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Clayton State University set to host inaugural Social Mobility Summit

(June 6, 2024) - In U.S. News & World Report’s 2023 Best Colleges rankings, Clayton State University ranked #38 in Top Performers on Social Mobility – Regional Universities South.

Students pose for a photo at Convocation 2023

Additionally, social mobility serves as the university’s mission and one of the greatest priorities in the university’s 2024-2027 Strategic Plan, Transforming Today for Tomorrow.

To showcase its drive of becoming Georgia’s premier institution for social mobility, Clayton State will host its first-ever Social Mobility Summit from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Monday, June 17, at its campus’ Student Activities Center.

Dr. Joshua Meddaugh, chair of the university’s Dept. of Social Sciences and co-chair of the event’s planning team, says the goal is to get Clayton State University “on the map for social mobility.”

“This summit is designed to discuss the determinants of social mobility, unique barriers in the greater metropolitan area, what social mobility means to campus, and how we can drive it going further,” Meddaugh said.

Clayton State University defines social mobility as, simply, “a change in social status,” further stating its focus as an institution centered on upward social mobility – the “improved outcomes related to socioeconomic status.”

The university further states that upward social mobility “goes beyond making more money” and includes opportunities such as increased job prospects, better healthcare, affordable insurance, retirement benefits, better housing options, and more. 

When asked on the “why” behind Clayton State’s drive to enhance its social mobility, Meddaugh immediately spoke on behalf of the hard work of the institution’s students.

The department chair added that many in the university’s student population come from an “economically disadvantaged background,” but still display the “willingness and heart” to learn and change their educational backgrounds and economic status.

“We're trying to help promote the individual students in the area through long-term generational success,” Meddaugh said. “By investing in the local area, helping our students obtain their education, and raising their social mobility, they can help revitalize the greater Clayton community and south metro Atlanta.”

Meddaugh is excited at the prospect of seeing strong engagement from the Clayton community at the inaugural Summit, which will feature a resource fair, academic and leadership panels, and a discussion on the university’s Strategic Plan.

Guest speakers will also be present at the event, including President Dr. Ellen J. Neufeldt of California State University San Marcos, Senior Vice President at The Education Trust Dr. Wil Del Pilar, Clayton State University President Dr. Georj Lewis, and various Clayton State faculty. 

Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Don Stansberry, also a co-chair on the Summit’s planning team, shared his colleague’s excitement, reaffirming that the university’s Summit is just the beginning of something greater coming to Laker Nation.

“The Summit is our official kickoff of our discussion in really helping folks understand ‘what does social mobility mean for us as a campus?’” Stansberry said. “What I’m really excited about is our potential – what we can do collectively to improve the lives of our students and their families. I really see this as the catalyst to get us moving.”

Pres. Lewis also spoke highly on the inaugural Social Mobility Summit alongside his decorated faculty, stating his ultimate vision for Clayton State University is to be the “number-one school for social mobility in Georgia” while receiving additional nationwide recognition upon the ranking’s fruition.

To him, reaching the summit ... begins with the Summit.

“This is a big deal for us,” Lewis said. “I want us to be at the forefront. We are excited for the opportunities and contributions we can make to our local community and south metro Atlanta. I believe this is the beginning of the next phase of what we’re going to take the lead in as an institution.”

As for how the university plans to achieve its ambitious goal, Lewis said collaboration with the surrounding community is key, particularly in creating greater services and support for all Lakers.

“When people think of social mobility, they often focus on moving from one income class to the next,” Lewis said. “While income is a part of it, it’s also about access to education, day care for students with families, health care opportunities, and more. All of these social indicators of success really fall under the umbrella of social mobility to me.”

Lewis is ready to see Clayton State University become the Peach State’s highest standard for social mobility.

While he knows the road to reach said goal will not be crossed overnight, he is confident that the first-ever Social Mobility Summit will be nothing short of a rousing success for the institution.

Lewis said that social mobility lies at “the core” of what Clayton State University provides for its students, stating that it simply isn’t a respective accomplishment belonging to one singular department or college.

Rather, it’s a university-wide highlight demonstrated by the efforts of all on campus who are striving to make a difference for the next generation of leaders in Clayton County and south metro Atlanta.

“I’m excited for the mix of expertise that we’re going to have,” Lewis said. “We’ve been getting positive feedback already from our partners, local businesses, and local industry leaders. It’s going to be a great opportunity to engage with the entire community in transforming the lives of our students.”

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