Nooks Delivers Gordon’s Inaugural State of the College Address

Gordon State College President Kirk A. Nooks delivered the institution's first annual State of the College address Friday.
Gordon State College President Kirk A. Nooks delivered the institution's first annual State of the College address Friday.

By: Brittany A. Tennant, Communications Specialist

BARNESVILLE, GA - Gordon State College President Kirk A. Nooks delivered the institution’s first annual State of the College address Friday.  Nooks provided an overview of the highlights and accomplishments from the previous year, defined the challenges for the upcoming year and shared exciting opportunities for the future.

Nooks’ address focused on the implementation of the institution’s new Strategic Plan: The Power of WE, which was revealed in the summer of 2019. The five-year plan will be used across campus to guide investment, enable excellence and drive allocation of resources.

“We are committed to The Power of We,” Nooks said. “When all the data came together from our regional workforce study and marketing study, the theme for the college emerged.”

GSC’s economic impact has contributed nearly $137 million to the regional economy and provided 1,369 jobs in fiscal year 2018. Gordon’s 14-county primary service region includes Butts, Clayton, Coweta, Crawford, Fayette, Henry, Lamar, Macon-Bibb, Meriwether, Monroe, Pike, Spalding, Talbot and Thomaston-Upson counties. Approximately 70 percent of the nearly 3,500 students enrolled represent the primary service region.

Nooks outlined the 14 associate degree programs as well as the 11 bachelor's degree programs. Gordon is actively working to develop several new bachelor degree proposals based on feedback from its workforce study include exploring options to offer a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Industry Arts, Bachelor of Science in Health & Wellness and an online completion degree for a Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy. The University System of Georgia announced this week it is in process of an overhaul of the general education curriculum, which is essentially covers the first two years of a college education. Over the next year, GSC will be actively determining how these changes will be implemented. 

Gordon also made significant gains in retention efforts. Retention of the Fall Semester 2018 freshmen class increased to 58.2%, an increase of 10% over Fall Semester 17 freshmen retention. The African American male retention rose an impressive 13 percent for the same group. These data points are key indicators that Gordon State College is making significant improvements in student success, and these trends will also help build enrollment.

Gordon State College’s Strategic Plan is the culmination of a year’s worth of data analysis, feedback sessions, college and community engagement, Nooks said. He stressed the plan’s imperatives reflect what is possible when the faculty, staff, students, and community accepts the challenge of creating a stronger Gordon. SOTC

The Strategic Plan has three imperatives with accompanying objectives that drive the plan. Establishing a distinctive identity built on a collaborative campus culture supported by the institutional values, promoting student excellence throughout the academic journey and strengthening community engagement and partnerships within the institutions 14-county service region are focus of the imperatives. 

This collaborative effort is reflected in the results of GSC’s No. 9 ranking among Top Public Schools in the Regional Colleges South Category according to U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges list; GSC ranking No. 6 for the 2019 Best nursing School in Georgia according to Registered Nursing and GSC ranking No. 1 in the University System of Georgia for the institution’s New Student Orientation. GSC also led among state colleges and ranked first in the system overall last year in percentage of first year students taking 15 or more credits in fall semester, according to a University System of Georgia report. The Momentum Year is a starting point that helps students find their path, get on that path and build velocity in the direction of their goals. It also aligns with GSC’s Strategic Plan.

“Since 1852 we’ve been proud to be here at Gordon,” Nooks said “We’ve evolved from the elementary school into a private school. We merged into the military college then became a junior college.

“Through the leadership of people here in this audience, this institution became a part of the University System of Georgia, and because of their sacrifice, hard work and not taking ‘No’ for an answer, this institution is still here.”

The Strategic Plan also ensures that college faculty and staff members are provided with at least one professional development opportunity annually aimed at expanding the understanding of their role. GSC continued to foster the education ethos this year by continuing with a second year of Highlander Leadership Academy (HLA). Faculty and staff gather for six sessions of the year to develop leadership skills to strengthen their current roles and help prepare them for future leadership positions. The Highlander Ethos is the fundamental spirit of GSC that places our students, and their experiences, at the heart of everything.

In addition to HLA, students are selected by faculty and staff to participate in GSC's Student Leadership Academy. In Fall Semester 2019, 75 students made up the inaugural cohort. The three-day, two-night academy helped students develop leadership skills.

In the summer of 2019, GSC’s Student Center, an 11,271 square-foot building which features desktop and laptop computer stations, a waiting room for parents and a meeting room that can accommodate seating for 60 people, opened its doors and was also selected as the recipient of the University System of Georgia’s Innovation Award in Design.

The college has made some changes in structure, titles and programs, Nooks said stating the reorganization decisions were made from the institution’s budget and resources, significantly tied to enrollment funding formulas. The college uses the strategic plan to align funding priorities and will continue to use the same format for the upcoming academic year budget.

Nooks said the college also strives to replicate excellence outside of the classroom and went on to highlight GSC’s four athletic teams. He noted the GSC men’s baseball team enters the 2020 season ranked in the Top 10 in national preseason polls, and the Highlanders claimed a first-place finish with a 26-4 record in the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association (also known as Region 17 in the National Junior College Athletic Association) last year. The women’s soccer team also won the GCAA conference title in 2019.

The college added a Bass Fishing Club to its Student Life and Recreation lineup. Nooks stated Gordon has established a Club Football Exploratory Committee to consider the induction of a Club Football team that would compete in the National Club Football Association (NCFA).

GSC continues to expand on the Strategic Plan by making partnerships and strengthening community engagement within the institutions 14-county service region. During Fall Semester 2019, GSC welcomed six newly established advisory boards on campus. The respective advisory boards will provide guidance and advice as curricular changes are made to programs and strive to maintain relevance within the workforce. Advisory Boards were established for Business, Career Services, Fine & Performing Arts, Human Services, School of Education as well as the School of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Nooks said the college’s Strategic Enrollment Plan is a five-year comprehensive plan established to recruit and retain students with a specific emphasis on adding new academic programs and partner with the education ecosystem for the institution’s service region.

In 2019, Gordon partnered with multiple institutions to assist students transferring to or from the college through articulation agreements, including Albany Technical College, Georgia College & State University, Mercer University and Southern Crescent Technical College. Gordon also partnered with Griffin Spalding County Schools to establish a Parapro to Teacher Education Program and continues to offer the Gordon Access Program (GAP) with Fort Valley State University.

GSC also hosted a series of roundtables, including area high-school superintendents who were provided specific statistics from their school system and a separate program for members of legislation, which focused on GSC’s strategic goals.

GSC’s First Lady Alison N. Nooks contributes to the college’s strategic plan as well. She has made it her mission since last year to read to elementary students within the institution’s service region.

Nooks acknowledged the success of Gordon’s students, faculty and staff is the direct result of the investment, stewardship and leadership the GSC Foundation has made to the institution, reported at $656,359 in annual giving contributions for 2018-2019. The GSC Foundation Board also achieved 100 percent participation in giving to the college for 2019. Nooks was excited to share the college is expected to announce a large gift within the next month.

He closed his address with gratitude to the alumni and challenged them to become or remain engaged with the college by supporting various Fine and Performing Arts, athletic events plus attending regional alumni events.