FLIP Burger Boutique on Howell Mill Rd.

The next frontier: President Mark Becker announces next steps for Georgia State’s Strategic Plan

During Georgia State’s Strategic Plan Town Hall on Sept. 10, President Mark Becker set his sights on continuing to make the university a leading institution.

Ever since the university created its Strategic Plan in 2011, Becker said the Georgia State name stands stronger than ever.

“We don’t want to be known as the ‘best kept secret’,” he said. “That is not anything anyone should aspire to. That is not what happens anymore. People now know that Georgia State is a very dynamic, exciting university.”

The town hall meeting was a call to action for the Strategic Plan Committee to “keep” or “tweak” the university’s next five year Strategic Plan by spring, Becker said.

Goal 1: Student Success

Becker said the university has improved its graduation rate from 48 percent to 54 percent and is on track with the current strategic plan.

“We are on schedule to get there, and we have made progress that is on pace with what we want to do,” he said. “But we have to get to the end.”

He also said Georgia State has graduated 1,700 more students per year than it did five years ago.

Robinson Test Prep Academy

However, the university wants to create a Financial Counseling Center, which would identify financially at risk students through predictive analytics, to prevent those unable to pay their tuition from dropping out.

“If I have my data right, a student is 7 times more likely to drop out of Georgia State for financial reasons,” he said.

Renee Shatterman, Georgia State associate professor of English, was one of the few town hall attendees to ask Becker a question. She suggested for faculty to be informed about resources available for financially at risk students.

Becker said that idea “is the old method that has failed.”

“That’s how we used to do in advisement, and that didn’t work,” he said. “We have 25,000 undergraduates. We need solutions that work for everybody and not just cases that are lucky enough that the professor saw them.”

Shatterman told The Signal she asked her question because she saw a promising student, who came back to college, be dropped from her courses.

“In the last week of class and exams, I found out she was being dropped from the program because there were unpaid dues,” she said. “She is not the only one, but she is the most extreme example because she had come back.”

She also said she has seen about 10 cases where students had to drop out of classes while teaching for 10 years, and even one when the student was homeless.

“It seems to be getting more problematic,” she said. “Another student last year, I was sure was homeless, and that is the first time I had come up against the situation of homelessness.”

Goal 2: Graduate and Professional Programs

Becker said an unmet goal in the Strategic Plan is to increase external funding for students.

“We profited bumped $56 million in sponsored funding to $100 million, and we barely increased the number of students funded on research grants,” he said.

He said over the last five years, Georgia State has supported an additional 170 doctoral students.

Goal 3: Leading Public Research University

Another of the university’s goals is to build more campus research facilities, according to Becker.

“We have much of that under way. We still have ways to go,” he said.

In 2011, Georgia State also planned to be featured in the top merit research university annual report, and Becker said they expect to be in it.

A question Becker posed is if it is time to set a financial goal for the university to achieve in the next five years.

Goal 4: Challenge of Cities

Becker wants the Council for the Progress of Cities, which was founded in 2011 to study issues cities face, to continue producing quality work.

“By the end of 2016, we are supposed to have actually formed a robust effort by having and adding business and government partners that will actually be doing real work, which includes research projects,[and] demonstration grants…” he said. “We have a lot of work to do here.”

Goal 5: Globalizing the university

Georgia State recently established the International Center in Sept. 2, according to Becker.

“It was one of the initiatives and then miraculously the opportunity presented itself,” he said. “It’s a great facility.”

He also said the university planned to double the amount of students studying abroad, but it hasn’t been met that mark.

“So the question is, ‘Is doubling the right goal?” he said.