Baxter provides State of the College address
Published 9:45 am Friday, September 8, 2023
On Thursday morning, LaGrange College President Dr. Susanna Baxter delivered the annual State of the College address at Turner Hall. Baxter highlighted new programs, plans and construction as well as an update on enrollment.
OVER THE SUMMER
Baxter started by providing an update on the goings-on of the college throughout the summer.
LaGrange College Baseball once again had a stellar season, finishing as College Collegiate of the South Regular Season Champions.
“That never gets old to say,” Baxter said.
Baxter said LaGrange College also sent about 30 students, faculty and community members to Tuscany, Italy over the summer as part of the college’s 13th season of its 3D Journeys lectures and optional travel series. She said the series will be headed to Portugal next year.
The college also said goodbye to Henry Hall over the summer.
“The albatross around our neck that was Henry Hall is no more. I know there are fond memories that some people have of Henry Hall. It is right now going to be a beautiful sloped hill with grass growing on it eventually,” Baxter said.
The college plans to build in the area eventually but not right away, she said.
Baxter said the most exciting news over the summer was the launch of the college’s new aviation program.
The new program allows LaGrange College students to earn a major of their choosing and add an aviation minor. With the minor, they would get their private pilot’s license and their commercial pilot’s license.
“It’s important that we get involved in this because of the [pilots] crisis. Over 50 percent of pilots in the next 15 to 20 years will retire, and we don’t plan to fly less. So we need more pilots,” Baxter said.
NEW STUDENTS AND FACULTY
Baxter said they moved 425 students into residence halls this summer and welcomed several new faculty members into the ranks.
“These faculty represent religion, sociology, psychology, business, the library and the arts. We’re thrilled to have these new faculty,” she said.
New faculty members include Lacey Moore (Sociology), Dr. Andrew Gardner (Religion), Kelton Hunt (Music), Samantha Sick (Accounting), Curtis Brown (Marketing), Dr. Karen Walker (Psychological Science), Jamie Coen (Lewis Library) and Robert Toles (Art & Design).
Baxter said the college is also excited to add former Syracuse coach Daniel Schulte as the new volleyball coach.
“Coach Dan comes to us with over 40 years of coaching experience,” Baxter said.
Baxter said undergraduate enrollment is basically flat but things are improving since Covid.
“You may remember during COVID We got shellacked in enrollment, right? Well, those classes are now juniors and seniors,” Baxter said, noting that as those classes graduate, the school will continue to grow.
She said the school has seen a 9 percent increase in returning students and a 27 percent increase in graduate enrollment.
“We have students representing 14 states and five countries. Forty percent of our students identify as non-white —and we’re really proud of this— 23 percent of our students in this class are from Troup County,” Baxter said.
Baxter advised that the school has finally replaced the roof on the chapel, and they are currently fundraising to replace damage caused by the leaks.
“That’s been a problem for us to figure out how exactly the water was coming in and fixing all of that, Baxter said. “Now we’re raising money to fix the plaster because water and plaster don’t mix well … then we need to shore up the beautiful historic windows that are in that building.”
Baxter said the college is currently looking into improving the student experience in the Boatwright, Hawkes and Pitts Residence Halls.
“Those have community bathrooms. You know our students don’t come from households that share a bathroom with probably more than three people, let alone 20,” Baxter said.
She said they are looking to convert those community bathrooms into an experience that feels more private like health clubs have done.
The school is also planning to build townhomes and duplexes in the Panther Way area to replace the housing lost by the demolition of Henry Hall. The new residences would primarily be for older students who want a more private experience, she said.
NEW ACADEMIC PROGRAMS
Baxter said one of the discussions that the college has had related to their upcoming Manufacturing Summit on Sept. 15 is workforce needs, specifically with industry. She said they are considering adding an Engineering Technology degree.
“This is something that’s not offered at Georgia Tech and Auburn. It’s not offered at West Georgia Tech. It’s an in-between. It’s the engineers that aren’t R&D, but they help get everything off the line,” Baxter said. “There is a significant need for that.”
Baxter closed the address by trumpeting that nearly 9 out of 10 students in the LaGrange College Class of 2023 had a job by the time they graduated.
“The Class of 2023, 87% of that class had a job or graduate school where they crossed the stage,” Baxter said.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to someone who lives in Troup County that’s not from but came here for college that said, ‘I love this place. Why would want to leave?’ and they stay. We’re pleased that we’re an importer of citizens in Troup County and LaGrange.”
Baxter said the college is also pleased with how many teachers and nurses the school produces.
“I think it’s you’re hard-pressed to have a student in a classroom in this county or visit someone at the hospital and not run into multiple LaGrange College graduates,” Baxter said.