Diane Lee oversees the day-to-day operations of Georgia Tech’s Savannah campus, which was originally launched in 1999 as an engineering hub with multiple degree offerings. The campus underwent a strategic shift in 2011, sunsetting its undergraduate programs and concentrating its efforts instead on providing the coastal region with professional education programs. That shift allowed campus leaders to leverage their strong ties to the local industry and focus on executive leadership training, military transition programs, supply chain and logistics coursework, and STEM outreach for K-12 students. Lee has spent the past three years managing a staff of 20 full-timers, and is helping spearhead the campus toward a bright future.
What prompted the need for a Savannah campus?
This campus has been here for 14 years. At the time, the industry wanted a local engineering school. It started as a pilot, grew to an office complex, and before long it was a full-fledged campus that offered degree programs in mechanical, electrical, civil and computer engineering. Today, four years after our shift, the Savannah community remains committed to Georgia Tech as we continue to address the workforce development needs of the region.
How did Tech frame the new mission?
More than four years ago, President (G.P. “Bud”) Peterson announced a direction change for the Savannah campus, based upon task force recommendations from the Provost’s Office. Instead of offering traditional education degrees, the campus was charged with shaping the future vision for the coastal region and helping companies meet their strategic and professional talent needs. The campus soon became part of Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).
Who are some of your key industry partners?
We partner with Gulfstream Aerospace, Georgia Ports Authority, JCB, Mitsubishi, Georgia Power, area military bases, local chambers of commerce (Savannah and Hilton Head), area Rotary clubs and the Savannah Economic Development Authority.
What happens during your workday?
I work with my team to stay on top of program development, making sure we help foster the GT brand. I talk to community partners and listen to understand what their needs are. I work closely with Institute and GTPE leaders to support our annual strategic goals.
How did the military program begin?
It became clear early on in our transition that addressing the needs of the transitioning military was critical. We knew that for service members, moving from the military to the civilian workforce could be chaotic and challenging, and that the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was significantly higher than for non-military. We started the Veterans Education Training and Transition (VET2) program almost three years ago, and launched the nation’s first military internship-to-employment program.
How are veterans matched up to jobs?
As part of the curriculum, they have a three-week internship and must be selected by an industry partner to participate. We’ve had more than 70 veterans go through the program with 100 percent placement.
Who’s the target audience of the Leading Well leadership-training program?
New managers. We hear from our corporate partners that leadership-training programs are important, but they don’t want them out of the office for long periods of time. So we’ve developed two-day workshops that provide a detailed overview of the foundational skills and knowledge necessary to be an effective leader, as well as facilitate an environment of continuous improvement.
Are companies generally supportive of their employees who seek out additional knowledge?
We’re here because the community and our industry partners want us here. Companies in the coastal region understand that to meet their strategic objectives they must invest in their employees. They also understand how important it is to groom their next generation of leaders.
How many alumni does Georgia Tech Savannah have and what are their professional roles?
We have more than 2,000 alumni in the GT Savannah club. They are senior engineers, project managers, and usually range from mid-managers up to director-level professionals.
What are your goals for the Savannah campus?
The Institute solves problems around the globe, and we’re a part of that process. Because I’m at Tech, I can call upon top experts in numerous fields and have them meet with our industry partners. Out of those collaborations come research, student projects and new curricula. In 2015, we have more than 1,000 enrollments in 40 subjects. The unique courses we offer draw attendees from not only Southeast Georgia, but also from all over the world. We are an incubator for ideas, proud to bring the world to Savannah.