UWG launches new strategic plan; Kelly: School plans to 'deepen' commitment to Douglas County

Dr. Brendan Kelly, president of the University of West Georgia, speaks to students in 2020. UWG launched its new five-year strategic plan today.

The University of West Georgia launched its new five-year strategic plan today aimed at establishing a path toward long-term growth and excellence.

The plan, entitled “Becoming UWG,” is the result of six months of input from more than 1,300 stakeholders, UWG President Dr. Brendan Kelly said. The plan will guide UWG through 2026 and beyond.

“Our new plan provides the priorities, objectives and process that will propel us toward what we have to do to meet the demands and expectations of our students and communities both today and tomorrow,” Kelly said. “The homogenized higher education environment of the 20th century has been uprooted by a digital age, so we have to be distinct and offer something unique; this strategic plan will lead us to the outcomes we need.”

Each of the plan’s targeted objectives — including enhanced experiential learning opportunities; a strengthened sense of belonging and connectedness among all members of the UWG community; and heightened institutional visibility and reputation — fall under one of the three priorities of relevance, competitiveness and placemaking.

Kelly told the Sentinel in an interview last week that UWG’s plan is “to deepen our commitment in Douglasville and do the right things to give access to students for the variety of experiences we provide.”

“I’m the newest member of the Douglas County Chamber of Commerce,” Kelly said. “And that is intentional service. I wanted to make certain that I, along with many of my colleagues, are helping to create value in that county and community. We’re a regional comprehensive university. We have to help nurture the success of this region.”

Kelly said UWG is currently searching for a new dean of its College of Education, and Douglas County Schools Superintendent Trent North is on the search committee. He pointed out that many educators in Douglas have degrees from West Georgia, which he said has the 13th largest graduate program in education in the United States.

“As we search for that new dean, instead of going out and talking to Trent North and saying ‘What does Douglas County need?,’ we asked Trent to be on the search committee for that dean so that he was able to participate in choosing a teammate in us making the west Georgia region successful,” Kelly said. “That makes the University of West Georgia more relevant to Douglas County and more of a key partner in making Douglas County successful. We want to take that same mindset and apply it to everything to make certain that our community impact is on point with the needs and expectations of the many.”

Economic development is another area where Kelly sees potential for UWG to help Douglas County and the west Georgia region.

He noted the growing cluster of data centers on Douglas County’s east side.

“We want to make sure that we’re part of that conversation all the time,” he said. “If we can attract new industry into Douglas County that needs a university partner who’s willing to develop and evolve programs that are going to incentivize their willingness to make investments in Douglas County, that’s what we’re here for.”

Kelly said the strategic plan is entitled Becoming UWG “because becoming is what you grow to be. And we can never stop growing to be what the world needs us to be next.”

“That is a fire in the belly mentality,” he said. “That is the difference in playing in games and playing in the playoffs and trying to win a championship. Those are just two different styles of play. And we want to be playing in the playoffs and playing for a championship all the time.”

As part of competitiveness, Kelly said the university is committed to advancing athletic and artistic endeavors that are audience-centered. And he pointed to the State of the Economy presentation to the Douglas County Chamber last month by Dr. Joey Smith, director of the UWG Center for Business and Economic Research.

“That’s intellectual capital at the University of West Georgia being leveraged for the value of companies and communities in our region,” Kelly said.

Kelly said UWG recently relaunched an alumni mentoring program. He recalled a recent conversation he had with a freshman at UWG who said he wanted to be an investment banker after graduating. Kelly said the university has paired the student with an alumnus who is a finance executive for a national corporation.

“That young man as a first year student at the University of West Georgia now has a professional mentor who lives in the space that he wants to see himself in in 15 or 20 years,” Kelly said. “Those types of connections are intentional and really exemplify the types of bonds we’re trying to create, bonds that create value. Intentionally cultivating a safe and inviting environment that seamlessly integrates diversity, equity and inclusion into all of our institutional actions — that should be a base expectation for a 21st century public university.”

Moving forward, university leaders have been charged with developing divisional plans to ensure all planning is aligned with the new strategic plan and its commitment statement: “We are dedicated to the curation of a first-choice university.”

“This plan is ambitious but achievable with goals that can be measured,” Kelly said. “Our process is one of continuous refinement: we do what’s right for the student, and then we make it work for the university — not the other way around. If we are a larger, more sophisticated institution that is notably, with evidence, more excellent in 2026 than we are today, then we will have done precisely what we set out to do.”

To learn more about the strategic plan, visit https://www.westga.edu/becominguwg/