We will work with our communities to improve quality of life.
The public service and outreach programs of our institutions have helped communities all across Georgia tap into resources to create businesses and jobs, develop leaders and address a range of critical challenges including public health, infrastructure, education and housing.
This goal, therefore, is intentionally broad, and defines community and quality of life in a variety of ways. USG and our people live in all regions, and our mission of teaching, research and service can and does impact the entire state. By partnering and collaborating with local residents, business groups, religious and secular groups, non-profit organizations, as well as communities beyond Georgia’s borders, we can help to identify and impact Georgia’s opportunities and challenges. This includes our efforts to redesign how we prepare the state’s future teachers, broaden Georgia’s cybersecurity workforce and create a systemwide support network for our institutions’ economic development efforts. From expanding healthcare in rural areas to improving sustainability and environmental stewardship, the expertise of USG faculty and staff is a great resource to Georgia’s diverse communities.
This critical work means we must listen to community stakeholders and the individuals already engaged in the work of revitalization. Understanding diverse perspectives will attune USG to the challenges communities face and the solutions most appropriate for addressing them. This kind of community partnership and outreach will also provide a great learning opportunity for our students. Students who engage in service learning gain valuable skills while simultaneously providing needed support for important community initiatives.
Furthermore, each of our campuses is its own community unto itself, one that can be enhanced by engaging with faculty and staff and ensuring students feel they belong. We need to prioritize diversity and inclusion so all viewpoints and people feel welcome. Additionally, the growing number of students enrolling online, and the faculty who teach them, represent yet another opportunity to foster community. Lastly, USG is a community of 26 institutions. We can most effectively reach this goal by working together to collaborate and coordinate our efforts for maximum impact.
Strategies for Community Impact
Increase the number of graduates in health professions
One of the biggest challenges to quality of life across Georgia is a shortage of high-quality health care professionals, particularly in rural communities. A lack of medical professionals directly affects the health of community members and also negatively impacts economic development. USG is engaging in several initiatives to address this challenge. The Medical College of Georgia (MCG) is redesigning its curriculum to shorten time to a medical degree and reduce student costs; this will make medical education more affordable and attractive. MCG is also working to increase the number of physicians committed to primary care, a particular shortage, and those committed to practicing in rural Georgia.
USG is also striving to increase the number of nursing graduates and enhance their preparation. One effort is expanding opportunity for registered nurses to earn their Bachelor of Science in nursing (RN to BSN) through a collaboration between Columbus State University and our eCampus initiative. The online program can be completed in as little as 12 months, with no required campus visits, allowing registered nurses to earn their BSN while continuing their career. The RN to BSN fosters career success and leadership opportunities and improves quality of care and patient outcomes. USG will also enhance the state’s nursing pipeline through the Nursing and Health Science Simulation Lab Facility being planned at Albany State University. This facility will be a comprehensive, advanced shared simulation center for Nursing and Allied Health instruction serving Southwest Georgia. The facility will support nursing program expansion at Albany State and provide opportunities for collaboration with other USG schools, the Technical College System of Georgia and private Nursing and Allied Health programs to address the challenge of clinical student placements in acute care settings.
Expand Experiential Learning Opportunities
USG is participating in a National Association of System Heads (NASH) initiative, Taking Success to Scale, that aims to expand students’ access to experiential learning opportunities including service learning, work-based learning, undergraduate research and study abroad programs. USG is working with six institutions to pilot the increased availability of these experiences for students, better define what the experiences should include and analyze data on how well they worked and how they can be improved.
Experiential learning blends academic coursework with hands-on experience in a more applied setting such as a laboratory, an apprenticeship, a community improvement project or even in another country. These experiences prepare students for a lifetime of engagement by exposing them to a range of communities, making them aware of local needs, building skills to meet those needs and illustrating the impact their engagement can make. Future work includes utilizing successes at the pilot schools to assist all USG institutions in broadening the availability and consistency of experiential learning courses and ensuring data is submitted to USG to track progress and evaluate outcomes.
As Strategic Plan 2024 progresses, additional information will become available for the following strategies: