James Sept-Oct 2021 web - Flipbook - Page 26
have secured the two largest research contracts in the
University’s history— together worth up to $220 million—
to combat the emergence and spread of influenza. Our
faculty continue to push UGA’s capacity for discovery and
innovation to record levels, and I believe the future of our
research enterprise is very bright.
PK COVID-19 obviously impacted UGA. What lessons
were learned in dealing with it? Were you concerned
about a lack of academic rigor with the switch to online
courses? And regarding the return to in-person classes,
how is UGA handling health precautions?
Jm COVID-19 has been a formidable challenge, as it has
for every college and university across the nation. Yet,
the pandemic has also revealed— time and time again—
the remarkable dedication and resiliency of UGA’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. I have been repeatedly inspired by the strength of the Bulldog Nation,
how they have never wavered in fulfilling the university’s
vital mission, regardless of the circumstances. For that I
am truly grateful.
Of course, we are learning important operational
and instructional lessons as we go along. For example,
we have learned to be more flexible than we ever imagined; we have also learned to be more efficient. What
has become obvious, too, is how much demand there is
for the rich residential experience provided by UGA. I
have no doubt this will continue, even as the pandemic
lingers. Meanwhile, we continue to take steps to protect
our campus, such as continued COVID-19 testing and
special cleaning and disinfectant protocols, among many
others. But most of all, we are encouraging everyone at
UGA who can get vaccinated to do so, and vaccines are
available for free to our faculty, staff, and students at the
University Health Center.
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PK You have often said “educating Georgians is UGA’s first
PK You have said in the past that free expression is a
principle” and there has been an expansion of programs
and degrees being offered under your leadership. Can you
elaborate on that?
value that is essential to the mission of higher education.
Does UGA remain committed to protecting and fostering
campus speakers and clubs representing a diversity of
Jm As the state’s oldest and most comprehensive academic institution, our first priority is to provide a world-class
education to Georgia’s next generation of leaders. To that
end, in recent years we have launched an array of programs and initiatives to elevate our learning environment
to new heights of excellence. These efforts include an
experiential learning initiative, which provides every UGA
student with hands-on learning outside the classroom. We
also launched an initiative to reduce class sizes and foster
closer student-faculty interactions. As a final example, we
created the Double Dawgs Program to help students earn
bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years. This program covers a range of areas critical to Georgia’s future,
from agribusiness to artificial intelligence.
At the same time, we have also launched programs to
address emerging sectors in Georgia’s growing economy.
A good example is the Master of Fine Arts in Film, Television, and Digital Media that we launched in 2019 in partnership with the Georgia Film Academy and Pinewood
Forest. The first of its kind in Georgia, this interdisciplinary program is preparing students for successful careers
while accelerating one of our state’s leading industries.
PK To follow up, how many of UGA’s undergraduate population hail from Georgia, and how many graduates who
enter the workforce get jobs in Georgia?
any school in the nation, all the while helping to keep our
student athletes and fans safe. The Athletic Association
has also capably managed the financial impacts of the
pandemic. Many athletic departments across the nation
instituted painful lay-offs and furloughs. But due to our
strong leadership and the extraordinary generosity of
UGA alumni and fans, we avoided such difficult actions.
Just as importantly, our student-athletes were able to
safely learn and compete at the highest levels despite a
very, very challenging environment. That is no small task,
and I am very proud of everyone in our Athletic Association who worked so hard to make it happen.
Jm Yes. The University of Georgia has had— and will continue to have— speakers on our campus that represent a
diversity of backgrounds and opinions. Our policies also
recognize the rights of individuals and campus organizations to host outside speakers and express their viewpoints in a variety of ways.
At UGA, there are no rights more highly regarded
than the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of
speech and expression. In fact, given the divisions of our
society, I believe that open dialogue and respectful consideration of different viewpoints may be more important now than ever before. The Supreme Court recently
characterized public schools as “nurseries of democracy”
that play a critical role in protecting the “marketplace
of ideas,” and this role is essential to our mission at the
university. To fulfill that mission, the University of Georgia
must be a place that fosters a rich diversity of thought and
civil, intellectual discourse over divergent ideas.
Phil Kent is CEO & publisher of James and InsiderAdvantage Georgia.
PK Student tuition and related college costs present a big
Jm Last year, approximately 85% of our undergraduate
students hailed from Georgia, and we anticipate that
our enrollment will look similar this year. Meanwhile,
our most recent career outcomes data are for the Class
of 2020. Ninety-one percent of our 2020 graduates
were employed or attending graduate school within six
months of graduation, and of those who accepted fulltime employment, nearly three-quarters began working
in Georgia. I am very proud of these statistics, for they
clearly demonstrate the special relationship between
UGA and the state it proudly calls home.
PK Many loyal Georgia Bulldog alums missed attending
athletic events due to the impact of COVID-19. How did
those challenges affect your athletic programs in terms of
safety and operations?
Jm I couldn’t be prouder of how our Athletic Association
has navigated the pandemic. The entire team, including our outstanding administrators, coaches, training
staff and students have done a superb job. While having
attendance limitations across our 2020-2021 athletic
events was difficult for everyone, I believe our Athletic
Association maximized operational efficiencies as well as
obstacle for all too many parents and students. What are
your thoughts on how UGA can provide an affordable,
Jm The University has worked hard to build a culture of
efficiency, with the aim of promoting affordability for our
students and their families. We have partnered closely with the University System of Georgia in this effort,
and affordability is a goal widely embraced by our many
In recent years, we have eliminated laboratory and
course material fees for our students. We have also instituted a program to help faculty transition from costly
textbooks to open and affordable course materials, resulting in over $1.4 million in annual savings to our students.
Meanwhile, student scholarships have been a core component of our fundraising efforts. Over the past five years,
for example, UGA alumni and friends have created over
600 endowed, need-based awards through our Georgia
Commitment Scholarship Program, accounting for nearly
$90 million in new commitments to need-based aid. As
a result of these and other efforts, UGA has consistently
ranked as a top-value university.
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