The faculty at the University of Georgia will be busier than it has in the past through an edict from its new president to leave the confines of Athens and assist the economic health of the state.
Jere Morehead, who became president July 1, told Augusta business leaders Tuesday that a focus of his administration is to use the “intellectual capital” of the university to aid the state’s economy.
“In the college of engineering, students and faculty are now conducting small business energy audits in the Augusta area. They are identifying ways to bring about annual savings for those businesses,” Morehead said. “Those are the kinds of things that our faculty and students ought to be doing as a service.”
Morehead, speaking at the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce’s economic luncheon, said the faculty members’ response to his desire for them to do more outside the classroom and be more directly connected to the people in the state has been positive.
“I’m hoping that as I keep delivering this message, not only here but back on campus, that we’ll have everybody energized that we want UGA involved anywhere to make a positive difference in the communities,” he said.
One of the first initiatives of the president’s office was outreach in Atlanta as a staffer became involved with state economic development agencies and identified potential clients for faculty assistance.
“His belief is that the university canvasses the entire state and the outreach that he’s going to focus on will make us better, more vibrant,” said Susan Hunnicutt, Wells Fargo’s president in Augusta. “It is so much more than what happens in the city of Athens. Just to hear that be emphasized to those of us in Augusta was great.”
Mayor Deke Copenhaver said his takeaway from Morehead’s address was that universities are the driving economic engines for the state.
“It is becoming more apparent to me successful, highly ranked universities throughout your state is key to the economic future of the state,” he said.
Morehead said one of the most promising collaborations from UGA has been the medical partnership with Georgia Regents University. Classes at the Medical College of Georgia’s campus in Athens began in 2010, with the first class to graduate in 2014.
“The quality of those students has been outstanding,” he said. “Our two institutions have worked very closely together to build a successful medical partnership. I think the Athens medical community has embraced the partnership.”