Former students share thoughts on ABAC, potential to merge with BSC

Published 5:21 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2017

With news that Bainbridge State College might be merging with Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College after a vote from the Georgia Board of Regents on Wednesday, some people may be asking, “Why ABAC?”

Decatur County being an agriculture community, a fair show of its residents are familiar with the college and its prestigious programs. Many are alumni.

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Darren Deal, a vegetable seed salesman, graduated from the school in 1988 with an associate’s degree in agribusiness. He has been on ABAC’s Ag Alumni Society for the better part of a decade, serving as chairman for six years. Needless to say, he loves his alma mater and was excited to hear the news that BSC might become a second campus.

“It would offer (an education) to students that were unable to move to dorms and save them money,” Deal said. “Maybe they could work on their family’s farms and get a degree at the same time.”

Deal said if the merger went through, he would like to return to complete his bachelor’s degree at the Bainbridge campus.

He praised ABAC for preparing him in his field, and appreciated the smaller classes and knowledgeable professors that guided him along the way.

“It trained me in my degree, but it was in multiple areas of agriculture, so I could get into anything,” Deal said. “We had diverse classes built into that degree.”

Lindsay Hayes, Decatur County’s extension coordinator and the county’s 4-H agent with the University of Georgia, is another ABAC alumni excited to hear about the potential merger.

“I think it is wonderful, and it will offer a lot of possibilities for students,” Hayes said.

Those possibilities range beyond just ag-related programs, Hayes said. Strong biology and nursing programs are popular directions that ABAC offers its students.

Hayes added that she would look forward to collaborating with ABAC on different events related to the extension office and 4-H in Decatur County.

ABAC also prepares students to enter into the education field. Martin and Denise Bius, both teachers at Bainbridge High School, praised the education they received at ABAC, where they spent two years before transferring to UGA.

“It absolutely prepared us to go into the field as educators,” said Bius, who is a BHS ag teacher and the Decatur County Young Farmers advisor. “The academics at ABAC are very rigorous, second to none.”

Denise is a family and consumer science teacher at BHS.

Bius said he believes a Bainbridge ABAC campus would increase the school’s diversity and open up new avenues for students to get an education.

“They have started ag programs at BSC already, and that will be good to grow them more,” Bius said. “Student will have more opportunities with a college closer by than actually having to go to Tifton.”

Founded in 1908 in Tifton as the Second District A&M school, ABAC currently has more than 3,000 students enrolled at its main campus.

According to ABAC’s website, the school’s mission statement is, “To engage, teach, coach, mentor, and provide relevant experiences that prepare the Graduate for life.”

If voted on to proceed with the merger, implementation teams from both BSC and ABAC would work together for a smooth consolidation. The University System and the two colleges would also hold campus and community listening sessions in the coming months to seek and hear input on ways to best design the new institutions to serve their respective regions and the state.