News



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, simmonsk@uga.edu

Contact: Cheri Duggan, 706-542-6654, cduggan@uga.edu

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, baker.owens@uga.edu, 706-510-9622
Contact:
Rob Gordon, gordon@uha.edu, 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, leahmoss@uga.edu, 706-583-0964

Contact: Paul Brooks, pjbrooks@uga.edu, 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:

georgiasbdc.org/digital-marketing-bootcamp/

 

Photographer: Shannah Montgomery, smont@uga.edu, 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.

Neptune

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, ewoodward@uga.edu, 912-598-2348 ext. 107

State Botanical Garden of Georgia celebrates longtime donors at Giving Tree Tribute

Six longtime supporters of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia were honored recently during the biennial “Giving Tree” celebration that recognizes patrons who have given their time and money to the garden.

“We are fortunate to have a strong group of supporters who are so generous with their time and financial resources,” said Jennifer Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. “They recognize the importance of the garden and its contribution to education, conservation and research for the university and across the state.”

James B. Miller Jr., a charter member of the State Botanical Garden board of advisors, was the 2018 Distinguished Honoree, the garden’s highest honor bestowed on donors. Miller, who helped establish the board, has shown generosity to the garden personally and through Fidelity Southern Corporation, where he serves as chairman and CEO. Miller lives in Atlanta.

In addition to supporting the International Garden, Heritage Garden, Flower Garden and Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden and the annual balls, Miller was one of the first to contribute to the accessibility initiative at the garden. He co-chaired the 1989 Gardens of the World Ball with former UGA Vice President for Services S. Eugene Younts, who recently passed away.

Three board members received the 2018 Southern Magnolia Award, which honors philanthropic contributions of more than $100,000 and continued service to the garden. The 2018 honorees are Martha Brumley Ellis, Brenda Magill and Sissie Morris.

Ellis has been on the garden’s board of advisors for 17 years, supporting the Gardens of the World Ball each of those years in addition to the Flower Garden and children’s garden campaigns. Ellis lives in in Sea Island, Georgia, and Highlands, North Carolina.

Magill has served on the board for 21 years, championing Orchid Madness, the Gardens of the World Balls, the children’s garden campaign, the Heritage Garden campaign as well as the horticulture and conservation funds. She co-chaired the 2011 ball with Betsy Ellison. Magill lives in Athens, Georgia.

Morris has been active on the board for 29 years. Her support includes the International Garden, Heritage Garden, Flower Garden and children’s garden campaigns, as well as the conservation funds and Gardens of the World Balls. Along with Charlotte Merry, Morris co-chaired the 1990 Gardens of the World Ball. Morris lives in Augusta, Georgia.

Kathy and Neely Young received the Garden of Georgia medal, the highest award for service and support. Kathy Young previously served as chair of the board and spearheaded the development committee of the garden’s most recent campaign, the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden. In addition, Kathy Young co-chaired the 2009 Gardens of the World Ball with Betty Sponcler, celebrating the ball’s 25th anniversary with a book chronicling its history. Kathy Young and her husband Neely Young have also demonstrated support of the garden through the voice of Georgia Trend, a statewide business publication they owned and managed until 2017. The Youngs live in Marietta, Georgia, and Cashiers, North Carolina.

The Giving Tree event recognizes individuals committed to outstanding philanthropic contributions and dedicated service supporting the mission of the State Botanical Garden. This year, the Giving Tree Tribute is part of the yearlong 50th anniversary celebration of the State Botanical Garden. The 50th anniversary celebration also includes a signature plant, the native Southern flame azalea, known for its pleasant fragrance and fiery colors.

Writer: Leah Moss, leahmoss@uga.edu, 706-612-0063

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

Contact: Jennifer Cruse-Sanders, crusesanders@uga.edu, 706-542-6131

 

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

UGA’s interpreter programs help improve non-English speaking residents access to healthcare

 

For some Georgia residents, the key to quality healthcare isn’t dependent upon the doctor or facility.

It’s dependent upon the interpreter.

“What’s happening here is often a life and death situation,” said Michele Pirkle, executive director of patient family experience at Grady Health System.  “We must ensure that the interpreter can not only have a conversation with someone in another language, but they convey very technical medical terminology with no room for error.”

About 50,000 native Koreans live in Gwinnett County. In response to this growing population, the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach, began offering the Korean/English Medical Interpreter Certificate (KEMI) in 2012. This 40-hour course meets five Saturdays at the UGA Gwinnett Campus.

Participation in the program allows students to work as an interpreter for a year before taking the National Council on Interpretation in Health Care exam. The KEMI was modeled after the highly successful Spanish/English Medical Interpreter Certificate, which has been offered by the Georgia Center for more than a decade.

Medical interpretation is often an overlooked part of healthcare, said Grace Cruz, a Korean-English freelance medical interpreter.

“Often, I interpret between children and parents,” Cruz said. “Parents don’t know English, children don’t know Korean. They can get by in day-to-day conversations, but the actual diagnosis cannot be interpreted by children. When people use a family member, assumptions are made, mistakes are made.”

“The most important thing I teach my students is ethics and culture,” said Cruz. “In sensitive fields like mental health, untrained interpreters don’t know how to convey the questions in a way someone from Korea would understand.”

During the course, Cruz (left) uses role-playing to act out scenarios like a medical examination.

KEMI is unique because it offers one-on-one instruction instead of an online course, like other programs. Students roleplay different scenarios, participate in interactive activities and discuss challenges with Cruz, who’s been practicing as a medical interpreter for 12 years.

While healthcare systems like Grady may rely on video or phone sessions when in-person interpreters aren’t available, the effectiveness of face-to-face interpreters can’t be stressed enough for languages like Korean (languages that rely on visual cues, such as American Sign Language, benefit from having a video option).

“In-person is much different than video, especially if it’s a situation in trauma,” said David Lee, a Spanish and Korean interpreter for Grady Health System. “You need to be really quick and express very clearly what is going on.”

“There are language apps, but we cannot depend on that,” Cruz said. “I’ve seen worst-case scenarios come out of that.”

Cruz and Lee believe the need for this training will increase with the influx of Korean residents.

“The demand is here,” Cruz said. “More and more people are coming over here from Korea, and when they go to the hospital, they will need an interpreter.”

So far 450 people have enrolled in the Korean interpreter program, more than half from Gwinnett County. Others have been from counties near Gwinnett, including Athens-Clarke County.

“Medical interpretation is a facet of healthcare that needs more attention,” Pirkle said. “What interpreters do is a vital piece of the healthcare industry.”

The next Korean-English Medical Certificate program will be offered Sept. 29 – Oct. 27, 2018, at the UGA Gwinnett Campus.

 

Learn more about the KEMI

Find out about other interpreter programs:

www.georgiacenter.uga.edu/courses/languages/interpreting-skills

 


Writer: Leah Moss, leahmoss@uga.edu, 706-612-0063

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

UGA helping women in southeast Georgia grow as leaders

As a counselor in the Upper School at Bulloch Academy in Statesboro, Kinsley Baker has a great job and a good quality of life.

It wasn’t always this way. In fact, when Baker began the 2017-2018 Lynda Brannen Williamson Foundation Women’s Leadership Academy she also had a “great job,” she said. “But it was a challenge to manage work-life balance.”

The leadership program, developed by UGA’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development for the Lynda Brannen Williamson Foundation in Statesboro, helped Baker realize she needed a change.

“Each session really hit home for me and was so relevant to where I was in my life and in my career,” Baker said. “I learned so much about myself, how I work with others and how I manage conflict. What I learned had a lot to do with me taking that step forward.”

Lynda Williamson, a civic leader in the Statesboro community, established the foundation before her death in November 2014 to help guide and mentor young women in southeast Georgia. The leadership academy focuses on servant leadership, mentoring and developing a personal leadership style.

“Women in leadership roles face unique challenges and situations,” said Lisa Lee, president of the Lynda B. Williamson Foundation. “We wanted to create a program that would address those specific issues and provide a safe space for women to discuss leadership, learn from each other and grow together.”

Lisa Lee, president of Lynda Brannen Williamson Foundation

Fanning Institute faculty, led by Maritza Soto Keen and Carolina Darbisi, cover topics like personal leadership, communication and conflict, strategies for effective leadership, career and professional skill development and multigenerational leadership. The class also meets with local and state leaders.

“We created a curriculum to examine leadership through a woman’s lens,” Keen said. “By raising these unique issues and allowing women to talk about them and share with each other, they develop their personal leadership abilities and build a network of women leaders that can work together to strengthen their communities.”

Program participants also work together on a community service project, which also helps them bond.

“The support I felt from my classmates gave me the courage to grow, to take a leap of faith,” Baker said.

So far, 48 women have graduated from the program, held each year since 2015-16. The first two groups organized activities in the Statesboro area, including a career day for women that offered interview training, resume development and professional makeovers.

The 2017-18 class plans to create a mentoring program for high school girls, which will cover social media etiquette, resume building and conflict management.

“We want to take what we have learned and pass it on to the next generation,” Baker said.

An alumnae group formed by program graduates will also provide support for the program and its community service efforts moving forward.

“We want to continue supporting and connecting with each other and giving back to the community in the spirit and legacy of Lynda B. Williamson,” said Erica Sellers, a graduate of the 2016-17 program.

“Seeing women complete the program and stay involved as alumnae shows us that the foundation’s work and mission to mentor and guide young women in southeast Georgia will continue into the next generation,” Lee said. “While Lynda left us a vision and we knew we wanted a women’s leadership academy, the Fanning Institute took the heart of what we wanted to do and made it beat.”

The program is a strong community partnership, said Matt Bishop, director of the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.

“At the Fanning Institute, we believe that communities become stronger when they empower as many people as possible with the tools and knowledge to lead and contribute,” Bishop said. “We are proud to partner with the Lynda Brannen Williamson Foundation on the Women’s Leadership Academy, and we look forward to seeing the impact that these women will have on future generations in southeast Georgia.”

The fourth class of the Lynda Brannen Williamson Women’s Leadership Academy begins this month.

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

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

Entrepreneurs earn big rewards in a small quilt shop in Marietta

An award-winning quilter, Maetha Elliott shopped for many years at Tiny Stitches, a quilting shop in Marietta.

“The owner kept talking to me about teaching quilting classes and later suggested I could own the shop,” Maetha Elliott said.

When the owner decided to sell the shop, Maetha and her husband Henry Elliott decided to buy it.

After teaching in the Cobb County School System for 20 years, Maetha Elliott was ready for something new. She and Henry Elliott had been looking for a retail business they could buy. They visited children’s book stores, as they both loved children and books. But the earning potential wasn’t high enough.

As they began the process to finance the purchase, they reached out to the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

“Maetha and Henry approached their goal to be entrepreneurs the right way, by getting educated before buying a business,” said Drew Tonsmeire, area director of the UGA SBDC office located at Kennesaw State University in Cobb County.

The Elliotts attended an SBDC program for business start-ups and SBDC financing workshops for new entrepreneurs.

“Drew reviewed all of our financials to make sure they looked good. He gave us an outline of what needed to be in our business plan, and he helped us with the narrative,” said Henry Elliott. “We did a PowerPoint presentation of the plan and took it to the United Community Bank to get the loan to purchase the business.”

The Elliotts spent six months in the purchasing process before they bought the business, Tonsmeire said.

“Then they needed to make changes to the shop’s processes and culture, which also presented challenges,” Tonsmeire said. “Henry and Maetha began quickly bringing all their management skills into play.”

Henry Elliott created an inventory spreadsheet to plan for fabric deliveries, which can take six months or longer to arrive after ordering. The Elliotts also updated customer records and changed to a point-of-sale system that collected more useful sales data.

By 2014, the 3,500-square-foot store in a retail shopping center needed to expand, so the Elliotts moved into a space next door, which had housed a consignment shop and martial arts studio. With twice as much space as they had in the original shop, the Elliotts now display fabrics, patterns and notions on the first floor, and use basement space to display work done by beginners as well as guild-level quilters who take classes and sew at the store.

“Tiny Stitches lives up to its motto: a gathering place for quilters,” Tonsmeire said. “The shop is like a second home for customers who can both buy and sew in the building. Maetha is totally focused on the customer experience. She wants them to enjoy their time there.”

The Elliotts now have 14 employees and have nearly doubled their annual sales revenue.

They attended the SBDC’s GrowSmart® program and are working on social media marketing with Tonsmeire and a digital media expert at the SBDC. They plan to launch an online store this year.

“If we have a problem, the first person we call is Drew,” Maetha Elliott said. “He’s local, he will return the call, and he will come to our shop. You don’t get that service anywhere else.”

 

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provides tools, training and resources to help small businesses grow and succeed. Designated as one of Georgia’s top providers of small business assistance, the SBDC has 17 offices in regions throughout the state to help serve the business community. Since 1977, the SBDC network of partners has helped construct a statewide ecosystem to foster the spirit, support, and success of hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs and innovators. A part of UGA Public Service and Outreach, the SBDC, is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and is nationally accredited by the Association of SBDCs. Learn more at https://www.georgiasbdc.org.

UGA has three finalists for national economic development award

For the second year, three University of Georgia programs have been selected as finalists for national awards recognizing innovation in economic development.

Archway Partnership, Carl Vinson Institute of Government and Innovation Gateway are among the 24 finalists for the University Economic Development Association 2018 Awards of Excellence. UGA’s finalists are in different categories and will not compete with one another.

UEDA represents higher education, private sector and community economic development stakeholders across North America. Entries were judged by a panel of university and economic development professionals based on the alignment of their institution’s core mission activities with regional economic development goals. Categories include innovation, talent and place, as well as the intersections of these three categories. Criteria for judging included originality, scalability, sustainability, impact and the feasibility of other organizations replicating the initiatives in their communities.

Two of the finalists are from units of the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach:

  • UGA Archway Partnership Addresses Healthcare Needs in Rural Georgia is a project in which UGA faculty and students worked side-by-side with local stakeholders in Pulaski County to evaluate health data, conduct surveys and host focus groups to prepare the local hospital’s mandated Community Health Needs Assessment. The CHNA assisted the rural hospital in remaining viable in a challenging environment by bringing to light new services that community members would like to see. This collaboration led to the establishment of an urgent care clinic at Taylor Regional Hospital. The clinic is seeing an average of 18 patients a day and has reduced hospital emergency room traffic by 10 percent. The Archway Partnership project is a finalist in the “Place” category.
  • The Georgia Certified Economic Developer Program was developed by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government in an effort to be responsive to Georgia’s economic development needs. The state-specific training provides the essential high-quality curriculum needed by economic development professionals to effectively compete in today’s global economy. The program offers economic developers the opportunity to achieve their certification more cost-effectively, as courses are taught in central locations around Georgia, and timely, within a two- to three-year period. The courses offer practical, skills-based training with immediate application. The program design is grounded in a competency cluster framework that reflects internationally recognized skills and abilities. Since the launch in 2016, participants from over half of Georgia’s 159 counties have enrolled in GCED classes. In September 2017, UGA awarded the first GCED designation followed by four additional recipients in May 2018. The GCED program is a finalist in the “Talent + Place” category.

“We are honored to be finalists again in this national competition,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for public service and outreach. “This recognizes UGA’s commitment to improving the quality of life for all Georgians.”

The third finalist is from the Office of Research:

  • The Cultivar Development Research Program is an internal grant program, managed by Innovation Gateway in cooperation with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the Georgia Seed Development Commission, that is funded entirely by the licensing royalty revenue derived from UGA-developed plant cultivars (varieties). Since 1997, the CDRP has provided almost $20 million in grant funding that has helped generate more than 300 new plant cultivars. Cultivars generated through CDRP funding have had a tremendous impact on Georgia’s $73 billion agriculture industry, helping Georgia become the No. 1 state for peanut, blueberry and pecan production. Furthermore, the CDRP simultaneously serves as an effective tool in attracting and retaining top-tier plant breeding scientists to UGA. The CDRP is a finalist in the “Innovation” category.

“The beauty of UGA’s Cultivar Development Research Program is that we use licensing revenue from existing cultivars to invest in research that yields the next generation of cultivars, and so it propagates the university’s very positive impact on commercial agriculture,” said Vice President for Research David Lee. “It’s a win-win for everyone and has allowed us to maintain a robust, diverse plant breeding portfolio.”

Winners will be announced during the UEDA Annual Summit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Oct. 21-24, 2018.

Two other UGA programs were selected as “Lightning Round” entries, new in 2018. Each entry will be allowed a five-minute pitch to the audience at the UEDA Annual Summit in October, followed by a question and answer period.

UGA’s Lightning Round entries are:

  • The Animal Health Hackathon, hosted by UGA and Boehringer-Ingelheim, the world’s second largest animal health company, brought together students, faculty, entrepreneurs and business leaders to explore multidisciplinary approaches for improving animal health. Thirteen diverse teams competed for $5,000 and a one-year membership to a community business incubator. The momentum from this Hackathon continues to build the innovation pipeline – several teams are pursuing patents on their solutions and participating in UGA’s idea accelerator.
  • The New Materials Institute (NMI) is an interdisciplinary effort with 20 faculty working with public and private partners to pioneer systems and materials that promote a circular economy. Programs range from innovative waste management systems to novel, truly biodegradable materials that meet the high expectations of industry and their consumers. Most importantly, NMI trains the next generation of engineers and scientists to use this holistic approach

 

Writer:

Kelly Simmons, simmonsk@uga.edu, 706-296-0855

Contact:

Jennifer Frum, jfrum@uga.edu, 706-542-3352

David Lee, dclee@uga.edu, 706-542-5969

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.”

Between June and August, students surveyed a total of 1,086 properties. Students found 878 properties in unincorporated Dooly County, the bulk of the properties discovered. Within cities in Dooly County, students identified 126 properties in Byromville, 58 in Lily and 24 in Dooling.

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

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