenced by the three largest gifts in the University’s history occurring over the past 12 months.

Two of them were naming gifts: John and Rosemary Brown established an endowment matching fund to benefit KSU Journey Honors College, and Kennesaw State Foundation Trustee Norman Radow and his wife Lindy committed $9 million to support students in the renamed Norman J. Radow College of Humanities and Social Sciences. In addition, WellStar Health System pledged nearly $9 million toward the University’s goal of doubling enrollment in its nursing program.

Several other donors made generous contributions throughout the year, including major gifts from Jay and Debra Yunek, Rick and Julie Bennett, Barry and Sylvia Hyman, Doug and Robin Shore, Mike Hammond, Brian and Kim Newsome, Sid and Sophie Mookerji, Christie and Tom Emerson, and Mel and Stephanie Clemmons. Also, scholarships were endowed in memory of alumni John Slocum and John Boyko.

Student Success

Reflecting the University’s student-centered focus, Owls across all disciplines excelled in their academic and civic pursuits throughout the year.

For example, Honors student and biology major Trae Dunn was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship as one of the nation’s top undergraduate scholars. Architecture student Andrew Smith won a Portman Prize for comprehensive research and design excellence, computer science major and Honors student Ruth Bearden was Kennesaw State’s representative for the USG’s Academic Recognition Day, geography major and Honors student Artis Trice received a scholarship toward pursuing his passion of solving food insecurity, and construction management student Curt Boyd overcame adversity and earned a national award.

KSU students also excelled in team competitions, including winning the National Collegiate Sales Competition, taking first place in a regional cyber defense competition and soaring to a top-five finish in an international aerial robotics competition. As part of the University’s commitment to providing undergraduate and graduate research opportunities, students showcased their research at the Symposium of Student Scholars and presented community-focused research projects to state leaders.

Research with Relevance

Continuing an upward trajectory, Kennesaw State experienced a year of research growth and productivity. One step was KSU launching the Interdisciplinary Innovation Initiative, an internal grant program to stimulate innovation and sustainability of interdisciplinary research.

This year, several professors received grants to conduct research related to health and well-being, including Louise Lawson and Nicole Ferguson on growth rates of premature infants; Katherine Ingram on gestational diabetes risk factors; Ebony Glover on the risk for post-traumatic stress disorder among women; and Martin Hudson on identifying genes in neurological disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.

In addition, a number of faculty members were awarded grants to enhance teaching and learning: Alan Shaw, Brian Lawler and Deepa Muralidhar to help middle school students in math and computing; Ayse Tekes and Tris Utschig to expand efforts around 3D teaching aids; and Marrielle Meyers to study math teacher preparation practices.

KSU’s multiple research grant awards also included two to Chris Cornelison to address reducing a disease that is causing the bat population to decline and one to Nicolas Douguet to study molecules subject to intense and ultrafast laser fields. Also, three researchers – Dana Hermanson, Paul McDaniel and Gerald Mangine – each were recognized with national awards for their work.

Welcome to the Nest

This year brought several new additions, including Kennesaw State welcoming Kojo Mensa-Wilmot as dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, Andrew Payne as dean of the College of Architecture and Construction Management, Ronald Briggs as associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, and Jeffrey Coleman as deputy chief diversity officer. Robin Cheramie was named dean of the Coles College of Business after leading in an interim role.

Kennesaw State continued to expand its academic offerings, with the approval of four new degree programs: bachelor’s degrees in integrated health science and hospitality management and master’s in cybersecurity and art and design. KSU’s physical space also is growing, with construction starting on the new Academic Learning Center, the dedication of the University’s new gateway and approval of additional on-campus housing.

Lasting Legacy

Along with the many high points of the year, Kennesaw State also had to say good-bye to a leader who left an indelible mark on the University. Betty Siegel – Kennesaw State’s president for 25 years (1981-2006) and the first female president in the University System of Georgia – passed away in February at the age of 89. However, Siegel’s name always will be synonymous with Kennesaw State and her legacy lives on.


While all of Owl Nation can savor the University’s successes from 2020, Kennesaw State always will be looking forward. We are eager to share the success stories that 2021 brings.

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.