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Community helping university plan future
Next meeting set for April 1
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Forsyth County News

CUMMING -- Since opening its doors in 2012, the University of North Georgia’s Cumming campus has been welcomed by the community.

Now, the university is returning the favor, inviting the community to be a part of planning for its future.

“We put in our ideas, we need yours too,” said J.B. Sharma, professor and assistant department head of physics.

Sharma led a strategic planning meeting Thursday night at the campus, which is off Pilgrim Mill Road near Ga. 400 at Exit 16. He addressed students, faculty, alumni and community members about the university’s vision for its four campuses.

He laid out goals, objectives, strategies and a mission statement, which is “to be a regional and national leader for academic excellence, engagement, educational opportunity and leadership development.”

Sharma, as well as Andrew J. Leavitt, vice president for university advancement and professor of chemistry, both talked about room for growth in the college, particularly with its recent merger with the former Gainesville State College.

“We have this one incredible facility [in Cumming],” Leavitt said. “We can certainly put up another one of these very shortly. We hope to, we really do hope to because there will be enough demand here.”

Attendance was light for the meeting, but those who participated said they were pleased with the plan.

“I think at the stage they are with all of the options they’ve got on the board, that they’ve hit just about anything that anyone could think of,” Carla Beasley said. “I think it’s going to be a big job for them to consolidate some of those and bring it down to a manageable document, but I’m sure they can do it.”

Lifelong Forsyth resident Mary Helen McGruder commended her alma mater on including the community.

“By opening this building early on, it was a strategically brilliant move welcoming everybody in,” she said, adding that the university should continue being open.

She also suggested offering a variety of opportunities and programs for prospective students.

“There’s nothing in here that says recruit,” McGruder said. “Academic excellence only begins with those you recruit.”

Sharma and Leavitt welcomed the suggestions and said they look forward to hearing back from the community again during the next meeting at the Cumming campus, which is set for 6 p.m. April 1.