Photo by Eric Mansfield

I want to extend a warm “Yellow Jacket welcome” to all of the new incoming students and a “welcome back” to those of you who have been away for the summer. The past few years have been marked by continuing excellence in numerous areas, and your return to campus comes at a time of tremendous momentum and continuing excellence for our Institute.

For the sixth straight fall semester, we are welcoming the best-qualified, most diverse freshman class in Georgia Tech’s history. Over the past five years, underrepresented minorities are up by 23 percent, and women by 20 percent. Applications rose from 11,400 in fall 2009 to 25,900 in fall 2014. Word is getting out about Georgia Tech and the tremendous educational and career opportunities available here.

For many, summer provides a break from the traditional routine. Likewise it gives those of us who remain an opportunity to accomplish some things that would be difficult during the regular academic year. As a result, you will see some significant changes on campus.

In particular, the Price Gilbert Grove, located on the north side of the Price Gilbert Library, and the area near the Cherry Street/Ferst Drive intersection have been refurbished. Along Techwood Drive, the streetscape has been completely redone, as has the area in front of Brittain Dining Hall. The Towers Residence Hall has been renovated and now houses freshmen, and renovation on the Glenn Residence Hall continues, with plans to reopen to students in fall 2015. Finally, additional streetscape and sidewalk improvements have been completed along Ferst Street near the Marcus Nanotechnology Building and elsewhere on campus.

The most ambitious project currently underway is the Engineered Biosystems Building (EBB) on 10th Street. When completed in spring 2015, it will add 218,000 square feet of academic and research space for faculty and students in the colleges of Science and Engineering.

It has been designed as an interdisciplinary hub to foster collaboration that many times results in incredible breakthroughs. It has been said that if the cure for cancer is to be found at Georgia Tech, it will happen in the EBB.

We ask for your patience with the inconveniences resulting from the construction that is winding down. Several years ago during the construction of the Clough Commons, many endured significant disruptions to their normal routine so that today we could enjoy a facility that’s become a campus hub with a gate count over 2.5 million visits per year. EBB will be to researchers what Clough Commons is to our students, a wonderful facility where collaboration and innovation can flourish.

While facilities are important, so too are programmatic considerations, and we remain committed to providing outstanding resources for learning, and a safe and healthy environment for our community. This past spring, we appointed a Presidential Task Force to explore, and find solutions to, an issue that is being addressed both nationally and here at Georgia Tech: sexual violence. The Task Force has submitted a final report, and we are moving forward with many of its recommendations.

In addition, the Mental Health Task Force has fulfilled its charge, and we are well down the path of implementing its recommendations. Our students function in what can be a high-stress, high-productivity environment, and we want to do everything we can to assist them so that they can be as successful as possible.

You will hear more details about the progress made on the recommendations from these two task forces as the year progresses. I encourage you to become familiar with the many on-campus resources.

While here at Georgia Tech, I hope you will take full advantage of being in one of our nation’s most vibrant cities. We offer numerous opportunities to get involved in the Atlanta community.

In addition, more than 400 campus organizations are available, encompassing virtually any interest you might have and providing leadership opportunities.

Our goal is to ensure that your time at Georgia Tech will be an unforgettable period of academic and personal growth, in a safe and healthy campus environment. Together, we can make this a reality for the entire Georgia Tech community. Please take care of yourself, look out for each other, and have a great year.