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UNG signs partnership with South African university

UNG President Bonita Jacobs, left, shakes hands with Willem de Villiers, rector and vice-chancellor of Stellenbosch University, after the two signed an agreement creating a new partnership between the two schools.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) has a new partnership with Stellenbosch University in South Africa, fulfilling UNG’s goal to establish partnerships with institutions in each major region of the world. UNG is the first senior military college in the U.S. to partner with Stellenbosch.

The agreement was signed by UNG President Bonita Jacobs and Willem de Villiers, rector and vice-chancellor of Stellenbosch, in a ceremony held June 14 at UNG’s Dahlonega Campus. The ceremony was attended by faculty and administrators from both universities, as well as special guests South African Supreme Court Justice Deon Van Zyl and retired Lt. Gen. Burke Garrett, a UNG alumnus who served as commanding general of both U.S. Army Africa and U.S. Army Southern European Task Force from 2008 to 2010.

"We have so much enthusiasm for this agreement and the opportunities that it presents because of the quality of the students we have at our two schools, the focus on academics that we both share and, of course, the geographic location of your university in a region where UNG has sought to partner with a world-class institution,” Jacobs said at a celebration of the new partnership, during which the two presidents discussed ideas for cooperation and exchange.

Established in 1918, Stellenbosch is a major research university with approximately 31,000 students and is ranked 407th worldwide by U.S. News & World Report. The multi-campus university has 10 colleges and seven research centers of excellence. The South African Military Academy, part of Stellenbosch since 1958, produces military officers and offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in military science. Stellenbosch also shares most academic areas in common with UNG, including international affairs, health, languages, criminal justice, geospatial, computer science, cyber security, security and military studies, leadership development, and ethics.

"We’ve been on a tour of the United States in the past 10 days or so … but I can tell you that this is an absolute highlight, to come to UNG and sign this agreement," de Villiers said. "We are the only university in South Africa that has a (college) of military science. I think that is why this is especially opportune that we get into this relationship with UNG and we really look forward to it."

De Villiers also touted Stellenbosch’s programs in oenology and viticulture, spurred by the university’s location in South Africa’s wine-growing region, and theology.

The partnership will begin with a cadet exchange between the two schools but will expand opportunities for faculty and students in a variety of academic areas that could include research, student teaching, cooperation on scholarly publications, and collaborative degree programs.

The first UNG student to participate in the exchange is Cadet Sgt. Noah Hebert, who is majoring in computer information systems with a minor in cyber security; he leaves for South Africa in early July to spend six months studying at the South African Military Academy in Saldanha, Western Cape. Hebert, who is making his first study abroad trip, plans to take several military courses, including history of both World Wars.

"I look forward to the new experience and the different landscape of Africa and South Africa," Hebert said. "I look forward to seeing how the South African military operates and what I can learn from that to bring back here."

The agreement with Stellenbosch is one of several new partnerships this year between UNG and international colleges and universities, including the National University of Public Service in Budapest, Hungary, signed in mid-May at UNG. Other partnerships being finalized include schools or programs in Latvia, Estonia, Austria, and New Zealand.

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