Written by Whitten: Year-End Gratitude

ProvostPamelaWhittenTo celebrate the end of the year, the UGA Alumni Association is featuring a post from Written by Whitten, Provost Pamela Whitten’s blog. 

As we approach the end of 2015, the University of Georgia community has so much to be proud of—and so much to look forward to in 2016.

Our students set several new academic records that reflect their extraordinary talent and the outstanding instruction and mentorship they receive from our faculty. Our freshman retention rate, for example, climbed by a full percentage point to reach a record 95.2 percent, and our six-year graduation rate climbed to 85.3 percent.

Students in our Honors Program earned some of the world’s top academic awards—including the Marshall, Truman and Udall Scholarships—and our faculty members received some of the nation’s most competitive teaching awards. In one notable example, UGA was the only university in the nation with two recipients of the Beckman Award for teaching excellence—Dawn D. Bennett-Alexander in the Terry College of Business and Melisa “Misha” Cahnmann-Taylor in the College of Education.

Our research enterprise surged forward, as well, with a 7 percent increase in external funding in the past fiscal year. Some notable grants this year include $18.8 million for Athletic Association Professor Samantha Joye’s ongoing work to investigate the long-term effects of the BP oil spill; an $8.2 million project led by associate professor Ted Futris in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences to improve the lives of children and families in the child welfare system; and a $1.9 million grant to professor Richard Gordon to make UGA’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute a National Resource Center for Latin American Studies. The success of these faculty members and many others in garnering support for their research in an extremely competitive funding environment is an indication of the quality of their work and its impact on our nation and world. Our faculty members are truly leaders in their fields.

Our dedicated faculty and staff in our Public Service and Outreach units reached across the state to strengthen the economy and enhance quality of life. Our Small Business Development Center, one of eight PSO units, worked with more than 4,700 business owners and prospective entrepreneurs to help create more than 3,000 new jobs and launch more than 330 new businesses. Marine Extension recently opened the state’s first oyster hatchery to help revive a once-thriving coastal industry, and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government trained more than 22,000 elected officials and public employees.

And last but certainly not least, our alumni and other supporters helped us achieve a new fundraising record that will result in more scholarship support for students and more endowed chairs to help attract and retain the world’s top faculty.

The accomplishments noted above and the many others that are too numerous to be listed here are the result of the dedication of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and other supporters. As 2015 draws to a close and we prepare for 2016, I’d like to once again express my appreciation for the many people who make the University of Georgia one of the nation’s leading public universities.