With 13 percent of its students hailing from Forsyth and many of its graduates teaching in the local school system, North Georgia College & State University has deep ties to the county.
But with a new president and the planned opening of a Forsyth County campus, the institution is working to become an even larger part of the community.
"The gates of the institution do not end at the Lumpkin County border," NGCSU President Bonita C. Jacobs told local Rotarians on Tuesday morning.
"We very much want to be your partners and we want not only for you to send your students to us, but we want to reciprocate and help wherever we can with being part of this county."
Jacobs, who took office last month, talked to the Rotary Club of Lanier-Forsyth about the college’s history as well as its future.
"We’re not suddenly on the scene or suddenly a quality institution," she said. "We’ve been doing this for decades and we have a tremendous legacy."
Through a partnership with Gainesville State College, NGCSU is building a $7 million, 40,000-square-foot campus off Pilgrim Mill Road in Cumming.
Set to open in 2012, it will offer degrees in nursing, education, business and science, with options in both undergraduate and graduate programs.
Jacobs said the new campus is "one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever been involved with."
"This facility will help to increase the capability of students in this region to participate in post-secondary education," she said. "It will make it much more convenient for students in Forsyth County to participate in very high quality educational programs."
Attending Tuesday’s meeting were several members of the business community, as well as local school system officials and Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt.
Jacobs thanked the mayor for his leadership in bringing about the new campus.
Like many at the meeting, James McCoy had never met Jacobs. But he noted she came to the right place to get started.
"Rotarians are not just great business people, but they’re great community leaders and I think it was a very good audience for her to speak in front of to introduce herself to the community," said McCoy, who is president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.
"She shares the vision for not just North Georgia College but for the region that a lot of folks in leadership positions share. She clearly sees their role as being a true regional university and one that has an important presence and growing influence in our community."
Forsyth County Board of Education member Ann Crow spoke with the college leader after the meeting. She said Jacobs will "be a great representative for understanding exactly the role the college plays across the state."
"I was talking to her about the young teachers who come from North Georgia College and how prepared they are," Crow said. "We’ve always had a strong partnership with North Georgia College as far as education goes."
Of the 46 2011 college graduates hired by the school system this year, 20 came from NGCSU, according to school system records.
Jacobs credited the school district for turning out quality students.
"Your students have a big impact on the culture of our campus and we’re very grateful," she said.