We are now approximately one year into the implementation of the Georgia State University Strategic Plan for the decade 2011-2021, and the first year has been both active and productive. The plan, ratified in a unanimous vote of the University Senate last January, is serving as a guide for the university as we approach our second century. The plan sets us on a course to become one of the nation's premier public research institutions. We will achieve this preeminence because of our distinctiveness, not because we seek to copy other models or paths that may have worked in the past or elsewhere.
Herein, I reiterate the first goal in our strategic plan, share with you some successes from 2011, and point to some important successes anticipated in 2012. There will be other times and venues where we will recount both successes and ongoing work for the other four goals in the plan.
Goal 1. Become a national model for undergraduate education by demonstrating that students from all backgrounds can achieve academic and career success at high rates.
Georgia State has achieved national recognition for our success in graduating a diverse body of students with graduation rates that are not widely different across racial or ethnic groups (e.g., The Education Trust). However, there is much more that we can do, and we are doing, to increase both the graduation rates and the overall number of graduates. These initiatives range from increasing the pool of scholarship dollars, to developing and implementing programs to help students stay on course and graduate in a timely manner. Our highest priority for fundraising has been, and will continue to be, student scholarships and programs that support student success. Therefore I am delighted to report that in the past six months alone GSU has been awarded more than $7 million from foundations, alumni and friends to support these important causes. We have also launched our Office of Fellowships and Scholarships to assist students in identifying scholarship opportunities.
Another Goal 1 success is the establishment of the Honors College at Georgia State University, with the recruitment of Dr. Larry Berman as the college's Founding Dean. Under Dean Berman's leadership we are transforming GSU's vibrant honors program into an honors college and community where talented faculty and students are working to advance undergraduate scholarship, enhance research, foster service, and compete successfully for national awards and fellowships.
One ongoing effort where we expect to see important progress during 2012 is in the area of student advising. When it comes to advising there is no doubting that we need to provide much better and more proactive advising services to GSU students. Under the leadership of Associate Provost Timothy Renick, we are looking to both technological innovations and organizational improvements to move these efforts forward. Stay tuned for new developments in this area as the year progresses.
Turning our attention to new academic opportunities for students, there has never been a more exciting time during my 35-plus years of university life. We expect to pursue exciting opportunities for innovation as we create our future. Although we are proud of our many outstanding undergraduate degree programs, we also find ourselves at a point in our history where the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree provides us with the ability to quickly and deliberately create new paths of study to meet the needs of 21st Century students. As the year progresses we can expect to see announcements of new tracks in areas such as business communications, public health, and urban science, to name just a few. We are also actively exploring the proactive use of "minimesters" to enable students to take full semester courses in compressed 7-8 week terms.
I thank and commend everyone on our campus who is working diligently to carry the Georgia State University Strategic Plan from an idea to reality. Above I have shared with you just some of the successes on Goal 1, but we have had important progress on all five goals. For example, we've established our first University Research Center with the creation of the Center for Inflammation, Immunity and Infection under the leadership of our newest Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, Professor J-D Li; and the Council for the Progress of Cities has come together to advance our goal of becoming a leader in understanding the complex challenges of cities and developing effective solutions. I look forward to sharing and celebrating many more of these achievements with you in the year ahead. There is considerable ongoing work to assure that the progress in 2012 will take us much further down the road toward realizing the dreams and ambitions embodied in the strategic plan. We expect that 2012, the concluding year of our first century, will prove to be a momentous one for launching GSU into its Second Century.
Mark P. Becker