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University of North Georgia begins year of expansion
Blue Ridge campus opens; school prepares for nursing program growth
University of North Georgia President Bonita Jacobs speaks during the university’s welcome-back assembly with faculty and staff last week.

As the new school year begins today at the University of North Georgia, the faculty, staff and administration have looked at the university’s progress from last year.

The university is in the first year of a new strategic plan, and President Bonita Jacobs said growth and success in the plan’s goal areas are due to “tremendous dedication.”

“It should not come as any surprise that our most successful efforts are those that require the most of us,” Jacobs said in a welcome-back assembly with faculty and staff last week. “Our successes were not given to us. Our successes had to be created.”

The goal areas of the strategic plan relate to academic excellence, engagement, educational opportunity and leadership development.

This school year marks two major expansions in educational opportunity, including the opening of a new campus in Blue Ridge last week and the upcoming expansion of the university’s nursing program.

Dr. Teresa Conner-Kerr, dean of the College of Health Sciences & Professions, said 62 students will join the first cohort, or class, of nursing students at UNG’s new program on the Gainesville campus.

“We are in the process of opening a virtual hospital that we are placing inside the continuing education facility,” Kerr said. “We have ordered the equipment and the space is being refurbished along with a special teaching and enhanced learning classroom. It’s a very exciting time.”

Kerr said the hospital will allow students to get hands-on simulated experience in a variety of settings, including rooms outfitted as a private practice, emergency room, pediatric room, intensive care unit, labor and delivery unit, rehabilitation apartment and more.

“The apartment will have a bathroom, kitchenette, bedroom and living area,” she said. “So they will come in as if they were on home health and learn how to work with a patient in their home.”

The hospital will be complete in December and ready for students in January. It will have a number of computer assisted mannequins, Kerr said.

“They can do everything: sweat, cry, bleed, deliver a baby,” she said of the mannequins. “We can put wounds on them that will bleed. They can have seizures. It’s really interesting.”

As she addressed faculty last week, Jacobs gave further examples of the university’s growth in its strategic goal areas. Related to academic excellence, Jacobs said last year UNG students earned about $300,000 in national scholarships, including two Fulbright awards.

The Corps of Cadets continued to demonstrate leadership excellence, she said, by setting more performance records than any class in recent history, including the top Army ROTC cadet in the nation and a record number of commissioned officers.

Enrollment, according to a release from the university, is growing as well and will reach approximately 17,000 students this fall.

“While we have students from 46 states, we know that about 85 percent of our students come from a 30-county area in northeast Georgia, so we need to understand what is happening in our region and how we can best serve the region,” Jacobs said. “We are fortunate to have multiple pathways to accommodate a diverse group of student needs.”

Jacobs reiterated her belief last week that UNG is achieving its vision of improvement.

“For those who question the value of higher education today, I am certain of this,” she said. “There is no greater investment in our future, because our students, faculty and staff use their knowledge and skills not just for their own benefit, but for the benefit of others.”

Kerr said the new nursing program combines increased student learning opportunities with an interest in investing in the surrounding community.

“We have a long history of service learning and working with our community, and I think this shows that we’re going to be involved in continuing education, and having this expansion in health sciences really addresses a great need for nurses,” she said. “We think we’re going to really be making a huge impact in Gainesville health care industry.”

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