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Board of Regents Hears Yamacraw Mission On Track

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Atlanta — May 9, 2000

System-on-a-Chip. Optical Networks. Digital Signal Processing. These high-tech terms are being virtually imbedded in the minds of more University System of Georgia students, the Board of Regents was told in a presentation today, thanks to 22 new faculty members appointed this year to increase the number of high-technology professionals in the state.

As the academic arm of Yamacraw – Gov. Roy Barnes’ strategic economic development initiative combining academia, industry and state government – the University System is moving swiftly to achieve a five-to-seven-year goal of educating and attracting back to Georgia 2,000 new computer scientists and electrical, computer and software engineers by the year 2003. The state allocated an initial $4.65 million in FY ‘00 to the System’s academic programs to meet this goal.

The University System is working jointly with the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade & Tourism and several state and private sector agencies to help Georgia compete nationally in key broad-band technology sectors (system-on-a-chip, embedded systems, optical networks, wireless, content processing, and high-speed access devices). The end goal is to carve a knowledge-based niche for the state among economic development contenders as a major producer of high-end, high-tech graduates. Staffing-up to achieve that goal will require recruiting 85 to 90 faculty in those broad-band specialties, of which the 22 new hires represent about one-fourth of that target. Oversight of Yamacraw is provided by a collaborative Steering Committee representing the various inter-agency partners in the initiative. That committee hired James D. Foley as chief executive officer of Yamacraw, to manage the project’s daily operations. A scholar of international renown for his work on computer graphics, computer visualization and computer usability, Foley founded Georgia Tech’s Center for Graphics, Visualization and Usability in 1991, and guided it to No. 1 in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. He left Georgia Tech in 1996 to lead Mitsubishi’s Electronics Research Lab in Cambridge, Ma., returning in December 1999 to spearhead the Yamacraw project.

To lead the charge in the academic arena, University System Chancellor Stephen R. Portch has appointed Dr. Daniel S. Papp, professor of international affairs in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech, as director of Yamacraw Educational Programs. Papp joined Georgia Tech in 1973, and has held an impressive array of faculty and administrative assignments, both on the campus and within the University System of Georgia. Most recently, he served as interim president of Southern Polytechnic State University, from 1997-98. From 1995-97, he was executive assistant to the president and professor of international affairs at Georgia Tech. Papp also served as director of the School of Social Sciences at Georgia Tech and as founding director of the School of International Affairs.

Portch charged Papp with coordinating the activities of the participating Yamacraw universities, helping them to more forward both individually and collaboratively. His responsibilities include providing policy and budgetary guidance for academic programs, working with Foley on the project’s oversight, and keeping the chancellor apprised of the project.

Papp and Foley jointly presented a status report on Yamacraw to the Board of Regents, at their monthly meeting, held today in Atlanta.

“With Yamacraw, Georgia clearly has declared that it intends to be among the world’s leaders in educating high-end information technology professionals,” stated Papp. “We also intend to keep these professionals in Georgia. To do this, we have assembled a top-flight alliance, which links business, academia and government. This alliance is competing on a national and international scale to grow further what is already a vibrant economy.”

Ten months into the University System’s implementation of Yamacraw, Papp reports that the educational programs “are proceeding entirely on or ahead of schedule.”

Eight University System of Georgia institutions are involved in Yamacraw: Armstrong Atlantic State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Southern University, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, Savannah State University, Southern Polytechnic State University, and the University of Georgia. In Yamacraw’s first year, these institutions hired 22 new faculty in Yamacraw areas. Among those hired, Georgia Tech recruited 15 “high-tech academic stars” from Cal Tech, the University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon and other leading institutions. Georgia State hired three new faculty members, recruiting from as far away as Canada and Belarus. Southern Polytechnic and UGA each have hired two Yamacraw faculty. Southern Poly’s first hire was a Yale Ph.D. who joins the faculty as a computer science professor. UGA’s first hire was an internationally recognized computer science professor from Cornell.

In the next academic year, 20-25 new faculty members are expected to join the Yamacraw ranks; 17 already have been hired. In addition to hiring faculty, participating USG institutions have begun modifying and restructuring the curriculum in electrical and computer engineering, software engineering and computer science to include an emphasis in the Yamacraw focus areas.

Other elements of the University System’s Yamacraw educational agenda include:

  • conducting targeted research programs in the cited disciplines;
  • fostering collaboration among participating institutions;
  • developing collaborative mentoring for faculty in the new high-tech disciplines;
  • increasing emphasis on the Board of Regents/Georgia Tech Regional Engineering Program;
  • expanding access to on-line/distance learning;
  • providing retraining opportunities through continuing education programs; and
  • recruiting faculty and students to meet the academic objectives of Yamacraw.

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