University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead delivered his annual State of the University Address on Wednesday, reflecting on all that the university has accomplished in the past decade, while announcing new programs to promote continued success.
“The University of Georgia has embraced a bold, ambitious vision of teaching and learning in the 21st century,” Morehead said. “Together, we imagined an institution where students would flourish amid cutting-edge instruction, robust support and learning opportunities extending to the far corners of the world.”
The UGA community’s shared vision has led to outstanding academic success, Morehead said. U.S. News & World Report has ranked UGA a top 20 public institution for seven consecutive years, and several graduate and professional programs have consistently ranked in the top 10 among peer programs.
Morehead noted that the university’s first-year retention rate averaged 95% over the last decade, “dramatically exceeding the national average,” while students’ four- and six-year completion rates continued to climb, reaching 75% and 88%, respectively, in fall 2022.
During the past year, UGA was the only public institution to have two students selected for the Marshall Scholarship, and it was one of only three state institutions to have a Rhodes Scholar.
Expanded opportunities for students have facilitated this success. In the last decade, UGA launched the Double Dawgs program, creating more than 250 pathways for students to obtain a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years or less.
The university also established an experiential learning requirement, which benefits students through internships, research and other hands-on learning experiences. Along the way, the university has provided almost $1.5 million in scholarships to help students offset the costs of experiential learning opportunities.
A five-year, $6 million initiative is increasing the use of evidence-based active learning strategies across campus through classroom renovations, faculty training and student programs.
Increasing opportunity through facilities, research and community partnerships
As the university continues to grow, so do its facilities. The last decade saw the addition of more than 2.5 million square feet of new facilities and the renovation of 1 million square feet of existing space.
“From the Science Learning Center, the I-STEM Research Complex and the Terry College’s Business Learning Community to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, the film studio in the Grady College, and new and renovated residence halls, UGA provided state-of-the-art facilities designed to maximize our students’ potential,” Morehead said.
The university also expanded its reach through support for research and innovation.
The university recruited more than 150 scholars in areas of strategic importance through 11 hiring initiatives, as well as nine new Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholars. It also invested in the Innovation District to connect UGA’s campus with the business community and provide pathways for ideas and inventions to reach the market and change lives.
These strategic investments contributed to significant growth in the university’s research and development expenditures, which surpassed half a billion dollars for the first time in 2022. The number of sponsored awards secured by UGA scholars doubled over the past decade.
“These results were driven by our extraordinary faculty — the heartbeat of our campus — who earned countless accolades, including a MacArthur Genius Award, SEC Professor of the Year, election into several National Academies, numerous Fulbright Scholar Awards and more,” Morehead said.
Recent faculty hiring initiatives have focused on building expertise in brain and behavioral health and integrative precision agriculture, while an ongoing presidential hiring initiative in data science and artificial intelligence has been expanded to recruit up to 70 tenure-track faculty members.
As faculty and students continued to improve the lives of others through innovative research and products, the university also invested in those who call Georgia home through a host of public service and outreach activities.
In the past decade, UGA’s Small Business Development Center assisted more than 30,000 entrepreneurs and helped create over 26,000 jobs, while the university’s Georgia 4-H programs served over 170,000 students annually. The university’s annual economic impact on the state of Georgia climbed to $7.6 billion.
The Archway Partnership, which extends UGA resources to address needs and opportunities in rural communities, was recognized nationally for its significant contributions, earning the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ highest award for public service.
Plans for the future
Morehead’s speech also presented a strong vision for the future. Among UGA’s priorities is increased support for students. “As we look to the decade ahead, we must recommit ourselves to ensuring UGA students are afforded every opportunity to succeed through robust academic support tailored to their needs,” Morehead said.
He also announced a pilot completion grants program, which will financially assist third- and fourth-year students in good academic standing who face financial challenges that threaten their ability to graduate. In addition, the university will commit an additional $1 million to expand scholarships for experiential learning.
Morehead said the university will launch a one-stop shop for student services in the coming year to provide easier access to housing and financial aid services, as well as advising and career readiness resources, among others. The one-stop shop will be available virtually and in person, with a physical location in the Tate Student Center.
Recruitment and retention of graduate students and staff members is another priority in the decade ahead. The university plans to expand enrollment in innovative graduate and professional programs to meet the evolving needs of students and the labor market. Additionally, the university will continue to invest in professional development programs for staff and advocate for continued salary increases.
Morehead expressed excitement about new initiatives to grow UGA’s research enterprise and industry partnerships. “With our considerable momentum, UGA is positioned like never before to reach new heights of excellence,” Morehead said. “We stand at a crucial juncture, with tremendous opportunity awaiting us.”
Morehead announced the creation of the UGA Innovation District’s Industry Ambassador Program, a three-year pilot to strengthen the university’s industry engagement. Each year, multiple ambassadors will work to grow relationships between the university and key industry partners while advising on future opportunities for collaboration.
Morehead concluded his speech by thanking the UGA community, which has inspired ongoing initiatives and supported continued growth. “I have no doubt: the past decade will long be remembered as one of our best,” Morehead said. “But, in my view, it will be eclipsed by the decade to come.”