Rolling tour of campuses celebrates UNG
(Jan. 14, 2013) Faculty, staff, students, and community members celebrated the union of North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville State College to become the University of North Georgia (UNG) during the UNG Rolling Tour, when President Bonita Jacobs and staff members were greeted by standing-room only crowds at all four university campuses on Jan. 10.
With some 16,000 students on campuses in Cumming, Dahlonega, Gainesville, and Oconee, UNG is the seventh-largest public university in Georgia. Officials from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS), the Southeast's accrediting organization for higher education, announced approval of the prospectus submitted by the new institutions during the SACS annual meeting in Dallas in December. The University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents ratified the consolidations creating UNG and three other new institutions at its Jan. 8 meeting, ending the planning stage of consolidation.
UNG now moves into the implementation phase, during which the new university's visual identity will be further developed and offices and departments are merged. Work also is left to be done to convert many of the systems and processes not currently shared by the four campuses, ranging from email to payroll. Separate budgets will be maintained until the new fiscal year begins July 1 and work is ahead to combine foundations and alumni groups.
Additional development also is being done on the mascot, and UNG athletic teams are expected to begin competing as the Nighthawks this fall. UNG's new athletic mascot was chosen last fall by a majority vote of students on all four campuses.
On Jan. 11, faculty and staff held UNG's first-ever business meeting, with all four campuses connected via video feed. The meeting included votes on UNG statutes and Faculty Senate bylaws. A planned vote on bylaws for the new UNG Staff Council was delayed so that a final draft could be resent to staff members who had not received it.
During the Jan. 10 Rolling Tour, students on each campus received t-shirts emblazoned with Nighthawks and other small giveaways. In addition, elected officials in each local community presented proclamations declaring Jan. 10, 2013, as "University of North Georgia Day."
The Rolling Tour started at 8 a.m. in Dahlonega, with Jacobs speaking to a full crowd in Memorial Hall Gymnasium.
"This is such an exciting time as we bring together four campuses, all of which are performing extremely well," Jacobs said. "What this consolidation will allow us to do is increase the graduation rate throughout the 30-county area we serve."
After proclamations from Dahlonega Mayor Gary McCullough and Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners Chairman Chris Dockery and performances by cheerleaders and dance team members, the caravan headed for the second stop of the day -- UNG's Oconee campus.
Cheering students and faculty waving blue pom-poms lined hallways in the Oconee campus student center as the tour arrived. Dink NeSmith, chairman of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG), and Dr. Margaret Venable, vice president and CEO of the Oconee campus, spoke briefly and Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis and Watkinsville Mayor Charles presented proclamations.
The tour arrived at the Gainesville campus around lunchtime and students, faculty and staff overflowed the rows of chairs set up around the stage in the student center, many already wearing Nighthawks t-shirts and holding up homemade signs. Philip Wilheit, vice chairman of the Board of Regents complimented UNG on the consolidation and Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan, Hall County Chairman Dick Mecum, and Oakwood Mayor Lamar Scroggs presented proclamations.
The last stop of the day, University Center | GA 400 in Cumming, featured an excited group of students, faculty and community members eager to see the university's new mascot. In addition, Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt and Forsyth County Chairman Pete Amos presented proclamations. Shelley Nickel, USG associate vice chancellor for planning and implementation, who helped spearhead the consolidation efforts, also attended the celebration in Cumming.