Kennesaw State University has announced it will phase out the Michael Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality by spring of 2021 and that it is no longer accepting new students into the program.

The school will be absorbed by the Coles College of Business and given a new name: the Management, Entrepreneurship and Hospitality Program.

The School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality, which offers more than 30 courses a semester on different days to more than 1,000 students, began in 2013 as a small program with just 200 students. Two years later, the program received a $5 million endowment from Michael Leven, chairman and CEO of the Georgia Aquarium. It was the largest donation by an individual in the school’s history and the program was named for him.

Leven said Friday the decision would switch the CSH degree from a Bachelor of Science to a business administration degree with a major in hospitality, but said he wasn’t sure how much of the program’s culinary aspects would remain.

“The curriculum is really up to the university, but we’re talking about what curriculum would be applied,” he said. “The final curriculum probably won’t be decided for a while.”

An email sent out to students Oct. 25 by Lynn Disbrow, dean of KSU’s University College, raised concerns among those majoring in the program when she announced the Leven School would shift colleges in July 2018 and students’ degrees would no longer be offered once the Coles program was up and running. Students unable to complete their degrees in that time, the email read, would have to select new majors.

“The current curriculum will be offered for at least 3 more semesters,” Disbrow wrote. “Students who are not able to complete their CSH degree by the deadline will have an opportunity to explore entering the School of Management, Entrepreneurship, and Hospitality to complete the new degree, or to change to other majors here at Kennesaw State.”

The following day, another email was sent by Disbrow informing students that KSU Provost Ken Harmon approved a proposal to offer CSH courses through spring of 2021, giving those enrolled in the program a chance to finish their degrees.

But several students majoring in the program have expressed concerns about their degrees and the fate of their instructors when the Leven School switches colleges in three years.

Karli Crespi, a 20-year-old junior looking to pursue a career in event planning or food styling, said Friday she loves her teachers and her program, and that last week’s announcement caught her and her classmates entirely off guard.

“It’s really upsetting,” she said. “This degree is perfect for me and I want to stay at Kennesaw. But I’m also concerned about the program and what will happen to our teachers.”

She said she doesn’t want any of her teachers to lose their jobs, but also has concerns about the amount of funding and resources the university will put into a program that’s being dissolved.

“What if they decide they don’t want to put forth as much effort as they did into a growing program?” she asked.

The program’s faculty members raised concerns of their own to KSU President Sam Olens during an Oct. 23 Faculty Senate meeting.

Instructors asked Olens what prompted the decision to end their program and why they weren’t informed sooner.

“Not once has this come through any level of faculty governance or any other type of communal governance that we have,” one instructor said, raising concerns about the fate of the program and Leven’s $5 million pledge — of which $1.3 million has been given.

Olens told faculty senate members the decision wasn’t made by him, but by the deans of the two colleges involved and the university provost.

“The decisions are not coming from me,” Olens said. “They’re coming from the academic side.”

Leven said shifting the school to the Coles College of Business was his idea, and that he approached Olens eight or nine months ago to suggest placing more of a business emphasis on the program.

“I suggested to Sam Olens that it might be more effective for our graduates if they were part of the business school,” Leven said, noting that’s how many hospitality programs are run at schools across the nation. “I thought it might be better for the students in the long run in terms of job attainment and education.”

University spokeswoman Tiffany Capuano said the idea was discussed by Olens, Harmon and Kathy Schwaig, dean of the Coles College of Business, and the decision was made to move forward.

“The university believes that there are more opportunities for our students with a major that has an increased focus on the business elements surrounding hospitality,” Capuano said.

But the fate of the program’s eight full-time faculty members and 23 part-time instructors remains unclear. University spokeswoman Tiffany Capuano said the number of faculty needed through 2021 will be assessed and hiring decisions will be made based on demand.

The remaining portion of Leven’s endowment, she said, would be transferred into the Coles College along with the program.

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