Hepburn looks to future of college

From the The Brunswick News

Sitting in front of an audience at the Stembler Theater on the College of Coastal Georgia's campus, two leaders of the Golden Isles shared stories and joked about former dreams, but most importantly, they discussed the future of the Brunswick college.

The event, called Coastal Conversations, the second in a series hosted by the college, gave Valerie Hepburn, the college's outgoing president, an opportunity to share her thoughts based on questions asked by facilitator Reg Murphy, the college's executive-in-residence, as well as businessman, journalist, author and civic leader.

After discussing her own lengthy career - more than 30 years, at home and abroad, in public policy and leadership posts - Hepburn was asked how the college is preparing students for the workforce.

"One thing is we've put together very relevant and impactful degree programs. We've worked hard as faculty to be intra-, inter- and multi-disciplinary. Our students are engaging with the community early in their educational career, too," said Hepburn, who will leave the college at the end of the semester. "We've tried to make sure our students are much better prepared intellectually, emotionally and, hopefully, in a civil and ethical way, to address that next step of their lives, whether it's graduate school or the workforce.

"Simply owning the piece of paper does not a college graduate make."

Hired as interim president in 2008, Hepburn never expected to spend as much time as she has at College of Coastal Georgia. In fact, she says she never intended to be a college president at all.

But by staying on, Hepburn hopes she has helped put the campus on the road to a successful future, though there are still some challenges ahead.

"I think that we are poised to really go to the next level. The challenges we see, as we talk with the leadership team and they talk with students and faculty, are that we have to continue to recruit good students, retain and graduate them," she said. "The biggest risk we have is what happens in this community. We have to have a place that people are excited to come to, not just the campus, but the broader community."

With what she believes is an excellent strategic plan in place, Hepburn says whoever does take her place will be able to follow in the hard-working footsteps of many, not just herself. She also believes the University System of Georgia is recognizing the area holds something different than anywhere else in the state and should continue to help the college in its growth.

"There's a galvanized team on campus and in the community to move forward, and the University System is working with the campus more so than before," she said. "They see unique undergraduate experience here that can't be replicated elsewhere in system."

After she leaves, Hepburn hopes the college will be able to provide safe and affordable housing for the increasing number of students, as well as work with the community to provide more amenities on the mainland. With the rapid change that has happened in such a short time, she doesn't think that will be hard.

"You have to recognize that we didn't even have degree programs to market to people until 2009. We didn't have a beautiful campus we could take a picture of, a housing unit for them to stay in. We didn't have food on campus. Before you could start selling, we had to have product, and we now have that," Hepburn said. "These great students become the best marketing we have. We're graduating students who go into great careers. What do we need then? The campus has to be strong. In order for the faculty, students and staff to relocate and make it stronger, the community has to be strong."
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Release Date: 4/16/2013
Source: The Brunswick News

By SARAH LUNDGREN