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Calendar Year 2016 Features History-Making Accomplishments for ABAC

December 20, 2016

An increase in enrollment, the addition of two new bachelor’s degrees, and the opening of the laboratory sciences building and the Freedom Gallery highlighted the 2016 calendar year at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

The fall semester enrollment increase to 3,475 students was the third positive bump in the student population in the last four years for ABAC.  The number of students enrolled in bachelor’s degrees increased to 1,828, the highest in the history of the college.

“In 2008, we had 41 students in baccalaureate degree programs,” ABAC President David Bridges said.  “Now we have over 1,800 studying for bachelor’s degrees.  That is a stark contrast to most of the other state colleges in the University System of Georgia.  Our vision is to be a destination college, and because of our affordability, I believe that will happen. Life is better at ABAC.”

Bridges is hopeful that this year’s announcements of new bachelor’s degree programs in nursing and agricultural education will fuel the fire for future enrollment increases.

“Well qualified students pursuing bachelor’s degrees is the future of ABAC,” Bridges said.  “We are proud of our heritage as an associate degree-granting institution for 75 years, but it’s a new day at ABAC.”

The announcement of the new nursing degree came during the 50th anniversary of the first students entering the associate degree in nursing program at the college.  Now those Registered Nurses can return to ABAC for a bachelor’s degree.

“The ABAC nursing faculty designed the program to build on the current knowledge and professional experience of the practicing R.N.,” Dr. Tami Dennis, professor of nursing, said.  “The program will have the added feature of a focus and application to the student’s existing place of employment.”

Troy Spicer, Dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, knows there are prospects galore for the new degree.

“If you have breathed air in the last 50 years in South Georgia, you or a member of your family have had contact with an ABAC nursing graduate,” Spicer, a 1982 ABAC nursing program graduate, said. “I would bet there is not a single person in South Georgia who has not been touched by a nurse who graduated from ABAC.”

Dr. Jerry Baker, Dean of the School of Agriculture and Natural Resources, has already received quite a few inquiries about the new B.S. degree in agricultural education.

“We currently have 107 students at ABAC who have expressed interest in the pursuing the ag education major,” Baker said.  “We have seen growth in all our bachelor’s degree programs because our graduates have good skills, and they are prepared for the work force.”

Increasing the number of students majoring in the bachelor’s degree in biology at ABAC is a primary focus of Dr. Johnny Evans, Dean of the School of Science and Mathematics.  He believes the sparkling, new $8.5 million laboratory sciences building will provide a springboard toward that goal.

“ABAC is now a destination for students who will find cures for diseases, invent amazing technology, and solve the toughest problems the world has ever faced,” Evans said.  “This new building is focused on meeting students’ needs and providing space for discovery, research, and creativity.”

Bridges has a different objective for the Freedom Gallery in Tift Hall, which opened in an impressive ceremony on Oct. 13.

“We are doing this because I want future generations of ABAC students to know that we respect the honor, the integrity, and the valor of those who serve in the armed forces of our country,” Bridges said.  “We will continue to invest in those who invested so much in us.  We must not forget that some of them invested their lives for our freedom.”

One of those American heroes who gave his life for his country was ABAC alumnus Harold Bascom Durham, Jr., a posthumous Medal of Honor recipient whose life is detailed in the Freedom Gallery.

“In the Freedom Gallery, we wanted to tell the story of Second Lieutenant Durham, but we also wanted to convey the fact that he was just one of the many men and women who have sacrificed their lives for this country,” Lindsey Roberts, director of marketing and communications for ABAC, said.

Roberts coordinated the mammoth project which also covers the contributions of all branches of the military including the courageous acts of Henry Will Jones, an ABAC alumnus from Lakeland, who received a posthumous Silver Star for his service in World War II.

Other highlights of the calendar year included the $2.3 million grant renewal of the High School Equivalency Program (HEP) in the Office of Multicultural Education, the awarding of nursing scholarships to the entire inaugural class of bachelor’s degree nursing students, and the announcement of a $250,000 gift from the Harley Langdale, Jr. Foundation, Inc., to the ABAC Foundation for the Destination Ag project which will enhance agricultural and natural resource programming at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village at ABAC.

“Through the very generous support of the Harley Langdale, Jr. Foundation, ABAC will be planting seeds that will ensure the growth of Georgia’s number one industry, agriculture, for the next generation and beyond,” Bridges said.  “Their support has made it possible for us to invest in the lives of these students who will be the agricultural leaders of this state 30 years from now.”

Classes for the spring semester begin at ABAC on Jan. 9
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