AJC On Campus: Medical college expands to Savannah, schools hire leaders

A roundup of news and happenings from Georgia colleges and universities
College graduation season is wrapping up.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

College graduation season is wrapping up. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Georgia’s only public medical college is expanding to Savannah.

In this edition of AJC On Campus, we tell you about the new four-year medical campus. Plus, three universities are getting federal funding for mental health. And Clark Atlanta and Emory universities made key hires.

New medical college campus

The Medical College of Georgia, part of Augusta University, will launch a site in Savannah.

The state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 included $1.69 million in bond funding to help with the renovation of office, classroom and lab space to house the medical campus at the Armstrong campus of Georgia Southern University.

The Georgia Board of Regents authorized the renovation project at a May meeting. Officials said the new site will allow the college to train more physicians.

Georgia, like much of the country, is grappling with a shortage of nurses and other healthcare workers. Grady Hospital last year teamed up with Georgia State University on an effort to address the “critical nursing shortage” at the Atlanta facility.

“Increasing opportunities within the University System of Georgia allows Augusta University’s Medical College of Georgia to educate and train more students and meets a clear need to make sure our communities receive better health care,” said Georgia House of Representatives speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, in a written statement. “Georgia needs more doctors, and I’m proud we are making this investment in our future.”

Sonny Perdue, chancellor of the University System, told the AJC in March that the goal is to create more opportunities for students to get “exposure to more patients in a clinical environment.”

The four-year medical campus in Savannah is expected to enroll students starting in fall 2024, according to Augusta University. The expansion will allow the college to accept 40 more students per year, for a total of 304 students per class.

The medical college’s main campus is in Augusta and it also has a four-year campus in Athens.

Guns on campus

A national advocacy group opposed to allowing guns on college campuses is asking the Georgia Board of Regents to take action following the dismissal of lawsuit brought by professors.

The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus this week called for the board “to exercise the authority granted to it under the state Constitution by prohibiting guns on campus.”

The push comes after Wednesday’s decision by the Supreme Court of Georgia to uphold a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by professors over the state’s “campus carry” law.

The professors had argued that a 2017 law change that allows people to carry concealed guns on certain parts of public college campuses was unconstitutional because it usurped the Board of Regents’ authority to govern public universities. The justices said that argument was moot because the board also adopted a gun-carrying policy that aligns with the state law.

The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, which supported the professors’ lawsuit to block the gun law, said it’s “disappointed” by the court’s decision.

“However, we see a silver lining articulated by the Court: that the Georgia Board of Regents has the power under the Georgia Constitution to protect the safety of all public higher education stakeholders by prohibiting the carrying of guns on campus by unauthorized persons,” the group said in a statement.

Georgia’s law allows concealed weapons on public college campuses but not in residence halls, fraternity or sorority houses, and in certain other spaces, such as buildings that host athletic events.

University System employee health care

A University System of Georgia task force will evaluate if employee health care plans should cover weight-loss drugs.

The issue has gained attention since the FDA approved the drug Wegovy to treat obesity.

Including weight-loss drugs to the coverage plans could add “significant costs” given the number of Americans who are obese or overweight, officials told the Board of Regents at a May meeting.

The task force will consider “coverage, programming, efficacy and cost to determine a strategy for moving forward.”

Mental health grants

Three Georgia universities will get a share of federal funding to boost access to school-based mental health services.

Kennesaw State University will receive nearly $708,000. The University of Georgia Research Foundation will get about $877,000. The Georgia State University Research Foundation will get just over $614,000.

The awards from the U.S. Department of Education are part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act signed by President Joe Biden last year.

Kennesaw State plans to use its funding to train master of social work students from diverse backgrounds in underserved and rural counties in northwest Georgia. The funding also will provide trauma-informed training to teachers and school police officers, among other efforts.

Emory University’s Oxford College names dean

Badia Ahad will be the next dean of Oxford College of Emory University.

Credit: Emory University

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Credit: Emory University

Badia Ahad will begin serving as dean of Oxford College of Emory University on Aug. 1.

In the role, she will act as the chief academic and administrative officer for the college, which enrolls about 1,000 Emory students in their first and second year. The campus in Oxford, Georgia, is about 37 miles southeast of the main campus in Atlanta.

Ahad is currently vice provost for faculty affairs and an English professor at Loyola University Chicago.

Ahad is an African American literature scholar who earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Notre Dame.

She’ll step into the role that’s been held by interim dean Ken Carter.

Clark Atlanta University’s new provost

Charlene D. Gilbert is Clark Atlanta University's new provost. Photo courtesy of Ohio State University

Credit: Ohio State University

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Credit: Ohio State University

Charlene D. Gilbert is the new provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Clark Atlanta University.

Her appointment is effective Thursday .

Gilbert came from Ohio State University, where she was named the senior vice provost for student academic excellence in 2022. Before that, she was the dean of the University of Toledo’s College of Arts and Letters for five years.

Gilbert received a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Yale University. Her master’s of fine arts degree is from Temple University and her doctorate in educational studies is from the University of Nebraska.

Using AI like... an electric bike?

A new report from the U.S. Department of Education tackles the impact of artificial intelligence on teaching and learning.

The public launch late last year of ChatGPT introduced many to the power of AI computer programs that can write essays, answer questions and, ahem, do students’ homework.

Concerns have swirled about the bias that such programs can exhibit and the ease with which students can use them to cheat.

The federal report examines risks and opportunities associated with AI. The central recommendation: Keep humans “firmly at the center” of the technology.

From the report: “We envision a technology-enhanced future more like an electric bike and less like robot vacuums. On an electric bike, the human is fully aware and fully in control, but their burden is less, and their effort is multiplied by a complementary technological enhancement. Robot vacuums do their job, freeing the human from involvement or oversight.”

Georgia Tech’s Survivor

“Absolute Banger Season” – The remaining five castaways must climb their way to victory in the immunity challenge to earn a feast at the sanctuary and a spot in the final four. Also, one castaway will be crowned Sole Survivor on the two-hour season finale, followed by the After Show hosted by Jeff Probst, on the CBS Original series SURVIVOR, Wednesday, May 24, (8:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network, and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.  Pictured (L-R): Carson Garrett at Tribal Council.   Photo: CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Highest quality screengrab available.

Credit: CBS

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Credit: CBS

A few months ago, we told you about Carson Garrett, a Georgia Tech aerospace engineering student from Rome, Georgia, who was competing in season 44 of the TV show “Survivor” set on the islands of Fiji.

Well, last week Garrett’s torch was snuffed out. He finished fourth after he was unable to start a fire quite as quickly as a castmate who managed to light up some twigs in record-setting time.

Garrett became a fan favorite for his social skills, puzzle prowess, strategic thinking and the lovable connections he made with two other Tika tribe mates. For more on his TV contest run, check out The Atlanta Journal-Constitution story here.

Honorary degrees

Filmmaker Will Packer will receive an honorary degree from Savannah College of Art and Design at its Friday commencement ceremony.

Credit: SCAD

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Credit: SCAD

The Savannah College of Art and Design will award an honorary degree to Atlanta filmmaker and producer Will Packer at its Friday commencement in Atlanta.

Packer’s films include “Beast,” “Girls Trip” and “Night School.”

The art school will also honor vegan cookbook author and actress Tabitha Brown and Atlanta philanthropist and SCAD supporter Stacey Leebern.

If you have any higher education tips or thoughts, email reporter Vanessa McCray at vanessa.mccray@ajc.com.