It has been less than nine months since the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia voted to consolidate North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville State College into a single institution. In that time, there has been a tremendous amount of work across our campuses in preparation for the consolidation and our new name, both of which are scheduled to become effective in January 2013.
Throughout the planning process, we have been conscious that each of our institutions has its own mission, culture and traditions and that change is never easy. Understandably, each school has historical and emotional attachments to certain symbols and traditions. As we prepare to consolidate, we are mindful that consolidation is not about one institution taking over another, but that we should preserve the best of each institution and develop some new elements that all campuses can embrace. One of those symbols is our mascot.
Though Gainesville State College has not had an intercollegiate athletics program in several years, its teams previously competed as the Lakers, and its current mascot – the Fighting Geese – is used in a variety of ways to promote school spirit. At North Georgia, our student body adopted the Saint Bernard, more commonly referred to as the Saints, as the mascot in 1972. As the University of North Georgia, we have the potential to provide athletic opportunities on other campuses and expand support for our existing athletic program. A new, common mascot is one way to unite our schools and build campus community.
To initiate this process, we solicited broad input from our campuses, alumni and community supporters. A work group focused on this topic has narrowed those suggestions by also taking into consideration mascots used by competitors in our Peach Belt Conference and other area institutions and will submit its suggestions to the Consolidation Implementation Committee, which will in turn make a final recommendation based on the input they will have received. In an effort to minimize the costs associated with a mascot change, we will focus on ways to phase-in changes – such as through the routine replacement of uniforms.
Several of our administrators have noted that the University of North Georgia has the potential to be greater than the sum of its parts, and I completely agree. As we expand our geographic footprint and merge our strong faculty and student services in ways to complement our current and future programs, we will increase the educational opportunities and student life activities for students across our region. Along this journey, we must look some distance down the path to discern how we will create positive opportunities for our future as one university serving a variety of students and communities.