Video: The history of GGC with inaugural President Daniel J. Kaufman
Georgia Gwinnett College began as a dream of the citizens and leaders of the Gwinnett County community, who recognized that the county was the largest east of the Mississippi River lacking a four-year college. In 1994, Gwinnett County purchased 160 acres of land at Georgia State Route 316 and Collins Hill Road and designated it specifically for the development of a college campus, later donating it to the University System of Georgia (USG).
In October of 2004, the USG Board of Regents voted to create a new four-year college in Gwinnett County, which had doubled in population in each of the previous three decades and was home to nearly 700,000 people.
In March of 2005, the Georgia Legislature passed Senate Resolution 33. Authored by Sen. Don Balfour, the resolution established a new college in Gwinnett County.
In September of 2005, the Regents hired Dr. Daniel J. Kaufman, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general and former chief academic officer of the United States Military Academy at West Point, as the college’s inaugural president. A month later, the Regents voted to name the institution “Georgia Gwinnett College.”
Mission and vision
GGC was assigned a unique mission and vision. As an access institution, it would serve the broadest range of students, including those whose level of academic preparation limited their options for higher education. It would develop an innovative, proactive approach that would ensure all students had every opportunity to succeed. Hallmarked by a purposeful dedication to student engagement and mentorship, GGC would combine proven methods while discarding traditional practices that do not serve students. It would build a dynamic learning community without faculty tenure or a typical administrative structure.
This unconventional direction led critics to label the college, “an experiment.”
Opening and growth
Before the end of 2005, the Regents approved the college’s initial bachelor degree programs in biology, business, information technology, nursing, psychology, radiologic technology and childhood education with eligibility for certification in special education. Kaufman and his rapidly assembled cabinet, charter faculty and staff worked with incredible speed and diligence to open the college within less than a year.
Georgia Gwinnett College opened its doors on August 18, 2006, as the nation’s first four-year public college founded in the 21st century and the first four-year public institution created in Georgia in more than 100 years.
That day, Georgia Gwinnett welcomed 118 juniors and seniors as its first students. In August of 2007, the College enrolled its first freshman class. In June of 2008, GGC awarded its first degrees at its inaugural commencement ceremony. By fall, construction began on a 91,000-sq. ft. Library and Learning Center. In early 2009, work began on Phase I of the student residence halls and a new Student Center.
Now two years old, the college needed a mascot. GGC’s students voted to be the Grizzlies and then voted to honor President Kaufman by naming the Grizzly mascot, “General.”
In June of 2009, the then-Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools granted Georgia Gwinnett its initial accreditation, giving the college the ability to apply for research grants and awards from foundations for students and faculty members, and expand its degree programs.
When the doors opened for fall semester 2009, more than 3,000 students were on campus. The college had added majors in history, exercise science, mathematics, special education, English, political science and criminal justice/criminology.
In the summer of 2010, GGC celebrated the opening of its new Library and Learning Center and its first student residence halls, transforming the commuter college into a residential campus. More than 5,300 students enrolled for the 2010 fall semester. The new Student Center opened in January 2011. A new laboratory building opened in August 2011 to serve the college’s dramatically expanding student body. New construction and leases for buildings adjacent to campus brought the college’s facilities to more than one million sq. ft.
Many aspects of student life, such as the Student Government Association, had been established in the college’s first year. Students continued to create dozens of new clubs, honor societies and other organizations, including intramural and club sports. In 2011, the college hired its charter athletics director, who led a team of coaches and staff to prepare the Grizzlies for their first season of official intercollegiate athletics competition in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in the 2012-13 academic year. This year also marked the completion of the varsity athletics complex. The 2012 fall semester enrollment reached 9,400. In early 2013, the college broke ground on its long-awaited Allied Health and Sciences building, future home of the School of Science and Technology as well as the newly formed School of Health Sciences and its nursing program. That fall, GGC welcomed its first international students.
President Kaufman departed GGC for the presidency of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce as of July 1, 2013. Dr. Stanley “Stas” Preczewski, formerly charter vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, served as interim president until being named president in early summer of 2014. Preczewski’s first academic year as president saw the young college reach nearly 11,000 students, open the Allied Health and Sciences building, welcome its charter nursing class and celebrate the Grizzlies’ first regional and national intercollegiate athletics championships.
The college has contributed significantly to the economic development of Gwinnett County and its surrounding area. The most recent annual study revealed that GGC had an economic impact of $333 million, including the creation of 3,290 jobs. The college itself employs 968 people. On average, for each job created on campus, there are two off-campus jobs that exist because of spending related to the institution.
The “experiment” that is Georgia Gwinnett College has worked. Not only has the institution grown dramatically in its first 10 years, it has achieved impressive student retention rates, outstanding ratings in key student engagement measurements, and is on track to achieve high graduation rates. It has kept costs to a minimum, resulting in an educational bargain for its students and Georgia taxpayers. Its close relationship with the Gwinnett community has resulted in academic programs directly tied to local economic development needs and opportunities, as well as ongoing partnerships dedicated to the continuing success of the college and its students.
In 2014, GGC was ranked the #5 top Southern regional public college by U.S. News & World Report magazine. The magazine ranked GGC the most ethnically diverse Southern regional college, both public and private, for 2015, emphasizing the college’s reflection of Gwinnett’s diverse community. The magazine also recognized GGC as having the lowest in-state tuition and fees of its ranked Georgia public colleges.
Georgia Gwinnett is also a College of Distinction and has been designated military-friendly by two service member organizations twice. Members of its faculty and leadership are regularly invited to speak at conferences about how the college’s programs have helped its students achieve success they likely would not have found at other institutions. True to its mission and vision, GGC is seen as a national model for innovation in higher education.
Georgia Gwinnett College is projected to reach an enrollment of about 13,000 students within the next couple of years. Construction plans include the final phase of academic Building C, which begins this summer.
With an eye to maintaining its emphasis on student engagement and success, GGC’s leaders continue to focus on the maturation of the college’s programs and services, as well as future growth and development. This includes strengthening the college’s model and ensuring that it will be sustained into the future.