Year-end reflections on Brenau’s accomplishments

Jul. 9, 2020
Anne A. Skleder


I am grateful and energized that Brenau University finished the 2019-20 academic year with an array of accomplishments and a host of reasons for celebration. Our achievements are centered around student support and success because our students are the reason we exist. From the moment of my first interview with the presidential search committee, I knew that Brenau is a special place, and I am humbled by the stewardship entrusted to me.

Brenau is fueled by faculty and staff committed to the education of each student. Overcoming adversity and obstacles while embracing new opportunities is a Brenau hallmark, and my colleagues have especially demonstrated their collected mettle this semester as we have faced challenging days due to the novel coronavirus. As one academic year draws to a close and a new one begins, I reflect on many of our accomplishments as we prepared our students to successfully take on the challenges of their professions.

While the list linked below is not all-encompassing, it does provide a robust sampling of our enterprise here at Brenau.

Anne A. Skleder, Brenau University President


Brenau University’s Ivester College of Health Sciences in downtown Gainesville, Georgia. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)


The work of our faculty in the classroom is crucial to our mission here at Brenau, as they shape futures of personal and professional fulfillment.

  • The Department of Psychology was elevated to the Lynn J. Darby School of Psychology and Adolescent Counseling and is the newest addition to Brenau University’s Ivester College of Health Sciences made possible through a $2.6 million gift from Doug and Kay Ivester. The naming honors a lifelong friend of both Doug and Kay, going back to their days working together at Ernst and Ernst, and is in recognition of Lynn’s tireless work as the president of the Melvin Douglas and Victoria Kay Ivester Foundation. The new school will be located in the Gainesville Renaissance building, which will begin construction this fall and complete the fourth side of the downtown square. This building and the existing Brenau Downtown Center will be part of the newly christened Brenau Downtown Campus.
  • We are moving forward to implement the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program, with our first class entering in January 2021. This includes the hiring of founding Director Dr. Julie Keena and Assistant Director Dr. Kyrus Patch, as well as important and complex accreditation work. The PA facilities, designed to foster group learning, are complete. The program has attracted hundreds of prospective student applications.
  • The Faculty Leadership Team, led by Dr. Heather Ross, program director and chair of the Department of Physical Therapy, completed its first academic year of work with the provost to ensure an effective relationship between the faculty and the administration through collaborative, shared governance initiatives.
  • The faculty and accreditors approved the development of an undergraduate computer science program, which will launch in 2021.
  • Information Technology assisted faculty with converting hundreds of on-ground classes to remote learning in mid-March as part of the university’s COVID-19 response. In addition, multiple sessions were hosted and recorded in order to provide refresher training for on-ground instructors in Canvas-based online instruction.
  • The Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) graduated its first cohort in May. All of the students passed the Exit HESI exam and are moving into the workforce on temporary licences until they can register for the NCLEX licensing exam.
  • The School of Occupational Therapy received full approval from the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) to start an entry-level doctoral program (ELOTD) in fall 2020. Applications for the program have been robust with the majority of accepted students having submitted their deposits, and OT faculty have made a smooth transition to remote instruction.
  • In April, Brenau received the official notification that its BFA in Interior Design was re-accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) for another six years.
  • Dr. Tracey Brent-Chessum joined Brenau on July 13 as the new chair of the Department of Theatre.
  • Brenau Trustee Library has applied for $70,000 in grants to fund online, evidence-based practice instruction for graduate health sciences students in our Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Physician Assistant Studies programs. The library recently received an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant and is awaiting word on a National Network of Libraries of Medicine grant.
  • The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Nurse Faculty Loan Program grant for $122,000 was funded and begins July 1. The single-year funding purpose for this grant is to increase the number of qualified nursing faculty.
  • Under the leadership of Dr. Debra Dobkins, dean of The Women’s College, the GOLD Program was launched, offering signature experiences including a Golden Ticket event made possible with the help of Dr. Heather Hollimon, professor of political science, and a speaker series that featured the highly successful Leatrice Eckber Gochberg. The inaugural “G” year focusing on gender concluded with a roaring ’20s celebration of the centennial of women’s suffrage. GOLD Program planning continues for the “O” year with its emphasis on ownership of personal and civic responsibility.
  • Honors Program Tiger Tutors: Dr. Dobkins began a new initiative to embed successful peers in courses, with honors students serving as mentors in First-Year Experience classes. Tiger Tutors will attend class, organize group events outside of class and help students acclimate to college life at Brenau. As the initiative grows, students may be placed in other courses to provide supplemental support.
  • Plans are underway to launch an entry-level Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) by May 2021.
  • The president appointed a Student Success Team to lead university-wide retention efforts, including the elimination of all remedial courses by summer 2020.
  • The university is extending its national/international reputation as institutions have expressed interest in our associate degree programs, our Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program and the development of four-week online courses that will be taught in December/January to both Brenau and international students (e.g., students at a few renowned universities in China).
  • The president appointed a Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence led by Drs. Margie Gill and Amanda Lammers to ensure that the university remains a leader in its efforts to grow in diversity and to ensure that all have a voice at the table.
  • Two master’s in psychology students were awarded prestigious and challenging to attain American Psychological Association Graduate Minority Fellowships worth $10,000 each. Both students are earning their degrees in clinical counseling psychology.
  • Physical therapy was fully re-accredited in all standards and elements with no recommendations, an uncommon outcome, after being notified of the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education’s decision in the spring.

2020 Competition Cheer Team (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)


Athletic opportunities have long been at the heart of the student experience at Brenau, and this year was no exception.

  • Three Golden Tigers teams were ranked in the top 10 nationally this year, including No. 6 competitive cheer, No. 7 tennis and No. 9 swimming and diving.
  • Sixty student-athletes were named to the Appalachian Athletic Conference All-Academic Team based on their academic performance.
  • Brenau Athletics received the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Five Star Award, which emphasizes integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.
  • A tennis student-athlete made Brenau history as she received a bid to play in the national tournament commonly known as the “Super Bowl” of tennis.
  • Nate Rhoads, head swim coach, was named an American Swim Coaches Association Level 5 Coach, which is its highest level. He was also named Appalachian Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.
  • Devon Thomas, head softball coach, was inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Easton Victory Club for his 500th career win.
  • Nine athletes from Brenau’s tennis and swim/dive teams were named NAIA All-American based on stellar athletic accomplishments.
  • Four Brenau golfers were named to the Women’s Golf Coaches Association All-Academic Team.
  • The swim/dive team was honored by the College Swim Coaches Association of America as an All-Academic Team.
  • Brenau’s tennis team suffered only one defeat during the 2020 abbreviated season to NCAA Division I University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The Golden Tigers continued their unbeaten streak in Appalachian Athletic Conference play with a perfect 19-0 record that dates back to 2017.
  • Brenau athletes recorded one of their best semesters in recent history with an average cumulative GPA of 3.25; 100 athletes were named to dean’s/merit lists, and 48 athletes achieved a perfect 4.0 semester GPA.
  • A tennis student-athlete received the Intercollegiate Tennis Player South Region Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award.
  • Tennis Coach Andre Ferreira received the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Coaches’ Community Service Award.
  • The Information Technology department partnered with the Athletics department to procure and implement a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot for Brenau’s buses so that athletes who are travelling to and from competitive venues have access to internet service.
  • The United States Tennis Association provided a USTA Facility Recovery Grant to help cover expenses associated with reopening our tennis facility this year.

Left to right: Linda Pittman, Anne Skleder, Juli Clay and Kristen Brown laugh at a New York City alumni event at Delmonico’s Steak House (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)


As a mission-driven not-for-profit, Brenau is dependent upon the incredible generosity of those who believe in and invest in what we do.

  • President Anne Skleder’s Listening and LearningTour included 15 events on the Brenau campus and across the country with over 700 alumni and friends in total attendance.
  • A Virtual Alumni Reunion featured a President’s Reception, Champagne Brunch, awards, auction, contests and more.
  • The Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation expanded its support to assist our nursing students and increased its support significantly for the upcoming academic year.
  • President Anne Skleder established the Presidential First Generation Scholarship Fund in January 2020 to help students first in their families to attend college to persist and thrive as an undergraduate and to eventually graduate from Brenau.
  • 100% of Brenau employees contributed to the Campus Campaign for the sixth consecutive year. This year’s total giving is over $137,000.
  • Brenau received a Child Care Access Means Parents In School grant through the U.S. Department of Education. The grant provides subsidies for student parents in need of child care services.
  • We renewed the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance grant from the IRS, which is an on-campus opportunity to assist those in the community, primarily low-wage individuals and families, with the preparation of their tax returns.
  • The Dr. Louise Bauck Endowment for Environmental Studies was established to honor Dr. Louise Astrid Bauck, a longtime faculty member who died in July 2019.
    Brenau received a $122,413 Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Nursing Faculty Program Loan that will be used to create a loan fund to support Brenau students enrolled in the DNP program who are interested in pursuing careers as nursing faculty.
  • Brenau joined 10 other Georgia Independent College Association (GICA) members to participate in a grant from the Teagle Foundation to support improving access for students transferring to private liberal arts institutions from two-year public colleges and universities.

International students waving during Tiger Takeover event in downtown Gainesville. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)


Brenau is in the process of building a comprehensive internationalization plan to create more opportunities for global experiences for Brenau students on campus and around the world.

  • President Skleder signed a memorandum of understanding with the largest student scholarship agency in the government of Panama, paving the way for the first students to study at Brenau in spring 2022, fully supported by the Panamanian government. These high-performing students will be first in their families to attend college. The five-year program begins with a year of intensive English and cultural immersion, followed by a four-year degree from any program offered at Brenau.
  • The university signed an agreement with the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta to provide scholarships for students of Mexican heritage as part of the Institute of Mexicans Abroad (IME Becas) scholarship program. The university was awarded a grant to award $5,000 one-time scholarships to four students.
  • Brenau continued its partnership with Anhui Normal University, welcoming its first cohort of interior design students in fall 2019, bringing the total number of students on the Gainesville campus from Anhui to 87. In addition, three Brenau faculty members taught in China in fall 2019. Two Anhui Normal University faculty members came to Brenau for a faculty exchange in fall 2019. A Brenau delegation of President Skleder, Provost Eck, President Emeritus Ed Schrader and former Board Chair Pete Miller traveled to Anhui in November 2019 to continue partnerships with Anhui Normal University and Anhui Business College, and begin to explore a new partnership with Anhui Medical University.
  • We are proud of how prepared the Anhui students are for graduate school, with alumni gaining admission to graduate programs at Penn State University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Georgia, Brenau and elsewhere.

Front row, from left: Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield, Melvin Douglas and Victoria Kay Ivester Foundation President Lynn Darby, and Brenau President Anne Skleder prepare to sign a renewal of the agreement between the district and university for the Ivester Early College program as Brenau faculty and administrators look on.


Over the past year, we especially focused on creating and enriching community partnerships that add to the one-of-a-kind experience offered to our students.

  • A partnership with premier secondary school Lakeview Academy will enhance the experience of both campuses, offering Lakeview students access to Brenau theatre facilities and giving Brenau student-athletes access to the school’s new track facilities.
  • Brenau renewed a three-year partnership with the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, which offers new opportunities to use a state-of-the-art space called Hub at the High.
  • The Melvin Douglas and Victoria Kay Ivester Foundation invested in the early college program of the local Hall County School District. Brenau is a longtime partner of the program, now named the Howard E. Ivester Early College.
  • The Arader Art Fund at Brenau University was established through a partnership with Graham Arader to support the acquisition of natural history artwork and its integration into the undergraduate curriculum. Linking science and the humanities is an important focus for Brenau.
  • The Norcross campus partnered with four major healthcare systems — Northeast Georgia Health System, Piedmont Healthcare, Pruitt Health and the Northside Hospital system — to hold a residency fair for students in the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

Detail image of "The Brenau Ideal" stone monument


While we are confident in the work we do here at Brenau, rankings offer a third-party perspective and external validation that we are doing our work well.

  • Over the past two years, Brenau University climbed 19 spots on the U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best Regional Universities South, and we landed in the top 3 in the state on that list and four others: Best Value Schools, Campus Ethnic Diversity, Best Colleges for Veterans and Top Performers on Social Mobility.
  • For the 15th consecutive year, Brenau was named to The Princeton Review’s “Best in the Southeast” section of the 2020 Best Colleges: Region by Region. The feature places Brenau in the top 22% of the nation’s approximately 3,000 four-year colleges.
  • According to Money Magazine’s list of Best Colleges for Your Money 2019, Brenau ranked in the top 23% out of all four-year universities in the country.
  • Brenau earned high marks in the areas of diversity, safety and value in the publication Niche, which bases its rankings upon student surveys.


We are engaging and impressing potential and future Brenau students, as evidenced by strong work from staff and administrators in this area.

  • Effective July 1, Dr. Laura McPhie Oliveira will serve as interim vice president of enrollment management for the 2020-21 academic year.
  • Redenna Poole, assistant vice president for enrollment management, and Nathan Goss, assistant vice president for recruitment, continue to provide strong leadership in this area, and the university is building a comprehensive strategic enrollment plan that will direct the efforts of our team for the next few years.
  • Provost Jim Eck is leading a university-wide effort to improve student persistence rates, driven by a student success team. Efforts extend throughout the university with the first major focus within The Women’s College. Early indicators are positive for the impact of this comprehensive effort engaging faculty and staff.
  • In response to COVID-19 shelter-at-home directives, Enrollment Management quickly shifted recruitment events from on-ground to remote, creating guided virtual campus tours, virtual scholarship competition day and weekly admitted student events. Social media “live” events in which viewers may ask questions about Brenau continue to occur several times each week.

Members of each Brenau sorority pose for a portrait on the Front Lawn of the Gainesville campus (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)


Cocurricular programming at Brenau allows us to educate our students in the classroom and beyond.

  • Due to the generosity of Kay and Doug Ivester, the Brenau University Downtown Center hosted an ongoing special exhibition of works titled “Charles Webster Hawthorne: Paintings from the Collection of Doug and Kay Ivester.” The exhibition can be viewed online at
  • Gainesville facilities received over $6 million in improvements including the John W. Jacobs Jr. Building and the expansion of classroom, student gathering and office spaces at the Brenau Downtown Center to support the new Physician Assistant Studies program.
  • More than 300 students participated in Campus Movie Fest, which provided young filmmakers with all of the equipment, training and support they needed to make a 5-minute movie in one week. The red carpet event showcased the creativity of our students and the support of our faculty.
  • With the process for the renewal of our regional accreditation well underway under the leadership of President Skleder, Provost Jim Eck, Executive Vice President and CFO David Barnett, Associate Professor and Head of Research and Instructional Services Kimberly Boy, Associate Professor and Research and Instruction Librarian Emily Thornton and Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Emily Zank, Brenau’s steering committee attended the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools orientation session at its annual meeting in Houston, which ensured that we are on track for the team visit in March 2022.
  • In January, faculty and staff from across the university worked with volunteers at the Junior Achievement Discovery Center, teaching middle schoolers important lessons about business and the economy.
  • In May, the university recognized the years of service for 54 employees and honored the retirements of five employees. Approximately 167 individuals were a part of the university Zoom meeting.
  • The university coordinated a send-off event that united many areas of the institution in an attempt to register students for the fall and provide a sense of closure in the wake of their abrupt leave from campus due to COVID-19 concerns.
  • Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer David Barnett participated as a panelist in a national conference on higher ed finances.
    Brenau alumnae Quonna Holden, WC ’18, returned to her alma mater in January, and is responsible for overseeing Greek life among other assignments. Holden has a master’s degree in student affairs from Clemson University and is a Zeta Tau Alpha.
  • The semester GPA for our Greek women was 3.37 compared to 3.32 for non-affiliated women — both excellent numbers.

Brenau fountain goes blue for health care workers.
The Grace Hooten Moore Memorial Fountain is lit blue in support of healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)


  • Brenau secured $1.2 million from CARES Act funds to create emergency grants for students and address university operational needs in response to COVID-19.
  • The university refunded $700,000 to students for room and board charges due to early departures related to COVID-19.
  • Endowment funds are rebounding from the low March position of $37 million to a current position of $45 million as of April 30.
  • We are delaying FICA payments per the CARES Act to capture $900,000 for operations in the next three quarters.
  • Brenau consolidated capital expenses from the first three quarters into an equipment lease to restore $750,000 to operations for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020.
  • The university implemented a new health insurance strategy and plan that yielded $288,000 in savings on medical and prescription spending during the first quarter.