Much to Be Thankful for in This Season of Gratitude

As Thanksgiving and a whirlwind of other holidays and end-of-semester activities approach, I take time to contemplate the past year, the coming year, and all that I have to be thankful for. In the world of Dalton State College, my list is long.

The recent visit to Dalton by Dr. Steve Wrigley, chancellor of the University System of Georgia, reminded me of all we are doing and must do to contribute to create a more educated Georgia and why education is important to us all.

The University System of Georgia and Dalton State contribute to the economic development of our state in a variety of ways. The Selig Center for Economic Growth of the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business reported that Dalton State College generated a total economic impact for the Northwest Georgia region in fiscal year 2016 of $136,550,655, up 13 percent over the previous year. Dalton State sustained a total of 1,526 full- and part-time jobs.

Furthermore, 830 students graduated from Dalton State during the 2016-2017 academic year, and on Nov. 3, the new Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the University System of Georgia, Dr. Tristan Denley, delivered an inspirational presentation to faculty and staff on his “Momentum Year” ideas for improving student success rates at USG colleges and universities. He also met with students and key academic administrators and staff during his visit.

Before coming to the USG, Denley served at the Tennessee Board of Regents system office. Denley is a national leader in innovative student success programs, and his most recent work for the Tennessee university system office has been to transform developmental education and advising across the Tennessee system. His work uses a data-informed approach to implement a wide variety of system initiatives surrounding college completion, from education redesign in a variety of disciplines, to the role of predictive analytics and data mining, cognitive psychology, and behavioral economics in higher education.

Denley’s plans for the USG dovetail nicely with the work of Dalton State’s Success4Students committee, designed to help ensure that students who begin at Dalton State are able to graduate from Dalton State in a timely manner.

Meanwhile, we continue to spruce up the visible aspects of the College. Because of the generous donation of Lamar and Ann Wright and the $5 million our legislative delegation helped us secure, we have completed the design phase for a renovated and expanded Wright School of Business and will begin construction in January of 2018 in order to re-open by January of 2019. Furthermore, we secured $4.1 million in funding this past legislative session to renovate our original classroom building, Sequoya Hall. The design phase for this project begins soon with the expectation that we will begin renovations in January of 2019. And let’s not forget our new sign in front of the campus, visible from I-75, announcing to the world that Dalton State is here and better than ever!

Our fall 2017 student demographic data are available, and I am proud to say that 44 percent of our students come to us from Whitfield County, and 86 percent of our students originate from the six counties surrounding Dalton. Furthermore, we have surpassed the necessary 25 percent threshold for Hispanic/Latino students; therefore, we expect to announce next spring that we are the first officially designated Hispanic Serving Institution in the state of Georgia. In fact, we will be the first HSI in the southeast, excluding Florida. This is important not only because it indicates we are serving the needs of our community, but also because it will make us eligible for funding designated for HSIs. This funding will benefit all of our students and will raise the profile of the entire community.

Our cross country team, golfers, and soccer teams have had a very successful fall, and we look forward to an exciting season of basketball this winter. Between our athletics events, our theatre productions, musical performances, and lectures, Dalton State augments the rich cultural and family entertainment opportunities of this community. I will forever remember the busloads of people we transported to Englewood, Tenn. for viewing the August 2017 total eclipse.

On behalf of Dalton State College, I wish you and your loved ones the very best holiday season filled with reasons to be grateful.