Growing up in Texas, Lew Hunnicutt dreamed of owning a cattle ranch and being a cowboy. But, thanks to his grandmother’s encouragement, he enrolled in college and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree, three master’s degrees and one doctorate—all related to animal science and agriculture.
Higher education transformed Hunnicutt’s life, and he’ll enable it to transform the lives of others as the new assistant provost and campus director of the UGA Griffin campus.
Hunnicutt joined the university on Nov. 1, succeeding Jerry Arkin, who led the campus for 27 years. He is tasked with guiding research programs in Griffin as well as the academic program, which is comprised of courses and degrees from five UGA schools and colleges.
This is no small task for someone whose high school graduating class consisted of 10 people.
“I was the highest ranking boy,” Hunnicutt said. “But seriously, education opened many doors for a boy from a small town in Texas.”
Hunnicutt came to UGA from Frank Phillips College in the Texas Panhandle, where he served as vice president of extended services. During his 12-year tenure there, he led the development of two branch campuses and saw enrollment rise on those campuses from 17 students to more than 300 per year.
Building a community-focused academic program is his forte, and he believes the Griffin campus is “a great match” for him, although at first he wasn’t sure.
“I thought UGA was too big,” he said. “But I now have the power of one of the biggest universities in the state (behind me), and I get to live in a great town like Griffin.”
Before applying for the position, Hunnicutt strolled the streets of Griffin virtually through Google Maps. After interviewing in Griffin, he gained a feel for the campus.
“I saw that this community truly supports the campus,” he said. “After I interviewed, I really, really wanted this job. I haven’t wanted many things ‘really, really’ badly, but I wanted this.”
As the successful candidate, Hunnicutt made his home in the Spalding County area of Brooks, just a 10-minute drive from the UGA Griffin campus.
“I grew up in a town of 300 (people), so Griffin is almost metropolitan to me. Everyone I have met has been very friendly and welcoming. I haven’t met one grumpy person yet and that speaks volumes for Griffin,” he said. “I don’t know if all Texans are welcomed as much, but I sure have been.”
Now set to focus on his mission, Hunnicutt said the UGA Griffin campus already has jumped the biggest hurdle of growing an academic program.
“There’s so much potential in Griffin, and we already have the community support and that’s what’s tough to get,” he said. “I don’t care how good your programs are, if you don’t have community support, you will not be successful.”
He sees “tremendous potential for growth” in the academic program and plans to target high school students.
Hunnicutt praises the campus’s recruitment efforts but said more focus needs to be put on helping high school students prepare for the first two years of college that are required for transferring to the Griffin campus.
In addition to recruitment, Hunnicutt is no stranger to university research, the other major focus of his job. He earned an undergraduate degree in animal science and worked with native grasses and range and grazing management of cattle and sheep in graduate school.
“I want to be an involved-in-everything kind of guy,” he said. “I get to be the head of the spear, but I have a whole bunch of people beneath me doing amazing work.”