After hitting a number of rough spots in its first year of consolidation, Georgia Regents University is looking for a smoother course in the coming year, Provost Gretchen Caughman said.
Asked to provide a headline for year two, she said, “Continuing the course and picking up speed.”
The University System of Georgia Board of Regents officially approved the consolidation in January of Georgia Health Sciences and Augusta State universities after a year of work to consolidate the two. The new university hit a snag soon after when it erased in brochures for prospective students the Augusta State logo from its championship golf team and other athletes. The furor over that forced President Ricardo Azziz to publicly apologize but that and lingering resentment of Augusta not being part of the new university’s official continued.
“There are detractors,” Caughman acknowledged. “There are certainly people who will continue and probably will not be moved off their position and that’s their right.”
But even more so, she said, people have “moved on. They may not have agreed. They may not have liked it. Certainly that was something they may have been very vocal about. But they really want to support this university and its place in the local community and the good that it does do. And help to try and steer us the way we need to go. I’m very optimistic about it.”
The new year will provide a chance for more community involvement as the university looks at its masters facilities planning and the city’s proposal to use the former textile mills as part of an expanded campus.
“We have a lot of things surrounding that, a lot of opportunities, lots of things to consider in terms of a partnership with the city and what may involve the Mills district and how that may work into the plan,” Caughman said.
The university topped the year by coming through the accreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools with a clean bill of health and have actually progressed on the health side’s eight-year plan by hiring 52 new research faculty and 44 replacement faculty, she said. There is an ongoing need to balance the two former university’s different cultures but that is true at any comprehensive university, Caughman said.
“We are very diverse,” she said. “But we all need to get to a point of understanding that, understanding different people’s roles and appreciating that.”
Having done much of the detailed work on consolidation, “I think we are really at the point of setting a fairly clear course,” Caughman said. “And some of that will be more clear in the months to come.”
It also means setting a course for well beyond that, she said.
“My view of things is we are taking care of tomorrow but we are looking a decade away, two decades away,” Caughman said. “We’re really building that future out there.”