UGA Institute of Government strategic planning boosts workforce development in Georgia

Just northwest of Atlanta, Cherokee County boasts a well-educated population. More than 90 percent of its residents 25 and older graduated from high school. More than a third have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Yet 78 percent of the employed residents commute outside Cherokee County—some as far as Hall and Clayton counties.

That commute to areas outside of Cherokee County causes multiple problems. Residents find themselves sacrificing quality of life for hours in traffic while the county faces an influx of new residents but a daily drain in talent. If the workforce in Cherokee County didn’t match the jobs local industries were looking to fill—or the jobs they hope to draw in—the local economy would be in trouble.

“They recognized that if they were going to achieve their economic development goals they were going to have to win at their talent goals,” said Greg Wilson, a public service assistant at UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. “Keeping jobs and attracting new jobs in years to come.”

In 2016, the Cherokee Office of Economic Development formed the Cherokee Workforce Collaborative (CWC) and partnered with the Institute of Government to develop a strategic plan for workforce development. The collaboration brought together community members representing industry, education and other critical partners from economic and workforce development to evaluate labor market and education data to address the talent gaps and workforce challenges.

Guided by Wilson and supported by David Tanner and Mercy Montgomery from the Institute of Government, the CWC began creating a road map to identify workforce needs and strengthen its ability to recruit and retain jobs. The plan that evolved identified four priorities for improving its workforce pipeline: internships, innovative career preparation, business and education alliances, and sustaining momentum.

Within two years, Cherokee has already started hitting all the marks by using the plan that the Institute of Government helped the CWC create as “a strategic blueprint.”

“They pointed us in a measurable direction making sure we’re using the data and putting it into the community with a specific strategy,” said Misti Martin, president of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development. “Every group was just doing their own thing before. All good work, but now I feel like everybody is in the room sharing their great ideas and working together on it. I can’t wait to see what happens next and where it goes from here.”

Workforce development is not just an issue for Cherokee County, but for communities throughout the state. Workforce quality and availability is critical for business recruitment and retention, and Georgia made it a priority through former Gov. Nathan Deal’s High Demand Career Initiative (HDCI) addressing the need to develop skilled workers to meet the growing needs across the state.

The Institute of Government has helped guide workforce development and education planning in a number of Georgia communities, including Cobb, Pickens, Gilmer, Forsyth and Hart counties, and Middle Georgia, Southwest Georgia and Southern Georgia. Plans are underway in Gainesville and Albany.

When Chart Industries, which had an advanced manufacturing facility located in north Cherokee County for more than 30 years, was looking to relocate its headquarters from Ohio to the Atlanta area, it originally discounted Cherokee as a viable alternative.

“We presented data to them and they moved their headquarters (to Ball Ground in north Cherokee County) in 2017 and had an easy time finding all the upper management that they needed and couldn’t be more happy with it,” Martin said. “We’re having to prove that even though we’re outside Atlanta, it’s still a good location.”

CWC Chair Aaron Ingram says communication between the business community and the local schools has greatly improved because they recognize they have the same objective.

“It was sort of obvious that there was a bit of a disconnect between the needs identified by industry in terms of skill sets that were required for their future labor workforce, and the understanding by the school system as to what those skill sets might be,” said Ingram, president of NeoMed Inc., a medical device company in Woodstock, Ga. “This facilitates a lot better communication and buy-in and understanding of the problems inherent to each one of us.”

Martin, Ingram and Shawna Mercer, who was hired to manage CWC programs in 2018, say the internship programs are the biggest success to date. Thirteen rising high school juniors and seniors were offered paid internships this past summer at a variety of industries, including Alma Coffee, a farm-to-cup coffee roasting company with locations in Canton and Woodstock, and Roytec Industries, an electrical wire harness and assembly manufacturer in Woodstock.

Etowah High School Senior Kieran Black was hired as an IT intern for Universal Alloy Corporation (UAC) in Canton, which manufactures aerospace products for companies like Gulfstream, Boeing, and Airbus.

“When I first signed up for it I didn’t really know what I was getting into,” Black said. “I had never ever worked a corporate job like that before. So it was a really invaluable experience to be able to see that sort of environment and to get that hands-on experience.”

The company asked Black, who has experience coding, to stay on beyond the six-week internship to work on a project to create a web app that would help UAC run inventory on all its products each month.

“I actually got to live test it on August 1 because I was still working there and it went pretty well,” Black said. “They’re planning on using it in the future, too. So that was really cool.”

UAC was so impressed they said they would hire Black “in a heartbeat,” Mercer said.

“In the past there was trepidation to hire high school students,” she said. “Programs like this have really changed that narrative. Having a high school student provide instant value and bring something to the table is something special.”

Megan Oglesby served as a summer HR intern with Cherokee County.

Megan Oglesby worked as an HR intern with Cherokee County this summer.

The Cherokee Office of Economic Development also is working with high schools in the county, Chattahoochee Technical College, Reinhardt University and Kennesaw State University to enhance career opportunities for high school graduates who don’t pursue a four-year college degree.

High school Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) programs are being expanded to offer hard-skills training for jobs that local employers need to fill. Cherokee County is in the initial stages of launching a mobile training workshop that will feature modules that help young people discover opportunities in skilled professions, including the education required and wage expectations.

“What about the 28 percent going straight into the workforce?” Martin said. “Why can we not have them ready to look into a trade or career instead of just walking into a low-end, no-skill job?”

Cherokee also is working to bring back employees who have left the county for jobs elsewhere, or are commuting to other counties for work. Cherokee By Choice highlights job openings available across the county. A career expo, held in March each year, draws in more than 400 job seekers to learn about opportunities in local businesses and industries.

Carolina Fernandez had been commuting from her home in Woodstock to work in Norcross for 13 years before attending the 2018 career expo. She found a new job managing human resources at Jaipur Living, a rug manufacturer in southwest Cherokee, shaving more than 40 miles off her daily commute.

“After years of driving, I wanted to find a job closer to home,” said Fernandez, who returned to the expo this March as an employer. “I came to the Cherokee Career Expo last year and found my dream job.”

Cherokee County’s progress in creating workforce building blocks bodes well for the growing county’s future.

“It’s a long game,” Wilson said. “They’re already having some wins now after three years, but if they keep this focus on talent for decades they’re really going to be a shining star in Georgia and even across the southeast.”


Scott Michaux


Kelly Simmons PSO Director of Communications • 706-542-2512

UGA student designs plans for an Archway Partnership community welcome center

An abandoned storefront on the Moultrie downtown square will be repurposed into a welcome center where newcomers and visitors can find information about Colquitt County.

The former Citi-Trends store also will house offices and possibly a co-working space for small businesses.

Yusheng Fang, a graduate student in interior design at the UGA Lamar Dodd School of Art produced the design for the building’s redevelopment.

“The welcome center will serve as a cultural communication center for Moultrie so that more people can know about the city,” said Fang, a graduate assistant at the UGA Archway Partnership. Colquitt County was selected as UGA’s first Archway community in 2005. “The process of designing the Moultrie Welcome Center was also the process for me to learn the city.”

Downtown Moultrie Tomorrow, Inc., is developing the welcome center.

“We look forward to having a central space that will give us needed meeting space, restrooms and a space to provide information and history about Moultrie to both visitors and residents,” said Amy Johnson, director of the Downtown Development Authority, which oversees Downtown Moultrie Tomorrow, Inc.

The site, which has been vacant since 2016, has a long retail history.

Prior to Citi Trends, it was Allied Department Store. Prior to that, it was McLellan’s Five & Dime. McLellan’s name remains visible on the sidewalk on front of the store.

As McLellan’s, employees handled payment by using pneumatic tubes, similar to those at bank teller windows. Holly Perryman said her mom Lynda Moseley remembers the process of paying the cashier. Money would go into a container and it would be sent upstairs through the vacuum-operated tubes, recalls Moseley, a long-time tennis coach in Moultrie. An employee upstairs would send change back through the tubes.

Mary Lewis enjoyed working the candy counter and the popcorn machine at McLellan’s in the 1950s. She was working on Christmas Eve the year Elvis Pressley’s “Blue Christmas” came out and “the song was played over and over,” Lewis said.

Fang was selected for the project because of her expertise in reimagining spaces for their function and possibility. The redevelopment, rather than new construction, posed a different kind of design challenge for Fang.

“This project is a building that has undergone many renovations and is relatively complicated in structure. But the traces of this history also give this building a unique life,” she said. “On the second floor there is a special barn door and many structures with a sense of industrial design. How to retain these historical senses while allowing them to serve the new functions is an exciting and challenging part of the renovation project.”

The Archway Partnership is a unit of Public Service and Outreach at UGA. It connects Georgia communities to the full range of higher education resources available at the university to address critical community-identified needs. Colquitt County was where Archway started back in 2005 and is one of 13 communities that Archway has served since then.

“Partnering with the Archway Partnership definitely allows us to explore opportunities we would not have been able to do without Archway’s help,” Johnson said.

For more information about the Colquitt County Archway Partnership, contact Sarah Adams or 229-921-3170.

UGA Graduate Students selected as Knauss finalists

Two graduate students from the University of Georgia have been selected as finalists for the 2020 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, sponsored by the National Sea Grant College Program. The finalists will spend one year in Washington, D.C. in marine policy-related positions in legislative and executive branches of the federal government.

The students will join 69 other finalists in the 2020 class representing 27 of the 34 Sea Grant programs in the coastal and Great Lakes states and territories.

The finalists from Georgia are:

Guy Eroh, a master’s student in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Eroh is studying hybridization in Georgia’s black bass species and the effects of fungicidal hydrogen peroxide treatments in the hatching success of walleye eggs. He holds a bachelor’s degree in ecology from the University of Georgia.

Emily Yarbrough Horton is finishing her PhD in integrative conservation and anthropology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia. Horton is focusing her research on the socioecological dimensions of small-scale fisheries governance in a marine protected area in Northeastern Brazil. She holds a B.S. in environmental science and communications from the University of South Alabama.

The 2020 Knauss finalists will become the 41st class of the fellowship and will join a group of over 1,300 professionals who have received hands-on experiences transferring science to policy and management through the program.

Placement of 2020 Knauss finalists as fellows is contingent on adequate funding in Fiscal Year 2020.

The National Sea Grant College Program announced finalists for the 2020 John A. Knuass Marine Policy Fellowships. Here is a link to the national release.

Employee Development, Digital Marketing and New Lines Grow Sales for Carrollton Landscaping Firm

Joe and Sarah Bearden own Dreamscapes Landscaping Services. In 2017, Dreamscapes acquired a competitor, which yielded immediate and significant growth.  Due to its size, Dreamscapes required additional personnel to meet and manage their own sizeable growth along with the new growth through acquisition.

At about the same time, Sarah was installing a backyard pool and looking for independent retailers who sold outdoor furniture. Learning there were none in west Georgia, she realized she’d found a second growth opportunity.

While considering her options, she learned that Cole Fannin, a Dreamscapes client, had joined the UGA SBDC at the University of West Georgia as a business consultant. Bearden came to his office in July 2017 to discuss managing her business’s growth while expanding into retail and acquiring a new facility to manage her operations.

They first addressed the staffing issues.

“This industry has a high turnover,” said Fannin, “so we looked at her interview screening process, employment count and the additional labor force needed. Then we focused holistically on her human resources processes.”

An employee handbook and safety manual are critical for any small business, especially in an industry where heavy machinery is operated. Fannin called on UWG Area Director Todd Anduze for his expertise in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Together they assisted Bearden in developing an employee handbook and safety manual, and Fannin assisted with developing a streamlined onboarding process for new hires.

“Once we put the guides and employment expectations in place, the hiring process improved,” said Bearden. “There is no question now on what we expect. And we’ve grown to 15 employees.”

She then worked with Fannin to prepare owner financing documents for a 2,000 square-foot commercial building that would allow Dreamscapes to sell outdoor furniture and playsets. They reviewed her QuickBooks and financials and put together a cash flow analysis.

Bearden purchased the building and added a showcase filled with high-quality outdoor furniture. She also began selling and installing residential playsets. Her expansion paid off, with Dreamscapes winning the bid to build a 9,000 square-foot playground at the Douglasville home of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and his family.

Bearden next explored Google AdWords to create a digital marketing campaign. Fannin called in Drew Tonsmeire, area director for the UGA SBDC at Kennesaw State University and a digital marketing expert.

“Drew helped me pinpoint who to reach out to and showed me terminology people in the South use when they look for playgrounds. Our sales quickly picked up,” said Bearden.

In fact, net revenues for Dreamscapes grew more than 40 percent in 2018. By April 2019, the company’s installations were booked to October.

“I told Cole just this morning that after owning a business for 10 years, you think there’s nothing left to learn. But if I had just continued running a landscaping business, it wouldn’t have grown like this,” said Bearden. “I encourage all small business owners to reach out to the SBDC. You may not know how big you can get until you start talking to them.”

UGA Institute of Government, Archway Partnership create brand designed to draw people to Hawkinsville

Day-trippers, agritourists and businesses are being invited to “Come Home to Hawkinsville” to visit, shop and perhaps put down roots in the Pulaski County city.

Hawkinsville and Pulaski County are extending the invitation through a community branding initiative developed by the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the UGA Archway Partnership with input and a broad-based community branding steering committee. The steering committee will host a formal, public unveiling of the “Come Home” brand and logo later this year.

Chaired by Hawkinsville Public Relations Director Ginger Martin, the steering committee worked with Institute faculty and staff since late last year to gather ideas and identify the community’s most important attributes.

“Our new brand came from months of seeking input in our community and is intended to reflect a common theme for us all,” Martin said.

The Institute of Government team developed the brand design, complete with a user guide and stylebook, over the last nine months with Archway Partnership support. The Institute of Government team conducted seven different focus groups, interviewed 76 people and collected more than 100 online survey responses. The team also visited many local businesses, restaurants and farms.

CVIOG and Archway staff pose with members of the steering committee revealing the new city of Hawkinsville logo

Faculty member Kaitlin McShea Messich, a community branding and placemaking specialist who managed the project, said branding goes much further than just designing a logo that features an iconic site like the Pulaski County Courthouse cupola.

“It is more complex than that. Different from marketing, community branding is figuring out who and what a community is — uncovering unique assets, history and culture — and then packaging that in a way that is appealing to desired audiences,” she said.

Messich and institute graphic designer Allison Cape recently presented their final branding recommendations to Hawkinsville representatives, steering committee members and Archway professionals. They shared copies of the “Hawkinsville & Pulaski County Brand Lookbook” user guide, as well as samples of car decals, mugs, hats and other promotional merchandise that include the new logo.

The lookbook explains that branding provides a strategic way to attract visitors, new residents and new businesses by showcasing what makes a community unique and differentiating it from other communities in a competitive market.

“I just can’t put into words my excitement for Hawkinsville and Pulaski County’s new brand and the potential impact it will have on the ongoing progress of our community,” said Jenna Mashburn, Pulaski County sole commissioner. “This is such a fantastic opportunity to showcase our beautiful county and everything we have to offer, not only to our citizens but to anyone looking for a new place to explore or even somewhere to call home.”

The next step is developing a strategy for the full introduction of the new branding.

“The new logo looks great, and I am excited to unveil this to our community. Now the ball is in our court to prepare, promote and produce results,” said Shelly Berryhill, a Hawkinsville City Commissioner who serves on the steering committee.



Baker Owens Archway Partnership Public Relations Coordinator • 706-542-1098

Roger Nielsen Institute of Government Public Relations Coordinator • 706-542-2524

Small reptile, big impact: Gopher tortoises in the care of UGA after rescue

Young gopher tortoises are finding a new home at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant while they come out of their shell—figuratively speaking.

The gopher tortoises, Georgia’s official state reptile, were rescued as eggs from a site owned by Southern Ionics Minerals, a company that mines sand deposits for minerals used in industrial and consumer products.

Now housed in warm terrariums at the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Brunswick station, the tortoises are being fed and cared for until they are large enough and strong enough to be released back into the wild.

The gopher tortoise lives in habitats that are rich in deep sandy soil and abundant in ground cover vegetation, which they eat. They are known for their elaborate burrows up to 48 feet long and almost 10 feet deep, which they share with other reptiles as well as mammals, amphibians and insects. More than 350 species rely on these burrows for protection from predators and sanctuary from Georgia’s hot summers and chilly winters, making the gopher tortoise critical to the health of an entire ecosystem.

Gopher tortoises at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant (Video: Bryan Fluech)

Sadly, many habitats favorable to gopher tortoises are declining as a result of development, threatening the species.

Researchers from the Odum School of Ecology, based at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, work closely with Southern Ionics Minerals, a company that prides itself on environmental stewardship and seeks to leave minimal impact on the land and leave it as they found it within months after mining.

Gopher tortoise eggs also are excavated from Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s wildlife areas, where researchers collect genetic samples to study whether relocated tortoises are breeding with native tortoises.

By helping gopher tortoises get a strong start on life, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant are helping this gentle herbivore help hundreds of species around them. These tortoises may be slow, small and shy—but their impact is anything but.


A graphic depicts the length of the gopher tortoise compared to the length of its burrow. A snake, spider and rabbit sit in the burrow.



Leah Moss Public Relations Coordinator • 706-612-0063

UGA student Sarah Jackson turns service-learning into a career

After Sarah Jackson took her first service-learning course at the University of Georgia, she was hooked. Ten years later, she’s made a career out of service, community engagement and nonprofit partnerships.

“Through my geography major, I became involved in a bunch of service-learning courses, and I got to really apply what I was learning in the classroom into the real world in a practical sense,” says Jackson, a geography and Spanish minor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “It gave me confidence, new skills.”

Service-learning courses inspired Jackson to become a Public Service and Outreach Student Scholar, a year-long program that introduces students to UGA’s land- and sea-grant mission. During the spring, scholars complete an individual internship with a PSO unit that most corresponds with their academic and professional goals.

Jackson interned with the Office of Service-Learning, a partnership between the Offices of the Vice President for Instruction and the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach. The Office of Service-Learning supports the development of academic courses geared towards applying academic knowledge to the real world—a learning benefit for both students and the community.

In true service-learning nature, Jackson wasn’t just sitting at a desk. Along with another student, Jackson pioneered Campus Kitchen at UGA (CKUGA), UGA’s student-led, hunger relief organization housed at the Office of Service-Learning.

Sarah Jackson and a volunteer smile in front of a commercial kitchen.

Sarah Jackson helps prepare food with Campus Kitchen at UGA volunteers. (Photo: Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

At CKUGA, volunteers collect surplus food from grocery stores and the university’s student farm, UGArden, and deliver them weekly in grocery bags or transform them into family-sized meals. CKUGA serves those at risk of hunger, who are often on the waiting list for aid programs like Meals on Wheels.

“We partnered with the Athens Community Council on Aging [ACCA] to identify clients and found out that over 70% in the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program were food insecure,” says Jackson. “It just seemed like a really big gap and something where we could really make a difference.”

Instead of returning to her home state of Ohio after graduating in 2011, Jackson stayed in Georgia and turned her internship into a full-time coordinator position. Within four years, CKUGA grew to more than 400 volunteers and helped reduce food insecurity of ACCA clients by 30%. CKUGA was awarded Chapter of the Year by the national Campus Kitchen Project in 2014 and became a focal point for service-learning classes in a variety of disciplines, ranging from recreation and leisure studies to public health to dietetics.

Sarah Jackson picks plants outside. A big yellow tub sits next to her.

Sarah Jackson at UGArden, the university’s student-run learning and demonstration farm. (Photo: Dot Paul/UGA)

A key component of the CKUGA’s success was the introduction of AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTAs), who serve for either a summer or a year in nonprofits or Clarke County School District’s middle schools. The VISTA network is administered by the Office of Service-Learning, and Jackson became the first VISTA grant coordinator at the university.

“Partnering between VISTA members, UGA and nonprofits in the community, we had strong core partnerships where we could do program evaluation,” Jackson says. “With the university there, we had all the resources to say what we’re doing in theory seems like it works, and we can show we’re actually improving food security of our clients. We can measure our impact.”

Since 2013, the UGA VISTA network is committed to alleviating poverty. VISTA members help organizations reduce food insecurity, develop programming and otherwise assist low-income families. Today, there are 15 VISTA members serving in Athens-Clarke County and Barrow County.

“During her time at UGA, Sarah created meaningful, impactful, lasting change. She was able to develop herself as a leader and hone her skills in community partnership management and program evaluation,” says Shannon Wilder, director of the Office of Service-Learning. “We’re grateful for her efforts in leading both Campus Kitchen at UGA and the VISTA network.”

After earning a master’s in public administration from the School of Public and International Affairs in 2015, Jackson’s journey to combat food insecurity led her career to the Georgia Food Bank Association, which helps coordinate the efforts of Georgia’s seven regional food banks. As director of strategic initiatives, Jackson facilitated partnerships, secured sponsorships and created campaigns. It wasn’t long though until she found herself in a daunting new position: coordinating statewide responses during national disasters.

“When Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, I was placed in charge because my boss was out of the country,” Jackson says. “But we had never had a storm like that before. Irma hit all across the state. It was critical all of the food banks were communicating, sharing resources and plugging in with Feeding America, our umbrella organization.”

After that experience, Jackson began serving on the board for the Georgia Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster (VOAD), a coalition of relief organizations that help each other plan, network and stay up to date on relief efforts.

Everything changed when Hurricane Michael hit in October 2018. The fifth major hurricane to hit the state, Michael destroyed much of the agriculture industry in southwest Georgia with damages surpassing $3 billion, according to University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service and the Georgia Forestry Commission.

“Hurricane Michael was devastating to southwest Georgia, which had just been hit with tornadoes the year before. The agricultural damage was huge, and that’s the foundation of our economy. It’s kind of become a lost story—when people think recovery, they think six months after. No. It takes years just to go through all the cases.”

During Hurricane Michael, Jackson served as the point of contact between VOAD and the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA/HS), the state’s response and recovery agency. When a Community Partnerships Manager position opened up at the beginning of 2019 at GEMA, Jackson’s role was reversed—she’s now the one at the state agency helping to coordinate response efforts with volunteer groups.

Sarah Jackson points at the picture of a map in a glass office. Another person sits at the table.

When storms aren’t brewing, Jackson will be traveling throughout rural Georgia to build infrastructure and create strong nonprofit partnerships. That way, when storms strike, communities are better equipped to deal with the damages.

For an out-of-state student who wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after college, the turning point was service-learning. Now, Jackson is making a difference in the lives of Georgians every single day—and she’s just getting started.

“My experience in service-learning is what made me who I am today and I’m so grateful for that,” said Jackson. “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without that.”


Leah Moss Public Relations Coordinator • 706-612-0063

Alumni turn their appreciation for the coast into an opportunity for a student

You can see the salt marsh from nearly every room in Dorothea and Wink Smith’s Hilton Head home.

The activity varies with the tide. When the water is high, boats cruise through a channel that connects residents and businesses to the intercoastal waterway and the ocean. At low tide, you can walk out to the edge of the marsh where there might be wading birds, like herons, egrets and wood storks. Geckos perch on the wooden rail of the deck.

Their fascination with the marsh, its occupants and importance to the coastal ecosystem is what drew the Smiths from their home in Ohio to the South Carolina shore once they retired.

And it was that fascination that drew the Smiths to UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant on Skidaway Island, in neighboring Savannah.

“We live on the marsh, we walk on the beach,” Wink Smith says. “It fit right in.”

Since then, the Smiths committed money from the Patrick Family Foundation (Dorothea Smith’s family’s foundation) in Decatur, Georgia, to fund a summer internship at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant on Skidaway Island for a UGA student interested in marine sciences. Their gift will endow one internship a year.

“We have an emphasis on education and community and being a part of anything that helps the environment,” Dorothea Smith says of the foundation.

UGA offers summer internships in public education programming, communications, phytoplankton monitoring, marine careers, aquarium science, facilities operations and shellfish research at the Skidaway Marine Education Center and Aquarium.

“We went over there and were very impressed,” Dorothea Smith says. “We are facing ecological changes, and they’re on top of it.”

“The connection between us living here on the marsh and seeing what they’re doing with education made this scholarship opportunity push all the buttons we were looking for.”

Students supported by the Patrick Family Foundation Fund for the Smith Family Marine Summer Internship will have an opportunity to engage in a broad range of activities at the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant facilities on Skidaway Island.

They can help care for the animals on display at the UGA Aquarium, learning to use scientific instruments commonly used in marine science research. They will have the opportunity to research specific behavioral and physical characteristics of several marine species, as well as their habitats and diet. They can shadow marine science researchers in the field and lab, learn about shellfish research, including oyster production at the UGA Hatchery, and perhaps apply their knowledge of marine science concepts in the design and execution of a research project.

“Summer interns in this role will gain a deep understanding of Georgia’s coastal habitats and the functions of coastal ecosystems,” said Mark Risse, director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “The Smiths recognize that this experience is fundamental to a student interested in becoming a marine scientist or education.”

Dorothea Patrick Smith, from Decatur, Georgia, and Wink Smith, from East Liverpool, Ohio, met as students at UGA. They honeymooned on Hilton Head and made a home for their three girls in Ohio, where Wink Smith worked in the ceramics industry.

They bought their house in Hilton Head five years ago and spend 9-10 months of the year there. They plan to sell their Ohio home and relocate there permanently.

Between living on the marsh and the early morning walks on the beach, they have found ways to get involved in local conservation efforts. During a recent morning walk, Wink Smith found an unmarked turtle nest on the beach and contacted the person on Hilton Head responsible for tracking the turtles during nesting season.

“With education and communication we’re all becoming better stewards of the beach, the ocean and the marsh,” Dorothea Smith says.


Kelly Simmons  Director of Communications • 706-542-2512

Shedding a light on longtime State Botanical Garden supporter James Miller Jr.

Jim Miller grew up with a mother who enjoyed gardening. When an advisory board for the State Botanical Garden of Georgia began forming in the 1980s, he was a charter member.

His gift of $5,000 was the first private funding the garden received and it forever changed the trajectory of the board of advisors.

“It was symbolic, it set the tone for the whole board to be able to succeed, and it made an incredible difference to the garden,” recalls Susan Duncan, who helped establish the board.

Since then, James B. Miller Jr., as he is known formally, has remained a steadfast, often behind-the-scenes “gentle giant” at the garden, Duncan says. To this day, Miller continues to be active and involved at the garden, giving generously both personally and through Fidelity Southern Corporation in metropolitan Atlanta, where he serves as chief executive officer and chairman.

Last fall, Miller was named the State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s 2018 Distinguished Honoree during the garden’s biennial Giving Tree Tribute celebration of donors.  The Distinguished Honoree is the highest award bestowed on donors, recognizing those who have dedicated significant time and resources to the garden.

“Without his support, the garden would not be what is today. He has helped grow the garden from the very beginning,” says Jenny Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden. “He recognized the potential of the garden early on and the impact it could have on education, conservation and research for the university and across the state.”

Miller has supported campaigns for the International Garden, the Heritage Garden, the Flower Garden and the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden, to name a few. He also supports the annual Gardens of the World Ball, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s annual fundraiser, and served as ball co-chair in 1989 with the late Eugene Younts, then the UGA vice president of Service.

“I’ve always liked gardening, I grew up with a mother that liked gardening, and nature is so critical to us for food and life,” Miller says. “It’s amazing how much work, time and effort goes into the garden, but it’s an incredible asset for Athens and what an asset for Georgia.

He most recently contributed to the campaign to build a formal entrance to the Alice Hand Callaway Visitor Center and Conservatory near the upper level parking lots, with an elevator to make the garden more accessible to people in wheelchairs or pushing strollers, or who just have trouble maneuvering stairs.

“When my wife developed arthritis, I became very aware of what it takes to get around,” he says. “It’s also important to me now, personally, since getting a knee replacement and experiencing what many people go through.”

Miller was among the first donors to the accessibility project, said Dr. Geoffrey Cole, who chairs the garden’s board of advisors.

“It’s not just about money, though—he commits to things,” Cole says. “He’s been dedicated to the garden since it started.”

As a unit of Public Service and Outreach, the garden is dedicated to providing a place for not only UGA students, but visitors across the southeast to discover the wonder of nature and the important roles it plays in life.





Leah Moss Public Relations Coordinator • 706-612-0063

UGA students drive improvements to Thomson Twin Cinema


UGA students recommend sales technology, infrastructure updates and a community survey as part of a revitalization of the Thomson Twin Cinema, a critical piece of the planned restoration of downtown Thomson, a UGA Archway Partnership community.

Owners of the theater already are implementing some of the students’ recommendations, including installing a point-of-sale system and a community survey. The survey will be rolled out over the summer and early fall. Theater owners will consider the full slate of recommendations from the students over the summer and meet again early in UGA’s fall semester to discuss next steps.

The students, Leonard Leadership Scholars in the Terry College of Business, are working with two UGA Public Service and Outreach units, Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the Archway Partnership, on projects that would rejuvenate downtown Thomson in an effort to draw in more businesses and customers.

The students looked at theaters around the country and talked to their owners to determine best practices for the Thomson theater. Through that work they gained real-world experience that will help them succeed once they graduate, and they provided a valuable service to a rural Georgia community.

“These students have not only saved us countless thousands of dollars had we paid a consultant to perform what they have done, but they exude such positive energy that we can’t help but engage and interact with them,” said Jerod McDowell, a co-owner of Thomson Twin Cinema. “We are honored to have these smart, talented and professional future leaders helping us to revive a treasure of our downtown.”

For many of the students, this was their first project and first exposure to rural Georgia.

“It’s been a great experience this semester working with the owners of the cinema. They have been so welcoming and open towards us, and we can really see the love they have for the theater,” said Aracely Caldera, a student leader on the project. “We’ve been able to meet so many people in the community who support the theater and what we are trying to accomplish.”

The Archway Partnership connects selected Georgia communities with UGA resources to address critical community-identified needs. Thomson-McDuffie County is one of 13 communities selected for the Archway Partnership since the program began in 2005.

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government, working through the Archway Partnership, is helping Thomson revitalize its downtown through the Renaissance Strategic Visioning and Planning (RSVP) program, which works with rural communities to increase their economic vitality. Vinson Institute faculty, with faculty and students from UGA’s colleges and schools, work with community residents, local government leaders and businesses to prioritize issues related to downtown development and develop short- and long-range plans for implementation.

“I was impressed with the professionalism and knowledge the team of young business school leaders presented in their work. They have taken concepts learned in their course work and applied it to a real-world project,” said David Crawley, county manager for McDuffie and one of the members of the Archway work group. “The ideas presented will provide improved patronage for the theater, leading to improved revenues, allowing our community to retain a vital resource. I look forward to what the group will provide in the future.”



Baker Owens Public Relations Coordinator • 706-542-1667


Rob Gordon Archway Partnership Director • 706-542-3268

Galloping into new leadership techniques at the Fanning Institute

Brittany Adams-Pope introduced a new tactic to help teenagers build their leadership skills during a summer program at the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.

Her approach? Hold your horses. Literally.

“Horses are empathetic animals. They pick up on our body language and our energy and react to both,” said Adams-Pope, a public service faculty member at the Fanning Institute. “They mirror our emotions, relying on us to be leaders.”

During the institute’s week-long summer program for high school youth in foster care, Adams-Pope took the teens to the UGA Livestock Arena on South Milledge Avenue.

A girl steps over a jump, leading a horse to it. Another student stands on the other side of the horse.

There, they worked in pairs to guide each horse, while holding onto a lead rope attached to its halter, through an obstacle course of cones and plastic barrels, and over jumps. At the same time, the teenagers balanced a tennis ball on a spoon. It was an exercise requiring grit, determination, and above all else, communication.

One participant said the exercise required that partners talk to each other more.

“It was really hard having to focus on multiple things at once,” another one said.

Adams-Pope, a certified equine-assisted leadership facilitator, helped the students realize that the more nervous they were, the more nervous the horses—Paco, L.T. and Spike— felt. The more rushed the students became, the less the horses listened to instruction. Students quickly picked up on how their emotions were reflected in the horses’ behavior.

“What energy do you bring to the room? How do you become aware of that?” Adams-Pope asked. “How do you pick up on the nonverbal communications of others?”

“Spike is the most timid, like me,” said one student, observing how Spike hung away from the other two horses.

“L.T. seems pretty cheeky. He’s very, very playful,” said another, watching L.T. trot in front of the other two.

A student with long hair strokes the front of Spike's head. Spike is the darkest of the horses.

About 21 teens from across Georgia attended the Embark Summer Precollegiate Program at Fanning, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. For five days they lived on campus, learned about the UGA admissions process and financial aid, and working on leadership skills.

This was the first year that Fanning has used horses to work with the students. Adams-Pope, who is new to Fanning, has been using equine-assisted leadership in other areas, modifying the course’s complexity for student groups, business managers and nonprofit organization leaders, often switching the tennis ball to an egg and adding more tedious obstacles.

“One of the most important things I’ve learned through this type of work is that participants and facilitators can find leadership in all the things around them,” Adams-Pope said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be horses that create learning—it’s more about using a new environment and a new stimulus to create authentic, hands-on learning.”


Embark Georgia is a statewide leadership initiative that works to increase college access and retention for youth who have experienced foster care or homelessness. By creating a network of support on campus and across the state, Embark aims to improve the chances for every student to complete a degree or certificate program at one of the over 50 USG or TCSG institutions in Georgia.


Leah Moss   Public Relations Coordinator • 706-612-0063

Buford marketing firm gets an edge on the competition with help from UGA

Ten years ago, Alexandra Radford and Lauren Tatum were teenagers at a Gwinnett County high school where they shared common interests like fashion, friends and cheerleading.

Today, the two women still share interests but now those are graphic design, social media marketing and business operations at the small business they own together, the Edge Agency in Buford, Georgia.

There’s often also another party to the conversation: the UGA Small Business Development Center, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. The mission of the SBDC is to strengthen small business through one-on-one consulting as well as with trainings and workshops.

Radford first turned to the SBDC when she launched her first business in 2016. A UGA graduate in consumer journalism, she felt comfortable working with consultants from UGA. SBDC consultants helped her get the Limited Liability Corporation status and a business license for her company, Edge Marketing Company, LLC.

At the time Tatum was running a separate company that handled marketing for small businesses, and the two friends referred clients back and forth to each other for different services.

“One day we said, why are we doing this? This is silly. We could join and do this together,” Tatum said. “So that’s what we did. We took our two small business and put them together.”

They turned back to the SBDC to help form the new business, the Edge Agency. The transition was much easier with SBDC assistance, Radford said.

Alexandra Radford and Lauren Tatum combined their two small businesses to form the Edge Agency.

“I remember talking to the SBDC about an operating agreement, but it wasn’t something I needed when it was just me. When Lauren and I [put our businesses] together, it was something we did need and I wouldn’t have known about it without the SBDC,” Radford said.

Benny StaRomana, an SBDC consultant in the Gwinnett office—one of 17 regional SBDC offices across the state—helped the women through a strategic plan for their consolidated business.

“I helped them develop a strategy to accelerate cash flow by focusing on markets that are most receptive to their unique strengths.” StaRomana said. “Our role at the SBDC is to look at the underlying foundation and fundamentals of the business, including how to improve sales, which is always a major goal especially for emerging businesses.”

Although Radford and Tatum are young, they understand and can help their clients understand communications, relationships and psychology—a unique advantage StaRomana helped them find.

“The Edge Agency will ask clients, ‘Who is your ideal customer?’ If it’s a boutique selling clothes to 22- to 39-year-old women, earning $60,000 and above with small families, they know how to relate that demographic information to a website and design choices,” StaRomana said.

In just over two years, the Edge Agency has grown to four employees with more than 20 clients located not just in Georgia but also internationally. Clients range from companies focusing on real estate, events, fitness and wellness, insurance and nonprofits, to even plumbing.

Tatum speaking on the Digital Marketing Panel at StartSmart™ with other participants.

Now, the women are in a place where they’re regularly invited to tell their story during SBDC training classes, like StartSmart™, for new businesses, and GrowSmart™, to help businesses expand. They also regularly refer clients and industry colleagues to the SBDC.

“I recently sent a friend who was debating buying a book of business (a list of someone else’s clients) to the SBDC,” Radford said. “My uncle is also debating opening a franchise, so I told him he had to go. I tell people, why would you not go? It’s free. I throw it out there every chance I get.”

“We still meet with Benny StaRomana once, or every other month. The best leaders are always learning,” Tatum said. “Our advice to other young entrepreneurs: keep learning.”


Leah Moss  Public Relations Coordinator • 706-612-0063


UGA students work through Grady County Archway Partnership on capstone project

It may be a coincidence that Grady College and Grady County share the same namesake in Henry W. Grady, but they also share something else: a group of dedicated students making an impact with their skills and talent.

Students from the New Media Institute in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication spent the spring semester helping Grady County officials develop a plan to increase the visibility and tourism potential in the small, rural south Georgia community.

The students worked through the Grady County Archway Partnership, a UGA public service and outreach unit that helps communities tap into UGA resources to address challenges.

For their capstone project, the seven New Media Institute students created a new logo and slogan for the county, took high-quality photographs to be used in promotional materials, produced a 90-second video to be shown in visitor’s centers in neighboring states, designed print advertising and a one-page tourism guide, and enhanced Grady County’s Facebook and Instagram presence. They also created a website for the community.

“Our goal was to change this county for the better,” said Kelly Buckman, a Grady College student majoring in Entertainment and Media Studies.

Since January, the students made the 500-mile round trip between Athens and Grady County three times, getting to know the community, meeting and talking with residents and discovering hidden gems that make the community special.

Their guide was Sharon Liggett, an operations coordinator with the Archway Partnership. Liggett’s role is to match designated Archway Partnership communities, like Grady County, with UGA resources. When the Grady County Archway Partnership executive council determined it needed more contemporary, current messaging focused on tourism, Liggett turned to the New Media Institute, which offers an interdisciplinary certificate program focused on using technological applications to address problems. The certificate is open to all majors and is housed in Grady College.

“This was a pretty exceptional project for Grady County and we couldn’t have done it without the New Media Institute students,” Liggett said. “There is a real source of pride that we are bringing UGA home to Grady County. It’s exciting to have students share their experiences with community members, and to have the residents share their community with the students.”

Projects like this are a win-win, Liggett said. Communities get fresh ideas from the students and materials the county would not have been able to afford, while students get to use their academic education in a practical, real world setting. The students learn how to work with clients, meet deadlines and manage expectations.

“This is a real project, not just a class project,” said Megan Flory, who is majoring in graphic design in the Lamar Dodd School of Art. “It has the potential to change people’s lives. That is more pressure, but it feels really good.”

Word of the project spread quickly in the small community, said Tony Phan, an Entertainment and Media Studies major, who served as the group’s photographer.

“Most of the residents were super welcoming and were really interested in everything we had to offer,” Phan said.

Grady County residents opened their homes to the students, inviting them to dinner, showing them their personal car collections, introducing them to sites known only to locals, and hosting bonfires where the local residents and students shared stories about their work and studies.

Community leaders are pleased with the outcome.

Trey Gainous, director of the Cairo-Grady Chamber of Commerce, said work with the UGA students had helped the county find a clear direction on which to focus its tourism efforts.

“It’s programs like this that help small communities like ours that have the will power, motivation and even some assets to grow, but lack the direction or clear picture to move forward with growth,” Gainous said. “These students and programs are vital to small communities like Grady County for ideas, direction, and fresh eyes on a project or campaign.”

Student pets a llama on the neck.

Megan Flory, student, pets llamas during one of the group’s trips to Grady County.


Baker Owens Public Relations Coordinator • 706-542-1667


Rob Gordon Archway Partnership Director • 706-542-3268

Retiring in style: former corporate executive realizes entrepreneurial dream in franchise ownership

Mark Day was sure he would be an entrepreneur. After graduating from the University of Georgia with a business degree, he planned to do two years of corporate work and then set off on his own. His success in the corporate world, though, prevented him from executing his dream right away.

“I started as a sales rep, then decided to get my MBA, which enabled me to move into multiple roles in marketing, product management and sales management,” he said. Day was promoted to global vice president and then to divisional vice president for Asia, Africa and the Middle East region, where he served 10 years.

Upon retiring, Day began looking at opportunities to buy a small business.  “After 35 years in the corporate world I decided I really wanted to do something entrepreneurial. I was not ready to do nothing, not yet.”

He was frustrated, though, in trying to acquire the right business. “They were over- or under-valued or had skeletons in the closet. I could not find a good stand-alone entity to acquire at my price level.”

Day came close to buying a seasonal equipment rental business in Seaside, Florida, but the seller ended up dragging his feet on the sale, so he walked away. In late 2016, he approached the DeKalb office of the UGA Small Business Development Center for help in analyzing his options. He had known business consultant Steve Newton since their undergrad days together at the University of Georgia.

“We talked about his Seaside experience, and I invited him to several SBDC training sessions,” said Newton, “but he was unable to attend. I took notes at broker Leslie Kuban’s class on owning a franchise and invited him to meet her.”

Kuban introduced Day to several new franchise businesses, and he found others through his contacts. He worked with Newton to analyze each for its potential.

“We’d look at industry trends, references and cash flow analyses for these businesses, anything we could do to help Mark see how each business would develop over time,” said Newton. “Finding the perfect fit is the challenge. Each business has its own unique characteristics, so you must dig through the financials and other data to see what makes it profitable. The numbers may look good, but that may depend on its owner’s charisma, which may not transfer to a new owner. Leadership is important.

“We also look at whether it’s scalable. Can it grow? Is it in a growing industry? We help our clients recognize that. We do not do business valuations, but we can help a buyer understand what a typical business in that industry may be valued at, based on certain guidelines like owners’ discretionary earnings, inventory levels, average sales and profits. In Mark’s case, he ended up purchasing the franchise that was the least difficult to analyze and the most difficult to operate.”

After doing what he called “a lot of brainstorming with Steve,” Day, during a six-week period beginning in October 2017, acquired nine Smart Style full service hair salon franchises located in Walmart Supercenters in outlying metro Atlanta counties.

“I was very close to signing on with another franchise but changed my mind when I realized the salons belong to Regis, the world’s largest haircare company, and are located in the world’s largest merchandiser, where foot traffic averages 5,000 people per day,” said Day. “And hair is recession-proof. Amazon can’t do it.”

Day now manages nearly 50 employees in the nine shops while keeping his profits steady. He has learned turnover and customer loyalty are big issues. He also admits he has developed a new understanding of business management.

“I learned quickly that operating your own business is a whole different animal. You are HR, finance and the fixit person. Everything falls on you,” he said. “Steve has owned a business, so I’ve always respected his logic. Quite frankly, just having the resources of the SBDC, and being able to use Steve as a sounding board, is the best resource. I tell everybody about the SBDC now.”

Vinson Institute training helped prepare Harris County leaders for March tornado

There was no storm on the horizon the day that Harris County Commissioner Harry Lange took a disaster preparedness class with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

But five months later, when a tornado churned through his west Georgia community, Lange and Harris County first responders had an up-to-date disaster response plan in place to guide their recovery efforts.

“My feeling was, ‘We know how to respond to this,’” Lange said. “We had reviewed the preparedness plan, updated it and we knew what bases we needed to touch.”

Lange had attended a Disaster and Emergency Preparedness class during a training conference presented by the Vinson Institute in partnership with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG).

The class inspired him to return home, dust off the existing Harris County disaster response plan, and spearhead an effort to update it, prioritizing response and recovery needs.

On March 3, a tornado ripped through Harris County, damaging homes and leveling thousands of trees. The county was prepared, Harris County Manager Randall Dowling said.

“I think that the response was smoother since the county had a recent update to its operation plan,” Dowling said.

Since the tornado flattened most of the trees in a newly completed park, county leaders quickly decided that area temporarily would serve as a storm debris drop-off site for cleanup crews and the public, Lange said.

A tornado damaged homes and uprooted trees in Harris County.

On May 29, Lange met with department heads and other commissioners to review their response to the emergency, to discuss what worked and what they can do better. They used that information to further update the county’s disaster response plan.

The daylong Disaster and Emergency Preparedness class is part of the Lifelong Learning Academy continuing education program that the Vinson Institute and ACCG provide for commissioners and other county government officials. The class is designed to help county leaders learn more about out how planning can improve disaster response, explore their roles and responsibilities, and offer practical guidance on post-disaster action steps, said Mara Shaw, leadership development program manager at the Vinson Institute.

“At the end of the day, (Lange) commented about how much he had learned about his role in an emergency situation and the homework he needed to do when he got back to Harris County,” Shaw said. “Then, he put his learning into action. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.”


Roger Nielsen Public Relations Coordinator • 706-542-2524

UGA teams up with Georgia Chamber for High Potentials Leadership program


UGA led 19 business and organization members of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce through a leadership program in May designed for employees with the potential to help address challenges in their communities.

It was the second annual High Potentials Leadership program, led by faculty from the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.

Along with leadership training, participants also delved into public policy with faculty from the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government, learning about state demographics and local government. Meanwhile, leaders within the Georgia Chamber membership helped participants by providing practical advice and real-world professional experiences.

“I have learned so much, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of this program,” says McKenzie Lewis, director of Digital Media and Communications for the Georgia Association of Broadcasters. “Learning from other professionals and being able to talk with them about best leadership practices and how we can better engage with those in our community has been very beneficial to me.”

The High Potentials Leadership program is an example of how the Fanning Institute can tailor its leadership curriculum to meet the specific needs of an organization, said Fanning Director Matt Bishop.

“Unique leadership programs such as the High Potentials Leadership program can help communities and organizations engage their members and create a network of people with advanced leadership skills who are ready to contribute to a stronger state,” Bishop says. “We commend the Georgia Chamber for its commitment to developing leaders at all levels, and we are proud to support their efforts.”

By completing the program, graduates are equipped to address emerging opportunities and challenges facing their companies and their communities, said Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

“The most critical component to the long-term economic prosperity of Georgia is how we develop the next generation of servant leaders in the corporate community,” Clark says. “The High Potentials Leadership program was designed to position these leaders to find personal and service-oriented success.”

During the program, Fanning Institute faculty covered servant leadership through many lenses such as personal leadership styles, board governance, dialogue and examining one’s values and behaviors.

“The curriculum prepares graduates to better understand themselves as a leader and how to apply that knowledge both within their company and when representing their company in the community to help affect positive change,” says Brittany Adams-Pope, a public service assistant at the Fanning Institute.

The 2019 Georgia Chamber High Potentials Leadership program graduates are:

  • Abby Bradley, Pinewood Atlanta Studios
  • Camron Carden, Georgia Transmission Corporation
  • David Correa, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • Shaun Dodson, Georgia EMC
  • Chandler Faccento, Atlanta Braves
  • Kristen Fraser, Aflac
  • Toni Hannah, Georgia Power Company
  • Stephanie Hardy, AT&T
  • Joey Heath, Oglethorpe Power Company
  • Chris Hughes, JE Dunn Construction
  • Sydney Langdon, Turner
  • McKenzie Lewis, Georgia Association of Broadcasters
  • William Mann, Grant Thornton LLP
  • Ashley Mock, CBC Bank- Langdale Company
  • James Nixon, Meadows Regional Medical Center
  • Shannon O’Keefe, Abshire Public Relations
  • Kevin Parrish, Wells Fargo
  • Rachel Rhodes, Comcast
  • Sabrina Taylor, Delta Air Lines


Creating learners and leaders at the State Botanical Garden

Students volunteering at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia are doing far more than just checking off their UGA-mandated experiential learning opportunity, they are using what they learn to teach other students who follow in their footsteps.

As a Public Service and Outreach Faculty Fellow, James C. Anderson II created mentor leadership training materials for the State Botanical Garden’s Learning by LeadingTM program, aimed at empowering students and helping them become career-ready. The program starts with freshmen, bringing them into the garden to complete a series of leadership development activities and completing service projects over two semesters.

The next year, they coordinate the activities for the new incoming students. During the third semester they develop a signature project at the garden and connect with a mentor. Finally, they spend their last year as an apprentice or intern at the garden.

The PSO Faculty Fellowship has been a welcome change for Anderson, a faculty member in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“A lot of what I do is very theoretical-based and academic,” he says. “Being able to tap into the experiential learning and service mission of the university is so important.”

Upon completion of Learning by Leading, students will have a vast experiential learning transcript—and feel more prepared to pursue science careers.

Projects vary. Students in the education department designed activities for different stations in the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden. Volunteers lead children through the activities at each station as they tour the garden. At one station they dress up like birds and create bird nests.

The ultimate goal of Learning by Leading is to retain students in the areas in which they work in the garden so that they will consider pursuing careers in that field.

“By getting these experiences while they’re still learning, they will connect to mentors and want to pursue these careers,” Anderson says.

In his position at CAES, Anderson researches effective mentorship. At the State Botanical Garden he led staff through six leadership modules, to help them become capable and confident mentors. He plans to adapt these modules and present them as a faculty learning series across campus.

“It’s so critical we have student-faculty mentorships that are strong and effective,” said Leslie Edgar, department head of the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication Department in CAES, where Anderson works. “Everything he’s doing at the garden fits beautifully into his research agenda. I think he’s able to use his focus and leadership abilities in ways he hadn’t thought of before—it leverages him to be an even better faculty member.”

The Public Service and Outreach (PSO) Fellowship Program provides departmental support for tenure-track and tenured professors to immerse themselves in the work of a PSO unit for one semester. The experience offers opportunities for fellows to enhance their academic courses, conduct research and apply their academic expertise to outreach initiatives. An anticipated outcome of the fellowship experience is the sustained involvement with Public Service and Outreach after the semester ends.


Leah Moss Public Relations Coordinator • 706-583-0964

Tackling trash—and public health—on the Georgia coast

We know picking up trash helps keep our environment clean, but could it also improve human health?

Jennifer Gay, an associate professor in the UGA College of Public Health, is studying the impact of volunteer litter cleanups on the environment and human health in coastal communities.

A UGA Public Service and Outreach Faculty Fellow, Gay is partnering with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant to learn more about the amount or type of physical activity that occurs in coastal environments, or how the environment contributes to healthy lifestyles.

“Through this study, we want to engage people who are participating in litter debris cleanups to assess the amount of physical activity they’re getting and how much energy they’re expending during these events,” said Gay, who researches physical activity and public health.

As part of the study, Gay worked with Katy Smith, water quality program coordinator for UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, to figure out how to apply the study in the Golden Isles community. Smith, who leads education and outreach initiatives focused on marine debris topics, has strong connections to the volunteer community through partnerships with conservation organizations like Keep Golden Isles Beautiful and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which host volunteer cleanups throughout the year.

“I’m excited to see what type of data we capture,” Smith said. “We’ve got people out there cleaning the environment, but what else are they gaining? Hopefully we can use the data to get more people involved in conservation efforts.”

Smith is helping Gay survey people in Brunswick, St. Simons and Jekyll Island to understand how they perceive the coastal environment. They are recruiting volunteers to wear monitoring equipment that collects data on physical activity during cleanups. Those that agree to participate wear heart rate monitors and accelerometers that track frequency, intensity and duration of an activity, as well as step counts over a one- to two-week period.

Sharon Hindery, who worked in a medical laboratory for several years before retiring, jumped at the chance to participate in the study.

Eventually I’d like to see what the data shows, said Hindery, who is particularly interested in the heart rate data following a cleanup event.

“I imagine that would be some kind of an indicator of satisfaction. After the event is over, you sit back and realize what you’ve done. Maybe that is kind of calming. Who knows?” she said.

Hindery and her husband Rick have lived in Brunswick for six years. During that time, they have helped with several debris removal volunteer efforts, even adopting a section of Highway 17 that they are responsible for cleaning throughout the year.

“I always joke that it’s exercise with a purpose,” Hindery said. “I go out and I pull a bag or two of trash off the marsh or the side of the road, and I look back at it and I feel better.”

Next steps in the study involve recruiting more volunteers so the team has a larger set of data to assess. Smith hopes to bring in several volunteers ahead of the World Oceans Day Beach Sweep on June 8, hosted by Keep Golden Isles Beautiful and Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and sponsored by Yamaha. More information is available here

Those interested in volunteering for the study are encouraged to reach out to Katy Smith at

After analyzing the data, the research team plans to develop educational outreach materials designed to engage people who are aren’t as active or involved in litter debris cleanups as a way to get them involved in physical activity and environmental stewardship.

The Public Service and Outreach (PSO) Fellowship Program provides departmental support for tenure-track and tenured professors to immerse themselves in the work of a PSO unit for one semester. The experience offers opportunities for fellows to enhance their academic courses, conduct research and apply their academic expertise to outreach initiatives. An anticipated outcome of the fellowship experience is the sustained involvement with Public Service and Outreach after the semester ends.


Emily Woodward Kenworthy Public Relations Coordinator • 912-598-2348 ext. 107