In meetings on Aug. 10 to welcome faculty and staff for the new academic year, University of North Georgia (UNG) President Bonita Jacobs discussed the university's successes over the past year and its progress toward fulfilling the goals of UNG's strategic plan, now in its first year of implementation. Jacobs also discussed how the university is handling continued demand for its academic programs.
This fall, UNG's enrollment will approach 17,000 students, making it one of the state's largest universities and representing the largest increase the university has seen. UNG has campuses in Cumming, Dahlonega, Gainesville, and Oconee County, and will open its fifth campus in Blue Ridge on Aug. 13.
"While we have students from 46 states, we know that about 85 percent of our students come from a 30-county area in northeast Georgia, so we need to understand what is happening in our region and how we can best serve the region," Jacobs said. "We are fortunate to have multiple pathways to accommodate a diverse group of student needs."
The number of high school graduates in the Georgia Mountains region, which includes many of the counties UNG serves, has grown by 82 percent in the past decade, according to a report by the University System of Georgia. UNG has added 78 new faculty positions and 53 staff positions since July 2014 to support the increased number of courses and services required to serve its growing student enrollment.
Jacobs' emphasized how the successful actions associated with the four goals of UNG's strategic plan – to promote academic excellence and innovation, to enhance leadership and development of the whole person, to expand engagement and educational opportunity, and to build campus identity and institutional unity – are having positive impacts on educational opportunities and communities served by UNG faculty, staff and students.
The highlights included:
- UNG students earned about $300,000 in prestigious, nationally competitive scholarships, including two Fulbright awards for international study and research.
- More than 91 percent of recent UNG graduates are employed or enrolled in programs to continue their education.
- Students are benefitting from reduced textbook costs through rental programs and free and open-access textbooks developed by UNG faculty and the UNG Press.
- UNG's softball team won the 2015 NCAA DII National Championship.
- Corps of Cadets set more academic and leadership performance records than any class in recent history, including the top Army ROTC cadet in the nation and a record number of commissioned officers.
- An expansion of global opportunities and partnerships has resulted in 325 UNG students studying abroad and more than 600 international students studying at UNG in 2014-2015.
- UNG faculty and staff developed 61 research proposals totaling $12,330,044, and to-date, 35 grants have been awarded, including a $2.1 million federal grant over five years for a College Assistance Migrant Program and a $615,000 federal grant to support students in STEM fields.
"It should not come as any surprise that our most successful efforts are those that require the most of us. Our successes were not given to us. Our successes had to be created," Jacobs said. "You are tremendously dedicated, we are truly in a very good position, and you should be proud of what we have accomplished. UNG's mission, vision and values are well aligned for continued success."
In closing, Jacobs talked about the need for the university, as a steward of higher education, to balance technological advancements, funding sources, student outcomes, workforce needs, and purpose.
"For those who question the value of higher education today, I am certain of this – there is no greater investment in our future, because our students, faculty and staff use their knowledge and skills not just for their own benefit, but for the benefit of others," Jacobs said. "UNG is well on its way to achieving its vision to be a regional and national leader for academic excellence, engagement, educational opportunity and leadership development, and we will keep the momentum going."
To read Jacobs' speech, click here.