Monday, March 16, 2009

Brunswick School Looks Ahead

It won't be the University of Georgia by the sea, but by 2020 the College of Coastal Georgia plans to completely shed its small-town image.

The number of structures will nearly triple, and new athletic, arts, recreation and dorm buildings will shift college lifestyle from a commuter culture to an on-campus one.

One day the school could enroll as many students as Valdosta State University.

That's the "nearly final" master plan, College of Coastal Georgia President Valerie A. Hepburn told school trustees Friday.

"We're focusing on how we can meet the needs of the region, but also become a destination institution," she said.

Last June, the state university system Board of Regents approved elevating the two-year community college to four-year status.

The expansion was justified by a 2008 study that showed Southeast Georgia needed more four-year nursing, education and business degree programs, said Elizabeth Weatherly, the school's director of Institutional Advancement.

The report also said the community college was overextended.

"Our mission was to both train the workforce as a vocational school and also to educate students for transferring out to a four-year college," Weatherly said.

This year, College of Coastal Georgia will transfer its vocational programs to Altamaha Technical College and focus solely on its academic programs.

Then in 2010 a major rebuild of the campus will begin.

Right now the site is full of entrances, roads and parking lots, Hepburn said.

"We have very little space being used for student life. That's a huge problem," she said.

The master plan moves parking to the perimeter, creates a main entrance and establishes a pedestrian zone down the campus' center.

There will be green space and athletic fields. On-campus community life will be supported with a new student center, athletic facility and dorm rooms.

One by one the plan adds new academic buildings for each of the school's core programs. Stucco walls and tile roofs on buildings will make things look less institutional.

"I call it Mitzen-esque, but with more windows," Hepburn said playfully.

A performing arts building that will be built on the campus' east end will double as a facility for community events, Hepburn said.

But the transformation will be more than physical buildings.

"We have to have academic programs that are unrivaled," Hepburn said. "The best thing we can do to promote the school is to produce a top-notch graduate."

The college has hired new vice presidents, administrators, and three new department heads from top-tier schools to build up academic programs, Hepburn said.

The college's master plan committee will collect input on the master plan strategy between now and April 16, said Hepburn. It will compile the final master plan in May.

By Carole Hawkins

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