Thursday, October 31, 2013
- by Dr. John Schwenn
There is a buzz in the air. It seems everywhere I go people are saying, “We’re coming back!”
In some cases they’re referring to Roadrunner basketball. With our first home game in 35 years scheduled Thursday, November 7, the Roadrunners are indeed coming back. If season ticket sales are any indication, then I think it is fair to say that this community is eager for the return of intercollegiate athletics at Dalton State.
I joined hundreds of other Roadrunner fans who gathered for the Blue and Silver scrimmage last weekend at Dalton High. We have some mighty fine players, and I think our Roadrunners will give us much to cheer for and cheer about when the season starts. The response to our basketball Roadrunners–and also to our volleyball, cross country, golf, tennis, and cheer Roadrunners—has been warm and wonderful.
When I hear “We’re coming back” on campus, it is usually in response to improving conditions at Dalton State. After a couple of rocky years of enrollment declines, budget cuts, and changing admission standards, things have finally stabilized. Enrollment has levelled off, and we have a strong student population. Our student housing is full, and we have a waiting list. We have added new academic programs, bringing the number of degree offerings to 17 bachelor’s degrees and 21 associate degrees.
Construction crews are on campus, building our new science building and renovating Bandy Gym. Soon, work will begin to convert our old technical education building into a new home for our School of Health Professions.
Intercollegiate athletics has added a new level of excitement and enthusiasm around campus. Roadrunner logos are visible at nearly every turn. For the first time in years, we have billboards and newspaper ads in the Northwest Georgia region encouraging prospective students to “experience transformation” at Dalton State.
Even more encouraging is when I hear people saying “We’re coming back” in regards to the local economy. The Great Recession took a toll on our region which suffered the highest unemployment in the state. When the housing industry took a dive, the floorcovering industry did as well. Our community suffered; the College suffered. It’s been a long five years. The lowpoint may have come last year when The Wall Street Journal painted a picture of Dalton that more closely resembled a ghost town than a thriving center for manufacturing and entrepreneurship that was retooling to meet new challenges.
But now jobs are coming back to Dalton. New plants are being constructed. There is more demand for flooring as housing starts pick up. Interior designers, cabinet makers, and other craftspeople report they’re busier than they’ve been in years. These are all positive signs.
The signs are all around us: on our basketball court, on our campus, throughout our community. We’re coming back.
Dr. John O. Schwenn is the president of Dalton State College.