Growing in Size and Stature

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The fall 2007 semester marked the beginning of both the University of West Georgia’s second century and a time of unprecedented growth for the institution. On campus, signs of construction are everywhere, and multiple new facilities and renovations are planned for the next few years.

Among planned future construction projects, the most publicized is an intercollegiate athletics complex featuring a 9,000-seat football stadium. A 12-member Stadium Development Committee has been planning the engineering and construction with an anticipated ground-breaking in spring 2008. By 2009, the UWG Wolves should be playing football on campus for the first time in the institution’s history.

The athletics complex will eventually include a women’s soccer facility, a women’s varsity softball field and additional soccer and football practice fields. Parking for the complex will be fully utilized throughout the week for commuter students. A road and bridge will eventually be constructed that will directly connect the land to the main campus.

Construction began in August on the Health and Wellness Center, a 122,500-square-foot structure that will be used for instruction, convocation and sports. The center will be built in two sections connected by a two-story glass atrium. The largest section will have five basketball courts that can be used for any kind of instruction and be converted to a 7,000-seat arena for commencement ceremonies and sports events. The facility will also serve as home of the UWG Wolves basketball and volleyball teams.

The second section will house academic offices and primary classes for the Department of Physical Education and Recreation. A state-of-the art human performance lab, weight training and aerobics areas and a 75-person stadium-seating classroom will occupy this part of the building.

Outside the building, large green spaces will be available for outdoor classes and events, and staging areas for large events inside the facility. The $24 million building is scheduled to open in January 2009 prior to spring semester.

A $4.7 million renovation to the Callaway Building, home to UWG’s Geosciences Department, is currently under way as well. Plans call for an additional 30,000 square feet of space for laboratories, classrooms, lecture halls and offices. This will allow the department to increase from approximately 21,500 square feet to more than 51,000 square feet.

Also under consideration is a development on the north side of campus to include a Greek Village, retail center, new university bookstore and plenty of student parking.

One contributing factor to UWG’s current growth is its inclusion as part of a new designation of doctorate-granting comprehensive universities within the University System of Georgia. This new tier of four system institutions was created to help meet the state’s predicted enrollment growth of 100,000 new students over the next 13 years.

UWG can also point to a growth in student enrollment. In fact, fall enrollment was at an all-time high of 10,600 undergraduate and graduate students. The previous record occurred in 2003 with an enrollment of 10,255, representing a significant increase of 350 to 400 students. Administrators attribute the current increase to several factors, including increased recruitment of high school students to West Georgia, a better retention rate for students returning to the university and a substantial increase in graduate student enrollment.

These improved numbers arrived about the same time that UWG was recognized for its superior master’s programs in U.S. News and World Report. The Princeton Review also listed the university among the Best Southeastern Colleges for 2008.

Dr. Charles Clark, interim dean of the Graduate School, said that the wide range of graduate programs offered at UWG is key to this year’s success and a reason graduate enrollment increased by 160 students this semester.

“I believe that the improving number of graduate students is due to the attractiveness of our programs, the hard work of our graduate departments and the efforts of our staff to improve the application and registration process,” said Clark. “We continue to offer high-quality programs with a personal touch that students in our region and our nation have noticed and to which they are responding.”

The university will be able to accommodate this unprecedented growth thanks in part to a significant land gift to the institution finalized in August. The city of Carrollton completed the historic transfer to UWG of 246 acres located off Lovvorn Road, in a process that has been in the works for years. Carrollton Mayor Wayne Garner worked tirelessly to finalize the grant originally pledged in 2003 by then-Mayor Gerald Pilgrim and the city council.

“On behalf of the city, we’re happy to get this consummated,” Garner said. “We understand the value of the university to our community and it is a privilege to be able to enhance that value. We’ll be there to support the university 100 years down the road.”

The land gift will facilitate expansion on the north side of campus and will play a vital role in UWG’s ability to sustain quality growth within the University System. Carrollton will also benefit from the deal, since improved vehicular access from the north side of campus should reduce traffic on Maple Street.