Five-year review of progress

Unparalleled success, yes. But the plateau where we stand is not the mountaintop.

B Y - M I C H A E L - F. - A D A M S
I L L U S T R A T I O N S - B Y - R I C K - F I A L A

When I accepted the offer to become president of the University of Georgia five years ago, the single greatest attraction was the challenge of taking a very good public institution and helping make it one of America's best universities. UGA was moving in that direction already in the summer of 1997. Student quality was on the rise, the result of an institutional decision to raise admissions standards combined with the incentive of the HOPE Scholarship. The research agenda was beginning to gain national recognition for the quality of the faculty's proposals, but needed to increase its external funding base and add labs and other facilities. We were also planning ways to carry the proud tradition of UGA public service into the 21st century, finding new ways to serve Georgians.

UGA's leadership team has made significant progress in all of these areas over the past five years:

We are riding an unparalleled wave of progress at UGA. All the trend lines are positive, but we cannot rest. The plateau where we now stand is not the mountaintop. We have a vision of what this university can be. Fulfilling that vision will take a commitment of time, resources, and spirit exceeding any previous commitment.

STUDENT STATURE

The University of Georgia has been called the fastest-rising public university in the nation. The upward trend is exemplified by the qualifications of our students, who have pushed admission standards higher than ever. The average SAT score for the 2001 freshman class was 1208, 188 points higher than the national average.

UGA's honors program is one of the country's oldest and most respected; the average GPA for new honors students in fall 2001 was 3.98, and the average SAT score was 1394. During the past five years, there has been a 114 percent increase in students graduating with honors.

New students in the Foundation Fellows program also bring impressive qualifications: a GPA of 4.08 and an SAT score of 1508. FF provides an enhanced educational experience with numerous opportunities for international travel; past destinations have included Costa Rica, Cuba, Egypt, Italy and Iceland.

Service learning is also essential; students gain much while taking UGA knowledge and resources beyond campus. Through the Student Ambassadors Program, undergraduates present information on global issues at area high schools. The Africa Resource Team supports a school in Mwanza, Tanzania.

The academic world is rapidly becoming aware of the UGA tradition of excellence. Eighteen students—three in the last six years—have been named Rhodes Scholars, and three have been named to the first two classes of Gates Cambridge Scholars. With this record of achievement, we can't wait to see what our students will do after graduation. We're betting they'll change the world.

LEADING RESEARCH

As a land-grant university, we are charged with conducting research that expands the field of human knowledge, addresses the concerns and needs of society and improves the lives of the people in this state and beyond. At no time in our history has the University of Georgia been more completely fulfilling that mission.

Across the range of academic disciplines at Georgia's most comprehensive university, the faculty of this institution are inquiring, seeking, experimenting and producing. From the arts and humanities to the biological sciences, from agricultural cloning to cancer research, from ancient archeological digs to the nature of the universe, a climate of inquiry thrives on this campus.

Over the past two complete fiscal years, funding for research here has increased by 35 percent; for the current year, we anticipate yet another double-digit increase. There is no clearer indication of the strength of our research reputation than increased funding.


Over the past two fiscal years, UGA's research funding has increased 35 percent. Funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation has increased 70 percent over a two-year period in which total funding for those agencies increased just 15 percent.

Specifically, funding from two prominent federal agencies, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, has increased by some 70 percent over the past two years, a period in which total funding for those agencies increased by only 15 percent. For funding of UGA research to increase at five times the rate of increase for those agencies means that we are claiming funding that in previous years would have gone to other institutions.

Creating new knowledge, addressing the needs of society, and getting recognized for the strength of our proposals—UGA's research program is succeeding by all measures.

FAST-TRACK CONSTRUCTION

We are in the midst of the most ambitious construction program in UGA's history. From the mundane work of water line expansion and street pavings to the mission-centered work of adding classroom, research and public service space, no corner of campus is untouched by the rumble of construction equipment.

Much of this construction is privately funded, allowing UGA to respond to pressing needs in a timely fashion. In fact, over the past two years, the portion of UGA funding for capital projects has grown to almost 40 percent, equaling the state's funding for such projects.

These are the signs of a university on the move, a university which is addressing needs through innovative strategies.

GLOBAL AWARENESS

As the academic world adapts to a global society, the University of Georgia is at the forefront of the movement with a wealth of opportunities for international experiences. Our students are flocking to these programs, thriving on the challenges inherent in confronting a new cultural environment.

UGA offers more than 75 study abroad programs in 24 countries; one in six students participates. We also maintain nearly 150 international cooperative agreements with institutions all over the world, routinely collaborating on research, exchange and outreach projects.

More and more students are making choices that reflect an understanding of the importance of global awareness. During the last five years, there has been a 65 percent increase in students choosing to minor in a foreign language. Mary Lyndon Hall is now home to language communities in French and Spanish; each houses students who practice their second language daily, simulating the kind of immersion that usually requires international travel.

These experiences, whether at home or abroad, influence how our students perceive the world and their place in it. We're producing graduates prepared to be world citizens—well informed, culturally sensitive and technologically sophisticated. They're ready to take on the challenges of our global society, and they'll be equally at home whether in the peach state or the Republic of Georgia.

ATHLETICS

The intercollegiate athletic program at the University of Georgia is an important element of student life, institutional pride, and national recognition. Interest in the success of our athletic teams binds many, many people to the University of Georgia and creates allegiances that endure for years. Those allegiances often result in support for academic areas and thus benefit the entire university.

Our athletic programs not only provide an ongoing connection between the university and our alumni and fans, but they are highly successful. The Sears Directors' Cup recognizes the most successful overall athletic programs in the nation by awarding points for championships and success in the sports where each program competes. Annually, UGA's athletic program is among the top 10; this year, we ranked eighth and we have been as high as second. Given that we compete in significantly fewer sports than, say, Stanford, the perennial Sears Cup winner, and others in the top 10, the overall quality of our total program is what keeps us competitive.

It is also important that we support the young men and women who compete for us in their academic endeavors. The Student Athlete Academic Center will soon open on the site where Alumni House stood. This facility will be the single location for student-athletes in need of academic assistance and will, I am certain, pay long-term benefits for those young people and UGA. Competing and succeeding on the field, on the court, in the pool, on the track and in any athletic arena is part of what it means to be a premier university. We are doing just that at the University of Georgia.


Lori Wiechman Johnston is managing editor of Gulfshore Business

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