In his “State of the University” address, Georgia State President Mark P. Becker boldly called for the university to reach out and claim its status as a preeminent institution in the Southeast.

Dr. Becker, 50, gave the address on Georgia State’s campus April 16 saying that “Not only is this my first State of the University address as your new president, but we’ve discovered it may well be the first-ever such address in the 96-year history of this university.”

Formerly the executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C., he assumed his new position on Jan. 1, succeeding Carl Patton, who retired.

Dr. Becker said the university’s “greatest challenge” was to change people’s perceptions of the institution, which started as a relatively small computer school, but has evolved into a “thriving research university.”

According to Dr. Becker, Georgia State’s perception challenge is greater even than the financial challenges posed by the financial crisis and consequent belt tightening at all state institutions.

“The biggest challenge is moving the needle on perceptions of Georgia State.  Because as that needle moves, our momentum toward achieving our goals accelerates. Our ability to have a significant and lasting impact through education research and scholarship and constructive partnerships increases exponentially,” he added.

Among the university’s assets, he cited its official status since the mid-1990s as an official “research university” with many specialized research centers engaged in state-of-the-art research, instruction and service activities.

He also cited Fulbright grants, Guggenheim fellowships and other competitive scholarly programs awarded to staff and students. In addition, he mentioned the university’s 29-member team that won the outstanding delegation award and paper award at the recent Model United Nations Conference.

The university has its sights on expanding its reach throughout the region, which he said is increasingly recognized to stretch from Charlotte, N.C., to Atlanta and has been called “Char-lanta.”

Georgia State has more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students in six colleges. It is the second largest university in the state with students from every state in the U.S. and more than 145 countries.

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