Campus News

A conversation with President Jere W. Morehead

President Jere Morehead speaks at the podium. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

This month, Morehead celebrates his 10th year as president of the University of Georgia

On July 1, Jere W. Morehead JD ’80 concluded his 10th year as president of the University of Georgia. To mark the occasion, Georgia Magazine sat down with UGA’s 22nd president to discuss some highlights of the past decade and where the university is headed.

Georgia Magazine: Congratulations on celebrating your 10th anniversary as president of the University of Georgia. In those 10 years, what are the accomplishments of which you are most proud?

President Jere W. Morehead: The past decade has been a remarkable period of achievement for our university.

What I’m most proud of is that UGA has reached new levels of excellence in every facet of its mission. We’ve been ranked among the top 20 public universities for seven consecutive years, and the number of applications for admission has more than doubled.

Three out of four UGA students now complete their degrees in four years—a completion rate 13% higher than a decade ago—and our six-year completion rate has reached 88%. We also launched initiatives like the experiential learning requirement and the Double Dawgs program.

Annual R&D expenditures have risen more than 50%, surpassing half a billion dollars. UGA also recently received the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ highest award for public service.

Our university community has come together like never before to push UGA to record heights, and I am incredibly proud of our accomplishments.

Jere Morehead with students outside Moore College. (Photo by Dot Paul)

GM: To what do you attribute UGA’s sustained record of excellence over the past decade?

JWM: The foundation of our success has been the commitment of our stakeholders to expanding UGA’s impact. We’ve created a state-of-the-art research and learning environment, adding nearly 2.5 million square feet of new facilities.

Our award-winning faculty are a key part of our success, providing innovative instruction and cutting-edge research. We’ve increased the personal attention students receive from professors, advisors, and mentors while ensuring that every undergraduate benefits from experiential learning.

We’ve greatly expanded financial support for students, creating nearly 700 endowed, need-based Georgia Commitment Scholarships, which helps make UGA financially accessible for more students regardless of their family’s income. We’ve also added over 100 endowed chairs and professorships to help us recruit and retain the very best faculty.

All of these achievements begin with the incredible generosity of our alumni and friends, strong support from state leaders, and the hard work of our remarkable faculty and staff.

GM: A hallmark of your presidency has been the rise of research and innovation at UGA. Why are these areas so important?

JWM: As the state’s flagship research university, we have a responsibility to meet the needs of Georgia and elevate quality of life through our research enterprise.

Therefore, my goal as president has been to make the University of Georgia the No. 1 destination for faculty, students, and industry partners who desire to improve lives through research and innovation.

Our faculty’s dogged pursuit of life-changing discoveries has significantly expanded our research footprint. And thanks to initiatives like Innovation Gateway and the Innovation District, UGA is uniquely able to translate research breakthroughs into tangible benefits such as smart irrigation, therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases, and many other vital technologies.

SGA President (2022-23) Bryson Henriott takes a selfie with UGA President Jere Morehead and students on the field at Sanford Stadium during Freshman Welcome. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith/UGA)

GM: You’ve worked closely with students your entire career at UGA, and even as your administrative responsibilities have grown, you’ve kept these ties. Why has it been important to you to remain engaged with students?

JWM: Throughout my career, my greatest joy has been teaching. As president, I have continued to teach a First-Year Odyssey Seminar every fall. The students inspire me with their optimism and ingenuity, and interacting with them in the classroom is extremely rewarding.

Students also are the foundation of our mission. They represent our future, and UGA has no higher calling than to equip them with the knowledge they need to become leaders in their professions and communities.

GM: You have served as president of the Southeastern Conference, and you continue to hold various leadership roles with the NCAA, including chair of the Division I Board of Directors. How do you approach these responsibilities?

JWM: I start by asking, “What is in the best interest of our student-athletes?”

The landscape of college athletics is complex and challenging, and there are no easy answers. However, we have to remain focused on the success of our student-athletes in the classroom as well as in competition.

My work with the NCAA and SEC has given me the opportunity to improve the college experience of UGA student-athletes and other student-athletes across the nation. These roles also have kept me apprised of innovations in college sports while allowing me to promote the fantastic work being done on our campus.

President Jere Morehead talking with students at the beginning of his First Year odyssey Class titled, “Exploring Current Issues in Law.” (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

GM: What do you think the next 10 years will hold for the University of Georgia?

JWM: I am very optimistic about our future. UGA is positioned like never before to lead the way in teaching, research, and public service.

Over the next 10 years, our new Active Learning Initiative will continue enhancing UGA’s world-class learning environment. Hiring initiatives to increase the number of renowned teachers and scholars and further investments in state-of-the-art facilities will build on our tremendous momentum in research and innovation. UGA Public Service and Outreach will continue leveraging new partnerships to strengthen communities all across our state.

The UGA community is ready to boldly shape the future, and that’s exactly what we’ll continue to do in the decade to come.