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UGA announces series of initiatives to enhance learning environment

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia will launch a series of new and expanded initiatives to enhance the academic experience of students and position them for success during their time at UGA and beyond, President Jere W. Morehead announced today.

“Since the first day of my presidency last summer, I have focused on the student experience at the University of Georgia,” Morehead said. “We are taking additional steps today to strengthen the outstanding opportunities we provide to our students.”

Morehead and Provost Pamela Whitten outlined three key priorities for student success: streamlining time to graduation; fostering readiness for employment, graduate or professional school; and enhancing UGA’s ability to recruit world-class graduate students while expanding access to graduate programs.

“As the state’s flagship research university, we have an obligation to provide students with extraordinary learning opportunities,” said Whitten, the university’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “By launching new initiatives to create opportunities for students to have enhanced interactions with faculty, advisers and partners in industry and other organizations, we’re creating an unparalleled learning environment.”

Whitten noted that a major factor affecting the overall cost of a college education for students and their families is the total number of semesters that a student is enrolled. Minimizing credit hours that do not count toward graduation in a student’s major, enhancing the advising process through technology and increased face-to-face interactions, and increasing capacity in high-demand courses will expedite time to graduation while ensuring that students gain the critical skills and experiences they need to succeed in their chosen fields, she said.

To streamline time to graduation, UGA will hire new faculty to add 80 high-demand course sections in which a limited number of available seats impedes student progress toward graduation. In addition, the university will develop new summer online courses to increase opportunities for students to earn UGA credits while away from campus working, pursuing internships or studying abroad.

To enhance academic advising, the university will hire 25 additional academic advisers and increase advising services to incoming first-year students and transfer students. To retain the very best advisers, UGA will develop a new classification system that recognizes a more sophisticated skill set. The university also will launch an initiative that integrates counseling about career options into the earliest stages of the advising processes.

In addition, the university will upgrade the information technology systems that help students and advisers track progress toward graduation. Registration for the upcoming academic year, for example, will be through Athena, a new, user-friendly system that allows students to access their academic and financial aid records, register for classes, pay tuition and fees and update personal information from anywhere using a secure, Web-based login. Athena is integrated with DegreeWorks, a Web-based academic advising tool that enables students and their advisers to monitor a student’s progress toward degree completion.

To increase student success and readiness for careers or graduate school, UGA is rolling out several innovative initiatives to expand learning opportunities outside the classroom. In fall 2014, UGA will launch the CURO Research Assistantship Program, which will provide a $1,000 stipend to 250 outstanding undergraduate students across campus who will conduct research and scholarship through participation on an active faculty research team. UGA also will launch a pilot program in several colleges to hire internship coordinators to formally develop new relationships with industry, businesses and non-profit organizations that enable students to apply their on-campus experiences to real-world challenges across Georgia and around the globe. Also beginning in fall 2014, students will have 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week access to the Zell B. Miller Learning Center, which provides study spaces for individuals and groups of students.

To improve UGA’s ability to recruit the most academically talented graduate students, the university will increase graduate assistantship rates by 5 percent beginning fall 2014. In addition, UGA will expand access to graduate education by launching new online graduate degree programs.

“We have top-notch students and we owe them bold initiatives that will benefit them for years to come and enhance the outstanding education that people have come to expect from the University of Georgia,” Whitten said.