2015 Institute Address Script

G. P. “Bud” Peterson,
President, Georgia Tech
2015 Institute Address
August 27, 2015

(NOTE: As written - not necessarily as delivered)

Good morning. Thank you for joining us for our annual Institute Address. I’ll give a high-level update of some of the exciting things happening at Georgia Tech and then provide time for questions and discussion. Because we have far more happening than I could possibly cover, I wanted to let you know that my comments will be posted on my website, along with links where you can find more detailed information about many of the topics discussed this morning.

When preparing to talk to you, I wanted you to be able to get a sense of two themes that run throughout our Institute. One is momentum, and the other is innovation. We tried to capture a bit of that in this three-minute video overview that we’ll share with you now.


The video included some footage of our newest facility, the Engineered Biosystems Building, or EBB on 10th Street, on the north end of our bio quad. In many ways, the building symbolizes what we’re about at Georgia Tech — collaboration and innovation. In May, we took occupancy of the building, which has more than 219,000 square feet of multidisciplinary research space. The EBB is about the size of Clough Commons, which opened just four years ago. And like Clough Commons, it was designed with sustainability in mind.

EBB will bring together some of the world’s finest researchers in a co-located, collaborative environment in the areas of biomedical technology, cellular therapies, and complex systems biology. These collaborations many times result in incredible breakthroughs.

The EBB will drive innovation and have an undeniable impact on biomedical science and human health, as well as Georgia’s economy. It will foster economic development through the formation of startup enterprises, the creation of high-skill, high-paying jobs, and the commercialization of new devices, drugs, and technologies. 

EBB was made possible by a partnership between Georgia Tech, the Georgia Tech Foundation, the state of Georgia, and private donors. It is 80 percent paid for, and we have commitments pledged over five years to complete payment on the rest.

We are in a time of rapid change and discovery. And at Georgia Tech, the pace has been pretty fast, too. Five years ago, we introduced our 25-year strategic plan, “Designing the Future,” which was created by the Georgia Tech community. The plan’s impact has been far reaching. We’re about 20 percent through those 25 years, and we’ve made noteworthy progress toward each of the plan’s five goals through intentional and proactive steps.

Our Students

For the seventh straight fall semester, we welcomed the best-qualified, most diverse freshman class in Georgia Tech history. Beyond the 2060-2250 average SAT scores, the incoming class comes from 48 states (no Montana or Wyoming), and boasts more than 40 percent women, an all-time high in the number of African-American students, and an increase in in-state enrollment of 5 percent. 

Our new and returning students are prepared and eager, and it is our job to challenge them. We are committed to creating an environment that helps them reach their full potential, in and out of the classroom. That commitment means listening and responding to student concerns, hiring and retaining the best faculty, and creating a safe, healthy, and enriching campus life and learning experience. It includes leadership programs and leadership opportunities in more than 400 student organizations, a curriculum and student competitions to foster entrepreneurial confidence, and resources for learning and growing.

Last year, our undergraduate students completed the National Survey of Student Engagement, which is designed to collect data from first- and fourth-year students about their engagement and the quality of their undergraduate learning experiences. Overall, 90 percent of students who responded said their entire educational experience at Tech was Excellent (51 percent) or Good (39 percent). Eighty-nine percent indicated that if they could start all over again, they would still come to Georgia Tech.

Other feedback has been encouraging. In our most recent survey of undergraduate degree recipients during the 2015 academic year, 83 percent who responded said they were generally quite pleased with their educational experiences at Georgia Tech, and 86 percent said they would recommend their program to someone who wanted to major in their field. Those are impressive numbers, but keep in mind that they are from students who are heading out the door.

In January, our undergraduate students completed the Student Experience Survey, which was designed to evaluate aspects of students’ time while they are still here. We fared better on nearly every metric compared with 2009, when we first conducted this survey, but the numbers aren't as strong as those from the other surveys I mentioned. Overall, 70 percent of students in the Student Experience Survey said they are highly likely to recommend Tech to a prospective undergraduate student. Our researchers always add the caveat that differences in question framing and methodology can account for some of the differences when you compare survey results.

Obviously though, we like to measure how we’re doing, but we don’t rest on those results. This summer, our provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, Dr. Rafael Bras, appointed a Task Force on the Learning Environment. Co-chaired by Mechanical Engineering Chair Dr. Bill Wepfer and Dean of Science Dr. Paul Goldbart, the task force is charged with assessing our instructional environment and making recommendations to ensure Georgia Tech students continue to receive rigorous instruction, grounded in a commitment to a culture of civility and respect.

Outstanding Teachers

If Georgia Tech is to produce outstanding graduates, we need outstanding teachers to lead the way. Last November, we dedicated the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) Teaching Wall in Clough Commons. It bears names of faculty members who have been honored with Teaching Excellence Awards going back to the 1960s. Georgia Tech faculty are also being recognized nationally for their accomplishments in teaching, research, and mentoring. We are committed to continuous improvement and sharing best practices.


For the past year, numerous groups and individuals have been engaged in our SACS 10-year reaffirmation process, which will continue through December. I would like to thank all of those who have given tirelessly to this important project. As a required part of the accreditation process, Georgia Tech created a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) titled “Serve - Learn - Sustain” that we introduced in March. It formally begins in 2016. Last spring the SACS COC onsite team reported that the QEP is an ambitious and exciting endeavor. They wrote that it is very well aligned with other national efforts, saying, “Success of the QEP at an institution of the quality of Georgia Tech could serve as a national model to advance many related reform efforts.” The intent is to equip Georgia Tech students with the knowledge and capabilities to effectively address sustainability challenges and interrelated community-level societal needs in their professions and civic lives.

Our previous QEP, which focused on study abroad and undergraduate research, was transformative: 53 percent of our undergraduates have an international experience, and according to our exit survey, 38 percent participate in some form of undergraduate research. I encourage you to explore our Serve • Learn • Sustain page and join us as we build the Georgia Tech of the future.

Campus Safety and Wellness Initiatives

In January 2015 we made changes to take a more holistic and inclusive approach to campus wellness, incorporating feedback from our Mental Health Task Force and the Sexual Violence Task Force. Sexual violence prevention, alcohol and drug prevention, and mental health are included in the initiative. We have brought together the Campus Recreation Center, Health Promotion, and Stamps Health Services to form a Center for Community Health and Wellbeing and are in the process of hiring a wellness center director. We have added resources to the Counseling Center, including filling vacant counselor positions and adding four new counselors. We have also hired two new victim advocates to work in our sexual violence prevention and support efforts. Georgia Tech will also invite the faith community to be included as part of overall wellness.

Along those same lines, last May the University System of Georgia (USG) implemented a system-wide campus safety initiative. I was privileged to serve as co-chair of a committee that reviewed campus safety and security at the state’s 30 USG institutions. That committee produced an in-depth report about ways to make our campuses safer, including a renewed focus on required training for institution employees and students, and members of campus law enforcement. These additional measures, along with our ongoing programs and resources, will help make Georgia Tech a safer environment for everyone.

Maximizing Leadership Opportunities

Georgia Tech has numerous leadership programs on campus, and we continually assess these programs to make sure we maximize opportunities. There is already increased student interest. For example, the Leadership Studies minor has experienced a 35 percent increase in enrollment over the previous year. Students take advantage of leadership development classes and workshops, Leading Edge for one-on-one leadership coaching, and Living Learning Communities, or LLC. Over the past three years, the Grand Challenges LLC has experienced a greater than 99 percent retention rate. This fall we are offering six leadership-themed sections of GT1000.

Georgia Tech students benefit from opportunities to interact with some of the world’s foremost experts, who bring together experience from several areas of expertise to model leadership. One good example is Admiral James “Sandy” Winnefeld, who retired July 31 after serving as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s second highest ranking military officer. The 1978 Georgia Tech aerospace engineering graduate is joining the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs as a Distinguished Professor. He will also serve as a senior fellow in the School’s Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy, which focuses on policy research. We have already benefited from his expertise and experience in his role on the Georgia Tech Advisory Board, and we look forward to his expanded role with the Institute. His leadership experience and global perspective will be invaluable to the Georgia Tech community.

Research: Creating the Next

At Georgia Tech, we’re not just thinking about the future. We’re shaping it. All over campus and globally, we’re doing what we call “Creating the Next.” We are doing things that people don’t necessarily associate with Georgia Tech. We are changing lives and curing diseases. We create inventions that help people all over the world lead better, healthier, more fulfilled lives. We influence thinking, not just in science and technology, but also in policy. At Georgia Tech, we’re also preparing the next leaders and innovators who will improve the human condition close to home and far away.

Our Scheller College of Business offers several opportunities in that regard. Through its Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, students can have a leadership minor. Scheller’s Steven A. Denning Technology & Management Program creates cross-functional leaders in technology and business-related fields. And the Leadership for Social Good Study-Abroad Program helps students better understand the realities of social entrepreneurship and the leadership necessary to develop strong civil societies.

In July, we announced the creation of the Institute for Information Security & Privacy at Georgia Tech as our newest Interdisciplinary Research Institute (IRI). The vision of this new IRI is to integrate academia, government, and industry to anticipate, understand, and address threats and transfer results to diverse stakeholders in the private and public sectors.

These are great examples and really only scratch the surface of the amazing research and innovations happening at Georgia Tech.

Business Outreach

The Enterprise Innovation Institute, or EI2, is Georgia Tech’s primary business-outreach organization. In fiscal year 2014, EI​2 helped about 1,800 Georgia manufacturing companies reduce operating costs by $36 million, increase sales by $191 million, and create or save 950 jobs.

ATDC, the Advanced Technology Development Center, is a startup incubator in Tech Square that helps technology entrepreneurs in Georgia launch and build successful companies. Ninety percent of technology startups fail; however, more than 90 percent of the ATDC’s Signature graduates are successful five years after their graduation.

Culture of Entrepreneurial Confidence

Through our curriculum and student competitions, we’re working to instill entrepreneurial confidence in our graduates. We are very grateful to the faculty and staff who have advanced the student entrepreneurial focus, scaling up the student startup movement. Georgia Tech offers a number of chances for students to become engaged, such as the Capstone Design project, which last spring drew more than 1,000 students and 200 teams. Students from all areas of study participate in the student-run Invention Studio. We partner with business and industry in a number of these projects, including the Spring Convergence Innovation Competition in April.

This past spring, Georgia Tech held our seventh annual InVenture Prize competition. In its seven years, it has drawn almost 3,000 participants. The prize encourages undergraduate students’ interest in invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship. At the InVenture Prize we introduced CREATE-X, a faculty-led initiative designed to equip students with the confidence they need to actively create their own future. It was made possible through a gift from Chris Klaus. CREATE-X leverages and partners with existing programs focused on multidisciplinary design, entrepreneurship, and invention. It includes Startup Lab, Idea to Prototype Undergraduate Research, and Startup Summer.

Here at Georgia Tech we focus on innovation and entrepreneurship as a cultural imperative as a way of both developing our students and preparing them for industry. ATDC, VentureLab, and our student entrepreneurship programs are other great examples of how this occurs.

Innovation Ecosystem at Tech Square

Another way Georgia Tech is “Creating the Next” is through innovation neighborhoods that are part of the Georgia Tech campus. Tech Square is a good example. It’s hard to imagine that in the early 2000s that location was an area of parking lots and underutilized real estate. Today Tech Square is one of the nation’s premier research and innovation centers. The momentum there is amazing. Two years ago in the Institute Address I talked about the AT&T Foundry innovation center that had just opened. I believe that sparked interest from other large corporations. Just this year The Home Depot, Coca-Cola Enterprises, and Southern Company have opened a Tech Square location.

These large-company “innovation centers” interact with the talent and expertise of our students, faculty, and staff, and they’re also interacting with startups.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Much of Georgia Tech’s reputation for excellence can be attributed to innovative ways that groups and individuals work together. For example, our manufacturing work spans numerous academic disciplines, the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute, GTRI, and EI​2. The same can be said for our work in everything from robotics to bioengineering. The Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts is known for interdisciplinary studies that explore science, technology, and computing through the lens of humanities and social sciences.

Collaboration/ Partnerships

Georgia Tech has significant collaborations with Emory University, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and the CDC. The Institute also partners with the federal government, industry, the office of the governor, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and Georgia’s Department of Economic Development. 

In August 2014 Georgia Tech announced a unique scholarship program with the Atlanta Public Schools. All valedictorians and salutatorians in the Atlanta Public School system can become APS Scholars at Tech, which includes automatic admittance to Georgia Tech and full in-state tuition and fees scholarships for four years. The initiative was designed to increase exposure and access to Georgia Tech for Atlanta Public School’s most prepared students.

Faculty and Staff

Georgia Tech is a wonderful, historic place, but it is our staff and faculty who help breathe life into it every day. We recognize that and want you to know how much we appreciate how much you do.

We’re known as a community partner, with faculty, staff, and students engaged in K-12 education, especially in STEM fields. We support the Atlanta Science Festival, Africa Atlanta, France Atlanta, and other community ventures that bring attention to relationships that can enhance education. Georgia Tech employees also give back in a very tangible way. We are a leader in contributing to the state charitable campaign, where Georgia Tech has won the Governor’s Cup for eight consecutive years by having the highest average contribution per employee.

This past year a Staff Council was established to serve as a conduit for staff perspectives that are broadly representative of the greater staff population. The council has formally passed governing by-laws, elected leaders, and set up a mechanism to receive staff suggestions.

Special Events Put Spotlight on Georgia Tech

We had two events during spring semester that really put the spotlight on Georgia Tech. President Obama’s visit here last March was a huge undertaking, but well worth it. It involved expert coordination and collaboration of departments across campus including Athletics, Catering, the CRC, Emergency Preparedness, Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities, the Georgia Tech Police Department, Parking and Transportation Services, Government and Community Relations, Institute Communications, the Office of Information Technology, Student Life, student groups, the Student Center, as well as volunteers from almost all departments. The way you represented Georgia Tech was outstanding, and it will be a lasting memory for the entire Georgia Tech community.

The Rolling Stones concert in June also showcased Georgia Tech. Athletics and the Georgia Tech Police Department bore the brunt of dealing with some 40,000 Stones fans, but we all had to exercise a little patience in the days building up to the concert. Once again, our people represented the Institute in great fashion. And don’t worry — thanks to our capable Facilities & Turf team, the field is expected to be back in shape for our Sept. 3 football opener against Alcorn State.


Athletics is the lens through which many people view Georgia Tech.  We’re proud of what our teams accomplish in their 17 intercollegiate sports, but we’re equally proud of their academic performance.  Eight of our teams had a perfect Academic Progress Report, or APR, this past year.  The mean grade point average for all Georgia Tech student athletes in 2014-2015 was 3.0.  Almost half of Tech’s 373 student athletes earned either the Dean’s List or Faculty Honors designation in spring 2015.

Campaign Georgia Tech Update

Georgia Tech’s many friends and alumni provide support without which our national and international recognition and excellence would not be possible. Partnerships with government, the community, business, industry, and non-governmental organizations also are vital in allowing Georgia Tech to offer a world-class education.

Proof of our alumni, students and friends’ ongoing support is the success of Campaign Georgia Tech, publicly launched in 2010 with the ambitious goal of raising $1.5 billion by December 2015. Thanks to the leadership of campaign co-chairs John and Mary Brock, our diligent development team, and the generosity of more than 87,000 donors, we reached that target more than a year early and now stand at more than $1.6 billion. We’re continuing the campaign through December, pressing on to fill in the blanks for individual goals to ensure that we accomplish all we set out to do more than a decade ago. Our student participation is setting Institute records, with almost 6,200 undergraduate and graduate students giving through the Student Alumni Association and the Georgia Tech Student Foundation. That is 27 percent of the student body and a very good omen for the future!

G. Wayne Clough Georgia Tech Promise Program

We also reached the Campaign Georgia Tech goal to fully endow the G. Wayne Clough Georgia Tech Promise Program, which provides financial aid to qualified Georgia residents from families with an annual income under $33,000. Since 2007 when the program began, 412 students have used the support to earn their Georgia Tech degrees. We have 152 Tech Promise students enrolled this year. Many tell us they had no idea that they would ever be able to attend Georgia Tech. I think the same is true for many of the Atlanta Public Schools valedictorians and salutatorians who have received Georgia Tech scholarships via the APS Scholars initiative we launched last fall. Our goal is to make a Georgia Tech education within reach of every qualified Georgia resident. In addition, we have numerous programs that all students can take advantage of, such as cooperative education. A Georgia Tech education is a good investment, and we are committed to partnering with students to help them realize their goals.

What’s “The Next”?

As we move further into the 21st century, we must be nimble enough to take advantage of technological advances that can help us teach better. Innovation is an Institute imperative, in education as well as research. Many of the successes in innovation discussed today have only been possible through strategic collaboration. Just this morning, Dr. Bras held an all-hands meeting to announce and discuss the future of Georgia Tech’s Educational Innovation Ecosystem. Participants in the effort include the Office of the Provost, the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, or CETL, Georgia Tech Professional Education, C21U, and the Office of Information Technology, whose collaboration will allow Georgia Tech to continually assess our programs of study, develop new ways to enhance the learning environment, and enrich the experience of all learners. 

The initiative will serve to match Georgia Tech’s changing research, teaching, and learning needs, and will streamline efforts already underway. Included in those efforts are the successful MOOC course offerings, the Online Master of Science degree in Computer Science, and the educational credentialing offered through Georgia Tech Professional Education. These programs are enjoying great success and growing enrollment. Other very promising programs include the new analytics master’s, the systems engineering master’s, and a master’s in manufacturing leadership.

We will continue to focus on student innovation, offering students even more opportunities to gain entrepreneurial confidence through coursework, competitions, and extracurricular activities. We talked earlier about maximizing leadership opportunities for students, and we will continue to do so. We have some very strong student leadership programs; we just want them to be available to more students. We’re also working on enhancing the residential experience, as most of our undergraduates live on campus despite plentiful off-campus options. We want to remain competitive while offering a residential experience that will enrich students’ years at Georgia Tech.

Library Renewal

Our library renewal project is a five-year plan to transform the library’s services and spaces to match the changing landscape of research and the classroom. The renewed facility will provide library spaces, services, and collections for research and innovation. The library is already connected to Clough Commons, but once the library renewal is complete in 2019 or 2020, it will be a vibrant three-building complex — including Price Gilbert, Crosland Towers, and Clough Commons — dedicated to research and learning excellence.

High Performance Computing Center

One of the most exciting projects underway in Tech Square is the High Performance Computing Center (HPCC), a 750,000-square-foot facility between Spring Street and West Peachtree Street near the Scheller College of Business and the Georgia Tech Hotel. It will be between 21 and 24 stories and will support leading-edge research programs in computing and advanced big-data analytics. With Georgia Tech as the anchor tenant, the HPCC’s interdisciplinary, collaborative environment will enhance Tech Square’s positive impact in Midtown Atlanta, bringing together people in a mixed-use community of innovation, education, and intelligent exchange. Portman Holdings was selected as the project developer, and it is scheduled for completion by 2018.


At Georgia Tech, we pride ourselves on being trailblazers who drive real-world technological change by embracing challenges, thinking critically, and developing innovative solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing our society.

Georgia Tech is in the business of creating the next — the next idea, the next technology, and the next innovators and entrepreneurs. We are characterized by our creative and flexible approach to problem solving, a roll-up-your-sleeves attitude, and a focus on addressing the grand challenges of our time. We’re empowering the next generation, engendering in them the passion and skills they need in order to imagine, engineer, and design our future.