For an hour this week, a group of seven high school students from public and private schools in Hall County spent an hour with the president of the University of Georgia in a dialogue that covered a variety of subject from how to get into UGA to "How ’bout them Dawgs?"
The group included five students from Hall County’s Honors Mentorship Program and student leaders from Gainesville High and Lakeview Academy. No questions were off limits and the students focused on academics and admission to the university, as well as a discussion of the proposed expansion of the Medical College of Georgia, which will be admitting students by the time these student would complete their undergraduate degrees.
Adams told the students about this year’s freshman class, which is the most diverse in UGA history.
"We’ll have, in round numbers, 5,000 students from 145 of Georgia’s 159 counties," Adams said. "We have students in the student body from every county. We have students from every state and from 137 foreign countries."
Ryan Bozarth, a West Hall senior was the only one of the seven who did not express an interest in UGA and told Adams he was "a die-hard Georgia Tech fan," which drew a smile from the president. He asked Adams if a satisfactory score in an advanced placement class was as good as a class at college.
"Our students come to campus with 15 to 30 (college) units they have acquired while in high school," Adams said. "The down side is they miss some of what I think you get, and I’m bold enough to say that History 1101 at the University of Georgia is a little different from the high school history class."
He said the final decision on acceptance of advance placement grades is left to the faculty.
Adams said the upside of advance placement classes is that they allow students an opportunity to take broader coursework, such as art or music appreciation.
"We are too much professionalizing undergraduate education to suit me," Adams said.
Jay Staub, a senior at North Hall, told Adams he was interested in medicine and wanted to know if radiology would be a specialty offered at the medical school in Athens.
"The current plan is for us to do internal medicine, surgery and Ob-gyn," Adams said. "We will grow to a full range, but right now it is those three specialties. You will do full rotations in your third and fourth year in all those areas."
Ashton Blackwood, a senior at Johnson High, asked Adams about the effects of the state budget cuts. "Will it make classes larger or will they become harder to get?" Blackwood asked.
"We don’t know the full extent of it yet," Adams said. "We took cuts of $58 million in 2003 and 2004. What that has done in this round (of budget cuts) is give us less flexibility," he said, adding that there are more classes being offered this semester than in the same period last year.
"The real question is going to be what we will be able to do in the spring," Adams said. "If it is 5 or 6 percent, which is being talked about, we’ll skate by. If it is 8 or 10 percent, then what you described is going to happen."
Adams said if a student is taking four classes, it is likely that two of them would be large and two of them would be small. The president said he is teaching a freshman class this semester on post World War II presidential campaigns and has about 18 students.
Emily Stephens, a senior at Gainesville High, told Adams that she was not certain what she wanted to do as a career and asked how he reached his current position.
"I’ve always had an interest in administration, and when I was at Ohio State, I probably took 40 hours in educational administration. But my doctorate is in political communications," Adams said.
He told of his career as an aide to former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., who later served as White House chief of staff in the Reagan administration.
"Once I got through my political gig for about six years, I had a whole lot of people come to me who were looking for somebody to come into colleges and universities with academic credibility to raise money and I was pretty good at it," he said.
The university recently celebrated the completion of a capital campaign that generated $654 million.
Adams was enthusiastic in his answer for East Hall senior Erin McConigle’s question about the number of UGA students studying abroad.
"We’re eight or ninth in the country in the number of students doing a residential study abroad program," Adams said. "That’s one of the things I’ve pushed."
Adams told the students of his recent trip to China, which coincided with the Olympic games and the amount of commercial and industrial growth that is taking place there.
"I think you’re in a world where your capacity to deal with another culture is going to be required. The last time I looked there are about 1,600 companies in greater Atlanta with international roots. The number of students taking foreign languages as a major or minor is up about 45 percent," he said.
He told the students of the university’s real estate holdings in England, Costa Rica and Italy.
"We have about 40 bi-lateral arrangements all over the world where you can go and stay," he said. "I hope if you come that you’ll spend a semester somewhere other than on campus in Athens."
Nick Saye, a senior at Lakeview Academy, asked about the acceptance rate for the university’s honors program.
"We have about 17,000 applications and we take about 600 for the honors program," Adams said. "We have a pretty full compendium of services we offer honors students. In many ways, it’s like going to Vanderbilt or Duke for a tenth of the price. It’s a pretty competitive process."
Chris Garland, a Flowery Branch senior, who like Staub is interested in medicine, asked Adams about the acceptance rate of Georgia undergraduates into medical school.
"I don’t know the exact percentage," Adams said. "But it is really high, in the 90s. There are more UGA students at the Medical College of Georgia than from any other college, by far. We also send a lot of qualified medical students out of state, everywhere from Harvard to UC San Francisco."
Asked about preparation for admission to Georgia, Adams said it is a highly competitive process.
He said that he often gets letters from parents of rejected students in April saying that their student "found themselves in the 11th or 12th grade."
"In this competitive environment, that’s too late," Adams said. "You need four years of English, four years of science, at least three years of social science, at least two years of the same foreign language and take the toughest curriculum at your high school. If you take a pre-collegiate curriculum that is the best your high school offers, you stand the best chance of getting into UGA. A lot of life at your age is about curriculum."
He said sometimes students take easier coursework to have high grades, hoping for an A in general math rather than a B in calculus.
"That’s an absolutely wrong decision," he said.
The students came away with an appreciation for Adams and the university.