UGA uncorks north Georgia’s ripening wine industry

Georgia’s wine industry is growing, bolstering the North Georgia economy by increasing the number of tourists to the area as well as attracting side businesses attracted by the wineries, University of Georgia faculty told members of the Georgia House Rural Development Council on Monday.

“There’s an influx of growth in this area,” said Bruce Cutler, director of the UGA Small Business Development Center (SBDC) office in Gainesville. “New vineyards are being established every year. They are also creating a ripple effect, because they impact other businesses as well, such as food, lodging, tours—anything related to hospitality.”

The most recent economic impact study of the wine industry showed the Georgia wineries and vineyards contributed $81.6 billion to the state’s economy, created more than 600 jobs and generated more than $4.1 million in state and local tax revenue. But that study, based on data collected in 2012-13, doesn’t include wineries that have begun operating since then or the side businesses that have emerged. The UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is collecting new data and hope to have a report out this year.

Christina Ernst, who owns VIP Southern Tours, launched a North Georgia Wine Tour in 2013, with assistance from the SBDC. Her Classic VIP Wine Tour takes participants by bus to tastings at a four wineries and provides an artisan picnic lunch. She also offers private tours for birthday celebrations, corporate outings and bachelor/bachelorette parties.

VIP Southern Tours

“The advice the SBDC provided me was very helpful,” Ernst said. “They advised me on funding for vehicles, and with that knowledge I was able to structure the rest of my business.”

Since the wine tours began on Labor Day 2013, the company has added three buses, three tour employees and an office manager. The company was profitable after a single year. Today, sales are in the six figures. The White County Chamber of Commerce named Ernst was Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014 by and VIP Southern Tours earned a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence in 2016 and 2017.

“Travelers are booking their vacations around vineyards. There’s been a real influx in that in the last year,” Ernst said. “More and more people are calling us to assist with their entire vacation stay and learning about the vineyards and what region has to offer. They are making the trip to the vineyard their priority and planning the rest of the stay around that.”

Lawrence “Larry” Lykens Jr., who owns Cartecay Vineyards in Ellijay, Georgia, echoed Ernst’s enthusiasm.

“The (2013) economic development study done at UGA has done a lot to help us. It was one of the first steps to forming Georgia Wine Producers,” Lykens said. “We needed help from UGA, with plant variety and how to grow certain species.”

“We’re growing by leaps and bounds, adding five to 10 new wineries a year. UGA understands the industry.”

In concert with the other vineyards in North Georgia, in 2015 Lykens launched the Georgia Wine Producers, an organization dedicated to representing the statewide industry in legislative affairs. The Georgia House of Representatives rural study committee heard about the positive impact that UGA is having on the growing wine industry. Two years ago, the General Assembly created and funded a viticulturist in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to work with the wine makers. Viticulture is the science, production and study of grapes.

Viticulturist Cain Hickey, an assistant professor and UGA Cooperative Extension agent, grew up in Pennsylvania in a town “with more wineries than stoplights.” He has made a career of studying viticulture and the agrarian processes of growing wine.

Cain Hickey is UGA’s first full-time wine grape Extension specialist

It is not easy to grow grapes for wine in Georgia, he said. The hot, humid climate makes the wines prone to fungal diseases.

“On top of that, we have highly variable growing seasons,” he said.

But those committed to the effort can make a go if it, as he’s seen with the proliferation of vineyards and wineries in North Georgia.

“People fall in love with growing grapes,” Hickey said. “You plant something, you take it off the vine, you go through this century upon century old process of winemaking. You get to sell a product of your own soil. People take pride in that.”

Lykins, a former swimmer at UGA who holds three degrees from the university, planted his first vines in 2008.

“I wanted to live in north Georgia,” he said. “What could I do in north Georgia that involved farming, plants and wine?”

Hickey recently was in Cortona, Italy, visiting vineyards. The vines there look just like a vine growing in north Georgia, he said.

People take pride in growing grapes.

“The issues they face here, with centuries of practice, are some of the same issues we face in Georgia,” Hickey said. “If they can do it, we can do it.”

“I am very confident that this industry can succeed.”

In June, the SBDC will hold a Wine Business Conference to convene leaders in the wine industry for the purposes of networking, education and information-sharing. The conference takes place on June 6, 2018 in Dahlonega, Georgia, in the heart of Georgia’s wine country. 

The UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences also assists vineyard and winery owners through its Journeyman Farmer Certificate Program, for new and aspirational farmers. The SBDC is a partner in the program and Cutler and Hickey cover the many facets of farming, both the agrarian processes and the farm as a business entity.


Writer: Leah Moss,, 706-583-0964

Contact: Bruce Cutler,, 770-531-5681

Cain Hickey,, 706-542-0784


Three faculty members complete Public Service and Outreach Fellowship


2017-2018 Faculty Fellows

2017-18 Public Service (PSO) Faculty Fellows helped ensure shoreline stability on the coast, address health concerns in rural Georgia and create a way to measure the impact of leadership training.

The Faculty Fellowships offer tenure-track and tenured professors an opportunity to pursue their research through a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. These faculty spend the fall semester of their fellowship with the Archway Partnership, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, the Office of Service-Learning, the Small Business Development Center, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia or the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel, conducting applied, community-based, policy or program evaluation research to fulfill an outreach initiative. Most continuing working with PSO once the fellowship ends.

The vice president for PSO provides $15,000 to a fellow’s home department, to be spent as the department head deems appropriate.

Applications for the fellowships are accepted in March. For more information:

PSO Fellowship Program

Learn more about the 2017-2018 Faculty Fellows.

2017-2018 Faculty Fellows



Abigail Borron

J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development

Abigail Borron, an assistant professor of agricultural communications in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, developed quantitative measures to assess the social and economic impact of leadership programming at the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.

“We have tremendous programs,” Borron said. “How do we best assess our value in these communities?”

Borron’s goal was to create a research framework that addresses all these challenges and creates a unique profile for communities that include the various opportunities, challenges and barriers that make up a community. Borron utilized the Community Capitals Framework (CCF), a research framework that defines community vitality and sustainability by assessing seven different capitals: natural, cultural, human, social, political, financial and built capital. She modified the CFF to measure perceptions of each capital. These capitals were transformed into a numerical scale.

She surveyed communities across Georgia engaged in various leadership programming. Participants were asked to identify how much they agreed or disagreed with statements, such as “Today, I believe my community is well-diversified in terms of multiple employers and stable employment.” She then asked participants if the statement was true five years ago (before participants engaged in leadership programming).

By comparing differences in capitals across time, Borron is able to evaluate programming effectiveness. The data also forms a comprehensive, unique profile for each community. It helps Borron identify which capitals are strengths and weaknesses in a community.

“Abigail has played a key role in strengthening our research-evaluation efforts,” said Carolina Darbisi, a Fanning Institute faculty member who worked closely with Borron to survey communities. “She is helping us develop tools to better quantify the social and economic impact of our leadership development programming.”

Borron plans to increase the flexibility of the framework to make it adaptable across Public Service and Outreach units. Her efforts have helped to better link the positive impact leadership development programming has on economic vitality, critical challenges and perceived strength of communities across the state of Georgia.

“We know that leadership development is essential to the long-term civic and economic health of communities,” said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute. “However, the ability to quantify that economic impact and return on investment is key.”



Jon Calabria

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant

Jon Calabria, an associate professor in the College of Environment and Design, is helping coastal Georgia communities tackle ecological problems, like shoreline erosion, that threaten their survival.

“We are trying to understand better ways to address some of the environmental issues that are becoming more prevalent,” Calabria said. “If we can use scientific-based information to solve some of these ecological issues, the benefit is the safety and welfare of the public.”

Shoreline erosion is a growing concern on the Georgia coast, where much of the economy depends on tourism and recreation. It can cause irreversible damage to cultural treasures like the Wormsloe Historic Site in near Savannah, where Calabria installed living shorelines in strategic, highly-targeted parts of the coastline.

“Living shorelines are effective because they offer protection from erosion, habitat for more animals, and visually look better than alternative methods like bulkheads,” he said.

In a living shoreline, plants and oyster bags are used as buffers between the land and sea. This type of solution helps keep habitat for native plants and animals, who are often displaced when bulkheads, or reinforced walls, are constructed. Calabria’s research is on the effectiveness and placement of living shorelines.

“Jon approaches projects from a landscape ecologist standpoint,” said Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “He can understand the history and ecological setting of an area, and design solutions that fit aesthetically and contextually.”

In addition to Wormsloe, Calabria is helping Fort Pulaski and UGA facilities on Skidaway Island develop long-term plans to ensure for the safety, prosperity and longevity of their facilities.

Two of Calabria’s graduate students, Catherine Sauer and Christopher Wisener, are working with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant faculty to gather data on living shoreline effectiveness and perceptions of the technique among Tybee Island residents. The information is part of their master’s theses.

“Jon was aware of our faculty and staff, and how they could contribute to student’s success. That to me is another outgrowth of the fellowship program,” said Risse. “We are able to help faculty and students help us, in a collaborative relationship.”


Elizabeth Weeks

Carl Vinson Institute of Government

Elizabeth Weeks, a J. Alton Hosch professor in the School of Law, worked with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVIOG) to identify rural health challenges relating to regulations and provider shortages in rural Georgia.

“Some rural communities don’t have access to necessary services like emergency services and obstetricians. That was my initial interest,” said Weeks. “As I’ve been here, it’s expanded to a variety of issues. If rural communities are losing hospitals, are there other ways to receive a necessary service?”

Weeks began looking into the effectiveness and feasibility of alternative health strategies proposed by Georgia legislators, such as telemedicine. Telemedicine is the ability to call a physician or specialist to receive services. Since telemedicine is dependent on broadband access, Weeks studied existing broadband access data collected by experts at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. She discovered that nuances in the way broadband access is reported have a tendency to overestimate the number of people with broadband access.

Moving forward, Weeks plans to identify public health issues that local governments face, such as evolving federal regulations and shifts in Medicaid and Medicare. She will share what she learns with faculty at the Vinson Institute, who can use the information to help communities in Georgia.

Weeks’ interest was inspired by her father, Julien Devereux Weeks, a longtime faculty member at the Vinson Institute.

“That public service and outreach mission of a land-grant is very near to my heart,” Weeks said.

Weeks was a psychiatric social worker in Chicago before earning her law degree at UGA. She has become a nationally-recognized resource on health law, health care financing and regulation and public health law. Her focus is now on rural communities in Georgia.

“Elizabeth is a national healthcare law expert,” said Ted Baggett, Vinson Institute associate director. “A big concern right now is access to healthcare, quality of healthcare, affordability of healthcare, especially in rural areas. She’s a huge benefit to the faculty here.”


Stories written by Leah Moss

UGA Public Service and Outreach graduates 16 from leadership academy

Sixteen faculty and staff from UGA Public Service and Outreach, Cooperative Extension and the university’s schools and colleges graduated May 11 from the Vivian H. Fisher Leadership Academy facilitated by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.

Sponsored by UGA Public Service and Outreach (PSO), the leadership program emphasizes personal leadership development and communication skills. It also helps participants recognize the role of outreach at UGA, see the scope of the work the PSO units perform across Georgia and learn how that work ties into the university’s mission.

During Friday’s graduation, Vice President for Public Service and Outreach Jennifer Frum encouraged the class to continue the great work they do across Georgia.

“You are the guardians of what we do across the state,” Frum said. “It’s so important that PSO continues to maintain a pipeline of people who love what they do and are enthusiastic about serving the university and the state. This academy is one of the best investments PSO makes.”

Over the course of nine months, the class also visited each PSO unit, Cooperative Extension and the State Capitol, where they learned about UGA’s relationships with state government officials.

“Taking part in this program gives participants the ability to better understand and develop their own leadership skills that, combined with a greater understanding of the university’s public service and outreach mission, helps prepare graduates to assume leadership roles within PSO and UGA,” Fanning Institute Director Matt Bishop said.

Tracy Arner, a faculty member at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, said she is grateful for the experience.

“This academy has been one of the highlights of my career,” Arner said. “This program has given me a greater appreciation for the state and a greater love for the mission of public service at UGA. I also learned about the importance of the willingness to step up and take advantage of opportunities when called upon.”

The academy is named for Vivian H. Fisher, who started the academy in 2007 while serving as an associate vice president for PSO. Fisher died in 2008, and the academy was named in her honor in 2012.

The 2017-2018 Vivian H. Fisher PSO Leadership Academy graduates are:

  • Tracy Arner, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Stephan Durham, UGA College of Engineering;
  • Bryan Fluech, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant;
  • Brian Freese, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Chris James, Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach;
  • Shana Jones, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Dan Lasseter, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Jennifer Lewis, UGA College of Environment and Design;
  • Sharon Liggett, Archway Partnership;
  • Mandy Marable, UGA Cooperative Extension;
  • Jeff Miller, UGA Cooperative Extension;
  • Bart Njoku-Obi, Small Business Development Center;
  • Kiel Norris, UGA Center for Continuing Education and Hotel;
  • Josh Podvin, Office of Service Learning;
  • Shelly Prescott, State Botanical Garden of Georgia; and
  • Sarah Sorvas, UGA Center for Continuing Education and Hotel


Stop and smell the native roses: UGA student creates coloring book for botanical garden

Suzie Henderson has been sketching plants and insects since she was a child. As an ecology major and horticulture minor, she is familiar with Georgia’s native plants—from the bright orange butterfly weed to the ivory yucca.

During her internship with the State Botanical Garden, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach, she used her knowledge and creativity to create a coloring book that educates children about the importance of native plants and pollinators.

“Art has been a hobby my whole life,” Henderson says. “I’ve always been drawn to observing nature through art.”

Henderson’s internship at the garden was part of her year as a UGA Public Service and Outreach Student Scholar. The student scholars program introduces students to the public service mission of Georgia’s land-grant and sea-grant university. Participants learn about and visit each of UGA’s eight PSO units during the fall semester before completing a 150-hour internship with one of those units in the spring. Henderson’s internship extended into the following year.

While at the garden Henderson had an opportunity to get involved with Connect to Protect, a statewide program that combines beautiful displays of native plants with educational materials to foster an understanding of the role that native plants play in maintaining biodiversity in urban and suburban areas of Georgia. Numerous Connect to Protect gardens have been planted at schools and businesses in and around Athens, as well as in Gwinnett County, Macon-Bibb County and Rabun County.

“I wanted to teach children and adults about native plants and their benefit to human beings and how they fit in the human web,” said Henderson. “The more gardens we have, the more we can support healthier pollinators, to pollinate our orchards and fields.”

The coloring book features 10 native plant species, each illustration delicately drawn with a corresponding pollinator, such as a ruby-throated hummingbird or Eastern bumblebee. The book provides background information on the plant and pollinator as well as a thought-provoking discussion question. In the back of the book, a page demonstrates the plant and insect life cycles, and most importantly, where these cycles overlap and merge.

“That’s why I loved making this book—I could see the relationship between the flowers, the pollinators, and the whole function of an ecosystem,” said Henderson.

The making of the book was a garden family affair. Public Service and Outreach graduate assistant, Paula Runyon, who worked at the garden, assisted in converting the drawings to a digital file format. Elijah Richardson, a work-study student, designed the coloring key in the back of the book. Linda Chafin, the resident conservation botanist and native plant expert at the garden’s Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies, helped edit the text. Graphic designer Lisa Nation created the cohesive layout of the book. Caroline Turner, a high school student in UGA’s Young Dawgs high school internship program, is helping Henderson with the second version of the book, which depicts the importance of healthy food, and all the factors that go into growing food.

Cora Keber, education director at the State Botanical Garden, and Heather Alley, conservation horticulturist, helped oversee Henderson’s coloring book from concept to creation.

“The next book will feature illustrations of food crops and pollinators,” says Keber. “It will also include recipes with each plant.”

An attendee of the Native Plant Symposium 2018, a State Botanical Garden of Georgia event, examines the coloring book.

The Odum School of Ecology, where Henderson is earning her degree, gave the book to 300 people who attended a recent ecology reunion and symposium in honor of the Institute of Ecology, founded at UGA 50 years ago in 1967.

“When we saw the coloring books we immediately decided to give everyone a copy,” said Beth Gavrilles, Odum research communications coordinator and one of the event organizers. “We knew people would love them for their content and execution, and because they were created by one of our students. People, whether kid or adult, really seem to like coloring books.”

After graduation, Henderson hopes to study functional ecosystem health and continue drawing. The process of illustrating the coloring book, she says, has given her the confidence to pursue her artistic endeavors, perhaps in the form of a publication dedicated to conservation.

The Connect to Protect coloring book is available for $7 at the gift shop at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia or online. Please email Cora Keber with requests. Reduced rates are offered for nonprofits and educators.

Photos by Shannah Montgomery


Writer: Leah Moss,, 706-583-0964

Photographer: Shannah Montgomery,, 706-542-3638

Contact: Cora Keber,, 706-542-6158

New project will investigate the impacts of Georgia’s blue crab fishery

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources awarded Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant a Coastal Incentive Grant to study recreational crabbing in Georgia.

As part of the project, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant will partner with UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government to develop an online survey tool and conduct in-person interviews at popular recreational fishing areas to assess the extent of Georgia’s recreational blue crab fishery.

“Catching blue crab is a favorite activity for many coastal residents and visitors, but despite its popularity, little is known about the impacts of recreational crabbing,” says Bryan Fluech, associate marine extension director and project lead.

The surveys and interviews will evaluate landings by recreational crabbers, direct and indirect economic impacts from trip expenditures and awareness among anglers of the state’s blue crab regulations.

The data generated from this project will not only address an identified coastal management research need, but will also help coastal resource managers make more informed decisions about the management of an economically and culturally important species. This information will be used to develop outreach resources that support sustainable recreational crabbing practices and the conservation of this valuable coastal resource.


Writer: Emily Woodward,, 912-598-2348

Financial projections and plan secure future for Ellijay family orchard

Ellijay farmer John Reece can see the house he grew up in from the Apple House at his Ellijay business, BJ Reece Orchards. John and his wife Rachel have grown the business that his father started with 30 acres into a popular 130-acre agribusiness attraction known for its fried apple pies, which their globe-trotting friends call “world famous.”

Most of their sales are retail products sold from the Apple House, including pumpkin rolls, caramel and candied apples, apple cider doughnuts and several flavors of homemade breads. Some items are sold wholesale in Atlanta.

Six months of the year, from July to the end of December, Reece Orchards is booming with visitors. John and Rachel began adding agritourism events to their orchard—wagon and pony rides, U-pick apples, cow milking, pig races, a corn maze, racing zipline, apple cannons, exotic farm animals and more—and saw their business grow exponentially. They decided they needed to expand their orchard acreage and add a building and new equipment, so they went to the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center for help.

“When the Reeces first came to us in February 2014, they were attempting to get a USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) matching grant to make improvements and expand the variety of things they were growing and producing,” said Richard Montanaro, area director for the UGA SBDC office in Rome. “They wanted to minimize some of the seasonality of their business.”

Montanaro assisted John Reece in developing a financial plan and projections for his new business plan, which was submitted with the matching grant application. The documentation was finished in August, and the Reeces received a six-figure USDA matching grant.

“We plan to grow to 200 acres in the next four-to-five years,” Reece said. “We also wanted to expand our bakery, and are trying to add new bakery items every year. To do this, we’ve added a new 40 x 100-foot building to the original and added another freezer for pies. Now we have three walk-ins (freezers) and we’re already out of room. We’re trying to expand to keep up with our business.”

As Montanaro came to know the Reeces and learn about their business, he realized there were other services the UGA SBDC could provide to them.

“We did a review of their advertising in the competitive marketplace and recommended they put their billboards along a different route, where they would be the first stop on the popular ‘orchard path’ drive into Ellijay,” Montanaro said. “Based on our demographic analysis of traffic counts, we made suggestions to their outdoor advertising strategy that positively impacted their sales.”

Sales at BJ Reece Orchards have grown more than 35 percent in the last two years, and the number of employees has increased to 15. The Reeces continue to work with Montanaro and the SBDC as they expand. “We are now working on a digital marketing analysis for them and, on the finance side, we’re working on some return-on-investment analysis of the capital improvements they’re looking at making.”

“Richard has been really helpful,” Reece said. “We plan on working with him on other things we’re trying to do.”

He expects their business to keep growing with all the agritourism events they continue to host.

“We have a lot of students from Atlanta, Cartersville and Dawsonville come with their field trips in September,” he said. “And we offer food on weekends in September and October. We want families who come visit to stay all day with us. Bring blankets, have picnics and make a family day out of their visit.”

“In my opinion, they’re the perfect clients,” Montanaro said. “They understand their business, are dedicated and hard-working, and they have learned how to use the SBDC and all of our services towards the continuous improvement of their business.”

University of Georgia students solve Rocky Branch Elementary School sound problem through service-learning project

The Rocky Branch Elementary School cafeteria will soon be less noisy, thanks to students from the University of Georgia.

In the coming weeks, students in the College of Engineering will install sound-absorbing panels they created on the walls of the cafeteria at the Oconee County school. Third-grade students at Rocky Branch will decorate the panels with pictures of fruits and vegetables.

The idea came to Ben Davis, an engineering professor with experience in sound and acoustics, after he was asked to visit the school during lunch period.

“The cafeteria creates a ‘cocktail party’ effect,” Davis said. “Students talk at a normal level, the sound bounces off the walls, students raise their voices to be heard, and the sound gets even louder.”

Davis decided to turn the problem into a service-learning opportunity for his graduate students. Service-learning at UGA is the application of academic skills and knowledge to address a community needs, issue of problem and to enhance student learning. Students who enroll in official service-learning courses receive credit for experiential learning, a requirement for all UGA students since 2016-17. Almost 6,000 students enrolled in one or more service-learning course during the 2016-17 academic year, according to the Office of Service-Learning, which is part of the offices of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach and the Vice President for Instruction.

Davis and his students worked alongside third grade students and their teacher, Christina Crowe, at Rocky Branch taking detailed measurements and making diagrams of the cafeteria.  Crowe and her students used an iPad to measure the sound in the cafeteria and learned it exceeded the standards recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Based on all of the information collected, the UGA students assembled a prototype of a soundproof panel. Constructed with wood and insulated with rockwool, an inflammable material, the panels are wrapped with sound fabric, a material designed to reduce noise. The fabric allows sound to pass and be absorbed by the rockwool.

When they took the panel prototype back to the school, it provided an opportunity for the elementary school students to learn more about the science of sound. They also wanted to know if the panels could withstand nonstandard uses, like a bump or a stray hand running along the wall on the cafeteria.

“It’s classic science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in action,” said Laura Mason, the principal at Rocky Branch. “It’s a great partnership. The students are learning so much and solving a real-world problem.”

The engineering students also benefitted from the project.

“I liked the service-learning project because we get to directly see our work in use,” said Haynes Curtis, a master’s student in engineering at UGA. “We don’t usually get to see our projects in action.”

“I’m hoping this project can inspire the kids to see what engineering is,” said Ryan Romeo, who is getting a doctoral degree in engineering at UGA. “A couple of the kids said they want to be engineers when they grow up.”

Panel installation began May 3, 2018. 


Writer: Leah Moss,, 706-583-0964

Photographer: Shannah Montgomery,, 706-542-3638

Contact: Ben Davis,, 706-542-4225

State Botanical Garden honors supporter who founded first advisory board and fundraising ball

Around Georgia, the name Callaway is practically synonymous with gardens.

So it’s no surprise that members of the Callaway family from LaGrange, who created Callaway Gardens, also played a role in developing the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

On Saturday, May 5, at its annual ball, the State Botanical Garden will honor Mark Callaway, whose foresight in the 1980s led to the formation of an advisory board to serve as a fundraising arm for the  313-acre preserve, part of University of Georgia Public Service and Outreach. Callaway also helped plan the first ball in 1985.

“We needed people who were willing to step up and make big donations,” Callaway says. “Gardens can be hugely expensive and I think it’s important that you have that support. We wanted to get more people involved.”

The Garden of the Worlds Ball this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. In addition to Callaway, Philanthropist Deen Day Sanders will be recognized for her support of the garden.

“This being our 50th anniversary, it’s an important year to mark our progress, our goals and celebrate the role the State Botanical Garden of Georgia has at the university and within the state of Georgia,” says Jennifer Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden. “We need to remember the beginning of the garden and how it grew from an idea in 1968 to what it is today. A lot of that has to do with the people who have been involved in the garden, over the years.”

Mark Callaway’s involvement in the garden followed that of his grandmother, Alice Hand Callaway, for whom the visitor’s center and conservatory are named. The Callaway Foundation, one of three of the family’s philanthropic organizations, provided money for the facility, which was completed in 1984. The administration building also is named for Callaway.

Mark Callaway’s Morning Star Foundation later sponsored the construction of the International Garden.

Now a senior vice president and financial advisor for the Indigo Group at Morgan Stanley in Atlanta, Callaway says he wanted to establish the garden’s board of advisors to ensure that there would be broad support across the state for Georgia’s primary university-based research garden. Callaway chaired the first board of advisors.

Tom Wight, a charter member of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, says Callaway’s vision has led to successful fundraising that has allowed the garden to continue to expand over the years.

“I take real pride in what’s been accomplished,” says Tom Wight, who served with Callaway on that early advisory board. “I don’t say the board did it all, but we certainly played our role.”

Writer: Christopher James

State Botanical Garden honors Deen Day Sanders for 50 years of service

Deen Day Sanders has been planting seeds her entire life. She has supported the State Botanical Garden of Georgia since its establishment 50 years ago.

Sanders’ love for gardening first took root in the small town of Adrian, Georgia, where she planted flowers with her grandmother as a young girl. She knew early on which flowers would attract butterflies. She knew how to shake out seeds from petunias. She recognized which plants were most fragrant and which ones provided the best visuals in landscape design. For her, gardening came almost as naturally as breathing.

As she grew up, she began volunteering, joining the first garden club in 1959 and organizing a neighborhood garden club in 1961.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia was established in 1968, largely due to the efforts of garden club members and the Garden Club of Georgia (GCG). She was president of GCG from 1987 to 1989, was president of National Garden Clubs, Inc. from 1999 to 2001, and vice president of World Association of Floral Artists from 2008 to 2011.

Deen Day Sanders will be recognized on May 5 during a 50th Anniversary Celebration at the State Botanical Garden’s annual fundraiser, the Gardens of the World Ball. She and Mark Callaway, another longtime supporter of the State Botanical Garden, are serving as co-chairs for the event. Sanders will be escorted by her husband, Jim Sanders, whom she married in 2002.

A driven philanthropist and lifelong learner, she remained committed to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, and provided support for the garden’s plants, trails and facilities.

“Deen stands out as one of our most generous and steadfast supporters,” says Jenny Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden. “When I first met her, we had conversations about what inspires her. What impressed me so much was her love of gardens, her love of art. It seems to come from a deep understanding and appreciation of nature and the beauty she sees in nature.”


“Deen has always been interested in beauty and nature, and she wants to play a part in making things better for future generations,” says Tom Wight, a charter member of the State Botanical Garden’s board of advisors, who has known Sanders his whole life. “Deen leads by example. She leads quietly and supports the things she believes in, both with her influence and financial support.”

Sanders helped develop plans for the Cecil B. Day Chapel, which was named for her late husband. It is a tranquil venue in the woods, used for weddings, receptions, memorial services, and acoustic music performances. Nestled in the overhang of trees, the chapel has an awe-inspiring cypress interior and meticulous wood carvings of delicate vines, leaves and blossoms.

The Cecil B. Day Chapel

“Gardens offer fulfillment and peace,” Sanders says. “How better are we going to help the next generation understand the importance of plants, if not through gardens?”

Sanders suggested the idea for an accessibility path to the State Botanical Garden’s Shade and Native Flora Gardens, in memory of her late son, Burke Day.

“The path was very much needed, and I don’t know who would have thought of it except Deen,” says Marianne McConnel, a member of the garden’s first board of advisors.

Her philanthropy has been recognized throughout the state. Former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson named October 12, 1992 in her honor. She was given the key to the City of Statesboro, Georgia, which annually celebrates a Service to Mankind Award’s Program in her name.

She received the 1987 Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson Award, presented by her friend and former first lady, “Lady Bird” Johnson, in recognition of her contributions to Keep America Beautiful. A cause dear to Sanders’ heart, Keep America Beautiful is an organization dedicated to beautification and litter prevention.

“Volunteering is a life-enriching experience,” Sanders says. “Volunteerism is so needed.”

She is looking forward to upcoming events and new exhibits at the State Botanical Garden, such as the opening of the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden. Scheduled for completion by early 2019, the children’s garden will provide a space for hands-on, educational activities emphasizing the importance of nature, healthy food and healthy bodies.

“Just like when my grandmother introduced something that would inspire me all of my life, I hope the children’s garden shows children the importance of plants,” Sanders says.

Former State Botanical Garden Director Jeff Lewis, who has known Sanders for 30 years, calls her a good example of how one might ideally live. “She’s not out seeking applause and recognition,” he says. “She’s doing things that will benefit the people of Georgia in a lasting way.”

Writer: Leah Moss,, 706-583-0964

Contact: Jenny Cruse-Sanders,, 706-542-6131


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State Botanical Garden honors supporter who founded first advisory board and fundraising ball

UGA works to tackle Georgia’s opioid abuse crisis

Statewide efforts to thwart the opioid epidemic that is ravaging Georgia communities got a boost recently at three conferences that brought together public and private sector leaders to learn more about the problem and how to address it.

The conferences, coordinated by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government for the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, are just one of many ways UGA is helping to address critical challenges facing the state.

Before the third conference, in Cartersville, had ended, Steve Spivey, who chairs a citizen council that advises the DBHDD, was lining up speakers for training sessions he wants to see organized throughout the state.

“I attended the conference to see how we could battle this wildfire of opioids that is sweeping across the country and killing our people,” Spivey said. “Right now, there are no fire lines, and I wanted to see where we could set a fire line and stop it.”

Hundreds of counselors, educators, health care providers and social workers attended conferences in Cartersville, Macon and Stone Mountain to better understand addiction from a pharmacological and neurological perspective and learn about medication-assisted treatment. The sessions brought together the people who, in their jobs, are most likely to come in contact with individuals who struggle with opioid misuse.

“The institute played a key role in organizing a way for front-line service providers to learn more about this deadly epidemic and exchange ideas and wisdom,” said Laura Meadows, director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. “It’s the kind of outreach that’s integral to the institute’s mission of applying UGA’s resources to address a critical issue.”

Opioids include painkillers like morphine, hydrocodone and oxycodone, all legal by prescription. Illegal drugs like heroin also are part of the opioid family.

Overdoses on these addictive drugs claimed the lives of 42,00 Americans in 2016, including 929 Georgians.

Overdoses on these addictive drugs claimed the lives of 42,000 Americans in 2016, including 929 Georgians. DBHDD, charged with developing an opioid prevention, treatment and recovery strategy, engaged the Institute of Government to help implement the training portion of the plan.

The institute worked with the Office of Addictive Diseases at DBHDD to organize the training conferences for health professionals and treatment providers, securing expert speakers from the Opioid Treatment Providers of Georgia organization and the UGA College of Pharmacy.

Joelyn Alfred, conference chair for OTPG, said educating community leaders like Spivey is a critical first step in helping Georgia succeed in its response to the opioid epidemic.

“Once you understand the scope of this crisis, then you can start to do something about it,” Alfred said.

All three conferences were designed to provide information about referrals for treatment and recovery services to community public health officials, treatment and recovery professionals, state agency staff, social workers, accountability court personnel, probation officers and educators, like Jo Ellen Hancock, a parent mentor in Cherokee County schools.

“The information I learned at this conference is critical to pretty much everything I do,” Hancock said. “I do family engagement, and the opioid crisis is part of it. It’s all about prevention and early intervention. The earlier we can get that across, the better.”

DBHDD received an $11.8 million federal grant to support prevention, treatment and recovery and wants to move quickly to provide training and expand services and community education across Georgia, said DBHDD Commissioner Judy Fitzgerald.

“Our system was not fully equipped to handle the volume and scope of this emerging crisis,” Fitzgerald said. “The grant has been a really important opportunity to put some new services and expanded services into place immediately.”

The state also is providing support to expand medication-assisted treatment programs that use medications such as methadone, buprenorphine and Vivitrol, as part of a comprehensive treatment plan coupled with counseling and recovery support. DBHDD has a 24-hour hotline for people who need help: 844-326-5400. Schools are getting prevention education toolkits, and DBHDD supplies first responders with naloxone, a drug that reduces overdose deaths by counteracting the effects of opioids.

Merrill Norton, a UGA pharmacy professor and certified addiction counselor, led sessions at the training conferences on how MAT drugs work and how other drugs can interact with opioids. He emphasized that addiction is a disease that can be treated.

Naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug, is an important tool for paramedics, police and other first responders, Norton said, because “you can’t treat people if they’re dead.”

Danny Yearwood, chaplain and inmate advocate with the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office, understands exactly what Norton means. In recovery himself since 2005, Yearwood favors abstinence-based treatment but said he gained valuable knowledge from Norton and other presenters. “I always find nuggets in training conferences that I can apply to my community,” he said.

Beverly Johnson, who manages the Institute of Government’s partnership with DBHDD, said UGA is a committed partner in Georgia’s campaign to help people get treatment that leads to recovery.

“This shows our determination to reach out and build a healthier, more productive state,” Johnson said.

Eric Bonaparte and his sister Carol Bonaparte celebrated at the Small Business Development Center annual awards presentation

Retired SBDC Associate State Director Eric Bonaparte and his sister Carol Bonaparte celebrated with award winners at the Small Business Development Center’s annual awards presentation Wednesday night. A $25,000 gift from Bonaparte endowed the annual Consultant of the Year award, which this year went to Alisa Kirk, from the UGA SBDC at Clayton State University; and the Support Staff Person of the Year award, received this year by Geoffrey Loften, from the UGA SBDC in DeKalb County.

Bonaparte spent 26 years at the UGA SBDC. When he decided to retire last year, he wanted to give something back to the university that had played such an important role in his life. His $25,000 gift to UGA supports an endowment to ensure that the SBDC employees would continue to be recognized for their hard work.

Bonaparte’s UGA career began in 1991 in the DeKalb office of the SBDC, where he was at first the only consultant, managing about 250 clients. By the next year, he had about 450 clients, some just coming into business, some at a point where they could make or break. He helped entrepreneurs secure loans and create a plan to launch new businesses. He helped guide small businesses as they grew. Over the years, he watched some flourish and some falter. He celebrated their successes and mourned the failures.

He began working specifically with minority entrepreneurs, helping them prepare for their meetings with banks and learn best practices for starting a business. Bonaparte was the SBDC’s first minority finance specialist and from 2001-2006, he was head of the SBDC’s Office of Minority Business Development, a statewide position focusing on helping minorities develop and grow their businesses.

Public Service and Outreach Awards launch Honor’s Week

Seven UGA employees were recognized for exemplary work in serving the state of Georgia at the 2018 Public Service and Outreach Awards Luncheon, which included recognition of an Entrepreneur of the Year and a Donor Impact Award.

Kim Coder, a professor of tree biology and community forestry in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, received the 2018 Walter Barnard Hill Fellow Award for Distinguished Achievement in Public Service and Outreach.

The Hill Fellow is UGA’s highest award in public service and outreach and is comparable to a distinguished professorship.

Kim Coder

Three Public Service and Outreach faculty members—Julia Gaskin, sustainable agriculture coordinator in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Beverly Johnson, public service associate in the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, and Tori Stivers, seafood and marketing specialist for Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant—received Walter Barnard Hill Awards for Distinguished Achievement in Public Service and Outreach.

Julia Gaskin

The Hill Award and Hill Fellow are named for Chancellor Walter Barnard Hill, who led the University of Georgia from 1899 to 1905. Hill was a pioneer who helped define the university’s modern public service and outreach mission.

Marty Higgins, a marine resource specialist with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, received the Public Service and Outreach Staff Award for Excellence.

Marty Higgins

Ruth Harman, an associate professor of language and literacy in the College of Education, received the Engaged Scholar Award, recognizing a tenured associate or full professor who has made significant career-spanning contributions to UGA Public Service and Outreach.

UGA Public Service and Outreach named Ted Dennard, president and founder of the Savannah Bee Company, entrepreneur of the year.  The award recognizes a company that has exhibited significant growth in business, benefitted from a variety of formal learning opportunities through the UGA Small Business Development Center and served as a public advocate of business ownership. The award was sponsored by State Bank & Trust Company.

A new award this year recognized a donor whose gifts have made an extraordinary impact on the lives of citizens of Georgia and beyond. The award was presented to the R. Howard Dobbs, Jr. Foundation in recognition of its multi-year support of the Legislative Environmental Policy Academy at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and its impact on the State of Georgia.


President of the foundation, David Weitnauer, accepted the award.

R. Howard Dobbs, Jr. Foundation

For more information, go to



UGA hosts conference for national leaders in government training

Small in numbers but mighty in purpose, university service organizations that provide training and resources to local and state government officials are gathered this week at UGA for an annual conference.

About 75 public service directors and faculty, representing about three dozen universities from across the country, are attending the 2018 Consortium of University Public Service Organizations (CUPSO), hosted by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at UGA.

“We feel honored to bring together our fellow university-based public service and outreach leaders from across the country to UGA,” said Laura Meadows, director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and immediate past president of CUPSO. “We’re able to gain valuable insights to enhance the impactful work we are already doing here to help Georgia’s state and local governments and to share our work with others.”

Over three days, conference participants are learning about their roles in statewide issues, civic education and their role in elections. They also are sharing their academic work that is used to provide opportunities and address challenges in their states.

David Tanner, an associate director at the Vinson Institute, moderated a session on the role of public service institutes and centers in statewide issues. Participants in the session were from N.C. State University, Michigan State University and Arizona State University.

“Coming together helps us understand that we are all dealing with similar issues across our states,” Tanner said. “We’re able to explore how each of our different institutes approach those problems and provide our stakeholders with information. We compare notes and share projects and data.”

This kind of assistance is invaluable to local and state government officials, said Phil Keisling, CUPSO president and director of Portland State University’s Center for Public Service.

“CUPSO members are the people that straddle the academic and the professional world,” he said.

UGA President Jere Morehead and University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley were scheduled to speak to the group about leadership during Friday’s opening session. Wrigley previously served as director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and vice president for public service and outreach at UGA.

Organized in 1979, CUPSO supports university-based public service institutes in their efforts to assist state and local governments on a range of contemporary issues and challenges. CUPSO facilitates networking, information exchange, and collaboration among its member institutions.

UGA Vice President for Public Service and Outreach Jennifer Frum, also a former Carl Vinson Institute of Government director, said having the meeting here spoke to the national reputation of UGA Public Service and Outreach.

“It’s fitting that UGA’s largest public service unit, the Vinson Institute, is hosting a national forum for scholarship and best practices related to government leadership,” Frum said. “We welcome faculty from some of this country’s most respected institutions to learn about our successes and share theirs with us.”

The original organization was initiated by former Vice President for Public Service and Outreach Delmer Dunn during a political science conference in 1978, and was officially founded in 1979 as the Southern Consortium of University Public Service Organizations (SCUPSO), said Linda Hoke, who has been director of CUPSO since 1998. Dunn was elected SCUPSO’s founding president in 1980. In 2015, with interest in the organization growing nationwide, the organization dropped the “S” to become CUPSO.

“Dr. Dunn was the one who convened us and saw the value of sharing advice and knowledge,” Hoke said. “CUPSO has grown into a really diverse mix of institutes and centers, but they all share the same public service mission.”


Writer: Roger Nielsen, 706-542-2524,

Contact: Jana Wiggins, 706-542-6621,



Stockbridge business grows after achieving government certification

Jacqueline Johnson discovered her life’s direction at a celebration of life for her aunt. 

“My auntie passed of breast cancer. I was at her (funeral) and, in the midst of it, realized how taboo the whole breast cancer conversation was. No one wanted to talk about it,” Johnson said. “I left there thinking this has to change.”

Four years later, Johnson was selling Medicare Advantage insurance for seniors and managing a large staff. She was also a year away from completing her bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership at Mercer University. However, her passion for finding a way to help breast cancer survivors had not subsided.

Johnson researched the disease and learned from the medical supply salespeople she met on the job. By 2008, she had obtained a business license and opened Mercy Medical Supply, a full-service medical supply store and mastectomy boutique, in Stockbridge.

“It took us almost a year to pull everything together,” she said. “I finally got a Medicare number and was accredited.”

The following year, Johnson launched the Good Life Cancer Foundation Inc., which sponsors events and holds an annual Celebration of Life breast cancer event to celebrate the lives of breast cancer overcomers.

“My team and I are thankful for the many lives these events have impacted.”

After overhearing a conversation on government certifications for disadvantaged and women-owned businesses, Johnson attended a series of Small Business Administration meetings on government contracting. In July 2015, she attended a meeting about a Small Business Administration program that helps small, disadvantaged businesses compete for federal contracts—the 8(a) Business Development Program—and met UGA Small Business Development Center Consultant Lloyd Atkins. He suggested she speak to Alisa Kirk, area director at the UGA SBDC at Clayton State University, to learn more.

“I remember the first day I met Alisa,” Johnson said. “When she told me the requirements for the 8(a) certification, I stood there and just cried. I was afraid and thought, ‘Lord, I’m not sure I can do that, but I will give it a try.’ Alisa had such a motherly spirit.”

Johnson worked with Kirk and Atkins on the application process for 10 months, during which she was awarded a GrowSmart® scholarship.

“I learned some things I really needed to know about my business,” she said.

By July 2016, she was ready to start the 8(a) application process.

“We did our first submission in September 2016,” Johnson said. “They never denied it, but would send back requests for additional information. I sent them my final response in February 2017.”

While working on her application, Johnson was also ministering to the needs of her daughter who had breast cancer.

“I experienced my work on a totally different level when it came into my household. It was one of the greatest challenges I faced: applying for the certification while being her caregiver. Because I had good people like Alisa encouraging me, I appreciate it even more. I don’t know what I would have done without her.”

Johnson’s daughter recovered and was married in August 2017.

“We help a lot of people,” Kirk said, “but they don’t always listen or do exactly as we advise. It takes a lot of determination. They get discouraged when they are told, ‘you can’t do this.’ Whenever Jacqueline heard denials or was told she couldn’t do something, she’d call and come in and say, ‘what do we need to do to make this happen?’ We’d take the long way around, and we’d eventually get it done. She won’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and I don’t think ‘can’t’ is in her vocabulary.”

In May of 2017, Johnson received her 8(a) certification.

Four months later, Mercy Medical Supply was awarded its first prime contract with an Native American reservation in Oklahoma that has since awarded two additional contracts. She also fulfills purchase orders for the General Services Administration. Her company has added four employees, and sales revenues in 2017 were on track to triple those of 2016. The business has expanded into a 3,200-square-foot building.

“I give out Alisa’s name all the time,” Johnson said. “I would say what I’ve learned from her to anyone: be willing to make changes, follow instructions, and follow them exactly like they’re given to you.”

In career and in retirement, SBDC employee gives to UGA

Eric Bonaparte spent 26 years—the bulk of his career—at the UGA Small Business Development Center. When he decided to retire last year, he wanted to give something back to the university that had played such an important role in his life.

Starting this spring, Bonaparte will sponsor the annual award presented to an SBDC Consultant of the Year.

His $25,000 gift to the university launched an endowment to ensure that the consultants would continue to be recognized for their hard work.

“I know how much doesn’t get recognized,” Bonaparte says. “Consultants “don’t work just 40-hour weeks.”

Bonaparte’s UGA career began in 1991 in the DeKalb office of the SBDC, where he was at first the only consultant, managing about 250 clients. By the next year, he had about 450 clients, some just coming into business, some at a point where they could make or break.

He helped entrepreneurs secure loans and create a plan to launch new businesses. He helped guide small businesses as they grew. Over the years, he watched some flourish and some falter. He celebrated their successes and mourned the failures.

“You are on the line just as much as your client,” Bonaparte says. “And the numbers don’t include how many business people you stopped from doing something really foolish.”

Soon after he started work, he began hearing that minority entrepreneurs were having a hard time getting loans to start a business.

“A lot of minority business leaders felt they weren’t being treated fairly when they asked for capital,” Bonaparte says. “Banks are in business to do loans for people no matter what they look like.”

He began working specifically with minority entrepreneurs, helping them prepare for their meetings with banks and learn best practices for starting a business. Bonaparte was the SBDC’s first minority finance specialist and from 2001-2006, he was head of the SBDC’s Office of Minority Business Development, A statewide position focusing on helping minorities develop and grow their businesses.

“Who better to do that than someone who is a minority and who understands the obstacles and challenges that a minority business owner faces,” he says.

The Consultant of the Year was first awarded in 1996. Bonaparte would have been a shoo-in to win, SBDC Director Allan Adams said. But by that time he was in management and not eligible to be nominated.

“Eric has always been known as the consummate professional, but the thing he is most recognized for is his concern for people, particularly his small business owner clients, as well as his colleagues,” Adams says. “His commitment to helping people improve themselves and make the most of the opportunities life presents has made him an absolutely beloved figure.”

Bonaparte and his sister, with whom he has maintained a very close relationship since they were young, plan to be at the SBDC annual meeting in May to present the award.

“I’m looking forward to being there every year,” said Bonaparte, who continues to work part-time for the SBDC in his retirement. “I want this to be an inspiration to other people.”

“It’s nice to feel that my gift is leaving a legacy that will improve others’ lives.  It’s also a way to show my loyalty to the university that’s been loyal to my family and me.”


The Small Business Development Center provides tools, training and resources to help small businesses grow and succeed. Funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the SBDC has 17 regional offices across the state.


Interested in learning more or making a gift to the SBDC?

Visit or call Cherie Duggan at (706) 542-6654.



Garden celebrates its 50th anniversary with flame azalea exhibit

An exhibition of artists’ representations of the Southern flame azalea—the State Botanical Garden’s signature plant for its 50th anniversary— will be on display in the Visitor Center through April 27.

Twenty local artists were invited to contribute paintings, photographs, drawings and other art that reflects their own unique styles. The artworks were donated by the artists and are for sale, with proceeds going to support the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at UGA.

The Southern flame azalea, known for its pleasant fragrance and fiery colors, is native to Georgia and grows throughout the entire state. The plant will be available for purchase at the garden’s gift shop.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, a unit of the University of Georgia’s Office of Public Service and Outreach, this year celebrates 50 years of serving the citizens of Georgia. The garden attracts more than 230,000 visitors each year. With walking trails, garden displays and educational initiatives, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia is dedicated to inspiring, educating and conserving.

The Southern Flame Azalea

University of Georgia celebrates 70th annual Georgia Science and Engineering Fair

More than 750 students from across Georgia competed for more than $30,000 in prizes and awards during the 70th annual Georgia Science and Engineering Fair, run by UGA’s Center for Continuing Education & Hotel, a public service and outreach unit. Students must be selected to advance from one of the state’s regional fairs to exhibit in the GSEF competition. Winners were announced on March 24 following two days of judging and public viewing.

Marissa McAfee won the top prize, the Pinnacle Award, and will advance to ISEF with her project titled “Casualty Care Improvised Direct Pressure Adjunct.” McAfee attends South Forsyth High School. Grand Awards were presented to 11 students, and four of these students plus one alternate were selected to advance to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh May 13-18. These winners and 26 others already selected from regional fairs will represent the state of Georgia in competition at ISEF.

“These students represent the top young scientific and engineering talent in our state,” said Laura Brewer, science fair director and program coordinator for the Office of Special Academic Programs, which administers the event each year. “The science fair experience gives them the knowledge, skills and confidence to pursue higher education and careers in advanced STEM fields and make unprecedented advancements toward a better world.”

This year’s award winners are listed below with their project titles, schools and counties.

Pinnacle Award:

Marissa McAfee, “Casualty Care Improvised Direct Pressure Adjunct.” South Forsyth High School, Forsyth County.

Intel ISEF Award:

  • Saadh Ahmed, “Development of a Drug-Likeness Rule for Natural Products,” Northview High School, Fulton County.
  • Marissa McAfee, “Casualty Care Improvised Direct Pressure Adjunct,” South Forsyth High School, Forsyth County.
  • Divya Srinivasan, “Acoustic Signatures: A Novel Tool to Detect Muscle Myopathy,” Johns Creek High School, Fulton County.
  • Joseph Zhang, “Expression of Arginase in Colitis During Recovery Confirms MDSC,” Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science & Technology, Gwinnett County.

Intel ISEF Award Alternate:

  • Vikram Ruppa-Kasani, “Detecting Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Using Nanoparticles,” Chattahoochee High School, Fulton County.

Grand Awards:

  • Saadh Ahmed, “Development of a Drug-Likeness Rule for Natural Products,” Northview High School, Fulton County.
  • Susanna Dorminy, “Dynamo Powered Vaccine Carrier for Off-Grid Locations, Year 2,” Sola Fide Home School, Henry County.
  • Marissa McAfee, “Casualty Care Improvised Direct Pressure Adjunct.,” South Forsyth High School, Forsyth County.
  • Suraj Modi, “Rapid Prediction of Seizures Using Machine Learning Algorithms,” Mountain View High School, Gwinnett County.
  • Vikram Ruppa-Kasani, “Detecting Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Using Nanoparticles,” Chattahoochee High School, Fulton County.
  • Divya Srinivasan, “Acoustic Signatures: A Novel Tool to Detect Muscle Myopathy,” Johns Creek High School, Fulton County.
  • Anderson Thrasher, “The Search for Newborn Stars: Observing Bok Globules,” Henry W. Grady High School, Fulton County.
  • Caitlin van Zyl and Jacqueline van Zyl, “Experimental External Neural Pathway for Motion in Stroke Victims,” McIntosh High School, Fayette County.
  • Zoe Weiss, “New Cell Type Detection via Single-Cell Gene Expression Algorithm,” Lakeside High School DeKalb, DeKalb County.
  • Joseph Zhang, “Expression of Arginase in Colitis During Recovery Confirms MDSC,”

Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science & Technology, Gwinnett County.

Previous GSEF award winners have gone on to attend prestigious universities such as Harvard, Stanford, MIT and UGA, and many currently are working on some of the nation’s major challenges, such as public health.

About the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair
The Georgia Science and Engineering Fair is sponsored by the University of Georgia, Burns & McDonnell and Georgia Public Broadcasting, which provides a live online broadcast of the awards ceremony each year. Other businesses, academic departments and associations sponsor specific prizes awarded to competitors. For more information on the competition, visit

About the UGA Office of Academic Special Programs
The UGA Office of Academic Special Programs equips Georgia’s pre-college students to succeed and to flourish in an increasingly complex and highly technical world by becoming problem solvers, critical thinkers, inquirers, reflective learners and more productive and influential members of their communities. For more information call 706-542-6473 or visit

Writer: Sue Myers Smith,

Contact: Laura Brewer,