Sat, May 25, 2024

AU President gives annual State of the University address

Augusta University President, Dr. Brooks Keel reviewed the past year and outlined the university’s future during his annual State of the University address.

Keel said the past year has marked the development of a number of partnerships that will result in more opportunities for students to advance their education and be trained to join the workforce.

One partnership is with Augusta Technical College. Keel credited Augusta Tech President, Dr. Jermaine Whirl with helping create the program called Augusta Advantage.

“So, those students who go there and get an associate’s degree can seamlessly transfer those credits to Augusta University, if they so choose,” Keel said, adding, “In a variety of areas, not just cyber security, and go all the way to a Ph.D. if they choose.”

Keel said this partnership in particular can help grow a talented workforce by offering students options that didn’t exist years ago.

“College is not for everybody. Technical college is not for everybody, but you want to make it, regardless of where you start, to proceed up a career ladder if you need to,” he said. “If they all of a sudden decide, you know, I think I’d like to go and get a bachelor’s degree, or a master’s, or maybe all the way to a Ph.D., if that’s what they need. Maybe when they started an associate degree program, they weren’t thinking about the need for a BS (Bachelor of Science). Now that they got through their associate’s degree, they’d like to go on, but would lose all these credits. We’ve done away with that.”

Keel is also looking forward to expanding specialty programs, such as medical illustration and animation. He called it “where art meets tech.” He said the goal is to add 21 faculty hires to offer several new, standalone degree programs including a concentration in feature films and television. Graduates of that program can help grow Augusta’s film industry.

“I think this animation program is going to help you tremendously in that area,” he said. “But really, it’s more than just film, and movies. The animation programs are marrying art and technology, really gets you into other things, gets you into artificial intelligence, and gets you into how you use animation techniques to do teaching. How can you train medical students without having a cadaver, for example? And really, how can you train physicians to do procedures? So, it truly is a marriage of everything. Computers and everything are crammed together.”

Among the past year’s highlights, he pointed to new staff and new educational offerings, including Augusta University Online, which is enrolling students in three master’s degree programs, Master of Public Health, Master of Science in Information Security Management, and Master of Education in Instruction. Classes will begin with the Fall semester.

Also moving forward is the School of Public Health, a new program Keel announced in 2022.

“As the state’s only public academic health center, it is our responsibility and our privilege to help ensure the health of Georgia’s citizens and communities,” Keel said. “At Augusta University’s new School of Public Health, students will be offered a comprehensive educational experience designed to prepare leaders who understand the important role of public health in today’s society.”

It will launch this July.

Beginning in 2010, Keel said Augusta University began to see a steady decline in enrollment each year. That bottomed out in 2015 and enrollment began climbing each subsequent year with a more than 18% increase.

Keel said Augusta University has 25 new programs planned for the next five years. He also remains focused on his goal of 16 by 30, which is to have 16,000 students enrolled by 2030.

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