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Community leaders partner with UNG to help strengthen region

UNG, USG and Oconee County Community leaders attend the Oconee County Campus ribbon cutting ceremony.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) is forming community leadership councils that work closely with UNG leaders to focus on a number of initiatives centered around the themes of workforce readiness, access to education, and partnerships and collaborations.

The UNG Oconee Campus Community Leadership Council (UNG OC-CLC) is the first of these councils to be formed.  Its goal is to address specific themes that surfaced during the Watkinsville Regional Education and Economic Development (REED) meetings this past summer, among them the creation and strengthening of partnerships, the building of assets and leadership development.

With these aims in mind, Dr. Eric Skipper, interim vice president of university affairs and CEO of the UNG Oconee campus, extended invitations to several prominent members of the Oconee County community to form the UNG OC-CLC.

"The OC-CLC has provided valuable community and business perspective on key aspects of community engagement and campus initiatives," said Skipper. "Attendance has been nearly 100 percent at every meeting."

Topics discussed with the council include the UNG Strategic Plan, the OconeeFest scholarship event, the Academic Master Plan, and external initiatives and partnerships in the community.

In addition to the meetings, the OC-CLC have been avid participants in campus and university events, including holiday concerts, Gainesville Theater Alliance performances,  collaborations with the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation (OCAF), Student Awards Night, Holiday Luncheon, End-of-Semester Spring Picnic, and Nighthawks UNight: Oconee Convocation.

"The OC-CLC will strive to facilitate ease of communication among the students, staff, faculty, and administration, to provide needed services for the community, and to implement cultural, educational, and recreational programming to enhance community life," said Skipper. "We have completed a council on the Cummings Campus and are in the process of forming councils for the other campuses."

UNG serves more than 17,000 students across its five campuses – in Blue Ridge, Cumming, Dahlonega, Gainesville, and Oconee County – and is one of the largest public universities in Georgia. UNG was ranked 16th among public regional universities in the South in U.S. News & World Report's 2016 edition of Best Colleges.

The UNG Oconee Campus Community Leadership Council Members are:

Jason Branch, superintendent, Oconee County Schools

Marci Campbell, councilwoman, City of Watkinsville; Trainer, Carl Vinson Institute

Melvin Davis, chairman, Oconee County Board of Commissioners

Cindy Farley, executive director, Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation (OCAF)

Amrey Harden, president, Oconee State Bank; Chairman, OCAF Board of Directors

Charles Ivie, mayor, City of Watkinsville

Kay Keller, president, Oconee County Chamber of Commerce

Lorie Petersen, business development manager, BankSouth

Dave Shearon, owner, Ashford Manor Bed & Breakfast

Jeff Faulkner, owner, Zaxby’s

David Walton, owner, Fox’s Pizza

Kelly Watts, human resources, Caterpillar

Chuck Williams, representative, Georgia General Assembly

Joey Wilson, general manager, Ameripride


The UNG Cumming Campus Community Leadership Council Members are:

Pete Amos, chairman – Forsyth County Board of Commissioners

Mike Dudgeon, state representative

Geoff Duncan, state representative

Sherri Gilligan, state representative

Ford Gravitt, mayor – City of Cumming

Lynn Jackson, Northside Hospital-Forsyth

Doug Jenkins, Georgia Power

James McCoy, Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce

Mary Helen McGruder, UNG Foundation

Joey Pirkle, Forsyth County Schools

Brian Pounds, Siemens

Michael Williams, state senator

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