New Undergraduate and Graduate Schools Enhance Brenau’s 2025 Vision

Aug 26, 2011
Rudi Kiefer

Brenau University has officially reorganized all of its academic programs under two banners, Graduate School and Undergraduate School, as it continues execution of a strategic plan to double its enrollment by 2025.

Brenau Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jim Southerland said the action consolidates programs in three previous academic units into more logical groupings to streamline management and use resources more efficiently.

“The previous organization really only differentiated between the three teaching platforms – online, evening and weekend programs on regional campuses and the Women’s College in Gainesville,” said Southerland. “The reorganization really will not affect those platforms, but it will make a huge difference in the execution of the university’s long-range growth strategy.”

Gale Hansen Starich, dean of the College of Health and Science, has assumed the additional role of Graduate School dean. Andrea Birch, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Humanities, will also be Undergraduate School dean.

Previously the three Brenau organizations were the Women’s College, the Online College and the Evening and Weekend College – each with a mix of undergraduate and graduate programs.

Brenau continues operations of regional campuses throughout Georgia in Gainesville, Augusta, Kings Bay and the Atlanta metro area in Norcross and Fairburn.

In the new organization the 132-year-old Women’s College, which Southerland emphasizes “remains the crown jewel of Brenau University,” will be part of the university’s Undergraduate School. The Undergraduate School, however, now also oversees all the coeducational undergraduate programs that operate on all of Brenau’s regional campuses and online.

“We believe the Women’s College will continue to thrive as an exceptional undergraduate platform experience for those who choose the single-gender higher education experience,” said Southerland. “Because we plan to limit enrollment in the Women’s College to about 1,000 students, it probably will be more difficult for some students to get admitted.”

Although other Brenau undergraduate programs for men and women are expected to maintain their current pace of double-digit growth, Southerland said the university anticipates that graduate school enrollments will post triple digit growth by 2025 as Brenau moves toward becoming a doctoral-level degree-granting institution. Currently Brenau offers master’s degrees in business, education, nursing, gerontology, occupational therapy, health care administration, psychology, interior design and project management. Brenau also offers an education specialist degree, and in the fall term, which begins later this month, the university will enroll students in its first “terminal degree” (the highest degree attainable in a field) track – a Master of Fine Arts in Interior Design. In the next two or three years it plans to offer other doctorates in education, nursing and other disciplines.

In other components of the reorganization, Brenau’s two other academic deans have been given additional responsibilities:

Bill Lightfoot, dean of the College of Business & Mass Communications, will oversee the development of the “Discovery Incubator,” an initiative of the Brenau 2025 strategic plan to develop programs for teaching, research and “knowledge transfer” or commercialization around about 10 academic “superstars” who will be recruited from various disciplines.

David Barnett, interim dean of the College of Education, is overseeing development of the Center for Academic Excellence, an initiative to enhance the learning experience for all students by constant enhancement of teacher quality and improving faculty credentials and capabilities through programs for continuing education and teaching skills improvements.

Southerland said the reorganization also will help Brenau build on the quality and quantity of its online academic programs. Currently more than a third of Brenau’s undergraduate and graduate students are taking at least one course per semester in the online format. Some use the online platform to supplement on-campus course loads as a scheduling convenience. But for others, like those in the Master of Applied Gerontology and the Education Specialist graduate tracks, courses are not taught in classrooms at all. Brenau also offers completely online tracks in business, nursing, gerontology, accounting, organizational leadership, human resources management and education specialist.

“The Masters in Applied Gerontology works perfectly for me,” said Brock Adams, a junior executive at Starbucks, Inc., who now lives in Seattle, “telecommutes” to Brenau add plans to complete his degree in the fall term. “I was a psychology major as an undergraduate at Georgia State and, when I started thinking about going to graduate school, I called my favorite professor [Brenau Psychology Professor Bonnie Kin] for her advice. She was by then at Brenau and told me about the new program. I could keep my job, stay in Seattle and pursue a degree that will have enormous value.”

Originally published on 8/12/10