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Fall 2016 Faculty Staff Convocation

Richard Oates: Raise our hands. Good afternoon, and welcome everyone to the Fall 2016 Faculty Staff Convocation. I’m Richard Oates, and I’m the vice president of the Gainesville campus. I’m happy to be here. This is a special day for us as a university to connect with our university community, to prepare for the new academic year. And to start our program, I’d invite Dr. Benjamin Schoening, professor of music and the men’s ensemble, to come forward and lead us in the singing of the National Anthem. Please stand.

[Men’s ensemble] Oh, say can you see
by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed
at the twilight's last gleaming;
Whose broad stripes and bright stars,
through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched
were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare,
the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night
that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free
and the home of the brave?

[applause]
Richard Oates: Thank you, gentlemen. Appreciate that. I’d now like to introduce my colleagues who serve on the president’s cabinet. If you will please stand when your name is called?

Tom Ormond, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Mac McConnell, Senior Vice President for Business and Finance.

Janet Marling, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.

Jeff Tarnowski, Vice President for University Advancement. You gotta turn around. Jeff’s in the back. Wait. Stand up, Jeff.

Kate Maine, Associate Vice President for University Relations.

Thank you, cabinet. Appreciate you being here.

[applause]
Before I introduce President Jacobs, we have a very short presentation to recap the highlights of the past year at the University of North Georgia.

[music]

Richard Oates: A lot of flashbacks with that one. A lot of great things that we’ve done in the past year. It’s now my pleasure and honor to introduce President Bonita Jacobs. With President Jacobs’ leadership, UNG is gaining well-deserved recognition by our peers and those across the country who are interested in higher education. Repeatedly, she credits this recognition to the outstanding work of our faculty and staff to ensure the success of our students and to engage our community partners to meet the needs of this region. Colleagues, for the State of the University Address, I present to you, President Bonita Jacobs.

[applause]

President Bonita Jacobs: Good afternoon and welcome. It’s so good to see so many of you here today. And it’s about time. They’ll be back. Summer is almost over. And I am looking forward to a really wonderful year this year. I want to begin by recognizing and thanking the members of UNG Faculty Senate and Staff Council, who are in attendance. Thank you for your service to UNG and for your leadership and collaboration to strengthen our university. Will the members of Faculty Senate and Staff Council please stand and be recognized?

[applause]

You know, we cannot overstate the importance of these individuals stepping up into peer-selected leadership roles and the tremendous impact they have on a shared commitment to our university and on shared government. Again, thank you very much.

As you know, our mission calls us to develop leaders for a diverse and global society, and it highlights our special designations as a State Leadership Institution and as The Military College of Georgia. Each of us in our respective roles brings that mission to life. UNG students, faculty, and staff increasingly lead in the classrooms, in all of our local communities, in the field, and indeed around the globe.

Our five-year strategic plan, Engaging UNG, was produced in 2014, and enormous progress has already been made on many of our priorities. The plan's four strategic goals serve as our roadmap, so I want to take a moment to review each of those and some of UNG’s related achievements.

In our first goal, which is "Promoting Academic Excellence and Innovation," we talk about our culture as a state university focused on students and centered on learning and teaching.

One of the reasons our graduates are so successful is that we offer strong educational opportunities that position them for success in today's global marketplace. Many of our academic disciplines are experiencing massive changes, including media and communications, computer and information sciences, design, and healthcare, just to name a few. The world is changing, and we’re changing with it.

I am proud that our programs and faculty continue to create new world-class opportunities through advances like the College of Arts and Letters' new bachelor's degree in Strategic and Security Studies. That is, by the way, collaborated—each of the colleges are collaborating in their own way with this special new program. And the College of Health Sciences and Professions' new virtual hospital. 

From using 3D printers to design medical devices to combating human trafficking in India, and from the Professional Development Program for business students to instructional technology for education majors, we are preparing our graduates to excel in the workplace or in their future studies in graduate or transfer programs.

We know we do an excellent job, both in and outside the classroom in teaching critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication—professional leadership skills that make a difference. We must continue to find innovative ways to reach a constantly changing student body and to help them prosper.

This year, our Quality Enhancement Plan, which we affectionately call our QEP, is focused on students graduating on time and on target. The QEP increases the number of professional advisors available to students but will also provide new advising tools.

Quality advisement is one of the strongest high-impact practices to promote student success, and I am grateful to the QEP Task Force for their truly outstanding work and for their many, many, many, many long hours that they put into this project. Will all of the committee, led by Terri Carroll and Eugene Van Sickle, please stand and be recognized.

[applause]

They’re also a little shy.

We pride ourselves, we pride ourselves always on our very high retention and graduation rates, as well as the quality of our graduates. Graduates from the associates, the baccalaureate, and the graduate programs. While our freshman to sophomore retention rate has slipped ever so slightly, we think this fall we are beginning to see it up-tick a bit more.

A huge factor in retention is the availability of student housing. We could not be more pleased to open the Commons in Dahlonega this year, and that, along with the robust QEP, will make a difference. If and when we are able to find a way to offer student housing in Gainesville, that, too, will make a difference in the progression of our students.

But, it's not just about advising and housing. The data suggests that faculty-student relationships are critical to persistence, graduation, and career success. We are truly blessed to have faculty who truly care about our students and their success, and we must work to diminish the ever-present stressors campuses often face, including having enough space and ensuring competitive salaries. I'll talk more about that in a moment

Our commitment to our region and a unique dedication to applied research creativity sets us apart. Our Strategic Plan recognizes UNG's capacity for research, scholarship, and creative activity. We have made this an institutional priority, and the results have been very impressive.

The research activities of our faculty and staff across the university attracted grants and contracts that last year alone generated almost $3.2 million in research expenditures and our research submissions continue to increase dramatically. The research submissions of course will roll into our contracts and grants in future years.

These projects, which are aligned with our mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices help us find new ways to mentor and encourage students to become better leaders and engaged scholars.

Our strong academic programs and innovative new programs, such as the QEP, attention to student services, our regional focus, and our research activities all support Goal 1. We must continue to promote academic excellence and innovation

Goal 2 is about “Enhancing Leadership and Development of the Whole Person.” I believe the success of any great university, especially a great public university like UNG, is grounded significantly in its commitment to leadership and development.

Like all universities today, we have challenges on our campuses with increasing reports of safety issues, lack of civility in social media, and frequent polarization in lieu of conflict resolution. As a State Leadership Institution, we stand tall in our emphasis on leadership and character development of our students.  With signature programs, like our Corps of Cadets and the Leaving a Legacy of Leadership, the L3 conference, and our Starlight program for our students we set a high bar of excellence for others to emulate.

In related areas, I am extremely pleased that Student Affairs and University College, in particular, are working so closely together on student success initiatives.

From the Student Money Management Center, increased learning support, and our new food pantry, we are helping students succeed in meaningful ways. Added to that, Financial Aid and Bursar's office are among the best I have ever seen in helping students sort through financial matters.

You probably would not believe all that Charlotte Wade is able to do in working with parents who have some concerns, as she has been fabulous in helping to sort through those. And she serves with a team of many, many people who do the same thing and this matters.

But our commitment to leadership and development must not be lip service. We must also provide leadership and development opportunities for faculty and staff.  We cannot rest on our laurels, we cannot become stale. Our students deserve better. We must have an open mind and learn from one another. We must continue to find creative opportunities for each of us to remain current in our fields and to explore innovative ways to meet the challenges of this great institution.

One area of growth has been our emphasis on embracing diversity to ensure that UNG becomes even more welcoming and inclusive.

Toward that end, I appointed Sheila Caldwell as advisor to the president on diversity last year. She, along with UNG's Diversity Council, led by Esther Morgan-Ellis, have made significant progress. Through their efforts, we begin this new year with a written commitment to diversity that is focused on inclusion, innovation, and excellence. Will you two please stand, Sheila and Esther and be recognized?

Additionally, they will soon provide you with information on a campaign to identify and promote diversity-themed events and topics across the University as OURS, O-U-R-S representing Open, Understanding, Respectful, and Safe. And we also thank Robert Robinson for all of his work in helping this to come together.

Further, kudos to the College of Education for developing a graduate-level certificate program to explore historic and contemporary diversity topics. Almost 20 faculty and staff completed that program this year, and I understand it was a very valuable experience. Our greatest asset is our people. Our students, faculty, and staff and that is not just rhetoric. We are a community of thinkers, learners, and doers. We draw strength from this community and it has enabled us to achieve these great successes.

I am pleased that UNG continues to recruit and attract outstanding faculty and staff. We have hired or are in the process of hiring faculty and staff for 128 new positions this year. Coming from all parts of the country, they will most certainly bring a variety of new ideas and perspectives to our community that will be invaluable as we move forward.

All of our new faculty and staff, please stand so that we can welcome you to our UNG family.

[applause]

I can tell you with complete confidence that our faculty and staff will be a source of support for you as you become engaged in the university and in our communities. Welcome.

Our Goal 3, "Expanding Engagement and Educational Opportunity," points to UNG's stewardship of higher education in this region. With an annual economic impact of $545 million in our communities, our role is significant, as is our responsibility.

We opened our Blue Ridge Campus in August last year, and I'm pleased that they have grown from 21 students to more than 100 this fall. This campus will be a game-changer in our ability to serve that portion of our region. Sandy Ott, the director and her team are exploring creative and innovative ways to build a new campus that will be highly innovative.  For example, they have created a cohort program for first-time, full-time students that includes workshops, coaching, and intrusive advising.

Our Regional Education and Economic Development, or REED initiative will also serve to advance our region as we continue to build mutually-beneficial community partnerships. These partnerships will increase educational and job opportunities across our broad region.

Related to this, as the region's comprehensive public university, we know we must serve a wide range of higher education needs, including expanded graduate-level programs that strategically meet the advanced education needs of area businesses, education and professional leaders. We know that advanced degrees are becoming increasingly important for career progression and employability in certain business sectors, and I look forward to exploring these opportunities with our deans.

Further, as a state university, we have a strong commitment to ensuring students have the opportunity to pursue higher education. There is an acute need for additional merit- and need-based scholarship support, and this has been one of my top priorities. Thanks to the support of our alumni and community stakeholders over the past three years, we have increased scholarship funding from less than $500,000 to nearly $2.5 million annually. In three years, that's a 500 percent increase for scholarships for our students.

[applause]

In addition to that 500% increase, we raised more than $2.6 million for student scholarships last year, nearly doubling the previous annual mark of $1.35 million.  So, no pressure here, but we’ll just keep raising a million here and a million there.

Further, our endowment has exceeded $50 million. We now have an endowment of $50 million dollars and UNG is one of only six USG institutions to achieve this level of success. So of those six that have a $50 million dollar endowment or above, let me add that 4 of those are our four research institutions. So other than our 4 flagships, there are only 2 with endowments $50 million or above. That matters, that’s scholarships for our students, that’s endowments to help us achieve other great works. Congratulations to Jeff Tarnowski and the entire University or North Georgia advancement team for their great work! Thank you.

[applause]

Our fourth goal, "Building Campus Identity and Institutional Unity," acknowledges our evolution as a consolidated university, the unique character of each of our campuses, and our shared mission of academic excellence, student success and leadership development. To support this goal, we are embarking on two very important initiatives this year.

First, I am asking a group of faculty and staff representatives and alumni to document the traditions and activities that contribute to each campus' culture, educational environment, and student experience. Traditions are important because of their ability to connect us to one another as a community.

Our campuses are each different, and it is important to document the traditions of our more established campuses, I can assure you that Gainesville and Dahlonega will find traditions that have almost been forgotten. And so that we don't lose sight of them, and to seek opportunities to build fresh meaningful traditions on our newer campuses. Consider Blue Ridge that’s been in existence only two semesters and this will give them an opportunity to build traditions with input from the community, and from students, and from alumni. So we’re very excited about this and feel like it will be very meaningful project for us.

The second initiative is a long-term, strategic effort to communicate UNG's identity and mission. The University of North Georgia, as you know, has a strong reputation for quality and student success.

This endeavor is not a trivial endeavor. Branding us helps us attract high-quality students, faculty, and staff, and it positions us to better compete for research dollars and community support.

We will all benefit from presenting a unified identity. And thank you to Kate Maine and her team in University Relations for professionally managing this process.

Our new brand platform, "Lead where it counts" is first of all grounded in our leadership mission. Second it reflects our core values of excellence, student-focus, integrity, engagement, and service. And third, and most importantly, it is authentic to who we are and to the student experience.

Through "Lead where it counts," we will share the many forms of leadership modeled by our students, faculty, and staff across all campuses and in every programs.

And you know these stories firsthand. The students who are the first in their families to attend colleges. Students who are highly engaged and leaders in their own communities. The military students. Students who catapulted their careers with internships or study abroad opportunities, and so many more.

This is who we are, we lead where it counts. You are our best ambassadors to tell that story. And as you leave here today, we will be sure that you receive a t-shirt, fresh off the press, with our new tagline, “Lead where it counts.” We have our professional models coming forward today and they will show you, you have the front our logo, our UNG logo. Okay, everyone turn around. Models turn around and you will see “Lead where it counts” on the back.

I hope you will wear it proudly and talk about our educational opportunities and some of the great things we do because at North Georgia we lead where it counts.

In conclusion, we will enroll over 18,000 students this fall. In contrast to many of our peers, we receive more and more applications every year and also the number of students in our region continues to increase. This growth is a positive trend, however I know it presents challenges.

First of all, we will manage our growth, to include helping students who may have greater success at different institutions. We will help them find the best fit for those students and the most appropriate educational opportunity.

Second, I know that because of our growth and increased number of faculty and staff, space is at a premium and that some faculty are sharing offices. We are evaluating and investing in facilities and infrastructure at all of our campuses as we can. However, we will also be creative in finding ways to best meet our space needs. For example, we have repurposed administrative space for greater efficiencies, we have moved some functions like the Gainesville Testing Office off-campus, in order to provide more faculty and staff offices, and we are renovating and expanding facilities like the Strickland building whenever possible. We know that space is an issue and we know that dialog will need to continue and we will find creative ways to work through that. And we’re making progress, maybe slower than you would like, but we’re making progress.

Third, one of our top priorities is to increase faculty and staff, as evidenced by this year's budget, which added 70 new faculty positions and 48 new staff positions, a total of nearly 120 positions, not counting part time and limited term positions. That is a lot of new people.

 

In addition to adding new positions, we have been very intentional about addressing salaries. In the past four years, we have invested $5.2 million dollars in faculty and staff equity adjustments and another $4.8 million in merit increases.

While we are not yet where we would like to be, we have received greater increases than most of our peers and will continue to make competitive faculty and staff salaries a priority.

At our budget hearings this fall, we will once again request funds for our three top priorities: funds for faculty and staff salaries, for new positions, and for sector equalization to close the gap in UNG's FTE funding. These are our three top priorities.

Despite these challenges, I am excited about UNG's future. As a reminder, our institutional vision is that, "UNG will be a leader”…Let me start that over, “UNG will be a regional and national leader for academic excellence, engagement, educational opportunity, and leadership development."

Someone recently challenged me to think about, "How will you know when you are achieving your vision?" Well, the evidence is mounting. First of all our SACS accreditation review could not have been any better, and we fully expect that UNG’s accreditation will be reaffirmed for 10 years. Thank you, Denise Young and Betsy Cantrell for your leadership! Thank you.

[applause]

Our students, faculty and staff have broadened their horizons through study abroad and international exchange opportunities with nearly 30 partnerships around the globe, as well as the numerous growing number of international students and faculty on our campuses.

Our students have won incredible recognitions, including a national softball championship, two cadets in the top 10 nationally for two years running. We can’t forget the Fulbright scholarships, NIH scholarships winners, and the Jack Kent Cooke scholarships. Our students are excellence and the coaching that our faculty and staff have done to prepare them for nationally competitive scholarships is absolutely phenomenal and I thank you for your efforts in that regard.

With increasing support from USG and our state legislators, we have received funding for significant capital projects, including the annex in Oconee, and the Convocation Center in Dahlonega.

UNG was recently ranked, for the first time ever, on Forbes magazine's list of "Best Colleges," and there were only six USG colleges ranked, and we were number 4.  Georgia Tech, …not that I count, the list on there was Georgia Tech, Georgia, Georgia State, University of North Georgia, then Georgia Southern and Kennesaw. Pretty good I think. [applause]

Again, thank you for all you do for UNG. We’ve talked about a lot of the big things that are going on, a lot of the really dynamic robust accomplishments and I thank you for those big things, but I also thank you for the day-to-day things. The little things you do to help our students every day. The collaboration as you meet other faculty members and find ways to put together a brand new project. The customer service that we provide to all of our stakeholders, the way that you work with letting our communities know about the kind of things we do, but the way that you demand excellence of our students and yet we work to get better every year, yet we help provide our students a wonderful classroom experience, but they also have the Gainesville Theater Alliance, they have, they can attend athletic events, they can participate in art projects, we are creating more and more opportunities for our students. Things that will help students all the way through their lives, for them to be a much better person and much more successful in their own careers, The work that you do does not go unnoticed. What you do day-in and day-out matters and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.   

And I challenge us all to imagine where we can take this impressive momentum and rise to the challenges of higher education with bold thinking, with intentionality, and the collaborative, confident spirit that is a hallmark for this very fine institution.

Vance Havner, a theologian, once said, "The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the staircase, we must step up the stairs."

We are "stepping up the stairs" to fulfill this vision, our vision and all of us share in this extraordinary recognition for our efforts.

I thank you, I thank you for all that you do and I wish you the very best of wishes for a wonderful year ahead!

Thank you so much for being here.

[applause]

Richard Oates: Thank you President Jacobs for embracing and investing in the work of our faculty, and staff, and for your commitment to our students.

Let me add my thanks to all of you for your support of our mission and for continuing to make the University of North Georgia a great place to earn an education, prepare for a career, and collaborate on research. We are threads intricately woven into the tapestry of UNG. Together we create a beautiful piece of art. Together we will add new chapters to the legacy of the University of North Georgia, that legacy of excellence. I wish you all a very fulfilling and productive year.

To close our program, I’d like to invite Dr. Schoening and group to return to the stage and lead us in the singing of the UNG alma mater and we’re going to ask you to please stand, but I have to tell you, we were at the 9:00 convocation in Dahlonega and I think it was in the little bit of the morning and it took them a little while to warm up to the UNG alma mater, but I told Dr. Jacobs that this crowd really embraced the alma mater and would really get into on the first signing, because they had to do it twice in Dahlonega. The president is the judge of whether we embrace it or not, so would you all please stand for the singing of the UNG Alma Mater.

From the Blue Ridge mountain foothills
To the banks of Lake Lanier
Memories of our alma mater
We all cherish and revere.
Seeking courage, truth and wisdom
Fires of loyalty abound
University of North Georgia
On diverse and solid ground.
May we (inaudible) history
To the blue and gold we rise.
Look beyond the distant sun set
To the future in our eyes.
To our school we bring you glory
May we always find with thee
Every memory deep within us
and our love for UNG.

[applause]

President Bonita Jacobs: Well Dr. Oates that was certainly better than Dahlonega did this morning, however I did not see any eyes sparkling or any smiles, everybody was staring at their toes, so we’re going to do this again and let’s sing out. I hope we don’t do this a third time.

Let’s sing and sing.

From the Blue Ridge mountain foothills
To the banks of Lake Lanier
Memories of our alma mater
We all cherish and revere.
Seeking courage, truth and wisdom
Fires of loyalty abound
University of North Georgia
On diverse and solid ground.
May we (inaudible) history
To the blue and gold we rise
Look beyond the distant sun set
To the future in our eyes.
To our school we bring you glory
May we always find with thee
Every memory deep within us
and our love for UNG.

[applause]

Richard Oates: Alright, we saw the sparkle. We saw the sparkle! Thank you, gentleman, thank you! We’ve just been informed that our advisor for diversity issues would ask for the cabinet members and those faculty and staff who received the diversity certificate to come down front for a photo op. You know who you are. Please have a wonderful beginning to the school year. Thank you so much for coming. We stand adjourned. Have a magical time.

[applause]

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