Dignitaries, faculty, staff, students and guests gathered Aug. 22 to celebrate the opening of Georgia Highlands Collegeâ€™s new student center on the Cartersville campus. Dignitaries participating in the festivities included Hank M. Huckaby, chancellor of the University System of Georgia; Willis Potts, regent representing the Rome-Cartersville districts on the Board of Regents; Joe Frank Harris, Jr., president of the Cartersville-Bartow Chamber of Commerce; Clarence Brown, Bartow County commissioner; Representative Paul Battles, R-District 15, Georgia General Assembly; and Representative Katie Dempsey, R-District 13, Georgia General Assembly.Â Senator Barry Loudermilk, R-District 52, Georgia General Assembly, had a prior commitment and could not attend. GHCâ€™s Interim President Renva Watterson, Vice President for Finance and Administration Rob Whitaker and GHC Foundation Chair David Caswell also made comments as part of the program.Â Isaac Waters, president of the student organization Brother2Brother, opened the ceremony on behalf of the students.
Following the remarks, guests toured the new facility and enjoyed a pig roast.Â The soaring two-story, 55,000 square-foot building features a game room, grab-and-go cafĂ©, a two-story open-air student lounge with fireplace, two regulation-sized basketball/volleyball courts with an elevated running track above them, and state-of-the-art weight and cardio rooms.Â The center also houses the student book store, four offices, a large, 150-person capacity meeting room and a project room for student organizations.
During the afternoon, students enjoyed a variety of games and entertainment that highlighted a week-long celebration of the center.Â Student Isaac Waters expressed the thoughts of most of the students. He said, â€śThe students who voted to impose the additional fees made this facility a reality, despite the fact that most of them are no longer here to enjoy it.Â I think that takes vision and a great sense of community.Â The fees not only have built this building, they also will go toward improvements to student amenities at all our campuses. Today is a celebration for and by students.â€ť
Highlands financed the student center using the public/private venture process commonly employed throughout the USG.Â The college and its foundation worked with the Cartersville-Bartow Joint Development Authority to issue bonds backed by a student fee of $100 per semester. Students across all campuses strongly supported the fee for the upgrade of student service space. Fees will be used to pay for the bonds over a 30-year term.
Carolyn Hamrick, campus dean at Cartersville, said the facility has dramatically changed the atmosphere of the campus.Â â€śStudents stay after class.Â They talk and have snacks around the fireplace, or they play games in the game room,â€ť she said.Â â€śSome work out on the exercise equipment.Â The amenities have had the positive outcome of pulling students together, much like a more traditional, residential campus.Â Itâ€™s gratifying to see.â€ť
The Cartersville campus opened in 2005.Â Design funding for the second academic facility was approved by the Board of Regents this year.Â Proposals from design firms have been reviewed by the college, and recommendations will be presented to the Board of Regents at their October meeting.