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Conyers Rotary Club hears from GPC president

Rob Watts, interim president of Georgia Perimeter College, spoke to members of the Rotary Club of Conyers Thursday about his college and the future of college education in Georgia. Staff Photos: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Rob Watts, interim president of Georgia Perimeter College, spoke to members of the Rotary Club of Conyers Thursday about his college and the future of college education in Georgia. Staff Photos: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

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Rotarian Diane Adoma visits with Watts before the meeting, sharing her experience at the college in the 1990s. She continues to volunteer at the school.

CONYERS -- Rob Watts, interim president of Georgia Perimeter College, says that it's OK if you major in music in college but end up studying technology.

The student hasn't failed for changing careers, and the college didn't fail for graduating a student who ended up going down another path, he said.

Watts told members of the Rotary Club of Conyers on Thursday that he is disappointed in policymakers who judge colleges by the number of graduates who immediately get a job in their chosen field after college.

"Getting a job is important ... but that's not all colleges do," Watts said.

He said that colleges need to educate people for their first jobs and second jobs, as well as their first careers and second careers, preparing them for depth and being able to move on and change careers if they need to do so.

He said he's interviewed an IT guy who majored in music, and he met a former GPC student who was a bartender while studying philosophy but wants to be a fireman and eventually a fire chief.

"Colleges serve many purposes other than providing students their first jobs," Watts said.

He admitted that he foresaw himself being a college professor when he was younger -- his father and one of his grandfathers were college professors. However, when he first taught 35 years ago, he realized it wasn't his calling, so he took the administrative route. Now he's back to teaching classes part time at GPC along with his other administrators due to budget cuts.

Currently, GPC serves 24,000 students on four campuses in Newton County, Clarkston, Decatur and Dunwoody and at a center in Alpharetta. It also has a space at the Rockdale Career Academy and the Newton College & Career Academy, where staffers work with students on industry certificates and obtaining credits toward their associate degrees.

Watts noted that 9,000 GPC students take one or more courses online -- the largest of any public college in Georgia -- but many of them also take on-campus classes supplemented by the online ones. In the future, he sees more online development from his college and other colleges.

"It's changing higher education," he said.

Also in the future, he said that colleges will have to figure out the cost equation because students aren't going to be able to afford to attend college if costs continue to rise as they have lately.