ABAC students enjoy the newly-renovated Donaldson Dining Hall during ABAC’s famous fried chicken Thursday. Classes start this week at ABAC with a marked increase in enrollment.
TIFTON — When classes begin today for the 2012 fall semester at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, almost 650 of the 3,200 ABAC students will be enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs.
That’s a 30 percent increase in baccalaureate students over last year.
ABAC now offers bachelor’s degrees in biology, diversified agriculture, turfgrass and golf course management, natural resource management with majors in forestry and wildlife, and four majors under the rural studies umbrella: social and community affairs, arts and culture, writing and communication, and business and economic development.
“These programs will shape the institution’s future for the second 100 years,” ABAC President David Bridges said. “We launched these baccalaureate programs in 2008 under some very difficult financial circumstances and most of the programs have doubled in enrollment since their conception.
The number of students seeking the BS in Biology nearly doubled, topping 150. Enrollment in four-year agriculture and natural resources programs will be approximately 450, an increase of about 25 percent.
“Now we’re seeing better prepared and more committed students choose ABAC as the place to go to college,” Bridges said.
“The average GPA for transfer and incoming freshman this fall is above 3.0. I know that’s one reason why our retention and graduation rates are the highest of any state college in the University System.”
Bridges enters his seventh fall semester as ABAC’s president with many changes on the horizon. The most noticeable physical change to the face of the campus involves the front campus rehabilitation project.
Tift, Lewis, and Herring halls, three of the original buildings on the campus when it opened as the Second District A&M School in 1908, are undergoing extensive renovation. A part of the project includes the front lawn of the campus which will be transformed into a green vista with flowers, shrubs, and trees.
The President’s Office moved from Tift Hall in 2007 for the first time in ABAC history and returned to a new look Tift Hall on May 14. The building also has offices for Vice President for Academic Affairs Niles Reddick, Vice President for Planning and Operations John Clemens, Vice President for External Affairs and Chief of Staff Paul Willis, and Director of Public Relations Ashley Mock.
When the renovation is complete, Tift Hall will also house an ABAC history room, a presidential gallery, meeting space, and a special area dedicated to the memory of ABAC alumnus George T. Smith, the only man in the history of Georgia to win contested elections to all three branches of state government.
When they reopen in 2013, Herring Hall will house the School of Business, and Lewis Hall will be the home for admissions and other student services operations.
ABAC students will see a new design to the interior of the Donaldson Dining Hall today. With almost 1,300 students living on campus in either ABAC Lakeside or ABAC Place, the dining hall will be popular this week, not only for meals but as a social gathering spot.
Bridges always looks forward to seeing the new freshmen on the first day of classes.
“There’s a lot of anticipation on many fronts as we build up to the start of the semester,” Bridges said. “Walking around campus on that first day makes it all worth it.”
Fall semester classes continue through Nov. 30. The fall break will be on Oct. 15-16, and the autumn commencement ceremony is set for Dec. 7.