Bonita Jacobs expressed excitement this afternoon, the day before classes start at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega.
The new president, who has been at the helm of the university since July 1, said she's proud of the reputation North Georgia has garnered with its students.
"We have an almost 81 percent retention rate," she said at the Gainesville Kiwanis Club meeting Tuesday afternoon. "Eighty-one percent puts us in the upper level of all the universities in the nation."
The school's graduation rate is above 50 percent. It takes most students 4.6 years to complete a degree, she said.
Though students who come to North Georgia tend to stay there all four years, the administration is not without challenges. One of the issues Jacobs and her faculty face is not just offering services such as a bookstore and meal plan to students, but connecting them to the services and making sure they're used.
Jacobs wants to increase study abroad opportunities and continue bringing international experiences to the university, such as the language camps hosted there this summer. The school is applying for more grants, creating new undergraduate research options, working with nearby counties to create a regional science, technology, engineering and math charter school and adding chances for community and student collaboration, such as the Cottrell Speaker Series hosted by the university's business school.
"I have worked with a lot of speaker series," Jacbos said. "They're bringing in top-notch people and we're extremely fortunate to have that in our backyard."
The literal backyard is one reason Jacobs, originally from Texas, said she accepted the position.
Jacobs came to North Georgia from the University of North Texas, where she served as executive director for the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students and as vice president for student development.
Her professional career also includes time at Western Carolina University where she was interim vice chancellor for student development and dean of students.
"I've had a very warm welcome from alumni and friends in this area," Jacobs said. "My husband once told me that God may live in Texas, but he vacations in North Georgia."