As a long-time resident of Statesboro and a member of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, I am truly excited about what the future holds for the consolidation of Georgia Southern and Armstrong. The primary driver behind consolidation is to serve students better. The University System’s consolidation effort is also helping us to be more efficient, which allows us to provide more support to directly benefit students. Overall, we have saved more than $24 million in administrative costs because of consolidations across the state, and we are serving students better by investing in their success.
Over the next decade, more than 60 percent of the jobs in our state will require some level of college. As the demands of the workforce change, public higher education must continue to change and innovate. We have a unique opportunity for our region to combine two outstanding and proud institutions to result in a stronger university and a source of economic growth for southeast Georgia.
Understandably, as the consolidation has progressed, questions have been raised, particularly regarding the plan to base the colleges of education, health professions and public health at the Armstrong campus. Georgia Southern’s other six colleges will remain based in Statesboro: the colleges of arts and humanities, behavioral and social sciences, business, engineering and computing, science and mathematics and graduate studies.
It is important to clear up some misinformation I have heard in the community. No student who desires to major in education or nursing will be required to attend classes at the Armstrong Campus or the Statesboro campus. Students will have a choice of either campus. If your son or daughter wants to teach elementary school, high school science or middle school math, he or she can stay right here in Statesboro and obtain a degree from the College of Education. Similarly, if a student desires to obtain a nursing degree, the student can take all classes right here in Bulloch County.
As a native of Bulloch County, graduate of Statesboro High School and local business owner, I assure you that the wellbeing and continued prominence and excellence of Georgia Southern University is of primary concern to me. My grandfather, J.I. Clements, was the Athletic Director and baseball coach at Georgia Southern for many years. My mother retired from Georgia Southern as an instructor. My youngest brother and sister-in-law are both proud Georgia Southern alumni as are many of my clients and friends. My daughter is a dual-enrolled Georgia Southern University student. I have vivid memories of staying up all night helping screen print t-shirts at a neighbor’s home to celebrate Georgia Southern’s first national football championship and remember the days when the games were played at the old SHS football field.
So, let’s dream big. Georgia Southern has the leadership, faculty, land, buildings and resources, and is poised for unlimited growth and potential as we expand our footprint. Potentially, that means new students, new programs, new jobs and economic opportunities for Bulloch County and the southeast region of our state. Our College of Engineering and Computing is growing exponentially along with our thriving College of Business offering majors in fast growing areas such as logistics. Combine Georgia Southern’s acclaimed School of Nursing with Armstrong’s amazing Health Professions programs, and we are uniquely positioned for a revival in Medical Arts which comes at a time of absolute necessity as rural hospitals are closing. More than ever, we need to ensure Georgians in our region have access to quality medical care.
Governor Nathan Deal has been a champion for Georgia Southern as have Senator Jack Hill and Representatives Jon Burns, Butch Parrish and Jan Tankersley. We have received unprecedented support from our Governor and state legislative delegation as we have begun new majors and degrees and built new state-of-the-art facilities to serve our students, including a new $33.6 million Interdisciplinary Academic Building currently under construction.
Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville, Bulloch County, Chatham County, Liberty County and our entire region stand to benefit by creating and further improving a world-class university to serve the needs of not only local students but of all Georgians who want to come to southeast Georgia to learn, study, work and raise a family.
These are exciting times and there has never been a better time to be “True Blue.” It is our goal in Southeast Georgia to build bridges that will benefit our young people and our region for many years to come. I hope you will join me in doing all we can to support the students, faculty and staff of the new Georgia Southern University.
Laura Taulbee Marsh is a Statesboro resident and was appointed as a member of the Board of Regents in June 2016.