The new year brings for us a new Albany State University, complete with a new vision, mission and guiding principles. I invite you to learn more by reading our foundational documents. As we begin the year, we see many opportunities for growth and success. Our priorities include student success from recruitment to graduation and beyond; completing Phase II of the consolidation process; development and execution of a strategic plan; and enhanced communications.

The quality of the work we will do this year will be based on a solid foundation of accomplishments from last year. While there were challenges, there were many successes, too.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges approved the Albany State University/Darton State College Consolidation Prospectus on December 6. On December 9, in a unanimous vote, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia gave final approval of the consolidation, effective January 1, 2017. We now have a leadership team that will spend the next six months completing Phase II of the consolidation process and when fall semester begins in August, students will attend classes on the Albany State University East and West campuses.

Albany State University and Darton State College graduated more than 1,000 students during commencement ceremonies in December, which is a testament to student success and the commitment of faculty and staff. The December commencement ceremony at Darton State College was the largest the institution hosted in its 50 years.

More than 30 students participated in study abroad opportunities in Belize, China, England, Ireland, France, Spain, the Dominican Republic, Japan and Trinidad and Tobago. We are grateful to those faculty who worked with students on this life-changing experience.

Albany State University and Darton State College also experienced success in our athletic programs. The Darton State College Cavalier baseball team won the East Central District Tournament, which took them to their first Junior College World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado. Albany State’s men’s cross country team finished second at the 2016 SIAC Championship in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

During the fall semester, we topped out the Fine Arts Center, putting us one step closer to the completion of a $19 million facility that will replace Holley Hall. I invite you to see the progress online or by visiting the campus.

Education is more than what is learned in the classroom. Student, faculty and staff community engagement activities included Relay for Life, Southwest Georgia College Art Exhibit with Albany Area Arts Council, Picture is Worth a Thousand Words with the Albany Museum of Art, Feed the Force with eCore for Albany Police Department, Stash the Trash with Keep-Albany Dougherty Beautiful, collection for hurricane victims in Louisiana and more.

In December, my wife, Karen, and I announced a $25,000 match gift to the university for 2017 to support student success. During the year we will match all gifts up to $25,000. Just before the end of December, we wrote our first matching check for $3,000. If you would like to be a part of this effort, please make your tax-deductible contribution payable to the Albany State University Foundation or give online and note matching gift in the memo/comments area.

Our faculty, on both campuses, are writing grants and making presentations around the globe. Recently, two faculty members presented their research on suicide and suicide prevention in India. In one session, more than 400 people heard the presentation. One faculty member received a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship to advance curriculum development in molecular diagnostics and traveled to Nigeria to continue his research in pathogen genomics. Three professors received a three-year grant totaling more than $600,000 from the National Institute of Justice for a study in forensic science. Faculty and staff received a grant from Georgia Humanities to host a Literary Festival with over 150 attendees. These are just four of the grants and research in which our faculty are involved.

Availability to online education continues to be in demand, especially for those who are returning to higher education after entering the workforce. The two institutions received high rankings for their online programs. Darton State College ranked third on OnlineU’s 2016 list of America’s most affordable online degree programs. Albany State University ranked second among Georgia colleges and eleventh among national colleges offering online degree programs according to Affordable Colleges Online’s annual ranking of the Best Online Colleges of 2016. In addition, a Darton State College online associate professor was recognized as the 2016 Regents Online Teacher of the Year.

Staff members, along with Albany State University alumni, launched the Fostering Through College program, a comprehensive support program that provides peer encouragement to former foster, homeless and orphaned youth.

I thank you for your continued support and wish you a happy and prosperous New Year.

Sincerely,

 Dr. Art Dunning