WARNER ROBINS -- Before they start teaching at the University of Georgia, new faculty members are getting educated about the state this week.
The new professors are on a tour of Georgia, and Wednesday they stopped at the Museum of Aviation and Robins Air Force Base. The aim is to give the professors, most of whom aren’t from Georgia, a feel for what drives the state culturally and economically.
Cristian Montes will teach forestry at UGA. He has been in Georgia for just a week since arriving from Chile. Agriculture has been a major focus of the tour.
“It’s been good to have a sense of how big the agriculture industry is in the state,” he said.
One of the most interesting things he has seen is the Shaw Industries carpet factory in Cartersville. He was amazed at how few people were working in the highly automated plant.
“In my country, we would do something like that with a lot more people,” he said.
Not everyone on the tour was new to the state. John Weatherford, who will teach new media in the journalism school, is from Decatur.
“I’ve lived in Georgia my whole life and love the state and have traveled a good bit throughout it, but I have already seen nooks and crannies that I haven’t been to before,” he said. “I’ve actually never been to Warner Robins.”
Col. Dawn Lancaster, vice commander of the 78th Air Base Wing, spoke to the group about the importance of education to the base.
“One of our greatest threats is technology if we don’t keep up with it,” she said. “Between China and Russia and everybody else, if we don’t keep up, that’s where we will fail. ... We need to be sure we have the workforce of the future that is ready and educated to take on the challenges of technology.”
Jennifer Frum, UGA’s vice president of public service and outreach, said the university offered the tour annually for 25 years before it fell to budget cuts in 2009. Three years ago, school leaders decided it was too important and restored the funding.
“It’s about making the connection between the University of Georgia and the people in the state,” Frum said. “It’s exposing them to the people, the economy, government, history, culture ... helping them make connections, and how the research they do can make a difference in Georgia.”
The tour included 37 new professors, about half of the total new faculty at the school. Frum said professors on the tour are from all disciplines, ranging from music and arts to science.
The group was welcomed at the museum by Houston County commissioners Tom McMichael and Larry Thomson, as well as Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms. Toms drew enthusiastic applause when he told them he got his college degree at the age of 48.
Earlier Wednesday the group went to Senoia, where they learned about the film industry in Georgia. Senoia is where the hit TV show “The Walking Dead” is filmed.
Other stops include the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta, CSX rail yard in Waycross, Gulfstream Aerospace in Savannah, and Skidaway Island, where UGA does marine research.
They also will visit the Georgia Ports Authority in Savannah and on Friday will end up back in Middle Georgia to see kaolin mines in Sandersville.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.