Brenau’s ‘Now in Jax’ Motto Goes ‘Official’ with Sept. 1 North Florida Campus Opening Celebration
Brenau University plans to hold the ceremonial opening of its new campus in Jacksonville, Florida, on Tuesday, Sept. 1, in preparation for beginning its first graduate school class in October followed by the first undergraduate program in early 2016.
Dr. Ed Schrader, president of the 137-year-old Gainesville, Georgia-based, fully accredited, nonprofit comprehensive university, scheduled a cookout for prospective students and others interested in learning more about Brenau from 4 to 6 p.m. at the site of its Florida operation, 6622 Southpoint Drive South. The schedule also includes a “ribbon-cutting” ceremony at 6:30 p.m. with a welcome by Jacksonville City Council President Greg Anderson.
Peter Miller, chairman of the university board of trustees, and the board’s newest member – retired Rear Admiral Patty Wolfe of Jacksonville, who earned a Brenau Master of Business Administration in 1987 – will join Schrader for the festivities along with university faculty and staff.
“This is really an outstanding honor for Brenau University to be in this community,” said Schrader. “We have some amazing connections in the area already, including more than 600 alumni living in the Jacksonville area. If you count those who have passed on, like Freda Stein and Grace Hambrick Osborn, you will know how strong those Brenau family ties are.”
Although Brenau began in North Georgia as a women’s college in 1878 and still maintains a thriving undergraduate residential single-gender program, all programs in Jacksonville will be coeducational. The university’s specialty today includes addressing undergraduate and graduate education for nontraditional students, men and women, at the home campus in Gainesville as well as locations in other cities. For example, it has operated on the Kings Bay Navy Submarine Base in Georgia for about 30 years. It has two campuses in metro Atlanta – Fairburn and Norcross – and another in Augusta.
“I’ll admit that, in addition to strong ties with hundreds of alumni from north Florida, we saw some areas in which the region was underserved by higher education,” said Schrader. “We believe that we can significantly improve the mix of college and university options from the people in this area.”
Brenau will launch its first academic classes in mid-October – a graduate-level Master of Business Administration cohort program. According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Brenau operates the second-largest MBA program in Georgia based on enrollment.
“I went to an alumni dinner and heard about the new Jacksonville campus and, lo and behold, it’s going to be right across the street from my office,” said Sarah Perez, a corporate real estate service assistant for CSX Real Properties, Inc. The former Navy electronics technician from St. Marys, Georgia, received her undergrad business administration degree in 2010 at the Kings Bay campus. However, Perez said she chose Brenau for more than its convenience.
“At Brenau, I know I’m getting the knowledge and tools I need for moving forward in my career,” she said, adding that she is looking forward to experiencing the same high-quality, academics-focused experience she got as an undergrad on the master’s level.
One of the faculty members she will encounter in Jacksonville also came to the new operation through Kings Bay. Dr. Deane A. Desper, a former U.S. Navy logistics officer who now works as a project manager for the defense contractor BAE Systems-Fleet Support Logistics, will be teaching on both campuses in graduate and undergraduate programs.
“I really like the variety and quality of the students that I have encountered at Brenau,” the Woonsocket, Rhode Island, native said. “Every one of them I’ve encountered seems to be driven by the desire to do their best and get the most that they can from their educations.”
Typical of the variety of students he has encountered is Aliette Richard, who decided to apply to Brenau’s MBA program after spotting one of the Brenau “Now In Jax” billboards and visiting the university website.
“When I went online, I was very excited because Brenau has an MBA specializing in project management, which is exactly the degree I am looking for,” said the assistant district manager for a company that provides government-related claims assistance for hospitals.
The Brenau graduate school program, she added, is very accommodating to her professional schedule and personal obligations.
“I want to learn as much as I can, to make myself more marketable,” she said. “With the Jacksonville campus opening up, there’s no more waiting. It’s a great time to do just that.”
David L. Barnett, chief financial officer and senior vice president over all administrative operations of the university, said that Brenau’s educational format enables the university to offer programs at the convenience of the students. Adding to the convenience, he said, Brenau Jacksonville campus students also will have access to Brenau’s catalog of highly regarded undergraduate and graduate online programs.
Brenau several months ago completed the $210,000 4,380-square-foot build-out for leased space on the top floor of a former Bank of America four-story office building on the south side of Jacksonville. The location is near the J.T. Butler Boulevard and I-95 interchange.
Donny Moore, who has overseen Brenau’s operations in Augusta, Georgia, since 2002, already is in place as the administrator for the Jacksonville site.
Although Brenau’s residential undergraduate Women’s College in Gainesville still thrives with about a third of Brenau’s 3,000-student population, the university launched co-educational studies in Gainesville and other locations in the 1970s. Retired Rear Admiral Wolfe, for example, earned an MBA degree from a program that Brenau ran at the Navy’s Supply Corps School, which operated on the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens from 1954 until it moved to Providence, Rhode Island, in 2010.
Schrader said that the heavy population of military personnel, veterans and their families in the Jacksonville area was a major factor in the university’s decision to locate there. Last year U.S. News & World Report ranked Brenau the 12th most veteran-friendly institution among comprehensive universities in the Southeast.
The Jacksonville site will not have an impact on the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, which is only 47 miles away. Although Brenau at Kings Bay continues to meet needs of students in and out of the military, its location on the base restricts growth potential for the university.