Monthly Column August 2015
State of the College Is Strong
It is customary at the beginning of a new academic year for the President to share a State of the College address with the faculty and staff. I had the privilege as Interim President to share the observations below with our faculty and staff when they assembled earlier last week.
The state of our College is strong with important key indicators including enrollment, new programs, and construction projects all trending up.
Classes begin Monday, and it appears our enrollment will top 5,000 students. More significantly, this will be the first fall in four years that our number of enrolled students will not be down or flat. We hope this upward trend continues.
The composition of the student population at Dalton State has evolved over recent years to one that is now predominantly seeking bachelor’s degrees. To that end, I am proud to report that the Georgia Board of Regents last week approved a new bachelor’s degree program for Dalton State: the Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and Applied Economics. The new degree brings to 20 the number of bachelor’s degrees offered by Dalton State. There are also 17 options for associate degrees, as well as a handful of certificate programs.
The BBA in Finance follows close on the heels of a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Information Management that was approved by the Board of Regents last spring. Several other bachelor’s degree programs are in the pipeline for board approval.
Our students seem focused primarily on programs that allow them to be readily employable and/or promotable. We also have students in career paths that send them to graduate schools after graduation from Dalton State. All of our degree programs are grounded in our strong liberal arts-based core curriculum.
In addition to higher enrollment and new degree programs, Dalton State is growing physically with numerous construction projects underway or commencing soon.
Mashburn Hall, the first residential hall to be constructed in the Roadrunner Place housing complex, is currently under construction with occupancy to take place in August 2016. The new residence hall will house 365 students and will replace the Wood Valley apartment complex that has housed Dalton State students since 2009.
Construction on the College’s Health Professions Building (occupying the space that previously housed technical education programs) will be completed soon and will include an elaborate simulation lab that replicates a hospital environment complete with automated mannequins to aid students in a clinical setting. The Health Professions Building will house the College’s allied health programs including nursing, radiologic technology, respiratory therapy, and medical laboratory technology as well as the Department of Social Work.
Renovation of the Pope Student Center will kick off soon with improvements planned for the College’s food service and student life areas.
The College is also expanding its reach into the community as evidenced by programs such as Summer Academy, Next Step, and Dual Enrollment that prepare students for college. College faculty and staff are also actively engaged in other community development projects including Teen Maze, Readers to Leaders, Archway Partnership, and the Investing in Manufacturing Community Partnership.
The College’s broad array of cultural programs and Roadrunner athletics have also served to connect the College closer to the greater community. When I arrived here, I was told that the interstate divides us from the community. I think many would tell us there are now several bridges across the interstate that partner us with the community.
Our men’s soccer team begins competing this fall, and a second fraternity will colonize at Dalton State this fall, expanding Greek Life opportunities for our students.
We are making significant progress towards our goal of being the best state college in Georgia. This aspirational goal sprung from a shared vision among the College’s leadership team. At the heart of the vision is our renewed commitment to Dalton State’s mission as an access institution to the University System.
Our access mission means we provide a high quality opportunity for students to achieve a college education with an emphasis on students who are less likely to be represented in higher education. This access mission is the reason we have low tuition and fees and generous admission requirements. It is also why we offer support services such as tutoring, supplemental instruction, and personal counseling.
The access mission is the reason we care about becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution. As an access institution we focus on serving the students in our region, but with housing options we allow other students to enjoy our campus, too. This diversifies our institution in helpful ways. One might ask why we are limiting ourselves with this goal to the system and/or to the state college sector, but I would simply say we want to start here --with being the best state college or undergraduate institution in the system-- before we expand our goal further.
Woodrow Wilson said, “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” I hope it is apparent that I am not trying to change Dalton State College. It isn’t broken. Rather, it is my hope that together we will continue to evolve, to embrace the concept of continuous improvement and to better serve the needs of our students.