UNG president announces retirement plans

There is a retirement announcement in Gainesville, where Bonita Jacobs says she will step down as president of the University of North Georgia in June of next year. Jacobs has served as UNG president since 2019.

From the UNG website…

University of North Georgia President Bonita Jacobs announced plans today to retire at the end of the coming academic year in June 2023.

“UNG has a long history of educating outstanding professional, civic and military leaders for our state and nation, and our momentum points to a bright future,” Jacobs said. “I am announcing my plans now to ensure the Board of Regents has ample time to select UNG’s next president and to provide for a stable transition over this next year as we celebrate North Georgia’s sesquicentennial — our 150th anniversary.”

Jacobs was appointed as president of then-North Georgia College & State University in July 2011, and, when the university consolidated with Gainesville State College to become the University of North Georgia in 2013, she became president of the multi-campus university. Today, UNG has campuses in Blue Ridge, Cumming, Dahlonega, Gainesville, and Oconee County. The university serves about 19,000 students across its five campuses and online and employs more than 2,100 faculty and staff.

“President Jacobs took the reins of what was then North Georgia College & State University as its first female president and only the second woman to lead one of the country’s six senior military colleges, and she’s been a trailblazer ever since,” University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue said. “Over the past decade, she has been a critical factor to the university’s growth and how it has helped students find success and prosperity. From consolidation with Gainesville State College to campus expansion in Blue Ridge, and with all the new ways UNG has been able to serve communities and offer new academic opportunities from associate degrees to graduate-level programs, President Jacobs has been a great leader for its campuses and the university system. I’m grateful for her leadership and service.”

With a focus on student success and increasing educational opportunities, the university’s consolidation strengthened the range of academic programs — spanning from associate to four doctoral degrees — available to students. Bachelor’s degrees available at UNG’s Gainesville Campus have expanded from eight to more than 20 over the past decade. Overall enrollment has grown 23 percent since fall 2013, and UNG grants more than 3,000 degrees annually.

Under Jacobs’ leadership, UNG has achieved numerous distinctions making it a leading regional public university:

  • Ranked as the No. 1 “Best Value School” among public regional universities in Georgia in 2021 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the No. 1 “Best Colleges for Veterans” among public regional universities in Georgia in 2021.
  • Named as a national top-producer of Fulbright Students for five consecutive years.
  • UNG’s nationally competitive scholarship initiative has helped students earn more than $3.5 million in highly competitive, national merit awards, such as the Goldwater, Truman, Pickering, Gilman and Boren scholarships.
  • Retention and graduation rates that exceed many comparable institutions.

Jacobs has led multiple efforts to grow external funding resources at UNG, including a high priority on raising funds to ensure financial support for students. Need- and merit-based scholarship awards distributed by the UNG Foundation totaled $2.8 million last year — a 64 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2017.

In addition, support from external research grants has increased 40 percent since 2014 to more than $7.2 million in 2021. This growth in research activity and the expanded scope of its graduate-level degree programs have placed UNG on a trajectory to become classified as a Doctoral/Professional University by the Carnegie Commission in 2024.

The first female president at then-North Georgia College & State University, Jacobs was only the second woman to lead one of the country’s six Senior Military Colleges (SMC), which include the Citadel, Norwich University, Virginia Military Institute, Virginia Tech, and Texas A&M University. UNG, which is the only SMC to provide an all-Army military education program, has more than 700 cadets. In 2022, 34 cadets graduated as Distinguished Military Graduates, including nine who were in the top 10 percent of all Army ROTC cadets in the nation. Also in 2022, UNG was the top ROTC team for the fourth consecutive year and placed fourth overall out of 48 teams at the Sandhurst International Military Skills Competition held at the U.S. Military Academy.

Jacobs has been named by Georgia Trend magazine one of the “100 Most Influential Georgians” and by the Atlanta Business Chronicle to its lists of the “Top Education Leaders in Atlanta” and “Women Who Mean Business.” She received the 2020 Distinguished Citizen Award from the Northeast Georgia Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the 2020 Circle of Excellence Award from the Association for Orientation, Transition, and Retention in Higher Education.

Jacobs currently serves on the BB&T Georgia Regional Advisory Board. She is chair-elect of the NCAA Division II Peach Belt Conference Executive Committee, and she is a mentor in the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Millennium Leadership Initiative. Recently, Jacobs served on the American Council on Education (ACE) National Task Force on the Transfer and Award of Credit, and the AASCU Board of Directors. Jacobs founded and was the first executive director of the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students, which is now housed at UNG.

Prior to joining North Georgia, Jacobs was vice president for student development and a tenured professor of counseling and higher education at the University of North Texas. She previously served as assistant vice chancellor and as interim vice chancellor for student development at Western Carolina University and in student development positions at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Jacobs, who is originally from Huntington, Texas, holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and history and a master’s degree in counseling from Stephen F. Austin State University and a Ph.D. in educational administration from Texas A&M University.

She is the former editor of The Journal of College Orientation and Transition and served on three other editorial boards. Her publications include The College Transfer Student in America: The Forgotten Student and Starting From Scratch: Your First-Year Experience, as well as numerous chapters, journal articles and reviews. Her most recent publications include Strategic Mergers in Higher Education, (Johns Hopkins University Press) and UNG The Gold I See: The Legacy of UNG’s Dahlonega Campus and The Best Day Ever! The Legacy of the UNG Gainesville Campus. The proceeds from the books about UNG’s campuses benefit student scholarships at the university.

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