In his first State of the University address since arriving as president a little over two years ago, President Brooks Keel gave those at the Maxwell Theatre on the Summerville Campus – as well as those livestreaming the speech at sites across the state – a punchy and often frank assessment of the state of the university.
Before launching into the details, however, he first thanked the Augusta University family for its hard work.
“We could not carry on this mission without you,” he said.
The list of successes was long and substantial – increased enrollment, the creation of the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences, a full Oak Hall, the opening next year of the M. Bert Storey Cancer Research Building and the Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center, the expansion of some offices to the former Wells Fargo Building, which will soon sport the Augusta University shield.
Keel made particular note of the relocation of the College of Science and Mathematics to the Health Sciences Campus, which he said would help market the university to undergraduates interested in pursuing the sciences.
“It’s also going to allow the other colleges on this campus to expand, and do it in a way that doesn’t disturb the natural beauty of the Summerville Campus,” he said.
Additional investments, including the $3 – $4 million already spent to update Allgood Hall and the $4.5 million allocated to renovate the Fine Arts Center, brought smiles to many in attendance.
Keel didn’t shy away from the challenges, however, especially those involving parking.
“I’ve got some bad news for you,” he said. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
The introduction of the College of Science and Mathematics to the Health Sciences Campus alone will eliminate 350 parking spots on the already crowded campus.
“There’s no question that we’re going to have to push parking out to the perimeters,” he said. “That’s just what happens when you grow as a university like this. You make the center of the campus more student-friendly and more patient-friendly.”
Other challenges Keel identified included growing the amount of research funding received, bolstering Georgia’s rural health deficits, funding the construction of the Columbia County hospital, raising the $350 million needed to replace the Talmadge wing of the medical center and closing the gap between the number of clinical faculty and the number of medical students at the Medical College of Georgia.
Keel ended the address by touting the new strategic plan, Beyond Boundaries.
“It’s an opportunity to transform the challenges I just talked about into opportunities,” he said.
He called the plan exciting and doable.