UGA partners with Goodwill to help local entrepreneurs start new businesses

As Marcus Lawrence’s cheesecake business expands, a program at Goodwill of North Georgia, in partnership with the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, is providing him with the skills necessary to manage his growing company and staff.
Lawrence is one of 20 students enrolled in a program called Goodbiz, which combines Goodwill’s entrepreneurial training with leadership training from the Fanning Institute. It serves Athens-Clarke County residents from disadvantaged, often low-income backgrounds who may not have the same access to business training as other entrepreneurs. Since the partnership began last year Goodbiz has helped about 15 people launch or prepare to launch revenue-generating businesses.

Lawrence launched his business, Cheesecaketopia, in 2012. He established it as an LLC in 2015 and has since hired two part-time employees. As business increases, he’ll need to hire additional staff.

Through Goodbiz he is learning how to mange the growth of the business and how to lead his team of employees.

“Understanding what leadership is like in a business setting is completely different than what I expected leadership to be,” Lawrence said. “I am a father of six, so I have to lead, but it is a completely different concept when you are dealing with adults in a work environment.”

Goodbiz teaches a unique blend of skills to people at all stages of a business, thanks to the partnership with the Fanning Institute, said Kerry Tracey, director of workforce development for Goodwill of North Georgia.

“Partnering really helps bring in some components that aren’t just about lectures, facts, numbers, and the things that you have to do, those hard skills,” Tracey said. “It also brings in some of the empathy, character development, the leadership development, and really building confidence.”

One unique aspect of Goodbiz is its initial focus on self-esteem, said Richard McCline, a senior public service associate with the Fanning Institute.

“The theory is that if you don’t feel good about who you are, you are not going to be able to do much,” McCline said. “Before we jump in to how to start a business, we jump in to how you start yourself from the inside out.”

Another unique aspect, McCline said, is a focus on self-efficacy.

“If I make you feel good about who you are, the next step is to make you feel good about what you want to do,” said McCline.

Over the 15-week Goodbiz program, the Fanning Institute also covers topics such as leadership, values and conflict. The conflict class made an impression on Lawrence.

“I realized that my concept of conflict was negative and it should not be,” Lawrence said. “I think that is going to help play a huge part in growing my business.”

Raisa Drew, a case manager for Goodwill of North Georgia, said a lot of participants talk about the program’s emphasis on business values.

“I’m hearing a lot of the participants, when they talk about their businesses, talk about what their values are and how that is affecting what they want their services to be,” Drew said.

Writer: Charlie Bauder,, 706-542-7039,
Contact: Richard McCline,, 706-542-7149

Long-time volunteer helps State Botanical Garden and partners conserve endangered native species

Nita Haley has volunteered with the State Botanical Garden of Georgia for 16 years, often focusing her efforts in the gift shop. This year, however, Haley is using her sewing skills to help the garden and its southeastern partners collect the seeds of rare and endangered plants.

Haley makes seed bags, small mesh pouches with drawstrings that fit over the top of flowering plants to collect their seeds. She created the bags with Jennifer Ceska, conservation coordinator for the State Botanical Garden, a unit of Public Service and Outreach at the University of Georgia.

“The charm of the bag is that it’s made of polyester, so you can see through it and it dries quickly,” Haley said. “It’s also lightweight, so it won’t weigh the plants down during a heavy rain.”

Seed collection has long been a popular conservation method for those working with rare and endangered plants. Unfortunately, when the seeds mature, they are often blown away by wind and rain. The garden’s conservation team has sewn their own collection nets for years, but they often get wind-damaged or come untied.

Haley’s model is more efficient.

“Nita’s seed collection bags are well-made, they don’t fray and they’re re-usable,” Ceska said. “People have even used panty hose as collection tools before, but Nita’s are a breathable and uniform solution that can be used by conservationists all over the southeast.”

So far, Haley has made more than 150 bags, which are being used by the Chattahoochee Nature Center, The Nature Conservancy, the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the Georgia Department of Transportation, in addition to the State Botanical Garden.

Haley moved to Athens from Atlanta 19 years ago after retiring from teaching, and she comes from a family of sewers. While she doesn’t know the long-term implications or the range of the project, Haley hopes to continue assisting the conservation teams throughout the state with their seed collection needs.

“I call the people who work with the plants ‘seed scientists,’” she said. “They use the bags to preserve rare seeds, but I’m the one having fun, doing what I love.”


Georgia’s exports up significantly thanks to UGA

The University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center opened doors to the world for Carl Hazenberg.

His company, Everlast Synthetic Products, saw its sales of seawall materials and services increase by as much as 40 percent after the SBDC’s International Trade Center helped it expand exports.

“We’d probably be floundering without the SBDC,” said Hazenberg, who was named Georgia Exporter of the Year by the Small Business Administration in 2016. “That business may not have happened. They helped us understand tariffs and what it takes to do business in other countries. It’s like having my own consulting company internationally when I need it.”

Hazenberg isn’t alone. The SBDC’s contribution to a growing sector of the Georgia economy earned it the Advancing International Trade State Award for Georgia from the National Association of Small Business International Trade Educators in March.

“We’re very focused on how we’re helping Georgia small businesses,” said Rick Martin, director of the SBDC International Trade Center. “It’s nice for an outside organization to recognize we’re having that impact. It validates our mission.”

Today, Georgia has 14,000 companies exporting goods and services with a sales value of $35.5 billion, a 52 percent increase over the last decade. Martin and his colleagues have contributed to that growth through training programs like ExportGA, an intensive four session, 16 hour training program which allows export-ready companies to develop their skills, as well as a monthly program in Atlanta that covers key topics on successfully developing an import/export business.

The award, given to only a few states each year, is like a lifetime achievement for the SBDC and its work in international trade.

“I think it’s always nice to be recognized by your peers,” said Darrel Hulsey, a consultant with the SBDC International Trade Center. “This is the ultimate recognition from our peer group.”

The UGA SBDC was one of the first states to open an international trade division in 1978. Six states, including Georgia, had an international office by 1985. In addition to ExportGA, the SBDC developed Export-U, a free, online training program which has been supported and promoted by the U.S. Department of Commerce.


Writer: Christopher James,, 706-542-3631

Contact: Rick Martin,, 470-578-2530


Fanning Institute to host inaugural Embark Georgia conference this month

The J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development will host an inaugural Embark Georgia Leadership Conference on college access and resources for students who have experienced foster care or homelessness.

The conference will be held May 18-19 at the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education.

Embark Georgia is a statewide network of support for young people who are or have been in foster care or homeless and are enrolled or interested in attending any postsecondary educational institution in Georgia.

As of November 2016, 13,070 young people were in foster care in Georgia, according to state statistics. According to research by Casey Family Programs, 84 percent of youth with foster care experience want to go to college. About 20 percent actually enroll and far fewer complete a degree. Foster youth are three times more likely to persist in college if they participate in a campus support program.

The conference is open to higher education professionals, high school professionals, case managers, homeless liaisons, private foster care professionals, and any other interested community partners.

More than 140 people have registered.

“Support has been phenomenal,” said David Meyers, a public service associate at the Fanning Institute.

The conference will include simulations and breakout sessions on a variety of topics, such as financial and social supports for students, how campus and community organizations can structure targeted support for students, and challenges the students face.

Attendees will also have a chance to network with each other.

“That’s really one of the big goals, to bring folks together who serve these populations independently, but get them together in one room so they can learn from each other and share with each other about how they do what they do,” Meyers said.

On Friday, May 19, attendees will hear from keynote speaker Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University. Goldrick-Rab also founded the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, the nation’s only translational research laboratory seeking ways to make college more affordable. She also is author of “Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream.”

Goldrick-Rab is an expert on financial aid and higher education, an issue particularly important to students who have experienced or are experiencing foster care or homelessness, said Lori Tiller, a public service assistant at the Fanning Institute.

“She is a national leader right now in the conversation in how financial aid and financial aid debt affects students and how that is changing within higher education,” Tiller said.

To learn more or to register go to


Writer: Charlie Bauder, 706-542-7039,

Contact: David Meyers, 706-542-5062,

This release is also online at

UGA engineering students benefit from leadership training in addition to degrees

A group of University of Georgia civil and environmental engineering students will enter the workforce with both a degree and leadership training designed to help them transition from student to professional.

This year, the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development partnered with the College of Engineering on a pilot program called the Emerging Engineering Leaders Development Program.

Jason Christian, an assistant professor in the engineering college, and Stephan Durham, assistant dean for student success and outreach and an associate professor of civil engineering for the college, enlisted the Fanning Institute to create and deliver the program as part of their Capstone Senior Design course for seniors majoring in civil and environmental engineering.

Durham said the engineering industry has identified leadership training as a real need.

While engineering is a very technical profession, Durham said a large part of the job does involve soft skills, or what he called “professional skills,” such as leadership and communication.

“The aspects and characteristics we want our students to have are strength in the professional skill set to go along with the wonderful technical education they are receiving here at UGA,” said Durham.

The Fanning Institute’s curriculum covered leadership vision and styles, group decision making, conflict management, communication, and community engagement.

According to Senior Public Service Associate Jenny Jordan, the Fanning Institute designed the program around what students will likely encounter at their future workplace.

“What companies are saying they need more than anything are students who have seen these kinds of skills and that have spent some time looking at how they manage conflict, how they understand their own strengths and weaknesses, how they engage with the community, how they interact with different generations, and how they make teamwork and communication happen,” said Jordan.

Hailey Hebebrand, a senior from Atlanta graduating in May with a degree in civil engineering, is among the 55 students who participated in the inaugural leadership program.

“Because we are upperclassmen and often considered the leaders of the college, it’s important to remember that we must learn how to lead in different ways once we start our full-time jobs,” said Hebebrand. “We must lead by example and be team members before advancing into positions of leadership.”

She felt the most valuable lesson taught dealt with generational differences in the workplace.

“The exercise allowed us to better understand how we should interact with co-workers of multiple generations in order to succeed in our jobs,” said Hebebrand. “Without having this perspective, it would be difficult to successfully lead a diverse group of people.”

The leadership training was integrated into the capstone projects for the civil and environmental engineering students, which require the students to work in groups on a real-world engineering design project in a community. Capstone projects are required as part of each undergraduate degree program in the engineering college.

Christian and Durham grouped students in their class based on their identified leadership styles, and they said the groups felt more cohesive and seemed to manage conflict more effectively.

A Fanning Institute faculty and staff team that included Jordan, Lauren Healey, Brendan Leahy, Brandy Walker, Lori Tiller, Emily Boness, and Dessa Morris worked on the program.

Durham and Christian said the Fanning Institute did a fabulous job, and they want to see this program expanded from just their course, which was the only one to include the leadership program, to the entire College of Engineering.

“This training is so impactful,” Christian said.  “It really could be the difference between a graduate that has a good workplace experience leading to a very satisfying career versus a student that goes to work and gets frustrated because they don’t know these characteristics about themselves, they haven’t practiced leading, and they haven’t seen good leadership in action.”

Workshops give UGA students edge in job market

In addition to management and human resources, public administration theory and finance, students in UGA’s top ranked Master of Public Administration program are now getting lessons in an area that employers say they need: soft skills.

Taught by faculty and staff from UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, MPA Student Professional Development: Soft Skills includes six workshops that help the students understand business etiquette and self-motivation, skills that make them more marketable once they receive their degrees.

“We focused on picking workshops that provide training in as many personal skills as possible, including things as basic as what to wear to work, how to introduce yourself properly, effective communication and how to address a conflict early on,” said Stacy Jones, associate director for governmental training, education and development at the Institute of Government.

The program was developed by Andrew Grandage and Jacob Wingate, both graduate students in the UGA School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA). As a graduate assistant for the Institute of Government, Grandage helped with the governor’s High Demand Career Initiative, where he learned about the value employers place on soft skills. Wingate also is a graduate assistant at the institute, coordinating its student internship programs.

Aaron Redmon, the MPA recruitment and career services coordinator for SPIA’s Department of Public Administration, said the classes are especially important to younger students who come directly into the MPA program without spending time in the workforce.

“Some haven’t had the on-the-job opportunities to learn soft skills like professional etiquette, public presenting, and conflict management,” Redmon said. “That is why this is so beneficial to our students; it provides them with these critical lessons now so they do not have to learn them the hard way while on the job.”

The connection with Vinson also is a benefit for the students, many of whom could be working in the public sector one day.

“They will have firsthand experience working with the institute, planting a seed for future partnerships for education and development,” Wingate said.

Sachi Delacruz, a second year student in the MPA program, said she’s better prepared to communicate professionally with future colleagues and supervisors.

“It’s helpful to talk about the importance to have constant professionalism that allows you to build and maintain relationships,” Delacruz said. “Most of our classes are big picture and theory, but this gets down to the nitty-gritty of what it’s like to walk into professional situations, and what to do when you’re there.”

Contact: Stacy Jones,, 706-542-9771

Georgia celebrates small businesses

After four decades of teaching Marta Collier is making a business out of her passion for children’s books by black authors, with help from the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center.

“Starting up a business is more than having a notion,” said Collier, a former school teacher and college professor. “Many fail because they don’t have the support base. We not only feel like we have a supportive infrastructure. We feel like we have a friend.”

Marta Collier Educational Systems and Services is just one of thousands of companies celebrating Small Business Week across Georgia March 13-17. Over the last five years, SBDC clients have started 1,422 new businesses, creating 11,785 new jobs and generating $8.9 billion in sales in the process.

Collier says the help she received from SBDC consultant Michael Myers was “game-changing.”

He encouraged Collier that her idea to sell lesson plans for children’s books from neglected black authors was sound

Myers helped her focus her energy on lesson plans and take the steps to set up her home-based business in Newton County. And he connected her with interns from UGA to make it a reality.

“Mike turned us onto a wealth of talent and they need experiences like this for their resume,” Collier said. “It’s been phenomenal for us to have someone to connect us to that kind of resource.”

Collier’s work is an outgrowth of consulting she has done for decades. The basement of the home she shares in Covington with her husband and business partner, Willyerd, resembles an elementary classroom. Shelves, tables and crates overflow with books and educational materials.

Many of those books come from authors who weren’t commercially successful. She wants to expose them to a new generation of children.

In addition to help edit lesson plans, the interns also are marketing Collier’s new business through social media platforms that  the 64-year-old admits she’s not as familiar with.

Krysten Hardee, a senior English major at UGA, is helping Collier setup a Pinterest page. Eyeing a career in publishing, Hardee was thrilled to read about the internship on a UGA listserv. She said she’s interested in diverse voices in children’s literature, which matches Collier’s mission.

“This is where I can shine. I love this and I’m passionate about it,” Hardee said. “I think it’s going to be great for my career after college. I think it’ll be great to talk about in an interview.”

Myers said the Colliers’ passion for the subject will make them successful. They just needed the tools SBDC provides to execute a business.

“She has a real good point of differentiation,” Myers said. “Hers is pride in the heritage of African-Americans. She’s trying to make sure this group isn’t forgotten. There’s some darn good stories they could share. “

Writer: Christopher James,, 706-542-3631

Contact: Mike Myers,, 706-542-7436


Links to:





Financial help for Summer Academy at UGA students

The Summer Academy at UGA (SAUGA) program and UGA Foundation have created a fund to provide support for the Summer Academy at UGA program by offsetting the costs for children to attend the program. Support shall include, but not be limited to, instructor salaries, lodging, meals, UGA vehicles, staff pay, supplies, and other program-related expenses as directed by the program coordinator.

For more information on scholarships or to register, click here.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter visits the UGA Oyster Hatchery

Congressman Buddy Carter toured the oyster hatchery at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and met with a shellfish grower who is working with UGA to grow single oysters in an effort to diversify the coastal economy.

Carter, along with Jared Downs, a member of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s staff, spent Feb. 24 at the hatchery on Skidaway Island, learning about UGA’s effort to revive the oyster industry in Georgia.

“The oyster industry has great potential to bring strong economic benefits to our area,” Carter said, following the visit. “The UGA oyster hatchery is leading this effort and working to strengthen Georgia’s shellfish industry.”

Carter and Downs met with Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Tom Bliss, director of the Shellfish Research Lab, as well as extension agents at the hatchery, to learn about their efforts to produce spat, or baby oysters, and grow them into single oysters for the half-shell market.

Since its launch in 2015, the hatchery has produced 700,000 spat, which have been given to 10 shellfish farmers on the coast who grow the oysters on sites they lease from the state Department of Natural Resources. The potential harvest value of the oyster is $140,000 to $245,000. By 2018, the hatchery is expected to produce between 5 million and 7 million spat per year, with an annual estimated harvest value between $1 million and $2 million. The goal is to attract a commercial hatchery and businesses related to oyster production to the area, which would provide jobs and greater economic development opportunities on the coast.

During his visit, Carter traveled by boat to see the oysters in Wassaw Sound farmed by John Pelli, owner of Savannah Clam Company, and sample the raw oysters. In addition to hearing about the economic benefit of oyster production, Carter also learned that oyster production improves water quality. A single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day, a benefit to everyone, not just those involved in the seafood industry.

“I am glad to have had the opportunity to see the great work going on at the hatchery and I look forward to seeing the oyster harvesting business grow in our community and state,” Carter said.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant also is helping the oyster growers connect with seafood distribution companies and restaurants to raise awareness of the Georgia single oyster, Risse said.

UGA contact: Mark Risse,, 706-542-5956

U.S. Rep. Carter contact: Mary Carpenter,, 202-834-0386





Ocean to Table program draws in shellfish consumers


A new series of workshops aims to increase popularity and interest in local foods and sustainable seafood in Georgia.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is partnering with UGA Cooperative Extension Program in Chatham County to offer the Ocean to Table series, designed to educate consumers about different seafood topics so they can make informed decisions about purchasing and preparing seafood harvested on the coast.

At the inaugural workshop, held at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island, participants learned about local harvesting methods and management practices that ensure consumer safety and sustainability of Georgia’s clam and oyster industries.

“Georgia has rigorous health regulations in place to help protect consumers from getting sick,” says Kayla Clark, public programs coordinator at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “It’s important to share information about shellfish safety so buyers feel more confident when purchasing, preparing and consuming shellfish.”

Retailers and wholesalers are regulated and inspected by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Georgia Department of Agriculture to ensure that Georgia seafood is safely processed before being sold to consumers.

“When you walk into a seafood market, you can speak directly with a local retailer or wholesaler and get information about how and where a product was harvested,” says Clark. “There’s also the added bonus of knowing that your local purchase supports Georgia shellfish growers and businesses.”

A tour of UGA’s Oyster Hatchery showcased Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s effort to expand the state’s shellfish industry to meet consumer demand for single oysters.

Paula Thompson, a retired microbiologist who volunteers for Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, came to the workshop to learn about shellfish research.

“It was really neat seeing the hatchery and learning about the methods they use to grow the oysters,” says Thompson. “I didn’t realize commercial fishermen propagate clams and oysters by putting oyster seed grown in the hatchery on their farms. I had no idea growing shellfish was so similar to farming on land. It’s fascinating.”

Participants also learned about the environmental benefits of sustainable shellfish industries. Clams and oysters improve water quality by filtering out pollutants, reduce erosion by stabilizing the shoreline and create habitat for other marine animals.

Contact: Kayla Clark,, 912-598-2354

“By engaging our community and inspiring them to be more sustainable, we hope to maintain healthy ecosystems that provide food for coastal residents and support jobs for local clam and oyster farmers,” says Clark.

By Emily Woodward

Georgia Center for Continuing Education announces new weekend program for youth

A youth weekend program, Weekend Robotics Experience, offered this spring will build on the Summer Academy robotics camps for youth. The two-day, mini camps will be offered on three weekends in March and April. Students will learn programming skills and be introduced to a variety of mechanical components used in building robots. The weekend will cover robotics design concepts and help them understand the importance of engineering and technology.

Youth ages 11-14 are invited to register for this exciting technology event. The sessions will be held on 25-26 March, 8-9 April, and 29-30 April at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education & Hotel.  For more information and to register, visit our website.  For questions, contact the Georgia Center at or 706-542-3537.



UGA Small Business Development Center expands work with pharmacists

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) has reached out to SBDC Medical Practice Management Program Director Jeff Sanford to teach the association’s ownership workshops. The program involves content related to business plan development, business valuation and financial analysis.  These programs are offered in Nashville, Newark, and Orlando. The NCPA represents the interests of America’s community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 22,000 independent community pharmacies. Together they represent an $81.5 billion health care marketplace and employ more than 250,000 individuals on a full or part-time basis. The SBDC has developed a reputation as a resource based on its work providing business training for pharmacists in partnership with the UGA College of Pharmacy.

UGA recognizes longtime community servant with inaugural leadership award

Roy Reeves, a Moultrie businessman who was instrumental in the launch of the first UGA Archway Partnership, was presented with the inaugural award for Innovation in Community Leadership by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, during the institute’s annual conference on Friday.

Reeves was selected for his decades of public service in Colquitt County. Leadership Award

“The Innovation in Community Leadership Award recognizes an individual or organization that has taken extraordinary steps to enhance and sustain their community leadership development programming,” said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. “This year’s winner, Roy Reeves, has been involved in various aspects of community leadership programming in his hometown of Moultrie for more than three decades. His leadership in public education, the faith community, youth development, and community engagement has resulted in hundreds of emerging leaders being trained to take on community leadership roles.”

Reeves, who did not know ahead of time that he was the award recipient, said he was honored to be recognized.

“I believe everything rises and falls on leadership,” Reeves said as he accepted the award. “The greatest resources a community has is its volunteers. They’re the ones that get involved and make a community go.”

More than 150 people from 39 Georgia counties attended the Community Leadership Conference, held at the UGA Center for Continuing Education Feb. 2-3. Participants included representatives from chambers of commerce, colleges and universities, K-12 schools, nonprofit organizations, community leadership programs, power companies, housing authorities, judicial systems, county commissions and the medical field.

This year’s theme, “Transforming Leaders, Transforming Communities,” focused on helping community leaders improve existing programs. Workshops targeted adult, youth and nonprofit leadership programs, bringing together leaders from the public and private sectors of Georgia communities. The Small Business Development Center, another PSO unit, presented a session on digital marketing.

Reeves, who owns Reeves Properties in Moultrie, has chaired the executive committee of the Colquitt County Archway Partnership since it was launched as a pilot program in 2005. Archway, also part of UGA PSO, connects selected Georgia communities with the extensive resources at UGA and other Georgia higher education institutions to address locally identified critical community needs.

Reeves’ volunteer work in the Moultrie community dates back to the 1980s, when he returned to his hometown to join the family business. He is a member and has served as president of the Moultrie Kiwanis Club, United Way of Colquitt County, and the Moultrie-Colquitt Chamber of Commerce.

In addition, he has served on numerous boards and committees in Moultrie-Colquitt County and is a longtime member of the Colquitt County Board of Education, where he served as chairman in 1999, 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2013. Under his leadership, the board recently completed construction on a new state-of-the-art Colquitt County High School.

In 2014, Reeves was named to the Advisory Board of UGA’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. Because of his experience in community leadership roles, Reeves provides invaluable counsel and advice to the institute in fulfillment of its leadership development mission.

Reeves, a UGA graduate, is married to Cheryle Neal Reeves, and the couple has three grown children.

UGA scholar selected for Knauss Fellowship

University of Georgia alumna Shiyu (Rachel) Wang has been awarded the John A. Knauss Marine Policy fellowship for 2017. Sponsored by the National Sea Grant College Program, the year-long fellowship matches current and recent graduate students with hosts in the legislative and executive branches of government.

Beginning in February, Wang will spend one year working as an aquaculture program fellow in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Aquaculture. The office creates employment and business opportunities in coastal communities, provides safe, sustainable seafood, and maintains healthy and productive marine populations, species, ecosystems and vibrant coastal communities.

Wang was among 125 Knauss fellowship applicants from across the country. Sixty-five were chosen for the 2017 class, representing 29 of the 33 state Sea Grant programs.

“I believe the Knauss fellowship will provide a unique educational and professional experience for me to start a career relating my knowledge of marine science to policy decisions, allowing me to influence and protect our natural resources,” said Wang. “This opportunity will also help me determine where, within the scheme of environmental action, my strengths and skills will have the biggest impact.”

Wang received her master’s degree in marine sciences from UGA. Her research focused on the aquatic metabolism of the coastal saltmarsh estuary, as part of Georgia Coastal Ecosystems – Long Term Ecological Research (GCE-LTER) project. Wang holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Ocean University of China.

Georgia Sea Grant is currently accepting applications for the 2018 Knauss fellowship. For information on applying, please visit the Georgia Sea Grant website.



UGA alumna named State Botanical Garden of Georgia director

Jennifer M. Cruse-Sanders, vice president for science and conservation at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, has been named director of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at UGA, effective Feb. 15, 2017.

Cruse-Sanders’ senior administrative experience managing botanical garden programming and personnel, her track record of raising funds to support those programs, and her energy and commitment to public gardens, made her the top candidate.

“Jenny’s strong record of outstanding leadership at the Atlanta Botanical Garden makes her ideally suited to lead Georgia’s State Botanical Garden,” said Jennifer L. Frum, UGA vice president for Public Service and Outreach, which oversees the garden. “I am confident that working closely with the board of advisors and the Friends of the Garden, she will be in a position to raise the profile of and support for the State Botanical Garden of Georgia throughout the southeast and the country.”

Cruse-Sanders has worked at the Atlanta Botanical Garden since 2008. She was director of research and conservation before becoming a vice president. Prior to Atlanta, she spent nine years as a research associate at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. She received her M.S. and a Ph.D. in botany from UGA. She earned her B.A. in biology at Boston University.

The State Botanical Garden serves UGA’s teaching, research and outreach missions, and is an extremely popular public garden. More than 235,000 people visit the Garden annually for educational programs, research, special events, and recreation. The 313-acre Garden includes a tropical conservatory/visitor center; the nondenominational Cecil B. Day Chapel; the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies; and a horticulture complex and nursery. The garden contains several theme gardens and five miles of nature trails through deciduous Georgia piedmont forest.

Cruse-Sanders joins the State Botanical Garden as it prepares to break ground in October on the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden, named for a charter member of the advisory board, and a key feature of the garden’s master plan. The university will begin construction on the new attraction in October 2017.

So far UGA, in partnership with the garden’s board of advisors, has raised more than $4.2 million for the Children’s Garden and has received authorization from the University System Board of Regents to seek bids for a design professional and construction manager.

The two-and-a-half acre fun-filled educational environment will include a wheelchair-accessible canopy walk in the trees, a tree house, creature habitats, hands-on garden plots, an underground laboratory, edible landscapes, and a bog garden and pond. One component, an amphitheater in the woods, was completed in 2015.

Cruse-Sanders follows Wilf Nicholls, who will retire on Jan. 31, 2017, after more than six years at the garden. Associate Director John Graham will serve as interim director from Feb. 1-14.

Contact: Kelly Simmons,, 706-296-0855

Student spotlight: Shivani Rangaswamy

Shivani Rangaswamy, a pre-med student from Cumming, Ga. and a 2016-17 Public Service and Outreach Student Scholar, shares with us her experience with service-learning at UGA and how she plans to meld service with her long-term career goals.

What made you want to get involved with service at UGA?

It is easy to get wrapped up in the college atmosphere and get lost in the “UGA bubble.” But outside our campus is one of the poorest counties in the entire country. By spending significant amounts of time learning about the issues facing the Athens community and working with various nonprofits in the area, I became very interested in facilitating change through my role as a UGA student. UGA has some great programs and organizations, like Public Service and Outreach, that really make huge impacts on our community. Over the past couple of years, service has become one of my main priorities for my undergraduate career.

What do you hope to get out of the Student Scholars program?

For most of my life, I have viewed service and my career as two separate aspects. The Student Scholars program really changed my perspective by showing me how I can integrate service and social responsibility into my career aspirations. I hope to learn skills and avenues through which I can integrate citizenship and service in all aspects of my life.

In addition to the Student Scholars program, what other volunteer and service programs are you involved with, both at UGA and in Athens?

I am a tutor with the Thomas Lay afterschool program where I mentor Athens-Clarke County students on a weekly basis. I also volunteer at the Mercy Health Center, which is a local free clinic. At UGA, I am the vice president of events for RefUGA, a refugee and advocacy student organization, and a service ambassador for the Center for Leadership and Service.

This spring you’ll be working with the Archway Partnership. What made you choose that unit for your internship?

I wanted to work with this program because I am interested in pursuing a career in community-based healthcare and I enjoyed the local and community-oriented approach of Archway. I like how they truly listen to their constituents and empower them with advice and resources rather than operative with a savior mentality.

Do you believe it is important for students to participate in service programs?

Service programs have been such a fulfilling and rewarding experience of my undergraduate career. I am so excited that UGA is making it a priority for their future students with the experiential learning requirement. The nonprofit/public service industry is a very rewarding and exciting field to work in, but not many people know much about it. Getting involved in programs such as Public Service and Outreach can open up career opportunities and pathways that you may never know you had the option to pursue.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

As a pre-med student, I will probably still be in school or training! But when I graduate, I hope to work for a local nonprofit organization. I want to work to provide accessible and affordable healthcare for my community. Your health is one of the most important aspects of your life, and if you are not healthy, you will have difficulty working and supporting yourself and your family. I believe that by providing preventative medicine that is culturally sensitive and locally based, medical professionals can provide citizens with the agency to make positive changes in their life.

Improved understanding of financials helps Atlanta aviation company soar

Dan Casey was looking for a location for a new business after selling his Oxnard, California-based helicopter tour company. Sean Casey was closing his 10-year-old residential real estate business in Atlanta after the recession hit the industry hard. The brothers could have opened their new aviation parts company anywhere, but they chose to land in metro Atlanta.

“When people think of Georgia, they think of peaches and peanuts. Not a lot of people realize aviation is the number one export product in Georgia,” said Casey. “Combined with the state’s friendly business climate, it swayed our decision to locate in Atlanta.”

They opened Rotocorp LLC in 2011, starting small and communicating with potential customers via email and phone. Dan focused on engineering while Sean conducted all sales and marketing.

“We experienced steady growth in years two and three,”said Casey. Rotocorp, an authorized Robinson Helicopter Company Service Center, now maintains the largest inventory of Robinson parts in the world. It also distributes aviation-related products from companies that include Rolls Royce, Dart Aerospace and Aviall, a Boeing company.

With more than 10,000 Robinson helicopters around the world, exports quickly grew to more than half of their sales and were responsible for 80 percent of their growth. The Caseys decided on a strategy to triple their export sales in three years and began looking for an export finance line of credit.

“We sell major components, so our average ticket is about $5,000,” said Casey. “One of hardest things for our international clients to do, sometimes, is to actually execute payment for an order. It can take days or weeks – depending on the country – to send us funds. We wanted to secure an export finance line of credit large enough that it would allow us to provide open account terms to some of our overseas buyers and attract new ones.”

They approached the Export-Import Bank at the end of 2013 and were referred to Darrel Hulsey, an international trade consultant for the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center.

“My eyes glossed over when we talked numbers, so the bank recommended we talk to the SBDC,”said Casey.

Hulsey helped them sharpen their financials and prepare financial projections as part of the application for a seven figure export credit line.

“For any small business, seeking capital is always a challenge,” said Hulsey. “Our goal is to enlighten clients as to what is available and how various entities can help them obtain capital, mitigate the risk and help them grow. When working with Sean, the objective is to make sure the company grows successfully. Success is not just a matter of growing, but of growing profitably and being prepared for that growth from a capital standpoint.”

“Darrel taught me that I needed to pay more attention to our financials,” admitted Casey. “Our work with the SBDC revealed that I really needed to sharpen my skills in that area of the business.”

Hulsey then recommended Rotocorp for the SBA Emerging Leaders Program. “This program is a seven-month long, extremely intense, ‘hacked’ MBA program,” said Casey, who graduated as the program’s class valedictorian.

“It helped extend Darrel’s training in the importance of managing by the numbers, making data-informed financial decisions,” he says.

Hulsey also introduced the Caseys to several industry contacts and a tax filing status called an IC-DISC. “The IC-DISC is one of the few true tax benefits left for exporters,” says Sean. “It helps make exporting more profitable. This information has been extraordinarily helpful to us.”

Rotocorp now serves more than 1,000 customers in 45 countries. It has three employees with plans to add two more in the next 12-18 months. In the last year, its sales numbers have nearly doubled. “We finished the third quarter of 2016 ahead of our total fiscal year for 2015 and are looking to have a record year this year,” said Casey.

“Sean is very determined and focused,” said Hulsey. “I’ve worked with a lot of owners over the years. Those like Sean are the ones who overcome obstacles and succeed. Rotocorp will continue to do well.”

Project will identify innovative stormwater management in coastal Georgia

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is helping create an inventory of low impact development stormwater practices along the coast to use as examples for future projects.

These practices improve water quality and the health of coastal ecosystems, said Jessica Brown, stormwater specialist with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

“One way of mitigating the impact of polluted runoff is the implementation of stormwater low impact development best management practices, which incorporate science-based strategies and tools to treat stormwater before it flows into our streams and estuaries,” Brown said.

The inventory will include best practices from 11 of Georgia’s coastal communities. Information about the type of practice, along with photographs and summary reports will be included. Summary data can be used to support the design, development and permitting of future projects in coastal communities.

Kelly Hill, coastal resources specialist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Coastal Resources Division, will work with Brown and other partners to develop the inventory. Hill hopes coastal communities will use it as a resource to learn about alternative infrastructure.

“The inventory will identify on-the-ground examples that can be visited in person and provide more detailed information on the process and costs involved,” Hill said. “This information can be used by practitioners, local governments and the water resource community.”

Funding for the project was provided by DNR. Other partners include the nonprofit Center for Watershed Protection based in Ellicott Coty, Md., and the Ecological Planning Group, a Savannah-based consulting firm.