Chancellor’s Remarks, Board of Regents Meeting
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Thank you Mr. Chairman. I am sincerely appreciative to the Board for your faith in appointing me the chancellor of this great University System of Georgia. Never did I dream some 46 years ago as a student at Georgia State University that one day I would hold this position.
I am very proud of my educational heritage in this System. It has served me well throughout my career and private life. That same System in its modern metamorphosis continues to serve all of our students well by preparing them for life in a way little else can match.
Today marks my first board meeting, as well as my 40th day as chancellor. During these 40 days I have sought to learn even more about the System, its people, its great work, its opportunities, as well as its challenges. This time includes five campus visits, conducting my first presidents’ meeting, discussions with legislators, community and state leaders, faculty and students. These discussions have been both instructive and uplifting.
Although not perfect, you and I are blessed to be asked to lead a strong and vibrant public higher education system into the balance of the 21st century. Our responsibility and great privilege is to work together to take a strong System and make it even better. That is a challenge that I and my colleagues throughout the System eagerly embrace.
As we pursue this challenge, our foundational theme – creating a more educated Georgia – remains unchanged. To create a more highly educated Georgia, I propose three broad areas of focus.
First, we must continually evaluate not only what we do, but also how well we do it. Our performance going forward will not be judged solely by growth as measured by enrollment and new buildings. Instead, the Board’s recently adopted focus on RPG – retention, progression, and graduation – remains relevant and timely. In fact, those themes – in varying terms – are being sounded throughout the U.S.
Today’s fiscal realities mean that no longer can the current funding model be sustained. No longer will higher education be immune from answering questions of effectiveness and efficiency. As a public agency we are accountable; we are expected to deliver service in the most efficient and effective way.
A critical responsibility I have as the new chancellor is to leverage and prudently invest our resources so as to be good stewards as we seek to pursue our basic missions of teaching, research and public service. With your support and leadership, we will do that. Our parents, our students, and the taxpayers of Georgia should expect nothing less.
For example, going forward we will ask more questions about new and existing programs and how they mesh together from a system standpoint. We also will scrutinize capital projects more closely, asking what long-term strategic academic need the facility meets and looking more closely at design features to assure we are optimizing our scarce capital resources.
So we will need to work more closely with our campuses as they develop proposals for new programs and facilities and ask them to consider every alternative before sending a request forward. There may be other options or higher priorities that fit better with the System’s and state’s goals. Your support of our efforts will be critical as we work with our campuses to meet the educational needs of Georgia while making sure we use our limited resources in the most effective way possible.
Secondly, we do not pursue this great goal alone. Meeting the educational needs of Georgia’s students will require us to strengthen and nurture our collaboration with other state agencies, particularly the Department of Education and the Technical College System of Georgia. We are not competitors, but partners.
As Gov. Deal noted in his press conference last Thursday, we will be working with the Technical College System to ensure better articulation – the ability of students to move easily between the two systems. Similarly, the Governor asked me to serve on the Governor’s State Education Finance Study Commission as it undertakes a comprehensive review of the method of funding K-12 schools in Georgia. I am actively engaged in the work of that Commission. The future success of our system is inextricably linked to the success of K-12 education.
To be successful in creating a more highly educated Georgia, we must all work together to identify and champion what is best for our citizens, not what may be desired as narrow and parochial interests of a particular agency or institution.
3. THE VALUE OF COLLEGE
Lastly, the value of postsecondary education must be continually and appropriately advocated. This state has a long and strong history of investing in a world-class system of higher education, as the Georgia Chamber of Commerce recently noted in an opinion piece. This investment enables the University System of Georgia to create Georgia’s future, student by student, achievement by achievement. After all, a world-class public higher education system retains and attracts the best and brightest students, faculty, and researchers.
Economists, authors, and economic development professionals, even in today’s difficult economic environment, continue to cite higher education as a necessary and critical key to a sustainable and vibrant economy. It is in the classroom, in the laboratory and applied fieldwork that new knowledge is created leading to new opportunities and new jobs.
Frankly, we have work to do here. As a member of the Governor’s Competitiveness Initiative, I and my colleagues in the System Office are committed to working with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Department of Community Affairs and the business leadership of this state in forging a dynamic coalition to support Governor Deal in his efforts to lead Georgia to economic recovery by creating and attracting more jobs for our citizens.
But as essential as our role is for the future economic well being of our students, there is another equally important role we play. We not only teach and train students for work, but we help prepare them for life, regardless of their career path. We teach students how to think critically. We educate students on how to analyze and interpret complex issues. We prepare students to work with others often very different in nationality, thought, and culture. We expose students to their responsibilities as citizens and community life.
There is an old adage, your parents give you life, but education prepares you to live. A college curriculum should not be solely focused on training a person for a first job, as important as that is. Of equal value is the role of college in shaping someone to live a productive life, no matter what the career path he or she chooses.
The people of Georgia must have faith in our ability to deliver a world-class graduate, equipped with the knowledge, and just as critically, the values, needed to be successful in a very competitive and global world. This trust demands that we do it right.
We are doing a lot right. That fact, and the unquestioned academic strength of our system, embodied in our outstanding faculty and staff, and in the leadership of our presidents and the direction of this Board, gives me positive reasons to be optimistic about the future. We are indeed doing much right, but we are not perfect. As a John Wesley Methodist, I believe in perfection.
Our efforts are essential to creating a more highly educated Georgia. We must spend wisely and carefully to help make the case for receiving the additional funds we will need to meet the enrollment demands we face in the coming years. Our success will be a major determinant in Georgia’s success in becoming a global economic leader. This is why we are here. This is why what we do matters so much to every one of us who love this state.
I look forward to working with each of you in the months and years ahead as together we march toward perfection in this great and noble task.