Who Are We?
By Guy McClure
Who are we? It is an introspective question that one might ask when on a quest of self-discovery. It is also a question an institution must ask when defining itself in a constantly changing environment. In the 191-year history of Athens State University we have been many things to many constituents, but whether that is an alma mater, a community resource, or an educational touchstone, we each have a personal connection to Athens State that is uniquely ours.The first step in defining ourselves is to do just that – establish a definition. Athens State is an upper-division, two-year educational institution, one of only a handful of such schools in the world. The problem is there is no word or phrase that adequately paints a mental picture of what this means. The other problem is that this causes our colleagues, constituents, and even our neighbors to not clearly understand our purpose.
Let’s start with who we are not. We are not a Community College; we are not a traditional four-year institution; we do not offer first or second year coursework; and we do not fit into most people’s preconceived idea of what a baccalaureate granting institution should be.
Establishing who we are not makes it easier to explain who we are. We are a university; we offer a curriculum that is at the junior and senior level; our student body is totally comprised of students who matriculated from other institutions after completing their freshman and sophomore level coursework; and we are focused on doing whatever we can to assist those students in achieving their bachelor’s degree.
I realize that by being such a unique collegiate institution, we have had to be forward-thinking as to what programs and courses of study are marketable to our potential students and the hiring industries they will serve. Our history of flexibility toward student career needs demonstrates that the rule of supply and demand is alive and well in our mission, our curriculum, and our goals.
Athens State President Bob Glenn best describes what we do as taking students from where they are to where they want to be. I also might add that we are not an ending point on a map, we are the journey. We are not a finish line, but the race. We are the sum of many parts, and together we are whatever you need us to be.