With 10 months now complete as UGA president, Jere W. Morehead talked with Columns about the university’s successes and challenges. He also looked to the future and spoke about plans to strengthen UGA.
Columns: Looking back on your first 10 months in office, what have been some of your administration’s biggest successes?
Morehead: Any success is the result of teamwork. I have assembled a strong leadership team that understands and appreciates the academic focus of this institution.
A few successes come to mind: We enrolled the most academically qualified freshman class in UGA’s history and followed that up with a record number of applicants for the fall 2014 class; we secured state funding for a new Science Learning Center thanks to the support of Gov. Nathan Deal, the General Assembly and the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia; we launched an Interdisciplinary Faculty Hiring Initiative; we will have the first merit pay raises in several years; the College of Engineering is off to a very strong start, with about 1,000 students enrolled; the Medical Partnership with Georgia Regents University will graduate its first class of medical doctors; and construction on Correll Hall, the replacement for Bolton Dining Hall and the Veterinary Medicine Learning Center are all on schedule.
Columns: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as president and how did you overcome it?
Morehead: Managing my schedule has been quite challenging. There are always too many wonderful opportunities for the limited time available.
But the greatest challenge is allocating limited resources. There are always more good options than there are financial resources to support them, so the decision-making process is very difficult. I will continue to put the interests of our students at the center of everything we do.
Columns: You said in the State of the University address that bolstering the university’s graduate programs is a priority. What will be the key to taking UGA’s graduate programs, some of which are already nationally recognized for the quality of faculty and students, to the next level?
Morehead: Resources, both public and private, will be essential in continuing to improve the quality of UGA’s graduate programs. We need additional resources for assistantships and fellowships in order to attract stronger graduate students to our programs. We are planning to raise the stipend rates for next year which will help us attract stronger graduate students. While I believe we have a strong core of graduate faculty, we will continue to recruit great faculty to UGA. Great faculty attract great students.
Columns: The university’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, which is now in its quiet phase, has a goal of no less than $1 billion. What will reaching that goal mean for the university’s students, faculty and staff?
Morehead: I am confident that we will achieve if not surpass that goal, because I know that our alumni, friends and supporters understand the need for private support and share our goals for the future.
The specific goals of the campaign grow out of the Strategic Plan for 2020 and support undergraduate student scholarships, graduate fellowships, endowed faculty positions, facilities needs and other critical areas that support the strategic plan’s goals.
Columns: You have stated in the past that everyone on campus will need to play a role in the campaign. How can employees best help the university reach its fundraising goal?
Morehead: The excellent work of the university’s employees makes this a wonderful place, and I am grateful for the dedication and commitment of the UGA faculty and staff. We have a good story to tell, and that story inspires enthusiasm for our mission with our supporters. Of course, I am appreciative when some of our faculty and staff are able to make personal contributions to the university as well.
Columns: Looking ahead, what are the top institutional priorities for the university during the 2014-2015 academic year?
Morehead: The comprehensive campaign for UGA is my top priority. The impact of this campaign on the faculty, staff and students will be significant and long lasting.
Admitting another strong freshman class will continue the academic advancement of the university, as will recruiting and retaining the very best faculty. The academic core will always guide my thinking. We have launched for this coming year a number of new initiatives focused on student learning. These initiatives are very exciting.
Two major capital projects will be completed next year-the replacement for Bolton Dining Hall and the Veterinary Medicine Learning Center. I am looking forward to dedicating those facilities and to the positive impact they will have on our campus. Work will continue on Correll Hall, the first building in the Terry College Learning Community, and we will begin construction on the Science Learning Center, a much-needed instructional facility on South Campus.
Columns: Are you pleased with the progress that has been made as it relates to UGA’s strategic plan for 2020?
Morehead: I recently received a report on that very topic, and I am more than pleased with what has already been accomplished. The plan for 2020 is an ambitious one, but this is an ambitious place and has been since its creation. I am very optimistic about our future.