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Friday, 31 August 2012 22:55

SGC Cross Country Begins Sept. 1

The South Georgia College cross country team takes to the trails for its opening meet on Saturday, Sept. 1, and the team is shaping up to be the best in the short history of the program. The Tigers are an inexperienced team – out of 15 runners on both the men’s and women’s squad, 10 are freshmen – but the youngsters have already demonstrated they have what it takes to be very competitive in the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association’s Region XVII.

Over the last couple of years, the women’s team has been threatening the top teams in the conference. The Lady Tigers have always had a couple of really fast young ladies at the pointy end of the field, but the team has struggled to find its identity from third to fifth places. For 2012, the Lady Tigers are stronger and deeper than ever, and this could be the year that they show they are ready to compete with the best.

Leading the way for SGC is Charley Harrison, a sophomore from Wayne County. Harrison was one of the top high school runners in both cross country and track in Wayne’s region during her senior year. She spent a year in Atlanta at the Savannah College of Art and Design then sat out last year. This season, Harrison is back and is showing very good form early in the year. “Charley has worked very hard since January. She gets the most out of every mile she runs and is setting a great example for the younger girls. If she stays healthy, she could contend for a conference championship,” says SGC head cross country coach Robert Preston Jr. Right behind Harrison are sophomore Tia Ponsell from Pierce County, who holds the current women’s school record, and freshman Tori Irvin from Cape Coral, Fla. Ponsell had a very good freshman season despite undergoing an emergency appendectomy early in the year. She bounced back from the injury and set the school  record in the final meet, earning a spot on the All Conference team in the process. After just a few short weeks of practice, Irvin has demonstrated that she will be one of the better runners in the conference as well. She works hard, never takes days off and refuses to settle for anything but her best. “Tia and Tori have the potential to be right up there with Charley. They are both hard workers with tons of natural talent. Tia has a solid base from last year and Tori came out of a great high school program. These two young ladies are two of the best we’ve ever had,” says Coach Preston.

Rounding out the women’s team are freshmen Christine Johnston and Samantha Arroyo, both from Marianna, Fla.; Brooke Logue, a freshman from Dodge County; Destinee Cason, a freshman from Ware County; and Coffee County sophomore Elizabeth Wilder. “These young ladies give us a great deal of depth, and all five are capable of breaking scoring for us. They are progressing well and getting faster every week. We’ve just got to stay healthy and get all eight to the start line at the end of the season,” says Preston.

The men’s team is as talented as it’s ever been. In an early-season 5K time trial, three broke 18:00 while everyone came in well under 20:00. Last year, for example, only three runners broke 20:00. Only two runners return for 2012; the other five are all freshmen and all come out of South Georgia high school programs. Four freshmen men are battling each other for the top spot after two weeks of practice: Wesley Worthy (Bradwell Institute), Timmy Evans (Valdosta High), Richard Smith (Colquitt County) and Pedro Martinez (Fitzgerald). Right on their heels are freshman Jose Castanon (Lowndes High), and sophomores Lyndon Jones (Lowndes) and Juan Castanon (Lowndes). “Watching these guys run every day is a lot of fun. They compete well against each other and motivate each other push the pace in each workout. Most of them raced each other in high school, so they were friends – and friendly rivals – when they came to SGC. Though they’re teammates, none wants to finish in second place. It makes for some lively practices,” comments Preston.

The cross country team competes in its first meet of 2012 Saturday, Sept. 1 in Albany at Darton College. Six days later, on Sept. 7, the Tigers head up to the foothills of the north Georgia mountains for a meet at North Georgia Technical College. After a couple of weeks off from racing, they are back in action on Sept. 29 (Skiles Farm, Albany), Oct. 5 (Point University), Oct. 12 (a home meet on the SGC campus) and Oct. 27 (conference finals at Chattahoochee Technical College). “We’ve had some great runners come through here who have established a tradition of excellence. This team understands that legacy and is ready to raise the bar even more,” says Preston.

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Austin Vickers, a sophomore at South Georgia College, joined more than 450 other Phi Theta Kappa members, advisors, alumni, and staff at the 45th Annual Phi Theta Kappa Honors Institute hosted recently by the University of Denver in Denver, Colo. Vickers, a resident of Ambrose, is the incoming president of SGC’s Kappa Sigma chapter of PTK and will also serve as the Chapter Relations officer of PTK’s Georgia region.

The Honors Institute was an in-depth, intensive study of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Study Topic, the Culture of Competition. The event, modeled after seminars held at Oxford University in England, featured presentations by prominent speakers followed by smaller breakout sessions for group discussion

The opening session featured Ethan Uslan, a classically trained pianist who turned to jazz and ragtime music and is now a specialist in the music of the 1920s. Uslan's performance coupled classic sports music with well-known college fight songs, timed perfectly to bring to life The Freshman, a classic silent movie by Harold Lloyd. Uslan performed last year at the Boston Honors Institute and also made a trip to the campus of South Georgia College in the fall to accompany the silent film The General.

Other session speakers included Laura Ling, award-winning author and journalist; Dr. H. William Brands, author and history professor; Taylor Branch, author and speaker; Willie Lanier, National Football League Hall of Fame/Entrepreneur/Philanthropist; and King Peggy, King of Ghana.

Amy Hancock, PTK advisor at South Georgia College, also attended the institute. She served as a Faculty Scholar and seminar leader for the week-long program. Hancock believes the Honors Institute is a valuable event for PTK members, especially officers. “It was an excellent institute, and I’m so glad Austin had the opportunity to go,” Hancock said. “Austin went to the Institute as a new PTK member with no idea of what to expect. When we left, he had a thorough knowledge of the Honors Study topic and will be able to bring that knowledge back to our campus. Being with PTK members all week and engaging in meaningful dialogue in the seminar group created an enthusiasm in him to hit the ground running in the fall with new ideas to help our chapter and the college community as a whole.”

Hancock plans to go to the institute again next year. “I’m hoping to take Austin and a few more students to next year’s institute,” she said. “It’s such a worthwhile opportunity and helps our students become more knowledgeable and effective leaders on campus as well as preparing them to guide the local chapter in PTK activities.”

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Gov. Nathan Deal’s comments to a large group of citizens at Engram Hall on the South Georgia College campus on the morning of Thursday, Aug. 16, were a mixed bag of good news and troubling trends for the state. On the one hand, Georgia’s economy is not recovering, and the government is still facing numerous budgetary challenges. At the same time, several important events have taken place in the economic development realm, which send strong signals that the potential exists for an economic turnaround.

“We are very fortunate in Georgia. But we’ve been through some rough times and we’re not out of them yet,” stated Deal as he began his remarks. The governor began by discussing his recent mandate requiring government agencies to withhold three percent of their budgets. Deal made this request despite several months of increasing state revenues. Gov. Deal said the three percent holdback was necessary because the state’s economic analysts and economists are predicting a reduction in revenue in the future. “They are telling us that the economy is going to slow down, and we are seeing that slowdown now,” he said. “We want to be fair if the economy doesn’t turn around.”

Georgia’s economic outlook could very well change for the better in the future, said Deal, but that won’t happen until citizens have confidence in the economy. Right now, there is too much uncertainty in the economic future for there to be a turnaround of any consequence. And, he said, that uncertainty stems from actions taken by the federal government. “I’ve been overseas and economic opportunities are there for Georgia. But those opportunities won’t be realized until certainty in the economy returns,” he said.

Much of the uncertainty is a direct result of the Patient Care and Protection Act – President Barack Obama’s sweeping healthcare reform legislation that kicks in during 2014. While most of the act is still two years away, some of its provisions are going into effect right now. Nobody is completely sure of just how the act will affect the economy. One area that will be particularly troublesome for state governments – Georgia included – is the Medicaid expansion mandated by the PCPA. “It’s coming,” said Gov. Deal, “and it’s the big one.” According to the governor, the expansion of Medicaid under the PCPA will cost Georgia $4.5 billion. To handle that kind of spike in expenses is going to be very tricky. “We are going to have to prioritize our expenditures,” said Deal.

All is not negative, according to the governor. He discussed education initiatives designed to provide greater access to college classes and the Go Build Georgia program, which, among other things, helps individuals develop a skilled trade. Right now, said Deal, there are 16,500 unfilled technical jobs in the state. “With an unemployment rate of nine percent, we need to fill these jobs, and Go Build Georgia will help do that,” he said.

Deal also mentioned the project to deepen the Savannah port. Continuing to develop Savannah’s port, which is the largest single-site port in the country, is a major priority. “The port creates jobs all over Georgia. Did you know that there are more jobs for the port in Fulton County than there are in Chatham County?” said Gov. Deal. Other important economic development events include the Caterpillar facility near Athens and Baxter International’s biologics operation in Newton County. “These plants mean more economic growth for the entire state in the future,” commented Deal.

After his remarks at SGC, Gov. Deal toured nearby Wiregrass Technical College.

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The University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents selected South Georgia State College at its Aug. 7 meeting as the name for the new institution resulting from the consolidation of South Georgia College and Waycross College.

“While a tremendous amount of work and effort is underway as we create new institutions through the consolidation process, the name is a powerful symbol that will give focus and direction to the process,” said Shelley Nickel, associate vice chancellor for Planning and Implementation in presenting the proposed names to the Board.

According to college officials, South Georgia State College will have a Douglas campus and a Waycross campus and will provide enrollment and student services at both locations beginning in January.  Classes will also continue to be offered at five other instructional sites, including Americus, Hazlehurst, Hinesville, Jesup, and Valdosta.

Dr. Mary Ellen Wilson, interim president of Waycross College, states, “As a multi-campus institution initially serving over 3,000 students, South Georgia State College will be a formidable player in the region.  I am excited about the future opportunities and economic impact our College will create for the many communities we serve.”

The selection of South Georgia State College comes following the Board of Regents’ approval of the new institution’s mission statement last May.  The statement reads, “South Georgia State College, a state college of the University System of Georgia, is a multi-campus, student-centered institution offering high-quality associate and select baccalaureate degree programs.  The institution provides innovative teaching and learning experiences, a rich array of student activities and athletic programs, access to unique ecological sites, and residential options to create a diverse, globally-focused, and supportive learning environment.”

Dr. Virginia Carson, president of South Georgia College and president of the consolidated institution, adds, “An institution’s name sets the tone about who we are and how we share our story.  South Georgia State College supports our mission and helps explain the reach and potential we have through consolidation.  I look forward to the enhanced academic and student offerings we can provide students, as well as our various stakeholders, under this new name.”

In addition to receiving Board of Regents approval, the consolidated institution must also be approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at its December meeting.  The institution’s new name and mission statement will not be used in promotional materials until all necessary approvals are received.

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On Monday, July 2, 2012, South Georgia College welcomed its new Dean of Students, Dr. Greg Tanner, to campus. Dr. Tanner accepted the Dean of Students position after spending the majority of his career in the public school system, most recently as the principal of Coffee High School for the last seven years.

In Dr. Tanner’s new position on campus, he will oversee athletics, student life and residence life at the new institution that will result from the consolidation of South Georgia College and Waycross College. Dr. Tanner comes to SGC with a wealth of experience at all levels of higher and public education. He holds a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education (Georgia Southern University), master’s degrees in physical education and education leadership (Valdosta State University) and an Ed.D. in educational leadership and supervision from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Tanner began his career as an instructor and coach at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, where he coached the women’s softball team. Under his leadership, ABAC won the 1995 national slowpitch championship, and Dr. Tanner was named National Slowpitch Tournament Coach of the Year and Georgia Region XVII Coach of the Year. He was inducted into the ABAC Hall of Fame in 2011-2012.

After leaving ABAC to return to Coffee County, Dr. Tanner became principal of Nicholls Elementary and Satilla Elementary before moving to Ware Shoals, South Carolina, for three years, where he served as the principal of Ware Shoals Primary School. He came back to Coffee County and became assistant principal of Coffee High School in 2004. A year later, Dr. Tanner was named principal of Coffee High.

“This is a great opportunity, and I am excited about beginning a new phase of my career in education. South Georgia College and Waycross College are very important to this region, and I look forward to helping strengthen the scope and influence of both schools through our consolidation,” states Dr. Tanner.

“Athletics is vital to our institutions, and through consolidation we will enhance all opportunities for our students, including student life activities and athletic programs. Dr. Tanner’s career has been dedicated to enriching the lives of young people and I am excited about his addition to our team,” says Dr. Virginia Carson, SGC president.

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As the 2011-2012 academic year winds down, the South Georgia College Department of Athletics has received some of the best news of the year -- three SGC student-athletes have been named Athletes of Distinction by the National Junior College Athletic Association. This announcement comes after the athletic program has enjoyed another exciting year. Seven of the college’s teams qualified for post-season competition, with the men’s and women’s swim teams competing in their national meet. The men finished fifth while the women came in sixth in the country.

At SGC, athletes are students first, and these academic awards demonstrate the emphasis SGC places on academic achievement. Ashley Williams (softball), a sophomore from Hazlehurst; Minerva Arreguin (women’s cross country), a sophomore from Avon Park, Fla.; and Sarah Snipes (women’s cross country), a sophomore from Douglas; have received the NJCAA’s Award for Exemplary Academic Achievement. Earlier this year, both Arreguin and Snipes were named Academic All Americans by the NJCAA Cross Country Coaches Association.

Williams, who finished the 2012 softball season with 57 innings pitched, 16 strikeouts, two wins and a save, is majoring in agribusiness with an emphasis in farm management. She will attend the University of Georgia in the fall. Snipes is majoring in sociology and plans to attend the Valdosta State University in the fall. Arreguin finishes her career at South Georgia College as the most decorated runner in the program’s history. She holds five of the top 10 fastest women’s times, and she is the only two-time All Conference selection. Arreguin is a nursing major, and she plans to remain at South Georgia College in the fall in order to finish her nursing degree.

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The South Georgia College-Waycross College consolidation working group, made up of 20 individuals representing both institutions, has submitted the following five names (in alphabetical order) to the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents: Georgia Southeastern State College, Satilla State College, South Georgia College, South Georgia State College, and Southeast Georgia State College.

The names will be considered by the regents during the Board’s August 7-8 meeting, with the regents expected to select and approve a final name for the new institution.

This marks the completion of one of the key initial tasks of the consolidation as set forth by the USG and Chancellor Hank Huckaby.  Upon approval of the consolidation by the Board of Regents in January, Chancellor Huckaby appointed a team made up of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members from both Colleges to serve on a consolidation working group.

The group serves in an advisory role to discuss a variety of topics related to the consolidation process and is charged with developing various recommendations for consolidation to be presented to the Board of Regents for approval.

The names were selected from 425 submissions that were the result of the working group’s creation of guidelines that allowed individuals from both institutions to contribute. Participants were asked to consider the following factors when providing a suggestion:

  • The new institution will be a statewide, multi-campus institution initially serving over 3,000 students.
  • Its name should support the institution’s mission and serve to strengthen its academic reputation.
  • The name should aid in the institution’s long-term growth as well as be easily incorporated into the college’s branding efforts.
  • The name should also aid in enhancing economic development for Georgia.
  • The College will be designated as a state college by the University System; thus the word “university” cannot be included.

Dr. Mary Ellen Wilson, Interim President of Waycross College, said, "This level of response validates that our institutions are integral to this region and have a great deal of support, which is exciting about what our future potential is as we move forward.”

Dr. Virginia Carson, SGC President and president of the consolidated institution, said, “This was a challenging task and I am grateful to each member of this committee who has worked so hard to help lay the framework of the new and enhanced institution we are shaping." 

Following the designation of a name by the regents in August, the consolidation will seek another level of approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS COC) at its December 2012 Board meeting.  Any name which is determined by the Regents cannot be used until SACS COC approval is gained.

Whatever its name, the new consolidated College will be a multi-campus institution. Thus, it will have a Douglas Campus as well as a Waycross Campus.  These campus designations, or identifiers, will be utilized in all aspects of the College, particularly in recruiting and marketing materials. 

"I am excited about the next phase of this process and look forward to the enhanced educational opportunities for all students as well as the broadened economic impact we can make once fully implemented," Dr. Carson said.

Published in News
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 09:44

SGC Admits First-Ever Junior Class

Just over a year after the Georgia Board of Regents approved bachelor authority for South Georgia College in June 2011, SGC has admitted its first-ever junior class. On Thursday, July 19, the 29 students who will pursue a Bachelor of Science (BSN) degree in nursing gathered in Peterson Hall for an orientation session. Most of the students are registered nurses who graduated from the SGC nursing program, including many who obtained their nursing degrees from the Waycross College location.

Dr. Scott Thigpen, Dean of the SGC School of Nursing, welcomed the students on behalf of the nursing faculty.  A number of SGC personnel were on hand to describe important resources and programs on campus, such as student success services, library research and tutoring support available to all students.

The program will undergo an external review on site in Douglas, which will be conducted by a Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Commission on Colleges (COC) visiting team on November 13-15. SGC must also send additional reports to the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC), and an NLNAC team must also conduct a site visit on campus in Spring 2013.

“The new level of academic clout the Bachelor of Science degree in nursing brings to our College and the healthcare of our region, will be crucial for the well-being of our area.  I am optimistic about the many benefits we will see as a result,” sate Dr. Carl McDonald, SGC Vice President for Academic Affairs.

“This milestone is the result of a longstanding vision for the growth of this institution and decades of hard work and commitment by SGC’s community partners, and its faculty, staff and students. Transitioning from an associate-degree granting college into a bachelor-degree granting institution is an ongoing process, and I applaud each team member who has helped us achieve this significant accomplishment,” states Dr. Virginia Carson, SGC President.

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Tyler Harper, a businessman and farmer from Irwin County, defeated Dr. Rodney Vickers of Douglas and State Rep. Mark Hatfield of Waycross in the State Senate District 7 Republican primary Tuesday night. He cruised to victory, taking 65 percent of the votes and avoiding a run-off. He will face Democrat Donald Mitchell in November. State Rep. Chuck Sims defeated Bacon County’s Darwin Carter in the District 169 race with 60 percent of the votes. Sims will not have any opposition in November.

The TSPLOST, an initiative that would raise sales tax by a penny to fund transportation and infrastructure improvements, has been a controversial topic all year. TSPLOST was put before the voters of Georgia Tuesday night. While voters approved the TSPLOST locally (3,425 to 2,997), statewide, the referendum failed by a large margin. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, with 99 percent of the votes in statewide, voters struck down the TSPLOST 409,789 to 243,393. However, three regions – Central Savannah, Heart of Georgia Altamaha and River Valley – passed the TSPLOST. Coffee County’s region, the Southern Georgia region, did not. “Sad day for Coffee County and Southern Georgia Region. Coffee carried a yes vote but the region did not. What does that mean? We just lost $105 million for Coffee County and new opportunities for job growth,” wrote Douglas-Coffee County Chamber of Commerce President JoAnne Lewis on her Facebook page following the election.

There were also several other interesting local races on the ballot. The 2012 primary featured one contested school board election. Retired teacher Judi Worrell challenged incumbent Donnie Chaney for the District 3 board of education seat. Worrell upset Chaney, winning by a veritable landslide over the one-term incumbent 840 to 522.

In the race for state court judge, incumbent Bob Preston secured his third term with a victory over former state court judge Earl McCrae. Preston won 3,587 to 2,675. Incumbent Clerk of Superior Court Angie Spell-Hutto defeated challenger Phil Mote 2,438 to 1,796. Spell-Hutto will next face Democratic challenger Melissa Gilliard in November.

There was also one county commission race on the Republican ballot. Steve Bailey and J.C. Roberts were both looking for the Republican spot in the General Election in November. Bailey easily beat Roberts 734-261 and will run against Democrat Johnny Wayne Jowers in the General Election. Phillip J. Grady beat a pair of opponents in a special election for a spot on the Nicholls City Council. Grady trounced his competition with almost 67 percent of the vote.

Also on the ballot was a four-way race for U.S. House of Representatives among State Rep. Lee Anderson, August businessman Rick Allen, Augusta attorney Wright McLeod and Dublin attorney Maria Sheffield. For Coffee County, Anderson received 1,419 votes, well ahead of Sheffield’s 925 votes. Allen received 794 votes while McLeod came in last with 575. District-wide, Anderson finished in the top spot but he will face either McLeod or Allen in a run-off on Aug. 21. Allen and McLeod were within about 500 votes of each other on election night, according to the Augusta Chronicle. Wednesday morning, it was still unclear whom Anderson would face. The winner of the run-off will challenge Democrat incumbent John Barrow in November.

For a complete list of election results, including the various party questions on the ballot, visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s Web site at

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Earlier today, the Supreme Court of the United States announced its verdict regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health-care reform act known to many simply as “Obamacare.” The High Court upheld the bill, but with a twist. In a 5-4 decision, the Court stated that the act is constitutional under the authority Congress has to tax. While the verdict is a victory of sorts for the act’s supporters, most of which are Democrats, it does little to settle the controversy surrounding health-care reform.

While President Barack Obama and his supporters wanted the law upheld, the last thing they wanted was for it to be labeled as a tax, which is what the Supreme Court’s decision effectively does. Republicans are already sounding the battle cry, with many top Republican lawmakers chastising the law for taxing an already overtaxed citizenry. Democrats are downplaying the fact that the High Court has ruled the act’s constitutionality based on the tax code. Instead, they are relieved that the Court did not strike down the law, and they are steering their statements in that direction.

It doesn’t matter how the verdict gets spun – the Supreme Court has likely raised more questions than it answered with today’s decision. The act has been a source of contention since Congress passed it into law in 2009, and both President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have been waiting patiently for the High Court to release its decision. More legal wrangling will continue, and the Court’s decision will likely shape the remainder of the presidential election.

Not long after the Supreme Court released its ruling, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., made the following statement:

“I am disappointed in today’s decision. While I believe the individual mandate to directly contradict the Constitution, we must respect the decision of the Supreme Court. However, this is not the final chapter in the healthcare-reform debate. I will continue to push to repeal the law, and urge Congress and the next administration to work to replace Obamacare.

“This law adds new taxes on an already overtaxed population, and adds regulation to an already over-regulated industry. We must address the skyrocketing costs of health care and its impact on individuals, families and small businesses while working together on transparent and measured reforms to ensure that everyone has access to quality and affordable care.”

Stay tuned. The debate will only rage further from here.

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