Georgia Gwinnett College president prepares to move on

When Daniel Kaufman arrived on the Lawrenceville campus of Georgia’s newest public college in 2005, he was the first employee. The school didn’t have a name, let alone any faculty or students.

Now, eight years later, Kaufman is stepping down as president of Georgia Gwinnett College. The school he helped build has grown to nearly 9,400 students taking classes in 12 different degree programs.

His last day is Friday. On Monday he becomes president of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, an opportunity he said he couldn’t pass up because it was a chance to have a larger impact on the entire community and build on the access and opportunities the college already offers.

“GGC has been beyond my fondest expectations,” he said. “There are people in Gwinnett and nearby who never thought they’d have the chance to go to college and succeed, and we’re giving them that opportunity and we’re doing it in their backyard.”

University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby said Kaufman will be missed and that the college “lived up to expectations” under his leadership.

Stas Preczewski will be the interim president. He is the college’s vice president for academic and student affairs and has been with Georgia Gwinnett since it opened.

The school is considered an “access” college in that it has less rigorous entrance requirements and lower tuition in order to attract students who might otherwise not be able to earn a degree. The college does not require minimum SAT scores and nearly 40 percent of the students work at least 20 hours a week.

Georgia Gwinnett gained national attention for its efforts to help students. Faculty have college-issued smartphones and are expected to share their numbers with students and call them if they skip class or fall behind in assignments.

The college narrowly escaped a sharp financial hit a few months ago when Gov. Nathan Deal and some lawmakers proposed eliminating the $16 million in additional special funding the school was set to receive in the 2014 fiscal year. While the money remained, funding battles are expected to continue.

Kaufman’s biggest regret involves money — specifically, fundraising during the recession.

“That’s the one area I didn’t do as good a job as I would have liked,” he said. “Yes, we raised money, but we spent it, too.”

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