UGA Leadership Program Helps Boost Women into Top Roles in Rural Georgia Community

One of the first priorities of the Pulaski County Archway Partnership was to identify new and emerging leaders in the community.

Today, just nine years after the Pulaski Tomorrow Leadership Program began, women are holding top leadership positions in the county for the first time.

Jenna Mashburn, elected Pulaski’s sole county commissioner in November, Sara Myers, Hawkinsville City Manager, and Christina Ruiz, manager of the Hawkinsville Hollingsworth & Vose manufacturing plant, are the first females in Pulaski County to hold each of these positions.

“I’ve been interested in running for commissioner for a number of years and my involvement in Pulaski Tomorrow was actually a strategic piece in that plan,” Mashburn said. “It gave me the opportunity to become involved with community leadership and the Archway executive committee and to learn from the challenges that surfaced as needs for Pulaski County’s government.”

Pulaski Tomorrow began in 2010, facilitated by faculty from the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. Both Archway and Fanning are UGA public service units.

“Pulaski Tomorrow has provided a doorway for a diverse group of people to obtain leadership positions within our community,” said Sherry Berryhill, executive committee chair of the Pulaski County Archway Partnership. “We have had an influx of younger people. People of multiple races and genders are now filling up leadership positions that have seemed unobtainable in the past. By having people that may approach problems differently, we are able to be presented with multiple solutions to problems rather than the same old tired solutions.”

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Twenty-one adults participated in Pulaski Tomorrow in 2010. Since then more than 100 Pulaski adults and about 150 youth participants have graduated from the program.

“My current role as plant manager requires that I manage and lead all types of people,” said Ruiz, who worked for Hollingsworth & Vose for almost 13 years before becoming plant manager. “I often recall the experience from Pulaski Tomorrow as I handle various situations.”

Leadership must be grown from the ground up, not from the top, said Jessica Walden, an expert in communications strategy and co-business owner of Rock Candy Tours in Macon.

“Georgia is a better place when leadership programs strive to expand the understanding of our own communities and how our sense of place, and purpose, fits into our state’s overall socioeconomic well-being,” Walden said. “That’s when the gaps of Georgia are bridged, and we discover innovative, progressive solutions to our issues and opportunities.”

Myers worked in administration in healthcare before she became Pulaski County clerk in 2011 and later city manager. In that larger role, it was important for her to understand that individuals don’t all learn the same way.

“In my current position, I have employees who all learn differently,” she said. “It’s up to me as a leader to provide them with the necessary learning tools that will enable them to perform their job tasks to the best of their ability.”


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Rob Gordon Archway Partnership Director • 706-542-3268


SBDC-assisted company helps clean up explosives


Mining, construction, the oil industry and other civil uses account for about 90 percent of the explosives manufactured globally. The defense industry uses about 10 percent. All have a similar need: to eliminate the threat of explosive byproducts and those no longer in use.

UGA geology Professor Valentine Nzengung helps bases eliminate these threats using a chemical product that dissolves, neutralizes and destroys explosives without causing an explosion. Nzengung developed the product through his business, MuniRem Environmental, which manufactures and sells it to commercial explosive manufacturing facilities and military bases. His market is expanding to serve nongovernmental organizations.

You contaminate the air, soil and water when you blow up explosives to dispose or destroy them.— Valentine Nzengung

Nzengung started his business in a UGA Small Business Development Center incubator in 2001. UGA granted the license to commercialize his technology in 2007. UGA’s Innovation Gateway incubator hosted MuniRem Environmental from 2015 to 2016, when he relocated the business in Gwinnett County. He continued seeking help from the SBDC throughout the process.

“I’ve built a very close relationship with the SBDC as we’ve continued working over the years in different areas of business growth and development,” he said.

For example, after selling his technology to domestic customers for several years Nzengung was asked to export his product to a Canadian company under contract with the Canadian government. He turned to the UGA SBDC for help.

Rick Martin, director of the SBDC’s International Trade Center, helped him review the agreement and steered him to the Export Georgia workshop, which introduced him to all aspects of the exporting process. Martin connected Nzengung to a free program that provides legal advice on exports and brought in SBDC consultant Darrel Hulsey to offer guidance on potential sources of export financing that would help his organization grow.

“The main thing MuniRem, and all small exporters, must do is their homework and engage international resources to help them with the process,” Martin said. “To their advantage, in Georgia, our trade resources communicate with each other so we can bring in the information and support needed for any company.”

MuniRem successfully expanded into Canada. It also received a 2017 GLOBE (Georgia Launching Opportunities by Exporting) Award from the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s International Trade Division, for MuniRem’s expansion into Australia, Israel, South Africa and South Korea. It is also in Taiwan.

“We recently received a competitive Atlanta Metro Export Challenge grant for more international business development,” Nzengung said. “We intend to use it to go into Southeast Asia to train humanitarian organizations to use our products in supporting their demining work.”

Sales have doubled every year and are now in the seven figures. Employment varies with each project, depending on the number of highly skilled ordinance disposal technicians needed.

“There are still times when I need information or resources related to business development, so I call someone at the SBDC,” said Nzengung. “The SBDC is the place to go.”

UGA-GDOT partnership helps Georgia travelers find their way

Even with sophisticated GPS systems, many Georgians still like the look and feel of a crisply folded state road map, veined with red and blue highways.

For two decades, the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) have produced the official state road map, available in many government offices, visitors and welcome centers, and rest stops along Georgia interstates.

The latest map was issued in January, after a year-long review and revisions by Institute of Government cartographers and GDOT graphic designers. Maps are revised and reissued every two years.

“People come in here specifically for maps because they like them so much,” says Alex Perschka, director of the Oconee County Tourism Department.

The new maps are being placed at the Oconee Welcome Center by Marketing and Tourism Coordinator Kristy Curtis.

Travelers stop at the county visitors center in downtown Watkinsville for maps and tourist information, Perschka said. He also includes them in information packets he prepares for real-estate agents and tucks them into recruitment folders for economic developers.

GDOT printed almost one million copies of the 2019-20 map. This edition includes new color coding that depicts coastal water depths rendered by Institute of Government Cartographer Angela Wheeler and artistic representations of state symbols created by GDOT Business Analyst Kiisa Wiegand. Additions, corrections and design changes to the map are submitted by employees in Georgia’s seven GDOT district offices, by other state agencies and by transportation officials in other states.

The 2019-20 map includes new branding by GDOT, municipalities that have formed since the last map— Peachtree Corners, South Fulton and Stonecrest—and a welcome from Ann R. Purcell, GDOT board chair. The new map also shows the location of camping shelters along the Appalachian Trail, with its southern trail head in Springer Mountain, Georgia.

This year there were 200 revisions to the map, said Wheeler, who has worked on GDOT road maps since 2010.

“It’s a real collaborative process,” Wheeler says. “I send drafts to GDOT to review and suggest changes. Once they’re happy with the way everything looks, Kiisa will send it to the printer to do the proofs.”

In January, 990,025 maps arrived at GDOT headquarters for shipment to district offices and the Georgia Department of Economic Development, which delivers maps to welcome centers throughout the state.

Producing the road map is just one of the UGA Institute of Government’s dozens of partnerships throughout Georgia, said Laura Meadows, director of the institute.

“We work with state, local and regional agencies on dozens of initiatives that improve Georgians’ lives and strengthen our communities,” Meadows says, “from rural economic development to helping drivers get to their destination without missing a turn.”

While more and more motorists depend on GPS systems for directions, people still love maps, Wiegand said.

“There is still a demand,” she says. “They’re really interesting. They show changes in geography, how the road system changes over time, and they give users a more accurate sense of direction.”

Writer: Roger Nielsen,, 706-542-2524

Restaurant Owner Expands After Review of Franchising and Financials


Seafood chef Lee Clack grew up fishing, shrimping and catching blue crabs in Mobile, Alabama. When his parents were in the kitchen, he and his siblings worked alongside them. He took his first job as a fry cook in college and then began experimenting with various methods of frying and breading.

Clack remained in the industry, moving from server to management and perfected the delicious signature dishes his friends and family would request for their parties: fried shrimp, fried grouper and fried crab claws. When he turned 40, he decided to make his passion his business and opened Kudzu Catering in Macon, Georgia.

He ran the business with his wife Kelley Wrigley for a decade. By the fall of 2013, he decided to open a restaurant and contacted the Macon office of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center.

“NewTown Macon, a downtown business development group, had presented Lee with a couple of potential locations,” said SBDC consultant Peter Williams. “They referred him to us, and we all sat down and talked about his plans.”

Williams assisted Clack in preparing his initial financial projections, business plan and loan proposals for the new restaurant. He chose an historic downtown storefront of just under 1,400 square feet with 45 seats that would employ 14 people.

“Peter helped me with focus in my thoughts on how to create a legitimate business plan. We worked diligently on revenue projections as a part it,” said Clack. “That gave me good information I could present to the banks.”

Kudzu Seafood opened weekdays for lunch in February 2015. By 2016, its revenues were well into six figures, and by 2017 it had opened for dinner three nights a week. Revenues had grown another 50 percent.

“His profitability, even in this small location, was way beyond anything we had projected,” said Williams.

Wrigley came to work in the restaurant, and they sold Kudzu Catering to their executive chef. The sale freed them to expand, so Clack called Williams to help him explore some options he was considering:  owning several locations, franchising and receiving royalties, or simply expanding.

Williams introduced Clack to UGA SBDC consultant and former franchise business owner Michael Myers. “Franchising was attractive to Lee, but he learned enough about franchising operations and standards to realize it was not the way for him to go now.”

During this analysis, Clack approached his landlord about developing a larger location just 200 feet from his restaurant. He also attended SBDCs GrowSmart™.

“GrowSmart™ made me more conscious of being a businessman rather than just a guy who owns a restaurant,” he said. “The scope of training was almost overwhelming, but I got a lot of information out of it, from human resources to marketing to how to analyze profit and loss, what causes businesses to be successful, or not. It was very valuable, especially with me moving into a bigger space.”

Clack worked with Williams to develop a new business plan and create financial projections for a loan proposal, which was approved. Opening in January 2019, the restaurant will now fill 5,600 square feet with 130 seats, including a private dining room and full bar. It will also sport downtown Macon’s first rooftop bar, a point of pride with Clack. Revenues are projected to grow 2.5 times larger its first year, with employment expanding to 45 people.

“Lee came back to us a second time for help with his financial modeling, budgeting and projections for his expansion,” said Williams. “He sees the value in the SBDC and continues to look to us for help.”

“I never could have done the business plan on my own,” said Clack. “Writing it was one of the most scary and daunting things to me. I can talk about it all day, but I had to back it up on paper. The SBDC didn’t tell me exactly where to go, but they told me what I needed to do. That’s huge!”

Clack is now looking into commercializing and bottling his proprietary remoulade sauce. Williams introduced him to Kirk Kealey, director of the Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center at UGA’s Griffin campus, to learn more about labeling, bottling, distribution, etc.

“He will definitely come back to that,” said Williams.

UGA and Georgia Power partner on guide to enhance workforce development efforts


A new guide from the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government will help schools and businesses throughout Georgia connect to provide on-the-job learning experiences for students.

The free booklet, “Creating and Replicating High-Quality Experiential Learning Opportunities,” helps business leaders and educators identify opportunities for apprenticeships, internships, clinical experiences and job shadows, among others, that are most effective in developing a trained workforce equipped with critical technical, academic and employability skills. The guide, prepared by the Institute of Government’s workforce development faculty with support from the Georgia Power Co., contains case studies and methods for replicating existing training programs in high schools.

“Georgia Power works closely with the state to support education programs that strengthen the talent pipeline,” said Anne Kaiser, Georgia Power’s vice president of community and economic development. “We partnered with UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government to identify best practices and opportunities to scale work-based learning in Georgia. Experiential learning programs not only benefit our high school students who are developing new skills and evaluating career paths, but offer Georgia employers an opportunity to address the critical need of recruiting, develop the next generation of workforce talent, and invest in their communities.”

Economic development professionals, business leaders, educators, elected officials and others interested in strengthening their local workforce development efforts can find practical information in the booklet.

“This new guide for businesses and schools highlights best practices and uses an easy-to-follow decision tree to help employers and educators select the experiential learning programs that would work best in their community,” said Laura Meadows, Institute of Government director.

The guide is available online at the Institute of Government’s new Georgia Workforce Toolkit website, The Georgia Workforce Toolkit includes additional resources for schools and businesses that are establishing or expanding high-quality work-study, internship and apprenticeship programs, said Greg Wilson, an Institute of Government faculty member.
This “can help develop qualified, knowledgeable, dedicated employees from the ground up by connecting students to work and showing them where their education can lead,” Wilson said.

The decision tree featured in the guide serves as a simple tool that lets educators and businesses easily assess their goals and determine what program best addresses local needs and capacities. Clear, concise case studies of 19 experiential learning programs illustrate successful partnerships and programs and explain why they were appropriate for a certain community.

Institute faculty surveyed school- and work-based learning programs in Georgia and throughout the United States to select the most effective and successful programs for case studies. The guide summarizes the key to success for each program and organizes them on an experiential learning continuum from experiences to work-based learning and pre-apprenticeships.

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government is a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit that conducts training, technical assistance and applied research to help state and local governments operate efficiently and provide improved service to the public.

Writer: Roger Nielsen, 706-542-2524,

Contact: David Tanner, 706-583-0151,

Greg Wilson, 706-542-6271,

Gift to UGA will boost prairie project at State Botanical Garden


Native prairie restorations will continue to transform a utility right-of-way at the State Botanical Garden, with support from Georgia Power.

The $50,000 gift from Georgia Power will go toward the garden’s prairie project, which is creating about 10 acres of native Georgia grasslands and pitcher plant bogs along the stretch of right-of-way that cuts through the garden.

The native prairies and plant bogs have been identified as high priority by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and will provide climate-adaptive habitat for ground-nesting birds, small mammals and reptiles.

“We are extremely grateful for the generous gift from Georgia Power Foundation, and we believe this is a great opportunity for us to transform underutilized areas of the garden into natural Georgia habitats. Most importantly, we intend to educate people on the important role rights-of-way can play in rare species and habitat conservation,” said Jennifer Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit. “We hope to use this project as a model for cost-effectively creating and managing diverse and functioning habitats in rights-of-way across the Southeast.”

The project is in three phases, with the initial phase restoring the northern two-thirds of the right-of-way into Piedmont grasslands.

Later, the garden will develop Coastal Plain pitcher plant bogs in the remaining right-of-way that lies in the floodplain of the Middle Oconee River. Native plant displays and a pedestrian loop highlighting the prairie habitats will be added.

As part of the project, the garden staff will prepare a series of workshops on prairie restoration for Georgia Power, other utility companies and the public. The Wildlife Conservation Society also contributed to the project, which is estimated to cost about $141,000.

Writer: Aaron Cox,, 706-542-3631

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

Endowed gift to support Fanning community leadership efforts in Georgia


At the fall 2018 meeting of the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development advisory board, board members and institute faculty and staff honored board chair and longtime supporter Jimmy Allgood and his family for an endowed gift that will fund community leadership development efforts throughout the state.

The Allgood family has pledged an endowed gift of $250,000 to support the Fanning Institute’s Community Leadership Initiative.

Through this initiative, the Fanning Institute will provide support to communities across Georgia that aspire to begin, restart or revamp their adult community leadership programs using the institute’s Community Leadership Program curriculum.

“Chairman Allgood has given graciously of his time and resources to the advancement of the University of Georgia over many years,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “His family’s generous gift will help the Fanning Institute continue to develop leaders throughout our state for generations to come.”

Allgood has served as a member of the institute’s advisory board since its creation in 2014 and has been the advisory board chair since fall 2016.

At the meeting, Matt Bishop, interim associate vice president for public service and outreach, and Maritza Soto Keen, interim director of the Fanning Institute, updated the board on the institute’s ongoing programs. They focused on multi-county regional leadership programs and customized leadership programs such as the Lynda Brannen Williamson Women’s Leadership Academy in Statesboro, the Cultivating Hispanic Leaders Institute in metro Atlanta and the statewide Public Health Leadership Academy.

In addition, Bishop and Keen summarized the institute’s recent accomplishments and updated the board on the development of a five-year strategic plan.

“Our faculty are helping communities and organizations across Georgia develop the next generation of leaders,” Bishop says. “The input our advisory board provides helps to shape our work moving forward. We are grateful for their ongoing support of our leadership development mission.”

The advisory board helps guide the strategic direction of the Fanning Institute. Through advisement and guidance, the board helps the institute fulfill its mission to strengthen communities and organizations through leadership development, training and education.

Learn more about the institute’s advisory board:

Writer: Charlie Bauder,, 706-542-7039

Contact: Maritza Soto Keen,, 706-542-6201

UGA middle school garden program expands beyond Athens-Clarke County

An award-winning interactive Clarke County school program that teaches students about science and nutrition is now underway in Barrow County, thanks to the University of Georgia.

The Grow It Know It program, established in 2013 by the Office of Service-Learning, UGA Cooperative Extension, UGArden and the Clarke County School District (CCSD) is designed to support teachers involved in farm-to-school programming.

UGA alumnus Alyssa Flanders, now a teacher at Russell Middle School in Barrow County, volunteered at Clarke Middle School when she was at UGA studying agricultural education. There she helped in the school garden, growing fresh fruits and vegetables to offer in the cafeteria and helping students learn about agriculture and healthy eating.

When she learned that Grow It Know It was expanding to counties outside of Clarke County, she jumped at the chance to work with the program once again.

“You can’t have a school garden by yourself. It really takes a village,” Flanders says. “You need expert knowledge, materials, construction, all the support you can get.”

School gardens are living, breathing outdoor classrooms for students to apply what they learn in science classes to real life. Through Grow It Know It students better understand animal science, wildlife management, mechanics, and the many processes behind not only growing food, but what it takes to get food on shelves at the grocery store.

“You don’t only have a school garden one or two teachers utilize, but a school garden that is part of everything you do at the school,” says Alicia Holloway, UGA Cooperative Extension agent in Barrow County. “All the students and teachers utilize it, and the education isn’t just about gardening, but everything associated with it, like sustainability, health, and careers in agriculture.”

Andie Bisceglia, the USDA grant coordinator for Grow It Know It, said the idea to expand the program beyond Clarke County began taking shape about a year ago. Holloway’s established relationships with the school’s teachers, local farmers and businesses made Barrow County a natural fit for the program.

“When we received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we started planning and asking questions” she says. “Would the model work as well somewhere else? Could we spread it through the state?”

At Clarke Middle School, students learn about animal science with help from goats and chickens.

In Clarke County, the Office of Service-Learning places AmeriCorps VISTAs at each of the four middle schools to oversee the Grow It Know It programs. This year, AmeriCorps VISTA Joshua Truitt, was placed at Russell Middle School in Barrow County.

“After graduating, I was torn between teaching and extension work,” Truitt says. “This is the perfect fit for me because I get to work with kids and agriculture.”

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and master’s degree in agriculture and environmental education from the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in spring 2018. He recently helped the students in Flanders’ class use a drill to make raised beds for vegetable gardens.

Joshua Truitt, VISTA member, helps Flanders’ eighth grade class assemble a frame for a garden bed.

“It was my first time using a drill,” said Iyanna Green, eighth grader. “It was super satisfying to actually make something with my hands.”

The plant beds will house spinach, chard, radishes and collard greens—vegetables that could be served in the school cafeteria. Flanders believes students are more likely to sample healthy options if they were involved in planting them.

“Now more than ever, people want to know where their food is coming from,” she says. “It’s important to teach students food doesn’t just magically appear at Wal-Mart or Publix. It takes so much knowledge and resources to grow food properly and safely.”

In a summer camp, students in Clarke Middle School work in the school garden to harvest, plan, prep and serve lunch once a week.

In October, CCSD was awarded the Golden Radish Innovative Partnership Award from Georgia Organics, for its partnership with Grow It Know It in Clarke County middle schools. Diana Cole, a Barrow County school teacher involved in the Grow It Know It program, won the Golden Radish Teacher of the Year award. Georgia Organics is a statewide organization that raises awareness of the benefit of organic farming and connects organic food from Georgia farms to Georgia families.

Writer: Leah Moss, 706-583-964

Contact: Andie Bisceglia  706-542-2461

Photographer: Shannah Montgomery

Annual Day of Service connects UGA employees to local nonprofits


About 200 UGA employees spread out across Athens-Clarke County—some even further beyond—on Nov. 16 for the third annual Public Service and Outreach Day of Service.

Volunteers contributed 350 hours beautifying trails and clearing invasive species at Sandy Creek Nature Conservatory, installing shelves for hardware at the Keep Athens-Clarke County Beauty community toolshed, planting daffodil bulbs along the Athens Loop and constructing pollinator gardens at Clarke Central High School.

Public Service and Outreach employees based in other Georgia cities, such as Chatham County and Grady County, participated in the Day of Service in those communities.

The annual event even attracted employees outside Public Service and Outreach.

Franklin Leach, an assistant research scientist in the department of chemistry, spent the day sawing and spraying invasive, unwanted plant species at Sandy Creek Nature Conservatory’s Pine Ridge Trail. Leach first learned about UGA’s land- and sea-grant mission when he participated in the 2018 New Faculty Tour in August.

Franklin Leach helped PSO students, faculty and staff clear unwanted plant species at Sandy Creek Nature Conservatory’s Pine Ridge Trail.

“My family comes to Sandy Creek a lot, so I think it’s important to contribute to the upkeep in any way possible,” Leach said. “It’s a nice way to get out and give back.”

David Meyers, public service associate in the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, hung up shelves, hooks and pegboards for equipment in the Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful community toolshed, used by nonprofit organizations across town to build and repair projects.

“Public service is in our name, so it’s good to live it out,” Meyers said. “Projects like this can help other groups do their jobs better, and organization lends itself to effectiveness.”

Making the toolshed a place for fast and easy access to supplies helps other nonprofits use their limited time and resources more efficiently, rather than digging through piles of tools.

The Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful community toolshed, used by nonprofit organizations across the community, is organized and ready to be utilized. 

“A lot of groups around town, like schools, community gardens, other nonprofits, wouldn’t have access to shovels or tools to complete projects without this toolshed,” explained Stacey Smith, Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful education specialist. “It’s amazing PSO helped organize it and installed our new sign. It will create a ripple effect across Athens for other nonprofits.”

Employees also donated to a supply drive to benefit families and communities affected by Hurricane Michael. PSO collected more than 900 diapers, 151 bars of soap, 84 toothbrushes and many other essential supplies during the drive.

The Archway Partnership, a unit of Public Service and Outreach, set up a donations closet in Cairo, GA for those impacted by Hurricane Michael. 

“I know that every day, we are making a difference in people’s lives and creating a lasting impact. The Day of Service is a time for all of us to come together and tangibly meet the needs of our communities,” said Jennifer Frum vice president for Public Service and Outreach. “I am honored to work with colleagues who live out the land- and sea-grant mission of the University of Georgia.”

Vice President Jennifer Frum joined volunteers in writing cards to accompany Turkeypalooza food donations.

The Office of Service-Learning, one of the eight units of Public Service and Outreach, identified site locations, registration details and logistics for the Day of Service.

Writer: Leah Moss,, 706-583-0962

Contact: Josh Podvin,, 706-542-4511

Callaway gift will help make the State Botanical Garden more accessible

A $1 million gift from the Callaway Foundation will fund a new visitor entrance to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at the University of Georgia, enhancing access to the galleries, classrooms, collections and displays.

The new entrance will be an official gateway to the garden from the parking lots to the Alice Hand Callaway Visitor Center and Conservatory and will include an elevator, which will improve access for individuals in wheelchairs, pushing strollers or who have difficulty maneuvering stairs. Alice Hand Callaway was the wife of Fuller E. Callaway Jr., who established the foundation in 1943.

“The Callaway Foundation is pleased to be a part of this effort to improve the experience for visitors to the garden,” said Speer Burdette, president of the Callaway Foundation Inc. “Mrs. Callaway loved flowers and plants, and especially the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. Her wish would be that every Georgian could experience the beauty of the garden and discover the many ways it benefits the state, through education and conservation.”

About 230,000 people visit the State Botanical Garden each year and Jennifer Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, believes that number will increase by about 50,000 once the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden is completed later this year. From the new entrance, visitors would be able to see the children’s garden as they wait for the elevator.

“This will truly be a game changer for many visitors to the garden, who often come with young children and grandparents,” said Cruse-Sanders. “We are so grateful to the Callaway Foundation for its longtime support and for continuing to help us make the garden a destination for visitors from across the state.”

Construction of the new garden entrance is expected to begin in 2019. The total cost of the project is $2.01 million.

The Callaway Foundation Inc., based in LaGrange, Georgia, is a private foundation that supports the charitable, religious and educational efforts of nonprofit organizations.

Writer: Kelly Simmons,

Contact: Cheri Duggan, 706-542-6654,

Dogged determination results in veterinary practice for UGA graduate

When Jennifer Peterson was young, her father, an architect, would draw designs for the veterinary practice she hoped to own someday.

While enrolled in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, she participated in what was then a new program—an entrepreneurial rotation that teaches teach future vets how to run a business.

Peterson was among the first vet school students to enroll in the program, led by Jeff Sanford, director of entrepreneurial studies at UGA’s Small Business Development Center.

When she graduated, she went to work a practice in Monroe but kept her eye open for one she could own herself. She found one for sale in Hartwell, but after consulting with Sanford, decided it wasn’t the right option.

After working for a while in Royston, she considered buying in to the group practice there. But before making the decision she called Sanford to see if he knew of any practices for sale.

Firehall 4, a veterinary practice in Athens, was on the market and the owner was in a hurry to sell, Sanford told her.

“That turned into a five-year ordeal,” Sanford says. “It was a challenging time to transition the ownership to Jennifer, but she saw the opportunity and refused to give up.”

Peterson left Royston to work on a trial basis for the Athens practice.

“That transition was a struggle,” she says.

Although the owner wanted to sell, she was reluctant to let the business go. Peterson persisted, working there nearly five years while consulting with Sanford on the sale. Eventually, she realized it might not happen, so she moved into another business.

“We find that for owners who start and build their practices, it is a part of their identity. It’s hard for them to let go sometimes,” Sanford says. “The owner gave Jennifer enough hope to stay on, otherwise she would have left a lot earlier. Jennifer didn’t take her eyes off her goal. She birddogged it and wouldn’t give up.”

Three months later, Peterson received a call from Firehall 4’s owner. She was finally ready to sell. Peterson bought the practice in 2015.

Sanford continued to assist, sending Dr. Peterson to resources that would help her complete her loan documentation and get established in QuickBooks.

“Jeff did a lot of business counseling, but the most important thing I learned from him was the value of being a doctor,” she said. “He teaches us to depend on our skilled staff, so we can be doctors and focus on our value—diagnosing and speaking with clients—and not get lost in the business.”

Revenues have grown 10 percent annually since 2015. A former UGA classmate, Kelly Laas, joined Peterson to expand its veterinary dental practice. The business now has a staff of 13, with plans to add another full time veterinarian in the spring.

“Ownership came down to the fact that I wanted to be my own boss, make my own schedule and focus on quality care,” Peterson says. “I also wanted to have a team that felt the same way and have people around me who were encouraging, helpful and thoughtful.”

“Ever since I graduated, I’ve felt Jeff was rooting for me,” Peterson says. “It was awesome having his advice and counsel the whole time.”

UGA focuses on building a healthier Georgia through collaborative leadership

The Athens Community Council on Aging (ACCA) is a repository for services geared to help older adults and their families with issues like health and wellness, hunger and transportation. The building on Hoyt Street that houses the council sees a steady stream of partners that have been cultivated from nonprofit organizations, state agencies and the University of Georgia.

It can be difficult to manage groups with such a wide variety of interests and accompanying viewpoints.

As a participant in UGA’s Public Health Leadership Academy, ACCA director of operations Erin Beasley developed tools to help her more skillfully balance the role of each outside group so they can be better partners.

“The range of partnerships you manage in the public health sphere is so broad, to accomplish anything everyone has to come together and work towards common goals,” Beasley says. “That can sometimes pose a challenge.”

“The academy provided concrete tools I can apply each and every day at my job, both in managing our staff and our partnerships.”

The University of Georgia J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development and College of Public Health, with financial support from Georgia Power, created the Public Health Leadership Academy (PHLA) in 2015.

Twenty-two health professionals from across the state graduated from the 2018 program on Oct. 17.

By developing leaders focused on collaboration and transcending boundaries, the leadership academy aims to improve health outcomes in communities across the state.

“Today’s health challenges are influenced by many factors, from our access to educational and economic opportunities to our access of healthy foods and health care,” says Marsha Davis, associate dean for outreach and engagement in the College of Public Health.  “We need to support leaders from all sectors that have an influence on health, to create collaborative solutions that address inequalities and to transform communities where health is not determined by zip code, income or ethnicity.”

During the nine-month program, participants not only heard from public health experts on trends in the field and networked with their peers, they focused on understanding their own individual leadership styles and developing collaborative leadership skills.

“Collaborative leaders understand group dynamics and process, help people reach consensus, successfully manage conflict, build trust and understand the need to be flexible to react as circumstances among the group change or new opportunities emerge,” says Carolina Darbisi, a faculty member at the Fanning Institute, who designed the academy’s curriculum alongside fellow Fanning faculty member Louise Hill.

“These skills empower them to bring people from across spectrums together to solve complex problems.”

Groups often overlook the importance of collaborative leadership, Hill said.

“When groups come together around a project or task, they often focus solely on the work set before them,” Hill says. “Collaborative leadership development recognizes that understanding yourself and understanding how to build foundational relationships among the group is a key first step for any group to successfully complete the task at hand.”

For Beasley, learning new skills for managing conflict and fostering difficult conversations was particularly impactful, she said.

“Putting these skills into practice gives me a more complete view of situations, both within my agency and among our partners,” she says. “It builds trust and removes conflict as a barrier, allowing me to focus on building coalitions and moving everyone towards our common goal to ensure our community is living and aging well.”

The College of Public Health is currently accepting applications for the 2019 Public Health Leadership Academy, which starts in February.

President Morehead visits Griffin-Spalding County Archway Partnership, emphasizes benefits of partnership to students and community

University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead learned firsthand last week about the work being done through the UGA Archway Partnership in Griffin-Spalding County, including student-driven design and engineering projects.

UGA Vice President for Public Service and Outreach Jennifer Frum and Vice President for Government Relations Griff Doyle accompanied Morehead to the meeting with Griffin-Spalding Archway Partnership Executive Committee Co-chairs Chuck Copeland and Stephanie Windham and UGA Archway Professional Kristen Miller.

Dr. Thomas Hopkins, a member of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents also attended the meeting, which highlighted work done by UGA students in the College of Environment and Design (CED) and the College of Engineering to address priorities identified by the community.

CED students helped design a 12-mile master trail, created new signage for an industrial park and drafted landscaping plans for the City of Griffin. Students in the College of Engineering followed the CED students, completing the site work for the trail, which has been incorporated into the city’s comprehensive plan. Engineering students also evaluated two potential sites for an aquatic center and developed plans for the center.

Archway Partnership communities often are ideal sites for UGA students’ service projects because those communities already have a strong connection with UGA. During the 2018-19 academic year, 10 percent of UGA engineering students’ capstone projects are situated in Archway Partnership communities.

“These students are a tremendous value to Georgia,” Morehead said during the meeting in Griffin. “I keep hearing that over and over. All of these projects that our students work on tend to be community-based, which is great.”

In addition to projects, community leaders say intergovernmental relations in Spalding County have improved since the partnership began.

Archway-facilitated retreats and leadership training have helped improve cooperation between the county government, development authority, school system and the five cities in Spalding County.

“I feel so proud every time we meet, to see the way the elected officials work together,” said Windham, an attorney in Griffin. “That’s been the high point for me, watching that group together.”

“I don’t think any of this would have happened without Archway,” added Copeland, president of First National Bank in Griffin.


The Archway Partnership is a unit of Public Service and Outreach at UGA. It connects Georgia communities to the full range of higher education resources available at the university to address critical community-identified needs. Griffin-Spalding is one of 13 communities selected for the Archway Partnership since the program began in 2005.

Writer: Baker Owens,, 706-510-9622
Rob Gordon,, 706-542-3268

UGA Public Service and Outreach names 2018-2019 Faculty Fellows

New Public Service and Outreach Faculty Fellows for 2018-19 include faculty members from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the College of Public Health, and the College of Engineering. Each will conduct research with a unit of Public Service and Outreach units over the course of the year.

The 2018-2019 Faculty Fellows are:

Sung-Hee Sonny Kim, a faculty member in the School of Environmental, Civil, Agriculture and Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering, will work with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government to implement cutting-edge research that predicts future problems in road networks. These methods have the potential to change the way local governments monitor road conditions, by predicting and assessing needs in roadways before they become hazardous to drivers. Kim uses nondestructive testing methods, such as the Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), to assess layers, debonding, presence of moisture and other factors that contribute to the distress of roads. Using Athens-Clarke County as his model, Kim will publish his results in a database with help from the Institute of Government’s Geographic Information Systems department. He will also develop a Georgia Department of Transportation Forensic Guide Manual to help other counties implement his methods.

Jennifer L. Gay, a faculty member in Health Promotion and Behavior in the College of Public Health, will work with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant to study how human health and physical fitness can be used to promote healthy ecosystems. She will identify ways to link physical fitness to activities such as citizen science, ecotourism and volunteer opportunities on Georgia’s coast. She will study how litter and debris influence physical activities in public areas, as well as quantify the type and amount of physical activity that individuals engage in during Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant programing. In addition, she will help develop educational materials linking physical activity to individual well-being and healthy ecosystems. This relationship between coastal conservation and human health is known as the “blue gym.”

James C. Anderson II, a faculty member in Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, will work with the State Botanical Garden of Georgia to help develop Learning by Leading at UGA (LxL@UGA). Learning by Leading is an inclusive and experiential learning community for students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors. The program gives students the opportunity to intern at the garden, participate in leadership training, become mentors, and rise through leadership ranks within the community. Anderson will design, implement and evaluate leadership curriculum and training for Learning by Leading. This program will provide leadership opportunities and a support network for STEM majors, specifically those studying biological and life sciences.

Launched in 2011, the Faculty Fellows program provides professors with an opportunity to connect their research and course curriculum to the needs of a specific PSO unit. The result of the program is a sustained relationship between the designated unit and the Faculty Fellows’ departments.

Writer: Leah Moss,, 706-583-0964

Contact: Paul Brooks,, 706-542-3946


A UGA-assisted doggy day care and dog treat bakery in Savannah is thriving

When Tonya and Nick Rintye decided to open a day care and boarding facility for dogs, they went to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for assistance.

They learned right away that they needed more than an idea to start a business.

“I didn’t have any money to put down on a business and didn’t know what I’d need to get it,” Tonya Rintye says. “They told me no bank would just hand us the money, that we’d have to prove we have experience and are worthy of getting the loan. We’d also need a business plan and financial projections.”

To generate funding, Rintye pursued another option: Making homemade dog treats.

“We called all the local farmers markets and found out no one sold locally made dog treats and grooming products,” Rintye says. “That’s how we got started.”

During the next year, Rintye read a lot of recipes for dog treats, and researched what people wanted for their pets. She began making dog treats, baking and bagging them in her kitchen. The couple launched their line of Hipster Hound treats at local farmers markets, and later sold them through Savannah-area stores.

Customers asked if they provided pet-sitting services, so they became licensed and insured and opened Hipster Hound @ Home Pet Sitting services.

In August 2015, Rintye returned to the SBDC and met with consultant Becky Brownlee, who is now the area director.

“I told Becky, ‘Here’s the money I put into this business. Here’s the profit we’ve made. I did all this in my spare time while working a full-time job,” Rintye says. “ ‘Imagine what I could do if a bank gave me a loan to build a much-needed doggie day care facility.’ ”

Brownlee helped Rintye apply for a loan from the federal Small Business Administration (SBA).

“We spent a considerable amount of time working on Tonya’s market research, business plan, financial projections, project costs and construction estimates for her loan request,” Brownlee says. “Zoning was also an important consideration.”

Within two weeks of finding the ideal location, the Rintyes signed a lease. On opening day in March 2016, there were two employees caring for 15 dogs.

Today, Hipster Hound Doggy Day Care houses up to 75 dogs a day and has 20 employees. A national grocer and retail outlets around the country are selling their natural dog treats. The business’ six-figure sales revenues have doubled each of the last two years.

A catalog company recently ordered 150 boxes of treats a month, prompting Rintye to look for a bigger kitchen. She is working with Brownlee to find a site and to establish a business plan.

“What’s the most important thing I learned?” Rintye says. “Just about everything. Like having a budget for building repairs and payroll taxes, and all the insurance products you need, like workmen’s compensation. Becky and the SBDC force you to do an extremely realistic projection.”

“I don’t know how people start a small business without the SBDC.”

UGA digital marketing boot camp helps rural businesses compete in global economy


A digital marketing workshop to help South Georgia entrepreneurs and small business owners expand their client base is scheduled Tuesday, Sept. 25, in Douglas, Georgia.

The UGA Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC’s) Digital Marketing Boot Camp is an interactive workshop where small business owners learn how to build their digital brands, expand their market and acquire new customers through social channels.

“The great thing for small firms with the advent of social media is their footprint can be much larger than just their local marketplace,” said Allan Adams, SBDC director. “Customers don’t have to be right there in town, or even in driving distance. The region, the state, the country and beyond can become their customer base.”

At the digital marketing training, participants learn the basics of SEO.

Participants learn how to leverage social media channels into sales, use search engine optimization (SEO) to gain a larger audience on the web and learn what tools are available to help them grow engagement on Facebook and Instagram.

Most importantly, business owners will understand how to create and implement a digital strategy, a must-have for small businesses to succeed in today’s digital world.

“(Digital) is part of marketing today,” said Debbie Finney, director of the UGA SBDC office in Albany. “You can’t ignore it. You have to have a digital strategy.”

For Bruce Roberts, the owner of ShotKing, a company based in Adel, Ga. that manufactures machines needed in heavy industry, he knew there was no way he could just sell his product locally.

Bruce Roberts, owner of machine manufacture Shot King in Adel, Ga. The SBDC helped him take his small town business to 22 countries around the world.

“It’s absolutely necessary for us to cover the planet,” said Roberts “I literally had no clue about selling internationally.”

With the SBDC’s help, Roberts was able to revitalize ShotKing, which builds machines pioneered after World War II to clean metal parts. The machines use shot blasting, a technique similar to sand blasting, where small steel pellets are fired at high speeds to clean metal surfaces. Today, nearly half of ShotKing’s sales come from exports to 22 countries.

“Having these folks at the SBDC to call on is great,” Roberts said. “We would’ve just muddled through without them. We’d be a lot smaller operation.”

This social media marketing program is sponsored by the Douglas-Coffee County Chamber of Commerce.

“For most chambers, especially in rural communities, the majority of their membership is small businesses,” Adams said. “We both had an interest in helping small businesses thrive. It’s a natural connection.”

In the last five years, SBDC-assisted clients have:

  • Opened 1,700 new businesses.
  • Created 12,000 jobs.
  • Generated over 9 billion in sales.

For more information or to register for the Digital Marketing Boot Camp in Douglas:


Photographer: Shannah Montgomery,, 706-542-3638

Institute of Government helping rural Georgia address healthcare needs

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government has launched two regional partnerships in south Georgia to address the growing need for healthcare workers in rural communities.

WorkSource Southern Georgia, which includes 18 counties, and WorkSource Southwest Georgia, with 14 counties, bring employers, educators, government agencies and potential employees together in a targeted approach to meeting the human capital needs of the communities.

Eleven of the 15 fastest-growing jobs in south Georgia this decade are in the healthcare sector, according to the Department of Labor.

The two regional sector partnerships are funded by the Governors High Demand Career Initiative grants through the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Workforce Division.

Counties in WorkSource Southern Georgia include Atkinson, Bacon, Ben Hill, Berrien, Brantley, Brooks, Charlton, Clinch, Coffee, Cook, Echols, Irwin, Lanier, Lowndes, Pierce, Tift, Turner and Ware.

Counties in WorkSource Southwest Georgia include Baker, Calhoun, Colquitt, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Grady, Lee, Miller, Mitchell, Seminole, Terrell, Thomas and Worth.




Lefty returns to the wild; UGA Aquarium gets new sea turtle ambassador

After spending his first three years at the UGA Aquarium, Lefty the loggerhead sea turtle was released earlier this month into the Wassaw Sound from the shore of the Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge on Skidaway Island, near Savannah.

Lefty hatched on Ossabaw Island in September 2015. The turtle was discovered as a straggler in the nest and given by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant to serve as an ambassador sea turtle until he was big and strong enough to return to the wild.

“When we first got him we immediately noticed that it was having trouble using its left front flipper,” says Devin Dumont, head curator at the UGA Aquarium on Skidaway Island. That, and the fact that the hatchling was left behind in the nest, inspired his name.

For three years, the charismatic sea turtle helped educate thousands of visitors to the UGA Aquarium about the importance of the Georgia coast to nesting sea turtles.

“Looking at a photo of a sea turtle or listening to someone talk about them doesn’t have the same impact as watching a live animal swim in the tank,” said Lisa Olenderski, aquarium curator and educator at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “People are always amazed by how graceful they are in the water or how agile they are when going after blue crabs. Seeing them in person helps establish that connection and leaves a lasting impression.”

Lefty also helped advance scientific research by serving as a study subject in a project by researchers at Savannah State University that focused on improving environmental enrichment for loggerheads in captivity.

“We gained a little bit of insight into sea turtle color preference and food preference through the study,” Dumont said. “We learned information that could help us enhance their stay while they’re here.”

Undergraduate students at Savannah State University assisted with the study, conducting behavior analysis experiments designed to test whether sea turtles showed color preference among blue, green orange and yellow objects.

While preparing him for release, the aquarium staff fed him live food, such as blue crabs and mussels, so he could practice active foraging and hunting. With DNR’s approval, the director of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island attached number coded tags and a passive integrated transmitter to Lefty before the release. Both can be used to identify Lefty in the future.

On Wassaw, Dumont and Olenderski carried Lefty to the surf and gave him some gentle nudges before he swam into the water and disappeared.

Back at the aquarium, Neptune, a new straggler hatchling discovered by DNR in August, will make its public debut on Sept. 22 at Estuary Extravaganza, an event celebrating National Estuaries Week at the UGA Aquarium.


Four species of sea turtles nest along the Georgia coast. While loggerheads are the most common, they are listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Georgia DNR. After almost 40 years of conservation efforts at the federal and state level, DNR reports nesting numbers on the Georgia coast have been increasing dramatically over the last several years.

Writer: Emily Woodward,, 912-598-2348 ext. 107