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UGA starts revamped faculty tour in Hall

College starts revamped faculty tour in Gainesville

POSTED: August 6, 2013 12:27 a.m.

A budget cut casualty during the Great Recession, the University of Georgia’s New Faculty Tour was revived Monday night, with Hall County serving as the first stop on the statewide tour.

A bevy of community leaders and elected officials welcomed the group, as it stepped off a bus that had lost its air conditioning traveling from Athens and walked into the cool Gainesville Civic Center at 830 Green St.

“I’d like to challenge you all to be more connected to the people and issues facing this great state,” said Philip Wilheit Sr., president and CEO of Gainesville’s Wilheit Packaging and vice chairman of the state Board of Regents.

“The more you understand Georgia, its people and its issues, the more passionate you will be in helping to make Georgia a better place to live, work and play.”

The group also received greetings from Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Richard Mecum and Gainesville City Councilman Bob Hamrick.

UGA held its first faculty tour in 1977 and its last one in 2008, as the economic downturn began to take its toll. Jere W. Morehead sought to restart the program as he became the university’s new president July 1, said Jennifer Frum, vice president of public service and outreach.

“As I went around campus and talked to academic faculty, (the tour) is one of the things they talked about that really impacted their career,” Frum said. “It helped them connect their own research to issues and challenges in Georgia.”

This year’s tour will swing through nine cities and 35 counties, including stops at the Kia Plant in West Point, Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, the Georgia Ports Authority in Savannah, agricultural research on the Tifton Campus, and the Capitol and the Georgia Resource Center in Atlanta.

The group is scheduled to gather today at Jaemor Farms in Lula before heading to Atlanta.

“Basically, the purpose is for (faculty) to get a better understanding of Georgia’s people, history, culture, politics and economy,” Frum said. “The idea is this will inform their teaching and research. At the end of the (tour), they’ll be more passionate about making Georgia a better place to live.”

She noted that UGA is a land-grant university, meaning it has been charged by the federal Morrill acts of 1862 and 1890 with focusing on teaching practical agriculture, science, military science and engineering.

“We have this historic mission and obligation to serve Georgia,” Frum said.

In remarks to the group, Morehead said, “I want to emphasize that service is part of our identity at (UGA). ... Whatever position you hold as a faculty member, it’s critical that you keep the land-grant mission ... in your mind. It’s a mission that crosses all disciplinary areas of our campus.

“We don’t serve Georgia as an institution. We serve it as individuals.”

State Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said higher education’s role in the state is key.

“It’s about faculty providing a first-rate education to our young people, so that they can and will compete with (the) country’s best and brightest,” he said. “It’s about preparing for a workforce for Georgia to be able to compete globally.”

UGA and its faculty need “to be involved 100 percent in the state, talking with people and being responsive to their needs and helping find solutions to issues,” Rogers said.


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