Monthly Column April 2017
State, Private Support Vital to Dalton State
In recent weeks, the Georgia legislature, through the leadership of our Northwest Georgia delegation, voted to provide $4.1 million in funding for the renovation of Dalton State’s original classroom building, Sequoya Hall. Constructed nearly 50 years ago, the building is more than due for a facelift. Dalton State has now been allocated nearly $37 million in state funding over the last five years for construction and renovation projects on campus.
Consider that number for a moment: nearly $37 million in state funds for construction and renovation projects on our campus in just the last five years. This number is as robust as it is because of the generous private support we’ve received that allows us to leverage state dollars during these times of budgetary constraints.
We were able to leverage a $5 million gift from Ann and Lamar Wright to secure $5 million more from the state. That will allow us to renovate and expand our Gignilliat Memorial Hall to be the beautiful new home of the Wright School of Business. Likewise, a generous gift from Shelby and Willena Peeples led to the construction of our 58,000-square-foot classroom/laboratory building known as Peeples Hall, dedicated in 2013. With the community’s support for state-of-the-art equipment students now flock to our science, technology, and mathematics programs, and our faculty engage with our students in those essential hands-on activities that prepare them for employment in our community.
Likewise, state dollars funded the renovation of our Pope Student Center where dining services were expanded and enhanced to accommodate the needs of our residential students in addition to commuter students. Six months ago we dedicated our freshly renovated School of Health Professions which occupies space that previously housed automotive technology and welding programs. The repurposed space has received design innovation awards for its adaptive reuse of the technical education space for classrooms and clinical labs.
This past fall we replaced Wood Valley apartments with the modern four-story, 92,000-square foot, 365-bed campus housing known as the John Willis Mashburn Hall at Roadrunner Place. This public-private partnership represents the first joint venture between the Board of Regents, the college and a private developer, in this case, Corvias Campus Living. And were it not for private financial support as well as other community support, we would not have our new observatory that is located on the grounds of Beaverdale Elementary School.
The state’s consistent funding of small and large capital projects on our campus demonstrates its ongoing support of the college and strengthens our efforts to be a first-choice destination college for the students of our region. The new and renovated facilities are the most noticeable changes on our campus, but they are not the only ones. While the physical changes to the campus in recent years are fairly evident, many of the improvements in recent years are not as obvious to the casual observer. For example, 17 of our 23 baccalaureate degree programs have been created since 2007, and the number of baccalaureate degrees awarded has grown from 125 in the 2005-2006 academic year (among a total of 550 graduates) to 411 (among a total of 777 graduates) last year. Furthermore, we awarded 28 scholarships to students in 2006 as compared to 188 awarded in 2016.
Dalton State’s economic impact on Northwest Georgia was estimated at $96 million for fiscal year 2008, but by FY15 our impact had grown to nearly $121 million. Our estimated total employment impact during this same time period grew from 1,053 to 1,407 employees. Student enrollment over the past two years has grown by nearly 7 percent with enrollment increases nearly every term since fall of 2014. Certainly, the re-launch of our athletic program has invigorated the campus and community in a way few other things could. Along with our faculty, staff and students who represent the College at regional and national conferences, our athletic teams are winning conference and national tournaments and elevating the profile and image of our college and community.
By every measure Dalton State has grown in positive and productive ways in recent years, but we cannot become complacent now. With the rapid pace of change in technology, our economy and our students, we must continue to improve in order to avoid regressing relative to our peers. Much like home ownership or a marriage, there is always work to be done on a college campus.
As we celebrate the approaching 50th anniversary of Dalton State’s first students, I am proud to see the acceleration of progress in recent years, and I look to the future with great anticipation for both the college and the greater Dalton community.