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Jere Morehead, 61, President of the University of Georgia from Lakeland, Florida, gives the annual State of the University speech at the UGA Chapel on Wednesday, January 24, 2017. (Photo/Jason Born)

University of Georgia President Jere Morehead delivered the annual State of the University Address on Jan. 24 discussing UGA’s accomplishments and goals.

Specifically, he addressed the three major priorities he announced at last year’s address: increasing scholarship support, enhancing the learning environment and solving grand challenges.

“During my State of the University Address last year, I announced the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program, a major endowment initiative to create hundreds of new need-based scholarships to support students from low income backgrounds,” Morehead said. “In just 12 months, [our alumni and friends] have established more than 200 need-based scholarships …That’s countless lives, countless futures forever changed.”

Morehead said the program hopes to establish more than 400 scholarships by the end of the capital campaign. In other fundraising, Morehead said UGA broke its fundraising record for the fourth year in a row, with 227 million raised among over 68,000 donors. Morehead also announced the creation of financial support for financially struggling students close to graduation. 

“Each year around 200 of our seniors making steady progress towards earning degrees struggle to stay in school because they cannot make ends meet, and some even withdraw,” Morehead said. “Unfortunately this is a national problem, but at the University of Georgia, we intend to do something about it." 

Morehead said he was directing $250,000 in private funding to Office of Student Financial Aid to establish a pilot program starting this semester that awards completion grants of up to $2,000 to at-risk seniors.

Morehead then moved on to discuss his priority of improving the learning environment. He cited improvements in rankings including U.S. News and World Report, improved retention rates and renovation projects around campus as evidence of UGA’s institutional growth, but he said there were still advances to be done.

Morehead said the goals for this year come from recommendations made by the President’s Tax Force on Student Learning and Success. Based on these recommendations, Morehead said curriculum will begin to emphasize writing skills, date literacy and active learning.

For the active learning initiative, Morehead said he was allocating $1 million to renovate select classrooms to create an environment conducive to team work and active learning. He also announced 300,000 in support for rural students in the form of a mentorship and academic support program

Morehead then moved on to the third priority of solving grand challenges. As part of this priority, UGA established the Institute for Cybersecurity and Privacy to research cybersecurity and also run the CyberArch program which aims to protect small business and agencies across Georgia.

Morehead said a hiring initiative for research scientists has been established, and research spending across all disciplines is at an all time high. Additionally, a task force has been established to create an “innovation district."

“We are making education better, we are making the world better,” said Morehead in his closing remarks. “If we resolve never to let up and continue charging forward at this thrilling pace, I am convinced that when history books are written a hundred years from now, the University of Georgia will be held up as a model for how the American land-grant university transformed in the 21st century to expand its impact on its own state, on the nation and on the world.”

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