New University Center in Cumming welcomes first class

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CUMMING, Ga. — Ashley Chadwich is looking forward to earning a good wage working as a pharmacy technician.

Chadwich, 18, is part of a group of about 500 students who are the first to take courses at the newly completed University Center at Ga. 400 in Cumming, a partnership of North Georgia College and State University and Gainesville State College.

Chadwich particularly enjoys the high-tech learning environment provided at the 38,000-square-foot, $7 million facility.

“Everything is so clean and looks so nice,” said Chadwich, of Dahlonega. “I was looking for a place that offered classes on what I wanted to major in for decent money and this is the best I’ve found.”

Dr. Sherman Day, executive director of the center, said courses begin at 7:30 a.m. with 44 high school students who are part of a joint enrollment with North Georgia and end each night with its Master of Business Administration program.

Upcoming speakers to the MBA program include presidents of Coca-Cola, Boeing and Delta.

In addition to the professional development opportunities, the center offers two-year nursing and four-year undergraduate programs as well as core courses.

“The history of this project is a testament to this community’s commitment to higher education,” said Hank Huckaby, chancellor of the University System of Georgia. “This center will stand as a model to other communities.”

Located off Ga. 400 at exit 16 and south on Pilgrim Mill Road, the center will extend the presence each school has in the region. The two institutions have a 27-year partnership history and will consolidate in January 2013 under a new name — University of North Georgia.

University Center is expected to alleviate some of the capacity pressure at both the Dahlonega and Oakwood campuses.

With an expected fall enrollment of about 6,300 students, North Georgia is nearing capacity at its Dahlonega campus, and Gainesville State’s capacity has exceeded 100 percent on the Oakwood campus since 2000.

In fall 2011, more than 1,500 students from Forsyth County were enrolled at both schools — 782 at North Georgia and 806 at Gainesville State.

“This facility will provide dividends to this community for many years to come,” said H. Ford Gravitt, mayor of the city of Cumming.

Gravitt also established two annual $1,000 scholarships.

One is in honor of his late wife, and will be given to a deserving student from Forsyth County.

The other is in honor of his high school alma mater — Forsyth Central High School — and will be given to a deserving student graduating from that school.

For more information, visit www.northgeorgia.edu.