From Mission Impossible to Mission Accomplished in One Short Year

It began with one employee and a mission that seemed close to impossible: create a college from scratch. Get it up and running within a year. And make it succeed. Add to these necessities, the Regents want a new type of college, one that would use innovative learning technology and also address growing national concerns involving retention and graduation. No small task indeed.

Lawrenceville, GA – It began with one employee and a mission that seemed close to impossible: create a college from scratch. Get it up and running within a year. And make it succeed. Add to these necessities, the Regents want a new type of college, one that would use innovative learning technology and also address growing national concerns involving retention and graduation. No small task indeed.

Retired Brigadier General Daniel J. Kaufman, former chief academic officer of the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., took on the challenge in October 2005 when he signed on as president and the first employee of an as-yet-unnamed college in Gwinnett County, Georgia, one of the nation’s fastest growing counties. Now, one year later, the mission of starting a new college is accomplished. Georgia Gwinnett College students attended their first classes at the 170-acre Lawrenceville campus on August 18.

A confluence of personal interests brought Kaufman to the position. On retiring from West Point in June 2005, he set his sights on the southeast for his next “tour of duty.”

“My wife, Kathryn, and I both grew up in Brunswick, Georgia, and our parents still live there,” he explains. “Our son David lives in Charlotte, N.C., and our daughter Emily and granddaughter Emma live in Greenville, S.C. We wanted to be closer to all of them.”

“I wanted to remain in education,” he adds, “and the Gwinnett position intrigued me – president of a college with no identity, no faculty and no curriculum. I applied and interviewed with representatives of the University System of Georgia (USG) and members of the Board of Regents. I also met with community business leaders at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. The hiring process was a bit unusual, but so was the position.”

“You Need a General . . .”
On hearing the details of the position and the extent of the challenges involved, Kaufman told his interviewers, “You need a general.”

The opportunities offered by the job ensured a pool of strong candidates from which the USG and the Board of Regents could choose. It was Kaufman’s unique combination of talent and experience, and an outstanding interview that won the position for him.

“Dr. Kaufman possesses the educational training and project skills necessary for the job, and a tremendous background in international affairs,” says Rob Watts, chief of staff for the USG and leader of the search for GGC’s first president. “His experience dovetails perfectly with the mission of the college and with the Gwinnett County business community, which includes the largest number of international and high-technology businesses in the state.”

“Dan Kaufman understands that mission, and he possesses the academic skill set, the character, and the leadership experience necessary to guide Georgia Gwinnett College through its early years,” Watts says. “He’s an asset to the college, to the community, and to the University System of Georgia.”

Understanding the Mission
“We decided on the name Georgia Gwinnett College in a meeting with community leaders last October,“ Kaufman says. “I think it’s a good name because it reflects our relationship with the community and the state. Our mission is to establish a four-year institution to educate tomorrow’s workforce and to serve as a model campus in the use of educational technology, innovative teaching methods, and highly-efficient student and administrative services.”

With these marching orders, Kaufman assembled his troops and began the campaign, adding key reinforcements along the way: Eddie Beauchamp, vice president for business and finance; Gordon Harrison, vice president for advancement; Stanley Preczewski, vice president for academic and student affairs; and Lonnie Harvel, vice president for educational technology.

“The opening of the college was a signal event,” says Kaufman. “We had the programs developed, implemented and underway in one short year, starting from scratch and with a great deal of support from the Gwinnett community. But we still have much to do.”

Thinking Like Tomorrow
GGC’s learning environments are supported by technology that makes learning enjoyable, flexible, and transferable between classroom, home and work. “Innovation and creativity in the use of educational technology are hallmarks of the college,” says Kaufman. “All of our classrooms are ‘smart’ classrooms. We are developing a blend of hybrid courses that include virtual chat rooms and other online options allowing students to learn at home and at the office as well as in the classroom.”

“As a college of the 21st century, we are committed to thinking like ‘tomorrow’ in designing our programs and organizing our departments,” he adds. “But the heart of the institution is the interaction between teachers and students.”

Constructing the Future
Georgia Gwinnett College is poised for growth. Kaufman notes that the campus is one of the most beautiful sites in the County, with some 200 acres of rolling terrain, large stands of hardwoods and pines, and perfectly suited for a metropolitan college campus. Campus facilities currently consist of three contemporary buildings, one of them designed by noted architect John Portman.

A ceremony celebrating a new academic facility took place earlier this fall, and construction is well on its way. In the immediate future are parking decks for students and faculty in December and a $28 million library learning and resource center if the Governor and Legislature approves a Regents’ recommendation.

“The Regents were very accommodating in approving our strategic need for a library,” says Kaufman. “Another need we must plan for is a student center – we have no facilities currently for student activities.”

An architectural design firm, Sasaki and Associates, is developing a master plan for the college to ensure the best use of the available acreage. “We have a clear sense of what our needs will be now and in the future,” says Kaufman. “We want to do it right, with an eye toward accommodating a student body of 10-15,000 by the year 2015.”

“To Educate, Train and Inspire . . .”
Daniel Kaufman’s leadership abilities stem from an impressive military and academic career. Prior to his position as chief academic officer at West Point, he was professor and head of the Department of Social Sciences there, teaching international relations, comparative politics, national security affairs, U.S. foreign policy, and American politics and government.

His work ethic and commitment to education at GGC echo the words of West Point’s mission statement, which reads in part: “To educate, train, and inspire . . . so that each graduate is a . . . leader of character . . . and prepared for a career of professional excellence . . .”

Graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1968, Kaufman was commissioned a second lieutenant of Armor and awarded a bachelor’s degree in science. He also holds a master’s degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and a doctorate in philosophy and political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Kaufman’s military service includes tours with cavalry and armor units in the United States and Viet Nam, where he received the Bronze Star for Heroism and two Purple Hearts for wounds received during combat.

He has served as a member of the National Security Council staff in the White House and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He served as a special assistant to three chiefs of staff of the Army. He also was a member of the Department of Defense Presidential Transition Team in 1992.

Upon retirement from active duty, Kaufman was honored by the British government as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.). He is also a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Academic Honorary Society.

He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; the International Institute of Strategic Studies; the International Studies Association; and the American Political Science Association.

With this impressive background, Kaufman is well equipped to lead Georgia Gwinnett College into the future, meeting every challenge and responsibility along the way.

Fortunately, he doesn’t have to do it alone.

“Our community leaders have been a joy to work with and they continue to offer enthusiastic support,” he says. “We will work together now and in the future to make Georgia Gwinnett College all that we want it to be.”

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