Georgia College celebrates milestone accomplishments from strategic plan

Georgia College celebrates milestone accomplishments from strategic plan

I n 2016, Georgia College enacted a new, bold strategic plan. The goals guide the university on its continued path to preeminence.

From 2019-20, the university was able to make major strides in a number of key areas. All that despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Noteworthy accomplishments include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Hiring an admissions recruiter specifically for African American students
  • A 15 percent increase in student participation in high-impact practices as part of GC Journeys
  • An increase in student giving from 1 percent in 2015 to 32 percent in 2019
  • More than 400 faculty and staff participating in 26 workshops offered by the Center for Teaching and Learning.

The university also achieved its highest 4-year graduation rate (51.2 percent), and The Graduate School noted record enrollment.

“One of the main strengths of our plan is knowing that units do not work independently or in silos on particular goals,” said Dr. Chavonda Mills, chair of the Department of Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy. “We recognize that there are multiple units across campus working collaboratively toward meeting the goals. That's a strength of not only our plan but a strength of the culture of Georgia College— that we're able to share information or knowledge across departments and do it well.”

Drs. Holley Roberts (left) and Chavonda Mills (right).
Drs. Holley Roberts (left) and Chavonda Mills (right).

Mills and Dr. Holley Roberts, interim associate provost and director of The Graduate School, currently serve as co-chairs of the steering committee. They work to guide committees and continue to monitor the completion of goals, as well as help set new ones.

“Something that's really important is that our strategic plan is a living, breathing document,” said Roberts. “We're accomplishing things on the plan, and then we're also adding new action items to the plan.”  

“It doesn’t just sit on a shelf, and we check back in at the end of five years,” she added. “We check continuously on everything in the plan and move on to new goals, once others are accomplished.”

The continued forward motion of the plan is important. Many things have changed since 2015 when the planning process first began.

“Our university has evolved. Higher education has evolved over that time,” said Mills. “If we did not view the plan as a fluid, living document, we would be behind in the trends instead of responding to them in real-time.”

“There were some initiatives that weren't under consideration in 2015," Mills added. "The example most relevant to my area is the Integrated Science Complex. There's no mention of this capital project in the plan. However, construction of the state-of-the-art science complex contributes in some capacity to all six strategic plan goals.” 

Integrated Science Complex ground breaking in Feb. 2020.
Integrated Science Complex ground breaking in Feb. 2020.

As much as changing trends and campus needs impacted the goals and direction of the university, the COVID-19 pandemic brought even more unprecedented challenges and led to an extension of the current strategic plan.

 “This whole academic year, we were supposed to be gearing up and seeking guidance to move into a new strategic plan in the fall,” said Roberts, “But, because of COVID-19, we postponed it for a year. Now that President Dorman has announced he is stepping away, we're extending it for another year, so we will be in our current strategic plan for one more year.”

 The extension of the current plan hasn’t stopped the momentum. New goals continue to be added and now we can go back and assess some of the previous goals we’ve put in place to see if any changes are needed Roberts said.   

Before Mills and Roberts led the committee, Dr. Mark Pelton, associate vice president for strategic initiatives, was at the helm.

Dr. Mark Pelton
Dr. Mark Pelton

He worked with colleagues across the university to identify the 14 subcommittees, which represent most areas of the university. From 2015-2017, Pelton worked with Chris Ferland, associate vice president of institutional research and effectiveness, as co-facilitators of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee. They worked alongside co-chairs Dale Young and Andy Lewter. In 2017, Pelton became the chair and served as chair or co-chair until mid-2020.

“While I’m very proud of the progress that strategic plan champions have made in accomplishing dozens of important action items—and especially the development of the GC Journeys program—I’m most proud that the Steering Committee created a strategic plan that is a living document which evolves from year to year,” said Pelton. “Progress toward action item accomplishments is measured on an annual basis, and changes and additions to action items are annually recommended to Executive Cabinet.”

University strategic plans should keep students as the primary focus. We’ve been very intentional about that, and it’s reflected in the successes that we've reported on.
– Dr. Chavonda Mills

“As a result of the hard work of the Steering Committee and numerous faculty, staff and students, for the first time in its 132-year history, Georgia College has a strategic plan that is fully implemented, regularly assessed and modified as needed,” Pelton added.

And although there’s much to celebrate, administrators say the work isn’t over. With a “what’s next” attitude, leaders will continue to work to ensure Georgia College provides students an exceptional education. 

“Our plan is student-centered, and the goals ultimately are to the benefit of our students,” said Mills. “That is how it should be. University strategic plans should keep students as the primary focus. We’ve been very intentional about that, and it’s reflected in the successes that we've reported on.”