First Freshman Class Heads for GGC

Anyone who had the impression that the curvy, paved road near the intersection of Hwy 316 and Collins Hill Road in Lawrenceville led through the kudzu to some small time “pilot college” has another thing coming—a very big thing.

Anyone who had the impression that the curvy, paved road near the intersection of Hwy 316 and Collins Hill Road in Lawrenceville led through the kudzu to some small time “pilot college” has another thing coming—a very big thing.

When the gates of Georgia Gwinnett College swing open for the school’s second year of operation on Aug. 20, about 750 students will flow onto this high-tech “campus of tomorrow,” along with 85 new faculty members, many touting degrees from the nation’s finest schools, including the Ivy League institutions. The student enrollment represents an increase of more than 630 percent from fall 2006. Those are remarkable numbers considering that the college opened only one year ago with just 119 students and 11 faculty members. By the year 2012, some 10,000 to 15,000 students are expected.

Contemporary, multi-story glass and brick buildings welcome students to the wooded, 200-acre campus, as does some mind-blowing technology. Billed as the nation’s first public, four-year college created in the 21st century, GGC boasts a spirit of innovation, including a wireless network that integrates cell phones with classroom instruction and campus activities. In partnership with Sprint and Rave Wireless, the technology gives students access to lecture and assignment materials, and an array of options for tracking their scholastic performance and student happenings via their cell phones.

Receiving unprecedented financial support from the state of Georgia and the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, GGC’s master plan includes new classroom buildings, a student center, a parking deck, a $28.3 million library, athletic fields, and in the future—student housing. Majors are currently offered in biology, business, information technology, and psychology, with more on the way, including education and nursing.

In preparation for the launch of classes on Aug. 20, GGC is offering new students and their parents a chance to participate in a one-day orientation known as TouchPoint, offered the day of their choosing between Aug. 16-18. TouchPoint is designed to make the transition to GGC smooth for new students by familiarizing them with the college’s wide range of services.

The day begins with a message from GGC President Daniel J. Kaufman, a retired Army Brigadier General. “Every time I hear him talk, I want to enlist in something or charge a hill,” says Dr. Christopher Brandon Jr., biology professor and head of orientation. “He’s very motivational. He will welcome the charter class, transfer students, and their parents, and make them feel, as they are, special.”

There will be a “Wow” presentation highlighting the information technology at GGC, which is designed to enhance the learning experience. Then students and parents will hear a review of graduation requirements. “This usually isn’t incorporated into orientation, but we feel it’s one of the most important things we can cover, because it gives students a clear cut idea of what it will take to graduate,” says Brandon.

Holy Smokes BBQ will cater the orientation luncheon, during which the newly established Student Government Association and other new clubs will have booths set up where students can get more information. In the afternoon, students will participate in breakout sessions to learn more about using the library to their advantage, career services, and a new student success program that provides academic help and a proactive learning support system. Meanwhile, parents participate in breakout sessions on financial aid, campus safety, and other pertinent topics.

Orientation culminates on Aug. 19 with an event called Sunday Funday, when everyone within the GGC community is invited to an informal picnic on campus, with Fantasy World Entertainment providing amusement for the whole family. “It’s a way to bring the campus together—faculty, staff, students, family, and friends—and just have an afternoon where we can get together informally, relax, and enjoy the day as we kick off the academic year,” says Brandon. The day is sponsored by the Georgia Gwinnett College Foundation.

From the start, GGC has made a concerted effort to make “faculty-student engagement” a central focus. “We want to extend the culture of community throughout the College,” says Dr. Holly Haynes, a graduate of Meadowcreek High School who earned three degrees from Harvard, and now teaches psychology at GGC. “We focus on connecting our freshmen to the College so they feel as though they are part of a community. It’s somewhat of an innovation in student engagement as we strive to create lasting relationships between faculty and students on what will initially be a commuter campus.”

According to 22-year-old business major Rico Torres, who attended classes last year at GGC, the plan to build community is working. “The faculty and staff sincerely care about students and are strongly committed to making sure that each student meets his or her personal goals,” says Torres. “The professionals hired as part of GGC’s inaugural faculty and staff are dedicated to ensuring that my peers and I get the highest quality education in the most innovative and student-friendly manner possible. My professors continually encourage me to push my limits and excel in everything I do. Without them, I probably wouldn’t’ have decided to attend graduate school.”

Applications are still being accepted for the fall 2007 semester.

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