UGA report helps rural healthcare providers prepare for COVID-19 pandemic

Healthcare professionals in Colquitt County have been better able to plan for their providers’ and patients’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to a customized report from the University of Georgia.

Produced by the College of Public Health (CPH) in coordination with the Archway Partnership, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit, the report outlined the number of weekly, confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations expected for Georgia’s 14-county Southwest Public Health District (SPHD) — a region that stretches from Lee to Decatur County and includes more than 340,000 people.

The information included in the report provides regional hospitals with more accurate estimations than the national or state-wide reports and can help administrators prepare for their specific needs, said Grace Bagwell Adams, an associate professor in the College of Public Health.

“In terms of estimates, what we’ve learned about COVID-19 is that there’s a tremendous geographic variation at the sub-state level,” said Bagwell Adams, part of the five-member team that produced the report. “Having the ability to generate local data allows for far more precise efforts around preparation.”

The report showed the expected increase in the number of hospitalizations between May 15 and June 5 if residents practiced partial social distancing or no social distancing.

Bagwell Adams’ team estimated that on May 15, there would be 3,684 cases of COVID-19 when adherence to partial social distancing occurred. By June 5, that number would increase by 586 to 4,270.

The estimates were significantly higher for the scenario in which social distancing was not practiced at all. On May 15, the estimated number of cases of COVID-19 was 3,816. Estimates projected that by June 5, that number could swell by 2,491 to 6,307 if no social distancing occurred.

Colquitt Regional Medical Center CEO Jim Matney said the model confirmed that the actions the hospital took to mitigate the spread of the virus were correct.

“If we go through a resurge, we’ll have a certain level of confidence that we’re going down the right path of handling this virus,” Matney said.

According to Matney, Colquitt Regional made adjustments to its visitation policy and its elective surgery policy, separated COVID-19 patients from non-COVID-19 patients in the emergency room and the ICU, and ensured it had a stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“This model now allows me to say if I have 40 patients in the hospital with COVID-19, I can predict what my utilization of PPE is going to be,” Matney said. “It helps you plan for the worst-case scenario. It helps you plan for the peak. That’s the value of it.”

The county has used the data to encourage residents to practice social distancing and also has shared it with neighboring communities and organizations.

“Just seeing this and having something tangible, something visual, is another effective tool not just for hospital leadership, but for the average lay person here in southwest Georgia,” said Sarah Adams, the Archway Partnership professional in Colquitt County, who has undergraduate and graduate degrees in public health from UGA. “I could potentially show these graphs to someone and say ‘here’s something that could happen; we want to avoid this and here’s some things you can do.’ So, it’s a quick, easy, effective tool that was put together by trusted experts, and we’re very fortunate to have this resource.”

CPH had previously created a similar report for Athens-Clarke County, with Bagwell Adams and her team basing their work off a state-wide COVID-19 simulation model developed by UGA professors John Drake of the Odum School of Ecology and Andreas Handel of the College of Public Health.

When Colquitt Regional Medical Center reached out for help, Sarah Adams served as the intermediary between them and CPH, utilizing their 15-year relationship with the county to help facilitate communications and distribute the finished report.

“We’ve had this relationship since 2005,” said Rob Gordon, Archway Partnership director. “They were our first Archway community, and we’ve developed a relationship and trust that whatever the situation — whether it’s an emergency or not — we can find them a resource to address their questions and needs. That’s especially true in this situation where they’re really looking for quick answers, and the fact that they’ve had this longstanding relationship between the community, Archway, and the College of Public Health really is the reason why they were able to provide help this quickly.”

Matney believes that longstanding relationship is an invaluable asset, helping the area’s healthcare industry — and the rural community as a whole — gain access to resources and expertise they normally wouldn’t have.

“The Archway folks and the University of Georgia folks and the College of Public Health, it doesn’t matter what we ask them or what we have a demand for, they’re always willing to look for some expert that can help us,” said Matney. “I don’t know how other small hospitals that don’t have a relationship with the University of Georgia make it.”


Aaron Cox Public Relations Coordinator • 417-483-5919


Rob Gordon Archway Partnership Director • 706-714-7059

UGA’s GeorgiaDATA website helps communities make informed decisions during the pandemic

Georgia’s state and local leaders can access accurate, current data to learn how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the economics of their communities through, a resource designed by UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Such data is vital to communities’ ability to plan and budget in the midst of the pandemic.

The interactive visualization tool allows elected officials, department heads and government staff to easily find relevant data, including sales tax and initial unemployment claims, see how their community’s leading indicators are trending over time and learn whether the same changes are occurring nearby, regionally or statewide, said David Tanner, Vinson Institute associate director, who spearheaded recent GeorgiaDATA upgrades.

“You can see how local data is changing over time with the tool,” Tanner said. “You can see how the data is trending compared to last year, or compared to nearby counties, regions or the state as a whole.”

The institute originally created to enhance access to county-level data printed every year in the Georgia County Guide. Users can drill down by topic, visualize the data using maps and on-screen tools, make meaningful comparisons. Data from the Georgia County Guide can also be download as Excel files. The Vinson Institute regularly updates the website with information drawn from official weekly and monthly sales tax and unemployment claims reports so that officials have the most current knowledge to make accurate decisions about their community’s future.

Leaders in Putnam County used sales-tax distribution reports from the COVID-19 Economic Data pages to establish a spending plan for completing this fiscal year and to develop a budget for their next fiscal year starting in October, said Paul Van Haute, Putnam County manager.

“GeorgiaDATA helps me analyze my county data compared to my neighbors and compared to similar jurisdictions around the state,” Van Haute said. “This is stuff I can share with the Putnam County commissioners and they can use, too.’’

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales learned more about during the institute’s webinar series, “Navigating Fiscal Crisis.” GeorgiaDATA is a tool more elected and appointed officials should be using, she said.

“You can get all the information you could possibly need to make good decisions. In these uncharted waters, this data becomes very critical,” Ordiales said.

The webinar on was recorded, and slides as well as video can be found on the institute’s COVID-19 Resources website.


Roger Nielsen Vinson Institute Public Relations Coordinator • 706-201-7192


David Tanner Vinson Institute Associate Director • 706-424-6824

UGA partnership helps Georgia communities manage their infrastructure

Angela Nguyen has been sheltering at home since March, but the UGA College of Engineering graduate student is still hard at work researching how to help Georgia communities — specifically smaller communities — better care for their bridges.

Nguyen is the second graduate assistant from the University of Georgia to work with the American Public Works Association (APWA) Georgia chapter in as many years, thanks to a partnership with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the UGA College of Engineering. The program, developed by Walt McBride, a senior public service associate at the Vinson Institute, partners an engineering grad student with the APWA Georgia chapter to help Georgia communities address infrastructure challenges they may not be able to handle on their own.

“This program is important because we’re able to get research conducted that benefits our underserved communities,” McBride said. “Larger communities can pay for their own research or have their own engineers, but underserved communities with limited resources just don’t have access. Finding ways to connect these underserved and rural communities, that’s the land-grant mission. That’s what we’re here to do.”

Nguyen didn’t see herself in this situation as she moved closer to finishing her undergraduate work last year. The daughter of a Vietnamese immigrant and the first in her family to go to college, she felt that graduate school was too expensive and instead had her eye on the workforce once she had her civil engineering degree in December.

But Stephan Durham, professor and assistant dean for student success and outreach with the College of Engineering, suggested Nguyen stay in school, earn a master’s degree from UGA, and work as a graduate assistant with the APWA Georgia chapter — a year-long arrangement that Nguyen considered a “no-brainer.”

“I never really thought of doing grad work, because it was always a financial issue,” she said. “Dr. Durham said that I would really fit with his program and that the topic of the research would interest me, because I am interested in bridges and that sort of infrastructure. Also, it would only take a year, I’d be doing great work, and it would also be funded by APWA.”

Nguyen’s research is focused on developing an asset management plan specifically for bridges, with the aim of creating an easy-to-follow guide for communities to use. The goal is to help municipalities learn how to better monitor the status of their bridges and become more proactive in their maintenance — something that would help prolong the structure’s life and ultimately save taxpayers’ money.

The project builds upon the work of Caroline Dickey, a 2019 Double Dawg who served as the APWA Georgia chapter’s first grad student in 2019. Dickey focused her research on the larger umbrella of asset management, a need many APWA members mentioned as a top priority.

For her final project, she put her thesis into practice and created a step-by-step asset management guide specifically for Washington County, a UGA Archway Partnership community. The experience opened her eyes to an area of engineering she hadn’t considered.

Angela Nguyen discusses her research in front of a projector.

College of Engineering graduate student Angela Nguyen showcases her ongoing infrastructure research at an APWA conference. (Submitted Photo)

“I’ve been able to use my experience from that in the job that I’m doing now, which has been really cool,” said Dickey, who works at the Kercher Group in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she helps municipalities across the country manage their assets. “I feel like now I’m in a supporting role for local governments, to be a consultant with them…I really took my experience in grad school as sort of a springboard into what I wanted to do. I didn’t really know that I could do asset management as a job.”

The APWA Georgia chapter was impressed enough with Dickey’s work to fund a second graduate assistantship this year, and plans to continue for a third year if its budget allows.

“I think it’s been a win-win,” said Stan Brown, APWA Georgia chapter board member. “It’s been great for the students. It gives them something that they can have a point of pride in, knowing that they’ve done something that will help cities and counties in Georgia. And at the same time, it’s given us something that we can use.”

Still in the early stages of her study, Nguyen hopes to produce a similar guide for a Georgia community in need. While working at home with her mother and two younger sisters, she has remotely surveyed and interviewed several Georgia communities — large, medium, small, and rural — and has begun compiling a list of potential cities and counties to serve as test subjects for her work.

“For us, it’s exciting to be able to go and test it and see the potential impact of this work on communities throughout Georgia while partnering with other Public Service and Outreach units,” Durham said. “That’s broadly what UGA wants to do, serve the state, and that’s what we’re doing with this.”


Aaron Cox Public Relations Coordinator • 417-483-5919


Walt McBride Carl Vinson Institute of Government Senior Public Service Associate • 770-503-4474

New hydrophones will let UGA Aquarium visitors experience the fascinating world of underwater sounds

Imagine hearing the sounds the dolphins make as they glide through the water, or the mating call of the oyster toadfish.

Visitors to the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island will be able to experience the underwater sounds of coastal habitats with the help of three hydrophones, purchased with donations from Friends of the UGA Aquarium.

“We will be able to build upon existing teaching experiences by incorporating soundscapes into lecture, laboratory and field-based programs,” says Dodie Sanders, an educator at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, which runs the aquarium. “We envision capturing underwater sounds of fish, other organisms and anthropogenic noises from deep water habitats, to oyster reef communities, to tidal rivers and sounds to create learning experiences for teachers, students and the public.”

Soundscape ecology is the study of how sound impacts the behaviors of living organisms in a particular environment. The underwater recordings will allow educators to teach students how to identify different fish sounds, learn about fish behavior and why they might hear more marine life in some areas, like oyster reefs, which provide important habitat for fish and crustaceans.

“We will incorporate use of the hydrophones in existing Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant programs, like our invertebrate lab where students can listen to underwater sounds on the dock as they collect invertebrate samples for lab studies,” Sanders says. “We will also be able to use the instruments during our dolphin tours, fish labs, trawls and public programs like Skidaway Marine Science Day.”

Sanders and Todd Recicar, marine operations supervisor at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, tested the equipment and gathered preliminary recordings in Wassaw Sound. In one of their recordings, you can hear snapping shrimp and to the mating calls of oyster toadfish, both native species to the Georgia coast.

Listen to an underwater sound recording.

The recordings of underwater sounds will be instrumental in developing new onsite and online programming at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. Educators hope to eventually develop an exhibit at the UGA Aquarium using the hydrophones which would allow visitors to listen to real time sounds of fish, dolphins and invertebrates from the Skidaway River.

UGA, Georgia Department of Agriculture offer tips to help agribusinesses market their products

Nearly 200 people from across the state tuned in Wednesday for a free digital marketing webinar for agribusiness owners looking for alternate ways to sell their products.

The webinar on June 17 was hosted by the UGA Small Business Development Center, the Department of Agriculture’s Georgia Grown program and UGA Cooperative Extension. The program was recorded and can be viewed at

Agriculture-related businesses from across the state have had trouble getting their fresh produce, meat and seafood to market during the pandemic.

The webinar introduced participants to ecommerce, best practices for social and email marketing, and suggestions for packaging products for shipping.

“We provided good takeaways on ways to market their business online,” said Bill Boone, SBDC entrepreneur outreach specialist. “If they need additional help or resources to implement the techniques covered in the class, the SBDC is available to assist.”

Georgia Grown helps agribusiness thrive by bringing producers, processors, suppliers, distributors, retailers and agritourism together to increase their exposure to customers suppliers and partners through an online searchable database. Find out more at

UGA Cooperative Extension has employees working in each of Georgia’s 159 counties.


Kelly Simmons Public Service and Outreach Dir. of Communications • 706-769-2720


Bill Boone SBDC Entrepreneur Outreach Specialist • 706-542-2762

Vinson Institute faculty member awarded PSO Employee Spotlight

A routine Zoom meeting turned into a surprise celebration for John Hulsey, a faculty member in the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, who was selected for the most recent Public Service and Outreach Employee Spotlight award.

PSO Vice President Jennifer Frum joined the start of the Government, Training, Education and Development (GTED) Zoom meeting to announce Hulsey’s award.

“This award recognizes employees who really go above and beyond in the course of their daily work,” Frum said. “Thank you so much for the work you do for Vinson, GTED and UGA.”

A framed certificate and a box of treats will be delivered to his home in Gainesville.


Hulsey, a certified public finance officer and a certified government financial manager, was nominated for the award by Courtney Alford-Pomeroy, the Vinson Institute’s communications director.

In her nomination, Alford-Pomeroy cited Hulsey’s support of other faculty and staff members in the Vinson Institute, and willingness to share his time to help with duties outside his own when the Governmental Training, Education and Development (GTED) team was short-handed.

“He’s taking extra time to help other presenters learn new software, talking through each step in simple, easy-to-digest directions and volunteering to do additional run-throughs until everyone is comfortable,” Alford-Pomeroy said. “We work with a ton of great people at CVIOG. I really am so grateful for the team we have here. But some stars shine extra bright, and John Hulsey is one of them.”

Prior to joining the Institute of Government in 2012, Hulsey served as a finance director in local government. He has over 17 years of local government financial management experience in such areas as accounting, budget, debt management, financial reporting, and project management. Hulsey is a past president of the Georgia Government Finance Officers Association, an active member of the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (where he also serves as an adviser to the GFOA Committee on Accounting, Auditing, and Financial Reporting), and a member of the Association of Government Accountants.

Hulsey is the fifth PSO employee to receive the spotlight award since it was launched by the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach in November.

UGA online leadership program equips public health leaders for COVID-19 response

COVID-19 was not on their radar in October 2019 when 28 emerging public health leaders from across the southeast began a leadership skills program created by the University of Georgia.

Within months, however, the first fellows in the Public Health Leadership Institute (PHLI) were  putting skills learned through the program into action as the pandemic rolled through the United States.

Developed by faculty at UGA’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, in collaboration with the Region IV Public Health Training Center (R-IV PHTC), headquartered at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, the program provided a way for participants from eight southeastern states to share resources and information as they developed leadership skills through virtual sessions.

“This has been extremely beneficial in that we are able to communicate outside of more formal channels, which usually involves emailing or calling multiple people before we are able to reach the same point as one email on the Listserv,” said Rui Zhao, an epidemiologist and communicable diseases supervisor with Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness in Louisville, Kentucky.

In addition, the program provided invaluable personal support to participants during the pandemic, said Julie Thacker, a senior health strategist at the Nashville Metro Public Health Department in Nashville, Tennessee.

“We have shared not only resources and information, but connection, humor and support,” Thacker said. “The support from the PHLI facilitators and my peers has made me feel less alone in navigating the leadership challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis.”

Michelle Carvalho, program manager for the Region IV Public Health Training Center, said that the way the PHLI Fellows have used the Listserv and the Zoom video meetings to share information from their agencies and support each other is one of the most inspiring and meaningful impacts of the program.

“Some of the fellows have had to take on higher formal leadership roles and responsibilities during this time as part of their agencies’ COVID-19 response, and our PHLI infrastructure is supporting them at this critical time,” Carvalho said. “Several of them have shared that they were especially appreciative of the timing of the PHLI because they have immediately used the adaptive leadership skills they have been working on to tackle their COVID-19 response.”

Between October 2019 and May 2020, Fanning Institute faculty facilitated sessions designed to help members of the program understand how culture and diversity can affect a public health leader, how to apply conflict management and group decision making tools in their professions, and how to identify strategies to lead change in the public health sphere.

“Developing these skills helps emerging public health leaders navigate and adapt to whatever they face in their communities to build successful partnerships that help improve the quality of life in their communities,” said Carolina Darbisi, a Fanning faculty member.

Separating the PHLI from most leadership programs is its emphasis on virtual learning, with the entire institute, except for the opening retreat, taking place online.

“We utilized virtual breakout rooms and interactive tools to create an engaging virtual experience during the larger sessions,” said Brandy Walker, a Fanning faculty member. “To build upon what we discussed in each of the main sessions, the class completed work between each of the sessions and continued to communicate with each other through the class Listserv.”

In addition, fellows interacted through virtual peer consulting and individual coaching, creating a much more complex and multi-dimensional learning opportunity, Carvalho said.

“The virtual environment also provides a valuable networking and communication platform across an eight-state region that may not otherwise happen organically,” she said. “It allows for a broader exchange of ideas, creates ties that may be more expansive, and offers different networks than a cohort in a smaller area or within a state.”

Participants describe the PHLI as a fantastic growing experience.

“The combination of introspective and retrospective learning has been really good in helping me identify where and what I am ‘good’ at,” Zhao said. “I always find that communication or the lack thereof can greatly enhance or sink a team and the work and PHLI deepened my understanding on how to approach that in different situations.”

Meanwhile, Thacker would recommend the program to others in the public health field.

“I can honestly say this has been the best professional development experience that I’ve had in my past 10 years in public health,” she said. “The team translated the in-person experience into the virtual space in a way that has kept me and others engaged. Every module has taught me something that I have applied to my work. The best part is that I know that I will continue to benefit from what I’ve learned for a long time going forward.”

States participating in the inaugural institute include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Planning is currently underway for the 2020-21 PHLI.

For more information, visit the PHLI website. Support for the PHLI is provided through a federal grant to the R-IV PHTC from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).



Charlie Bauder Fanning Institute Public Relations Coordinator • 706-244-6534


Carolina Darbisi Fanning Institute Asst. Director and Public Service Associate • 706-542-8633

UGA offers COVID-19 resources throughout Georgia

From helping local governments navigate their changing financials to providing online assistance to small businesses in applying for federal loans to providing meals for food insecure Georgians, University of Georgia’s Public Service and Outreach is working throughout the state to help communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, May 22, UGA launched a comprehensive webpage intended to help the public identify outreach programs and services that would help them address challenges created by the crisis. Information is compiled under “buckets” that include how to apply for federal funding for small businesses, webinars for local government officials and economic development professionals, financial assistance for nonprofits, and programs for communities and youths.

“As the state’s land-grant and sea-grant institution we have programs and services in place to address many of these acute challenges,” said Jennifer L. Frum, vice president for UGA Public Service and Outreach. “We have also quickly developed new programs of assistance for the most critical issues facing our communities during this time.”

Faculty and staff from all eight units of Public Service and Outreach, who work in all 159 of Georgia’s counties, are engaged in programming that will help communities more easily recover from the pandemic.

On May 28, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government will kick off a series of free webinars for government officials and economic developers called “Navigating Fiscal Crisis.” Those webinars, which also will be recorded and posted to the institute’s website, will focus on helping local governments make ends meet against revenue shortfalls, tools for budgeting and analyzing the economy, planning for cashflow, short-term funding strategies and communicating difficult financial decisions.

On June 1, the UGA Small Business Development Center will offer no-cost regional webinars to walk entrepreneurs and small-business owners through the steps necessary to pivot their business after COVID-19.

This program, developed by UGA SBDC business consultants and offered in coordination with the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, will focus on rewriting a business plan, financial best practices, communications strategies and resources to pivot for success. Register at

Programs offered online through other UGA PSO units include webinars on mental health and self-care, free courses in subjects designed to boost professional skills, and educational programming and camps for youth.

The site also includes a public portal through which volunteers can find opportunities and organizations can seek volunteer help.

You can find the site at


Kelly Simmons PSO Dir. of Communications

Vinson Institute webinars offered free to Georgia communities

A series of free webinars designed to help Georgia communities plan their recovery from the coronavirus pandemic will be offered by the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

The Navigating Fiscal Crisis webinars will help local government officials and economic development professionals learn how to make ends meet during revenue shortfalls and will provide tools for budgeting and analyzing the economy, planning for cashflow, short-term funding strategies and communicating difficult financial decisions.

“We know that cities and counties across the state — both in urban and rural areas — are going to struggle with this unprecedented impact on their communities,” said Laura Meadows, director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. “Our faculty experts can help them address their immediate financial woes and use models to prepare for future years of economic recovery and success.”

The series begins on May 28 with a 90-minute overview of the tools produced by the Vinson Institute to help communities understand the impact of the fiscal crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Economic and Budgeting Tools for Local Governments will discuss:

  • and how to access unemployment and sales tax data as well as other information.
  • A custom economic impact model that can produce model estimates of job loss at the county level, compensation decrease, and decrease to gross regional product based on estimated job losses in up to 40 industries.
  • A budgeting tool to help local governments look at a best case, worst case and likely case for their budgets and run scenario planning on each.

Upcoming webinars include financial topics of interest to communities, including cashflow, short-term funding strategies and communicating about fiscal challenges in difficult times.

The series is free and all sessions will be hosted by Institute of Government faculty members, who have a combined 75 years of experience in local government finance and economic development.

Upcoming Webinars:

Navigating Fiscal Crisis: Economic and Budgeting Tools for Local Governments
May 28, 1 p.m.
Register now

Navigating Fiscal Crisis: Easy Access to Economic Data (
June 4, 10 a.m.
Register now

Navigating Fiscal Crisis: Managing Cash Flow
June 9, 10 a.m.
Register now

Navigating Fiscal Crisis: Short-Term Funding Strategies
June 16, 10 a.m.
Register now

Navigating Fiscal Crisis: Communicating the New Normal
June 23, 10 a.m.
Register now


Kelly Simmons PSO Director of Communications

UGA SBDC offers no-cost online small business training

Online courses and business success training programs offered by the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center will be provided at no cost to small business owners through 2020.

“During this time, it is more important than ever for us to continue to offer accessible and high-quality educational resources for small businesses,” said Allan Adams, UGA SBDC state director. “We’re happy to have the opportunity to temporarily offer all our training programs at no cost as small business owners get back on their feet.”

The UGA SBDC is able to offer the programs at no direct cost through new federal funding allocated to the U.S. Small Business Administration through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and through corporate sponsorships.

Kyle Hensel, UGA SBDC director of continuing education, has been helping SBDC consultants design their content for an online format as well as develop new curricula addressing current challenges. Topics include business planning, operations and strategy, marketing, financials and accounting, human resources and more.

“We’re continuing to innovate to deliver educational resources for Georgia’s businesses,” Hensel said. “Like many of the small businesses we serve, we’ve taken this as an opportunity to adapt.”

Programs will be offered through each of the UGA SBDC’s 17 center locations throughout the state. Training participants will also have the opportunity to connect with their local UGA SBDC consultants to learn more about the resources available.

To find an upcoming training program visit

Experience in UGA Public Service and Outreach helped prepare alumna for pandemic recovery

Dealing with a crisis is nothing new for Sarah Jackson (BA ’11, MPA ’15), community partnerships manager at the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA/HS).

Now, with COVID-19, she’s finding her connections to UGA more helpful than ever.

“A lot of the issues that are coming up in addition to the actual virus are around food issues, food access, food waste,” said Jackson, who was a Public Service and Outreach Student Scholar at UGA. “It’s something that my career has prepared me for all along, from back in my days at Campus Kitchen and working at UGArden, and as part of that, I understand the food system.”

“What I’ve been doing for the last 10 years has educated me on what that looks like and why our current challenges exist in this new COVID-19 environment.”

Jackson’s job at GEMA usually has her on the front lines of disasters, like tornados and hurricanes, working with local non-profits. While the disaster is different this time, much of the response is the same—helping communities recover.

For example, she has been working with Team Rubicon, a disaster response organization that has pivoted to helping food banks, local counties and schools with logistics to get food to where it is needed.

Jackson says her college experience—she was the first director of the UGA Campus Kitchen and a UGAarden intern—provides her with unique insight into some of the particular issues surrounding the pandemic. Some of her mentors then are now colleagues in the COVID-19 fight. Jackson helps them navigate logistics surrounding waivers and supplies and they have helped her tap into resources to help local communities across the state.

Long-term recovery is going to be difficult, especially for communities that experienced tornadoes in addition to the economic fallout from the pandemic. Jackson is forging new connections through the UGA Archway Partnership and UGA Extension in order to have more points of contact in communities around the state.

“My understanding of the Public Service and Outreach units has been really helpful,” Jackson said. “We’ve been connecting on many levels, so UGA has remained close.”



Shannah Montgomery PSO Public Relations Coordinator

UGA offers 10 free continuing education courses

Free, self-paced online courses are now available to the public from the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education & Hotel. These courses cover a variety of hard and soft skills that apply to workers across a wide range of industries and fields, and will be available at no cost through June 30.

“Developing the right skills — technical as well as people skills — is vital for both job seekers and those who are currently employed,” said Stacy Jones, interim director of the Georgia Center. “We all are living in difficult times, and these courses on effective communication and customer service are useful in every work setting.”

The courses include topics covering website coding skills, marketing, personal finance, communication, supervision and management, customer service and searching for jobs.

“Self-paced online courses are valuable to anyone trying to learn new skills that will help them change careers or advance in their current roles — especially for those of us trying to manage our workload while teaching and caring for other family members,” said Kiel Norris, director of continuing education for the Georgia Center. “We hope that Georgians will take advantage of these free courses as a professional development opportunity, and find out just how well online courses work for them.”

To find out more about these courses and to register, visit:


Sue Myers Smith Georgia Center Public Relations Manager


Kiel Norris Georgia Center Director of Continuing Education • 706-542-3537

UGA’s 72nd Georgia Science and Engineering Fair held online

The premier annual science and engineering competition for Georgia middle and high schoolers was quickly transitioned to an online judging format for 2020 because of growing concerns about the spread of COVID-19. Normally, the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair is held at the Classic Center in downtown Athens, with about 750 students, and hundreds of judges and volunteers in attendance.

Despite the major changes to the format of presentations and judging, 593 students from across the state participated in the online competition by recording videos of their projects and uploading their supporting materials. Spread out over several weeks, more than 200 judges evaluated the senior division projects in late March and junior division projects in early April. Finalists were judged in additional rounds, and 225 students were awarded nearly $25,000 in prizes. This year’s main event sponsor was Burns & McDonnell, with individual awards sponsored by a host of organizations.

The fair is a program of the Office of Academic Special Programs, which is part of the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education and Hotel. Every year, thousands of students compete in local science fairs across the state. The winners are invited to compete in one of the GSEF-affiliated regional fairs, and the top projects from each regional fair are invited to attend and compete at GSEF.

“This year’s exhibitors have demonstrated exceptional skill, creativity, and perseverance in the face of uncertainty,” said Laura Brewer, fair director and program coordinator in the Office of Academic Special Programs at the Georgia Center. “Many of them are already developing technologies and discovering solutions that will be critical to overcoming global challenges, and all have made great strides toward bettering our world. This is a testament to not only the students’ talents and hard work, but also to the support provided by their parents, mentors, teachers, and fair directors.”

A screen capture showing an online GSEF presentation

Milton High School student Shreya Ramesh, winner of the 2020 Pinnacle Award, is among the students who opted to display their project online on the GSEF Showcase website.

Students who opted-in to display their projects publicly are highlighted on the GSEF Showcase website. The top awards include:

  • Pinnacle Award: “Identification of Auditory Biomarkers for Neurological Disorders” by Shreya Ramesh, a student at Milton High School, Fulton County
  • Junior Division Pinnacle Award: “How Clean Are Stethoscopes?” by Rachel Dressler, a student at Chamblee Middle School, DeKalb County

In addition to the Pinnacle Awards, Georgia Science & Engineering Fair Regeneron ISEF Awards were presented to the following four projects:

  • “The Amazing MYO” by Yashua Evans, Union Grove High School, Henry County;
  • “RadioWrite: Rapid Machine Learning Approach to Radiology Analysis” by Krishi Kishore, Lambert High School, Forsyth County;
  • “3D Printing Hierarchical Porous Glassy Carbon for Supercapacitors” by Howard Hua, Wheeler High School, Cobb County; and
  • “Detecting and Imaging TNB Cancer Using Perovskite Quantum Dots” by Vinod Ruppa-Kasani, Chattahoochee High School, Fulton County.

Although the 2020 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair competition has been cancelled, these students will still be honored by the Society for Science & the Public as ISEF finalists. To view the GSEF Showcase, visit The Showcase site, which includes student project videos, will be viewable through May 31, 2020.

Other notable awards from this year’s fair include:

  • Rebecca Winters, a student at Bonaire Middle School in Houston County, and Ella Dommert, a student at the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science & Technology in Gwinnett County, each won the Georgia Aquarium Conservation Award for their projects, “Biogas: From Trash to Gas,” and “Oil Adsorption Capacities of Organic Materials,” respectively. The students will each receive two tickets to the Georgia Aquarium, a behind-the-scenes tour, and a job-shadowing opportunity. Dommert recently also won first place in the Georgia Junior Sciences and Humanities Symposium, held at the Georgia Center in February, and third place in the national symposium, held online in late April.
  • A new award was sponsored by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. Cash awards went to first, second, and third place projects in both the Junior and Senior divisions and ranged from $50 to $250 each.
  • The U.S. Agency for International Development also sponsored a new award that recognizes projects that have the potential to significantly impact the lives of people around the world. The three recipients are Ana Carvalho, Jenkins High School, Chatham County, for “Zeolite Based Water Generation”; Candy Zheng, Rockdale Magnet School, Rockdale County, for her work on “Pathways to Educational Equality in China”; and Arnav Jain, Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science & Technology, Gwinnett County, for “The Intelligent Medical Stapler: Ending the Emergency Room Crisis.”
  • Kevin Davoud, Statesboro High School in Bulloch County, and Parvati Menon, Lambert High School in Forsyth County, were awarded the UGA Charter Scholarship, a renewable $2,000 annual scholarship for students attending the University of Georgia.

All of the 2020 awards are listed on the GSEF website:

About the UGA Office of Academic Special Programs
The UGA Office of Academic Special Programs equips Georgia’s pre-college students to succeed and to flourish in an increasingly complex and highly technical world by becoming problem solvers, critical thinkers, inquirers, reflective learners, and more productive and influential members of their communities. For more information call 706-542-6473 or visit


Sue Myers Smith Georgia Center Public Relations Manager


Laura Brewer Georgia Center Program Director

UGA connecting Georgia seafood producers to consumers during the coronavirus pandemic

As farmers and food distributers struggle to get their products into the hands of consumers, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant has teamed up with UGA Cooperative Extension and the Georgia Department of Agriculture to generate business for the seafood industry.

The Ag Products Connection, a partnership between UGA Extension and the state agriculture department’s Georgia Grown program, is designed to connect farmers and seafood producers with customers around the state looking to source local food products. Businesses can sign up to have their companies promoted through the online platform, which lists local businesses by county.

“The resource was developed for producers who had a glut of product. Some were selling to school systems or restaurants, but now they don’t have those avenues of customers,” said Tori Stivers, seafood and marketing specialist for Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “With this program, they can market directly to consumers who can serve as new source of revenue for them.”

Stivers is working with fisheries specialists in UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant to promote the resource to seafood professionals, many based on the coast, who are dealing with a surplus of product during the pandemic. She recently shared the resource with a list of more than 150 seafood wholesalers in Georgia, encouraging them to sign up.

“My hope is that it provides some income to those who have seen their business drop during this time so they can keep as many employees on the payroll as possible,” Stivers said. “If they can supplement their business by going directly to consumers, it might help them stay open.”

Clams are cleaned with a hose

Some seafood businesses, like Southside Shellfish in Savannah, have already signed up for the program.

“We’ve seen a decline in clientele, but we’re still here and we’re still operating,” said Hope Meeks, owner of Southside Shellfish. “That’s why I think this resource will be so good because people keep calling and asking if we’re open, which we are.”

Meeks’ business  has been involved in commercial crabbing since 1991. The retail business began in 2007, with the opening of a market in south Savannah. In addition to local blue crabs, they sell black sea bass, snapper, flounder and other seafood native to the east coast.

“I’m hoping that this will bring in our regular customers as maybe new customers that don’t already know we’re here,” she said. “We have raw and cooked seafood, so for those who are skeptical about eating out, this is great way for people to source shellfish and fish products you can catch in our area.”

Georgia’s seafood producers and wholesalers who are keeping regular hours, providing curbside pickup, home delivery or e-commerce sales during the COVID-19 crisis can join the program by visiting the Georgia Grown Ag-Products Industry Promotion or Georgia Grown E-Commerce Promotion pages and filling out forms that will add their information to the statewide database of producers that is being shared with consumers and buyers.

Consumers can find seafood resources listed by county here

Georgia Grown — a state membership program designed to help agribusinesses thrive by bringing producers, processors, suppliers, distributors, retailers, agritourism and consumers together — is waiving all membership fees for the service until July to help producers affected by the crisis.


Emily Kenworthy Marine Extension & Georgia Sea Grant Public Relations Coordinator • 336.466.1520


Tori Stivers Marine Extension & Georgia Sea Grant Seafood and Marketing Specialist • 770-460-2506

Augusta business gets federal loan with UGA SBDC assistance

ATC Auto Center in Augusta has been in business since 1972, with a second location in Grovetown added later. Brothers Brian and Chris Weeks own and operate the auto repair business they took over from their father nearly 20 years ago.

They’ve built a good clientele over the years and have 21 employees.

It all was threatened by COVID-19. Business slowed as Georgia residents sheltered in place, and businesses closed. The brothers realized that their savings would only last so long and they didn’t want to lay-off employees. But they knew that’s where they were headed.

“We worked too hard for too long to get the team that we have and we didn’t want to have anything happen to them,” said Brian Weeks.

As longtime clients of the UGA Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the Weeks were among the local businesses that UGA public service faculty member Eric Frickey reached out to when the federal government approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which included money for small businesses.

Frickey, a small business expert in the UGA SBDC’s Augusta regional office, helped the brothers understand their options and how to pursue funding through the act’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). With guidance from Frickey and the local Queensborough Bank, the Weeks were able to get a $257,739 loan.

The PPP funding will allow them to continue to pay their employees and keep the business operating in the coming months.

A mechanic works on a vehicle at ATC Auto Center

“Now, we won’t operate out of fear,” Brian Weeks said. “When people operate out of fear, businesses start to decline because customers can read that. So, internally it helps us because everybody will be emotionally healthy and be able to keep their families emotionally healthy.”

“Every business owner should have a good relationship with their local SBDC.”

The Weeks brothers first began working with the UGA SBDC when they decided to open a second location more than six years ago. With SBDC assistance, they were able to solidify their projections, develop a concrete business plan, and successfully apply for—and receive—a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

They stayed connected with the SBDC over the years and have been invited to speak to other small businesses during classes at the Augusta office.

“We have this mindset in our office to keep in touch with our small business owners, just to check in on them,” Frickey said. “That’s what happened with Brian. I called him up and that lead to suggesting they look into the Paycheck Protection Plan. They took it from there and were successful.”

More than 10,000 people turned to the SBDC for assistance when the first round of CARES Act funding was announced. Of the $349 billion available to all U.S. small businesses, $204 million was awarded to 995 businesses in Georgia.

Congress approved the second round of CARES funding last week. For information about available loans and SBDC assistance, go to, an informational website created by the SBDC in partnership with the Office of the Governor, the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs at Gov. Brian Kemp’s direction.


Émilie Gille PSO Public Relations Coordinator • 678-997-7542


Kelly Simmons PSO Communications Director • 706-296-0855

Athens healthcare employees weren’t finding time to eat. UGA made it easier for them.

Healthy food for healthcare workers. That’s a new initiative for the UGA Campus Kitchen program, which has expanded its operations during the COVID-19 crisis to provide nutritious snacks and quick meals for employees at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center.

Every Tuesday for the past three weeks, Shannon Brooks has loaded her car with a variety of quick meals—trays of veggies, hummus, cheese, fresh chips and salsa, prepared by employees at the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel—to deliver to the hospital.

The prepared platters of food are meant to provide hospital staff — everyone from ICU nurses to the cleaning crew — with an energy boost while also serving as a ‘thank you’ for their hard work.

“It just seems like the more we can support our healthcare workers, that to me is the point of your whole community,” said Brooks, director of the Office of Service-Learning, which houses Campus Kitchen, a student-run food program for food insecure families in Athens. “We just want them to know that UGA is in it with them. We honestly just do it out of concern for their wellbeing, because they’re certainly working for ours right now.”

A volunteer wearing a protective face mask and gloves loads boxes of food into his car.

Steve Brooks, husband of OSL Director Shannon Brooks, loads boxes of food into his car to deliver to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center. (PHOTO: Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a flurry of partnerships in Athens, with UGA working alongside other public organizations and the private sector to address food insecurity throughout the community. Campus Kitchen is sending its excess food to Manny Stone, director of the culinary arts program at the Athens Community Career Academy. He is partnering with Athens Chef Peter Dale to cook meals and provide groceries to Clarke County School District employees and Athens food service workers who have recently become unemployed. Campus Kitchen also is providing weekly meals to three families served by the Athens Area Homeless Shelter.

“Our goal right now is to make sure any food we receive finds a home in a food assistance program or goes to workers like healthcare workers who need food to come to them,” Brooks said.

The food deliveries to Piedmont Athens Regional began after Brooks learned that the increasing workloads for the center’s staff was making it harder for them to break away to get to the cafeteria.

“A lot of these units, they don’t feel like they can leave the floor and go down to our cafeteria,” said Libby Hayes, senior human relations generalist at Piedmont Athens Regional. “So, the fact that we’re bringing food to them is just a game changer. The UGA group has just been phenomenal with what they’ve delivered. It’s absolutely kept our staff going. I can’t say enough positive things about how generous they’ve been.”

Meals for Piedmont Athens Regional are being prepared by a skeleton crew operating Campus Kitchen without student volunteers, who are no longer on campus. About 10 Office of Service-Learning employees and volunteers have maintained the weekly program, providing prepared meals and bags of food to more than 50 local families, most of them grandparents raising their grandchildren.

A Georgia Center chef

Chef Luke Simmons prepares healthy meals in the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel kitchen for use in Campus Kitchen deliveries. (PHOTO: Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

Other UGA units have added support. The State Botanical Garden of Georgia and UGArden provide fresh produce. Employees in the Office of Service-Learning pick up the produce and additional food donated by Trader Joe’s, Nothing Bundt Cakes and the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia and deliver it to the Georgia Center. There, Georgia Center food service employees prepare meals and trays of food in the center’s kitchen before it is stored in coolers at the UGArden for later delivery.

“We’re only able to do this because we have the Campus Kitchen operation,” Brooks said. “It’s really because we have these new partnerships in place and we’re able to take on some requests that we’re getting from the community.”

Luke Simmons, a special events chef at the Georgia Center, was eager to help healthcare workers in Athens after learning about his sister’s own food struggles while working as a nurse in South Georgia.

“At the end of the day, you walk out of there feeling like you did something better than normal,” said Simmons, who creates the food trays delivered to Piedmont Athens Regional. “When you get done [working] a banquet, you’re glad everyone is happy and fed, but this is actually helping the community. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

If you would like to join Campus Kitchen in serving families in our community during this time, a gift of any size will have an impact and be gratefully received.



Aaron Cox PSO Public Relations Coordinator • 417-483-5919


Shannon Brooks Office of Service-Learning Director • 706-202-2013

UGA announces additional help sessions for Georgia small businesses

The UGA Small Business Development Center has scheduled an additional 10 webinars for April 14 and 15 to help small business owners navigate the application process for federal assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Information about the webinars, including dates, times and login information, can be found at

More than 3,000 people participated in 16 webinars earlier this week. Since the webinars, 1,500 individuals have called or emailed the SBDC for information.

The informational website, created by the SBDC in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs at Gov. Brian Kemp’s direction, has been visited 21,000 times since its launch last week.

SBDC staff based in 17 local offices around the state plan are following up on calls and emails from individual small businesses, attempting to identify and contact small businesses that might not be aware of the webinars or know where to seek assistance, and are doing remote one-on-one consulting as needed.

“Georgia’s small businesses are hungry for any information that will help them receive help through the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) act,” said UGA SBDC Director Allan Adams. “Traffic on our Facebook page has increased by 328 percent. We need to continue our efforts to reach every small business in the state to make them aware of the federal support.”

The CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, allocates $349 billion to help small businesses keep workers employed amid current circumstances. The CARES Act provides funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), modifies the existing Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and provides immediate loan payment relief for current SBA 7(a) borrowers.

The website is updated frequently and includes the informational PowerPoint used in the webinars, a video recording of a webinar from earlier this week and an updated listed of frequently asked questions and responses. Find it at


Kelly Simmons PSO Dir. of Communications • 706-769-2720


Mark Lupo SBDC Business Education/Resilience Specialist • 706-569-2651

Vinson ramps up online continuing education

The University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government is quickly moving some popular education programs online so that state and local officials don’t fall behind during the coronavirus pandemic.

Vinson faculty members offered their first online class in the Certified Public Manager program on March 19. All 31 participants that are enrolled in the current program, which began in August, participated.

Students in the current CPM program have been meeting since August so it’s important for classes to continue uninterrupted, according to participant Tracy Mason.

“It was good for the institute to have a plan and be able to deploy that videoconferencing program so fast,” said Mason, senior assistant director of the Judicial Council of Georgia/Administrative Office of the Courts. “I don’t feel that I would have preferred to wait until we could meet face-to-face again.”

The CPM program provides professional education to managers throughout city, county and state government that helps them make fiscally and socially responsible decisions that benefit their communities. Having this kind of education will be even more important now as Georgia’s cities and counties deal with the impact from the novel coronavirus.

This program, like most of the Vinson Institute’s certification programs, is offered through a series of courses that build upon each other over a period of months. It would be a setback for participants if there was a long delay between classes.

The institute already had been moving some of its classroom courses online, which would increase accessibility for government officials spread throughout the state. But the virus, and subsequent statewide restrictions on gatherings in groups, made the changes more critical, said Tracy Arner, financial management program manager at the Vinson Institute.

“It’s shaping, really moment by moment, how we’re delivering services,” Arner said.

Vinson faculty used Blackboard Collaborative Ultra to videoconference the March 19 CPM class on budgeting. Through that platform, class participants could raise a virtual hand if they had a question, gather into small discussion groups, and “talk” back and forth with the instructor and among themselves.

“The class itself went on without missing a beat,” said participant Trey Wood, Jackson County finance director. “Once everybody got comfortable and started communicating back and forth, it was easy to stay engaged.”

Even though they weren’t in a room together, participant Niki Lemeska said the interaction via video kept the class on track.

“It allows you to feel like you’re picking up on the vibe of what’s going on in the classroom even though you’re not seeing your classmates live,” said Lemeska, program manager with the Georgia Commission on Family Violence.

Vinson already offered online learning, with standalone courses and webinars, said Laura Meadows, director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

“What’s new is we’re now providing live online instruction for courses we have previously delivered face-to-face,” Meadows said.

Another Institute of Government course, the North Atlanta Regional Management Development Program, was taught online using Zoom on March 25.

Participant John “Kevin” Norred, deputy chief of the Troup County Fire Department in LaGrange, found the process unusual but fulfilling.

“I really thought I would be working today with this Zoom thing going ‘wah, wah, wah’ in the background,” Norred said. “But I found myself engrossed and engaged just like in class. I just don’t have to drive home.”

While many classes are being adapted for videoconferencing, the institute will continue to offer webinars and self-study online classes for government officials throughout Georgia. Many are certified by the Georgia Department of Revenue, allowing local tax officials to earn continuing education credit. Others allow local and state leaders to work toward or maintain certification. You can find available classes at


Roger Nielsen Carl Vinson Public Relations Coordinator • 706-542-2524