The State of the University Address is a long-standing University of Georgia tradition whereby the President updates the campus community on the status of the institution. In addition, University System of Georgia Board of Regents Policy 2.6.3 states, “The President shall make such reports as required from time to time to the Board, through the Chancellor, of the condition of the institution under his or her leadership.” The annual State of the University Address is intended to help fulfill this obligation.

President Morehead recorded his 2024 State of the University Address on February 16, 2024, with the intention of releasing the address to the campus community on February 22. However, the tragic events of February 21 and February 22 led to the postponement of the speech’s release. Below, you will find a transcript of those remarks, which highlight the shared accomplishments of the University of Georgia community during the 2023 calendar year.



Thank you for joining me for the 2024 State of the University Address. It is my honor to stand before you to discuss the state of the University of Georgia.

Over the years, I have used the State of the University Address to reflect on our community’s shared accomplishments as well as UGA’s bright and boundless future. Each year, a theme that inevitably emerges is the University’s transformational impact. To those here on campus, as well as our alumni and friends around the world, this comes as no surprise. We know of UGA’s capacity to enrich and elevate the mind while forging new skills and intellectual pursuits. Every day, we see firsthand how our institution inspires a deep commitment to service while fostering relationships that bring a lifetime of happiness.

But the University of Georgia offers more than a life-changing education. From communities across our state to distant corners of the world—from industry to integrative agriculture, laboratories to local governments, corporations to classrooms—the positive impact of our University is felt near and far. What drives our expansive reach, our strong and steady contributions to the world around us, is our land-grant and sea-grant mission.

Nothing better exemplifies this mission—or our commitment to fulfilling it—than one of the most significant developments in our institution’s 239-year history: the recent authorization by the Board of Regents to create a School of Medicine at the University of Georgia. There is no bigger news that will help shape the future of our great state. This new public medical school will educate more doctors to serve Georgians, advance vital research on the most pressing health concerns facing society, and help to make communities across our state healthier and more prosperous.

The new School of Medicine points to a crucial, immutable fact: At the University of Georgia, our land-grant and sea-grant mission is not just a label; it is our purpose, an imperative that propels us forward as an academic community. And because of our unwavering commitment to this noble mission, the University’s impact radiates outward, improving quality of life as we prepare students to make a difference in the world, as our faculty conduct research with life-enhancing implications, and as our faculty, staff, and students use their expertise to strengthen communities and stimulate economic prosperity.

Guided by our mission, during the past year the University of Georgia continued to push the boundaries of what is possible. And the year ahead holds the promise of even greater achievements and magnified impact. Today, let us use this time together to consider our expanding land-grant and sea-grant mission, and how this identity—this imperative—continues to propel our University to unprecedented heights of excellence.


As a land-grant and sea-grant university, we are obligated not only to offer exceptional learning experiences, but also to prepare tomorrow’s leaders—not only to nurture our students’ immeasurable talent, but also to equip them to be pacesetters who drive innovation and lead communities.

In 2023, our faculty and staff positioned UGA among America’s top universities as they provided world-class instruction, skilled mentorship, and superb student services. U.S. News & World Report ranked UGA as one of America’s top-20 public universities for the eighth consecutive year, while several schools and colleges, as well as numerous graduate and professional programs, earned top-10 national rankings. The School of Law was named the country’s best value in legal education, while student life on our campus was rated among the top three nationally and UGA was again named the No. 1 military friendly institution among tier 1 research universities.

Pursuing active learning in the classroom and experiential learning around the world, our students seized opportunities to maximize their education. They completed nearly 29,000 hands-on learning experiences—a new record and a 15% increase over the prior year—and they pushed UGA to a No. 6 ranking for study abroad participation among U.S. doctoral institutions. Our students earned higher education’s most prestigious accolades, including our 28th Rhodes Scholarship, marking the second consecutive year our students were named Rhodes Scholars. We also ranked among the top five universities nationally for Boren Scholarships and were again named a top producer of Fulbright award winners.

Our donors, who are passionate about our mission and devoted to our success, invested generously in the University’s future. In 2023, our alumni and friends produced the second-highest fundraising total in our history, lifting our benchmark three-year annual fundraising average over $235 million, a new record. And the Athletic Association also received historic levels of private support, helping our student-athletes excel on college sports’ biggest stages. After our football team had won back-to-back national championships and set the SEC record for consecutive wins—29 of them—the team then secured a resounding victory in the Capital One Orange Bowl in December. Our women’s soccer team secured its first SEC championship in program history, while our women’s tennis team won its twentieth SEC title. UGA ranked seventh in last year’s Learfield Cup standings, our best performance since 2005, and our student-athletes earned their highest combined GPA ever.

These accomplishments portray an institution experiencing unprecedented momentum and flourishing like never before. Last fall, applications for admission and enrollment both soared to record highs. To address the unprecedented demand for our services, we have undertaken an ambitious plan to construct a new residence hall as well as a state-of-the-art dining, learning, and wellness center to help more students benefit from all that UGA offers. Renovations to the iconic Holmes-Hunter Academic Building on North Campus also continue. Upon its completion this fall, the facility will offer enhanced spaces for key student services while further honoring the contributions of UGA trailblazers Hamilton Holmes, Sr. and Charlayne Hunter-Gault.

We also are making strategic investments that prepare our students for success in a dynamic and interconnected global society. Today’s economy requires innovation, critical thinking, and the ability to communicate effectively across different modalities. Competency in writing is often cited as an indispensable skill prioritized by today’s employers. To meet this demand, and to equip our students to excel in the workplace, we are launching a new writing center in the Miller Learning Center, a hub of student activity, and expanding the writing center in the McBay Science Library, where services will be tailored to STEM majors. We also are bolstering programs and staff to help students hone their writing skills.

To advance our land-grant and sea-grant mission, we are ensuring that all students are provided with the resources they need to succeed in the classroom as they prepare for lives of leadership and civic engagement. In 2023, we received the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award for the tenth year in a row, reflecting our unwavering dedication to fostering a welcoming, supportive learning environment for all. We are proud that 75% of UGA students now complete their degree within four years, while 88% graduate within six years—figures outpacing many of our peer institutions. And we are thrilled that 96% of our students secure employment or enter graduate school within six months of graduation—a figure that far exceeds the national average.

But we aspire for even more. Today, I am reaffirming our pledge to do all we can to help every student—regardless of their family’s income—realize their academic and career goals. At my request, the UGA Foundation Board of Trustees has provided matching funds to stimulate even more private giving to support need-based and experiential learning scholarships in the coming year. These funds will augment the more than $180 million that we have raised for need-based and experiential learning scholarships since I became president in 2013. In the year to come, the University also will make significant investments to boost academic support and career services, including hiring additional peer tutors to serve students in our most challenging introductory courses and launching a new Career Center program aimed at enhancing job placement for our most at-risk students.


Let us now turn to research, the second pillar of our land-grant and sea-grant mission. The University of Georgia is obligated not only to solve problems and train future leaders, but also to elevate the human condition—not only to improve quality of life for Georgia’s citizens, but also to foster lasting health, prosperity, and well-being throughout our great state and beyond.

Propelled by this mission, during the past year our faculty blazed new paths of inquiry and expanded the boundaries of knowledge, tackling society’s most daunting challenges. They explored biofuels and battery technologies, helping expand sustainable energy options for future generations. They advanced the world’s first honeybee vaccine, helping to fortify the world’s food supply. And they created new vaccines and therapies to fight deadly disease, helping to safeguard human health. Whether they were designing medical devices or fighting human trafficking, engineering advanced sensors or seeking treatments for strokes and cures for Parkinson’s disease, UGA faculty fulfilled our land-grant and sea-grant mission by improving our world.

Their commitment lifted the University’s total R&D expenditures to nearly $571 million, a new record. Our number of sponsored research awards also soared to an all-time high, climbing more than 40% from just five years ago. We were proud once again to rank first in the nation for bringing research-based products to market through industry partners, with more than 60 new products in the past year. And the UGA startup enterprise continued to thrive, with over 60 new projects entering the pipeline—our largest number yet. Thanks to the Innovation District and other strategic initiatives, more than 200 companies have been launched from the University of Georgia, enhancing the economy and providing jobs across every corner of the state.

Bolstering our capacity to innovate and produce new enterprises, we added even more cutting-edge research space. Last fall, we opened a $54 million Poultry Science Building, cementing our role as a global leader in poultry research. We also advanced the multi-year Science and Ag Hill Modernization project, continuing construction on phase one of the project while beginning planning and design of phase two, with construction starting this fall. Once complete, these nearly $150 million capital renewal projects will provide more than 225,000 square feet of modernized research and instructional space, spurring innovation and discovery at the intersection of multiple STEM disciplines.

Let me offer my deepest thanks to Governor Brian Kemp, Chancellor Sonny Perdue, the Board of Regents, and all our partners in the General Assembly for their support of these and other projects at the University of Georgia. We look forward to watching these facilities accelerate research, grow our state’s economy, and prepare students for the scientific workforce of the future. I also want to thank our state leaders for providing cost-of-living adjustments to our hardworking faculty and staff for the second consecutive year, as well as the one-time $1,000 retention pay supplements provided in December.

As we enhanced the University’s research infrastructure, we made strategic investments in our faculty, the driving force behind our burgeoning research enterprise. In the past year, targeted hiring initiatives added nearly 70 accomplished scholars in data science and artificial intelligence, brain and behavioral health, integrative precision agriculture, and electric mobility, with more hires on the way. And we recently released a new round of matching funds, provided by the UGA Foundation, to establish more endowed faculty positions across all our schools and colleges. Our loyal donors have established 143 additional endowed positions since 2013, bringing the total number of chairs and endowed professorships on our campus to 370, and these new matching funds will help us recruit and retain additional scholars, strengthening our faculty and accelerating research.

As we attract more accomplished scholars to UGA, we continue to fuel groundbreaking research through innovative programs and funding sources. The Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grant program, for example, has been an unqualified success. Since its launch in 2017, the program has sponsored four funding competitions for UGA faculty to address grand challenges at the local, national, and global levels. Awarded projects from the first three cycles received a total University investment of $3.9 million and have since generated more than $322 million in external grants and contracts—a staggering 83-to-1 return on investment. Awards for the program’s fourth round were announced last month, and I look forward to seeing these projects leveraged into exciting breakthroughs that improve lives.

Of course, while faculty are the cornerstone of our research enterprise, our graduate students also play a critical role. In the year ahead, we will provide private matching funds to establish additional graduate fellowships, attracting more talented scholars to campus. We also are expanding an initiative that relies heavily on graduate student leadership: the Vertically Integrated Projects—or VIP—program, in which undergraduate students engage in team-based research in faculty labs with graduate students, postdoctoral associates, and faculty mentors. With support from private funds provided by the Office of the President, the expanded VIP program will help more graduate students develop leadership skills and research expertise while creating unique opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in large-scale, multi-disciplinary projects aligned with our strategic research initiatives.


Finally, let me turn to the third pillar of our mission—service. As a land-grant and sea-grant institution, service is a part of our DNA, an indispensable component of who we are as an academic community. This means that we are compelled not only to consider the state’s needs, but also to extend our resources at every opportunity to help Georgia communities thrive—not only to emphasize Georgia in our expansive activities, but also to tirelessly direct our talent and energy to benefit the state we proudly call home.

During the past year, UGA Extension personnel served in each of Georgia’s 159 counties—just as they have for over a century—making more than 1.8 million face-to-face contacts with families, farmers, and agricultural producers, while our 4-H leadership programs served more than 150,000 Georgia youth. Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant provided education, research, and outreach to dozens of communities and thousands of residents along Georgia’s coast, while our Small Business Development Center—the first of its kind in the United States—helped create more than 400 new businesses across the state. The Archway Partnership continued to address locally identified needs, providing Archway communities with an astonishing return on investment of almost 3,000%. The Carl Vinson Institute of Government and its PROPEL program were recognized nationally for efforts to help rural communities strengthen workforce and economic development.

Because of these efforts and countless others across our institution, the University of Georgia generated a record economic impact of $8.1 billion on our state last year. And I have no doubt that our impact will only increase in the year ahead as we partner with other organizations to advance the state of Georgia. With significant private support, the Institute of Government will work with school districts, local governments, and hospitals throughout rural Georgia to expand cybersecurity infrastructure. The Fanning Institute has launched Youth LEAD, an ambitious program to provide college and career readiness for Georgia’s youth while building a pipeline of future leaders. And in concert with a host of state and federal partners, the University is working with agricultural producers to strengthen supply chains and open new markets, while helping farmers reap the benefit of innovations in precision agriculture.

And make no mistake: we will continue supporting industries vital to Georgia’s future. A case in point is the electric mobility, or e-mobility, industry. UGA is leveraging new instructional programs, seed grants, and an interdisciplinary hiring initiative to solidify Georgia as a hub for e-mobility development. Another example is the hospitality and tourism sector, which employs more than 400,000 Georgians. UGA is enhancing the industry’s competitive position through a relatively new, but rapidly growing hospitality and food industry management program that has already been named one of the nation’s best.

But our impact will not stop there—far from it. With its rapidly growing population, our state has a surging demand for more physicians, while Georgia’s rural and underserved areas, in particular, face a critical need for highly trained medical providers. As a land-grant university, and as Georgia’s flagship research institution, UGA is uniquely positioned to address this need and serve our state through world-class medical education, research, and community outreach.

The creation of the University of Georgia School of Medicine will build on the resounding success of the Augusta University/UGA Medical Partnership, which has been educating physicians in Athens since 2010. In addition, we are uniquely positioned to leverage our strengths in scientific discovery and innovation to advance medical education and continue to expand our biomedical research enterprise. UGA receives the highest amount of NIH research funding in the nation among public universities without a medical school, and our researchers are already developing cures and treatments for a host of diseases and chronic health conditions. UGA scientists already collaborate with other medical schools and research institutions in Georgia, and the addition of a new stand-alone medical school on our campus will strengthen those connections and enhance opportunities for future partnerships.

To accelerate the launch of the School of Medicine, I recently formed a team to devise a comprehensive plan that will guide the School’s formation and its path to securing accreditation at the earliest possible date.


President Abraham Lincoln once said of land-grant institutions that they exist on behalf of the American people, “who have invested in these public universities their hopes, their support, and their confidence.”

I have always appreciated President Lincoln’s words, for they provide a powerful reminder that the University of Georgia exists for the people—for all those in Georgia who look to us to forge new opportunities and a better tomorrow. They remind us that we are driven not just by academic excellence and a fierce commitment to service, but also by the hopes and expectations of those who depend on us to spur innovation and foster ingenuity, to tackle grand challenges and equip future leaders. Lincoln’s words remind us that we are not only the University of Georgia; we are the University for Georgia, with a land-grant and sea-grant mission that firmly links the success of our institution to the future of our state.

The citizens of Georgia are right to place their trust in us. They can and should invest their “hopes, their support, and their confidence” in the University of Georgia, for our commitment to this state is unshakable, and our focus on its future is strong and steadfast. Georgia’s ambitions are our ambitions. Georgia’s challenges are our challenges. Georgia’s success is our success.

To our amazing faculty, staff, and students, and to our incredible alumni and friends, let us be reinvigorated by the trust our state places in us. May the hopes, support, and confidence invested in us by the citizens of Georgia propel us forward. May they push us to new and profound achievements. May they lead us to uncommon levels of service and dedication. And may they renew in us a commitment to our noble land-grant and sea-grant mission.

Thank you for joining me today, and thank you for all that you do for the University of Georgia.