The New Faculty Tour reverses the usual flow of information at UGA. For five days each summer, 43 recently hired faculty and staff pile onto a bus for a statewide tour and find themselves on the learning end of the classroom.
Their homework: To reach beyond the classroom and learn about the state and people of Georgia.
The 2006 tour shoved off in early August, rolling from the mountains of north Georgia through the agriculturally heavy southern half and back. About
43 participants learned about the successes and challenges facing Georgia, many times from the mouths of residents who turned out in droves to welcome the group.
“We want you to know that the university means something special to small towns all across this state,” said Susan Holmes, mayor of Monticello.
“Y’all help in so many ways. We elected officials know the Carl Vinson Institute (of Government),” Holmes said. “It has been invaluable to us. If I have a problem I call over there, and somebody there can help me.”
Explicitly, the tour aims to help participants understand UGA’s charge as a land-grant institution, which mandates a responsibility to teaching, research and public service for the betterment of the state. But subtler goals include fostering cross-departmental collaboration and dispelling lingering myths about the state.
Before departing, Art Dunning, vice president for public service and outreach, told the group, “This state has a rich and unusual history. There’s a flavor here, of language, food, rites of passage. You’ll see it all.”
The trip devoted large chunks of time to learning about agriculture, the state’s largest industry. With extension offices in nearly all of Georgia’s 159 counties, UGA does a particularly good job of disseminating information gained from research conducted on campus to farmers throughout the state.
The respect earned from the agricultural assistance the university provides can be parlayed to other fields, said Dennis Epps, UGA coordinator of the Archway Partnership Project. The project focuses on improving the lives of Georgians through an equal partnership of communities and the university. The group heard about it in Colquitt County, where the project’s pilot program is taking shape.
“The Grady College sent people down here to help market the community. It’s something that’s really helped attract people to this region, and they’ve been grateful for it,” Epps told the group.
The New Faculty Tour is open to new faculty and high-level professional staff during their first three years at UGA. It’s sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach in cooperation with the Alumni Association.
Each spring, deans, department heads and vice presidents are invited to nominate new faculty and staff to participate. Between 35 and 45 of the nominees are selected to participate annually.