University of Georgia President Jere Morehead presents the State of the University address at the UGA North Chapel on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. In the address, President Moorehead emphasized record-high numbers of graduation rates, standardized test scores of incoming freshmen and the university’s economic impact on the state of Georgia. (Photo/Gabriella Audi, www.gabbyaudi10.wixsite.com/mysite-1)

At the 2019 State of the University address, University of Georgia President Jere Morehead reflected on the school’s achievements over the past five years in areas including graduation rates and looked to plans, including an innovation district, for 2019 and beyond.

“When I took office, we imagined a university where students learn and succeed at the highest levels,” Morehead said in his opening remarks. “That university, my friends, is a reality today.”

Graduation rates, rankings and more research

Morehead stated that 68 percent of UGA students now finish college in four years, calling this “an all-time high for this institution.” In 6 years or less, 86 percent finish college, another record high, Morehead said.

Morehead also pointed to UGA’s recent achievements in rankings as reflecting the institution’s increase in quality. In the fall, UGA achieved its highest ever listing at No. 13 in th 2019 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings. Morehead also stated that during the five years of his presidency, each freshmen class has been the most talented on record.

“These metrics, however, tell only part of the story,” Morehead said.

During the 2018 State of the University address, Morehead revealed a plan for an innovation district at the University of Georgia, headed by a task force created in December 2017. Morehead described the task force’s plan to create an “integrated set of facilities,” on University land on or around Broad and Oconee Streets, a process which Morehead said is underway and should be completed in the fall.

To support this incentive, Morehead remarked on UGA’s near 30 percent increase in total research and development expenditures over the past five years, which saw spending of $453 million this past year alone. Additionally, UGA was ranked No. 1 “among American universities for driving new products to the marketplace,” Morehead said.

Morehead said this innovation district will help UGA continue its positive trajectory.

To get the innovative district off the ground, Morehead announced a three-part initiative including a semester-long Innovation Fellows program, Startup-Mentor-in-Residence program and Dawg Camp Innovate program.

The Innovation Fellows program is for faculty to “commercialize their ideas and inventions and build strong industry partnerships around their research,” Morehead said. The Startup-Mentor-in-Residence program will focus on bringing “talented industry executives with startup experience to our campus.”

Innovate Dawg Camp, launching this summer, will “blend student success and leadership programs with entrepreneurship education.”

In addition to the university’s innovative district initiative for 2020, Morehead said a 30-person committee, lead by six deans and coordinated jointly by the Office of the President and the Office of the Provost, has created a new five-year plan to go into effect next year.

“The plan will consist of measurable goals related to three mission-centered strategic directions: promoting excellence in teaching and learning; growing research, innovation and entrepreneurship; and strengthening partnerships with communities in Georgia and around the world,” Morehead said.

Continuing where they left off

In the continuity of old initiatives, Morehead announced phase two of the New Approaches to Promote Diversity and Inclusion grant program, which focuses on the promotion, recruitment, retention and success of underserved students, and began fall 2017 with more than 20 on-campus projects.

Phase two will provide additional funding for programs from phase one that “demonstrated greatest promise for impact” and continued funding for new initiatives for underrepresented, first-generation, rural and other types of underserved students.

Morehead referred to the university’s fifth consecutive HEED award as evidence of its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“Are we where we want to be? No, not yet, but I believe we are making steady progress,” Morehead said on the university’s achievements in diversity. “This progress must continue if we want to realize our full potential as a public land-grant university.”

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