AJC On Campus: Olympian to give UGA grad speech; Georgia Tech admit rates

A roundup of news and happenings from Georgia colleges and universities
The United States' Allison Schmitt, who attended the University of Georgia, reacts to her gold medal win in the women's 200-meter freestyle swimming final in the 2012 Olympics. (AP file photo)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The United States' Allison Schmitt, who attended the University of Georgia, reacts to her gold medal win in the women's 200-meter freestyle swimming final in the 2012 Olympics. (AP file photo)

An Olympic swimmer, a MacArthur Fellow and a medical school president all walk onto a stage.

Nope, it’s not a joke, and we don’t have a punchline. It’s the early lineup of commencement speakers for college graduations in Georgia.

In this edition of AJC On Campus, we bring you the latest graduation news. Keep reading to learn why a street near Clark Atlanta University’s campus has been renamed and dig into Georgia Tech’s admission numbers for fall 2024.

UGA commencement speakers

Allison Schmitt (left) and Jenna Jambeck will give addresses at upcoming University of Georgia commencement ceremonies. (Courtesy of University of Georgia)

Credit: University of Georgia

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Credit: University of Georgia

Giving a graduation speech is a tall order. Offer inspiration, be memorable and, somehow, keep the attention of a stadium full of young people ready to take on the next chapter in their lives — and eager to get out of those hot robes.

The University of Georgia’s graduating seniors will hear from an alumna up to that task.

Ten-time Olympic medalist Allison Schmitt will provide the undergraduate keynote address at the May 10 event at Sanford Stadium. A standout swimmer, Schmitt competed in four Olympic Games and still holds the American record in the 200-meter freestyle.

She graduated from UGA with a psychology degree in 2014.

The May 9 commencement ceremonies for graduate students will be held at Stegeman Coliseum. Jenna Jambeck, a UGA environmental engineering professor and a 2022 MacArthur Fellow, will deliver the address. She was announced this week as the 2024 SEC Professor of the Year for her work studying plastic pollution.

Emory University announces speaker

Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president and CEO of Morehouse School of Medicine, will be Emory University's commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree. Here, she moderates a panel during the Health Connect Conference at the Georgia Aquarium. (Miguel Martinez / AJC file photo)

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

Emory University, meanwhile, found its commencement speaker just across town.

The private Atlanta university announced Tuesday that Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, the president and CEO of the Morehouse School of Medicine, will deliver the big address. Montgomery Rice completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Emory’s medical school.

Emory also will give her an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

“Because of her partnership and vision, the connection between the Morehouse School of Medicine and Emory University is stronger than ever. I cannot wait to welcome Dr. Montgomery Rice back to campus so we can present her with an honorary degree and hear her inspiring words and reflections,” wrote Gregory Fenves, Emory’s president, in a recent online letter.

Emory’s commencement is May 13.

Oglethorpe University announces its commencement speaker

And there’s more on the commencement speaker front.

Veteran Atlanta public media radio host and executive producer Rose Scott will deliver the address for Oglethorpe University at its May 18 ceremony. Scott serves as the executive producer and host of the midday news program “Closer Look” broadcast on Atlanta’s NPR station, 90.1 FM – WABE.

Rose Scott broadcasts "Closer Look" from the WABE studio in Atlanta on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023.   (Ben Gray / Ben@BenGray.com)

Credit: Ben Gray

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Credit: Ben Gray

“Throughout her career, Rose Scott has shown an unwavering commitment to reporting on the important issues that affect our communities and sharing the diverse stories of the people of Atlanta and Georgia,” said Oglethorpe President Kathryn McClymond said in a statement. “Rose will be a voice of inspiration to our graduates as they set out to ‘make a life, make a living, and make a difference.’”

We’ll keep you posted on other graduation day headliners from campuses around the state.

Clark Atlanta University honor

Clark Atlanta University officials, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and family members of Thomas Cole unveil a new sign designating the street as Dr. Thomas W. Cole Jr. Way. (Courtesy of Clark Atlanta University)

Credit: Clark Atlanta University

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Credit: Clark Atlanta University

Clark Atlanta University celebrated its first president, Thomas W. Cole Jr., with a ceremony to unveil a street named in his honor.

Officials from the private Atlanta historically Black university gathered with Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Cole’s family members on March 22 to witness a small stretch of Beckwith Street be renamed as Dr. Thomas W. Cole Jr. Way.

Cole simultaneously held the roles of president of both Clark College and Atlanta University and shepherded the two schools during their consolidation in 1988. He continued to lead Clark Atlanta until 2002.

Cole died in 2022 at the age of 81.

The renamed portion of the street is located near Woodruff Library.

Welcome, Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech admitted more than 8,200 students to begin their studies in the summer and fall terms. About 3,900 are expected to enroll. (John Spink / AJC file photo)


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Georgia Tech gave a glimpse into its admissions data for the upcoming school year.

Of the 59,760 applicants who applied this admissions season, 8,250 were admitted as first-year students. Georgia Tech said a third of Georgia residents who applied were admitted, while 1 in 10 nonresidents got an admissions offer.

Georgia applications jumped by 13%, the school reported.

The school expects to enroll about 3,900 first-year students starting this summer and fall.

Georgia Tech and several other Georgia schools extended the enrollment deposit deadline to May 15 for in-state students. The schools did so to give students more time to decide where they’re going to college because of delays in the federal financial aid process. Out-of-state students must still commit to enroll by May 1.

We previously reported that UGA accepted about 15,900 of the more than 43,000 students who applied for admission starting in fall 2024.

Transfer pathways

Atlanta Technical College President Victoria Seals and Clayton State University President Georj Lewis sign an articulation agreement on Friday, March 22, 2024. The agreement is aimed at making it easier for students to transfer. (Courtesy of Atlanta Technical College)

Credit: Atlanta Technical College

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Credit: Atlanta Technical College

Atlanta Technical College and Clayton State University are teaming up to make it easier for students to transfer to the four-year university.

The presidents of the two schools recently signed an agreement that aims to help students who start out at Atlanta Tech continue on at Clayton State by aligning coursework and providing resources in high-demand fields. The areas of focus are in cybersecurity, computer programming, database specialist, bioscience technology and interdisciplinary studies.

Atlanta Tech, part of the Technical College System of Georgia, enrolled nearly 3,500 students last fall. Clayton State, one of the 26 schools within the University System of Georgia, had a fall enrollment of 5,881.

“We are excited to work closely with Atlanta Technical College to create a seamless transfer process that benefits our students and strengthens our community. This partnership signifies our shared commitment to student success and workforce development,” said Georj Lewis, Clayton State’s president, in a written statement.

Foster care support

A $1.1 million gift from the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation’s Child Well-Being Fund will go to a college network that helps students who have been homeless or in foster care.

The Embark Georgia network offers support services at dozens of colleges and universities across the state. It is coordinated by the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. Its mission is to boost college access and retention.

The money will be used for training of staff members based at colleges and universities around the state. It will help with summer programming offered on UGA’s campus and in other locations. The summer programs teach youths in foster care how to build their leadership skills and provide information on preparing for and applying to college. The funding also will support research work, among other uses.

“Youth who have experienced foster care face postsecondary educational obstacles that hinder their future economic and career opportunities,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for public service and outreach at UGA, in a written statement. “We are incredibly grateful to the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation for its support of our work at UGA to address this critical issue and build a better quality of life for all young people across our state.”

The funding comes on top of the foundation’s $750,000 gift in 2022.

Embark Georgia reports that it served 623 students in 2023 through 50 campus programs.

Technical college system awards

The Technical College System of Georgia handed out adult education honors this week. Pictured (from left) are TCSG Commissioner Greg Dozier, Assistant Commissioner for Adult Education Cayanna Good, TCSG board member Mike Long, award recipient Patria Brown, award recipient Rhea Brashear, and TCSG board members Daren Wayne and John Thomas. (Courtesy of Technical College System of Georgia)

Credit: Technical College of Georgia

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Credit: Technical College of Georgia

The Technical College System of Georgia gave out its 2024 Adult Education Student of the Year and its Outstanding Adult Education Teacher of the Year awards this week.

Patria Brown from the Cobb County School District’s adult education program received the student award and will receive a full scholarship to any of the state’s technical colleges. The award also covers fees and books. She’ll spend the next year speaking about the importance of adult education across the state.

Rhea Brashear from Southern Regional Technical College won the teacher award.

The awards are aimed at showcasing the power of adult education.

Call the midwife

Georgia College & State University’s nurse midwifery program has received full accreditation, a designation the school said makes it the first to hold that in the state.

The nurse midwifery concentration is offered as part of the master of science in nursing program and is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education. The program has already graduated a dozen students under preliminary accreditation.

“At this point in time, each of our graduates are still practicing within the state of Georgia — this is huge for the state,” said Monica Ketchie, associate professor of nursing and nurse-midwifery program coordinator, in a written statement.

She added: “We’re passionate about women’s health. We’re passionate about addressing maternal mortality, and we offer support and teaching to our students.”

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