By COLTON CAMPBELL, University of West Georgia
The administration of the University of West Georgia’s eighth president, Dr. Brendan Kelly, officially began Monday.
Kelly was named president by the Board of Regents in December 2019, having previously served as the chancellor of the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
“I am honored to be part of the University of West Georgia,” Kelly said. “I fully understand that every decision being made right now has long-term implications as we address the needs of our community related to the current public health situation with COVID-19. I am ready to jump in a little earlier than originally planned to ensure we are as successful in charting the future of the institution going forward.”
Kelly’s tenure began in uncertain times amid the COVID-19 outbreak, during which UWG has suspended instruction until March 29 and is reformatting all its courses to online delivery for the remainder of the spring semester.
Being adaptable in a rapidly changing world is a challenge, but it’s one Kelly is ready to face.
“Even though we’re currently facing an unprecedented set of circumstances, we always rely on what we know and what we can learn to meet the demands of a world that’s never going to stop changing,” Kelly said. “As a university, we offer a place of opportunity and hope that provides students equipment for living through continuous learning. The ability to continually learn and adapt to a changing world is critical for students now more than ever.”
Kelly said UWG, with its commitment to online instruction – as the trailblazer of the University System of Georgia’s eCore curriculum and with online programs perennially ranked by U.S. News & World Report – is well-positioned to provide the types of varied learning experiences and modes of instruction that mark a 21st-century university.
Kelly began his role as president 10 days earlier than originally announced. Dr. Stuart Rayfield, who served as UWG’s interim president before Kelly’s tenure began, shared the news in an email to campus stakeholders last Friday.
“It is imperative [the university has] leadership focused on the long-term implications of each decision that must be made and what the strategy will be to address each challenge,” Rayfield said in her message. “I feel strongly that [Kelly’s] permanent leadership is needed at the institution at this time, and he is willing to assume his duties earlier than previously planned.”
Rayfield will continue to serve UWG through the transition in leadership and the response to COVID-19 as executive vice president.
“It has been an honor to serve this institution as its interim president,” Rayfield said. “I remain very excited about the future at UWG and know that the students, faculty and staff who make up this amazing institution will be served well by Dr. Kelly.”
Prior to his tenure at USC Upstate, Kelly served as vice president of university advancement, foundation president and chief executive officer of the historic trust at the University of West Florida (UWF) in Pensacola, Florida, from 2013 to 2017. He began at UWF in 2004 as an assistant professor and the department’s director of forensics.
Kelly began his academic career in 2000 at Eastern Michigan University, where he was assistant director of forensics and a lecturer in the Communication and Theatre Arts Department.
Kelly earned both a bachelor’s degree in public relations and a master’s degree in communication from Eastern Michigan University. He earned his doctorate in rhetoric and political communication from Wayne State University.