Guest editorial: GSW Interim President Charles Patterson

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, November 10, 2016

110 years

This November, Georgia Southwestern State University will mark its 110-year anniversary as an institution of higher education in Americus, Georgia. Founded as the Third District Agricultural and Mechanical School in 1906, the institution has gone through many remarkable transformations, becoming a two-year college in 1926, a four-year institution in 1964, and renamed to Georgia Southwestern State University in July 1996. Since this time, the University has continued to develop bachelor’s and master’s programs to serve students in Southwest Georgia and beyond. These transformations were implemented to support the changing educational needs of the institution’s service area and to expand opportunities for higher learning throughout Southwest Georgia and the State. Positive and planned transformation is healthy for higher education and for the communities in which they serve.
On the morning of Friday, Nov. 4, approximately 250 members of the Georgia Southwestern family embarked on a quest to individually serve at least 110 minutes of service in the greater Americus community to commemorate the University’s 110-year anniversary. Our faculty, staff and students, donning the University’s trademark blue colors, committed themselves to this “Day of Service,” by assisting one of several local partnering organizations. Partners included Sumter County Primary School, Furlow Charter School, Sumter Humane Society, Harvest of Hope Food Pantry, Fuller Center for Housing, Americus Main Street, Boys and Girls Club of Americus/Sumter County, Sumter County Recreation Department and the Georgia Southwestern campus. In total, over 650 hours of service were provided. I could not be more proud of the show of force that our Georgia Southwestern Hurricanes exhibited in completing these projects for the betterment of our community.
A commitment to service is one of the transformational elements of the University’s emerging vision. In January 2015, the University’s faculty, staff and students began developing the University’s new Strategic Plan, a detailed roadmap that will determine the University’s future priorities for the next five to seven years. A portion of this Strategic Plan describes the University’s aspirations of becoming an “Institution of Community Engagement,” an elective designation bestowed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The pursuit of this designation means that Georgia Southwestern faculty, staff and students are pursuing opportunities to be engaged, both in and out of the classroom, with local, regional, national and global communities. Approximately 360 institutions nationwide have received this designation to-date, having demonstrated their commitment to improving teaching and learning, pursuing scholarly outcomes that make a positive difference in communities, revitalizing their communities through civic engagement and integration of the institutions’ academic programs.
Today, Georgia Southwestern State University continues a rich tradition of serving the residents of Southwest Georgia and an increasingly diverse population outside our immediate area. The University’s enrollment this fall has increased almost 10 percent in the last two years to a total of 2954 students. The University is emerging as the institution of first choice by prospective students, and this fall we enrolled more first-time freshmen since the escalation of the Vietnam War.
We are truly fortunate to see the growth of Georgia Southwestern’s enrollment at this point in our 110-year history, and to have such dedicated leaders among the ranks of our faculty, staff and students to help support the University’s collective vision. There is a strong drive towards revitalization among all of our surrounding communities and the University is proud to be at the table as a contributor and partner in many of these initiatives. Together we are making Georgia Southwestern State University and Southwest Georgia a destination of choice.

Charles Patterson, Ed.D., is the interim president of Georgia Southwestern State University.