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UNG president celebrates achievements and looks ahead to bright future

UNG President Bonita Jacobs addresses members of the university's faculty and staff during the annual Faculty and Staff Convocation, an event held each fall to kick off the academic year.

New and returning faculty and staff gathered at two of the University of North Georgia’s (UNG) campuses Aug. 13 for its annual Faculty and Staff Convocations led by UNG President Bonita Jacobs, who reflected upon the success of the university and urged its more than 2,000 faculty and staff to continue the momentum.

In her State of the University speech, Jacobs congratulated UNG's faculty and staff for their achievements. She also thanked them for the hard work and dedication that has brought success to UNG and its students and benefitted the region served by the university's five campuses.

"UNG has become a leading regional university and a driving force for educational attainment and economic development," Jacobs said. "Over the past five years, united and determined, we have made significant achievements in academics, scholarship and research, enrollment, fundraising, military leadership, and athletics."

Jacobs noted that this fall UNG will enroll about 20,000 students across five campuses and online; while about 80 percent of those students come from 30 counties in northeast Georgia, UNG enrolls students from all 50 states, every U.S. territory and 97 countries.


"We have had strong enrollment growth and, while that can sometimes become a challenge, enrollment does not grow at universities that are stagnant. We are blessed to be in a rapidly growing part of the state and our brand is strong," Jacobs said. "We take seriously our role as a large, public university to serve the students of our region. We are fortunate that we have the range of associate, baccalaureate, and graduate degrees in hand, allowing us to blaze new pathways as an evolving university."

Jacobs also highlighted numerous university achievements from the previous academic year, including:

  • Forbes’ national list of Top Colleges for the second year; top 25 public regional universities in the South in the U.S. News ranking; U.S. News ranking as number-one in graduating students with the lowest amount of debt-load at graduation;
  • One of only three public universities in Georgia named by Forbes Magazine to its ‘Best Value College’ list and to Kiplinger’s list of Best College Values
  • Two cadets in the top 5 in the nation; Ranger Challenge team earned top ROTC in the nation and fourth in the world in the international Sandhurst Competition, beating West Point
  • Designations as Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Education and a Center of Academic Excellence in Geospatial Sciences
  • In athletics, 11 conference championships and six NCAA postseason appearances, and our student-athletes posted the highest-ever GPA in an academic year;
  • Nationally competitive scholarships totaling $1.2 million since 2013; designation as top-producer of both Fulbright Students and Gilman Scholars.
  • "These accomplishments and activities reflect just a few of the many reasons I am optimistic about and confident in UNG’s future," Jacobs said. "It is clear that we have strong momentum, and we are able to look forward from a position of strength. As we approach our next strategic planning cycle and in five short years, our sesquicentennial, celebrating 150 years as an institution, we need to ask ourselves what is ahead and how are we going to get there?"

The convocations kicked off at 9 a.m. in Dahlonega and 3 p.m. in Gainesville as the launch of the 2018-19 academic year. For the first time, the event included recognition and awards for faculty and staff.

"This is an important occasion for our campus communities to recognize your professional accomplishments, your contributions to the university’s mission, and your dedication to our students," Dr. Richard Oates, vice president for the Gainesville Campus, said at the afternoon event.

Faculty excellence was recognized with several awards.

The Distinguished Teaching Award, recognizing excellence in teaching by a faculty member who demonstrates a well-articulated teaching philosophy that has developed through methodical examination and improvement of teaching and learning, was awarded to Cristian Harris on the Dahlonega Campus.

April Nelms and Victoria Hightower of the Dahlonega Campus and Dee Gillespie of the Gainesville Campus were winners of the Emerging Leader Award, recognizing faculty who have assumed leadership roles in the past five years and who exemplify UNG's commitment to shared governance and effective leadership.

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award, given to faculty whose research demonstrates valuable work in the scholarship of teaching and learning, was awarded to Adam Frey, Anastasia Lin and Sanghee Choi of the Dahlonega Campus. The Distinguished Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award was given to Renee Bricker of the Dahlonega Campus.

Faculty members also were recognized for tenure and promotion.

Jamie Lamanac of the Cumming Campus, Erica Delana of the Dahlonega Campus, Maureen Martin of the Gainesville Campus, and Suzanne Nelms of the Oconee Campus were named Staff Member of the Year. Each was selected as a Staff Member of the Month during the 2017-18 academic year and nominated for their service and commitment to their fellow employees and UNG community.

The more than 75 recipients of the North Star Award for 2017-18 were recognized for their embodiment of the university's standards for excellence, efficiency and outstanding customer service to internal and external constituents. The annual North Star Award was presented to Yaneli Arroyo of the Gainesville Campus.

A complete listing of those recognized during the two events is viewable online.

During her speech, Jacobs also announced that a 2 percent merit pay increase pool for eligible employees has been created, to be implemented in January. While state resources were not available for merit raises this year, the university, per University System of Georgia guidelines, will be able to self-fund the increase and award merit in spring due to strong enrollment and projected tuition revenue this fall.

The entire text of Jacobs' 2018 State of the University speech also is available online.

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