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Strategic plan to engage UNG community and identify priorities

2013-10-09 Engaging UNG.jpg

To support the University of North Georgia (UNG) strategic planning process, the newly announced leaders of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee are launching "Engaging UNG: Planning for Excellence" to highlight opportunities for the campus communities and other constituents to help shape the plan.

President Bonita Jacobs announced to faculty and staff on Oct. 4 that this part of the planning process will be guided by Dr. Patricia Donat, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, and that Dr. J.B. Sharma, professor and assistant department head of physics, will chair the new Strategic Planning Steering Committee. Assisting him as co-chair is Dr. Andrew J. Leavitt, vice president for university advancement and professor of chemistry.

JB Sharma
Dr. JB Sharma

"I believe this team will be particularly effective," Donat said. "Dr. Sharma's personal style, his credentials and the respect he has earned from our faculty, coupled with Dr. Leavitt's academic background and administrative experience, result in a powerful and creative combination."

Sharma and Leavitt have been charged with getting broad input from the campus communities and stakeholders. Toward that end, "Engaging UNG: Planning for Excellence," will feature many opportunities for involvement.

"I want to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in this process and to have their voice heard," Jacobs said.

A series of town hall-style meetings to share information about the process has been scheduled.

  • Thursday, Oct. 17: 12-1 p.m., Dahlonega Campus - Hoag Auditorium
  • Tuesday, Oct. 22: 3-4 p.m., Oconee Campus – Student Resource Center Room 522 (Community Room)
  • Wednesday, Oct. 23: 3-4 p.m., Cumming Campus – Room 125 (Community Room)
  • Thursday, Oct. 24: 12-1 p.m., Gainesville Campus – Martha Nesbitt Building Room 3110A

Sharma and Leavitt anticipate forming the steering committee, with wide representation from university constituencies by end of October, and faculty and staff will receive information soon about nominating themselves or colleagues to serve in this capacity. Students, alumni and community members will also have opportunities to be involved in the process as it develops.

Sharma joined the faculty of then-Gainesville College in 1988. The recipient of numerous state honors for teaching, including "Georgia Professor of the Year" in 1999 by the Carnegie Foundation and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Sharma has served as the Eminent Scholar of Teaching and Learning since 2009. Leavitt serves on the president's cabinet and manages the university's fundraising program and campaigns and alumni relations activities. He directed the successful Living our Values – The Campaign for North Georgia, which concluded in 2012 and raised $44 million to support the university's mission.

Andy Leavitt
Dr. Andrew Leavitt

The strategic plan, which will identify institutional priorities that impact academic programs, campus planning, and community partnerships over the next several years, will be the first for UNG, created in January from the consolidation of Gainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University.

"This is a historic opportunity for the UNG community to engage in a conversation to forge pathways to a very bright future," Sharma said. "The consolidated institution inherits traditions of excellent teaching and learning and student success from each of our former institutions. The process of a collective and inclusive discussion about how to chart the optimal path to a better future will help bond UNG into an empowered community with shared purpose."

For several months, teams of faculty and staff, coordinated by Col. (Ret.) Billy Wells, vice president for executive affairs, have collected data to inform preliminary work to imagine the future for the university and its shared values.

"The work that has been done thus far has laid the foundation to begin a collective goal creation process for UNG," Sharma said. "The environmental scan has identified several internal and external issues that can have a bearing on the development of the UNG strategic plan. This includes recent strategic plans of other universities, studies released by national disciplinary societies and other sources that capture the social, political and economic milieu within which UNG will operate."

Guided by the university's mission statement, the strategic plan aims to build consensus surrounding the vision for the university and a plan to implement and achieve that vision. 

"Unity in purpose and vision for the entire university is the most important outcome for the strategic planning process," Leavitt said. "Through this unity, we will provide the highest quality education for our students."

As the planning process continues, UNG will prioritize academic and co-curricular initiatives. There will also be a continued focus on the preservation of campus culture and the development of a university-wide community.

"It's particularly important at this time in the university's history to view the university as a large community composed of individual campuses that have valuable and distinct roles and assets," Jacobs said. "Our goal is not to become like every other university, but to embrace the challenges we face and to build upon our strengths to be stronger than the sum of our parts."

Sharma anticipates the process will help shape UNG's new identity and preserve the best of each of the former institutions.

"The synthesis of the best traditions of our institutions would be a powerful foundation for envisaging the future UNG that nurtures all its human and material resources to best serve student success into the future," he said.

Additional information about the strategic planning process is available at

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