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Keel: Bigger can be better
GSU president plans to grow university
W 081512 GSU CONVOCATION 01
Georgia Southern University President Brooks Keel addresses the faculty and staff during Wednesday's annual Fall Convocation at the Performing Arts Center.

AWARDS
    During Georgia Southern University’s convocation ceremony Wednesday, Provost Jean Bartels announced the following 2012-13 faculty award recipients, and President Brooks Keel presented them with medallions:
    Excellence in Service — Dr. Simone Charles, Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health; and Dr. Pat Humphrey, Department of Mathematical Sciences
    Excellence in Contributions to Instruction — Dr. Delena Gatch, Department of Physics; and Dr. Mark Hanna, Department of Finance and Economics
    Excellence in Research/Creative Scholarly Activity — Dr. Lorenza Beati, Department of Biology; and Marc Moulton, Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art

    Bigger is not always better, but for an ever-growing Georgia Southern University, Dr. Brooks Keel believes it can be.
    The university president shared that sentiment while issuing a State of the University Address to hundreds of the school’s faculty and staff during the fall convocation Wednesday at Georgia Southern’s Performing Arts Center.
    Despite cuts for the entire University System of Georgia that will trim the Georgia Southern budget by more than $2 million in the 2012-13 academic year, Keel said the focus will be on growth as he and administrators plan the college’s future.
    “We have a responsibility as the largest university in this part of the state, and figuring out how we move forward addressing that responsibility is where we find ourselves today,” he said. “I think our responsibility is to get bigger. And I think we need to get bigger in some very key and exciting ways.”
    Keel addressed five areas wherein, he believes, growth should be achieved.
    He encouraged more — and larger — research projects, enhanced arts programs, and expanded curriculums. He also wants to build up athletic programs and help Georgia Southern take on a greater role in local economic development.
    The goal in growing the university is to place the school at the forefront of the national consciousness, Keel said.
    “We want folks to learn about Georgia Southern that otherwise would have never known about Georgia Southern,” he said. “We have to think big if we are going to do big.”
    A continued rise to prominence does not come without obstacles, though.
    “There are going to be many challenges ahead for us and we know that,” Keel said. “We are going to be looking at an additional 3 percent cut — about $2.4 million — this year in our budget. But because this university has been such good stewards of its money, and staff has done so much more with so much less, we are going to be able to absorb this without slowing down progress.”
    Despite cuts, “the school will hire an additional 35 new faculty positions and additional staff to go along with that,” he said. “We are committed to do that, and we have to do it.”
    Keel also hopes to maintain the school’s long-established reputation.
    “Large-scale, small-feel research university is a tagline that really defines what we are,” he said. “I know many people feel like we’re losing that small feel. But really, that small feel is more of an attitude than anything else. We have got to maintain the attitude of providing that feel. That is what brings students here.”
    Before discussing his vision for the future, Keel highlighted several accomplishments made by Georgia Southern students, faculty and staff during the previous 12 months.
    Those achievements include high rankings for the university and its programs in several national publications, various grants awarded to the institution, and honors given to members of the faculty.
     “The faculty is the heart and soul of this university,” Keel said. “There is no way we could be successful without what you have done and continue to do.”
   
    Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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