October 8, 2013 marks my 100th day in office. At this exciting milestone, I'd like to share some updates with you.
Three months ago, I became the seventh president of the University of West Georgia. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but I am thrilled with what I have discovered during my time in Carrollton. You see, I believe in the simple premise that we in higher education are in the business of transforming lives and I am passionate about assuming the responsibility beyond the classroom. I’ve been delighted to find that I’m not alone. The UWG family and our local community agree: it is our responsibility to prepare students for success – in all aspects of life.
UWG already has much to be proud of: record enrollment, $300 million in new and renovated facilities, SACS level VI accreditation and, most recently, advancement to the Comprehensive University status in the USG Sector Policy. We have been recognized in a myriad of national publications for academic quality and affordability and have been acknowledged as the leader in online curriculum development and delivery in the state – not to mention that our graduates have permeated all areas of commerce, business, health services, the arts and education with great success and accomplishment. I could go on for pages about our accomplishments and success stories - after all, that's what presidents do!
These are critical times for institutions of higher education. In order to be relevant, we need to communicate our distinctives, align our programs with the needs of the region, the state, and beyond. We need to improve retention and graduation rates, cultivate and engage in mutually beneficial partnerships, friend and fundraise, and provide experiential learning opportunities for our students with the primary goal of preparing them for successful careers.
To accomplish these tasks effectively, we must fully assume the responsibility of becoming a valued, active partner in our region, both in terms of economic development and of community engagement. We must embrace change, seek out improvement, and work with our regional and state partners to anticipate and respond to the needs of an ever-changing society.
Let me tell you a bit about my first weeks in Carrollton, Carroll County, and the region. I know this is going to sound like a Chamber of Commerce testimonial, but the people, businesses, chamber and community are truly sincere, welcoming, enthusiastic and eager to make the region better than it is today! As a university president, this is incredibly exciting. After all, it reflects exactly UWG’s plan for the future: to welcome people to campus, show folks who we have become, educate with passion and innovation, and strive to always be better and brighter in the future.
I’ve had many opportunities to sit down with community leaders to talk about the role UWG will play in the growth of our region. I’ve assured them that we will prioritize and develop relevant academic programs to address current and evolving educational and workforce needs, that we will cultivate research and business partnerships, offer a broad array of continuing education and cultural opportunities to improve quality of life, and collaborate and seek innovative exchanges with other educational institutions to enhance opportunities for all learners. As we move forward, we will focus on proactive, holistic, and purposeful economic and social impact through collaborative partnerships. We will track our dedication to giving back with a goal of 75,000 hours of community service.
Lest folks think I am not student focused, understand that each and every one of these strategies will improve the student experience by providing experiential learning opportunities that reach far beyond the content-rich knowledge of the classroom. Experiences as interns, researchers, and community service providers will prepare our students to be successful beyond their time with us and, in many cases, will lead to employment opportunities. From a broader perspective, the integration of education and practical experience will raise the level of preparedness among graduates and, thereby, raise the overall value of Georgia’s workforce.
UWG’s growth and vibrancy is tied to that of our region. I haven’t yet told you how beautiful it is in West Georgia and how projects like the Greenbelt (a portion of the trail goes through our campus) will provide almost 16 miles of biking, jogging and walking trails. I haven’t yet mentioned that the historic Newnan Hospital, through innovative collaborative partnerships, will be renovated to provide an 87,000 square foot, high-tech, satellite campus for UWG in Newnan. I haven’t yet described the sense of pride and spirit that runs through our entire community or about the way downtown and other area merchants rally around our events and achievements.
To survive, we must remain relevant. But to thrive, we must go a step further. We must investigate, listen, explore, and collaborate. It is a lofty goal, but we are up to it. The community leaders, chamber, and our own faculty, staff and students are ready to assume the responsibility and make things happen in the West Georgia region. This community is poised for amazing things. UWG is poised for amazing things. Keep watching. Great things happen when you Go West!
Dr. Kyle Marrero