Middle Georgia is bustling as college students move back in for the fall semester.
Area schools have been busy preparing for their return, and they have new features in store for the 2017-18 year.
Here’s a sampling of the changes, from degree programs to construction.
Fort Valley State University
This year, Fort Valley is starting efforts to put community service front and center with its students. With support from a $50,000 grant, the university has rolled out a pilot program called iHelp, Vice Provost Chanta Haywood said.
The program will be developed during the 2017-18 year. Eventually, students will be required to complete a certain number of hours of community service before they can graduate. The new iHelp Center, in the renovated Evans building in downtown Fort Valley, will be a place for students to organize projects, meet with agencies, collect donations and serve the community.
“We have a little hub for service. We’ll get students off campus and out into the community,” Haywood said. “We’re hoping that our students gain from this experience a sense of personal fulfillment.”
iHelp is part of the larger LEAP leadership experience that the school is implementing, which will help students develop leadership and soft skills. The new initiatives will help create civic-minded and service-oriented students who can think critically, Haywood said.
Classes start Monday.
Building renovation is the big news at Georgia College, as finishing touches are made on three historic buildings. Students start classes Aug. 21.
About half the buildings on the central campus in Milledegville are historic, and the college is restoring them as needed with support from the state Historic Preservation Division, University Architect Michael Rickenbaker said.
“We’re preserving these buildings but we’re also making them exciting and new,” said Rick Ruark, the school’s associate director for planning construction and business services. “We’ve incorporated modern technology. There’s so much in the buildings that’s new and shiny and not just old. You can see the historical elements. It all works well together.”
The Health Sciences and Parks Memorial buildings were renovated in the past, and 1918 dorm Ennis Hall was transformed into the art building three years ago.
The art department previously was located in the historic MacIntosh and Mayfair homes, and when it moved to Ennis Hall, those houses were open for a $3.9 million improvement project. MacIntosh is the oldest building on campus, with a portion of it built around 1820, and it has been updated to house office space, Rickenbaker said. Mayfair, thought to date back to the late 1800s, has been turned into a wellness center and admission and recruiting headquarters.
Beeson Hall, a three-story dorm built in the 1930s, has undergone an $11.1 million renovation, said Mark Bowen, the college’s project manager for facilities planning. Four experimental labs for the physics department, a fabrication studio and an instrument design studio can now be found on the first floor. Fifty-three offices have been scattered throughout the rest of the building.
Work on Terrell Hall will start this winter, Rickenbaker said. It will have office and teaching space.
Mercer University’s $44 million Spearman C. Godsey Science Center is on schedule to be completed in November. Biology, chemistry and neurosciences classes will be held in the 142,000-square-foot, “state-of-the-art facility,” said Kyle Sears, the media relations director.
“It’s the largest academic building project in the history of the university,” he said. “The building itself has 60 teaching and research labs.”
The building contains three classrooms that seat 75 to 100 students, four classrooms that seat 32, and 46 offices. The first, third and fourth floors each have a 3,000-square-foot “learning exchange” space where students can gather and study.
Labs have been created for general chemistry and biology, as well organic chemistry, biochemistry, soil and field biology, molecular and cellular biology, anatomy and physiology, and infectious disease. There will also be a laser lab, computational center, growth room, cold room and tissue culture suite.
The faculty will move into to the Godsey Science Center during the holiday break in December, and classes will begin at the new facility in January. That month, renovations will start on the Willet Science Center, which will house psychology, computer science and environmental engineering studies. The expected completion date is August 2018.
In time for the start of classes Aug. 22, Mercer has launched a civil engineering specialization within the engineering bachelor’s program, as well as an engineering for development concentration in the engineering master’s program. There’s also a new management major in the business administration bachelor’s program.
Middle Georgia State University
Middle Georgia State University has invested $5 million in a new building that will be devoted to science, technology, engineering and math. A sky bridge will connect Oak Hall to the new structure on the Warner Robins campus, said Campus Director Pella Murphy. The project should be finished by the spring semester.
The building will contain two science labs and science classrooms and lecture rooms. The first floor will be dedicated to the school’s nursing program. The new facility will allow the school to offer courses that they couldn’t before, such as chemistry and anatomy physiology, she said.
The school now offers master’s degrees in teaching and management, as well as a maintenance management concentration to its aviation program, Communications Coordinator Sheron Smith said. The fall semester, which starts Monday, will be the first time that residents of Alabama, Florida and South Carolina can get in-state tuition rates for Middle Georgia State’s School of Aviation.
Wesleyan College kicks off the semester Monday with a new Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program. Students can apply during their sophomore year after completing introductory classes, and they choose to focus on painting and drawing, photography, graphic design, ceramics, sculpture or print-making, said Alexis Gregg, an assistant professor of art.
The new major is designed for students who want a career in art, whereas the art bachelor’s degree is a broader experience for people who may want to combine art with other fields.
Wesleyan previously had a BFA program but discontinued it about 30 years ago. Its return will attract more students to the school and allow the art department to offer more in-depth classes and produce more artists, Gregg said.
“(We’re) not only offering this new degree but really focusing on how to help our students graduate with the tools they need to further their education or go out in the professional world,” Gregg said. “We appreciate the flexibility of offering the BA and the BFA. It broadens the range of students who can study art.”
The college has also added a sports management major and minor, as well as minors in equine-assisted therapy, forensic science and occupational behavior, Director of Communications Mary Ann Howard said. In addition, the nursing program is expanding to add a second cohort in the spring semester.
In other news, the first floor of the library has been remodeled, and a varsity cross country team is being revived after a four-year hiatus. A dozen women have already expressed interest in joining the team, head coach Alex Kosicki said. Members will start practicing on campus Aug. 17.