BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Pleasant fall weather welcomed the crowd at the University of North Georgia (UNG) Blue Ridge Campus ribbon cutting on Wednesday, September 16, 2020.
Since UNG Blue Ridge first opened in 2015 on Dunbarton Road, it’s grown from 18 students to 232. The new facility has over 3.500 square feet of classroom space, a computer, and biology lab with room to grow in the future. It’s right off Georgia Hwy. 515 and three miles from the old campus at Dunbarton Road.
In 2013, UNG began studying the need to expand access to high quality, affordable education in the Northeast Georgia region. We knew it was essential, and it would be a gamechanger for the entire region,” stated President Dr. Bonita Jacobs.
In a piece published by the university, Director Sandra Ott said, “It’s not just a UNG building. This campus is the community’s, and they are equally excited about the opportunities and what’s happening here. Having the Blue Ridge Campus has opened so many doors and opportunities, especially for students in this region of north Georgia who weren’t sure what to do after high school. It gives them the option to start close to home with the support of their family and friends.”
The new campus also allows students to remain at the Blue Ridge Campus longer due to more course offerings. This year introductory education courses will be the first major courses offered in Blue Ridge. Previously, students could only take the required core curriculum before transferring to the Dahlonega or Gainesville campuses.
UNG Administrators Dr. Mack McConnell, senior vice president of business and finance, Mr. Ken Crow, vice president of facilities, and Mr. Todd Bermann, director of project management, were instrumental in overseeing the construction and competition of the stand-alone facilities. IT Director Dr. Steve McCloud, chief information officer, and team equipped the Blue Ridge Campus with state-of-the-art technology.
“What’s the most important feature of this facility is what goes on inside – teaching and learning.” University System of Georgia Chancellor Dr. Steve Wrigley added.
The chancellor also cited the statistic that of the 11 million jobs created after the recession, 99 percent went to people with some higher education after high school and 70 percent to those with a bachelor’s degree.
“Education is not a guarantee that economic development will occur, but I think I can guarantee that without education, economic development will not occur,” Wrigley stated.
Blue Ridge Mayor Donna Whitener, Fannin Post Two Commissioner Glenn Patterson, Union Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris, and Fannin County Schools Superintendent Michael Gwatney were all recognized during the ceremony.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Chaudron Gille and President Dr. Bonita Jacobs presented 2020 graduate and Fulbright Scholar Candace Seabolt. She is the first Fulbright Scholar from the Blue Ridge Campus.
“Due to the pandemic, we were unable to hold our commencement ceremony in the spring, but today we have the opportunity to honor Candace’s achievement,” Jacobs said.
University System of Georgia Chancellor Dr. Steve Wrigley acknowledged State Senator Steve Gooch and Georgia Speaker of the David Ralston’s involvement.
Of Ralston, Wrigley explained, “He wanted to do this right. He was committed to doing it right, let the campus prove itself and show it can perform. I applaud him and respect him for his stewardship. His vision proved out.”
Senator Gooch always asks Wrigley how to help UNG. “He’s a wonderful advocate for this campus for UNG. He’s great to work with.”
Ralston and Gooch are alumni of the University of North Georgia. Gooch expanded upon Ralston’s dedication to bringing a college campus to Fannin County, even when others might not see the need. The speaker was instrumental in bringing UNG to Blue Ridge. The campus also provides quick and easy access to students Union County and Towns County. They can drive south on Georgia Hwy. 515 instead of winding mountain roads.
Dual enrollment students at Fannin County also have a campus nearby to jumpstart their college careers without student loans.
“This experience will equip the young people of Fannin, Gilmer, Union, Towns Counties to compete in the global marketplace by giving them an educational experience that is second to none,” Speaker Ralston stated. “Here in this place, young people priced out of a dream of a college education could know that such a dream can come true.”
According to the Speaker, local parents stop him almost daily to express appreciation for the Blue Ridge UNG Campus. The new stand-alone facility officially opened earlier this year. Students came and went before the ceremony. One even used the outside wi-fi while the dedication took place.
We are live from UNG’s new stand-alone Blue Ridge Campus for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Posted by UNG – University of North Georgia on Wednesday, September 16, 2020