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Ribbon-cutting celebrates stand-alone Blue Ridge Campus

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UNG held a ribbon-cutting on Sept. 16 for its new stand-alone Blue Ridge Campus.

Candace Seabolt is a perfect example of how the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Blue Ridge Campus has changed the lives of students in Fannin County and the surrounding area.

As the first UNG student from Blue Ridge to be a finalist in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, she is scheduled to teach English to children in Taiwan starting in January 2021. UNG paid tribute to Seabolt on Sept. 16 with a surprise graduation celebration as part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new stand-alone Blue Ridge Campus. UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs and Dr. Chaudron Gille, provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs, dressed in academic regalia to mark the memorable moment for Seabolt, who also was handed a cap and gown to wear for the occasion.

Seabolt, who is among the first students from the Blue Ridge Campus to graduate from UNG, completed her degree in kinesiology with teacher certification on UNG's Dahlonega Campus in May. She marveled at the beauty of the new building that opened its doors to students in late August. The stand-alone campus also embodied the growth from two classrooms and 18 students when the campus opened at its original building to the 234 students it has today.

"It's great to see the progression of it," Seabolt said. "It's really awesome, and I think it's going to keep growing."

Candace Seabolt

UNG President Bonita Jacobs, left, and Georgia House of Representatives Speaker David Ralston, right, applaud UNG graduate Candace Seabolt, center, who was honored at the Sept. 16 ribbon-cutting for the stand-alone Blue Ridge Campus.

Georgia House of Representatives Speaker David Ralston, a UNG alumnus and Fannin County resident who helped secure the funds from the General Assembly, said the campus will allow students "to compete in the global marketplace by giving them an educational experience that is second to none."

"Great things will happen daily in this building," Ralston said. "Young minds will be challenged. Students can dream bigger dreams, and unbelievable opportunities will be opened up."

Jacobs noted how UNG in 2013 began studying ways to increase access to higher education in the northeast Georgia region, which led to the formation of the Blue Ridge Campus.

"We knew it was essential," Jacobs said. "And we knew it would be a game-changer in this region."

Dr. Steve Wrigley, chancellor of the University System of Georgia, said UNG's Blue Ridge Campus is crucial for training workers of the future.

"It's a learning beachhead in Blue Ridge, and I really want this community to think about it that way," Wrigley said. "High school students can take dual enrollment here. New college students can take courses to help them earn degrees that are desired by industry."

The new building has some 3,500 square feet of classroom space. Classrooms include a computer lab and a full biology lab with the option of additional lab courses in the future as the campus grows. The expanded space means UNG can offer more courses, which will allow students to spend more semesters in Blue Ridge.

State Sen. Steve Gooch, a UNG alumnus who also supported the project in the legislature, said students in the area have a great higher education option nearby.

"They can get just as good of a degree and a college experience right here at home as they can anywhere in the world," Gooch said. "I know the future is bright."

Sandy Ott, director of UNG's Blue Ridge Campus, is eager to see the impact of the Blue Ridge Campus.

"This campus will make a difference in the lives of students, their families, this community and this region for generations to come," Ott said.

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