Chuck Williams: Columbus State making community proud

August 26, 2013 

About a week ago, this kid was walking on the sidewalk in front of my house heading back toward downtown.

It was a around lunchtime on a weekday and I was killing a few minutes waiting for a friend to pick me up. So, I introduced myself to the guy. One of the occupational hazards of being a reporter is you will talk to anyone.

His name was Brian … I think. He said he was a freshman at Columbus State University. He had the fresh face and the wide-eyed look of a freshman. I know it well. Even though it was 34 years ago, I once wore that look.

We talked long enough for me to find out he was from Massachusetts, studying music. He had been down the street at a voice lesson and was heading back to the RiverPark campus.

Massachusetts?

There was a time when that would have been odd. Not anymore. It’s the new norm at Columbus State. And in case you have not noticed, the students are not all from the 31906 anymore.

I share this story for one reason, I am constantly amazed at how CSU is changing — and how it is changing our community. And the change is for the better.

To anyone who still thinks it’s Cody Road High, you’re way out of step with reality. If you think that, you need to spend some time walking around the two campuses. And to anyone who thinks it is still just a bunch of kids from Columbus and the surrounding communities who couldn’t get into other schools, you’re wrong, too.

It’s becoming a university of choice. A lot of kids from the metro Atlanta area and beyond are coming to Columbus to study. Last year, more freshmen were from the 16-county metro Atlanta area than were from Columbus. And it would be surprising if that trend does not continue when the fall semester enrollment figures are announced in October.

The Schwob School of Music headquartered downtown is obviously a huge draw, and the kid from Massachusetts said that was why he was here. But it’s not just music and the arts. It’s nursing, education, business and a growing athletic program that is attracting them.

It is refreshing to see CSU’s success. And you can see it all over town, not just on the main campus or the downtown campus. You can see it in the restaurants where CSU students are working. You can see it in the stores where they are spending their money.

Early on, CSU offered a college education to those who could not afford to attend other colleges.

That has changed, though it is still an affordable option when compared to private universities, Georgia research universities and out-of-state colleges.

Being a father/stepfather of four kids, including one who is currently attending Columbus State and one who has an MBA from CSU, I have heard many a Columbus high school student say they wanted to go here, there, anywhere but CSU. They would almost always say they were afraid of getting stuck here.

Look around, folks, there are a lot worse places to be stuck.

Chuck Williams, senior editor for content, chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com

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