January 13, 2013

John O. Schwenn: ‘Ambitious plan’ 2 years later

Two years ago, The Daily Citizen published an editorial entitled “Let’s get started on college’s ambitious plan” which referred to our 10-year master plans for our campus and academic programs as “audacious.”

We’re now two years into that timetable which seems to be a good time to review our progress on some of those audacious plans.

We said we expected construction of our new science building to be under way within two years, and it is. Work is progressing at a brisk pace at the site on George Rice Drive between Bandy Gym and Sequoya Hall, and we expect to occupy the building late spring 2014.

We said we expected work to begin to expand student housing on the south end of our campus and to expand the Pope Student Center. A demand study has been completed, and we are hoping for Board of Regents approval soon so we can move forward with these important public-private venture projects.

An athletics feasibility study, mentioned in the editorial, was completed, and we now have a program in place. Play will begin this fall in men’s basketball, volleyball, men’s and women’s tennis, golf, cross country and competitive cheer.

The editorial cited our plans to expand Bandy Gym; design work has begun following approval by the Board of Regents. In addition to making Bandy Gym more suitable for Roadrunner athletics and student use, we are collaborating with other city, county and community agencies and organizations to use their venues for athletic events as well.

The editorial also cited our plans to expand academic programming to include more bachelor degree programs to fill a pipeline with highly educated graduates ready to meet regional workforce needs. The process of getting a new degree program launched is a lengthy one. Last year, we added the bachelor’s degree in nursing and hope to graduate our first 20 BSNs in May. Proposals for bachelor’s programs in interdisciplinary studies and psychology have been submitted, and a four-year program in respiratory therapy is nearly ready to go to the Board of Regents for approval.

Participation in two of our most recently introduced bachelor’s programs — chemistry and biology — has taken off since they were introduced just a few short years ago. We work closely with local employers to adjust our programs and explore internship opportunities to ensure our graduates have the knowledge and skills they need to meet real world needs.

Our “audacious” goal of 8,000 students by 2021 may seem ambitious in light of our recent dip in enrollment, but we believe we will make it up over the next few years. There have been external factors that have impacted enrollment at all the state colleges in the system but as we expand student housing and our athletics program gets rolling, we will cast a wider net for prospective students, reaching further into the Atlanta area and beyond. We believe more students and their families will find that Dalton State can be the right fit for them.

So call the plan audacious, but we’re pleased with the progress that has been made in just the first two years, and we look forward to making future reports.

John O. Schwenn is the president of Dalton State College.

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