UGA professor studies college access in two Archway Partnership communities 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Alexandra Shimalla and Rosanna Cruz-Bibb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer: Christopher James

Photographer: Shannah Montgomery

Financing Solution and Strategic Planning Support Rapid Growth of Covington Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Economic developers learn about UGA’s investment in coastal communities

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

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

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

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

UGA’s 72-foot research vessel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commitment to historic land preservation and education earns national award for UGA donors

Longtime UGA supporters and alumni Craig and Diana Barrow were awarded the prestigious Margaret Douglas Medal by The Garden Club of America (GCA) for their commitment and service to conservation education at their Wormsloe estate near Savannah, Georgia.

The national award was given to the Barrows in recognition of their “thoughtful stewardship and generous donation of both land and resources,” said Dede Petri, president of The Garden Club of America.

The Barrows are the ninth generation to live at Wormsloe, located on the Isle of Hope outside of Savannah, since the property was claimed and developed by Craig Barrow’s ancestor Noble Jones in the mid-1730s. Wormsloe is the oldest property in Georgia to be held continuously by the same family.

Wormsloe was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. That same year, the Barrow family donated 822 acres of the property to The Nature Conservancy, which transferred the land to the state of Georgia to be managed by the Department of Natural Resources as a historic site. The Barrows retained Wormsloe House and the surrounding 50 acres of the property.

In 2007, the Barrows founded the Wormsloe Institute for Environmental History to conserve the undeveloped land on the estate and to promote research and education programs there.

More than a dozen units across the university have engaged in research and education at Wormsloe. Among them are the College of Environment and Design, the Odum School of Ecology, the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering, the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

In 2013, the Barrows, through their Wormsloe Foundation, donated 15 acres of the property to the University of Georgia to establish the Center for Research and Education at Wormsloe (CREW). The center provides opportunities for UGA faculty and students to study cultural history and historical land use practices, among other topics, under the direction of Sarah Ross, a member of the faculty of the College of Environment and Design and executive director of CREW. In 2016, UGA dedicated two new cabins built on the property to house visiting students and faculty. The cabins were partially funded by the Wormsloe Foundation as well.

Cabins at Wormsloe provide lodging for students and faculty immersed in experiential learning programs on site.

In its recognition of the Barrows, The Garden Club of America highlighted CREW’s research with 400 varieties of vegetables in the UGA Heirloom Demonstration Garden at Wormsloe. Some of these plants, such as peanuts, blueberries and cotton, are leaders in Georgia’s robust agriculture industry. Heirloom vegetable trials on site contribute to profitability for coastal Georgia’s family farms by measuring plant productivity, pest and disease resistance, and flood and drought tolerance as well as documenting the preferred flavor profiles.

GCA also recognized the Barrows’ significant backing of landscape stewardship, habitat restoration and sustainable agriculture research on their historic property—all supported largely by UGA programs on site. In addition, GCA cited the significance of the transdisciplinary approach to education provided by CREW.

“Craig and Diana are certainly deserving of this national recognition,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “The University of Georgia is grateful for its enduring partnership with the Barrow family and the many ways they are helping us to expand our reach and impact across the state of Georgia and beyond.”

Craig Barrow credits Ross and College of Environment and Design Dean Dan Nadenicek for the work that led to the award.

“Diana and I were overwhelmed with humility and appreciation to be the recipients of such a prestigious award,” Barrow said. “However, we well know that the vision, leadership and hard work of Sarah Ross were largely responsible, as was the work of Dr. Dan Nadenicek and many others at the University of Georgia. The Margaret Douglas Medal not only endorses the university’s work at Wormsloe but also conveys a huge message of support for our many programs.”

Craig Barrow’s ties to UGA are deep. His great-great-great-grandfather, Alonzo Church, was president of the University of Georgia from 1829 to 1859, the longest-serving UGA president in history. Ten generations of the family have attended UGA. In 2010, the Barrows were named Family of the Year by the UGA Alumni Association.

Craig and Diana Barrow were recognized in 2013 as members of UGA’s 1785 Society, which acknowledges donors who have given more than $1 million in cumulative gifts to the university. In addition to the initiatives and research associated with CREW, the Barrows’ support has benefitted the UGA Libraries, the University of Georgia Press, the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School, and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

Craig Barrow is the current chair of the University of Georgia Press Advisory Council. Diana Barrow is a member of the Board of Advisors for the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

The Wormsloe State Historic Site is open to visitors and includes a museum and theater, picnic area, gift shop and walking trails. Visitors enter the site through an allée of live oak trees draped with Spanish moss. Events there include exhibitions of the tools and skills of colonial Georgians, led by demonstrators in period dress. Guided tours are offered daily. For more information, go to

Writer: Kelly Simmons,, 706-542-2512

Contact: Sarah Ross,, 912-414-2940


UGA Public Service and Outreach graduates 16 from leadership academy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Writer: Emily Woodward,, 912-598-2348

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The engineering students also benefitted from the project.

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

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

Panel installation began May 3, 2018. 


Writer: Leah Moss,, 706-583-0964

Photographer: Shannah Montgomery,, 706-542-3638

Contact: Ben Davis,, 706-542-4225

A Winning Recipe: Restaurateur learns the special ingredients needed in documents to secure SBA loan

Andre Gomez, chef and owner of Smyrna’s award-winning Porch Light Latin Kitchen, understood the rewards of providing quality service at an early age.

“My grandfather was into a lot of Puerto Rico business holdings, and one was a hotel,” he says. “So my first exposure as a worker was in the hospitality field.”

Working while earning his bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, he says he “fell into” food. “I loved seeing people enjoying their meals. The camaraderie in the kitchen and working together with the staff was pretty cool, too.”

Upon graduation, he continued working in various positions for several restaurants, including one of the top steak houses in Atlanta. He and his wife Ashley decided to pursue their dream and open a small restaurant that offered the familial friendliness and delicious flavors he grew up with in Puerto Rico.

Gomez’s search for funding led him to a bank, which then led him to the Kennesaw State University office of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center.

“When we talked about getting a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, the loan officer put me in contact with the SBDC,” Gomez says. “They told me the SBDC would be a good resource.”

He met with consultant Antonio Barrios in February 2015.

“Andre was very involved in the industry,” says Barrios, who now directs the Gwinnett SBDC office. “The bank told him they were interested and would like to proceed with the SBA loan application, but he needed some help with his narrative and financial projections. Like many clients, he had provided the basic information, but it was not in the format they like to use for their analyses.”

Barrios explained SBA loans and the application process to Gomez. He helped him prepare his three-year financial projections, including detailed revenue projections, sources and uses of funds, income statement, balance sheet and cash flow. He also provided a demographic report.

“I had put a business plan together—the concept, menu, etc.—and Antonio helped me fine-tune it using all the knowledge and information he has of restaurants and in dealing with banks,” says Gomez. “He put everything in perspective, made me feel more at ease in going through this process and answered all my questions.

“I’m first and foremost a chef. I understand the business from the food part. He helped me understand the other perspective as a business owner.”

“Andre had his numbers. I helped him put them in the right place in the plan,” says Barrios. “We made sure they were good for the bank’s expectations. Then we looked at the total loan package. I advised him on the other information the bank needs—his resume, personal tax returns and other forms the bank will look for. He went to the bank with all the information they needed, which facilitated the process.”

The six-figure start-up loan was approved, and on October 1, 2015, Andre Gomez opened his 1,400-square-foot restaurant in a former Quiznos that fronts Smyrna’s Village Green. He hired 16 employees.


Less than two years later, Porch Light Latin Kitchen’s revenues were outpacing projections by nearly 100 percent, reports Gomez. The restaurant was included in Atlanta Magazine’s annual “50 Best Restaurants in Atlanta” issue.

“Andre didn’t just wake up one day and decide to start a business. He had passion and planned to be successful. He worked hard and learned the operations of other restaurants,” says Barrios. “When it was time to open his restaurant, he used resources like the UGA SBDC to overcome challenges in putting it together. It was well planned.”

By June 2017, Gomez had signed the lease on more space nearby. He plans to open another restaurant with a new concept.

“The bigger picture is the most important thing I learned working with Antonio,” he says. “At the end of the day, I always want to look ahead, keeping everything in front of me so there won’t be any surprises. As a cook, you look at food costs. As a business owner, the plan I developed with the help of the UGA SBDC has helped me spend all of my money in the right way.”





Native plants brought to campus by State Botanical Garden an education tool for students

A garden of native Georgia plants installed on south campus by the State Botanical Garden of Georgia will offer students a place to observe and study plant and insect interactions to better understand the role plants play in maintaining biodiversity.

The garden, located on D.W. Brooks Mall close to the Odum School of Ecology, the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, and the department of plant sciences is part of the State Botanical Garden’s Connect to Protect program, which encourages businesses, civic organizations and homeowners to support pollinator communities by using native species in their gardens and plant displays.

“We wanted to create a space on campus that inspires our community to think about the way that our landscape can function and look,” said Lauren Muller, a graduate student in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, who has been working with UGA faculty and staff at the botanical garden.

The plants chosen for the site are those that would do well in the moist soil conditions along D.W. Brooks Mall, said Heather Alley, a UGA conservation horticulturist at the botanical garden. Among them: buttonbush, which attracts bees, butterflies and sphinx moths; Georgia aster, which attracts bees; swamp milkweed, which attracts monarch butterflies; and scarlet hibiscus, which attracts hummingbirds. The plants were cultivated at the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies at the State Botanical Garden, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit.

Muller is already using the south campus garden as an outdoor classroom for the undergraduates she helps teach about medicinal plants. She also takes time in these lectures to discuss Connect to Protect as a Public Service and Outreach program that encourages people to think about the potential ecological function of the landscape.

“Our hope is that we will be able to install interpretive signage at the garden,” Muller said, “This could be a place where entomology, ecology, plant biology and horticulture students could observe plant-insect interactions in an urban landscape setting.”

Rachel Smith, a third-year horticulture major, also is involved with the south campus garden. As a student worker in the Center for Native Plant Studies at the State Botanical Garden, Smith helped shepherd the project from start to finish.

“It’s super exciting,” she said, “because I really get to know and learn about our local native plant species and their different functions in the Georgia Piedmont ecosystem.”

Honey from southwest Georgia in stores across U.S., thanks to SBDC and federal loan

Ray Crosby knows his bees and honey. A third-generation farmer who lives with his family in the rural southwest Georgia town of Omega, he understands what makes his product—packaged as pure, unfiltered raw honey—unique. His knowledge, in fact, resonates with the customers from coast-to-coast who buy Weeks Honey.

“Working with Ray, I’ve learned a lot about honey,” said Heather Sharpe, a consultant in the UGA Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC) Albany office. Her honey-buying habits have made her a “honey snob” she said.

“Ray has a passion not just for the quality of the honey, but for the bees and beekeepers,” she said. “He’s an advocate for Georgia’s local honey and its health properties. He believes in handling honey with love and great care. Weeks Honey produces a pure quality craft product without damaging its properties, and Ray is committed to this mission.”

That commitment and assistance from the SBDC has helped Weeks Honey grow from the shelves of 150 stores to 3,000. Overall sales have increased 30 percent, and they continue to grow.

In 2017, Weeks Honey was named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Georgia District Office 2017 “Family-Owned Business of the Year.”

Crosby grew up helping with the family hives, but left home at 18 to make his mark in the corporate world.

“I said I’d never end up in this business getting stung by bees every day, but I came back in 2001 when my parents asked if I would help our family business for the next generation,” said Crosby, who has been running the business since 2009. “When we lost my father, I stepped out of the bee yards to manage the honey side as well.”

By 2015, Crosby realized that to leave a strong, viable business to future generations, he had to move it to the next level. He would need to restructure the company’s debt and expand.

He contacted Lynn Bennett, area director of the UGA SBDC at Valdosta State University.

“Ray needed some guidance in producing a solid business plan that would capture his current structure and provide a pathway for growth,” she said. “He was looking for assistance with his cash flow projections and wanted to develop a new marketing strategy.”

Bennett helped Crosby develop the plan and projections. She also introduced him to Sharpe, who worked with his staff to develop marketing strategies including social media and a plan to target new customers out west.

“We had to get bigger or cut back a lot to be profitable, so we made the leap. Our expansion was very expensive,” says Crosby said, “so I talked to Lynn and Heather quite a bit.”

Weeks Honey successfully secured a seven-figure loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Crosby used it to refinance the company’s debt and expand product sales to 28 states across the nation, from California and Arizona, across Texas to New York and New Jersey.

“The loan refinanced the equipment we needed for our expansion and the inventory and supplies. It funded the labeling equipment, machinery, inventory, bottles, jars and lids,” he said.

The business maintains between 6,000 and 8,000 hives of honey bees for production, and it rents hives to farmers in Georgia and California for pollination services. The expansion has ensured Crosby’s family and friends will continue to hold their jobs at the farm and has allowed him to hire another full-time employee. The company also supports 60 beekeepers, up from 20 just a few years earlier.

There are a lot of variables in honey production, Crosby said. But he has faith and understands the importance of good business decisions.

“I tell others, if you need advice or someone to hold your hand to get through any process in your business, the consultants of the SBDC are not afraid to get their hands dirty and do anything that needs to get done.”


New class begins UGA Public Service and Outreach leadership academy

The 2017-18 Vivian H. Fisher Public Service and Outreach Leadership Academy includes 19 faculty and staff representing each UGA Public Service and Outreach (PSO) unit, Cooperative Extension, and academic schools and colleges.

Offered through the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, the program emphasizes personal leadership development and communication skills, and it also helps participants recognize the role of outreach at UGA, see the scope of the work the units perform across Georgia and learn how that work ties into the university’s mission.

“By discovering more about themselves as leaders, learning more about each other’s leadership styles, and gaining exposure to the university’s public service and outreach mission, this academy helps prepare graduates to assume leadership roles within PSO and UGA,” said Fanning Institute Director Matt Bishop. “The Fanning Institute is honored to be a part of continuing Vivian H. Fisher’s legacy of professional development and service.”

Fisher was an associate vice president for PSO from March 2001 until her retirement in January 2008. She launched the academy in 2007. Fisher died in 2008. The academy was named in her honor in 2012.

“Our family is humbled that UGA recognizes Vivian as a leader and as someone who cared about her community and invested in others,” said Dexter Fisher, Vivian Fisher’s husband. “Vivian was a remarkable woman who believed in giving back and working to make her community a better place, and she would be pleased to see the work she did is continuing.”

The biennial academy provides an opportunity for faculty and staff to develop in areas that were important to Fisher, said academy participant Sarah Sorvas, a special projects manager with the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel.

“The principles she left as part of her legacy—self-examination, self-empowerment, collaboration, and mentorship—are all clearly realized as part of this program’s curriculum,” Sorvas said. “These guiding principles have produced a culture among Public Service and Outreach that promotes professional growth and development and a commitment to share these ideals with our community.”

Participants in the Vivian H. Fisher PSO Leadership Academy will meet for two days during most months of the fiscal year, visiting each PSO unit, including an Archway Partnership Community and Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant in Savannah. They will spend a day in Atlanta, visiting the State Capitol and learning about UGA’s relationships with state government officials. Participants will graduate with a certificate from Public Service and Outreach during a ceremony in May.

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

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


Writer: Charlie Bauder

Contact: Matt Bishop

UGA wins national award for helping coastal Georgia mitigate sea level rise impacts

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant at the University of Georgia received a 2017 University Economic Development Association (UEDA) Award of Excellence for helping communities on the Georgia coast reduce their risk of flooding and subsequently qualify for lower flood insurance rates.

The award was presented to UGA representatives on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, during the UEDA Annual Summit in Long Beach, Calif. UEDA represents higher education, private sector and community economic development stakeholders across North America.

“My deepest congratulations to the UGA faculty and staff who are behind this outstanding national award,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Their efforts to support communities across Georgia underscore exactly what it means to be a land- and sea-grant university in the 21st Century.”

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant won for sea level rise adaptation plans, developed in partnership with the coastal cities of Tybee Island and St. Marys. Using a grant from the National Sea Grant, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant faculty, as well as faculty from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, analyzed risks and vulnerabilities from tidal flooding and sea-level rise over the next 50 years, and developed a plan that enabled savings of $3 million on flood insurance for property owners. The plan has emerged as a model for other coastal communities across the country.

Three UGA programs were finalists for the UEDA award, which are judged on the alignment of their institution’s core mission activities with regional economic development goals in three categories: Innovation, Talent, and Place, as well as the intersections of these three categories.

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant were in the Place category, along with the Archway Partnership, which focused on work that helps Georgia communities address critical locally identified economic development needs, including infrastructure for growth and business recruitment, workforce development, leadership, tourism and downtown revitalization. Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, and the Archway Partnership are UGA public service units.

“I am extremely proud that we have been recognized nationally for the work we are doing on the coast as well as throughout the state,” said Laura Meadows, interim vice president for UGA Public Service and Outreach. “Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and the Archway Partnership are tapping into the vast resources of the university to help Georgia communities thrive.”

Innovation Gateway, a unit of UGA’s Office of Research, was a finalist in the Innovation category. That program was launched in 2015 to consolidate UGA’s technology transfer and new business startup programs, thereby streamlining the path from lab or field to the marketplace.

The competing organizations were judged by a panel of university and economic development professionals Criteria for judging included originality, scalability, sustainability, impact, and the feasibility of other organizations replicating the initiatives in their communities.

“The fact that so many University of Georgia programs were recognized in this national economic development competition highlights just how deeply committed our faculty and staff are to changing lives for the better,” said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten. “The impact of their work extends across our state and beyond, and I am delighted that they have received this significant honor.”

Writer: Kelly Simmons

Contact: Mark Risse




Getting buggy at the Botanical Garden’s 12th Annual Johnstone Lecture

If you’re into bugs, don’t miss the Johnstone Lecture at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia on Sept. 26.

The speaker will be Jaret Daniels, associate professor of entomology at the University of Florida and director of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity.

His talk, “Backyard Bugs,” is inspired by his recently published book, “Backyard Bugs: An Identification Guide to Common Insects, Spiders, and More.”

Daniels trained as an insect ecologist before focusing on conservation-related work, including pollinator conservation and declining butterfly species.

The book “is something I’ve wanted to do for some time because it’s a great way of encouraging young people to pay attention to the biodiversity that they find in their own landscapes,” Daniels said.

Daniels’ lecture will continue on the same track.

“I’m planning on doing a sort of virtual backyard tour of all the interesting insects that you might find,” said Daniels. Alongside a virtual tour, attendees will be given more detail about the histories and biologies of insects that can be found in a typical environment.

One example of an insect that could be uncovered is the Monarch butterfly, which Daniels calls  the “most iconic butterfly,” but is aware that not many people know the background and detailed story of them.

Daniels hopes people leave the lecture with a better appreciation for insects and a motivation to look closer at the biodiversity in their own landscapes. He also hopes that his book, and his lecture, will help get people outdoors and looking at the important insect biodiversity that is around them.

“I mean, as a child myself, that’s where I learned about insects, in my parent’s yard,” he said. “And you know, without that experience I wouldn’t have become a scientist.”

The Johnstone Lecture, sponsored by the Friends of the Garden, is scheduled for Sept. 26 from 7-9 p.m. in the Visitor’s Center and Conservatory at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, 2450. S. Milledge Ave., in Athens, Ga.

The lecture is free, but reservations must be made by Sept. 25 at:

UGA’s R/V Georgia Bulldog logs nearly two decades of sea turtle research

The revving of the engine serves as a wakeup call for those aboard the R/V Georgia Bulldog. It’s 5:30 a.m. and the deck is soon abuzz with commotion as the crew prepares to depart for a research cruise aimed at sampling sea turtles off the coast of Brunswick, Ga.

For the 18th year, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SC DNR) has enlisted the help of the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s R/V Georgia Bulldog crew to provide logistical support and assist with the collection of biological data for their In-Water Sea Turtle Research program. The program, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, is designed to monitor abundance, distribution and health of sea turtles along the southeast coast.

“Sea turtles are long-lived, slow-growing, and late-maturing species that only go on land to nest unless they strand,” said Mike Arendt, assistant marine scientist at SC DNR and lead researcher on the project. “If you don’t monitor them in the water like we do, and for a long period of time since they take decades to reach maturity, you’re missing the most important information.”

Arendt has worked on the project since it began in 2000 and took over the survey in 2007.

Because of where the survey is conducted, most of the data collected have been for loggerhead sea turtles, but in recent years, greater emphasis has been placed on understanding the distribution of the next most common species, the smaller, endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles.

“Between 2000 and 2015, over 2,300 loggerheads were captured compared to around 260 Kemp’s ridleys,” said Arendt. “We were starting to wonder if we were sampling in the right places for them.”

The shallow coastal waters off Brunswick have been some of the best documented locations for Kemp’s ridleys, and Lindsey Parker, captain of the R/V Georgia Bulldog, knows exactly where to find them.

“After so many years of random sampling all up and down the coast, I’ve found a few hot spots for ridleys,” said Parker. “We tend to see more around inlets and because of my familiarity with the Brunswick area, we can sample those areas more fully than in other areas that I’m less familiar with.”

The Bulldog, a 72-foot shrimp trawler that was converted to a multipurpose research vessel in the 1980s, is an ideal vessel for this type of sampling because it can easily navigate shallow waters and estuaries.

Sampling involves pulling two 60-foot trawl nets behind the boat for 30-minutes. Each time the nets are pulled up after a drag, excitement on board starts to build, especially if there’s a sea turtle in tow.

On this cruise, a Kemp’s ridley is caught on the first trawl. Once it’s safely on board, researchers work quickly to process it to reduce as much stress on the animal as possible. The team, made up of research biologists, technicians and graduate students, move around the boat with ease, grabbing gloves, measuring tools and vials while calling out information that’s recorded on a data sheet.

They first scan the turtle to make sure it hasn’t been tagged before assigning it a unique ID. They then collect blood samples, measure the carapace, administer the pit tag and place the animal in a harness so it can be weighed. The last step is the release, which involves gently lowering the turtle over the side of the R/V Georgia Bulldog using the harness.

“Kemp’s ridleys, by and large, are really easy to process,” said Arendt. “They’re healthy looking, they’re clean. Plus, they’re small, so it’s really easy to work them up.”

He adds, with a hint of pride, that their record processing time is 14 minutes.

By the end of the day, the team processed eight sea turtles, seven Kemp’s ridleys and one loggerhead.

“We’re about three-quarters of the way through our sampling period and we have 34 Kemp’s ridleys so far,” said Arendt. “Two thirds of our Kemp’s for 2017 were caught this week, which amounted to almost half of the 2016 total.”

This long-term project has generated a wealth of data that’s been shared with over 25 collaborators, studying everything from sea turtle DNA to testosterone to blood chemistry. The cruises also train graduate students in veterinary or marine science programs in practical field experience that will help prepare them for their careers. Arendt explains that bringing in more partners and providing workforce development opportunities is important for getting the most bang out of the taxpayer dollar.

“We have the skill sets, funding, and federal and state permits to safely capture and handle the sea turtles, so that enables the collaborators easy access to animals that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to study,” Arendt said. “In return, we get important information on sea turtle health and foraging behavior that the collaborators have the funding and skills sets for, so it’s win-win.”

Additionally, Arendt has the R/V Georgia Bulldog and her crew, who have decades of trawling experience and strong connections to the research community and the commercial fishing industry.

“The Bulldog crew is a great interface between science and industry to help disseminate our results and generate support for our endeavors,” said Arendt.

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


Atlanta gelato business turns to UGA Small Business Development Center for expansion assistance

Wes Jones and Jackson Smith grew up as best friends in their north Atlanta neighborhood. At some point, says Jones, “we thought it would be fun to start a business together when we got older.”

Maintaining their friendship through college, they
went on to jobs in education, for Jones, and gelato
 production, for Smith, who had moved to New York
 City. When Smith would travel home, he’d bring
cartons of his delicious craft with him to share with family and friends. Their requests grew, and Smith realized he may have found a product they could turn into a business.

The friends started working on a business plan. They invited another friend, Khatera Ballard, to help them on a brainstorming session, and she joined them in the start-up.

Honeysuckle Gelato launched from a food truck in 2011. The locally produced gelato desserts were an instant hit.

Within the year, the partners knew they needed help working on their business rather than in it. “We had gotten tied down in the day-to-day demands, working just to make the sale or get to the next day,” says Jones. “We needed to take a step back, put a strategic plan in place and follow it.”

Ballard had heard about the resources available at the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, so Ballard reached out to the DeKalb office. She asked for help ensuring the business had systems in place that would lead it to long-term sustainability.

“They were growing so quickly that they were going in many different directions. No one had a defined role. They were all doing whatever was needed to keep things running,” says Sharon Macaluso, area director of the Dekalb office of the UGA SBDC. She asked them to complete an organizational assessment chart to prepare for their strategic planning retreat.

With the assessment as a starting point, Macaluso led them through a strategic plan and helped them discover the areas that needed attention. She shared some of the resources available through the UGA SBDC, including IBISWorld Industry Research Reports and IndustriousCFO, a financial analysis software that provides four-year industry metrics. Jones and Ballard later attended the UGA SBDC’s GrowSmart® program, and Jones met with consultant Andy Fried of the UGA SBDC at Kennesaw State University to develop a financial scorecard and dashboard.

“Until we met with the SBDC, we had not set any goals or deadlines outside of what our customers want,” says Jones. “The SBDC offers the right environment to talk about goals and how we want to look in the next three-to-five years. They’ve helped us take a step back and really think about our growth. They helped us make sure to get results.”

They began to grow Honeysuckle Gelato “intentionally,” says Jones. Smith now oversees everything product-related. Wes manages the business and strategy, and Ballard leads branding and marketing.

They’ve secured several lucrative commercial contracts, including Whole Foods and Delta Airlines. In 2015, they opened their first retail shop at Ponce City Market to wide acclaim. Honeysuckle Gelato products are now available in stores throughout the Southeast.

Sales have grown more than 800 percent since Jones, Smith and Ballard first came to the UGA SBDC in 2012. Employment has grown to 10 full-time staff, with a store manager and production workers, and 15 part-time. In June 2017, they moved production into a building four times larger than their previous facility, with room to expand. They are located near the Atlanta Community Food Bank, to which they donate a generous portion of Honeysuckle Gelato’s profits, in keeping with their values.

“We want to make a tangible impact with our work through the food bank,” says Jones. “We’d always wanted to find a way to give back. Being in the food business, they were a natural t for us.”

Smith, Jones and Ballard continue to work with the SBDC as they expand nationally and internationally.

“Being accountable to someone else is really important. That has allowed us to take the time to be intentional about our business,” says Jones. “Our work with the SBDC has taught us how to make sure we’re asking ourselves the right questions and that we’re positioned to act on everything we put on paper.”


Pulaski County: L.I.F.E. League visits University of Georgia

On July 14, the Archway Partnership hosted L.I.F.E. League on the UGA campus for a day full of basketball, learning and planning for the future. Sponsors of the event include the Archway Partnership, the Office of Institutional Diversity, the Office of International Education, Recreational Sports and the Georgia Museum of Art.

L.I.F.E. League is a middle Georgia nonprofit organization founded in Hawkinsville that enriches the lives of local, at-risk teenagers by teaching goal setting, good decision making, and life skills. This was the league’s fourth annual trip to Athens to play the championship basketball game for their summer camp league.

The organization was founded by three graduates of the Pulaski Tomorrow adult leadership program, including Middle Georgia State University faculty member Jeff Tarver, the CEO of L.I.F.E. League. Pulaski Tomorrow’s adult and youth leadership programs were created as an initiative of the Pulaski County Archway Partnership in collaboration with the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.

According to Tarver, “this trip exposes our campers to the educational opportunities that are available to them. Every summer, after our UGA trip, I have several youth who approach me to tell me that they now aspire to attend college!”

The high school graduation rate for L.I.F.E. League participants is 90 percent—more than 15 percentage points greater than the local average. Many L.I.F.E. League participants also go on to participate in Pulaski Tomorrow Youth Leadership.

The L.I.F.E. League students started their day on campus with lunch at the Joe Frank Harris Dining Commons where they were joined by UGA students, faculty and staff. After lunch, the students walked over to the Georgia Museum of Art for a tour, learning activities, and discussion of college admissions and opportunities to see the world in college. Following their time at the museum, the students played their championship basketball game at the Ramsey Student Center in front of cheering UGA faculty and staff, Hairy Dawg, the Georgia Redcoat Marching Band, and UGA football standouts Nick Chubb and Jake Fromm.

This partnership between L.I.F.E League and the University of Georgia provides rural students with the opportunity to experience a college campus and learn about the opportunities available to them in the future. According to Tarver, “The University of Georgia has a tremendous impact on our kids by inspiring them to reach their full academic potential.”

Freshmen get a jump on experiential learning before their first semester

University of Georgia first-year student Paula Rios couldn’t hide a smile when she stumbled upon familiar children’s books at Books for Keeps.

The flashback to her younger days was an added benefit to Rios as she sorted books during a service-learning project at the Athens non-profit, which provides books to children in grades pre-k through 12, who are from low-income families.

“Wow, it’s just been a great experience to see issues in the community I wouldn’t be exposed to,” Rios said. “Now, I want to find a local organization I can work with during my college career. It helps create a closer relationship between students and the community.”

The volunteer work at Books for Keeps is part of a service-learning course for participants in the UGA Freshman College Summer Experience. The class, “Strategies and Life Skills Needed to Succeed,” requires students to participate in a service project that addresses a community need and reflect on it to gain a deeper understanding of what they learn in class.

This summer was the second year students in the 17-year-old Freshman College program were enrolled in a service-learning course.

Chase Hagood, director of the Division of Academic Enhancement, which oversees Freshman College, said the class introduces the concept of service-learning to incoming students who may not have heard of it before. For many students, it also fulfills the university’s new experiential learning requirement instituted last fall.

“We deployed this course to both help students understand the university’s service mission and help them quickly become members of the broader community,” Hagood said. “Having this course builds a more holistic picture of what life should look like at UGA.”

Course instructor Megan Ward, administrative director of the New Media Institute at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, used nontraditional teaching methods, such as assigning students to a scavenger hunt around Athens to familiarize them with the city. She also asked the students to research campus organizations that benefit the local community and consider getting involved with one of them once the fall semester begins.

Getting students engaged with the community early can make a difference, said Louis Crow, Books for Keeps program director.

Crow grew up in Athens and graduated from UGA in 2015 with a degree in social work. He said he always felt a separation between the community and the university when he was in high school, but programs like those run by the Office of Service-Learning, a part of UGA Public Service and Outreach, are changing that.

“It’s been great to have regular volunteers throughout the summer,” Crow said. “This exposes students to the community. You’ve seen more students get involved, especially the last few years under President (Jere) Morehead, who has made it a clear priority.”

Freshman College participant Darby Day said she’s looking forward to exploring other service-learning classes at UGA.

“It’s made me realize I want to do more of it,” she said. “It expands your horizon to get involved in Athens.”

The UGA Freshman College Summer Experience is a four-week academic residential program that allows incoming first-year students an opportunity to begin forming academic and social networks before their first full semester on campus. This year, 275 first-year students participated in the Freshman College.

Writer: Christopher James