AMERICUS (Oct. 21, 2013)—Friday, Oct. 18, Georgia Southwestern State University and East Georgia State College of Swainsboro concluded the inaugural “East Meets West” college readiness conference. 

GSW, East Georgia  hold inaugural college readiness conference

AMERICUS (Oct. 21, 2013)—Friday, Oct. 18, Georgia Southwestern State University and East Georgia State College of Swainsboro concluded the inaugural “East Meets West” college readiness conference. The event was held on GSW’s campus in Americus.

“East Meets West” was designed to bring together educators from the public schools, technical colleges, and University System of Georgia institutions to explore ways of ensuring that high school graduates, especially those from the rural parts of the state, are prepared to succeed in college. Leaders at GSW and EGSC, both located in rural areas of the state, felt like this conference could provide helpful insights to educators in their respective regions – each region having to deal with issues like poverty and college preparedness. According to EGSC President Bob Boehmer, Sumter County (home of GSW) and Emmanuel County (home of EGSC) are above the state average for poverty rate and below the average in percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree.

“We are not talking about hypothetical issues; we’re talking about college readiness as a tool to address very real social issues,” said Boehmer at the conclusion of the conference. “This East Meets West Conference is not designed to be a two-day event in Americus. This is intended to be an ongoing partnership.”

Gail Wells, Ph.D., of Northern Kentucky University was the keynote speaker. Wells is the vice president for academic affairs and provost at NKU. She was on an American Association of State Colleges and Universities task force that wrote a report last year concluding that much of the responsibility for high school graduate college readiness in the future lies with colleges and universities and their willingness to work with public schools.

Conference break-out meetings included sessions led by representatives from the Technical College System of Georgia, the University System of Georgia, and leaders from public school districts and public colleges and universities in Georgia that are tackling the issue of college readiness with innovative programs. In all, more than 100 educators participated in the conference.

"I'm very pleased to have that many people from across the state come together and discuss working together to improve college readiness of high school graduates,” said Kelly McCoy, conference chair and GSW dean of Arts and Sciences. “With so many people from public schools and post-secondary institutions willing to collaborate, I think we can make serious progress in improving educational attainment."

On day two of the conference, participants were subdivided into regional working groups (North, South, East and West) and tasked with developing action plans for solving college readiness issues in their parts of Georgia. At next year’s East Meets West Conference at East Georgia State College, each regional working group will be asked to provide a follow-up report regarding their action plans.

“Most importantly, I was pleased by the way the meetings ended, with everyone developing specific plans for dealing with the issue in their respective areas of the state,” said GSW President Kendall Blanchard. “I am grateful to Dean Kelly McCoy for his commitment to working with the public schools to make sure high school students are prepared for college-level work.  His hard work and leadership were critical to the success of this conference.”

Major funding for this conference was provided by the University System of Georgia. Additional funding was provided by the Georgia Southwestern Foundation.

For additional information about this conference or plans for next year’s conference, please call GSW at (229) 931-2322 or email kelly.mccoy@gsw.edu, or call EGSC at (478) 289-2037 or email egilmer@ega.edu.

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Caption—Tabitha Press (far right) of the University System of Georgia discusses K-12 partnerships and policy essentials for postsecondary institutions during a breakout session at the East Meets West Conference.

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