Stepping Back To View Dalton State With Fresh Eyes

Sometimes it takes a fresh perspective to remind us what an exceptional place this is. My friends and family who attended the Dalton State’s inauguration event in October gushed about how beautiful our campus is, how friendly and professional the student ambassadors and employees were and how lovely the music provided by the Dalton/Whitfield Community Band and the Dalton State singers was. “Magical” was a word used by more than one person.

Last weekend, the college hosted more than 200 prospective students and their families for Fall Preview Day to learn more about this institution and this community. It was my privilege to greet them on a crisp fall morning with the colorful display of autumn leaves on the mountain ridge behind our campus. I loved hearing their responses to the campus tour, and I was happy to tell them about our caring faculty and staff and our academic programs that are on par with the best in the nation. I was also proud for them to spend the night in the local hotels, to drive through the community and dine in our local restaurants.

As most everyone knows by now, Dalton State’s new vision statement asserts that we aspire to become “a first-choice destination college.” What does that mean, and why is it important? Dalton State aspires to become an exceptional place to learn, work and teach as we cultivate leaders who will serve and improve our community and our world. And Northwest Georgia needs Dalton State to be a high quality institution where our students are proud to attend, to graduate and to claim us as their alma mater. But why?

For Dalton State to have the economic impact we need to have on Northwest Georgia, we need an educated workforce to sustain our economic and civic qualities of life. Our students need to become productive citizens and ideally we need them to remain in this region. Studies show that very often students will choose to live, work and establish their families in close proximity to the community where they completed their college degrees. Therefore, the fate of this community is tied to the success of this college, and I take that responsibility very seriously. This fall, 87 percent of our students have come to Dalton State from the six-county region surrounding the Dalton campus. Even as we begin to draw more students from outside this region, this community needs Dalton State College to be successful in its goal of educating more Georgians, and the faculty, staff, and I are committed to making that happen. In short, the vision of becoming a first-choice destination college is synonymous with increasing our graduation rates and improving the economic climate for this region.

I must also add that Dalton State needs this community to be successful as much as this community needs us to succeed. “Dalton” is in the name of our college. It is part of our brand. Our students and their families see this College and the community as one entity, all part of the same package. Do prospective and current students feel safe? Are there fun things for them to see and do? Are their families comfortable when they visit?

Because we understand the importance of this community to Dalton State, we have engaged in a conscious effort to contribute to our community on many levels. We work with high schools throughout the region to support dual enrollment of their students in our college classes. Our School of Education works closely with both our local school systems particularly on literacy issues. Our Science, Technology and Mathematics faculty work closely with our local schools to engage students and educators in fun and educational science activities both on and off campus; they also work with industry partners to ensure that the skills we are teaching align with the needs of our local employers. Many of our students across the institution participate in service projects in the community. As an example, I recently thanked a group of nearly 100 students, faculty and staff who participated in a Conasauga Watershed Clean-Up event on Oct. 22. And we are exploring ways to contribute to the revitalization of downtown Dalton by expanding our downtown presence. 

As we enter this season of blessings, I give thanks for our community that embraces and supports this college. The college is now embracing this community in ways we never have before. Please join us in taking a fresh look at Dalton. See the wonderful characteristics that drew me here and that draw our students to come here and stay here. Come to the table with us. Help us imagine ways we can be even better, and help us implement those dreams.