Kennesaw State University interim President Ken Harmon listens to a question from an audience member at the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce April 10 luncheon. (Evelyn Andrews)

Kennesaw State University will begin holding “mini MBA” program classes at City Springs later this year, a first step to Mayor Rusty Paul’s dream of having a university located in Sandy Springs.

“I’ve been hearing great things about City Springs,” said interim KSU President Ken Harmon at the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce April 10 luncheon, where he announced the business education program. “It’s a novel idea and it’s the way to go.”

During the lunch, Harmon also addressed KSU’s recent free-speech controversies, saying the school takes them seriously.

“We are a place that all voices should be heard. Nothing should be silenced because it is considered on one side or the other,” Harmon said.

‘Mini MBA’ program

City Springs is the city’s massive new mixed-use civic center, which is opening in stages this year.

The first cohort at City Springs of the nine-month program, officially known as the Executive Certificate Program in Business Strategy, will begin in September and end in July. Classes will be held once a month with supplemental online coursework.

A program participant will earn a certificate, not a full degree, upon completion. And the hours earned completing the program cannot be applied toward getting a degree, Harmon said.

A full master of business administration degree at KSU costs about $22,000, said Harmon, w

ho previously headed the university’s Coles College of Business.

The program will cost $3,895. Chamber members will receive a 20 percent discount, according to flyer handed out at the luncheon.

“It’s just as much of a dream for us as well,” Harmon said. “We’re just excited to be part of the journey with you.”

KSU is a state university based in Kennesaw and operates a Marietta campus.

“We really wanted to offer an MBA because of the large concentration business here,” Paul said.

The city began working with KSU to bring a program here about 18 months ago. Paul chose KSU in part because of his long friendship with former KSU President Sam Olens, who resigned late last year after a series of controversies.

“We are the largest city in the state with no institute for higher learning and the largest business center with no access to business education,” he said.

Paul said this is the first step needed to work toward eventually opening a full university in Sandy Springs, a dream long held by Sandy Springs officials that started with founding Mayor Eva Galambos.

“We’ll take it one step at a time,” Paul said.

The classes will held once a month on a Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. To register or get more information, visit Coles College of Business website or contact dstoz@kennesaw.edu.

Free speech controversies

Harmon, who previously served as KSU’s provost and dean of business college, became president after Olens’ resignation took effect in February. Olens announced his resignation in December 2017 after he caused controversy by not allowing football cheerleaders to protest the national anthem before games.

Olens is being sued by a Christian student organization who said the university during Olens’ tenure made it harder for it to hold demonstrations than other groups.

In response to a question from the audience, Harmon said he takes the lawsuit seriously and the university is conducting an internal investigation.

“It did look like some groups were given different treatment, which is not right,” he said. “I think we have to do better.”

Harmon and university officials are meeting with consultants on ways to reorganize or do more training on how to handle speech issues, he said.

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