Thursday, February 28, 2013
- by Dr. John Schwenn
Since I first came to Dalton State five years ago, I have heard over and over and over again from current students and from alumni how this college changed their lives. It never ceases to be music to my ears.
Our earliest alumni remember fondly the unique educational opportunity the young college offered in this part of the state that had previously been underserved by higher education. Our current students and recent graduates–many of whom are the first in their families to go to college—speak lovingly about how the college expanded their horizons both in the classroom and through campus leadership opportunities.
Knowledge is transformational and so is the experience of realizing one’s potential. We see students bloom in the classroom, in our labs, within our student organizations, and in civic engagement opportunities. We watch students evolve into better versions of their former selves, ready to take on the world. They leave here confident and competent, ready to step up in the workplace, in graduate school, in the community.
Dalton State is in the business of transforming lives. Whether through the scholarly achievements of our outstanding faculty and staff, or due to the impact of excellent professors in our classrooms, or resulting from involvement in a campus organization, students’ lives are changed at Dalton State every day.
Some are the first in their families to attend college. Others are working full-time and managing family responsibilities while attending classes. And then there are those who are living away from home for the first time and taking a full course load. Their backgrounds really make no difference. Students at Dalton State will be transformed by the power of education, and lives will be changed because of that transformative experience. Our institutional mission is that simple and that big.
It is a privilege to have a front row seat to such transformation. There is the student who came for our LPN program, continued on to get an associate degree as a Registered Nurse, and now has come back to get her bachelor’s degree in nursing. I remember another student who came for the associate degree in communication, but after taking a couple of criminal justice courses, felt called to get her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Or another who came to Dalton State with every intention of transferring to the University of Georgia. After immersing himself in student government leadership, he was all Roadrunner. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education last spring and is now a teacher in Dalton. That’s transformation.
More than half of our students are the first in their family to go to college, and there is no one for whom a college education is more transformational than that first generation student. It can change the path of a family forever.
For our first generation students especially, Dalton State’s proximity to home and our affordability are particularly key considerations. They are also critical to our access mission to make the transformational power of education an opportunity that is within the grasp of most Georgians.
Our small classes are also attractive to students and families who have little or no experience with college. All our classes are taught by members of our faculty; there are no teaching assistants and no 300-seat auditoriums. Our professors can have a direct impact on the lives of our students and that makes a difference.
In the coming weeks and months you will be hearing more about how Dalton State transforms the lives of our students and about our outstanding faculty and staff who help transform lives in the classroom and in life. It is inspiring to be around such agents of change.
Dr. John O. Schwenn is the president of Dalton State College.