Despite the cold and rain, several members of the faculty, student body and Athens community came to hear Jere Morehead deliver the annual State of the University address on Wednesday, Jan. 20, in the university chapel.
The event was described by Chair of the Executive Committee of University Council, David Shipley, as “one of the great traditions of this university”.
Undergraduate education was a primary focus for UGA during the past year, Morehead said.
The Experiential Learning Initiative, approved by the University Council in April and effective for this fall, is just one of UGA's approaches to providing high-quality education to undergraduates, Morehead said in his speech.
"Through undergraduate research, internships, study abroad, service-learning, and other significant learning experiences, UGA students will learn to leverage course content against pressing issues beyond the classroom walls," Morehead said.
Students will learn to enhance problem-solving and critical thinking skills through experiential learning and will be more prepared from their future careers or continued education, he said.
Morehead also approved the addition of $500,000 to the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, after its first successful year in 2014.
Every student who won a national academic scholarship this past year had participated in CURO, Morehead said, attributing to its success.
Morehead emphasized the importance of the American Research University by saying, “it is our obligation to extend the frontiers of knowledge through research that shapes the world for the better.”
The university also used $4 million to hire 56 new faculty during the past year and created 300 new course sections to provide more opportunities to students, the president said.
UGA has also reached a record retention rate at 95.2 percent and admitted another record breaking class of early-action first years, Morehead said.
"The University also advanced a number of capital projects in 2015 to enhance the learning environment for students," Morehead said.
Such projects include the Science Learning Center, Correll Hall and expansions on Baldwin Hall.
In the coming year, the university will also search for support to renovate Clark Howell Hall, which houses the Career Center, he said.
"The Disability Resource Center and University Testing Services also are located in Clark Howell Hall and would benefit greatly from the renovation," Morehead said.
The responsibility UGA has to it its community was also a common thread throughout Morehead’s speech.
UGA research initiatives in regards to human health, land sustainability and family and consumer sciences were among the wide range of university sponsored research that will impact Georgia's community in the coming year.
UGA serves the state of Georgia as an 'economic catalyst', spurring development in various sectors of the economy. For example, UGA's Small Business Development Center has helped nearly 3,400 entrepreneurs start their own businesses and created more than 20,000 new jobs.
"Although the mission of the University of Georgia is becoming increasingly international in scope, the state's flagship institution remains firmly rooted at home. "
Due to the invaluable stake UGA holds in the local, national and global community, Morehead said the greatest threat to the university is stagnation.
UGA’s acceptance of Washington Monthly’s award for the third best public school value in the Southeast, the plethora of construction projects on campus and the increased number of faculty positions are just some of the examples that ensure UGA is far from stagnation.
"UGA is ever becoming a magnet for talent and faculty," Morehead said.