Campus News

Celebrating a historic year

Emelynn Arroyave celebrates after turning her tassel as the SPIA degrees are conferred during the undergraduate Commencement ceremony in Sanford Stadium. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

The University of Georgia passed many important milestones during the last academic year.

With the approach of annual spring Commencement ceremonies, the University of Georgia prepares to conclude another successful academic year. And it was a year marked by extraordinary achievements across all areas of campus life.

From ranking among the best public universities in the nation to back-to-back national football championships, university students, faculty and staff have led UGA to new heights of excellence.

“I am deeply grateful to our talented faculty, staff and students and our generous alumni and friends for making this year so successful for the University of Georgia,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “It is inspiring to see how much the UGA community can achieve together through dedication, hard work and a commitment to excellence.”

Academic success

In September, U.S. News & World Report announced that UGA held at No. 16 in its ranking of the best public universities in the nation, marking the seventh consecutive year that UGA has placed in the top 20.

Several UGA graduate and professional programs earned top 10 placements in U.S. News’ rankings released in April. The School of Public and International Affairs ranked No. 7 overall with several graduate specialties among the nation’s top 5. The College of Veterinary Medicine climbed three spots to No. 7 in the nation. The Mary Frances Early College of Education moved up one spot from the previous year to No. 31, while programs in counseling, secondary teacher education and curriculum and instruction ranked in the top 10.

The School of Law at UGA earned its highest ranking ever in U.S. News’ best graduate schools. It ranked 20th among the nation’s 196 ABA-accredited law schools and among the top seven public law schools in the nation.

The full-time MBA program in the Terry College of Business advanced seven spots to No. 31 in the nation and No. 11 among public universities, while the part-time MBA program ranked No. 35 nationally and No. 22 among public business schools. And the higher education administration program in the Louise McBee Institute of Higher Education, which has ranked in the top 10 since 2007, rose to No. 6 in the nation.

Niche also named UGA the No. 10 public university and the No. 2 college with the best student life in America. And the university received high marks from other influential rankings published by Forbes and The Princeton Review.

In December, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) reaffirmed UGA’s accreditation. The accreditation validates that the quality of education and facilities at UGA meets 72 standards set by the commission in coordination with the U.S. Department of Education. SACSCOC had zero recommendations regarding UGA’s compliance with the commission’s standards, equating to a perfect score in the intensive reaffirmation process.

These accolades come at a time when demand for a UGA education has never been higher. The university received a record 26,000 applications for early admission, and those who were admitted averaged a GPA of 4.26, an SAT score of 1435 and an ACT score of 33.

The university’s four-year completion rate increased to a record 75.1% while the six-year completion rate grew to 88.1%. With a retention rate of 94.3%, UGA’s success exceeds the average completion and retention rates of peer institutions. And students who complete their degree reap the benefits of their education. According to data released by the UGA Career Center, 96% of 2022 graduates were employed or continuing their education within six months of graduation.

Over the past several years, faculty hiring initiatives have contributed to retention and completion rates by strengthening UGA’s academic profile and providing students with access to highly talented scholars. Expanded tutoring, mentorship, peer-learning programs and enhancement to advising services also have bolstered student support.

“UGA has been very intentional in setting students up for success,” said Marisa Pagnattaro, vice president for instruction. “Advisors play a key role in seeing a student need and advocating for resources. We want our students to succeed in the classroom, graduate and thrive in their careers.”

In November, UGA student Natalie Navarrete was named a 2023 Rhodes Scholar. The Rhodes scholarship is the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship in the world, and Navarrete’s achievement made UGA one of only three public universities in the U.S., in addition to the nation’s service academies, and the only institution in Georgia to have a Rhodes recipient this year.

Audrey Conner and Emilio Ferrara were named 2023 Barry Goldwater Scholars, earning the highest undergraduate award of its type for the fields of mathematics, engineering and natural sciences. Natalie Moss and Lauren Wilkes received the prestigious Marshall Scholarship, making UGA the only public institution of higher learning to have multiple recipients this year. Elise Karinshak was named a Schwarzman Scholar, one of only 151 scholars chosen from nearly 3,000 international applicants.

UGA also was named a top producer of Fulbright students, marking the fifth time in 11 years the university has been named a top producer by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

A world-class faculty

Faculty are often called the lifeblood of a university. Their teaching and research enrich the lives of students and contribute to the prosperity of both the state of Georgia and the nation. The incredible productivity of UGA’s faculty is evident in the latest annual research and development spending, which surpassed a half-billion dollars for the first time in the institution’s history.

The $545.6 million in research expenditures for fiscal year 2022 represents a jump of more than 10% from the previous year. Over the past nine years, UGA’s annual research and development expenditures have increased by nearly 56%.

Many of UGA’s faculty members were also recognized for outstanding achievements in their respective fields during the last academic year.

Jenna Jambeck, the Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Environmental Engineering at UGA, was named a 2022 MacArthur Fellow in October for her work investigating the scale of plastic pollution and galvanizing efforts to address plastic waste. Commonly known as “genius grants,” the fellowship presented by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is among the most prestigious in the nation.

Five university faculty members were named new Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. With the additions of Joseph Hermanowicz, Ping Ma, Lisa Nolan, Stephen Trent and Ronald Simons, UGA’s total representation in this distinguished organization numbers 42.

“This is a special recognition for our researchers because it comes from their own peers in the field,” said Karen Burg, vice president for research at UGA. “We are continually growing our UGA contributions to thought leadership and innovation in a wide range of scientific disciplines, and it’s gratifying to see our faculty honored for their incredible work.”

Three faculty members — Hitesh Handa, Leidong Mao and Christine Szymanski — were selected as Senior Members of the National Academy of Inventors. Senior members are chosen for successful patents, licensing or commercialization of technologies that produce real impact on the welfare of society.

In April, Andrew Herod, a professor of geography in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and Sonia A. Hirt, dean of the College of Environment and Design, were among 171 scientists, writers, scholars and artists honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship. Presented by the Board of Trustees of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, these fellowships are awarded to those “who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.”

Honoring trailblazers and expanding opportunities

At the start of the academic year, the university dedicated its newest residence hall, named in honor of Harold Alonza Black, Mary Blackwell Diallo and Kerry Rushin Miller, the first African American students to enroll as freshmen and complete their undergraduate degrees at UGA. Black-Diallo-Miller Hall houses 525 first-year students in double-occupancy rooms.

Two months later, the university dedicated its science library in honor of Shirley Mathis McBay, the first Black student to receive a Ph.D. from the university and the first woman to earn a doctorate in mathematics from UGA. McBay went on to a long and distinguished career as an educator, administrator and advocate who worked tirelessly to promote the participation and advancement of minorities and women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

The university also completed several other construction projects during the academic year, including the Interdisciplinary Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Research Complex, better known by the acronym I-STEM.

Built in two phases, the I-STEM complex adds more than 200,000 square feet of space for research and instruction. The flexible, open lab spaces designed to promote collaboration will help elevate UGA’s expanding lab-intensive research activities, particularly within the disciplines of chemistry, engineering and material sciences.

Construction crews also completed work on a four-year renovation of UGA’s Driftmier Engineering Center just as the College of Engineering marked its 10th anniversary in September. The renovation developed new instructional spaces, student commons, a multi-purpose classroom and offices for faculty and staff.

The Driftmier Engineering Center has served as the home of engineering at UGA since 1966. In 2011, the year before the college was established, enrollment in engineering at UGA totaled approximately 600 students. Now there are nearly 2,500 students, and engineering has become a high-demand major.

Construction continued on the new Poultry Science Building, which will increase capacity for instruction, research and collaboration in support of Georgia’s multibillion-dollar poultry industry. The facility is on schedule for completion this summer.

Institutional honors and accomplishments

While career placement data shows the value of a UGA education for its students, a study released in February demonstrated once again that the university is also a major economic force for the state of Georgia.

The university generated a record $7.6 billion for the state’s economy in 2022, according to a study led by Michael Adjemian, a professor in UGA’s department of agricultural and applied economics. The study cited growth in the number of degrees conferred, increases in research funding and expansion of public service and outreach activities as drivers of the $200 million increase in UGA’s economic impact on the state.

“As Georgia’s flagship land- and sea-grant research university, we have a responsibility to help communities and citizens across the state to thrive,” said S. Jack Hu, the university’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “Through the contributions of our faculty, staff, students and alumni, UGA is addressing significant challenges and contributing to our state’s prosperity.”

One of the university’s strongest and most enduring connections to the state is through the work done by those in Public Service and Outreach, which serves every county in Georgia.

This academic year, UGA won the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ highest national award for public service for the Archway Partnership, an outreach program through which select rural communities have access to the resources and expertise of the university.

The C. Peter Magrath Award for Community Engagement, which provides national recognition for the outstanding community-university engagement work of public universities, includes a $20,000 prize. The prize money will be used to continue and expand the work of the Archway Partnership connecting Georgia communities with UGA faculty, students and research.

“As a result of this success, we are launching additional programs through PSO that will boost resiliency in rural Georgia and engage even more faculty and students,” said Jennifer L.Frum, UGA vice president for public service and outreach.

And while the university has a strong record of giving back to the community, university supporters demonstrated their commitment to UGA in March when they set a single-day giving record for the second consecutive year.

Donors made 11,091 gifts to the university during UGA’s Dawg Day of Giving, surpassing the goal of 10,000 gifts. Contributions totaled $5.6 million, and donors hailed from all 50 states.

UGA broke fundraising records in fiscal year 2022 with over $257.4 million in donations, which was announced just prior to the beginning of the fall semester. And the university is on pace for another exceptional year of fundraising in fiscal year 2023.

Georgia Power Company recently gave $5 million to UGA’s College of Engineering in support of the university’s e-mobility initiative. The university received a $1.5 million pledge from Chick-fil-A Inc. to support the development of a new statewide youth leadership program and annual youth leadership summit led by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. And the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation awarded a grant of $1 million to the university’s Fontaine Center.

In five of the last six years, UGA’s yearly fundraising total has exceeded $200 million, and the university’s three-year rolling average, which averages the three most recent years of giving, reached $212.5 million for FY22.