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.