Dr. Brooks A. Keel held his first Town Hall meeting as president of Augusta University on Monday, Dec. 7, in the Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium.
The meeting, which took place on Keel’s 141st day in office, was for many students, faculty and staff the first opportunity to ask questions directly of the new president and his senior staff.
Keel began his address with a nod to the recent past, reminding those in attendance that although Augusta University has a 187-year legacy, the consolidation between Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University is only three years in the making.
He also noted that consolidation has presented unique challenges and opportunities, but that the changes are still coming.
“I think we have a great opportunity as we move forward as a consolidated university to accomplish some really great things,” Keel said. “I applaud you for your wisdom, your vision and your stick-to-itiveness to hang with us as we go through these changes, but the changes aren’t over yet.”
Keel thanked faculty and staff for their ability to continue moving forward, noting that no one was likely to choose a career where everything remained the same.
“Waking up to see the same thing every single day for a couple of weeks might be nice,” he joked, “but every single day forever, you know, is not possible.”
Keel also took the opportunity to address several concerns related to the name change. Some of those changes include:
- The Dental College of Georgia – As of Dec. 1, the former College of Dental Medicine has been renamed The Dental College of Georgia.
- GRHealth and GRMC – GRHealth and GRMC will retain their current names as their respective boards meet in the coming weeks to decide upon new names. The naming process is part of an ongoing effort to centrally brand the Augusta University name.
- Augustus – We are not changing our mascot. Augustus will retain his name after the name change, and we will remain the Augusta University Jaguars.
In addition, Keel noted several other changes coming in Augusta University’s near future and answered several audience questions with the aid of senior staff members. Some of the answers provided include:
- The James M. Hull College of Business – The search is still underway for a new dean of the Hull College of Business. Dr. Zach Kelehear, dean of the College of Education, is chairing the search committee.
- The Cancer Center – The Cancer Center at Augusta University will be expanding to provide more clinical and research space. Seventy-two thousand square feet of new space will be added, including construction over Laney Walker Boulevard, and 6,000 square feet of space will be renovated to accommodate the expansion.
- Student Housing – New student housing on the Health Sciences Campus is projected to be complete by fall 2016. Keel noted that the completion of the new housing units is only the first of multiple housing projects planned for the university.
- Student Center – The improvements to the Student Center on the Health Sciences Campus are projected to be complete in time for the opening of new student housing in fall of 2016.
- The College of Science and Mathematics – The College of Science and Mathematics will be relocated to the Health Sciences Campus to give other colleges room to expand into existing Summerville Campus structures.
- Chief Operating Officer – Shawn Vincent has been named interim chief operating officer.
- GRMC CEO – The search is underway for a new CEO of Georgia Regents Medical Center. Keel said he hoped to find a new CEO by summer of 2016.
- Chief of Police – The search is still underway for a new Augusta University chief of police. The search is currently down to two finalists. Both finalists will visit campus in the coming weeks.
- STEM pipeline – Keel emphasized the importance of making Augusta University a destination of choice for students interested in STEM-related careers by creating a pipeline between the university’s undergraduate and graduate STEM degree programs.
- Cybersecurity – Keel also stressed the importance of cultivating a “cyber village” of community and government partners to continue to make Augusta a destination city for cybersecurity careers.
- Enrollment – In addition to addressing the current freeze of the Freshman Index increase, Keel noted the importance of raising future enrollment numbers.
- edu – In the coming months, we will be transitioning to the augusta.edu domain name. During the transition, and for 12 months after, the gru.edu domain will redirect to augusta.edu. The transition process will not begin until after the fall 2015 exam period has finished.
- 4 Years 4 U – Eighty-five percent of currently enrolled students are taking 15 credit hours of classes per semester.
- Laney Walker Boulevard – Keel projected that Laney Walker Boulevard would be open to through traffic again by late January or early February.
- Parking – Tony Wagner, executive vice president of administration and finance and chief business officer, addressed parking concerns by stating that the university was in the process of finding solutions to parking problems on campus. More about the university’s plans for addressing parking changes can be found on Jagwire. (Read: New director of parking and transportation promises change)
Unfortunately, due to time constraints, Keel and his staff could not answer every question asked. Be sure to check Jagwire in the coming days for an updated list of questions and answers from Monday’s Town Hall.
In the meantime, Keel stressed that faculty, staff and students remember perhaps the most important point of his address:
“We have changed our name,” Keel said, “but we have the same mission, the same vision and the same values.”