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GPTC kicks off 20th year in Newton County
Jabari Simama, Georgia Piedmont Technical College (GPTC) president, addresses GPTC faculty and staff members during the college’s annual convocation. (Duane Ford| The Covington News)

COVINGTON, Ga. - Twenty years ago, Georgia Piedmont Technical College (GPTC) opened its Newton Campus and became the first public post-secondary institution with a physical presence in this area. The GPTC Newton Campus starts its third decade with a new dean, Irvin Clark; a new advanced manufacturing program; a new German apprenticeship program offered in cooperation with area partners; and more.

To kickoff its academic year as well as the celebration of its presence in Newton County, GPTC held its annual start-of-the-year, college-wide faculty and staff meeting, or convocation, in Covington on Aug. 22.

“This year, we are holding convocation at our Newton Campus,” Jabari Simama, GPTC’s president, said.  “We are celebrating 20 years of offering quality programs in the Newton community.  Two decades.  To give you an idea of the timeframe, when ground was broken in 1996 for this campus, Atlanta was just getting ready to host the Olympic Games.” 

During the convocation, Jabari Simama, president, and Essence Jones, a business management student and GPTC student government association president, offered greetings and highlighted recent developments.

Ivan Harrell, executive vice president for academic and student affairs, presented the 150 new faculty and staff members who have been hired since September 2016. He and Simama recognized and honored retiring mathematics instructor and college administrator Daisy Walker Davis who has worked for the college since 1994.

Simama opened his comments saying, “At Georgia Piedmont, our focus is on creating educational programs and environments for the 21st century so that our students can thrive in the modern world. We do this by acting as one college—one organization collectively focused on student success.” He then offered the following highlights.

This past year GPTC met or exceeded nearly every goal established for it by the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG), including those for enrollment growth, retention rate, dual enrollment, graduation rate, and full-time-equivalent student numbers.  GPTC leads all TCSG colleges in retention rate, which is a measure of how many students do not dropout.

GPTC graduates achieved an employment rate of 99.5 percent and eight out of 10 found employment related to the field in which they were trained.

The college has a commitment to “going green.” One-third of its vehicle fleet is electric or high-efficiency and GPTC has a goal of increasing that to 100 percent. New electric vehicle charging stations have been added to its campuses.

The new advanced manufacturing program is starting on the Newton Campus. Greg Smith has been hired to direct the new laboratory that will support the program. The lab will feature over $1 million worth of new instructional equipment.

GPTC’s practical nursing program is ranked first in the state by, partly due to the program’s 2012-2015 graduates achieving a 100 percent pass rate on the national licensure exam. 

GPTC and Clark Atlanta University worked together to start the “Access 4 Achievement” program which allows students to be simultaneously admitted and enrolled in both institutions, facilitates transfer, and creates joint faculty and teaching opportunities.  Jones plans to use this program to help her transfer to Clark Atlanta University after she graduates from GPTC next May.

Kye Haymore and Virgil Costley, paralegal studies instructors based on the Newton County campus, achieved personal distinction. Haymore was elected nation-wide president for the American Association for Paralegal Education. Costley received the Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service from the State Bar of Georgia. 

Penny Womack, adult basic education and GED mathematics lead, was runner-up for national outstanding teacher of the year by the Coalition on Adult Basic Education. 

This past year, 13 students won medallions at the statewide SkillsUSA competition. At the national level, GPTC students claimed three gold medals, one silver medal, and a fifth place while competing against more than 6200 students from 50 states and four US territories. 

The GPTC student soccer team made it to the league finals this year.

Looking forward, Simama stated that GPTC will engage in a wide-ranging planning project this year.

“We are undergoing a top-to-bottom review of our academic programs to develop an academic master plan that will be future-facing, positioning the college to provide relevant education for today’s world,” he said.

 “We are reviewing our processes and systems to assure that they meet the demands of these programs. We have begun and will continue the necessary planning to revamp and re-imagine our physical infrastructure so that it can keep pace with our students and business and industry needs.”