Sam Olens, the outgoing state Attorney General and incoming president of Kennesaw State University, met with an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Wednesday afternoon to discuss his transition from politics to academia. Click here to read more.
Here are some excerpts:
Q: How did this all come about with you coming to KSU?
A: “Shortly after it was announced that there was an opening, several business leaders and said ‘Hey, have you thought about it. We think you seriously need to look at this.’ And I didn’t make any public statements because first I needed to internalize the potential and, more importantly, I needed to talk to my wife. We’re married 31 years and those decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. So it think it will be fair to say it took about a month for me to consider it, continually getting calls from leadership in the community and then at that point, I expressed an interest in the position.”
Q: There are people who thought politics were at play here in you getting the position at KSU. Can you talk about that?
A: “Well I wasn’t part of any of those discussions. I would like to think that my reputation in the community, both as commission chairman and as (attorney general) led to folks thinking that ‘Hey, this gentleman can do the job and do it well,’ but I haven’t been involved in any type of political process.”
Q: One criticism of you coming to KSU has been your lack of expertise as a manager or administrator at a higher education institution. How will you work to get caught up to speed and what do you think about that criticism?
A: “The demands of a university president from an accountability, performance, evaluations is very different now than five years ago. Historically, it was academic success. Now, in addition to academic success, it’s the budget, it’s fundraising, it’s compliance with federal laws and regulations. It is the external getting along with the community…so the job’s actually changed. When I talked to (former Georgia Secretary of State and current Young Harris College president) Cathy Cox a couple of weeks ago, the class for new presidents, she said it actually sort of gave her a smile because there were a lot more lawyers in the room than she expected and she, herself, of course, is a lawyer…
Additionally, I led a county of 700,000 people. A budget of $700 million, plus (a 1 percent sales tax that large government projects), 4,500 to 5,000 employees. I’ve now lead an agency of over 160 lawyers that deals with some of the most serious issues in our state…So I certainly have a lot of managerial experience on weighty issues, dealing with a large budget, dealing with a large number of employees.”