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UGA studies potential partnerships with industry to engage more students in STEM fields

 

Some of Avalon Krandac’s most enlightening moments as an undergraduate in the College of Engineering are outside the classroom.

Meeting professional engineers and working as an intern helps her better understand the academic lessons, which can be a challenge, and keep her on track. This summer she’s working at Lockheed Martin in Marietta, helping develop safety policies and environmental goals. She expects to graduate next year with a degree in biological engineering with an emphasis on the environment.

“Business engagement early on is really helpful,” Krandac said. “These experiences are super helpful in reinforcing why you should stick it out.”

David Tanner, an associate director at UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, is working alongside two other UGA units to find ways to engage businesses with higher education to help keep students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and to provide them the experience that the companies are looking for in graduates.

“Businesses want to be more engaged, but it’s not easy,” Tanner said. “What works for student persistence and keeps them energized? What can companies do to incentivize that?”

Using an interdisciplinary seed grant from the office of UGA President Jere Morehead, Tanner and colleagues Timothy Burg, director of the Office of STEM Education, and Karen Webber, an associate professor at the Institute of Higher Education, are developing a tool to help businesses make smart investment choices in higher education. They have convened focus groups over the last year to gather input from educators, administrators and business leaders. Those conversations across and between organizations are critical to figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution in the universe of STEM careers, but each company has unique experiences in recruiting talent to add to the conversation, said Amy Hutchins, education and workforce development manager at Georgia Power. Tanner and his team are helping bring those people together, she said.

“You can throw some logs across a river or you can work together to build a bridge to move massive amounts of people,” she said. “UGA brings experience and objectivity to something like this. We’re always interested in partnering for the greater good.”

Tanner has met a lot of business people through Jill Walton, executive director of UGA Corporate and Foundation Relations. Her connections have helped him gain valuable insight into the needs and observations of industry. His research could help her convince companies to invest in UGA students.

“We want to give companies a road map for how they can get involved, how their dollars can be used and how that might impact their recruitment efforts,” Walton said. “It’s hard to reach every company. A lot of times we have to focus our time and energy on the bigger companies. It would be great to have a standard toolkit to help with these decisions.”

The aim is to get kids interested in STEM fields in grade school and keep them engaged through college and into their career. That would be attractive for universities, students and businesses.

“If we can identify those good investments, we could increase the volume and quality of business engagement in STEM education,” Tanner said. “That could have a big impact on the STEM workforce in Georgia.”

 

Contact: David Tanner, dtanner@uga.edu, 706-583-0151

UGA students design proposals for landscape revitalization at church in Athens

The 109-year-old campus of Young Harris Memorial United Methodist Church in Athens will be getting a facelift with assistance from UGA students.

Students from the UGA College of Environment and Design assessed the six-acre campus on Prince Avenue and drafted plans to update the grounds and facilities. Specifically, the church wants to expand its playground and enhance the presence of a community garden, installed seven years ago.

“My desire is to will us toward connecting with our community,”  said David Wofford, pastor of Young Harris Memorial United Methodist Church. “These designs will help us focus our vision on being part of the community and reaching out with purpose.”

The students presented a range of possibilities, such as adding native plants and maintenance-free artificial turf in the community garden and incorporating symbols important to the Methodist heritage, including octagons that symbolize the Heptonstall Church in Heptonstall, England, one of the oldest Methodist churches in the world.  

John Adeyemi, a student in CED Associate Professor Shelley Cannady’s Landscape Architecture Design Studio, said the group tried to keep in mind historical touches in designing a new playground and making the church courtyard less imposing.

“It feels good to know you can have an impact on positive change in the community,” Adeyemi said. “UGA is incorporating the community into the university and it’s something I love to do.”

CED professors take on about 15 community projects each semester, providing an opportunity for students to put their academic knowledge into practice.

“Service-learning is just the way we like to teach,” said Jennifer Lewis, outreach coordinator for CED. “Students develop a very valuable skillset that helps them hit the ground running once they graduate.”

The church is using the student designs in its visioning process to help plan for the next quarter century, Wofford said.

“These sorts of ideas and energies and passion don’t happen in a non-college town,” Wofford said. “This idea factory is a tremendous opportunity for us.”

It is a great opportunity for the university, as well, Cannady said.

“This is our way of giving value back to the state of Georgia,” Cannady said. “The students get so energized by real-world projects. I know from personal experience it’s frustrating to just produce paper (designs) in class when you want to make the world better.”

 

Contact: Jennifer Lewis, jmlewis@uga.edu, 706-369-5885

UGA installs first large-scale green infrastructure project in Brunswick

The area next to the soccer field at Brunswick’s Howard Coffin Park received a much-needed facelift in the form of native plants and new soil.

The 3,000-square-foot tract is a large scale stormwater demonstration project that UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant hopes will educate visitors on ways to improve water quality.

Jessica Brown, stormwater specialist at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, oversaw construction of the site, which is called, in technical terms, a bioretention cell.

“This project will serve as a case study and educational demonstration of a bioretention cell, which is a stormwater management practice that captures and treats runoff,” Brown says. “It’s a form of green infrastructure that helps protect and restore habitat by mimicking the natural water cycle.”

The bioretention cell, next to a tidal ditch, will act as a buffer for the park. When it rains, excess water from the soccer field will flow into the bioretention cell, which consists of layers of sandy soils, mulch and stone. Pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals applied to the playing field will be filtered out through these layers instead of running directly into the tidal creek.

With population growth and increased land development in coastal Georgia, the use of green infrastructure has become increasingly important because it protects water quality and coastal habitats from pollution.

Brown worked with the City’s Engineer, Garrow Alberson, to design the bioretention cell. City employees constructed the project.

Alberson hopes the project will raise public awareness of green infrastructure practices.

“It seems that a lot of developers and engineers are hesitant to implement these practices because of factors like cost, long-term maintenance and effectiveness,” he said. “Hopefully, the construction of the demonstration cell will show that these practices can be effective for runoff volume reduction and water quality improvement, and that the practices can be cost-effective to install.”

The final phase of the project involved installing native plants, selected by Keren Giovengo, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s EcoScapes program manager. The EcoScapes Sustainable Land Use program promotes responsible stewardship of natural resources in Georgia through sustainable land development and landscaping practices.

Keren Giovengo, EcoScapes program manager, demonstrates how to plant one of the native plants in the bioretention cell.

“Because of the size of the bioretention cell, I was able to consider a variety of trees, shrubs, grasses and palms for the site,” Giovengo says. “They were selected to provide a diverse array of local deciduous and evergreen species that are low maintenance and can tolerate drought, flooding and salt.”

Twelve students participating in a landscaping course through the Job Corps Center in Brunswick assisted with the planting.

Job Corps, a no-cost education and career technical training program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, helps young people ages 16 to 24 improve the quality of their lives through career technical and academic training.

“They’re in our program for roughly eight months and we help them earn their high school diploma or learn a trade and become certified,” says Kevin Brandon, landscaping instructor at the Brunswick Job Corps Center.

“We look for as many hands-on opportunities like this as possible because our goal is to get them a job when they complete the course,” he says.

Thanks to help from the students, all 216 native plants were in the ground in less than four hours.

Brown plans to showcase the demonstration site to environmental professionals and public works staff in surrounding counties.

“My hope is that we can do enough demonstration projects, such as this one, to better understand how they perform in a coastal environment and build capacity within the local workforce,” says Brown. “Fostering ownership of these type of practices at the local level will go a long way to support future implementation.”

Writer: Emily Woodward, ewoodward@uga.edu, 912-598-2348

Summer service project benefits rural Georgia communities and UGA students

UGA students are getting hands-on experience and helping preserve history in rural Georgia through a service-learning program in the College of Environment and Design.

Called Findit, the program sends graduate students studying historic preservation, environment, planning and design, and landscape architecture into a rural county each summer to look for historic properties and sites. Their findings become an inventory for the county and are added to an online database that is available to the public. CED’s partners in the program are the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division and the Georgia Transmission Corporation.

The findings often result in historic preservation status for properties, which guides county officials, builders and utility companies when they are planning projects.

“Every time we have an application for a modification in the historic district, we refer to it,” said Tom Brown, chair of Social Circle’s Historic Preservation Commission. Students surveyed Walton County, which includes Social Circle, in 2012.

This summer, students are assigned to Dooly County in middle Georgia, south of Macon.

Anders Yount and Mills Dorn, College of Environment and Design students, map out properties to document.

Mills Dorn, who is getting a master’s degree in historic preservation, is part of the team looking for old houses, cemeteries, water towers, barns and other properties to catalog.

On a hot June day, he stopped to study a house that had been altered at some point.

“Originally it was a bungalow; they added this side part later,” Dorn said. “I just finished learning about architectural styles in class so it’s pretty helpful being out here and getting to see them.”

Since its inception in 2002, CED students have collected data on thousands of properties in more than 60 Georgia counties. Findit coordinator Laura Kviklys and students also take on smaller projects for local governments and regional commissions during the school year.

The group completed an inventory of all UGA historic properties across the state, which led to the creation of a historic preservation plan that will help the university maintain its historic properties over time. UGA has the most historic properties of the 26 University System of Georgia schools, with more than 730 historic buildings and 55 cultural landscapes across 11 Georgia counties.

For Georgia communities, the student surveys are an important first step in understanding what remnants of the past still exist and may be of value historically, culturally or economically.  More importantly, they provide communities a framework and quality data for land use planning activities. This knowledge can guide local discussions about what is worthy of protection in the face of growth or demolition, and surveys are often required for certain federal historic preservation planning grants.

In addition, the students get hands-on experience that can be valuable when looking for a full-time job.

“We see a lot of really cool stuff,” Kviklys said. “This program takes students to places their classes can’t and teaches them to be professionals. The students are desperate for this sort of field experience.”

In Dooly County, the students were looking at properties that are at least 40 years old. As they were documenting a house that dates back to the 1800s, homeowner Connie Burton Mercer showed them a family cemetery on the site, with several graves dating from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.

“So much of the (historic properties) here have been destroyed,” Burton Mercer said.

She pointed to an orchard across the road.

“The first operating dairy in the area was over there but it’s not much to see now,” she said. “It’s important to document this. There’s so much in this area that will hopefully be saved.”

 

Contact: Laura Kviklys, lkviklys@uga.edu, 706-369-5882

Governor honors UGA’s Certified Public Manager graduates

Leaders strengthen supervisory skills in courses presented by Carl Vinson Institute of Government

Gov. Nathan Deal knows that effective government stewardship helps Georgia remain America’s top state for doing business.

Deal emphasized his commitment to good governance in his address to 29 state and local leaders who graduated from the University of Georgia’s Certified Public Manager (CPM) program on June 28. Deal encouraged the graduates—managers from 12 state agencies and two municipal police departments—to practice the elements of superior leadership.

“To be a good leader, it takes hard work, surrounding yourself with talented people and the ability to listen. I congratulate all of you for being part of this program, and I congratulate you further in wanting to make yourselves better leaders,” Deal said.

UGA’s CPM program, with 300 hours of curriculum, helps state and local government managers enhance their leadership skills through in-class learning, independent study and a capstone project that addresses an issue affecting their individual agencies. Courses explore how self-awareness impacts leadership and collaboration, effective ways to establish a collaborative work culture and proven methods to improve performance and engagement. Participants earn nationally recognized certification.

CPM graduates like Olivia A. Duke, a policy coordinator with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, gained a greater understanding of the difference between self-image and public perception.

“My biggest takeaway was that my perception of myself and how others see me can be quite different,” Duke said. “Now, my colleagues recognize that I’m more receptive to feedback. That gives them more buy-in and helps them feel like they’re having an influence in decision-making.”

From left to to right: Laura Meadows, director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, Steve Wrigley, chancellor of the University System of Georgia with his daughter, Anna Wrigley Miller, CPM program graduate. 

The Georgia CPM curriculum is accredited by the National Certified Public Manager Consortium and is provided exclusively by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. The June 28 graduation ceremony recognized the first class that included a mix of state and local government managers.

Manager who earn certification are fluent in leadership skills that typically aren’t taught in traditional academic programs, said Walt McBride, faculty member at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and CPM program director. McBride works closely with Marci Campbell, lead instructor and curriculum director for Georgia CPM, to ensure the courses remain relevant and robust.

In spring 2018, the UGA School of Public and International Affairs recognized the program’s academic rigor by agreeing to award three hours of course credit to Master of Public Administration students who attain CPM certification.

Members of the June 28 graduating class were keenly focused on public service, Campbell said.

“This group was an interesting mix of people who have been in management positions for a while with people who are relatively new to management,” Campbell said. “They were really bound by this intense belief in the value of service.”

UGA President Jere W. Morehead said the Certified Public Manager program exemplifies the university’s commitment to public service.

“The University of Georgia works hard to provide meaningful continuing education to leaders throughout Georgia,” Morehead said, “and CPM is an invaluable resource to help government managers engage their colleagues in best practices and lead the way to more efficient, effective government.”

One hundred public managers, including those in this class, have graduated from the current CPM program since it began in 2016. Class speaker Steve Fanczi, deputy executive director of the Georgia Building Authority, said the experience allowed him to watch fellow leaders grow and develop.

“CPM gives you a great foundation in the basics and principles of leadership,” Fanczi said.


 

Writer: Roger Nielsen, nielsen@uga.edu, 706-542-2524

Contact: Walt McBride, mcbride@uga.edu, 770-503-4474

UGA hires longtime economic developer to steer rural initiatives

Saralyn Stafford, a community and economic developer with a 30-year career focused on Georgia, joins the University of Georgia in July to link rural communities with UGA’s vast knowledge and expertise.

“Economic prosperity in rural Georgia is a top priority for the state and a strategic priority of the University of Georgia’s outreach programs,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for public service and outreach at UGA. “Saralyn is well known as a collaborative and knowledgeable leader with great passion for rural Georgia, and we are thrilled to have her join our team.”

Stafford will serve as a liaison between UGA and local elected officials, chambers of commerce, economic development professionals, school boards, non-profit organizations, small business owners and other community leaders.

Based in south Georgia’s Coffee County, her work will focus on connecting communities with UGA’s Public Service and Outreach units, including the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, the Small Business Development Center and the Archway Partnership, to assist in addressing community and regional challenges.

“Saralyn will do aggressive outreach with all of our constituencies, primarily in South Georgia, to help create jobs, develop future leaders, and assist rural communities with using their unique assets to promote economic prosperity,” Frum said.

Stafford has a strong record of working in community and economic development across the state since 1987 with a focus on rural communities, particularly in Southeast Georgia. As a local economic developer and chamber of commerce president for 15 years, Stafford led efforts in the city of Waycross and in Coffee and Pierce counties.

She has served in various leadership capacities at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) in Atlanta for the past 16 years. Most recently, she provided technical assistance and oversight for local and regional planning, research and surveys for local governments, downtown development, the state’s AmeriCorps program and the Keep Georgia Beautiful initiative as DCA’s division director for community development.

At UGA, Stafford will also offer her expertise in training government officials and community leaders and in strategic planning within rural communities.

 

Contact: Laura Meadows, lmeadows@uga.edu, 706-542-6192

Writer: Jana Wiggins, wigginsj@uga.edu, 706-542-6221

UGA summer program empowers foster care youth to pursue higher education

Nyeelah Inniss had a clear goal to attend college after graduating from high school, but as a teenager in foster care, she did not understand the full extent of the college application process.

“I knew I wanted to attend college, but in foster care, almost everything is done or decided for you, so I assumed that my case worker would tell me what to do and when I needed to do it, which was not the case,” Innis said.

College Bound program

That all changed in 2012 when she attended College Bound, a summer program at the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, designed to expose high school students in foster care to the college experience. The program is one of four in Georgia and three more in other states that are funded by the nsoro Educational Foundation, which helps provide post-secondary education to youth in foster care.

“The College Bound program exposed me to the entire college process and made me stop and think about the steps I needed to take to attend college,” Inniss said. “It gave me the skills, knowledge and direction to advocate for my educational needs and make college a reality.”

Through College Bound, the teenagers are able to envision themselves in college, said David Meyers, a Fanning faculty member and College Bound coordinator.

“Circumstances can prevent youth in foster care from gaining access to the same tools and resources that other youth have for college preparation,” Meyers said. “College Bound, through exposure to the college experience, mentoring and other skills for success, breaks down those barriers to show the youth that a path exists to achieve their dreams.”

During the program, participants spend five days on the UGA campus. Fanning Institute faculty members teach the teenagers about team building, financial literacy and leadership skills that can better prepare them for success in college and beyond. The youths also learn about college admissions and financial aid, visit campus facilities, meet with faculty, live in the residence halls and interact with college students who serve as mentors.

Coming back to mentor

Inniss graduated from Valdosta State University this year with bachelors’ degrees in sociology and anthropology. She returned to Athens this summer as a College Bound mentor because she remembers how important mentors were to her when she was in the program.

“I felt like I could relate and look up to them because they were college students,” she said, adding that she remains in contact with some of her mentors.

“It’s important to me that other youth in foster care receive the same tools I did through College Bound. I want to help show them that they can pursue higher education if they want to and create better outcomes for themselves through education.”

One of this year’s attendees, a high school senior from South Georgia, said the program has helped him believe he can go to college and pursue a career in sports medicine.

“It made me realize that no matter what life throws at you, you have to push it off and keep fighting,” he said. “College Bound has given me the skills and ability to continue to pursue my dreams.”

More than 160 youths have completed the UGA College Bound program since it began in 2011. The program is open to high school youths from across the state.

Writer: Charlie Bauder, Charlie.Bauder@fanning.uga.edu, 706-542-7039

Contact: David Meyers, dmeyers@uga.edu, 706-542-5062

UGA, food bank partnership promotes healthy eating

Teaching people to grow, cook and eat healthy foods is the key goal of a partnership between the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at UGA and the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia.

Camaria Welch, a graduate student in the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences, has created a curriculum of lesson plans and activities to help people understand the connection between nature and food, and how to develop healthy eating habits.

During a summer camp at the garden, Welch used the curriculum, called Bee Smart Eat Smart, to help 5-10 year olds plant seeds, decorate aprons and read books such as “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McCloskey. They also did arts and crafts, and participated in theater, acting out skits dressed as fruits and vegetables.

The campers made eggplant pizza, with a crust made from roasted eggplant, pasta with pesto (which helped disguise the cucumber, kale and other greens mixed in) and mango sunrise smoothies, to introduce the children to fruits they may not have tried.

A camper presents rainbow flatbread, featuring a variety of colorful vegetables.

The importance of pollinators

“My curriculum is divided into five lessons, each featuring a fruit and vegetable, chosen specifically of their role in helping pollinators,” says Welch, who is earning a masters degree in foods and nutrition. “Each day has its own color theme. The first day, for instance, is red, so we’re talking about strawberries and red bell peppers. I want to make kids excited about eating vegetables, and find recipes that make them palatable.”

About two-thirds of crop varieties around the world depend on pollinators, so programs that feature these types of food plants increase awareness of the important role of pollinators and the need for pollinator conservation.

We need pollinators for many plants to grow, and they are in danger, bees in particular. In 2007, the U.S. Senate approved and designated a week in June as “National Pollinator Week,” as a step toward addressing the issue of declining pollinator populations. This year, June 18 – 24 celebrates the role of pollinators.

Keber plants a pollinator garden to attract bees, butterflies and other animals.

Cooking classes in Northeast Georgia

In addition to the camp, Welch is implementing a modified version of Bee Smart Eat Smart at the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia’s site in Clayton, Georgia. She will lead cooking classes for parents and children in the teaching kitchen on the Food Bank site.

In April, State Botanical Garden Education Director Cora Keber and Heather Alley, conservation horticulturist at the garden’s Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Species, planted a pollinator garden at the Clayton food bank site, designed to draws bees, butterflies and other native pollinators to the vegetable and fruits growing outside the facility.

The food bank pollinator garden is part of a State Botanical Garden program called Connect to Protect. So far, more than 20 Connect to Protect gardens have been installed in Athens-Clarke County and surrounding areas, as well as in Macon and Atlanta.

At the food bank, the pollinator garden will be part of the lesson plan for local residents, said Cara-Lee Langston, the Food Bank’s teaching kitchen coordinator.

The food bank’s teaching kitchen, where Welch will be presenting a modified version of her curriculum, Bee Smart Eat Smart.

Grow and eat local food

“We’re all about teaching families where their food comes from,” Langston said. “Folks up here understand how important local food is.”

The lesson plans, activities and materials that Welch developed for the Bee Smart Eat Smart program will be distributed to schools where Connect to Protect gardens are planted, and used in the State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s Alice H. Richard Children’s Garden, which is under construction and should open by early 2019.

Funding for Welch’s graduate assistantship at the State Botanical Garden was provided by the Pittulloch Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports programs for children. Foundation President Lynn Pattillo is a member of the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia advisory board.

“My organization’s hope is that the State Botanical Garden relays Welch’s work to garden clubs across Georgia, so they can transfer the message into school systems and strengthen relationships with local food banks,” Pattillo says. “Providing on-going education via seminars, speakers, cooking classes and classroom visits will further reinforce the important message that we are what we eat.”

Bee Smart Eat Smart Summer Camp

 

Writer: Leah Moss, leahmoss@uga.edu, 706-583-0964

Photos: Shannah Montgomery, smont@uga.edu, 706-542-3638

Contact: Cora Keber, ckeber@uga.edu, 706-542-6156

Hands-on course prepares UGA Extension agents to share health benefits of Georgia seafood

Barbara Worley grew up on the coast of North Carolina and considers herself an oyster connoisseur. La Keshia Levi, on the other hand, shudders at the thought of eating an oyster. But after attending a two-day Ocean to Table workshop, both University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) agents are prepared to encourage residents in their counties to eat more Georgia seafood.

The brainchild of Chatham County Extension FACS Agent Jackie Ogden, the workshop series is designed to increase consumers’ and UGA Extension agents’ knowledge and awareness of Georgia seafood.

“Living here on the coast, I eat Georgia seafood, but I see that not everyone in Georgia does,” Ogden said. “With the current growth of Georgia’s oyster and clam industry, I saw the need to encourage Georgians to see the health benefits of eating seafood.”

The seafood most commonly harvested from the Georgia coast are shrimp, clams, oysters, blue crabs and fish. Georgia fishers catch favorites like sea bass, snapper and mahimahi as well as lesser-known species like triggerfish and sheepshead.

Funded by a UGA Extension Innovation Grant, the workshops are presented through a partnership between UGA Extension and Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

“With these grants, I wanted to foster innovation, partnership and collaboration in Extension programming. This particular project brings the expertise of UGA Extension and Marine Extension together to create a better program,” said Laura Perry Johnson, associate dean for Extension. “That exemplifies the true spirit of the land-grant mission.”

Three workshops were presented to educate the public, then two train-the-trainer workshops prepared county agents to teach seafood programs.

The most recent workshop was held May 23 and 24 at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island, Georgia. This Ocean to Table workshop included an overview of the nation’s seafood industry and taught the county agents who are piloting the program how to handle and cook seafood, read product labels, and know proper portion sizes.

The county agents also cracked and ate Georgia blue crab, dined on deviled crab, roasted oysters and had a low country boil, took a boat trip on the waterways near Skidaway Island, tried crab fishing, and toured Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s oyster hatchery at the Shellfish Research Lab on Skidaway Island, the only such hatchery in the state. To better understand the deep history of Georgia’s seafood industry, the group also toured the Pin Point Heritage Museum, the former home of A.S. Varn & Son Oyster & Crab Factory located in the heart of a Gullah/Geechee community.

“I’ve lived in Georgia since 2000, and I didn’t know that we produced so much seafood,” said Levi, who is based in middle Georgia’s Houston County. “I knew I was going to learn a lot in this program, but I had no idea that I was going to get to try all the different types of seafood and get so much hands-on experience, and I went on my first boat ride.”

Levi even ate roasted oysters.

She plans to incorporate the health benefits of eating seafood into the trainings she offers, especially those for pregnant women. She will also encourage Houston County restaurants to serve more Georgia seafood.

Worley was amazed by how much she learned in the workshop.

“I’m a scuba diver. I’ve picked up lots of oysters, but I never knew they were transgender until we toured the hatchery,” she said.

Her goal was to return to Forsyth County with information about the type of Georgia seafood available to her clients and how they can access it. She now plans to brainstorm with other metro area FACS agents to develop a seafood education program that can be used in multiple counties.

Ogden says she knew the key to reaching Georgians was to train her fellow FACS agents, who share health and wellness information year-round and are constantly on a mission to improve the health of Georgians.

Americans consume 4.8 million pounds of seafood each year, but the average American eats less than 15 pounds of seafood a year, according to Bryan Fluech, associate Marine Extension director at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

“Living in Brunswick, my family probably ate 15 pounds of seafood last night,” said Fleuch, who helped to organize and teach many of the Ocean to Table sessions. “But when I was a child, I thought of shrimp as a special-occasion food, something that was served on holidays.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends eating two to three servings of seafood per week, but only 1 in 5 Americans meets that dietary recommendation. Fatty fish are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Fluech believes Georgians would increase their consumption of seafood if they knew seafood contains essential vitamins and minerals like zinc, iodine, iron, calcium and selenium.

“People may think they don’t like fish, but there are hundreds of species, and they don’t all taste the same,” Fluech said. “Fish is very affordable, too, if you just learn to diversify your palate.”

It’s rare, but eating too much seafood can increase a person’s mercury levels. Fleuch said the key to keeping mercury levels low is to eat a variety of seafood, such as shrimp, salmon, pollock, cod, catfish, crab, scallops, clams and oysters, which are low in mercury.

Workshop participants also took advantage of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s mercury hair-testing program and submitted a few strands of hair to be tested. This test is available to the public for $20. Call 912-262-3338 for details.

“The agents are now prepared to answer questions about seafood consumption, like knowing the mercury levels in fish, and are ready with suggestions and specific seafood recipes to help clients prepare seafood for their families,” Ogden said.

To learn more about incorporating seafood into your diet, go to GeorgiaSeafood.org.

By Sharon Dowdy, sharono@uga.edu

UGA professor studies college access in two Archway Partnership communities 

The Archway Partnership opened doors for UGA Assistant Professor Darris Means when he began to study the tools and skills high school students used to prepare for college.

He had reached out to 20 Georgia school superintendents hoping for access to students, but none were accommodating. Pulaski and Candler counties, both Archway Partnership communities, welcomed him into their schools.

Since the start of the 2017 school year, Means has been talking to African American high school students in both school systems, studying how they, along with students of low-income and first-generation college families, navigate their pathways to and through higher education. He hopes to complete the study over the summer and return to the schools to present his findings next fall.

“I could not be doing this study without Archway,” said Means, an assistant professor of counseling and human development services in the College of Education. “The Archway Partnership already has that rapport. They already have those relationships. It’s been fantastic partnering with them.”

The Archway Partnership, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach, connects Georgia communities with UGA resources to address locally-identified needs. Since the program was created in 2005, a growing number of faculty members have used the communities for their research, often bringing students along. The result is a benefit to both UGA and the community.

That reputation is what helped Means get into the Pulaski and Candler County schools.

“All of the projects we do are locally driven, so we presented the opportunity to the school system, and they wanted to do it,” said Sam Perren, the Pulaski County Archway Professional.

Catherine Muse, the Archway Professional in Candler County, said, “Once Dr. Means connected with the high school counselors, they hit the ground running. It’s been a really smooth process.”

Means’ research focus is on social justice and college access. Before he began studying how students prepare for college, he completed a study on the college and career aspirations of rural black teenagers.

“Being able to interview and work with students and school staff just really inspired me to think about how important it is to make sure that that narrative of rural black students and their families is heard,” he said.

Although Means work in the schools has been primarily for his study, it has given him an opportunity to give back.

“Along the way, I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to not only speak with students, but I’ve also given presentations at different high schools about pathways to college,” he said. “It’s been great to do a combination of that outreach and research while I’ve been doing this study.”

By Alexandra Shimalla and Rosanna Cruz-Bibb

UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government helps elected officials succeed

More than 600,000 cyclists and walkers pass through Paulding County each year on the Silver Comet Trail, a 61.5-mile paved, non-motorist path that runs from Smyrna into Alabama.

In Dallas, the Paulding County seat, visitors cross the Pumpkinvine Trestle, a 117-year-old railroad trestle, 126-feet above Pumpkinvine Creek, which was converted into part of the trail in 2000.

Farther west, the trail passes through a massive turn-of-the-­century railroad tunnel under Brushy Mountain Road. A little farther is Coot’s Lake Beach Trailhead, with a public swimming hole.

With assistance from the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, Paulding County officials have turned the trail into the centerpiece of a marketing campaign designed to draw tourists to the west Georgia county.

Tourism emerged as the direction the county needed to turn after county commissioners held strategic planning sessions facilitated by Vinson Institute faculty last fall.

Commission Chairman Dave Carmichael first got to know about the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the wealth of training programs and services it offers during newly-elected officials training with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia in 2012, when he was first elected as a county commissioner. He was elected commission chair four years later.

Cyclists race on the Silver Comet Trail, an area identified for upcoming economic development opportunities.

Like so many other government officials in Georgia, Carmichael has returned to the  Institute of Government time and again for programs that help him be a more effective leader. He has completed  over 100 hours of training through more than a dozen courses in such areas as county government law, economic development, ethics, human resources, property appraisal and taxation, and public health and safety.

At any given time, institute faculty are heading in all directions, helping facilitate strategic plans, studying city-county consolidations, helping communities restore their downtown business districts and training elected officials throughout the state in economic development, city and county management, finance, human resources, education and workforce development and much more.

During fiscal year 2017, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government offered 64 six-hour courses to county officials in partnership with ACCG and its Lifelong Learning Academy, with more than 1,800 participants from across the state.

“Communities across the state look to the Institute of Government and UGA as a whole to help them develop the knowledge and skills needed to grow and thrive,” said Jennifer Frum, UGA vice president for Public Service and Outreach. “As the land-grant and sea-grant institution, it’s our responsibility to help all Georgians prosper.”

During the Paulding County strategic planning sessions, Institute of Government public service associates Phil Boyle and Mara Shaw brought together county commissioners, educators, business people and municipal leaders to hone in on the assets the county could use to diversify and bolster  the local economy. Marketing the county as a tourist destination emerged as a top priority.

With UGA’s help, Paulding County is now looking at ways to capitalize on the Silver Comet Trail, as well as other historical, recreational and cultural sites in the county, including a watershed featuring 43 species of fish, well-preserved civil war battlefields and a wildlife management area perfect for hunting, fishing and hiking.

“I think it’s invaluable to get everyone together and have them be honest about where they see us going,” Carmichael said. “Phil and Mara are pros and know how to bring out honest responses from people. Our tax base isn’t diverse enough, and they were able to show us some practical things we could do.”

“Helping local governments explore ways to engage in creative approaches to their critical challenges is at the heart of all we do,” said Laura Meadows, director of the Institute of Government. “The local level is where we can really see meaningful change and growth happen. Much of the progress we see as a state stems from progress made first in Georgia’s local governments, whether large or small.”

Carmichael and Baker with a pine cone from the rare mountain longleaf pine, native to this region of Georgia.

Commissioner Ron Davis, who was first elected to office in March 2016, said the strategic planning sessions helped everyone get a chance to be heard and realize where they had common ground. Like most local governments, discussion at commission meetings can be emotional, he said, but the conversation at these planning sessions was about charting a future course for the entire county. Creating new economic opportunities through tourism was something they all could get on board with.

“We all agreed on the direction we needed to go, which is a pretty significant feat,” Davis said. “I really enjoyed having the Carl Vinson Institute come in and work through that and the expertise that they brought to the table. It was almost like a counseling session. I thought, ‘This is good. We can go somewhere with this.’ ”

And they are. County administrator Frank Baker is spearheading the next steps as head of a task force created as a result of the facilitated planning sessions. His group is discussing improved signage, enhancing existing trailheads and adding new trailheads along the Silver Comet.

“We have so many natural draws here,” he said. “Part of the outcome of those sessions was really thinking about what we have to offer and how to move that forward. The Carl Vinson Institute was instrumental in getting us laser-focused on tourism. Some really, really good stuff is coming out of that.”

 

Writer: Christopher James

Photographer: Shannah Montgomery

From chaos to calm: a UGA VISTA brings programs and engaged teens to the Athens library

On weekdays, the Athens-Clarke County Library on Baxter Street is a popular destination for students from nearby Clarke Middle and Clarke Central High schools.

With no daily programming for the students, the library staff last year was busy keeping the peace as the dozens of students gathered to hang out and socialize.

But this year, after UGA’s Office of Service-Learning (OSL) placed an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) at the library, the place has hummed with activity, with the sixth to 12th grade students engaged in chess, painting by water color and learning how to play drums, among other things. More than 5,000 middle and high school students have participated in more than 200 after-school programs offered at the library so far.

“It was momentous year for the young adult department,” says Devera Chandler, teen services coordinator for the Athens Regional Library System, which includes four library branches in Athens and seven branches in surrounding communities. “We are hitting above the national average in attendance for programs.”

Nishat Sial, a 2017 UGA graduate, was selected as an AmeriCorps VISTA and was assigned to the library in July.

Charged with finding activities that would engage teenagers, Sial reached out to community leaders, local businesses and UGA organizations, asking them to volunteer their time and expertise to provide meaningful after-school programs at the library. The response, she said, was tremendous.

“I’ve learned there are so many people willing to contribute in the community,” Sial says. “It’s just a matter of identifying and utilizing those resources to empower others.”

About 72 volunteers signed on to work with the teens and the activities varied greatly. EcoReach, a UGA organization with student members mostly from the Odom School of Ecology, holds environment-centered programs once a month. The mission of EcoReach is to raise awareness and enthusiasm for science among school-age children through fun, hands-on activities.

“I like that the programs are fun and innovative,” says Antonio Starks, an eighth-grade student from Clarke Middle School. Antonio is at the library most afternoons and recently participated in an EcoReach program on butterflies, which examined caterpillars and taught students about the lifecycle of the insect.

In addition, the library hosted a Bling-Your-Prom event in January, offering free dresses, suits, shoes, accessories, ties, makeup and jewelry to teens. Over 500 materials were donated for teens and 123 high school students showed up to prepare for prom. Volunteer seamstresses offered alterations, and all event attendees received a voucher for a free book. All unused items were kept for next year’s Bling-Your-Prom, donated to high schools or to Project SAFE, a charity dedicated to stopping domestic violence.

“Seeing the kids’ reaction was priceless,” says Chandler, who, with Sial, made the library look like a store, with racks of clothes and makeshift dressing rooms. Bling-Your-Prom is something Chandler had wanted to do for several years, and she was able to make it happen with Sial recruiting volunteers and identifying community partnerships. The event was such a success the library plans to make it an annual event.

Sial had committed to the VISTA program before she graduated with a degree in English.

“What drew me to apply to the VISTA program was that it was specifically designed to fight poverty through capacity building and identifying long-term solutions,” Sial says. “The opportunity to go into something like that was appealing to me.”

“The VISTAs are a great addition to UGA and to the local community and they complement work already being done by faculty and students,” says Shannon Wilder, director of the Office of Service-Learning. “It is exciting to see Nishat bring so many volunteers together to share their talents and expertise with Clarke County teenagers.”

Even more students are flocking to the library now, Chandler said, and instead of just hanging out they are taking advantage of the resources that it has to offer.

In 2013, 3,300 young adult books were checked out of the Athens-Clarke County Library on Baxter Street. From July 2017 to March 2018, visitors checked out about 20,000 books and movies.

“We are increasing literacy and changing the perception of what a library is today,” Chandler says. “That’s what having a VISTA member has enabled us to do.”

Having the planned programs also addresses a financial problem that loomed over the county. The library had estimated it would need $38,000 for additional security to manage the after-school crowds. Hearing that, Clarke County Commissioner Kelly Girtz, now Athens mayor-elect, organized a meeting between the library and the OSL, which resulted in the new VISTA position. Clarke County is funding the position, about $13,000 a year—significantly less than what additional security would cost.

“It’s been so successful I want to see it sustained permanently,” Girtz says. “As long as there are (teenagers), there is a need.”

Established in 1965, the AmeriCorps VISTA network connects volunteers with organizations that help to alleviate poverty. VISTA members design long-term, sustainable solutions to problems, recruiting other volunteers and strengthening communities by offering new services. VISTA members serve for typically a year, although some positions may be shorter. Sponsors, like the UGA Office of Service-Learning, supervise and mentor VISTAs during their assignments.

Since 2013, the OSL has coordinated VISTA volunteers to help campus organizations, like the UGArden and the Campus Kitchen at UGA; and community organizations like the Clarke County Mentor Program, the Athens Community Council on Aging and the library.

 

Writer: Leah Moss, leahmoss@uga.edu, 706-583-0964

Photos: Shannah Montgomery, smont@uga.edu, 706-542-3638

Contact: Shannon Wilder, swilder@uga.edu, 706-542-0535

Financing Solution and Strategic Planning Support Rapid Growth of Covington Business

Ryan Loew worked in equipment and machinery maintenance for a Fortune 500 food manufacturer for 10 years, tasked with ensuring that all equipment ran productively and efficiently.

After working swing shifts to earn a bachelor’s degree in business, Loew decided to step out on his own in 2012 and launch an original equipment manufacturing business. Process Equipment and Control, in Covington, Georgia, began with two employees, including himself.

By 2016, Process Equipment and Control employed 15 employees and Loew was looking for tools to help manage the company’s cash flow.

He found the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center and business consultant Mike Myers.

“Mike came out, we had a discovery session, and he said he could help,” Loew said. “He brought in solutions.”

Before long, companies began outsourcing their equipment and maintenance needs to Loew. While the additional business was good, the companies often stretched their payments to 90 days or more, which made it difficult to maintain a balanced budget.

“Managing cash flow is the number one issue for any business,” Myers said. “The technicians at Process Equipment and Control earn well above what a minimum wage job pays. (Loew) was having to pay his highly compensated employees for their work while waiting months to get his invoices paid.”

Myers introduced Loew and his accountant to cash flow management tools that would keep his business running. He then led Loew and his senior management through a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis and strategic planning exercises.

“The strategic planning helped us plan out where we’d be at years one, three and five,” Loew said. “As long as we hire the right people and make sure they match our goals and vision, we will continue to see success. It’s been key to our vetting, hiring and onboarding process.”

Myers also showed Loew how use material that emerged during the planning sessions on the company’s web site.

“They took a lot of components from the sessions to better explain who they are and what they stand for,” Myers said. “A website needs to catch someone’s attention, so they will engage you. Their site is now very engaging.”

Process Equipment and Controls now has 75 employees and serves customers in both in the U.S. and abroad.

“Working with Mike, we tackled the cash flow challenges we faced and increased our sales 900 percent over the past two years, exceeding our wildest dreams for this business,” Loew said. “We’ve grown significantly. Without the assistance of the UGA SBDC, we would not have been able to manage our explosive growth. We would have grown to death.”

Economic developers learn about UGA’s investment in coastal communities

Economic development professionals from Georgia’s inland counties got a firsthand look at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant operations in Brunswick, and learned how work done there affects the rest of the state.

Sean McMillan, director of UGA’s Atlanta-based office of economic development, accompanied 23 members of the Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA) to Brunswick. McMillan organizes the tour each year to connect businesses and communities across Georgia to UGA’s economic development efforts on the coast.

“This tour impresses upon the economic development community in Georgia all of the wonderful work that Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant does for our coastal communities,” said McMillan. “Faculty and staff here provide the underpinnings for successful businesses and vibrant communities.”

The visit included a trawl on the Georgia Bulldog, UGA’s 72-foot research vessel. During the trip on St. Simons sound, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Director Mark Risse told the group that his faculty and staff support sustainable commercial fisheries and explore options, such oyster aquaculture, to diversify the coastal economy.

UGA’s 72-foot research vessel

“We are working with shellfish growers to study methods to make farming oysters easier and hopefully attract new farmers,” Risse said. “We’re also training commercial fishermen on how to collect data on black gill, a condition impacting Georgia shrimp.”

In 2015, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant launched an oyster hatchery at the UGA Shellfish Research Center Lab on Skidaway Island. Extension agents at the hatchery create oyster spat (baby oysters), which they give to local shellfish farmers to grow out. The hatchery has distributed 1.4 million spat to farmers since 2015. With a change in state regulations that would allow the use of proper equipment to farm the oysters, marine extension agents predict they could produce 15 million spat at full capacity, with an estimated harvest value of $3.75 million to $5.2 million.

The total value of Georgia’s commercial seafood landings in 2017 was $16.8 million, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

In addition to fishing and aquaculture, the seafood industry creates jobs in the service sector, such as hotels and restaurants that draw tourists, who spend money, boosting the local economy.

“The work with the seafood industry directly relates to economic development in so many ways,” said Pat Merritt, GEDA vice chair and president of community and economic development for the Georgia Electric Membership Corp. “There’s a job-creation aspect to it and that’s what we’re all about; creating jobs and investment.”

Sean McMillan (left) talks with Jessica Brown (right), stormwater specialist with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant during the GEDA visit.

In addition, GEDA members learned that specialists with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant partner with local governments to improve stormwater management and plan for coastal hazards. They also promote healthy coastal ecosystems through education and outreach focused on reducing marine debris and improving water quality.

“It’s interesting to hear about all the different areas (UGA) works in,” says Megan Baker, business retention and expansion project manager at the Fayette County Development Authority. “We’re fortunate to have this program here because it supports economic development as well as the people and the coast.”

The Georgia Economic Developers Association is a non-profit association of professionals and volunteers who are involved with the economic development of the cities and counties of Georgia. GEDA was organized to increase the effectiveness of individuals involved in the practice of economic development in Georgia by encouraging cooperation, exchange of information, and upgrading of professional skills.

UGA promotes renaissance in multi-city, two-state partnership

The Lyndhurst Foundation of Chattanooga is funding regional economic revitalization in northwest Georgia

A Georgia mountain community is forging a unique economic development partnership with two Tennessee cities through a downtown revitalization process pioneered by the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

The Copper Basin Renaissance Strategic Visioning and Planning (RSVP) collaboration unites key leaders from McCaysville, Georgia, its twin city of Copperhill, Tennessee, and nearby Ducktown, Tennessee, in a community-driven alliance to help the region’s economy flourish.

The first-ever two-state RSVP will enable the citizens, business leaders and public officials in the rural communities, which have interconnected economies, to implement a long-term regional development plan.

The nine-month project is supported by a $55,000 grant from the Lyndhurst Foundation, which funds community revitalization strategies, arts and cultural activities, and conservation and outdoor recreation projects in Chattanooga and the surrounding region.

The RSVP is a component of the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Partnership, a community revitalization initiative with the Georgia Municipal Association, the Georgia Cities Foundation, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and other partners.

A steering committee assembled by Jan Hackett, president of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, officially launched the Copper Basin RSVP project on May 10 at McCaysville City Hall.

“All we have to do, really, is embrace what we have and work together to figure out how we can best tell our story,” Hackett said.

The 14-member committee will spearhead this summer’s public engagement process and help prioritize regional economic issues that the communities identify. Then the committee will establish action plans to achieve short- and long-term development goals.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and his staff have worked with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government since the initial discussions about this project. A longtime proponent of economic development initiatives like the RSVP, Ralston’s district includes McCaysville and Fannin County.

“Initiatives like this combine private-sector resources with public-sector expertise to revitalize downtowns to generate economic activity and create jobs,” Ralston said. “I am excited about the potential of this project, particularly when we are investing in McCaysville and the surrounding area with more than half a million dollars in state funding for streetscapes and (McCaysville) City Park as well as the ongoing work on widening Highway 5.”

The Copper Basin RSVP strategy will complement public and private quality-of-life amenities underway or already in place, including the privately funded Rivers Crossing restaurant development in McCaysville. It will also leverage tourism opportunities, such as paddling and tubing on the Toccoa and Ocoee rivers, scenic railways based in Copperhill and McCaysville, and the Ducktown Basin Museum, where people can visit a historic copper mine. The RSVP also will enhance existing partnerships among the cities, all of which are members of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce.

“The Institute of Government is excited to work with such a diverse spectrum of civic leaders in a unique economic development partnership,” said Laura Meadows, director of the Institute of Government. “Downtowns are important drivers of the economy, especially in rural parts of the state. We look forward to helping the Copper Basin team develop a community-guided vision for what they want their cities to be now and in the future.”

Projects like the Copper Basin RSVP reflect the work that the Lyndhurst Foundation has done in downtown Chattanooga, said Lyndhurst President and Treasurer Benic “Bruz” Clark III. This marks the third consecutive year that Lyndhurst has supported UGA projects in northwest Georgia, but it’s the first time it has funded an Institute of Government project that extends across state lines.

“Those three communities are located in an area that has tremendous natural beauty…and I applaud what they’re trying to do,” Clark said. “Through our partnership with UGA, we are trying to provide small communities with access to urban design, planning, architectural services and expertise that are typically unavailable and uncoordinated.”

In addition to Hackett, members of the steering committee include Tara Akins, Copperhill City Council; Spiro Amburn, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston’s office; Christie Arp, Fannin Development Authority; Sue Beaver, McCaysville City Council; Glenn Harbison of The News Observer and a Copperhill resident; Ken Rush, Ducktown Basin Museum; Carol Thomas, Copperhill resident; and committee chair Zachary Welch and Marilyn MacNeill of the McCaysville Revitalization Committee. Ex-officio committee members include Mayor Doug Collins, City of Ducktown; Sheryl Miller, Ducktown city clerk; Mayor Thomas Seabolt, City of McCaysville; and Mayor Kathy Stewart, City of Copperhill.

In the past five years, the Institute of Government has helped 16 other Georgia cities implement downtown revitalization strategies through the RSVP program.

“Strengthening communities and promoting economic development throughout our home state are central to the University of Georgia’s mission as a land-grant institution,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “We are excited about this partnership and the positive impact it will make.”

Writer: Roger Nielsen, nielsen@uga.edu, 706-542-2524

Contact: Danny Bivins, dbivins@uga.edu, 706-583-0856

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 million 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, leahmoss@uga.edu, 706-612-0063

Contact: Bruce Cutler, bcutler@georgiasbdc.org, 770-531-5681

Cain Hickey, vitis@uga.edu, 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