STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) - Georgia Southern University students move onto campus later this week to start a new school year, but faculty and staff met Wednesday morning to formally kick off the academic year.
This year was a little different due to the consolidation of Georgia Southern and Armstrong State University going into full effect Fall 2018. This school year will mark lots of transition to prepare for that.
Faculty and staff gathered Wednesday morning for the annual convocation program that kicks off the fall semester and the new year.
Speakers, including university President Dr. Jaimie Hebert, talked about the challenges and the opportunities of the consolidation announced in January. University leaders say departments from both universities have spent the spring and summer working out hundreds of details of how the schools will join forces and resources to be one university.
"Every department of faculty has been involved in some discussion with their counterparts on the Liberty and Armstrong campuses as to what we want to happen," said Dr. Diana Cone, the interim provost.
Dr. Hebert called the next few years one of the most crucial times in the university's history.
Dr. Robert Pirro has seen plenty over two decades at GSU. The political science professor says preparations for this fall include "unknowns" about next fall.
"I think this year will be a little different. I think lots of faculty are wondering how this consolidation will turn out," Dr. Pirro said.
Convocation 2017 included plenty about the joining of Georgia Southern and Armstrong State University in Savannah. Administrators told the faculty and staff gathered how a committee of people from both universities had taken their input and passed 500 recommendations since spring on details of how the schools will combine and many of those go into effect long before next fall.
"We have to plan far enough ahead so that when students start spring semester, the courses are developed and advertised and they can meet with their advisors," Dr. Cone said.
President Hebert told the group the combined enrollment of more than 27,000 students helps increase research opportunities and give students more opportunities and help the region grow.
"Our new university will be in an even better position to focus on student success and expand programs to meet market demand," said Dr. Hebert.
He acknowledged it won't be without challenges. But he challenged the group to look for solutions and work together, across the Southern and Armstrong campuses. Dr. Pirro says that's what they'll do.
"Neither campus wanted this. It was basically imposed on us. We have to make the best of it. We have no other choice," Dr. Pirro said.
Classes for Fall 2017 begin Monday. Throughout the next 12 months, they'll decide which programs or departments will maintain presence on each campus and which ones will consolidate onto one campus.
Some programs could move from Armstrong to Statesboro and others could move from here to Savannah.