Students, faculty and leaders of University Center | GA 400 gathered with community members Thursday afternoon to celebrate the creation of the University of North Georgia.
Formerly known as Gainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University, the two colleges were officially consolidated Tuesday after the University System of Georgia Board of Regents gave its final approval.
To celebrate the merger, Bonita Jacobs, president, and other leaders visited each of the university’s four campuses Thursday. Cumming was the final stop on the tour, after Dahlonega, Gainesville and Watkinsville.
Jacobs told a crowd of about 300 in the University Center’s community room that they have much to be proud of.
“There are a number of things that make this college very, very unique,” she said. “We are four campuses and we’re 16,000 students strong, but we are also the military college of Georgia.
“We will be one of six senior military colleges in the United States and we are the No. 1 Army ROTC program in the nation.”
She also praised the university’s leadership training for students.
“It is our goal that we make certain that the students have a chance along the way, both in the classroom and out, to get that kind of leadership confidence,” she said.
Officials, Jacobs added, want to ensure UNG graduates get the jobs they interview for and “not those students from the other institutions.”
Also during the ceremony, the university’s new mascot, a Nighthawk, was unveiled and Sherman Day, director of the Cumming campus, spoke briefly about the local campus’ accomplishments in its brief history.
The site, off Pilgrim Mill Road near Ga. 400, opened in August and began offering classes during the fall 2012 semester.
“We kind of hung out a sign, the building was not quite complete last fall, and we had almost 500 students attend,” Day said. “And we’ve increased that to where we’re quite a bit over 500 right now and we’re excited about the students we have. The sky’s the limit for what we’re doing here.
“The merger is going to offer many more opportunities for degrees and programs and educational opportunities of a professional nature.”
Local leaders also welcomed the new university.
Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt and Forsyth County Commission Chairman Pete Amos each read proclamations welcoming the college.
“This is something myself and the board and citizens of Cumming and Forsyth County worked on … for many years to try and get a campus here in Cumming,” Gravitt said. “Today … we’re very proud.”
Amos added that the county wasn’t “quite as involved as the city … but we hope to be more involved in the future.”
“It’s a great institution and we’re glad to have you here,” he said.
Adam Baker, who is studying business after recently finishing an eight-year stint in the U.S. Navy, was among about 100 students from the campus at the ceremony.
“It will definitely bring opportunities for me and my classmates, but also for the city of Cumming,” he said. “And being a Cumming resident, I’m looking forward to having more higher education opportunities up here.”
Shelby Wood, a student at the college’s main campus, agreed.
“I live in this area and I commute all the way up to Dahlonega, so I thought it would be nice to just come here and check it out and have the welcoming,” she said.
“I think [the consolidation] is awesome … it’s really good to put schools around the area so more people can go to a convenient location.”