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University of North Georgia begins academic year as united campus

President Jacobs announces new initiatives to promote research, strong academics

POSTED: August 14, 2013 12:27 a.m.

As the University of North Georgia begins its first full academic year as a united campus, President Bonita Jacobs has announced new initiatives to inspire and encourage research among professors.

“We are positioned to actively shape our future and become a model of transformation in higher education,” she said Tuesday at the Gainesville UNG campus.

Jacobs spoke to faculty and staff at both the Gainesville and Dahlonega campuses prior to classes beginning Monday.

She announced the development of three awards for “ongoing faculty development,” including 25 Presidential Professional Engagement awards, six Presidential Summer Scholar awards and 50 Presidential Academic Innovation awards.

The goal is to increase collaboration and create opportunities for faculty to advance in their disciplines.

“We will look at all areas,” Jacobs said. “Distance learning capabilities, massive open online courses, certificate programs, strategic language initiatives, global initiatives, undergraduate research and more.”

“It was very good news, especially in the current budgetary environment,” said Mark Spraker, professor and chairman of the UNG faculty senate. “The campuses have, of course as everybody has over the last several years, sustained a series of cuts in a variety of different areas, and this sort of commitment on a presidential level to start returning funds ... is really wonderful.”

Jacobs said the funding will be provided for activities from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2014. The Professional Engagement awards will be up to $2,000, and the Summer Scholar awards will be up to $10,000 each for tenured or tenure-track faculty.

The Academic Innovation awards will be broken up into 10 awards of up to $5,000 each, and 40 awards of up to $1,000 each.

A North Star Award will also be in place to recognize outstanding customer service across the university. Those honored will be recognized every semester at a regular staff meeting.

The announcements were met with applause.

“I think the best comment I heard came from a Gainesville faculty member who referred to what was basically stunned silence,” Spraker said about the reaction. “He said they were so accustomed to coming to these opening events and hearing negative things in previous years.”

Also in her address, Jacobs announced the development of a new position to maximize undergraduate research opportunities.

“The assistant dean for student research and scholarship (will) support and expand initiatives in this area,” she said.

The person in this position will report to Eric Skipper, acting CEO of the Oconee UNG campus. Skipper is also the dean of honors and graduate studies. He explained that the person in this new position will both promote undergraduate research across all disciplines, as well as identify students for nationally competitive scholarships, like the Fulbright Program.

“We are very excited about our prospects,” Skipper said. “UNG is positioned to excel in these endeavors because we have so many high-caliber students.”

An internal search will be conducted for the position, scheduled to be in place by January 2014 for the beginning of that semester.

At the conclusion of the meeting, faculty and staff were taught the university’s new alma mater, with lyrics written by Nancy Hanson, who is the administrative assistant to the dean at the Dahlonega campus. Composition is by Joe Chapman, professor of music.

“We are on the brink of something big,” Jacobs said. “As we seek to implement innovative ideas and practices, we must not rely on the way we’ve always done things. We need new ideas that will take advantage of our existing strengths and resources.”

She referenced a song from the 1980s that stated “my future’s so bright, I’ve gotta wear shades.”

“The future of the University of North Georgia and our region is just that bright,” Jacobs said.


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