Looking back at five years of Keel

Ozzie Bunbury

Dr. Brooks Keel marked his five year anniversary as the President of Georgia Southern University on Jan. 1, 2015. He has been successful in demonstrating his abilities of maintaining and pushing GSU standards to a whole new level. After taking over for Dr. Bruce Grube, who stepped down in 2009, he has continued to oversee the expansion of our school’s curriculum and its overall beauty.

With a more outwardly focus on building a national presence, Dr. Keel hopes to push GSU from more than just a great educational institution and into an institution that is also well economically developed.

Furthermore, Dr. Keel hopes to create a “more holistic education” with an emphasis on leadership, service learning, creative thinking and theoretical learning. We can see some of these themes come to fruition such as, the newly offered B.S. Engineering degree. Note the University has been pushing for this degree for over 30 years now, but Dr. Keel along with his cabinet saw an opportunity and seized it.

“All the disciplines that we offer have been very pressed that our faculty really go that extra mile of providing students with the ability to really take what they learn in the classroom and apply it so that they will be able to competitively strive in the job place,” President Keel said. 

Dr. Keel has an extensive background in the field of sciences. He was a Vice President of research, Biomedical Sciences and professor of research foundation at Florida State University. During his tenure here, he has also launched the CEIT, College of Engineering and Information technology and STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, programs, and is continually expanding with new programs such as Manufacturing Engineering, which will be coming in the fall.

He has started work on a new capital campaign, similar to Dr. Grube’s, that will be a seven year process in hopes of raising more money for the University.

“We have fantastic support from those folks in the governor’s office. So that has had an incredible impact on us and our new Vice President of Advancement which will help us get this whole capitol campaign in place,” President Keel said.

The administration hopes to achieve this feat through community fundraising, alumni donations and outreach on a national level. “You can’t have any sort of campaign or opportunity to give back to the University without establishing a great relationship with alumni to start the groundwork to do all of that, so we’ve been working diligently,” President Keel said.

“We’ve been trying to push Georgia Southern to a more national stage, not get away from but to take us from the great regional reputation and really try to brand the university nation-wide,” President Keel said. 

When asked about some of his greatest moments at the University, he proudly accredited athletics. Although he has received criticism for putting too much emphasis on athletics in the past, he took a risky chance by advancing the football program to the Football Bowl Subdivision, which has paid off in leaps and bounds as the season was one that brought much success.

“The success in the FBS and athletics that we’ve had has been able to put us on the national map in a way that nothing else could have,” President Keel said. 

The FBS has brought about an abundance of marketing opportunities, such as “being able to brand the Georgia Southern logo,” Dr. Keel said. He is also immensely proud of the Coca-Cola deal that took place last year, as a renewed relationship, that provides “funding for student scholarships, academic programs, athletics and sustainability collaboration[s]”

What about the next five years?

“Well you can look forward to the Sports Education Center, that’ll be completed this summer. We just broke ground on the Health Center so you’ll start seeing construction on that probably around 12 months before they actually get moved in. We are now beginning to have conversations with the Board of Regents and Governor’s office on a new academic classroom building. So we’re very hopeful that over the next several years we can secure funding for that.”

“As you know, the Forest Drive Building has been a temporary building since the mid 90s, which by anybody’s definition is a stretch on the word temporary. So our priority is to build a new classroom building to replace not only Forest Drive but several other temporary buildings as well. We should break the ground on the Military Science Building hopefully by this summer or early fall at the latest.”

What was one of the proudest moments you’ve experienced at GSU within the past few years?

“Well getting the ability to offer a BS in Engineering was something that was a 30 year process, it didn’t just happen because I came here, that has been a major accomplishment across the board and it brings us just incredible opportunities to our students. I’m very very proud of that.”

Who were the people within the University that you looked toward to help you as you first became president?

“Well of course the entire president’s cabinet and vice presidents that we have here are just outstanding across the board and I really just get to be cheerleader to most of the people out front while they do mostly all of the hard work and heavy lifting for the University.”