Georgia State’s uniqueness separates us from the pack

Students and staff crowd outside the Georgia State University Library in between class time. Photo by Julieann Tran | The Signal

It’s a fall Saturday. Grills are goin’, hot dogs are cookin’ and it’s tailgate Saturday. Fraternities and sororities are getting ready to party all weekend, red cups in hand already. This is not Georgia State. At Georgia State, you won’t find that on a game-day morning because we’re not your average school.

Georgia State isn’t one of the schools where the athletics and Greek life are the elements that brand the university. Here, you don’t see a stadium jam packing over 100,000 people for a football game every Saturday. And that’s no disrespect to the athletes. Many of Georgia State’s athletic programs came to life only within the last 40 years, so the historical aspect of these teams just doesn’t exist yet. High school students on college visitations don’t come to Georgia State in hopes of finding the traditional Greek life system to indulge in.

No, Georgia State doesn’t derive its uniqueness from a big business athletic program. Greek life isn’t what draws us all to this amazing school. Georgia State is unique in that it has grown from a small commuter college campus to a full-blown university at an extremely fast pace. Where, in the not-so distant past, stood old parking garages and run-down motels, now stand luxury dorms and top-rated university cafeteria services. This campus sits in the heart of Atlanta – where the separation between Georgia State and the city streets is non-existent. From the sounds of traffic and a plethora of cement-covered surfaces to the buildings that loom overhead, it is an urban campus in its truest form. Recognized as the eighth fastest-growing city in the U.S. by Forbes, Atlanta offers an abundance of opportunities for work and play for the population of over 30,000 students attending its Downtown campus.

With that in mind, Georgia State is also extremely diverse. Why is this important? The diversity within the six campuses allows students to get a glimpse and interact with a multitude of backgrounds. Sixty-eight percent of Georgia State’s student body, are members of an underrepresented minority. Along with that, our student population of over 50,000 makes us the largest school in the state of Georgia. Being exposed to all of these different cultures creates a curious soul. It allows students to experiment with things that they are not normally accustomed to, giving them the freedom to step outside of our boundaries. This allows students to be able to voice their input on today’s society with vast cultural knowledge.

Getting exposed to a variety of perspectives doesn’t only come from the aspect of diversity for Georgia State students. Unlike your typical 18-year-old average institutions, students within this Panther nation are at different stages in life. Georgia State is packed with students pursuing a passion they’ve been searching for well into their thirties, some now mothers, fathers, and grandparents. We’re all privileged to get the chance to participate in class discussions with not only other cultures, but other, older, (arguably) wiser perspectives as well.

But here’s the best part: students don’t have to take a semester off or put their classes on hold for a chance to intern, because most internships are right down the street. The variety of employment opportunities that are offered in Atlanta mirror the number of career paths that Georgia State offers. For example, the University of Georgia offers 130 majors, Georgia State offers 250.

Jay Hothersall, transfer from The University of Tennessee, came to Georgia State to be in on the action.

“Being in the heart of a big city like Atlanta is a major reason why I decided to transfer here. As soon as you step outside the front door, you’re already in the middle of it all and I think that’s what makes this place so special,” he said.

Another student, Jack Hlava, said it was a no-brainer to come to Georgia State, for the same reason.

“I got into a couple other schools, but none of them had that city aspect to them like [Georgia] State did. That’s what makes Georgia State unique, is that you are exposed to all of these different cultures and personalities because all kind of people are flowing in and out of the city,” he said.

You can say there’s no traditional Georgia State campus. We’re a bunch of buildings, in a bunch of locations, with a bunch of students from different countries with different backgrounds, different mindsets, and different values. But that’s what makes Georgia State’s tradition after all, right? As the city changes, the landscape of Georgia State’s Downtown campus is changing as well. We’re gobbling up not only buildings, but whole institutions, such as Perimeter College, and we’re picking up a lot of speed in terms of growth. Sure, the financial aid and organizations departments tend to be lacking at times, but hats off to Georgia State at being able to create a tradition out of differences. Not only are we alongside people from different paths of life, but Georgia State is providing an opportunity for all of us to be successful – and that’s what other institutions often seem to forget. Successfully moving first-generation, lower-income, and part-time students towards graduation with internships, classes and real-life experiences is one of our university’s top achievements.