New Institute of Government project will help communities reduce Georgians’ flood insurance costs

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s Planning and Environmental Services unit has been awarded a two-year grant to help coastal communities reduce residents’ insurance premiums through flood hazard outreach and education. The project, funded through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division, includes developing a toolkit of public information and mapping resources that will allow communities to reduce flood insurance costs through FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS). Faculty members Shana Jones and Scott Pippin, working with Georgia Sea Grant, will create the toolkit and a workshop to inform community leaders about effective ways to improve their CRS score, which directly affects flood insurance costs.

Pulaski County Archway Partnership forms Downtown Merchants Association

In October, the Archway Partnership in Pulaski County hosted a community-wide listening session to update priorities and share recent accomplishments. At this event, support and interest for Hawkinsville’s downtown was the main priority to emerge. This resulted in the creation of a new merchants association in March. Jake Green, Archway’s graphic design student, created a logo for the group, and efforts are now underway to work with master gardeners and the local women’s prison to spruce up and beautify the area. Next steps include new signage and maps.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant welcome Mona Behl

Mona Behl is the new associate director of Georgia Sea Grant. In this position, she is charged with managing various aspects of grant administration, strategic planning, and development and oversight of inter-, cross-, and trans-disciplinary efforts in research. One of her goals is to strengthen the connection between research, extension and education. Mona led Texas Sea Grant’s Research Program, and also worked as an extension specialist. She is a physical oceanographer by training, with experience in various aspects of science – research, administration, policy, education, outreach and communication.

Education conference to feature Institute of Government’s school board member training

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government is collaborating with the UGA College of Education to include training for local school board members in the 2015 State of Education in Georgia Conference. The college hosts the one-day conference every September to provide critical new information for board members, educational leaders, higher education faculty, and community leaders. For the first time, this year’s conference will feature two breakout sessions that institute faculty member Russ Cook is developing specifically for board of education members. Board members who attend the conference will earn credit toward state continuing education requirements. The eighth annual conference will be held Sept. 17 at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education.


State Botanical Garden of Georgia to celebrate National Public Gardens Day

Athens, Ga. – The State Botanical Garden of Georgia will join communities throughout the country in celebration of National Public Gardens Day on May 8. Presented by the American Public Gardens Association (APGA), this annual day of awareness invites communities nationwide to explore the diversity of local green spaces and take advantage of conservation, education and environmental preservation resources provided by public gardens.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia will be participating by offering:

  • Live music and garden tours: 12-1 p.m., Visitor Center and Conservatory
  • Tours of the Cecil B. Day Chapel: 12-1 p.m.
  • Free gift with purchase at the Garden Gift Shop: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Free cookie with purchase at Donderos’ Kitchen: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Drawing for tickets to two Sunflower Concert Series: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., front desk (winner will be announced at 5 p.m.)

The 2015 National Public Gardens Day will be celebrated by more than 550 North American botanic gardens, arboreta, museums, zoos and entertainment gardens with special events, tours and activities. National Public Gardens Day was created to drive local and national exposure to the importance of building sustainable environments through plant and water conservation, education and community engagement.

For more information on National Public Gardens Day, visit

Public Service and Outreach veteran named director of Archway Partnership

Writer:             Kelly Simmons, 706-542-2512,
Contact:          Rob Gordon,

Athens, Ga.—Robert E. Gordon Jr., a public finance lawyer and former University of Georgia Public Service and Outreach faculty member, has been named director of the Archway Partnership, effective today.

From 2010 to 2014, Gordon served as economic development and fiscal analysis unit manager for the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, a unit of the UGA Office of Public Service and Outreach, which also includes the Archway Partnership.

“Rob’s experience with outreach programs at UGA and his familiarity with communities in Georgia made him the perfect candidate for the position,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for public service and outreach. “His expertise in economic and community development will boost the efforts we are making in Archway communities throughout Georgia to help attract jobs, develop leaders, and solve critical issues.”

As director of the Archway Partnership, Gordon will oversee work being done in eight communities now actively involved in the Archway program. Through that partnership, an Archway professional is based in each community and serves as their contact with UGA, bringing resources from the university to help address issues identified by community residents.

Communities currently active in Archway are: Sandersville, Tennille/Washington County, Hart County, Americus/Sumter County, Hawkinsville/Pulaski County; Dalton/Whitfield County, Cairo/Grady County, Habersham County and Metter/Candler County. Griffin/Spalding County will become an Archway Partnership community in July. Alumni of the Archway Partnership include Colquitt, Glynn and Clayton counties.

“I am very honored to join the Archway Partnership,” Gordon said. “During its first 10 years, Archway has had tremendous success assisting communities address their locally-identified priorities by connecting those communities with university resources. I look forward to working with Archway’s very talented faculty and staff to build on that success by identifying additional ways for faculty and students to engage with the Archway communities.”

Archway began in 2005 as a two-year pilot project in southwest Georgia’s Moultrie, Colquitt County, to help that community solve issues related to rapid growth. During the pilot phase, Archway partners tackled issues such as land-use planning, workforce housing and economic development.

Since its inception, hundreds of UGA faculty, staff and students have engaged in research and outreach in Archway communities.

“Georgia’s local communities are served through access to critical faculty and student expertise,” Gordon said. “At the same time, university faculty benefit from addition research opportunities and students gain real-world experience outside of the classroom.”

Prior to joining Archway, Gordon served as first vice president, public finance, at Davenport & Company LLC in Athens, Ga. He holds a bachelor of business administration from the University of Georgia and a juris doctor, with honors, from The George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C.

Karls receives 2015 Engaged Scholar Award

Writer: Maegan Snyder

Since joining the University of Georgia, Anna Karls, faculty member in the department of microbiology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, has worked to establish unique outreach and engagement opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.

In recognition of these efforts, Karls has been named the 2015 recipient of the Engaged Scholar Award, presented annually by the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach. Initiated in 2008, this award recognizes a full-time, tenured faculty member for significant contributions in public service, outreach and community engagement.

“It is now recognized that community engagement is key to the success of higher education institutions, major corporations, health enterprises, small businesses and more,” said Karls. “With this in mind, I feel it is extremely important to provide professional development for my graduate and undergraduate students in the area of community engagement through research, teaching, and service and outreach opportunities.”

Though Karls has been involved in outreach projects since coming to UGA in 2000, it wasn’t until 2009 that she started her own projects, which include establishing a partnership between UGA and the first and second USA Science and Engineering Festivals, and providing science demonstrations at the Clarke County Young Scientist Fair and local elementary and middle schools.

In addition to these initiatives, Karls knew she wanted to do more to connect outreach with teaching and mentoring students. So in 2010 when she heard about the new Public Service and Outreach Faculty Fellowships, she decided to apply.

“I wanted to learn more about best practices in community engagement and in connecting that engagement with my teaching,” said Karls.

During her fellowship, Karls worked with the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development to create an interdisciplinary graduate service-learning course on approaches to community engagement. She also worked with the Office of Service-Learning and the Graduate School to develop the Graduate Portfolio in Community Engagement program. Both the graduate course and portfolio program provide professional development for graduate students and prepare them for careers in academia and industry where they will need to engage with the community.

Karls also was named a 2012-13 Service-Learning Fellow, and she used that opportunity to begin organizing Experience UGA biology field trips for all Clarke County ninth graders. Experience UGA is a partnership between the UGA Office of Service-Learning and the Clarke County School District designed to introduce K12 students to opportunities in higher education. To support this initiative, she developed a service-learning component in her pathogenic biology course that requires undergraduate students to design and implement a research venue for the ninth grade field trips.

“I believe service-learning classes are crucial in developing and enhancing students’ understanding of course material,” said Karls. “Microbiology impacts nearly every aspect of our lives. By having them work on projects that address issues impacting the community, it helps demonstrate the relevance of their studies, guides them to consider a wide range of nontraditional careers, and gives them experience in solving real-world problems.”

Karls also provides ongoing research experiences for the Fanning Institute’s youth leadership programs, including the Hispanic and migrant student leadership programs, Girls, Inc., and College Bound.

“Faculty work today is multidimensional and not constrained by the traditional silos of teaching, research and service; innovative teaching is fed by active research that engages with public issues—and it requires faculty champions like Anna to lead the way,” said Office of Service-Learning Director Shannon Wilder.

Karls will be recognized during the Public Service and Outreach Awards Luncheon on April 13 at the UGA Georgia Center for Continuing Education. For more information or to register, visit

Extension specialist named 2015 Hill Fellow Award winner

Writer: Maegan Snyder,, 706-424-6876

When Eric Prostko was growing up in the northeast, he was initially exposed to agriculture during frequent visits to the small farm of a childhood friend. During college, Prostko had the opportunity to work on a small row-crop/vegetable farm where he was introduced to basic agriculture and farming principles. It was during that time that Prostko was inspired to set out on a path that would lead him right to the heart of the agricultural industry.

After receiving his MS degree in Agronomy/Weed Science, he took his first job as a county extension agent where he worked for five years before going back to school to earn his Ph.D. and become an extension specialist. Today, Prostko is a Professor and Extension Weed Specialist in the Department of Crop & Soil Sciences and is responsible for the statewide weed science programs in field corn, peanut, soybean, sunflower, grain sorghum and canola. In short, he is the primary person in the state of Georgia responsible for making sure growers know how to manage their weeds in these crops.

In recognition of his work, Prostko has been named the 2015 recipient of the Walter Barnard Hill Fellow Award presented each year by the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach. The Hill Fellow Award is UGA’s highest award in public service and outreach, recognizing sustained, distinguished achievement and contributions to improving the quality of life in Georgia or elsewhere.

“Eric is recognized as one of the leading experts, both regionally and nationally, in his field,” said Don Shilling, head of the Department of Crop & Soil Sciences in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Collectively, his research and extension programs have an annual estimated impact of more than $64 million in Georgia.”

As a former county extension agent, Prostko is deeply committed to the county delivery system. In his role, he takes university research and delivers that information to the general public—in his case, through Georgia county extension agents. Whether it is through in-service training programs, educational programs or county production meetings, his goal is to make sure he’s extending the information to the people who need it and can benefit from it most.

“I feel as though my primary responsibility is serving a resource person for our county extension agents,” said Prostko. “My main role is to respond to their questions and look to the future to see what potential problems might be on the horizon and have those answers before they develop.”

Right now, Prostko said the biggest issue he sees in his field nationally is herbicide resistance weeds— specifically in Georgia, Palmer amaranth, which is a type of pigweed.

“Weeds are a huge problem for crops, and most growers spend a large portion of their money on weed control,” said Prostko. “We’ve been working on the resistant weed issue for the past ten years and are slightly ahead of the game compared to other states. So we frequently get requests to visit other locations and share our knowledge about how we’re managing herbicide resistant weeds and what growers in other areas might be able to do if they’re not doing it now.”

Prostko said at the end of the day, what they are really trying to do is solve problems and develop information that keeps Georgia growers profitable. And in order to do that, county agents must have the most up-to-date information available.

“I am in a unique position because instead of reading the information from somebody else, I’m living it. I’m the person that actually collected the data or sprayed the plot, or I was driving the tractor or whatever it might be,” said Prostko.

Prostko is currently preparing for the spring and summer months where he will primarily conduct research trials in the field. He’s also focused on making sure the state’s newest and youngest agents are properly trained and ready to address any issue that might come their way.

Prostko will be formally recognized at the 2015 Public Service and Outreach Awards Luncheon on April 13 at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education. For more information, visit



Georgia Lt. Gov. Cagle to present UGA Public Service and Outreach 2015 keynote address

Athens, Ga. – Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle will present the 2015 keynote address following the 24th annual University of Georgia Public Service and Outreach Awards presentations on April 13.

The address, “Building a Better Georgia,” will take place at 2 p.m. in Mahler Hall of the Georgia Center for Continuing Education. The event is free and open to the public.

UGA’s Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach includes eight units that contribute to Georgia’s short- and long-term prosperity by bringing university resources to bear on the state’s most pressing economic, social and community needs: Archway Partnership, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, Georgia Center for Continuing Education, Marine Extension/Georgia Sea Grant, Office of Service-Learning, Small Business Development Center and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. For more information, see

Clarke County second-graders take public health field trip to UGA

Athens, Ga. – Approximately 1,100 second-grade students in the Clarke County School District will visit the University of Georgia campus April 7-10 during National Public Health Week for a field trip that will introduce them to basic health principles through hands-on activities with UGA students.

Sponsored by Athens Regional Medical Center, the event is part of Experience UGA, an initiative that aims to bring all Clarke County students to UGA’s campus for an annual field trip to experience learning on a college campus, explore college options and interact with UGA students. This trip was organized by students in UGA’s College of Public Health.

Each day, groups of approximately 250 students from three to four different schools will visit UGA’s Stegeman Coliseum from 9:30-11 a.m. and will participate in four stations focused on nutrition, hand-washing and germ spread, physical activity and bullying prevention. Each station will include a Q&A session where students will learn basic principles followed by a hands-on activity or game. The event is being staffed by more than 100 UGA undergraduate and graduate students from numerous schools and colleges.

“I think it is important to connect younger populations with public health concepts to support the development of positive attitudes toward health and to empower kids with some autonomy in their health behaviors,” said Deenene Chandler, event organizer and Master of Public Health candidate. “I hope the students attending the trip leave feeling that healthy behaviors like being active, choosing healthy foods, washing their hands and preventing bullying can be fun and easy.”

Experience UGA is a partnership launched in 2013 between the Clarke County School District, UGA Office of Service-Learning, College of Education’s Office of School Engagement, and other units on campus. Nearly 10,000 students out of 13,000 students in the Clarke County School District have visited the UGA campus this year.

UGA Office of Service-Learning
In service-learning courses, students participate in service activities that address community issues in order to enhance academic learning and teach civic responsibility. The UGA Office of Service-Learning supports the development of academic service-learning and community engagement initiatives designed to enhance students’ civic and academic learning, promote engaged research that is responsive to community needs, and contribute to the public good through mutually beneficial community-university partnerships. The office is jointly supported by the Offices of the Vice President for Instruction and Public Service and Outreach. For more information, see

UGA College of Education’s Office of School Engagement
The Office of School Engagement at the University of Georgia serves as a bridge between the worlds of theory and practice in P-16 public education to improve the educational experiences of students and the professional lives of educators. For more information, see

Georgia Sea Grant launches new legal program

Writer: Allison Doyle,
Contact: Shana Jones,

Athens, Ga. – Georgia Sea Grant has partnered with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia to create the new Georgia Sea Grant Legal Program where students at the UGA School of Law will work with legal and policy experts to address environmental questions facing policymakers in coastal Georgia communities.

Selected law students work as paid student legal fellows during the academic year or summer. Students will collaborate with local policymakers, scientists and business communities and perform expert analyses to inform decision-making.

“It is important for students to engage with real-world problems,” said Shana Jones, director of the legal program. “Fellows will work with multiple stakeholders to understand the environmental challenges facing coastal Georgia.” Jones, program manager for the institute’s planning and environmental services unit, has expertise in managing policy and legal issues related to land use and coastal flooding.

Two students have been selected as the inaugural spring 2015 fellows.

Hunter Jones, a third-year law student, is preparing policy memos focusing on the participation of coastal Georgia cities and counties in the Community Rating System, a federal program incentivizing communities to take steps to reduce their flood risk. Local governments can increase flood resiliency and lower flood insurance premiums for property owners on the coast through participation. Jones has focused her legal studies on environmental law and is interested in a career in environmental policy.

Amble Johnson is a second-year law student and is working with Tybee Island on its preparations for sea-level rise. He is currently conducting research on the application of federal voluntary property acquisition programs to Tybee Island and other coastal Georgia communities. Johnson also serves as a research assistant at the Alexander Campbell King Law Library at UGA.

As units of the Office of Public Service and Outreach, Georgia Sea Grant and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government help address Georgia’s most pressing issues and extend university resources to help Georgia prosper. The Carl Vinson Institute conducts training, technical assistance and applied research to help state and local governments operate efficiently and effectively and provide improved service to the public. One of 33 state Sea Grant programs throughout the country, Georgia Sea Grant focuses specifically on enhancing coastal environmental, social and economic sustainability through research, education and outreach. The Georgia Sea Grant Legal Program is a partnership between these units dedicated to providing legal and policy analysis on coastal environmental issues and training law students interested in environmental law. For more information on the program, see


Fanning student chosen as one of UGA’s top 100 student workers

Isabel Yanes, a student worker at the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, was chosen as one of the top 100 student workers on the UGA campus. In coordination with the National Student Employment Association, UGA’s Career Center invites nominations for the top student workers each spring. The top 100 nominees and their nominating supervisor will be honored at an awards luncheon on April 22 at the Tate Student Center where UGA’s Student Employee of the Year will be announced. The campus winner has been submitted to regional and national competitions.

Yanes is a third year student majoring in mass media arts at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is also working on a minor in Spanish and a certificate in new media technologies. At Fanning, Yanes has helped develop and animate instructional videos on youth leadership development.

To learn more about the Fanning Institute, visit

Charter schools association invites Institute of Government to give program at national conference

Two Carl Vinson Institute of Government faculty members were selected to speak about an innovative certification collaboration at this year’s National Charter Schools Conference. Tracy Arner, Financial Management Training Program manager, and government budget expert Dave Lakly will discuss ways other states can replicate a training curriculum the institute developed to reduce Georgia charter schools’ risk of closure due to financial problems. The institute developed the Financial Management Certification Program for charter school business managers in partnership with the State Charter Schools Commission and the Georgia Charter Schools Association. More than 4,500 charter school teachers, school leaders, administrators, board members and advocates are expected to attend the conference June 21–24 in New Orleans.

State Botanical Garden hosts Orchid Madness fundraiser

The horticulture staff worked with members of the community, Friends of the Garden and staff at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia to create a new fundraiser, Orchid Madness. One hundred people attended the Feb. 7 event, which was sponsored by several local businesses and included a catered reception, silent auction, take-home blooming orchid and hands-on class. The Garden Shop offered many items to complement the theme. Honored at this year’s Orchid Madness were Emily and Walt Sanders, who have donated a large number of orchids to the garden from their private collection. Proceeds from the event will enable the horticulture department to install a new deer fence to protect garden plantings and displays.

Athens Peer Court holds training for ninth class

On Feb. 2 the ninth group of area middle- and high-school students participated in a youth leadership training program to prepare them to serve in the Athens Peer court as lawyers, judge and jury in sentencing hearings for youth who have been arrested. Emily Boness, a faculty member at the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, trained youth volunteers in leadership skills, public speaking and restorative justice to promote behavioral change and reduce recidivism. Approximately 20 students participated in the training; currently there are more than 30 active youth volunteers in Athens Peer Court.

Athens Peer Court is an innovation in juvenile justice developed by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development and local juvenile justice units in Athens-Clarke County.

Small business owners grow smart with help from the UGA SBDC

Since 2013, when KMA Business Solutions Founder Annette O’Banion participated in GrowSmart, a business assistance program offered by the UGA Small Business Development Center, the company’s revenues have soared from $700,000 to $1.9 million.

O’Banion is just one of over 1,700 business owners who has benefitted from GrowSmart since it was established in 2002. GrowSmart is designed for established businesses whose owners are poised for growth but need help developing an optimal strategy for doing so.

“When I first heard about GrowSmart, it seemed like the perfect resource to help me with some of the challenges I was facing at the time,” said O’Banion. “We needed to tighten up our business model.”

The GrowSmart program includes five days of content, spread over five weeks. The course teaches owners to think critically about every aspect of their businesses, including marketing, finance and management.

Interested businesses apply to SBDC to participate in GrowSmart. SBDC representatives select the companies they feel will get the most out of the program.

“For each business that applies, we want to make sure GrowSmart is the best fit for them, and if not we can offer other SBDC services,” said Bernie Meineke, director of continuing education at UGA SBDC and one of the original architects of the program. “We want the participants to be able to talk about what they have in common and learn from each other as well as the course itself.”

The SBDC hosts multiple sessions each year, selecting participants for each session with non-competing businesses and with between roughly $200,000 and $10 million in annual revenue. With a wide spectrum of businesses represented, the course helps owners understand how fundamental business principles apply to a variety of scenarios and fosters cross-industry networking opportunities.

Many business owners who attend GrowSmart oversee most or all functions of their company and do not have designated senior management positions. The program teaches them the pitfalls of this approach and how an effective organizational chart can positively impact their business.

Another important step in growing a business is securing funds for expansion, and business owners are often daunted by the challenges of attaining business loans. GrowSmart walks owners through the loan process, helping them to understand and ultimately meet their individual needs.

“Having never been in business before, I desperately needed help understanding financials,” said Ardina Pierre, who was in the first graduating class of FastTrac and owns Hapeville, Ga., based Nature’s Own Herb Shop. “It was like an MBA program for me, and as a result I’m closer than ever to a long-time goal of reaching $1 million in annual sales.”

About GrowSmart

The UGA SBDC has 17 locations across the state and offers up to 12 GrowSmart training seminars each year. The next sessions will be held in Dekalb/Atlanta on Mar. 27 and in Augusta on April 24. For more information, visit

Arts showcased in Botanical Garden Visitor Center

The Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild created an exhibition of quilts in the State Botanical Garden of Georgia Visitor Center and hosted an opening reception on Jan. 11. The nature-inspired quilts were chosen from a juried show with entries from the 75 active fiber artists. The title and theme for the show was “Creatures in the Garden,” and included quilts that featured a variety of creatures (birds, butterflies, cats, etc.) embedded in scenes with flowers, trees and natural landscapes.

A group of six to eight lacemakers set up in the Visitor Center on Thursday mornings, enjoying the natural sunlight and charming curious visitors. Once a month, a photo share group meets in the Visitor Center encouraging photographers to explore the Garden with their cameras. Many photographs used by the Garden for publicity have been donated by volunteer photographers.


OSL hosts FIPSE First in the World Grant Meeting

In January at Centergy One in Atlanta, the UGA Office of Service-Learning (OSL) hosted the first meeting of co-PIs for a four-year, multi-site federal grant aimed at understanding the effect of community engagement and service-learning on the retention and persistence of underrepresented students at six public research universities. UGA has received $288,000 as a subgrantee for a U.S. Department of Education (DOE) grant from the Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education’s (FIPSE) First in the World Program.

Shannon Wilder, director of the OSL, will serve as UGA’s co-PI for this multi-site $2.8 million, multi-institutional grant that was awarded to University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development. The four-year grant, “Moving the Dial on Inequality Challenges: Broadening Student Access and Success and Transforming Institutions Through Campus-Community Engagement,” will fund an effort to target underrepresented students at six research universities, developing and implementing enhanced community-based learning experiences within their academic programs to increase academic engagement and sense of belonging, and measure the impact of service-learning and engagement on retention and persistence toward graduation among underrepresented students.

Along with the University of Minnesota, and UGA, other participating institutions are University of California-Santa Cruz, University of Illinois-Chicago, City University of New York, and the University of Memphis. Michelle Cook, UGA associate provost for institutional diversity, and Ning Wang, and institutional research analyst in the Office of Academic Planning, will also participate as part of UGA’s research team.