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KSU President Pamela Whitten speaks before the South Cobb Business Association.

“Something kind of magic is happening” at the third largest university in Georgia.

That’s what Kennesaw State University President Pamela Whitten said in a presentation before the South Cobb Business Association on Wednesday.

Whitten spoke at the association’s monthly luncheon and touted the university’s growth.

“This year, we have shattered all kinds of records,” she said. “I know everybody is used to hearing that, but it’s a little different today now in terms of trends and demographics. … Our freshman class increased by 30% over last year, so we had more than 6,500 freshmen come into Kennesaw State University. You will see growth at exciting schools in terms of freshman classes. I challenge you to find a school with 30% growth in one year.”

She said KSU students come from 150 Georgia counties.

“We tend to have students that come from Georgia, and more importantly, when they graduate from KSU, they want to stay in the state of Georgia to practice their professions,” she said.

A major focus at KSU in recent years has been STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math. In 2013, the university merged with Southern Polytechnic University.

“I know you all know that we have an engineering program, I’m not sure that you realize that we’re the second-largest engineering school in the state of Georgia,” she said. “We have over 4,500 majors. That’s a very large engineering program.”

Last year, KSU received an R2 ranking from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning. That means it is a school with high research activity, Whitten said, and only 6% of universities in the U.S. have a ranking of R1 or R2.

“It’s a formal acknowledgement that part of our mission is as a research institution. … But what sets us apart a little bit from the other schools, because we don’t need another UGA, we don’t need another Georgia Tech in the state of Georgia, what sets us apart is that our research focus is very applied. So we want to do the research, we want to do the discovery that then people in Georgia and beyond are able to take into their schools and their homes and their hospitals and their businesses and the government agencies and have an immediate impact on public life or productivity or whatever the issue is.”

Whitten also took some time to praise the school’s sports teams.

“It is football season again, it’s the Kennesaw State way. It’s our fifth football season. Two conference championships, and we went half deep into the playoffs again last year as well. I anticipate no less for this year.”

Kelsey Gilbert, KSU’s director of marketing for athletics, said the football season has already gotten off to a great start when the Owls defeated Point University 59-0 on Aug. 31.

“We had over 6,000 fans in attendance with 2,621 of those fans being our students at the Kennesaw and Marietta campuses who came out to Fifth Third Bank Stadium,” she said. “It was a raucous crowd.”

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