James July-Aug 2021 web - Flipbook - Page 25
article almost a decade ago that discussed the need for
individuals who could dissect the vast quantities of data
that are generated today, and so we launched that program in data analytics soon thereafter. There are some
fields where an undergraduate degree is not sufficient
anymore. In those areas— athletic training, counseling
and guidance, etc.— we have added graduate-level programs to fill that need.
PK Could you give more specifics on the expansion of
other programs and degrees being offered?
formats which, frankly, they overwhelmingly prefer. Online
instruction is not a panacea for streamlining instructional
delivery. Done correctly, it requires more resources than
traditional modalities, but it has an obvious place in the
instructional universe today.
PK How is Piedmont University striving to ensure that
the current generation of college students is prepared to
address Georgia’s workforce needs?
JM One of the other debates in recent years has been
about the need for vocational relevance in post-secondary education. As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t really
trained to be a CEO so I am a firm believer in the ability
to advance in a chosen career given a proper foundation
regardless of major. But I also recognize that there are jobs
and career choices available to college graduates today
that did not exist 10 or 20 years ago. So part of our strategic planning includes the importance of ensuring that our
degree offerings are appropriate to this generation and
even future ones.
Piedmont has been on the cutting edge with the
introduction of programs in nursing and health sciences,
and the career relevance of those programs is without
question. We also moved in other directions which are
not so readily apparent, like data analytics. I read an
JULY /AU GU ST 2021
JM I am especially proud of the joint programs we
launched over the last five years such as our engineering
physics major that leads to completion of an engineering
degree at Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State University.
It’s an innovative program that allow students to begin
their educational pursuits in a liberal arts environment
such as Piedmont and then mov e seamlessly to complete the degree at a large university. We have a similar
arrangement with the Mercer University School of Law,
whereby students who meet certain criteria can skip
their senior year at Piedmont and begin law school one
year early. The savings in tuition from such an arrangement is significant.
We also continue to add more traditional majors for
our undergraduate students. Our trustees recently approved new undergraduate majors in neuroscience, digital
marketing, film studies and special education.
At the graduate level, this fall we will be launching a
new five-year degree program in Speech and Language
Pathology for which there is an obvious need. It ties in
very nicely with our already large programs in nursing
and health sciences.
PK There is an ongoing national debate about student
debt, since college costs present a big obstacle for many
students. What are your thoughts on how Georgia and
specifically Piedmont University can provide an affordable, high-quality education?
JM In Georgia, the HOPE scholarship program has enabled all Georgians to pursue a post-secondary education
at a more attractive cost. We are grateful that the legislature continues to include the independent colleges and
universities in discussions concerning changes in levels
of funding for those programs.
At Piedmont University, as at almost every other
independent institution, we oversee a program of institutional grants and awards that significantly reduce
the cost of attendance. Most of our endowed funds have
been restricted by our board of trustees for use in this
manner. We commit a sizeable amount of our annual
budget to in-house financial aid every year. The result
is that institutional aid, coupled with state and federal
programs like HOPE and PELL, allows our students to
achieve a high-quality educational experience at a very
reasonable cost. The most-recently reported average indebtedness for Piedmont undergraduate students upon
graduation is $27,713, which is truly remarkable. There
is a fallacy that permeates the debate on student debt
whereby people think private schools are only for the
students of wealthy families. Nothing could be further
from the truth. At Piedmont, 45 percent of our undergraduates are PELL-eligible students.
The demographics of high school graduates in Georgia are predicted to change considerably over the next
decade; the majority of those graduates will come from
under-represented populations. That translates into
students from families with greater financial need. Two
possibilities for meeting this challenge would be a new
component to the HOPE program based upon financial
need; the current program is almost entirely merit-based.
And the federal government is looking at changes to the
PELL programs that would result in increased awards to
students with need. The Legislature is currently considering the possibility of needs-based HOPE, and I am greatly
encouraged by that because it will benefit students from
every county in Georgia.
“critical and creative dialogue,” “civic
engagement and ethical reasoning,”
and “embracing our diverse society.”
Lillian E. Smith, an important
voice in the social justice and civil
rights movement one century ago,
was a student at Piedmont in 1916.
She and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. were close friends. The university owns and operates the Lillian
E. Smith Center in Rabun County and
continues to further important discourse in the area of social justice.
I am finishing my 39th year as
a faculty member at Piedmont and
my 9th year as president. One of the
reasons that I found working here
so attractive, even in the early days
when we were a very small college,
is that there is a strong atmosphere of collegiality and
familiarity that informs all that we do. While I have never
worked anywhere else, I know that this is increasingly
unique, something to be carefully nurtured and celebrated. We want to ensure that everyone who believes in the
transformational power of education— students, faculty
and staff— feels welcome here.
PK Free expression should be a value that is essential to
the mission of higher education. How is Piedmont University committed to protecting open campus discourse
representing various viewpoints?
JM Piedmont is proud of its almost 125-year tradition
of embracing diversity and inclusivity. We were one of
the first institutions in the state to integrate its athletic
programs. Our mission statement speaks to the importance of developing compassionate leaders. And our core
values— Inquiry, Service, and Legacy— speak about
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