Brenau University President Ed Schrader has focused his 15-year tenure on growing the school’s enrollment and curriculum, whether online or at satellite campuses, through international partnerships or at the Women’s College in Gainesville.
That makes success for his replacement a matter of solidifying these changes for a new generation of students.
As Schrader said recently, his successor will be charged with “quality enhancement,” and that takes a new personality.
Schrader will remain in an advisory role after he retires at the end of 2019, but he expects the next president to be on the job this summer. That’ll give Schrader time to work with the school’s new leadership, particularly when it comes to making introductions to key donors and collaborators.
“This is a complex school,” Schrader said,
Schrader told The Times in early March that the candidate pool had been narrowed from about 100 applicants to the best 10 profiles.
A search committee has begun interviewing and vetting the finalists.
Under Schrader’s leadership, the university’s budget has nearly tripled to $65 million while its endowment has increased to more than $51 million from $26.3 million.
Meanwhile, student enrollment has nearly doubled to 4,000, and the university’s 6,500-piece art collection has grown to an estimated value of $8.3 million.
Brenau has added campuses in Fairburn, Norcross, Augusta and Jacksonville, Fla., since Schrader joined the university.
And the university has launched three doctoral programs during Schrader’s tenure — nursing practice, occupational therapy and physical therapy — and in 2019 it will add a doctorate of education program.
Health sciences education has been a particular area of growth, and with other degrees available in nursing, psychology and gerontology, for example, “that essentially covers every field of health care other than an M.D. that you’d have at a medical school,” Schrader said.
Growth in these fields of study has driven demand for new and renovated space to support enrollment.
Brenau University recently completed construction of a state-of-the-art nursing simulation laboratory on its campus in Norcross. Program officials say the lab will be utilized primarily by students in Brenau’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. The lab includes five patient rooms all mocked up to look exactly like hospital rooms, according to ABSN program coordinator Laura Hart.
Schrader said the university is working to have plans drawn up for a second-floor addition to the Brenau Downtown Center to support the physician assistant program, for example.
That could be a $4 million project to serve between 80-120 graduate students, with construction likely in mid-2020.
Brenau is also looking to acquire the U.S. Postal Service office on Green Street near downtown Gainesville, which abuts the campus.
The property is officially for sale after years of speculation and more than a little expectation.
Schrader told The Times that the university was in its “due diligence period” in early March, which included inspections of the property.
If acquired, plans for expansion include remodeling the space, including closing the Green Street access, refurbishing the inside and adding a new outside façade with major landscaping changes.
Schrader said he imagines the space could best be used as a student activities center, replete with a health clinic, and a new home for the college of education.
A redesign of Brenau’s flagship Women’s College was announced in December 2018, and includes a graduate program for executive women seeking a master’s degree in business administration.
Other academic changes will include gender-focused training for faculty, individual career planning, portfolio development and mentoring for each student, along with speakers, capstone courses, seminars and more.
Meanwhile, Brenau is also taking on a new role with its acquisition of a business incubator from Lanier Technical College.
“Our charge is to take the traditional approach with a business incubator and a university,” Schrader said. “We want to help start new businesses that will eventually go public and fly on their own wings.”
The switch made sense, Schrader added, given that Lanier Tech’s mission is to develop the labor force for specific industries in Northeast Georgia.
The incubator, on the other hand, is aimed at supporting the initiatives of entrepreneurs – potential job creators – and provides mentoring and networking at its new location within the Featherbone Communiversity on EE Butler Parkway, where Brenau houses its nursing and occupational therapy classes.
As Schrader continues his transition out of the presidency, he said he plans to remain an integral part of the ties he’s helped the university establish with partner schools in China and the growing international student body that has resulted from it.
But, as Schrader told The Times in his retirement announcement, “When you’ve had a good time and sort of accomplished the things you have set out to do, you don’t want to let go.”