Two Georgia Gwinnett College administrators cite higher purpose of their campus

In a “Get Schooled” post last week,  Robert Maranto, the 21st Century Chair in Leadership at the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, said that higher education lacks a higher purpose.

Take a look if you missed the column as it was a great piece. If you did read it, you may want to look at it again to better understand this response piece by two officials from Georgia Gwinnett College.

(By the way, Dr. Maranto sent me a note about how much he enjoyed your comments. He wrote, “The readers left unusually thoughtful comments, both pro and con.”)

In response to the column, Dr. Jim Fatzinger, associate vice president for Student Affairs, and Dr. Anita Vorreyer, director of New Student Connections, sent me this letter:

By Jim Fatzinger and Anita Vorreyer

Thanks to the AJC for sharing Robert Maranto’s suggestion that “Higher education is missing a critical element: A higher purpose” as it provided the opportunity for reflection on how Georgia Gwinnett College, an “open access” institution, is re-imagining higher education’s “higher purpose” for some 9,500 undergraduate students just 35 minutes northeast of Atlanta.

The institution’s approach, opposite of that suggested by Maranto, creates an “integrated educational experience,” which emphasizes collaboration between all members of the institution – faculty and non-faculty alike – in an active learning environment that negates the need for colloquy of “regimes” and “faculty takeovers.”

In fact, Student Affairs directors are required to have a doctorate or enroll in a doctoral program, thus preparing them for potential credentialing with faculty rank as well as administrative responsibility. Conversely, faculty members do more teaching and mentoring than suggested by Maranto with student engagement representing a significant criterion for evaluation and career advancement.

To meet its “higher purpose,” Georgia Gwinnett College calls for the development of students beyond those with “nice clothes and spring break in Cancun.” Instead, GGC as stated in its mission, develops contributing citizens “prepared to anticipate and respond effectively to an uncertain and changing world” – a stark contrast to Maranto’s reference to the “old Communist systems.”

At GGC, this preparation, synonymous with student development, is measured across seven integrated educational experience outcomes shifting quotidian higher education emphasis on participation in clubs, recreation, and sports teams, to the outcomes associated with involvement in each.

Student success at GGC is of paramount importance; therefore, all new students attend an orientation that is grounded in student development theory and involves teaching faculty in key roles. Orientation’s purpose is to help integrate students successfully into academic life.

Every faculty and staff member at GGC recognizes that as a Team, regardless of title, faculty and administrator alike, work to ensure students graduate with basic skills including the ability to clearly communicate ideas in written and oral form, demonstrate creativity and critical thinking, demonstrate effective use of information technology, collaborate in diverse and global contexts, understand decision-making from multiple perspectives, demonstrate an understanding of moral and ethical principles, apply leadership principles, and demonstrate effective quantitative reasoning.

Unfortunately, this integrated approach, while transforming lives to meet higher education’s higher purpose, has not transformed the “snarl” of traffic representative of GGC’s student demand. If Maranto’s essay is somehow reflective of the current higher education belief system, I call on contributing citizens across the United States to in fact, “ask for directions” – directions to Georgia Gwinnett College.

–From Maureen Downey,for the AJC Get Schooled blog

7 comments Add your comment

HS Public Teacher

October 3rd, 2012
2:00 pm

It sounds to me like those things mentioned by Jim and Anita that are the goals of GCC, namely: communicate in written and verbal form, creativity and critical thinking, effective use of technology, and so on…. sound more like high school goals as opposed to college goals. They also mention clubs and sports – again, sounds like a high school, right?

Which leads to a better question – what is the difference between GCC and a high school in terms of education?

If that is all that GCC has to offer, then I personally do not think that they SHOULD be a college. A college diploma should mean MORE than that!

A college or university does need a “higher purpose!” At least one that is higher than a high school!


October 3rd, 2012
2:19 pm

Isn’t this simply a promotional piece for one of the local USG two-year colleges, that practically any of the others could also claim? Free advertising?

GGC Part-Timer

October 3rd, 2012
2:40 pm

@HS Public Teacher – I took one class at GGC last year (computers) for my job. It was a joke. The orientation was an all day affair and the one topic that kept coming up was remedial classes. Yes, although GGC is a 4 yr college, it should be called “High School – Part 2.” The students got so much hand-holding it made me sick. Late for an assignment? No problem, just get it in whenever. Failed a test? Don’t worry, there’s extra credit. Ridiculous.


October 3rd, 2012
2:48 pm

I think we have a couple of winners in our BUZZWORD BINGO contest.

If you want to know what’s wrong with the state of “higher education”, try to make it through that passage without having your eyes roll to the back of your head.

On the bright side, I did learn a new word – which I will never use in everyday communication: “quotidian”

Tell the truth, how many of you also had to look it up?


October 3rd, 2012
3:14 pm

@GGC Part-Timer If state college profs didn’t hold students’ hands like that, they would be killed in the end-of-semester student evaluations, and GGC tends to put a premium on those in personnel decisions. Considering that GGC profs don’t have tenure, you better believe they’re going to pander as much as possible.


October 3rd, 2012
3:35 pm

Sorry. “…One of the local USG four-year colleges.” GGC just seems like one of our two-year colleges.


October 3rd, 2012
10:47 pm

HS Public Teacher,

I respectfully suggest you read the letter submitted by Drs. Fatzinger and Vorreyer more carefully as you appear to have misread or misunderstood their statements. They do not claim the outcomes you call goals to be the higher purpose of the college. Rather, they write that the outcomes are a means by which the college measures student progress towards the college’s higher purpose: “GGC as stated in its mission, develops contributing citizens ‘prepared to anticipate and respond effectively to an uncertain and changing world’.”

They also note that the outcomes are the means by which clubs, athletics, and the like are assessed as a means to support the mission. The emphasis is on the ways in which such activities enable students to meet the outcomes.

Do you know of a high school in Georgia in which extra-curricular activities are expressly tied to and assessed according to their ability to assist students in meeting the types of outcomes they mention?

If you do not, that would be a clear difference.

As for the outcomes themselves, they are ones actively espoused by the University System of Georgia, many fine universities across the country, and the AACU, most notably in its report “Greater Expectations” regarding post-secondary education for the 21st century. In other words, GGC is in good company when it deems those outcomes to be a valuable aspect of a college education.

And finally, while we might all agree that students who graduate from our high schools should have demonstrated some proficiency in those skills and the content knowledge they imply, and that obtaining a high school degree should be some sort of guarantee that they have, that is unfortunately simply not true. According to reports from the AACU and Complete College America as well as others, fewer than half our high school graduates can demonstrate some proficiency in even a limited number of those outcomes. So, while I regret to say it, there is indeed a difference.