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Some question if GGC will change for the better with population increase

LAWRENCEVILLE - Georgia Gwinnett College has a private-school atmosphere, with small classes, low student-to-teacher ratios and a tight-knit group of students.

With plans to admit a freshman class of 3,000 next year, the student population will more than quadruple in size. To meet the needs of the students, an academic building will double in size, a parking deck will be constructed, a new library will be designed, classes will be added, more than a dozen faculty members will be hired, and clubs and student organizations will be established.

Some say the school will retain its small-college atmosphere; others say it will develop the culture of a traditional four-year college.

Although the growth won't ebb anytime soon, there are some things the college says won't change. Classrooms are already equipped with interactive white boards that are connected to computers, and the Campus of Tomorrow will be inundated with educational technology.

"Everything is going to be relying on the best technology we can afford," college President Daniel J. Kaufman said.

The technology will affect the way lectures are delivered and the way students interact with the library, Kaufman said.

Rico Torres, a business major, said the classroom technology has helped him analyze business statistics, which has helped him perform better at work.

The school is not simply going to be technologically advanced; the faculty will remain focused on students' progress.

Kaufman said the college is "totally devoted to student development."

Torres said he thinks Georgia Gwinnett is a place where students can "get not just a degree, but an education."

The college, Torres said, is a "smaller, new college that focuses on educating you as a whole person rather than just teaching you something."

There are also opportunities for students to create the school's culture or become leaders in school activities, said Lonnie D. Harvel, the vice president of educational technology.

Students "will be joining in the process of creating a new environment," Harvel said.

Psychology students, for example, are developing a psychology club.

Misty Mahan, a student who has been developing the club, said she asked during orientation if there would be any clubs to join.

"I was told, 'Yeah, there will be if you want to start it,'" Mahan said.

So Mahan and other psychology students have been developing a club - and finding out what it takes to get one started. The club is in the process of developing a budget and writing a constitution.

The biggest obstacle has been finding a convenient time for all students to meet, Mahan said.

Kaufman said students will have an opportunity to develop any club they would like. Some students have been interested in starting a student government; others want to start a newspaper.

The fact that Georgia Gwinnett students are all commuters increases the school's challenge in keeping students on campus before and after class, Kaufman said.

While dorms are not immediately on the horizon, the college plans to build student facilities such as a student center and a bookstore, Kaufman said. The school also wants to offer dining options.

"Right now, if you're not in class, you're in the parking lot," Kaufman said.

Student facilities may help students decide to stay on campus instead of driving off campus and coming back for a later class, he said.

Having common areas could help students retain the tight-knit atmosphere they say is important.

Aneesah Woods, a psychology student, said she thinks the close bonds the students have will remain even as the school gets larger.

"We may lose a little of what we have now," Woods said, "but I think the atmosphere will carry on into the next class."