Georgia Gwinnett College honored exceptional students, faculty and staff during its annual convocation ceremony Thursday with keynote speaker Dr. Daniel J. Kaufman, GGC’s charter president.
The convocation ceremony began in the early afternoon with faculty progressing through the student center’s large venue (LVIS) in full cap and gown regalia.
“Convocation is the college’s celebration of excellence and today we are especially proud to note that we have 571 returning honors students with GPAs of 3.8 or above,” said Dr. Staś Preczewski, President of GGC, in his opening remarks.
Dr. Lois Richardson, Interim Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs/Provost, began the presentation of the annual awards to students, faculty and staff before honoring the faculty members that had attained the highest academic rank of professor.
“It is an honor to be given this award and is the highlight of my career,” said Dr. Kay Heath, Professor of English, who led the procession of those receiving the distinction of full professor.
“The GGC annual awards mirror the four core values of GGC: service, scholarship, creativity, and leadership,” said Dr. Lois C. Richardson, acting Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs and Provost. “These values inspire and guide our actions.”
This year 50 faculty members were nominated for five categories of faculty awards. Four staff members were nominated for staff awards. Fifty-eight students were nominated for the ten categories of student awards, and there were fifty-one new full time faculty employment additions.
Dr. Mei Miranda Zhang received the 2014-2015 GGC Outstanding Teaching Award, and she presented her reflections during the ceremony.
“Many of the students I teach today are up against some of the very same challenges that I faced as a student.” Dr. Zhang said. “That is why I work hard every day to make a difference in my student’s educational lives. I’m very proud to be a part of an institution that is making the dream of education available for everyone.”
GGC has become one of the 10 largest institutions in the University System of Georgia having over 11,000 students pursuing degrees in 15 majors with more than 40 areas of study. “Retention rates are comparable to state universities who are selective on who can attend, which is almost unheard of for an open access institution,” said Dr. Preczewski proudly.
Chase Goodwin, President of the Student Association, spoke on diversity as a range of opinions rather than a physical difference.
Goodwin urged the audience to “seek the differences in each other” and to “work to be a part of a solution. That is what it means to be a Grizzly.”
Dr. Preczewski then introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Daniel J. Kaufman, GGC’s charter president and chief visionary.
“When Dr. Kaufman was hired on December 7th, 2005, there was no instruction manual on how to build a college,” said Dr. Preczewski. “This man had an unwavering vision. . . that GGC would be an access institution that welcomed all students in the region. . .regardless of their academic preparation, their learning style, their work schedule or their financial barrier.”
Dr. Kaufman was enthusiastically welcomed to the stage by the audience and began by recounting his first year as president of “unnamed state college” in 2005.
“Thousands of young people in this part of metropolitan Atlanta who never thought they would have the opportunity to go to college. . .not only expect to go, but they expect to succeed,” said Kaufman.
Dr. Kaufman addressed criticisms by a former chancellor who called GGC an experiment, and by institutional presidents who called GGC an infection.
“If we are lucky in life, we get the opportunity to be part of something truly special,” said Kaufman. “Let me implore you to recognize that at GGC you are truly part of something special.”
“Anything is possible if we put our minds to it and if we commit ourselves to completing the task,” added Preczewski.
“This is a convocation, a beginning. . .We will continue to all work together to make GGC a college of excellence,” said Richardson as she concluded the ceremony.
By Arrica Wynn