James Jan-Feb 2021 web - Flipbook - Page 28
Regents needs from a public university. We will find ways
to work through the disagreements.”
He believes that the University of West Georgia has a
bright future. “I have no lack of optimism. If we do what’s
right for the student, then we will make it work at UWG.”
New “Student First” Initiatives
As for the president stressing that he seeks to “put
students first,” he points to the university’s new Momentum
Center as an example.
“This was an empty building, but we chose to bring it to
life and use it to take away anxiety from the students,” Kelly
tells this writer during a tour. “This building has been redesigned to offer all the services the students might need in
one central location. In this one building we have the registrar’s office, counseling services, academic advisors, and the
financial aid office. Students can come to one building and
get all the help they need. This one change puts the wind at
the student’s back and allows them to avoid stumbling over
needless barriers or obstacles.”
“There’s always someone in this building available to
help students,” he notes. “We’re here to say, ‘if you have a
problem, it’s my problem too.’ This shifts the responsibility
off the students’ shoulders.” Kelly points out that the building housing the Momentum Center is circular— adding that
“you can’t get lost in here. When the student walks in, someone greets them, and immediately the anxiety disappears.”
JANUARY/ FEBRUA RY 2021
Enrollm ent G rowt h at U W G
A l o ng and w i ndi ng r o ad to U W G
A l o o k i n t o t h e c rys ta l b a l l
Despite COVID-19 concerns, numbers are on the rise at
the University of West Georgia. Enrollment increased 1.4 percent in Fall 2020— from 13,238 students to 13,419 students.
And graduate student enrollment has continued to increase
for the past seven years— from 1,957 students in 2014 to
3,088 students in 2020— a 57.8 percent jump.
UWG has also focused on student retention— which was
below the national average.
“We put a case management model in place and saw
nearly a four-point jump in a few months, which was an
astonishing outcome,” Kelly says. “Our first-year retention
rates increased from 69.07 percent to 72.8 percent from 1,294
students who entered the university in the Fall of 2019 and
returned in the Fall of 2020.”
The university’s first period of fundraising this year was
the second largest in the history— raising over $1 million in
only a few weeks.
UWG also reported a large economic impact in FY2019,
contributing more than $632 million to the region’s economy— climbing 4.6 percent over last year’s figure of $604 million. Over the last decade, the impact has grown 54 percent
from $410 million in FY 2010.
In terms of employment, UWG generated 5,405 full time
jobs, 30 percent of which were directly on-campus positions.
For every on-campus job, UWG generated 2.3 jobs at businesses off campus.
Prior to joining UWG, Brendan Kelly served as chancellor of the University of South Carolina Upstate, the largest
regional comprehensive university in the USC system. He
was also appointed in April 2019 as interim president of the
University of South Carolina in Columbia.
While at the helm of USC Upstate, Kelly completed
its strategic plan for 2018-2023, secured increased state
funding and led the creation of a university-wide integrated
brand platform. He oversaw a reorganization of the institution’s Academic Affairs division and led the development
and implementation of seven high-demand academic programs at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels.
During his chancellorship, the record also shows USC
Upstate attained the highest levels of enrollment in the history of the institution and substantially increased fundraising for the institution’s endowment and annual fund.
Prior to becoming chancellor of USC Upstate, Kelly
served as vice president of university advancement, foundation president and chief executive officer of the historic trust
at the University of West Florida in Pensacola from 2013-17.
His career began, though, after earning both a Bachelor
of Science degree in public relations and a master’s degree
in communication from Eastern Michigan University, and he
earned his doctorate in rhetoric and political communication
from Wayne State University.
“I understand that rapid change brings anxiety,” said
Kelly. “We were forced to move to all online education
because of the pandemic, and have now expanded to our
current dual model of online and in-person learning. But we
have learned lessons from all this change. “I believe that
despite 10 years of talking about colleges and universities
turning to all online learning, we have discovered that students actually crave a holistic approach to education and
want to be on-campus.”
The school went from over 75 percent of face-to-face
learning last spring to very few face-to-face opportunities
in the fall. “I believe we will be back up to 64 percent faceto-face learning in the spring of 2021,” Kelly says. “Students seem to crave that experience, and still have high
expectations. I believe the increased enrollment we have
experienced is a sign that students don’t want to stop.
They want to move forward and experience the on-campus environment.”
“There are a lot of exciting things happening at UWG,”
Kelly concludes. “Our role is to deepen the students’ toolbox
and offer them a premiere, world class experience. The hope
is that in 25 to 30 years from now, they will look back and say
their experience here was fantastic.”
Cindy Morley is a staff writer for James and InsiderAdvantage Georgia.
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