2020 Presidential Messages
February 7, 2020
by Steve M. Dorman, President
Good afternoon. I would like to welcome you all to my eighth State of the University Address. I would like to especially welcome our city and county government dignitaries, members of our university Foundation Board of Trustees and Alumni Board and our student government leaders this afternoon. Over the past several years, you have heard me talk about preeminence at Georgia College and the unique ways we deliver a liberal arts education. Hopefully, you are all familiar with our simple formula:
And you have heard me talk quite a bit about the future of higher education and how institutions must navigate the new normal. For all of us at Georgia College, I hope these themes are now familiar, including the concept that preeminence is more of a state of mind rather than a destination or end point of a journey. While we see great things happening at Georgia College, we cannot make the mistake of proclaiming victory and going home. The world’s best institutions cannot rest on their laurels. So, we must continue to expand ways in which we add value.
Let’s reflect for a moment on where we are and what the signs along our path to preeminence look like. For starters, last fall, Georgia College was listed as a top public regional university by U.S. News & World Report. What is notable about this report is that we jumped from number 28 to 20 in one year on their most recent list of best regional universities in the south. Just last month, several of our graduate programs were also recognized by U.S. News and World Report. Our Web MBA and Nursing programs ranked first in their disciplines within the state. Our graduate online programs in Business, Criminal Justice and Education were also recognized. Congratulations to the faculty, staff and administrators in each of these programs!
And because preeminence includes how we pay people, last year we undertook an effort to make sure that faculty and staff are paid in keeping with our desire for preeminence. This fall, we completed the faculty portion of the study; and we were able to set aside nearly half-a-million dollars for faculty salary increases. Because of this initiative, 100 faculty members started the new year with an increase in their base pay. The median adjustment was over $3300! We look forward to completing the staff study this spring and providing funding to bring our staff much deserved increases as well.
Similarly, a recent analysis of how state universities spend their money found that we spend more per student on instructional efforts than our state university sector counterparts. As an example of how this dedication to instruction pays off, I am so proud that over the last two years, Georgia College professors have been named winners of the USG’s Regent’s Teaching Awards for Excellence. Last year, Dr. Christopher Clark (2019) received the honor as did Dr. Betta Vice (2018) the year before. This year, another GC professor, Dr. Hasitha Mahabaduge, will receive the award at the Regent’s Gala later this month.
And of course, I am so excited that two weeks from today on Friday, February 21, at 11:00, we will break ground for a new state-of-the-art integrated science building – which will be built on the corner of Wilkinson and Montgomery Streets. And later that day at 1:30, we will have the official ribbon cutting for our newly renovated high-tech Terrell Hall which will house the Department of Communication. I hope all of you will join us for these joyous events!
Preeminence: Signs Along the Way
These examples demonstrate progress we are making in our journey toward preeminence. But I also want you to know there are several initiatives that are rapidly taking shape and build on our existing strengths that have potential to greatly expand our national presence.
For instance, we are working to build the Andalusia Institute. Recently, we hired the founding director of this new initiative, Dr. Irene Burgess. Dr. Burgess is a former provost who has been involved in leading a coalition of private liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania. We are glad she has joined Georgia College and look forward to her work helping to lay the foundation of the Institute. If you recall, this dream began during a state of the university speech when we began to think imaginatively about big ideas we might accomplish together. The emergence of the Andalusia Institute, combined with potential of the physical location of Andalusia, will allow us to more fully acknowledge Flannery O’Connor’s spirit of creativity; and this will undoubtedly lead to greater national visibility for Georgia College.
In addition, we recently announced creation of a Rural Studies Institute. I am thrilled that Dr. Veronica Womack has agreed to lead this important work. Her passion for rural prosperity is unmistakable, and I am sure she is the champion we need for this effort. This ambitious initiative is also a dream realized, and it will allow us to focus on research and scholarship around issues that impact rural areas across Georgia and the nation. This center will be cross-disciplinary focusing on educational, environmental, economic and health disparities in rural settings. We are currently assessing the possibility of adding new faculty across the university as part of a disparities cluster hire.
Our commitment to inclusive excellence remains as strong as ever. In fact, this year, the Office of the Provost launched a campus-wide Inclusive Excellence Faculty Research Fund. And to continue our diversity efforts into the future, I have tasked Dr. Carolyn Denard, our new Associate Vice President for Inclusive Excellence and Chief Diversity Officer, to engage in the development of a second Diversity Action Plan that will build on the progress realized in the first Diversity Action Plan. I am looking forward to setting new and ambitious goals for our future in this area.
As you know, undergraduate research is an area of growing emphasis on campus. It is part of the GC Journeys experience; and under the leadership of the Provost, we are increasing research funds so that our students will have even more opportunities. This year, some of our students published in the Georgia Journal of Science along with their faculty mentors. Also, six GC students were selected to present their posters at the annual Posters at the Capital event at the Georgia legislature. In addition, ten grants were awarded to fifty different faculty members at Georgia College. You can expect additional support from the Provost to faculty members who wish to provide undergraduate research opportunities for their students.
I am delighted to report that this year we will create and host a national undergraduate research journal. We believe this new journal will expand Georgia College’s presence among our peers. Georgia College will provide leadership for this national initiative which I am sure will enhance our national presence.
This year, we intend to expand and build upon the success of our Honors Program. As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of our Honors programming, we will expand the size and scope of what we are doing by forming an Honors College. Our work in an Honors College will allow us to be more intentional in the way we support our students and ensure their success as they matriculate.
We have seen great progress with our Scholarships Office resulting from an intentional focus on creating student success. I have asked the Provost to establish a similar function with its own dedicated campus champion for faculty success. Specifically, we are in the process of hiring a Faculty Success Coordinator within the Center for Teaching and Learning who will work closely with the colleges to identify awards, competitions and discipline-related recognition opportunities for which our faculty members can compete. This new function will collect and provide information, resources and intentional support for faculty members and guide them to the same sort of successes we have seen with our student scholarships office.
As you know, we are nearing the end of Georgia College’s most ambitious capital campaign. I want to congratulate Vice President Monica Delisa for doing an outstanding job, along with our entire Advancement staff and Foundation Board of Trustees. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the generous support from our alumni, friends and supporters of the university. According to the Office of University Advancement, as of the end of December 2019, our endowment had increased by 92% since I first became your president. As we close out a successful $30 million campaign, I am challenging us to focus a micro-campaign to increase first-generation scholarships and raise the funds needed to complete renovation of the Old Courthouse. Of course, growing our endowment is part of our much larger plan to build institutional resiliency and long-term sustainability for the university.
As we pursue all these groundbreaking initiatives, we are seeing changes in demographic trends; and other disruptive changes continue to loom on the horizon. In remarks over the past few years, I have discussed this disruption and described the ways Georgia College must be ready to embrace the coming changes. For example:
We know that there will be major demographic changes in terms of high school graduates and a precipitous fall of graduating high school seniors available for application pools beyond 2025. Unless we carefully prepare, this may impact our undergraduate enrollment. We also know that rapidly changing shifts in demographics in terms of race and ethnicity will impact our application, enrollment and retention work. Also, the vastly different generational expectations regarding the higher education experience across areas including admissions, technology use, pedagogy, and advising and career preparation will impact how we manage the business of higher education. We also are aware of the disconnect between what employers say they need and what higher education institutions believe they are delivering. We must be more responsive and create greater partnerships with our business leaders. We also know that it will be increasingly important to prepare students to be successful in a globally connected world and in careers that have not yet been created. This will require us to think differently and challenge traditional approaches. But make no mistake about it -- I am more and more convinced that we must help to shape the public narrative around the liberal arts, and we must continue to reaffirm its relevance for successful careers. As we do this, however, we must embrace rapid changes ushered in by disruptive technologies such as machine learning, automation, robotics, big data and blockchain applications.
A few months ago, I caught a glimpse of a Final Jeopardy question that I think presents a very poignant message regarding the disruption we face. For all of you Jeopardy fans out there, see if you can give the correct question to this clue:
Do you remember Blockbuster? In just a few years, they have gone from a force with outlets nearly everywhere to nonexistent because of consumer demand and changes in the way people want to watch movies.
In case you aren’t convinced about these profound changes, consider the following:
- The world’s largest taxi company Uber owns NO vehicles.
- The world’s largest accommodation provider Airbnb owns NO real estate.
- The world’s most popular media owner Facebook creates NO content.
- The world’s most valuable retailer Alibaba has NO inventory.
So, you see, changes are already impacting us. Just as we prepare students to embrace these disruptions, we too must be prepared to adapt, shape and redirect within higher education. This is a struggle faced by the entire higher education sector. Organizations that don’t embrace the changes that most assuredly are coming may ultimately end up like Blockbuster.
So, what are we planning to do about all these changes? That’s a fair question, and it’s a question I want everyone to reflect deeply upon. Perhaps the question might be better framed like this: What are you doing about all these changes? You see, these changes will impact every corner of the institution. No area is exempt. The implications are far reaching. They span the way an individual faculty member teaches course material, to the type of degrees offered, to how we enroll students. They affect how we communicate to prospective students, parents, alumni and other stakeholders. These changes impact the way we form partnerships with stakeholders and with each other on campus, so that we deliver truly interdisciplinary perspectives and effective customer service.
This disruption has brought increasing competition for transfer students. With this in mind, we have recently partnered with Georgia Highlands College and with Gordon State College to provide a pipeline of students who might transfer into Georgia College in their junior year through a creative effort we call Pathways to GC. This program allows us to share our current abundance of applications with these schools and potentially identify students early for future attendance at Georgia College. We are pleased that these universities have joined the journey to student success here at GC and look for additional partnerships in the future.
Also, amidst the backdrop of disruption, I have asked the provost to assemble a faculty-focused taskforce that will be charged with developing out-of-the-box ideas focused on teaching and the future. The outcomes I am looking for might very well be unconventional, and I certainly hope they might be transformational and maybe even a bit uncomfortable. We will charge this taskforce to recommend ways that teaching and pedagogy can better reflect emerging trends and realities of society, technology, and how we teach the liberal arts and essential skills to all students. This task force might be better understood as a commission on the future role of faculty, and we hope it will culminate in a published report that might solicit reaction and reflection from academic thought leaders throughout the nation. These are the sort of changes we need to remain competitive and relevant.
In keeping with the theme of disruption, I am more convinced that we must approach education as a life-long endeavor. If, in fact, new knowledge reproduces itself annually, then it is unrealistic that a four-year bachelor’s degree will be enough to drive a 40-year career. Higher education, therefore, must become that environment that allows learners to check in to the academy from time to time throughout their career to receive skills and knowledge updates. For some, this additional training might take the form of a master’s degree. Others may seek micro credentials and micro degrees to upgrade their skills. So, we must think carefully about the challenges that this presents for the future. Chiefly, we must reconsider our approach to continuing education and lifelong learning. We must work more closely with industry and community partners to provide the education and training that they want and that they need to move forward in an ever-changing work environment. Furthermore, I call on the deans and department chairs to reach across our preconceived silos to create meaningful educational products and services to meet the need for a better trained workforce and provide a more robust education for students. We believe that a graduate trained in the liberal arts is superior. But we must also assemble meaningful opportunities to provide continuing career development for our former students and others in our community. As I mentioned earlier, we expect to face a predicted decline in the number of high-school students applying to higher education starting in 2025. Continuing education and lifelong education products can bring new users into the academy and hopefully off-set the impact of the potentially substantial decrease in high school graduates who may enroll in higher education in the future.
As a part of this thinking, I also propose that we collectively work toward a strategic and ambitious set of metrics. These grand challenges are those we will be more intentional about measuring and improving. For example:
- Our current four-year graduation rate is the second highest in the University System of Georgia. It is a good number, but it looks like we may have stabilized a bit in the last couple of years. However, I think we can do even better and believe we can set a target that is not only higher but also entirely realistic with the investments we are making. Therefore, I am calling for us to move the four-year graduation rate from 49% to 55% in the next three years.
- Similarly, our freshman-to-sophomore retention rate continues to hover around 85%. This is a very good number; but today, I am calling for us to move that number to 88% over the next three years.
- Under the leadership of Ms. Pittman and our Enrollment Management staff, we have been successful in diversifying our applicant pool and our acceptance pools. However, our matriculated student population has lagged in diversity. Therefore, I am calling for us to focus our efforts and to commit to greater diversity in our student body and that the diversity of our student body will move from 19% today to 25% by 2023.
- Scholarships are a vital component to attracting, retaining and graduating a diverse student body. While we have significantly increased our number of scholarships during this campaign, I believe we can do even better. I, therefore, challenge us to add 50 new scholarships a year for a total of 150 new scholarships by 2023. If successful, this will result in a 32 percent increase in the number of scholarships at Georgia College.
- Finally, many of you know I have been steadfast in my stance against fee proliferation on our campus. So, in our continued effort to keep the cost of college affordable for our students, I have asked Ms. Allen to develop a phased-in plan that would lead to removal of all elective instructional fees by the start of the academic year 2021-22. Institutional funds will be used to provide for the needs currently supplied by these fees.
Now, as I conclude this speech, I want to go back for a moment to the beginning when I talked about student success. At the end of the day, we are a student-centric university that cares deeply about producing citizen-leaders who can think independently and lead creatively.
One way of explaining this is through what we are calling the GC Journeys program. This infographic might help you visualize how all these areas connect to each other. And, how everyone on campus is involved with the success of our students. I am excited about our efforts here at GC to produce success for all students. We call it GC Journeys because we believe all students are in a time of exploration and movement toward the goal of a successful life and career. We believe students are beginning their life’s journey and that we have the opportunity here at GC to lay the foundation for a successful life and career.
With that in mind, we ask students to choose a major in an area of focus; and through our liberal arts emphasis, we make sure our students have experiences in a wide array of topics. We believe this type of approach provides exposure to the essential skills that employers say they want in today’s college graduate -- such as communication and decision-making skills, an appreciation for diversity, a global perspective, creativity and the ability to work in groups or teams.
In addition to having a major and exposure to other areas, we also want our students to have experiences related to retention, graduation, job procurement and satisfaction with college. These are called high-impact practices and they include experiences such as undergraduate research, community engagement, study abroad opportunities, leadership opportunities, career development opportunities, capstones, mentorships and internships.
We do all of this within an environment that is supportive of student success. We are determined to have smaller classes taught by faculty who are fiercely dedicated to the teaching/learning process. We have a robust co-curricular student life which provides service and leadership opportunities for students. And we have efforts dedicated to enhancing the academic and career performance of students who choose to use them such as the writing, testing, academic advising, learning, and career advising centers.
At Georgia College, our goal is to provide opportunity for all students to have success in their pathway to productive lives and careers. GC Journeys makes sure that each student’s pathway is paved with opportunities for success.
So yes, we take student success seriously at Georgia College. And, make no mistake about it, each of you here today plays a role in this journey. While sometimes these may seem like an unconnected set of initiatives, in reality, these are interconnected flagstones on the student journey to success. I hope you can see that you are an important piece in our students’ journey toward a successful career and life.
Faculty, will you join me in this journey to student success? You play an important and key role in the success of the GC Journeys program. The earlier a student connects with a faculty member, the more likely the student is to persist and graduate in a timely fashion. We know that it is very important for faculty to connect, encourage and assist students as they move toward their professional career goals.
Staff, will you join me in this journey to student success? Whether you work as a groundskeeper, a coach, an administrative assistant, financial aid staff, departmental administrator, residence hall staff or whatever sector of this great university you work in, your work is essential to student success. Our students find you to be a source of encouragement and a part of their support system as they go through this journey. I hope each of you recognizes the important role you play in the success of our students.
It has been said:
“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”
You know, “the journey” really does matter. Think about it… journeys change us. They open our eyes to new philosophies and new people. They allow us to discover new thoughts and develop dreams for the future. They expand our understanding of the human experience. Some of the best journeys challenge us and sometimes make us feel uncomfortable. But, in the end, we find that the journey was worth it.
And it is no different for GC Journeys. It is our hope that the journey we offer students at GC will be life changing. Hopefully, it will be challenging and thought provoking … taking students to new and exciting places of the mind. Hopefully, it will be a journey that will set the course for a life of enjoyment and a career of productivity. Hopefully, in the end, the journey will have mattered. I hope you will join me as we create this exciting journey; and as we change lives and impact the future!
But for now, please join me in watching this brief video that describes the GC Journey initiative here at Georgia College.
Let me thank you all for your continued dedication to your work. I know, you are all are working diligently toward our goal of preeminence. And, I hope each of you will join me on the continuing journey to create student success at Georgia College. And to remind you of this, as you leave today, we will provide you with a Join the Journey pin that I hope you will wear to remind you of our work together.
Thank you for your time today.
- Wisse, Billy, and Michele Loud. “Jeopardy.” Season 36, episode 42, aired 19 Nov. 2019.
- Bernard Bull. (October 30,2018) The Future of Continuing Education; INCPA Society, Society Blog; found at: incpas.org/detail-pages/blog-or-article-detail/the-future-of-continuing-education Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace, Generation Z Goes to College, Jossey-Bass, 2016.
- Raphael, Lev. (3/18/15; Updated Dec 06, 2017) Hemingway’s Stolen Quotation. HUFFPOST; found at: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/hemingways-stolen-quotati_b_6868994
2019 Presidential Messages
State of the University
February 9, 2019
by Steve M. Dorman, President
Good afternoon everyone, and thank you all for being here today. It is a privilege to have our Georgia College Foundation Trustees with us. Thanks also to members of our Georgia College Alumni Board for being here. In addition, I am honored that members of our Student Government Association under the leadership of Miss Amelia Lord are with us. We have community partners who have joined us: Dr. Noris Price, Mr. Henry Craig, and Mr. Lyn Chandler. I also want to welcome those of you joining us via live stream.
It is an honor to be President of Georgia College and deliver my seventh State of the University Address. This year, we mark several important milestones in our university’s history. I want to take a few minutes and highlight several because they represent this university making important decisions to embrace change at a time when it was needed to meet the educational needs of Georgians and secure the future of this institution.
Fifty Year Milestones
Fifty years ago, Georgia College made what I understand was a very difficult decision at that time. Facing challenges with enrollment, President Lee prepared the university to admit male students for the first time in the institution’s history. It was this decision that moved the university away from its previous mission of an all-women’s college into the role of a state regional university. It was not an easy decision. In fact, it had been suggested many years earlier; but the university managed to avoid it. Then, amid some consternation from the alumnae base, the mission was changed by the Regents to one of co-education. The result was profound; and within ten years, the enrollment had doubled.
It was also fifty years ago that Georgia College launched the infancy of the university’s athletics program. Known as the Colonials and embracing the colors of gold and brown, the area now known as West Campus was an empty field. But our fledgling athletics program led the university to construct the beautiful recreational fields and facilities which ultimately led to the state-of-the-art West Campus that our students now enjoy. And, so it is this year we celebrate 50 years of athletics on the Georgia College campus.
And, it was 50 years ago in 1968 when Miss Cellestine Hill became Georgia College’s first African American graduate. Four years earlier, in 1964, amid the political and social events of the civil rights movement, Miss Hill took the courageous step to attend; and this university did the right thing and began to take steps to make sure that all Georgians regardless of the color of their skin would have access to the outstanding education offered by Georgia College. Miss Hill paved the way for many more African American students to follow. She was a true leader. Recently, we were fortunate to have honored Miss Hill, posthumously, and were joined by her daughter, Maia Hunt Estes, during our annual alumni awards reception and during our Martin Luther King Day breakfast.
While higher education sometimes gets the reputation of being set in its ways and unchanging— let me just say, I don’t believe that is true. These three examples from the history of Georgia College provide examples of this university changing and adjusting to meet the educational demands of its time.
National Scholarships Office
It is important that we remember and celebrate our historic achievements and the immense change these achievements brought to campus. And, I want to talk more about some of the coming changes I see in our future. But, before I do, I am particularly excited about a change we made shortly after I arrived and the progress we have made as a result. When I first assumed the presidency at Georgia College, it became clear to me that we have very talented students who are supported by our remarkably capable faculty and staff. So, we sharpened our focus and created a National Scholarships office to intentionally support and direct our students toward national scholarships. The results have been incredible.
This year, two remarkable Georgia College students earned a place in some of the most prestigious and competitive national awards given to student scholars in higher education. These awards are given to the top students at the most outstanding universities in the country. Currently extending his studies in India, Jonathan Mangrum is Georgia College’s first David L. Boren Scholar. I would like you to hear from Jonathan how his experience at Georgia College helped shape and transform his world view and indeed his own future.
Recent GC alumnus, Kevin Morris, recently became Georgia College’s first Marshall Scholar. Chosen from approximately 1000 applications, Kevin, as I understand it, was the only recipient from a public university in Georgia this year. Kevin intends to pursue a master’s degree at the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies at the University College London (UCL) this upcoming fall semester. I was fortunate to visit with Kevin during a recent trip to Washington, DC; and later, our video crew recorded a short video capturing some of Kevin’s remarks about this exciting opportunity.
I am sure that we are going to hear more from these two students in the future! If you are faculty or staff, you can share in the joy that of these student accomplishments. Whether you are faculty or staff, your work contributed to the success they enjoy today. So, let’s all take great pride in knowing that these are the types of students that Georgia College is producing. Congratulations to both Jonathan and Kevin – we are proud of your achievements. This is a sign of preeminence!
And we are thankful to Ms. Anna Whiteside and all who assist her through the National Scholarships office. I know that there will be many more Fulbright, Boren, and Marshall successes like this.
For several years now, you have heard me talk about the rapid changes taking place in higher education. Far-reaching changes are manifesting themselves in public perceptions about higher education as well as how public institutions are being funded. Significant demographic changes are also taking place both in the state of Georgia and nationwide. In addition, profound generational changes are taking place right now – driven by the rapid changes in technology and communications.
Public perception toward higher education has changed significantly. In a recent Gallup Poll, only 48 percent of Americans have either a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in higher education. Even more alarming is the fact that this figure is down from 57 percent in 2015. Clearly the perception of our industry is moving in the wrong direction, and this needs to change! While Georgia College can’t assume the responsibility of changing public perception for an entire industry, we can continue to do our part to be customer service friendly and provide a well-rounded liberal arts education in an efficient manner. We must, therefore, continue to be vigilant in our efforts to be the best we can be with the state resources that we have been given.
Another change that I have talked about is the decrease in public funding for state-supported higher education. I am pleased to report that there does not appear to be a desire to retrench from funding public higher education in Georgia. However, it is clear from the decisions we have made not to grow the size of university that there will not be significant new funding coming our way in a model that embraces enrollment growth. So, we must take this into account as we fund our operations moving forward. This is why we must continue to be diligent with our prioritization and redirection efforts. We must continue to seek to improve efficiencies wherever we find them and be more strategic with the way we prioritize funds within our own current funding and spending model. I am grateful that our department chairs, deans, and vice presidents are taking this seriously and leading the prioritization and redirection opportunities.
You have also heard me talk about the impending demographic changes that are coming to higher education. After decades of continuous growth, the number of high school graduates in the state of Georgia is projected to decline by 2025. Thereafter, we will see declining growth for several years before we plateau. The decline is even more pronounced among white high school students. In fact, from now through the 2025-26 academic school year, the white population of high school students will decline by four percent. Meanwhile, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander populations of high school students are expected to grow 18 percent and 12 percent respectively. This is why we are making significant efforts to improve and expand our diversity initiatives. And we must be diligent to continue to do so if we are to sustain our student population and relevance as an institution into the future.
For Georgia College, we also need to look at the emerging generation of students who will be attending college over the next few years. This year, we welcomed to campus a group of students who have always lived in the 21st century. This is a generation that has never known life without the internet or a smart phone. They are more inclined to stream video, content, and news on-demand than tune into live programmed television. This generation is not only the most diverse of all the other generations that preceded it, but Generation Z is also much more embracing of that diversity. Because this generation literally grew up with technology in their hands and with content available all the time, Generation Z demands immediate answers and prefers online delivery mechanisms. These generational changes will redefine paradigms and must be met with deliberate adaptability. Already, Generation Z has changed the way we communicate with each other - texting more rather than phone calls; changed the way we get news - decline in print newspapers; changed the way we read - proliferation of digital books, and changed the way we shop - online vs. in the store.
While many of these changes have been slowly coming our way, we have reached a “tipping point” that we cannot ignore. This is a change that will not go away. And, in fact, subsequent students of this university will have an ever-growing expectation of technology-driven services and pedagogy. Now, do not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that we depart in any way from our public liberal arts mission. However, if we are to be relevant, we must seize this opportunity to provide the best public liberal arts experience to a technology driven audience. I believe our mission includes a special effort to focus on good teaching. Therefore, let’s take this opportunity to be the best at providing a liberal arts education to a new generation in a way that they learn best.
As a result of some of these changes, Chancellor Wrigley asked me to co-chair a committee that sought to identify factors that USG universities should consider to meet 21st-century learning and career needs. The College 2025 Initiative committee identified four broad themes that ultimately emerged as important for higher education to consider as we contemplate the future.
The first theme identified by the committee was adaptability. It poses the question of how we make higher education more accessible and available to the learner. It also includes the need to personalize and individualize education to the needs of the learner.
How will we adapt and navigate these changes to meet the demands of the next generation learner and educate more Georgians? For us, this means we must remain relevant, nimble, and adaptive. And I mean adaptive in the broadest sense of the word. We must adapt, embrace, and thrive amidst the profound changes taking place in terms of demographics, generational, and disruptive technological trends. We must bring adaptive thinking to all aspects of the university: internally and externally. For example, we must continue to advance and adapt our student recruitment strategy while we also improve upon how we deliver technology, education, and the overall Georgia College experience. Clearly, we must think differently about how we deliver education and how we communicate with our students. And, we must also think about how we provide services for them while they are in our charge and how we communicate with them and their families. Furthermore, this focuses our attention to the ways we will embrace diversity, inclusion, and build a sense of community on campus.
We will also have to adapt to emerging business practices across all areas of the academic enterprise. For example, the rise of artificial intelligence will have far- reaching effects in many areas. Gen Z will challenge us to adapt our approach to customer service. Generation Z learners have no problem interacting with automated systems. They have led us to use self-checkout shopping lanes, and the same inclinations seem to apply to getting information about Georgia College. So, we must adapt. For example, already, we have launched chatbot programs on our website which utilize artificial intelligence and algorithms to recognize keywords within questions and provides answers in a predetermined manner. This new technology provides our website visitors answers to questions at any time of the day or night.
A second recommendation from the College 2025 Initiative is that colleges and universities must prepare students with the soft or essential skills deemed so important by business and industry leaders. These skills include the ability to communicate verbally and in writing, to appreciate diversity, to be able to function in a global environment, to solve complex problems, and appreciate some ambiguity.
I like to think of these skills as transcendent and global. It is said that our current graduates will hold 10-15 jobs during their work life. And it is also predicted that 65% of today’s preschoolers will work in jobs that do not yet exist. So, these transcendent skills are those that will be needed regardless of the job or occupation that is in the future of our learners.
Yet, in a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, researchers asked over 4,000 graduating seniors and over 200 employers to rate the proficiencies of recent college graduates in eight professional competencies. The result was a stark disconnect. On one hand, students felt confident that they were well prepared for the workforce. Employers, on the other hand, disagreed. Similarly, a recent Gallup Poll found that 96 percent of chief academic officers believe that they are preparing students for work. However, only 11 percent of employers strongly agree with that assertion.
Now what exactly does this mean for Georgia College? As many of you know, we have undertaken a bold mission called GC Journeys. This effort, led by the Provost, will ensure that we are providing the best opportunities possible for students to be exposed to high-impact practices and development of these essential skills. Our liberal arts preparation provides students with the essential skills to navigate life. We are educating the next generation of independent thinkers. And we are preparing students to lead creatively – to find sometimes unconventional solutions to complex challenges and to embrace diversity in all its forms for the betterment of society.
We are doing our best to tell others what Georgia College is about. Our slogan: Think Independently. Lead Creatively. is much more than a slogan. It is the way we conduct business, and it shapes our philosophy of learning and our approach to living life based on the knowledge & skills that the liberal arts provide.
Woven into everything we do, we must emphasize these essential skills. I would ask each of you to be mindful of this as you prepare your course work. Please continue your diligence to emphasize these essential skills in your courses as they are so important for our students and to their future employers. Now is a perfect time to review our general education curriculum. Are our general education courses relevant? Are we taking advantage of innovative pedagogy to ensure we are providing a strong and balanced liberal arts educational experience that prepares our students for positions we do not know of today?
A third recommendation from the College 2025 Initiative is that we prepare our students with the ability to learn over their entire lifetime. This is critical in large part because of the rapid pace of the generation of new knowledge combined with changes in technology and emerging generational norms. Let me ask you:
What are we doing to encourage our graduates to continue their learning? What are we doing to update the knowledge and skills of the graduates from our programs? Do we want to embrace micro degrees and short courses as a way to offer coursework in an area for those who are currently out in the field? Even our appliances have a 3-5-year guarantee. Is it time that we do the same for our higher education degrees?
In fact, the vast collection of mankind’s knowledge is expanding at a staggering rate – driven by advances in networked communications, the internet, and the collection big data. Consider the following:
In 1982, an American futurist, scholar, and author, Buckminster Fuller, postulated that up until around the year 1900, the body of human knowledge seemed to double approximately every 100 years. However, by the end of World War II, Fuller advanced a theory that the pace of knowledge creation was rapidly accelerating and, thus, began to double every 25 years thereafter.  Currently, technologists who study these knowledge curves are suggesting that we are doubling our collective body of knowledge every 12 months.
So, what can we glean about the future from this? It seems that we underestimate the technological progress, determination, and resolve for mankind to learn and build upon our knowledge. In fact, the increasing rapidity of development of new knowledge will demand the worker of the future to engage in lifelong learning. With this kind of growth in knowledge; the traditional college degree will need expansion over a lifetime. The convergence of data communications, big data, robotics, and machine learning will demand a worker who is continuing to learn. And universities must adapt to meet this important role for the future.
So we must emphasize the learning of knowledge and skills that allow our students to become lifelong learners. I encourage all faculty at Georgia College to constantly be engaged with the leading scholars in each of your disciplines and to always remain up to date on the latest knowledge, theories, and tools available – including the resources we have on campus to improve pedagogy through technology.
Finally, the College 2025 Initiative emphasizes the important role of partnerships across all aspects of the academic enterprise: employers, community members, parents, governments, organizations and other academic institutions. Now this is a difficult recommendation for higher education. For too long, we have operated rather independently. The future, however, will demand that we actively partner with business, industry leaders, and community members to provide a state-of- the-art and state-of-the-need education for our students. Typically, when we think of partnerships, we tend to think of external organizations – but to be honest, higher education has not been good at partnering within the academy. So, let’s also include internal stakeholders as well. In particular, since we are a liberal arts university, a place where we pride ourselves on broad knowledge across multiple disciplines, we must encourage connections across colleges and between departments, offices, centers, and initiatives – to provide a well-rounded and cutting-edge education for our learners. For example, the Provost tells me that she has challenged the leadership in the College of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences to put together a partnership to deliver a certificate in data science/data analysis. This certificate would be incomplete without the thinking from both colleges. I commend this effort as an example of collaboration between colleges and departments to do something that would provide an outstanding opportunity for our students.
Other good examples of existing partnerships include our work with the Montessori school that we recently established along with the Baldwin County Public School System. I am also delighted that our School of Nursing forged a strong partnership with Navicent Health in Baldwin County to open the Georgia College School of Nursing Simulation and Translational Research Center. Through the work of our University Advancement staff, we are fortunate to have partnered with generous friends and supporters of Georgia College in our campaign to raise $30 million by June 2020. Thus far we have raised over $25 million dollars toward our campaign goal. Indeed, I am delighted with the progress we have made to increase our endowment, which is currently in excess of $41 million. In recognition of the important role that partnerships play, all colleges are now required to have an external advisory council. I encourage our deans, department chairs, and faculty members, as well as our staff and administrators, to reach out to our partners and have meaningful interactions with them. Let’s listen to what they are telling us and try to incorporate their feedback in the way we prepare our students.
Another area on our campus manifesting great change is our physical environment. This year, we will welcome completion of changes to Peabody Auditorium, Terrell Hall, a newly designed plaza to welcome our National Panhellenic groups to campus, and newly designed signage to welcome visitors from downtown as they approach our campus. And, hopefully, in the next year, we will welcome a significant number of new parking spaces on the north side of campus; and we will break ground on the first new building on our campus since 2010 – a new integrated science building, to be located across the street from Herty Hall. These changes will require us to be flexible and quick to adjust. And I am thrilled that, yesterday, a commissioned display of public art was installed on our campus in the newly created space behind renovated Beeson Hall. This art piece is entitled “Spreading Her Wings” and is the work of North Carolina artist Michael Roig. The piece rises into the air and welcomes each change of air current and delightfully spins displaying her full glory. I believe this art piece serves as a metaphor for where the academy finds itself today. You see, just as this new art piece must embrace each change in air current to fully reach her potential, so we too must be ready to accept the changes that are moving our way. I hope you will leave here today, spreading your wings to embrace the changes that are coming.
So...…hang on! We are in a time of great change for our industry – and more is on the way. And so even as Georgia College attempts to remain nimble and adaptable, let us also make sure our students are prepared to adapt and thrive over a lifetime of learning. Let’s equip them with the essential skills they will need to be successful – not just in their first or second job but across their lifetime. Over the next few weeks, I will be visiting with the faculty in the each of colleges so that we can discuss and react to some of these ideas presented today. I hope to see you there.
I see signs of preeminence everywhere I turn, and I am filled with great pride when I see our students become successful and when our faculty and staff accomplish great things. As you exit, please be sure to pick up a copy our 2018 Highlights which showcases some of our great achievements throughout the year.
Again, thank you all for joining me today and for the work you do for the university. This concludes my 2019 State of this University Address.
- “Gallup survey finds falling confidence in higher education”, in Inside Higher Ed, October 9, 2018.
- Peace Bransberger, “Impact and Implications: Projections of Male & Female High School Graduates” WICHE Insights, September 2017.
- Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace, Generation Z Goes to College, Jossey-Bass, 2016.
- Jeanne Meister, “The Future Of Work: Job Hopping Is the 'New Normal' for Millennials”, Forbes, August 14, 2012.
- “The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, page 32, Global Challenge Insight Report published by the World Economic Forum, January 2016.
- “Students think they're ready for the workforce. Employers disagree.” in EAB Daily Briefing, March 5, 2018.
- A New Gallup Survey Says Colleges and Employers Disagree About How Workforce-Ready Graduates Are — Who’s Right? in The Huffington Post, April 29, 2014.
- “Addressing the Crisis in Higher Education: An Experiential Analysis”, in Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning, Vol. 45, 2018.
- Ibid, page 265.
2018 Presidential Messages
State of the University
February 9, 2018
by Steve M. Dorman, President
Good afternoon everyone, and thank you all for being here today as we review some of the highlights that have taken place at Georgia College this last year. I want to welcome both our Foundation and Alumni Board members who are here with us today. As you know, the Foundation Board has helped to oversee a period of amazing growth in the endowment and advancement work of Georgia College; and we thank them for their leadership. Also joining us are representatives from Georgia College’s Student Government Association. Under the leadership of President Mike Muller, SGA has had a very good year; and I am thankful for the positive role they play on our campus. It is also our honor to welcome some of our civic and community leaders who have joined us for this event: Mayor, Mary Parham-Copelan and County Commissioner Johnny Westmoreland.
As I address you today for the sixth time in this forum, I reflect back on the past year; and a number of significant achievements come to mind. And I must say, it has been a busy year!
As many of you know, last year, Governor Deal asked us to be the home for the Center for Early Language and Literacy. Of course, we were delighted to do so; and we named the center after our graduate First Lady Sandra Dunagan Deal who has done so much to promote reading throughout our state. The Literacy Center is an ambitious initiative to address the state’s acute need to strengthen the literacy skills of our youngest children. Being the host institution for this important initiative is indeed a testament to the expanding reputation of Georgia College, and I thank Governor Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal for their confidence in us.
2017 also saw the gifting of Andalusia from the Andalusia Foundation to the Georgia College Foundation. This generous gift adds to the rich heritage of Georgia College and will allow us to preserve the wonderful legacy that Flannery O’Connor left behind. This gift opens up many possibilities for what Andalusia might provide for our faculty, our students, and aspiring writers everywhere.
And, I am delighted that in the fall we kicked off the most ambitious comprehensive campaign in the history of Georgia College. Our last comprehensive campaign reached a total of $11 million dollars. As a rule of thumb, universities double the amount of their last campaign. However, we determined to reach a bit further and set an initial target of $25 million. Well, folks, it turned out that was too conservative because as we unfurled the total amount raised during the silent phase of the campaign, it came to over $20 million. Therefore, with the encouragement of our Foundation Board, we reached even further and set a $30 million target for our campaign which we will conclude on June 30, 2020. We are well on our way to reaching that record-breaking goal, and I want to thank all our donors for their generosity and affection toward Georgia College. Of course, I also want to thank Ms. Monica Delisa and her entire team for their efforts.
There were also a number of capital improvements completed last year. To accommodate the ever-increasing interest in Georgia College, we needed a new facility to conduct student tours and present the university in a way that is both professional and uniquely Georgia College. And, so, we renovated Mayfair – and made it our new Welcome Center so that Ms. Suzanne Pittman and her all-star team of admission officers, recruiters, and student ambassadors can do what they do best and bring outstanding students to Georgia College.
In addition to Mayfair, we completed renovations to Beeson and McIntosh. Beeson is now home to numerous academic programs in our College of Arts and Sciences and will also be swing space while Terrell is being renovated this year. McIntosh houses several units within Academic Affairs.
Now more than ever, it seems that we need the next generation of independent thinkers to lead in creative ways – well beyond their majors and indeed beyond the academic enterprise. Because this is so critical to our core mission, we are committed to finding better ways of communicating who we are and what we do. So, in the summer of 2015, a group of faculty supported by the Provost embarked on an important initiative to better package these rich skills and experiences in a program that ensures all our students would benefit from our liberal arts education. Their efforts culminated in the GC Journeys Program. Students will participate in a minimum of five transformative experiences. The three required experiences are: a first-year experience, career planning milestones, and a senior capstone project. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in two other transformative experiences which may include: study abroad, community-based engaged learning, undergraduate research or creative endeavors, internships, and leadership programs.
The GC Journeys Program will become our trademark way of infusing the liberal arts into the GC experience. Many thanks to all who helped envision GC Journeys and are now making it a reality. More than 150 faculty, staff, students, and community members participated in conceptualizing, creating, and refining our GC Journeys Program. If you were involved in the GC Journeys Program, please stand. I would like to recognize and thank you all.
Building Blocks of Preeminence
By now, everyone at Georgia College is familiar with the word “preeminence.” I use it a lot to describe the path we are on, and I take pride when pointing out “the signs” along the way. I see these signs everywhere I turn at Georgia College. As president, I feel it is incumbent on me to make sure I do all that I can to build a strong foundation for preeminence – building blocks so to speak – so that our faculty, staff, students, and alumni can be successful. There’s a simple formula in my mind that leads us down a path to preeminence, and it goes something like this: student success plus faculty success plus staff success will yield institutional success.
One such building block is the continuous improvement of our four-year graduation rate, which is currently over 49 percent. Georgia College continues to have the second highest four-year graduation rate in the system. I am delighted to report that our three-year moving average continues increase annually. Thanks to Provost Brown and Associate Provost Denard for their leadership and focus on student success.
Related to our Journeys program is a leadership component that is beginning to permeate multiple areas within the University. Exposing our students to leadership opportunities is an important priority for Georgia College; and we are making a deliberate effort to cultivate, identify, and expand these opportunities for our students – in the classroom, through internships, athletics, community outreach, or extracurricular activities. Thank you, Dr. Harold Mock, for heading up our leadership efforts at Georgia College.
An example of this expansion is our first sorority leadership living-learning community. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ms. Tiffany Bayne for her essential role in bringing this to Georgia College. This new leadership program will allow second-year Panhellenic members to live in an apartment-style university residence hall while also completing a leadership development program. This program came out of our very deliberate strategy of providing unique opportunities for our students to think independently and lead creatively.
Another important foundation for preeminence involves our ability to sustainably fund our long-term needs and to diversify our sources of funding. That is why our comprehensive campaign is so critical to the success of Georgia College. A significant portion of the money we raise goes toward financial aid to assist meritorious needs-based students through scholarships like the Legacy Fund. This is also critically important so that we can continue to recruit the best and brightest students regardless of their ability to pay tuition.
As a part of this comprehensive campaign, we also recently launched the Georgia College Family Scholarship Fund. This fund was created to provide educational support for the children and grandchildren of Georgia College faculty and staff. Recently, we announced that our Foundation has generously agreed to match all donations up to $100,000. This is a great way to invest in our faculty and staff – and to make sure that we can take care of our own so that they, in turn, can focus on doing preeminent things. I hope you all will consider this opportunity to support our own employees here at Georgia College.
In an effort to meet an important need of childcare for our faculty and staff, Georgia College forged a partnership with the Baldwin County School District to create a Montessori school which began in the fall. Staffing comes from Georgia College while the school district provides state-of-the-art facilities. In addition, pre-service teaching candidates from the College of Education at Georgia College directly benefit from this arrangement. This is a win-win scenario, and I am delighted we could be a part of this.
Recently, I was able to celebrate another example of our continued commitment to create staff success by recognizing a new Apprenticeship Program in Facilities Operations. Two of our employees, Derrieon Hickey and Bruce Clayton, recently completed a 2 ½ year program, in collaboration with Central Georgia Technical College. This training consisted of a structured academic offering coupled with competency-based field work with Georgia College mentors. In the end, Derrieon and Bruce are now certified HVAC technicians and are on the path to an even brighter occupational future. Would Derrieon and Bruce please stand? We are proud of you both. Let me also commend Mark Duclos for creating this win-win scenario for the institution – one where both staff and the institution benefit from the success created here. I am hopeful that other managers will create similar job enhancement opportunities for our outstanding staff at Georgia College as they seek to expand their skills.
To reward faculty and staff who contribute toward our path to preeminence, I am happy to announce a new initiative that further encourages preeminent success. The “Preeminence Promise Project” will be created to reward excellence through merit-based achievements. This initiative will create funding that will be added to the base salary of select faculty and staff who demonstrate preeminent work. You will hear more about this in near future through Provost Kelli Brown and Vice President Susan Allen.
Now, what conversation about institutional success would be complete without mentioning our favorite topic: Parking! I know that parking is an issue on everyone’s mind – and I want you to know it is on my mind as well. This year, we added 170 spaces to our parking inventory by paving the area behind The Depot. In the near future, we will be adding another estimated 50 spaces thanks to the purchase by our Foundation of property close to the main campus. Hopefully, there will be additional spaces as well that we can report in the near future. So, please know that we are continually trying to ease this very real problem for our campus by creating more parking spaces for all of us.
There are many reasons to remain optimistic about Georgia College’s future. We are well on a trajectory that is as ambitious as it is exciting. Georgia College must remain adaptive, nimble, and responsive to shifts in demographics, approaches to pedagogy, use of emerging technologies, and vastly different social paradigms.= Many of the changes we expect to happen will come from generational shifts for which we must prepare.
The University System of Georgia has recognized that the future of higher education will see disruptions to our business models and the status quo. Chancellor Wrigley has created a committee that is charged with defining the many ways higher education will change and what it might look like by the year 2025. The objective is to ensure that colleges, universities, and, indeed, the entire higher education system in Georgia will continue to evolve and serve our students better.
To that end, I am commissioning a task force charged with exploring the future of higher education and how Georgia College can be better prepared. I want this group to present actionable recommendations in the context of the new normal, our new strategic plan, and with the backdrop of the many profound changes taking place in higher education.
Georgia College does particularly well in providing our students with skills to navigate life. We prepare students for a work environment that exists in the present and one that will look very different in the future. We do this by constantly challenging our students to think independently – to be well rounded and apply lessons learned from one context to another.
Unfortunately, for much of the public at large, we know that the liberal arts concept is not always fully understood or appreciated. It is incumbent upon us to do a better job unpacking the liberal arts concept and explaining it in a way that resonates with our stakeholders and is motivational for prospective students.
To better communicate our brand, we have concluded an initiative to conduct research, focus groups, and surveys to better define and identify who we are, how we are distinct, and how others perceive us. Over the last year, thousands of prospective students, current students, parents, alumni, faculty, and staff participated in this market research. What emerged was a set of descriptions, words, and phrases that we know resonate well with our target audience.
In addition to describing Georgia College as the state’s designated public liberal arts university – a position from which we will never move – we now have a set of words that we hope to use more consistently across all our marketing and branding platforms – including our website, our publications, our advertising, and across social media. After much deliberation, several words and phrases have consistently emerged; and we now have an idea that more clearly describes our core value proposition.
What are these words? What might this slogan be?
Georgia College – Think Independently. Lead Creatively.
The liberal arts, as we know, can be described in many ways. It is not a simple concept to explain in a few words or even a few sentences. However, we needed a way to describe the Georgia College experience to an audience that is not living in the same liberal arts “echo chamber” as we. These four words can say quite a bit in an elegant and compelling way.
Think Independently. Lead Creatively.
This slogan will be part of our branding campaign. We will be using it across all our visual touchpoints. However, our current logo will remain the same. A visual identity system is being developed in conjunction with the Office of University Communications and the Office of Admissions so that we can present a visually consistent look and feel across all of our communication platforms.
At Georgia College, we are very fortunate to have many great stories to tell – stories that reinforce this notion of thinking independently and leading creatively. I hope you will help us identify students, faculty, staff, and alumni who are thinking independently and leading creatively so that we might tell our story through their good work.
One such example is Kim Ryan. Kim is a Georgia College graduate who now serves as President of the WellStar Atlanta Medical Center. I met Kim only a couple of months ago; and as soon as I heard her story, I immediately thought how well she exemplifies and embodies the spirit of our new slogan. Kim is a true leader who has leveraged the liberal arts experience at Georgia College to think independently and lead creatively during one of our nation’s largest natural disasters, Hurricane Katrina. In fact, Ms. Ryan led her team without a single loss of life. Here is Kim’s remarkable story.
Bradley Galimore, a senior fine arts major is learning what it is like to think outside the box and lead creatively. Bradley uses his artistic talents to help students at the Georgia Academy for the Blind experience print making, creating an exciting opportunity for these students to express their creativity. Would you watch Bradley’s story with me?
Georgia College Highlights
There are so many success stories at Georgia College that, like last year, we felt it was appropriate to produce an annual year-in-review highlights publication to capture some of them. Copies of this publication are available today, and I would encourage you to read through the many exciting accomplishments taking place on campus. I hope you will share these accomplishments with others and congratulate the many folks who are doing preeminent work among us.
For example, we just launched an eSports team; and several of our students will participate in the first Peach Belt eSports championship to be held here in Magnolia Ballroom in the next few weeks. There is such interest in this that we have been told that NCAA officials will be on hand to observe this emerging competition. Currently, the Peach Belt is the only conference offering an eSports competition of this type.
Also, Georgia College had four Fulbright semi-finalists last year. One of them, Audrey Waits, was awarded a Fulbright grant to research pathogenic bacteria in reindeer with researchers from the Thule Institute at the University of Oulu in Finland. Now that is exciting!
In the fall, Dr. Karen Berman was recognized as one of twelve recipients of the 2017 Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities. Thank you, Dr. Berman, for bringing this prestigious award to Georgia College.
Senior Project Manager Mark Bowen recently received the Distinguished Service Award from our University System Office. This award is given to an individual who demonstrates exemplary service in his or her job duties and has gone above and beyond normal job responsibilities. We were so proud to see Mark win this award, and I know this was well deserved.
The Final Word
Let me leave you with some final things to contemplate. Like many of you, I am paying close attention to the divide we now have in our society and the deterioration of civil discourse that exacerbates social and political tensions in our nation. We are seeing gradual – even alarming – shifts in public opinion with respect to higher education and its role in society. As a sector, we certainly do not want higher education to remain stale and unable to make the bold changes necessary to respond to emerging needs and expectations.
I see the value of what we do more important now than ever before. So I am asking all of us, myself and my cabinet included, to continually think about institutional renewal and to constantly question whether we are prepared to navigate in the new normal or respond better to emerging expectations from students or even an increasingly skeptical public about our role in society. I want to challenge our faculty, in particular, to take teaching beyond mastering a particular discipline. Our goal is to instill in our students an appreciation for critical thinking, ethical reasoning, and to encourage them to have a deeper appreciation for intellectual honesty that values multiple perspectives before gravitating to any one in particular.
We must do a better job of walking a balanced tight rope. It would be easy for higher education to become too focused on the more utilitarian needs of preparing our students for careers and to be gainfully employed. Additionally, it would be easy to err by focusing too much on the metrics and indices of improvement and failing to see the bigger picture of what we are doing – contributing to the character of our students enabling them to think and lead. Don’t get me wrong. Georgia College has and will continue to make great investments in the areas of strategic planning, assessment, and in career preparation. However, there must be more to the college experience. College must be a time where students go through a process of self-discovery and learning how to more fully exercise their intellectual curiosity. We must create a truly transformative experience that contributes to the character of our learners – enabling them to think independently and lead creatively as they step into the future. So let us not relinquish this important role for Georgia College. Let us do our part to help foster constructive attitudes and shape a future that is collegial and inclusive.
As we continue on our path to preeminence, I challenge all of us – faculty, staff, and students - to take full advantage of Georgia College’s many opportunities to think independently and to lead creatively – and ultimately move us closer to our goal of preeminence.
2017 Presidential Messages
State of the University
February 24, 2017
by Steve M. Dorman, President
Good afternoon and thank you for attending my fifth State of the University address. While many universities are struggling to fund new initiatives and ongoing operations, I am pleased to say that Georgia College is doing very well. Our enrollment figures look promising, and our list of achievements grows even longer. Georgia College is on a clear path to preeminence. And, we see signs of preeminence across our campus – as evidenced by the way that each of you works.
Our students’ success, our faculty productivity, and our staff excellence are all important indicators of preeminence and hallmarks along the way that we can all point to with pride.
We are all working toward preeminence – often in ways that are not always obvious. Our campus is one example of this. I can’t tell you how many times parents and other guests have visited Georgia College and told me how impressed they were with our beautiful campus and the outstanding opportunities we provide for our students.
Everyone who interacts with our students plays a role in the development, support, and education of that student. We have some of the best faculty members who are diligently devoted to our students, their scholarship, and engagement in the communities we serve. We also have deeply committed staff members – many of whom work behind the scenes and are just as essential to the Georgia College success story. My gratitude is extended to:
- the hard-working men and women who interact with our students at The MAX
- the advisors who guide our students and help them discover their major, find internships, and prepare for a career
- our athletic department staff who challenge our students to compete with honor
- the housing staff who create a “home away from home” for our students
- the campus life group who provide richness to the Georgia College experience
- our campus bus drivers who know our students by name and safely transport them
- the financial aid staff who guide students through the process to receive necessary support
- the campus public safety officers who guard the safety and well-being of our entire community
- our advancement professionals who work hard to expand our endowment and generate support, scholarships, and funding for important initiatives.
Collectively, the work that you do propels us to new heights. It is this collective work to provide an exceptional environment for our campus and community that will lead us to preeminence.
We have assembled a companion piece that you will receive as you leave today. It highlights our long and very impressive list of accomplishments and accolades from our past year. These are clear signs of preeminence, and I could not be more proud of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
The New Normal
I would like to focus my remaining remarks on the future and the horizon we see when we look across higher education in the State of Georgia and the nation – and what this means for our institution. Our path toward preeminence has been a common theme for several years now, and I am delighted at the progress we are making. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be speed bumps along the way. These speed bumps are not necessarily negative in nature, but they do present an opportunity for us as an institution to think clearly about how we negotiate the environment they represent. Many of you have heard me talk about what has been called the “new normal” in higher education. There is no doubt that higher education is undergoing a tremendous time of disruption, and the changes taking place are substantial and even unprecedented.
In many states in the country, public funding for higher education has declined year after year causing distress in institutions that are ill-prepared. Based on research done by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), some states have restored some of the deepest cuts to higher education; but the total funding for public two and four year colleges is billions below what it was prior to the Great Recession – even while accounting for inflation. 
Unfortunately, we also know that to offset reduced state support, public universities have had to raise tuition and fees. The result has been tuition increases that have risen significantly faster than the median income of families across America. Although Georgia College has been relatively restrained when it comes to tuition increases, the trend across the United States has seen sharp increases across the sector. That same study by the CBPP  demonstrated that Georgia, along with five other states, saw tuition increase by more than 60 percent since the 2007-08 academic year.
At Georgia College, our tuition increases have not surpassed 3% annually since 2012; and there was no tuition increase in the last budget. This tuition cap removed a critical source for new funding at Georgia College and, thus, limited our ability to grow and introduce new initiatives.
We have come to depend on tuition as one of the important pillars to provide new funding for the institution. However, in a time when tuition increases have become politically unpopular, we may be facing more years without tuition increases. Therefore, we must prepare for a future where tuition and fee increases may be few.
Related to this, I would like to describe another speed bump along our path to preeminence. Our appropriation from the state is largely derived from a funding formula that favors student enrollment growth. For us to maintain our mission and stay within our niche, we have made the decision to purposefully cap enrollment to stay true to our brand and true to our unique identity. This is the product for which we are known. In fact, it is this very distinctiveness that keeps us strong. So, I expect that we will continue to be selective and intensely focused on our liberal arts mission with relatively small class sizes so that we can better focus on the success of our students. What that means for us as an institution is a smaller share of new funding dollars as we grow in quality and diversity but not in quantity. We must all remember that this self-imposed decision, this self-imposed speed bump, will create yet another limit to the new resources that are available for the institution.
Although university presidents and our system office advocate for higher education in Georgia, we also acknowledge the budgetary and fiscal realities we face. In fact, the Governor’s latest annual Budget Report indicates that the State of Georgia already spends over 53 percent of its budget on education;  but it also has needs to fund healthcare, public safety, and transportation among other policy areas. It is unlikely we will see significant new funding for higher education – not only in Georgia, but broadly across the nation as well. This is why I must be clear with you today about the very real impact of the “new normal” on higher education and on our university. Without tuition increases and with no enrollment growth, new funding from these sources will be very limited in the future.
As I look toward our path to preeminence, budget implications are not the only issues that are emerging that we must seriously consider. Changing demographics will shape the composition of our applicant pool and our student body, and we MUST be well-positioned. The changes I am referring to are both in terms of overall number of students graduating from high schools across the United States and in terms of the changing composition of students.
Nationwide, the number of students receiving a high school diploma in 2017 is expected to drop significantly. In fact, Inside Higher Ed reports that the number of high school graduates is expected to decrease by around 81,000 – reflecting a 2.3 percent decrease in this year.  While Georgia is among the states that will see a rising population , the rate of growth we see for high school graduates is expected to slow down in several more years. 
As many of you know, I have made diversity and inclusive excellence an essential part of Georgia College’s strategy. It’s an area of emphasis that is important to us. It’s the right thing to do and aligns well with the values we collectively espouse. As it turns out, it’s also a strategy that is essential for the university’s long term success and business progress. For example, even during periods of demographic leveling, the Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander population is expected to increase considerably. From the period between 2014 and the mid-2020s, the Hispanic population will grow by 50 percent at our nation’s public high schools.  Becoming a more diverse institution is just good business sense.
So, what are we doing as an institution to prepare for these demographic changes? How are we changing our recruiting and student support strategies to accommodate this demographic shift? To prepare our institution for the future, we need to answer these questions. Therefore, I am directing Provost Kelli Brown, Dr. Veronica Womack, Dr. Bruce Harshbarger, and Ms. Suzanne Pittman to assemble a task force with a mandate to provide a set of recommendations for how our institution must change to prepare for this demographic shift. We must be well-positioned as an institution so that we can be proactive and benefit from Georgia’s emerging demographic trends and opportunities.
Emerging Technologies and Blended Learning
I believe that fundamental changes in demographics are also being matched with rapid generational changes, and this will have enormous implications on how we use technology. This brings me to another potential speed bump on our road to preeminence. Recently, I had the privilege to visit one of our feeder high schools in Atlanta. As I walked through the school, I was struck with the level of technology and what appeared to be group instruction that was going on in the classroom. As I talked with our student guide, she told me about how all of the students used the learning management system and that their courses and notes were delivered directly to their laptops in that format. These students will be our students. These students are our students now! It is clear that we must challenge ourselves to a higher level of innovative pedagogy. “Sage on the stage” is a pedagogy that will not meet the demands or the needs of our students who will confront a world filled with technology and the need to work with others.
Don’t get me wrong here. I am not advocating for a total conversion of our curriculum to online learning. However, I am encouraging our faculty to fully engage with our learning management system and, where possible, employ technology in a hybrid way and use group learning techniques in our coursework. Our students expect it and need it to be prepared for their future. Drs. Brown and Spirou have been vigorously imagining a new Center for Teaching and Learning that will provide state-of-the-art training, assistance, and advice to faculty who want to practice innovative pedagogy. Our brand as an institution is inextricably connected to our outstanding faculty and their outstanding teaching. We are known for our excellent teaching, and we cannot afford to go stale. Therefore, we must continue to reach forward and challenge ourselves in our course design and teaching.
This is not the only task that technology presents as we proceed toward preeminence. As we become more and more technologically dependent, we must make sure that our institution has the highest capacity possible to meet the needs of our advanced users – who most of the time will be our students! In addition, we must employ every technique possible to guard and protect the private information with which we as an institution have been entrusted. This involves, among other things, doing a better job of teaching our students, faculty, and staff to guard their own information. Finally, we must employ advanced techniques to make sure that the frequent attempts to hack into our institution’s web presence and data files are thwarted and that our data are safe.
An additional challenge, has to do with tracking the placement of our students into a career or advanced educational studies. Now we could argue all day about the importance or value of a college education in itself, and I would be the first to agree with you that the educated individual is an individual who has the skills and ambitions to live a full life. Yet, those who hold us accountable want to see outcomes that are connected to a career or advanced study. To be honest with you, I believe that the product and skills that we deliver at Georgia College are exactly what those in business and industry say they want. But many times, the way we talk about a liberal arts education does not sufficiently communicate that our students are prepared with skills that are needed in the marketplace.
Therefore, we are strengthening our Career Center; and we are intentionally guiding our students with career milestones and ways to talk about the transferrable skills they have acquired in their Georgia College experience. We are collecting information about where our graduates are and how many from each class and each college are employed. Further, I have asked the Provost to create an Office for Pre-professional Advising that will promote, prepare, and assist those students who wish to pursue advanced professional or graduate studies after graduation from Georgia College. It is my belief that our experience is a superior experience that prepares the graduate for both life and career. It is time we collect the data to prove it.
Institutional Branding and the Liberal Arts
This brings me to a connected but final speed bump that I would like to mention today. This challenge has to do with our ability to communicate who we are and the added value we generate to a public that is increasingly skeptical of higher education in general. It is incumbent upon us to clearly “unpack” for the public what we mean when we say public liberal arts institution. Further, it is important that we state clearly the relative advantage of a liberal arts education. We take for granted that everyone understands and appreciates the wonderful work that we do here. Yet, what we find when we survey others in the state about Georgia College is an incomplete understanding about our niche and the outcomes we provide.
This is not just a Georgia College problem. This is an issue across the country, and sometimes rather prominent individuals pronounce statements about the liberal arts based upon a very light understanding of what “they” are. Unfortunately, we also may find ourselves in an echo chamber where we are often too quick to believe our own press when we haven’t adequately informed others about the relative advantage of a Georgia College degree.
As a result, we are in the middle of an ambitious branding project in which some of you have participated – and for that, I thank you. We are going to be calling upon everyone to help us define and express the value of a Georgia College degree to our most important audiences. We must communicate that in a way that is memorable, distinctive, and resonates with prospective students and their parents, prospective employers, donors, and the public at large.
Our Path to Preeminence
So, how will we respond to these speed bumps along our path to preeminence? Let me offer a few more things we must do as an organization to safely maneuver through these opportunities and challenges.
Looking forward, we must continue to redirect our funding so that we can continue the great momentum we have at Georgia College. As I have noted, the two primary sources of new funding for this institution may not be as prominent in our future. Therefore, we must prepare for alternative ways to fund new initiatives and programming.
Given our mandate to be the state’s only designated public liberal arts university, we are fortunate to have a focused mission. We cannot and will not try to be everything to everyone. That focus is precisely why we can accomplish so much, but we must continuously find ways of being nimble and to navigate the institution on our path to preeminence.
At Georgia College, we have introduced a number of efficiencies into our operations – so much so that we have been able to keep tuition increases relatively modest. I am pleased to report that we are also doing much more to control the cost of college, including:
Capping tuition levels: In Spring 2015, approximately 25 percent of our students took advantage of the savings generated by tuition charges that max out at 15 hours. This alone saved 1,652 students over half a million dollars.
Dual enrollment: 296 students brought in 3,400 hours to Georgia College in Fall 2015 – saving $1,148,270 in tuition resulting in an average savings of $3,879 per student in the fall semester.
Cost of Textbooks: Our initiatives driven by faculty members reduced the cost of textbooks by more than $130,000 in our last academic year.
Energy savings: Over the last five years, we saved approximately $474,081 from reduced energy costs – amounting to approximately $70 per student.
Of course, we also make college more affordable by continuing to improve our four-year graduation rate. In fact, our four-year graduation rate is second in the system; and we will continue to support our students through intrusive advising, course scheduling, and making better use of our summer semester to ensure that our students move along with the appropriate advice and support throughout their experience at GC.
Another area where I believe we can mitigate the financial burdens of running the university and providing scholarships for our students is by expanding our endowment. In the 2016 fiscal year, our foundation returned over $1.5 million to our students, faculty, and staff in scholarships and awards from the endowment. This was an increase of 64% from 2012. So, as you can see, the success of our Foundation has already become a new source of funding for the university; and this has also become part of the new normal.
During our last fiscal year, our advancement team raised over $4.7 million for Georgia College – the second highest annual total in our history and second only to the $5 million that was gifted the prior fiscal year. Our overall endowment has grown from just over $25 million when I arrived here in 2012 to over $36.74 million in the first quarter of 2017. This represents an increase of approximately 45 percent. By all indications, it appears we are well underway to embark on the university’s most ambitious capital campaign. We are fortunate to have members of our Foundation Board here today, and I would like to ask them to stand so we can recognize them and thank them for their guidance and stewardship. Also here with us today are members of our Alumni Board. Please stand and be recognized for the support you provide Georgia College.
Our new strategic plan helps us think clearly about navigating these speed bumps. In 2015 and 2016, an incredible number of faculty, staff, and students joined together to create a new strategic plan for the university. From that process, emerged a fresh vision and set of values that affirm who we are today and where we want to be in the future. We are seeking ways to measure progress and track important indicators that we know are the hallmarks of preeminent institutions. Our strategic plan affirms our commitment to providing our students with an expansive education experience – one that is transformative and which prepares them for an exciting future with the transferrable skills we know they will need throughout their lifetimes and across various career changes.
The Final Word
I know that I spent a lot of time talking about speed bumps along our way to preeminence. But let’s be clear here. While they present challenges, they are by no means unique to Georgia College. In fact, universities across the nation will be experiencing some of these same speed bumps. Some will ignore the bumps and hope they go away. Some think they are immune to the bumps and will attempt to speed right over them. Some are not on the same ambitious course to preeminence with which we have challenged ourselves so the speed bumps may not be as consequential.
What is different about Georgia College, and why am I convinced that we will successfully negotiate these speed bumps and achieve preeminence?
Georgia in many ways is doing much better than other states in terms of state support for higher education as well as population growth. Within the state of Georgia, we are fortunate that Georgia College is one of just three selective institutions in the university system and the state’s only designated public liberal arts university. When I arrived here in 2012, there were 3,515 completed applications for the freshman class. In 2017, we had over 4,000 completed applications. Over the last five years, our four-year graduation rate has improved from 39.93 percent in 2012 to 47.55 percent in 2016. Our median faculty salary has risen from $54,911 in 2012 to $62,447 in 2017. When I arrived in 2012, the total number of FTE faculty was 348. In 2017, the faculty has grown to 371. Funding for research has grown considerably. Over this same time frame, our endowment has expanded considerably; and we continue to set new fundraising records every year. In 2012, we raised over $2.4 million; and this year to date for 2017, we have raised an astounding $3.8 million dollars. Indeed, we are poised to set another record. With this sort of momentum, it is easy to see that our endowment has expanded.
While these speed bumps are very real, we are also at the vanguard of making relevant changes to the way we operate because of the actions we are taking. This is why I have tremendous confidence in the institution and the people with whom we work. By being proactive and nimble as a university, we can react to, adjust, and navigate through these changes – much the way we train our own students to navigate through life’s challenges and adventures. Despite these challenges along the way, I am delighted at the progress we have already made and the accomplishments that I know are on the horizon. I am very impressed with all that we accomplished in just the last year. I could spend all day talking about the accomplishments, accolades, and successes of our students, faculty, and staff. Needless to say, I am excited about the momentum we have at Georgia College.
With that sentiment in mind, we prepared a short video that I would like to share with all of you.
Those were just a few examples of what makes Georgia College a special place. We prepared a more comprehensive booklet which you will all be receiving today. That booklet highlights many more accomplishments from last year. I hope you all feel as optimistic as I do about our path to preeminence and how everyone here today is making a profound difference. When we talk about preeminence, it is about developing a culture of excellence and having the right plans, indicators, and metrics in place. The work we are doing collectively as a university is truly remarkable, and the trajectory I see ahead is very exciting for all of us.
The American builder and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie said: "Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results." 
And so, let me end my remarks by thanking all you for your hard work and dedication. Together, as a team, we can confront and overcome any challenges that the future may present. We can produce the fuel that will allow us to achieve our uncommon goal of preeminence.
Thank you for being here today. Please pick up your copy of the 2016 year in review booklet as you leave here, and I hope you will join me for a brief reception just outside as you exit Russell Auditorium.
- Michael Mitchell, Michael Leachman, Kathleen Masterson, “Funding Down, Tuition Up: State Cuts to Higher Education Threaten Quality and Affordability at Public Colleges,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, August 15, 2016.
- Mitchell, Leachman, and Masterson, “Funding Down.”
- Nathan Deal, Governor of the State of Georgia and Teresa A. MacCartney, Director of Planning and Budget, The Governor’s Budget Report, Fiscal Year 2018, p. 23.
- Rick Seltzer, “The High School Graduate Plateau,” Inside Higher Ed, Last modified December 6, 2016, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/12/06/high-school-graduates-dro....
- Georgia Governor’s Office on Planning and Budget, “Georgia Residential Population Projections by Age and County 2013-2050,” 2016.
- NCES, Institute of Education Statistics, “Projections of Education Statistics to 2024,” Forty-third Ed., pg. 51, 2016.
- Peace Bransberger and Demarée K. Michelau, “Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates,” Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), pg. 2, December 2016.
- Goodreads Andrew Carnegie Quotes: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/251192-teamwork-is-the-ability-to-work-t...