Georgia Southern President Brooks Keel announced Wednesday the university’s intent to kick-off a major capital fundraising campaign to fund continued growth and advancements in the college’s quality of education.
Keel met with members of the media in Georgia Southern’s Nessmith-Lane Continuing Education Building to provide an outlook on future goals and reveal plans for the forthcoming campaign.
“As an organization, if you do not dream big, if you do not think big, then I don’t think you will ever go anywhere,” Keel said. “We have our focus on the future and are in the process of creating a strategic vision for the university as we move forward.”
The school’s vision, Keel said, will place a spotlight on four basic themes: promoting academic excellence, enhancing student success, increasing research creativity and maintaining fiscal sustainability.
“We hope that our strategic vision will set the case for a capital campaign,” he said. “We have a fantastic story to tell and a fantastic product to sell. We are trying to get organized to have a very successful campaign. We will do everything we possibly can to raise the money that we need to in order to support this great university.”
The fundraising effort is currently in its most preliminary stages, he said, and will still require at least one year of planning.
“We are engaged with consultants now, to look at what goals should be, how much we can raise, find out what areas people are excited about, and to get plans in place to make this happen,” he said.
As part of the luncheon, Keel addressed issues that the university will look to tackle going forward and discussed ways in which raised funds may be spent.
“Scholarships are the key,” he said.
Georgia Southern will place an emphasis on granting financial assistance to help students graduate – the university is considering a scholarship that would nullify losses caused by recent changes to the HOPE Scholarship.
“I want to start raising the funds to have a “HOPE-FUL” scholarship that covers the 10 percent of tuition and fees not paid for by the HOPE Scholarship,” he said. “But we just don’t have the endowment right now to offer that type of scholarship. That is one of the things that I am hoping this capital campaign we are getting ready to kick-off will help fund.”
The president also stressed a need for the university faculty and staff to grow along with student populations.
“We have to increase the amount of faculty and staff. We are dangerously close to the point where class sizes are too big and faculty does not have the opportunity to interact with students on a one-to-one basis,” said Keel. “As we grow, if we do not keep track by increasing staff, we are going to lose what is the heart and soul of Georgia Southern.”
Keel revealed that renovations and improvements to school athletic facilities will occur in conjunction with the fundraising campaign.
“The athletics component fits into our vision very well. We want to provide every athletic team that we have with the opportunity to win a national championship or a conference championship,” he said. “To make that happen, we need coaches, scholarships and facilities.”
Collected funds would support a proposed addition to Paulson Stadium, he said.
Keel also announced a $1 million investment in a Rural Health Institute that he says will “instantly increase the research portfolio of Georgia Southern.” The new facility, he says, will aim to be a leader in rural health research.
The university may begin construction on a new, state-of-the-art biology building as well, he said.
The $37-million project would replace the existing building – constructed when the school had just 6,000 students – that currently holds at least one class for 90 percent of GSU students.
The state-funded venture is awaiting approval by Gov. Nathan Deal. According to Keel, the university could break ground this summer.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454.