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

UGA, state agencies provide assistance to small businesses applying for federal aid

Nearly 1,500 struggling small business owners from across Georgia logged in to UGA Small Business Development Center webinars Monday for guidance in applying for federal assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Webinars will continue Tuesday, April 7, and more may be added based on demand. At Gov. Brian Kemp’s direction, UGA, the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs partnered to create a web site to provide ongoing information to help small businesses.

SBDC consultants made eight presentations Monday and will oversee eight more today in an attempt to reach as many small businesses as possible.

“We will be available to address any questions that small business owners have regarding these emergency relief programs,” SBDC Director Allan Adams said Monday. “We recommend that people check the web site frequently for updated information.”

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (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.

More information about each program is provided through the webinars, as well as on the COVID-19 Relief web site at

The informational PowerPoint used in the webinars is also on the site, and a recorded version of one of the webinars will be posted soon.

The site will be updated frequently. SBDC consultants from 17 regional offices in Georgia also are available to answer questions.

Here are some frequently asked questions and SBDC responses from Monday’s webinars. More FAQs and responses will be added to the web site.


Q: Can a business apply for more than one loan, such as EIDL and PPP loans?

A: Yes, you can apply for both at the same time.


Q: How long will it take for a business owner to receive money from the EIDL advance?

A: The SBA’s goal is to disburse the EIDL advance within 72 hours, although the heavy volume of applications now means it could take a week or maybe more. The PPP disbursement will depend on the lender and its internal process.


Q: If I have applied through the SBA website for the EIDL cash advance, do I also have to contact a lender?

A: No. The EIDL advance comes directly from the SBA, so there is no reason to contact a lender.


Q: In completing the form for the $10,000 EIDL advance, am I also applying for the EIDL loan?

A: Yes. The $10,000 is an advance on the loan. However, the $10,000 does not have to be repaid.


Q: Am I automatically guaranteed the full $10,000 when I apply for the EIDL advance?

A: No. The SBA will determine the amount you receive as an advance based on the information submitted in the application.


Q: Are 1099 workers included in the forgiveness amount provided within the PPP?

A: Based on the information available now, the 1099 workers are not included in an employer’s calculation of payroll, but they would be able to submit their own request for a PPP loan.



Kelly Simmons PSO Director of Communications • 706-769-2720


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

UGA Campus Kitchen keeps food on the table with help from UGA Public Service and Outreach

On a rainy Monday morning in March, staff at the UGA State Botanical Garden of Georgia are in the children’s garden harvesting bushels of kale, collards, parsley and beets they no longer need for educational programs this spring. They are vigilant in maintaining a safe distance from one another, even outside in the rain.

A few hours later, employees from the UGA Office of Service-Learning deliver the produce and food donated by Trader Joe’s and the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia to the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel, where kitchen employees prepare meals. The meals are stored in vegetable coolers at UGArden, a student run farm on South Milledge Avenue that supplies produce to Campus Kitchen year-round.

Botanical garden employees harvest produce from the children's garden.

Without camps, programs, or classes, produce of the UGA State Botanical Garden of Georgia is now being used to help feed local residents through Campus Kitchen. (PHOTO: Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

The next day, the UGA employees and volunteers deliver the prepared meals and bags of groceries to 53 food-insecure families in the Athens area, placing the packaged food on doorsteps, ringing the bell, and standing six feet back while residents answer the door. In all, they will deliver enough for 170 meals.

During a typical week, hundreds of students volunteer with the Campus Kitchen organization, which provides meals to older Athens residents, most of them grandparents raising grandchildren. With students no longer on campus, their food security was threatened.

“All of our clients experience food insecurity on a regular basis and that could be heightened during this time,” said Andie Bisceglia, who coordinates Campus Kitchen within the Office of Service-Learning. “Some of them are also mobility limited and really rely on this food.”

Meals for the Campus Kitchen project are prepared at the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel kitchen.

The UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel has stepped up to prepare and package meals for Campus Kitchen. (PHOTO: Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

Fewer than 10 UGA employees now run the program, following protocols for food safety and social distancing. They can’t handoff tools when harvesting the fresh vegetables, for example. No more than 10 people at a time can be in the kitchen preparing meals, following restrictions set by Gov. Brian Kemp. They had to change the location where they prepare the food when the original location, Wesley Woods Senior Living Center, was closed to outsiders to protect residents there.

While the Georgia Center is temporarily closed because of COVID-19, its employees enthusiastically offered their assistance and the center’s kitchen.

“I think we all have a part in this and I’m just happy that we could help,” said Darrell Goodman, food and beverage director for the Georgia Center, who also is on the board of the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia. “I know how many people this is helping right now, and seeing the impact directly is very satisfying. It makes me feel proud of where I work.”

A UGArden volunteer harvests produce for use by Campus Kitchen.

UGArden already provided Campus Kitchen with produce for their food deliveries. The student-run farm is now serving as the program’s base of operations, as well. (PHOTO: Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

Produce from the children’s garden likely would have gone to waste since programming has been temporarily halted.

“We already had a ton of produce and we met as a team to decide who we wanted to give it to—Campus Kitchen made sense,” said Cora Keber, UGA State Botanical Garden education director. “Being able to contribute to the community is just a really powerful way to use this space.”

Beyond being able to continue the program through the semester, Campus Kitchen now has a plan to carry through the summer.

A meal delivery driver is given instructions by Campus Kitchen staff.

The community can rely on UGA to help serve the community, according to Eve Anthony, CEO of the Athens Community Council on Aging (ACCA). Campus Kitchen works with ACCA to identify the families it serves.

“This is another time where we know our grandparents are taken care of because of Campus Kitchen,” Anthony said. “Campus Kitchen is a community partner that we can count on when we need them the most.”

Shannon Brooks, director of the Office of Service-Learning, says there was never a question that UGA would continue to provide meals, as it has since 2010.

“We decided early on as a staff that this was a priority and that our senior clients depend on the meals that are provided through Campus Kitchen,” Brooks said. “I think this says a lot about UGA’s commitment to public service. There’s a reason people are in the jobs that they’re in. They have that mentality that this is what we do. It’s part of our DNA as public service professionals at UGA.”

To help provide meals to senior citizens, support Campus Kitchen in the Office of Service-Learning.


Aaron Cox Public Relations Coordinator • 417-483-5919


Andie Bisceglia UGA Campus Kitchen Coordinator • 860-716-2519

UGA outreach unit represents small businesses on governor’s coronavirus taskforce committee

UGA Small Business Development Center Director Allan Adams was tapped by Gov. Brian Kemp to serve on the Economic Impact Committee of the Georgia Coronavirus Taskforce.

The committee will focus on the economic aspects of fighting and mitigating the virus. The task force is charged with helping the governor’s office consider policy alternatives for addressing the dramatic change in Georgia’s economic environment brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak.

SBDC Director Allan AdamsTask force members include representatives from state government, industry, retail, transportation, agriculture, education and hospitality.

“The University of Georgia SBDC is there to help articulate the challenges faced by small businesses across the state during this pandemic,” Adams said.

The Primary Care Provider Committee, Emergency Preparedness Committee, and Committee for the Homeless and Displaced make up the rest of the task force.

“Now, as we mitigate the spread of the virus, these committees will address the specific impacts that COVID-19 will have on communities, industry sectors, our healthcare system, and emergency preparedness,” Kemp said in announcing the task force committees. “I have full confidence in these committees to serve the needs of all Georgians during this challenging time. In the weeks ahead, we will continue to ensure that our state stands ready for any scenario.”


Allan Adams SBDC Director • 706-202-0850

Undergraduate students head out on the second annual Great Commitments Student Tour of Georgia

The Great Commitments Student Tour of Georgia hit the road today, with 34 University of Georgia undergraduate students spending their spring break on a week-long trip around the state – learning firsthand how UGA is making a difference in Georgia communities.

Ranging from the north Georgia mountains to the coast, stops on this year’s tour include Amicalola State Park, the state Capitol and Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Atlanta, the City of Senoia, Hardy Farms, the Pinpoint Heritage Museum, and the Augusta Cyber Institute.

Coordinated by Public Service & Outreach and the Division of Student Affairs, the second annual tour is based on PSO’s popular New Faculty Tour, which introduces new faculty to the state each August. It is specifically designed to help students gain a real world understanding of the university’s land- and sea-grant mission and see how UGA is working towards its commitment of healthier people, stronger communities, and a more secure future.

The five-day tour, which is sponsored by the Office of the President and is free to all students selected to participate, also provides students an opportunity to network and develop relationships with their peers, who represent 10 different colleges and departments from across the university.

Albany-Dougherty County launches workforce development initiative with help from UGA

Dozens of area leaders gathered in downtown Albany Tuesday morning for the official unveiling of Albany-Dougherty County Works!, a comprehensive workforce development initiative facilitated by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

Developed by a steering committee of 20 community leaders in collaboration with the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission (EDC) and the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, the initiative is designed to help strengthen the area’s workforce development by aligning the business and educational efforts of the community.

The Vinson Institute team helped collect and analyze the feedback of more than 100 community members, including students, educators, employers, and job seekers. They also provided additional data comparing Albany to its peers in both the state and region.

“Like many communities, we used to be much more siloed in terms of our approach to community development and economic development and leading this community forward,” said Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the University System Board of Regents. “Now we’re much more collaborative, much more geared towards partnerships and asking for help when we need it or extending the arm to say this is something we could do better together.”

Steering committee members David Castellano- Manager, Hamilton Relay (L) and Michael McCoy, Dougherty County administrator, discuss next steps after the launch event.

The initiative focuses on the necessary steps to establish a skilled, local workforce – a key ingredient for attracting new jobs, supporting existing businesses, and strengthening the community. It establishes both short- and long-term strategies to accomplish that goal, with a focus on three key priorities: Community Connection and Coordination, Youth Pipeline Development, and Continued Adult Preparation.

“Through the feedback we received from the community and the steering committee, we learned that the community already has numerous workforce development assets that are all doing good work,” said Greg Wilson, a workforce development and economic analysis manager for the Vinson Institute. “This initiative is designed to help get everyone on the same page and pulling in the same direction.”

The area already has lots of good jobs, with the potential for more according to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital CEO and steering committee member Joe Austin. The initiative will help inform existing job seekers of what’s available, while also helping to develop the workforce necessary for the future.

“If we continue to let our kids in junior high and high school know that if you stay local and get your education, that there’s going to be a job when you finish, why would they choose to leave?” Austin said. “We’ve got to make ourselves magnetic as a community. We’ve got to teach them early why they should want to stay home and work.”

Three working groups have already begun addressing the key priorities established in the initiative, beginning with the creation of a job website for the entire area. The Vinson Institute will continue providing technical assistance throughout the initiative’s implementation phase.


Aaron Cox Public Relations Coordinator • 706-542-3631


Greg Wilson Carl Vinson Workforce Development & Economic Analysis Manager • 706-542-6271

UGA helps coastal communities address a potential public health crisis: Failing septic tanks that contaminate groundwater

Ashley Cooper-Heath and her husband had lived in a house on the banks of the St. Mary’s River in Camden County for about a decade when they noticed that their septic tank was leaking, spilling sewage into the river.

“I really didn’t want to have to spend the money replacing it, but I knew at some point we were going to have to,” Cooper-Heath said.

Fortunately for her, Camden County was on top of the problem. The county had assessed its septic systems and identified 21 that were failing, including Cooper-Heath’s. Using a grant from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the county replaced the failing septic systems with mounded systems that are better suited to the local environmental conditions because of the high groundwater table.

“I understand why they don’t dig into the ground because we’re right next to the water and if anything should leak it goes into the (river),” Cooper-Heath says. “Everybody is starting to see the importance now.”

In an effort to assist other property owners along the coast, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is mapping every septic system in an 11-county region and adding that information to a database that helps officials recognize and address septic system failures before a serious public health crisis can occur. It also will help communities better plan when they need to install new septic tanks to accommodate growth.

A septic tank sits above ground waiting to be buried near a house“Georgia is one of the first states in the country to develop a comprehensive inventory of existing septic tanks in the entire coastal region,” says Mark Risse, director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and lead on the septic system mapping project. “This should allow us to better manage these systems in the future and avoid problems that other rapidly growing coastal areas have experienced.”

Camden County was one of the first of the coastal counties to address the problem of failing septic tanks. Most of the failing systems were installed in areas with poor soil that were prone to flooding, said Terry Ferrell, environmental health manager for the Camden County Coastal Health District. They were also installed before 2000, when the state passed a rule requiring septic tanks be separated from the groundwater table by at least one- to two-feet.

Since replacing the failing or failed systems, water quality samples taken near those sites have shown a decrease in bacteria levels. Ferrell said 20-30 septic systems in the watershed will be replaced in the next phase of the project.

In rural Georgia, where centralized wastewater treatment facilities are few and far between, most homes rely on underground septic systems to store and treat wastewater. Each system has its own drain field where effluent from the tank is slowly discharged into the soil, which treats the wastewater by removing harmful bacteria and nutrients before reaching the groundwater.

The problem is that as sea levels rise, so too does the groundwater table, leaving less soil to filter out contaminants before it reaches the groundwater. Increased flooding also leaves the ground more saturated, rendering the drain field temporarily ineffective and leading to septic system failure. These hazards are threatening as many as 60,000 septic systems in coastal Georgia.

Graphic showing traditional septic tank placement in relation to groundwaterGraphic showing how septic tanks are affected by rising sea levels.

When septic failures occur, bacteria and viruses from human waste can enter the groundwater and coastal waterways, making people sick. Coming into contact with this polluted water may result in symptoms that range from vomiting to more severe illnesses like typhoid or dysentery. Poor water quality can also shut down public beaches and restrict shellfish harvesting in certain areas, impacting Georgia’s tourism and commercial fishing industries. Excess pollutants from failing systems that make their way to tidal creeks and estuaries can cause algal blooms, which deplete oxygen levels in the water and kill fish.

“As sea level rise leads to a higher groundwater table, and encroaches on the septic drain field, even the newer systems will begin failing,” says Scott Pippin, a faculty member with UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Both the Vinson Institute and Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant are UGA Public Service and Outreach units. “It is important that communities have plans in place to deal with these issues down the road.”

A dirt mound next to a house is evidence of a newly buried septic tank.That’s where the database becomes essential. With funding from the Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resource Division and the Environmental Protection Agency, the inventory has been expanded to show which septic systems might be at risk based on other factors in the database, such as the likelihood of flooding, sea level rise or pollution. Anyone can access the data to make informed decisions about installing septic systems in certain locations. It also makes it easier for conservation groups and researchers to study or better monitor high risk areas.

So far, the septic inventory includes a total of 57,865 septic tanks in eight of the 11 counties. The team is still entering data from Charlton, Brantley and Wayne counties.

Pippin, in partnership with the UGA Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems, has funding from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration to use the septic inventory to assess present and future vulnerabilities of septic systems in Bryan County, west of Savannah and home to the Fort Stewart Army Base.

According to the 2016 U.S. Census, Bryan County was the second fastest-growing county in Georgia. As population growth and coastal development increases, improving management and planning for future on-site septic systems in these vulnerable, rural areas becomes increasingly important.

“We’re using inventory data as well as groundwater and sea level rise data,” Pippin says, “to develop a method for evaluating septic system vulnerability and potential site suitability for septic tanks that’s based on present coastal conditions as well as future conditions.”

You can access the database at


Emily Kenworthy Public Relations Coordinator – Marine Extension & Georgia Sea Grant • 912-598-2348


Mark Risse Adjunct Senior Public Service Associate – Carl Vinson Institute of Government • 706-542-5956

Rural preservation students help Archway community develop agritourism

Creating an agritourism trail and promoting the novelty of farming to outsiders are among suggestions University of Georgia students offered Hart County after touring farms, meeting with local residents and learning about the county’s assets, including its poultry industry.

Working through the Archway Partnership, a Public Service and Outreach unit, 14 service-learning students in the College of Environment and Design spent the fall semester learning about rural preservation and its real-world applications. They focused on Hart County, which sits on the Georgia-South Carolina border and has been a UGA Archway Partnership community since 2008.

The goal of the project was to provide county officials with materials they can use to grow an agritourism industry in northeast Georgia, and for students to gain practical experience in rural preservation. Identifying and mapping local assets to use in attracting tourists was identified as a priority for the Hart County Archway Partnership executive committee.

“For us, it’s about having pride in what agriculture is and how it’s built our county and continues to build it,” said Bill Leard, chair of the Hart County executive committee. “Archway has sort of been a catalyst to help bring these [community] needs to the forefront.”

While touring the community, the students met Jeff Brown, co-owner of JFK Farm. Brown introduced the students to the realities of a working farm while giving the class a tour of one of Hart County’s largest poultry operations. While many of the students had previously never been on a farm, Brown says they provide a valuable insight that he and others in the community wouldn’t normally have.

“The best ideas are going to come from different perspectives,” said Brown, a member of the Hart County Archway Partnership executive committee. “You can’t have a group of individuals get together that come from the same background, same perspective, and try to formulate a plan that’s going to benefit everybody. So these students, coming from the different backgrounds that they do, I think they’re definitely going to be able to help us out with this.”

Students pose with their protective clothing outside the poultry facilities at JFK Farm.

Students had to wear special protective clothing while visiting the poultry facilities at JFK Farm. (PHOTO: Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

For the students, traveling to Hart County and meeting with community leaders provided an opportunity to put their classroom instruction into practice.

“There’s a tangible aspect [to being in the field] that can’t be made up for in the classroom, so it’s really neat to have days like this,” said Olivia Stroud, a graduate student in historic preservation from Macon. “I’m excited to explore the agritourism side. I feel like that’s something that if you did not grow up in farm country then all of this is so novel and there’s a big opportunity to market that to people.”

For the course’s final project, the students developed proposals to enhance natural and cultural tourism—a tri-county fair, an agribusiness incubator and an agritourism trail to run throughout the county—capitalizing on the area’s robust agriculture industry that ranks among the largest in the state.

CED associate professor Cari Goetcheus said she chose Hart County for the students to study because it is a UGA Archway Partnership community, and civic and business leaders there are already familiar with UGA resources. Archway Professionals, who are UGA employees, live in the community and serve as a conduit between it and the university.

“A lot of times I end up going to communities where they don’t know what to do, they don’t know how to do it,” Goetcheus said. “So we end up doing what little we can, but here I think that we actually give back a lot more because they have the network and infrastructure to allow us to do the work.”

That existing infrastructure is the result of a decade-long relationship between UGA and Hart County, a relationship that leaves a lasting impression on the residents of the Georgia community.

“The community members in Hart County want to work with faculty and students because they really enjoy and value being a part of the UGA learning experience,” said Rob Gordon, director of the Archway Partnership. “Often it’s difficult for a community to understand what it means when they hear that UGA has a land-grant mission. But when they are able to see and work side-by-side with faculty and students in their community, they know that the University of Georgia is there to help them address their most pressing challenges.”


Aaron Cox Public Relations Coordinator • 706-542-3631


Cari Goetcheus College of Environment & Design Associate Professor • 706-542-0061

UGA, economic developers thank Gov. Kemp for Georgia’s business success

Sean McMillan, director of UGA’s Economic Development office in Atlanta, joined economic developers from around the state thanking Governor Kemp for making Georgia the number one state for business.

UGA Archway helps launch high school welding program to build local workforce

Students at Thomson High School now have an on-site training program designed to help them prepare for available jobs when they graduate and meet a growing workforce need in the community.

Twenty-seven students already have enrolled in the new welding program, which began in the fall of 2019 after community leaders, including representatives from the school system, the local chamber of commerce and the UGA Archway Partnership, recognized the need to begin the training in high school to meet a growing shortage of skilled workers in the region.

Kerry Bridges, area manager for Georgia Power and a member of the McDuffie-Thomson Archway Partnership executive committee, asked the Georgia Power Foundation to support the new program.

“The foundation board saw that because of Fort Gordon, Savannah River Site and Plant Vogtle are all in this area, there was tremendous value in this project, and they decided to support it to the tune of $100,000,” Bridges said.

Those three projects alone will employ thousands of welders and other skilled positions both during construction and in permanent, maintenance-type positions.Thomson High School students learning how to weld in the school's new training program.

“We recently had a large industry move to town, Standard Iron, that had several welding positions needing to be filled,” said Debbie Jones, executive director and CEO of the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce. “Also, Thomson Two State Construction continues to stay on the lookout for qualified workers to fill vacancies at their plant.”

The expansion of Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle, about an hour away in Waynesboro, Georgia, also increases the need for skilled workers in the region.

“It made sense that we bring this pathway into the school, but not without the help of funding partners, Georgia Power and Jefferson Energy Cooperative,” Jones said. “We wanted to be able to expose the students to welding early, so they could obtain their certification shortly after high school and move into a well-paying career.”

The welder shortage is part of a bigger economic issue across the country. One of the most consistent complaints economic developers hear from the industry is a lack of qualified employees. According to the American Welding Society, the average age for welders is 55 and fewer than 20 percent are under the age of 35.

Thomson High School’s graduation rate is 82.2 percent, the state average. About 55 percent of its graduates enroll in a technical college, or a four-year college or university within 12 months of graduation, according to the Georgia Governor’s Office of School Achievement. Statewide, about 62 percent of high school graduates go on to postsecondary education within a year.

A Thomson High School student practices welding in the school's new training program.

The high school graduates who forego postsecondary education are a key population for these jobs.

Courtney Moser, a former welder at Kubota, a farm and construction equipment manufacturer, teaches the welding program at Thomson High School. She was encouraged to pursue welding as a career by her former high school welding teacher in Gwinnett County after taking the class for a needed math credit. Moser would go on to win a statewide welding competition, which included a scholarship to welding school.

“I enjoy building those relationships with my students,” she said. “If they’re looking for jobs, I can try and help after they graduate.”

Moser encourages her students to enter competitions, some of which offer scholarships just for entry. Participants in an upcoming competition in Jacksonville will receive a $500 scholarship regardless of how they perform.

Grace Sheats is a student in an advanced class launched by Moser at the request of students.

“I really like welding and it’s something I could see turning into a career,” Sheats said. “I am always in the shop. Being able to create and finish a project is awesome. I plan on taking it again next year.”

Fifteen students will complete the welding program – a Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) pathway – this year.

“This welding lab is one of the first tangible impacts of our education and workforce development partnership between the McDuffie County School System, the Archway Partnership, the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce and local industry,” said Andy Knox Sr., chairman of the school board. “We are thrilled to see how we can continue to move forward together.”


Baker Owens Archway Public Relations Coordinator • 706-510-9622


Sam Perren McDuffie County Archway Professional • 706-424-7423

Walton County high school honored at Fanning Institute leadership conference

Walnut Grove High School in Loganville, Georgia, was honored by UGA with the 2020 Innovations in Community Leadership Award for its success in implementing a leadership curriculum that has led to higher graduation rates and greater student engagement.

The award was presented to Walnut Grove High School Principal Sean Callahan by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development during the institute’s annual Community Leadership Conference Feb. 5.

Walnut Grove began implementing the Youth Leadership in Action curriculum, developed by Fanning, in 2015. The school’s graduation rates increased from 78.3 percent in 2013-14 to 93.6 percent in 2018-19. The state average is 82 percent.

“I think this approach and our partnership with the Fanning Institute not only gives students a voice and makes Walnut Grove High School a better place, it builds a legacy that will continue for Walnut Grove for years to come,” Callahan said in accepting the award. “This is a real honor for our school. This project is a school commitment to our students and our community as well.”

The Innovations in Community Leadership Award recognizes individuals or programs that have moved beyond traditional community leadership programming through innovative practices, partnerships and activities that better serve participants and their communities.

PSO Vice President Jennifer Frum talks with representatives from Walnut Grove High School during the 2020 Community Leadership Conference.

PSO Vice President Jennifer Frum (L) talks with representatives from Walnut Grove High School during the 2020 Community Leadership Conference.

Also during the conference, Fanning Institute Director Matt Bishop announced a new Innovations in Community Leadership Initiative (ICLI), that will provide resources to underserved communities and organizations across Georgia that aspire to begin, restart or revamp a leadership program.

“Communities that provide leadership development opportunities for its citizens, across all ages, have a competitive advantage in attracting investment and opportunities for the community,” Bishop said. “Recognizing the correlation between leadership development and economic vitality, this initiative will help communities and organizations leverage the Fanning Institute’s leadership development expertise to create and implement solutions to community challenges.”

Projects the ICLI could support include community-focused, skills-based programming that focuses on community and civic engagement; leadership development for underserved populations within a community; programming that enhances workforce vitality; leadership programs that enhance student opportunities and leadership skills; entrepreneurial leadership development; or multi-county, regional leadership development programming.

This year’s conference, “Together. Serve. Transform.” drew about 120 people to Athens to participate in workshops and panel discussions on innovations, research and best practices in adult, youth and nonprofit leadership.

“This is my third time attending the Community Leadership Conference, and it was a great experience,” said Tommie Beth Willis, president of the Moultrie-Colquitt County Chamber of Commerce. “The breakout sessions were right on point with what I needed professionally and what our community needed for our leadership program.”

For more information in the ICLI, including deadlines for application, go to


Charlie Bauder Public Relations Coordinator • 706-542-7039


Matt Bishop Fanning Institute Director • 706-542-6201

UGA receives $50,000 grant from AT&T to address flooding in Athens-Clarke County

A grant from AT&T will help an interdisciplinary team of UGA faculty assess long-term flood frequency and severity for Athens-Clarke County in order to better plan for future development and infrastructure investments.

Paul Chambers Jr., regional director of external affairs for AT&T presented the check to Jennifer Frum, UGA vice president for Public Service and Outreach, and Mark Risse, director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. Risse will work with Shana Jones, planning and environmental services program manager at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, and Brian Bledsoe, the UGA Athletic Association Professor in Resilient Infrastructure, in the UGA College of Engineering. Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government are UGA public service and outreach units.

The UGA project will assess potential future flooding issues for Athens-Clarke County. The county and UGA’s Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems will work together to develop flood inundation maps, visualizations and a modeling framework for rapidly assessing flooding pressure points at the municipal scale. These products will create an improved understanding of future flood hazards and inform long-term planning and infrastructure investment priorities.

UGA is one of five southeastern institutions selected for AT&T’s Climate Resiliency Community Challenge, a project designed to help communities in the United State build a resistance to climate change. The teams will use data commissioned by AT&T from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and funding from AT&T to conduct innovative research on climate impacts and community responses in the southeastern United States.

Georgia’s First Lady helps State Botanical Garden promote native plants and pollinators

State Botanical Garden Director Jenny Cruse-Sanders and members of the garden staff were guests at the 2020 Legislative Spouses Luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion, where they talked about the importance of native Georgia plants, a topic dear to the heart of First Lady Marty Kemp.

The garden, in cooperation with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UGA Agricultural Extension and the Georgia Green Industry Association, this year launched an annual Pollinator Plants of the Year program, intended to encourage nurseries to raise more native plants to sell and to make consumers more aware of their value. The four pollinator plants announced this year are for 2021 giving growers time to put plants into production.

Kemp will join horticulturists, ecologists, entomologists, and industry professionals to select the native plants to promote each year.

Following the luncheon, Cruse-Sanders, State Botanical Garden Horticulture Director Shelly Prescott and Conservation Outreach Coordinator Lauren Muller walked the mansion grounds to determine potential sites for a pollinator garden, which could be installed later this year.

The first lady announced last spring that the Governor’s Mansion would promote Georgia business and far families through the use of officially “Georgia Grown” ingredients and products.  Following that, the Georgia Department of Transportation announced that it would require all state-funded projects to comply with the “Georgia Grown” program, ensuring that contractors use landscaping plant materials grown in Georgia in projects along interstate highways, on state roads and at welcome centers.

After helping UGA’s Small Business Development Center for years, accountant turns to the center for assistance

Augusta accountant Lisa Mayo knows the UGA Small Business Development Center well. She frequently serves as a tax panelist and QuickBooks expert for SBDC StartSMART™ courses.

So, when Mayo, a CPA (certified public accountant) and CVA (certified valuation analyst), had the opportunity to buy an existing accounting firm, she turned to SBDC consultant Rick McMurtrey for a second opinion.

“I was approached by an accountant who had been in practice 38 years, and it was such a new idea, I didn’t see value in what I’d be getting,” Mayo said. “I called Rick at the Augusta office of the UGA SBDC and asked him to be my mentor. I needed him to look at the purchase of the practice. I needed someone I could trust.”

McMurtrey helped Mayo determine the value of the business using a valuation reference guide available through UGA. The findings were similar to what Mayo found with her own guides, and she bought the practice in 2016.

“Rick brought a lot of good insight and helped refresh the information I had,” Mayo said. “When I put together the projections, I had him review them. He put a lot of thought into this purchase.”

In 2017, she went back to the SBDC for help finding a new office space to accommodate her growing practice.

“Lisa did her search based on a heat map of where her client base was,” McMurtrey said. “She found a building in west Augusta for just under $400,000 and wanted my opinion on what the property was worth.”

They did a walk-through, researched the building’s assessed value on a tax map, and found the price was right. Mayo negotiated the purchase of the building and its furniture at a lower cost, and moved in during June 2018. The purchase gave Mayo & Associates room to expand, placed the practice closer to its client base, and Mayo lowered her costs by leasing out excess space.

Mayo & Associates added five new staff members and more than quadrupled her revenue.

“When I first met with Rick, and we looked at my numbers, I had been on my own for about eight months,” Mayo said. “He told me I was going to grow and increase my revenue in a year. He was absolutely right. We haven’t slowed down.”

Mayo has also attended SBDC GrowSMART™ training to focus on her marketing.

She continues to help the SBDC with training and refers her clients to the center.

“Ninety percent of the people who come to me end up at the SBDC,” she said. “When I send them there, I know Rick and the other consultants are going to take care of them.”

Marine Extension & Georgia Sea Grant’s Karlsson honored with PSO Employee Spotlight Award

Sara Karlsson, the administrative financial director at UGA’s Marine Extension & Georgia Sea Grant, became the third winner of the Public Service and Outreach Employee Spotlight Award on January 30 with a surprise appearance by PSO Vice President Jennifer Frum.

Karlsson was in a staff professional development committee meeting in the Treanor House boardroom when Frum surprised her with the award along with red and black balloons and a gift basket.

“Sara is a joy to work with and is so beloved by all her coworkers,” said Frum. “I’m impressed with how you willingly and effectively took on additional responsibilities and helped continue the great work at Marine Extension & Georgia Sea Grant.”

Karlsson was hired by Marine Extension & Georgia Sea Grant in July 2018. Over the next year, she took on additional responsibilities beyond her external grants coordinator job, helping to carry the load of two other vacant positions.

She was eventually promoted to administrative financial director in September 2019.

Karlsson was nominated for the award by Marine Extension & Georgia Sea Grant Director Mark Risse.

“Essentially, Sara has been doing the work of three individuals for much of this year and has managed to not only keep us running but has done so with grace and competence while learning new systems and procedures,” Risse wrote in his nomination. “I feel that Sara deserves recognition for going above and beyond the call of duty.”

Karlsson is the third PSO employee to be honored with the award since it was established last fall. The Employee Spotlight Award was created as a way to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements and contributions of PSO employees throughout the year. The award highlights employees who go above and beyond their normal responsibilities, who produce outstanding work and who contribute significantly to the strategic mission of the division.

Any full or part time employee of the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach, the eight PSO units, and the Atlanta economic development office are eligible for the award. Employees can nominate themselves or someone else.

For more information or to nominate someone for the award, go to

State Botanical Garden development reaches new heights with topping-out ceremony

The Center for Art and Nature at the State Botanical Garden moved a step closer to reality as donors and University of Georgia staff held a ceremonial “topping out” of the facility last week.

Deen Day Sanders, who gave her collection of porcelain and decorative art to the garden to be housed at the museum, was the first to sign the large white steel beam that will be installed at the top of the building.

“It’s an exciting day because we’re beginning to see it come to fruition, and now you can begin to dream about what it will be,” said Sanders, a longtime supporter of the garden, a unit of UGA public service and outreach.  “It will be not only a place where you can enjoy beauty and nature, but also a place where the spirit will be enriched.”

After donors Mike and Betty DeVore, Public Service and Outreach Vice President Jennifer Frum, State Botanical Garden Director Jenny Cruse-Sanders, Senior Director of Development Brooks McCommons, members of the construction team and garden staff signed the beam, it was lifted by a crane to the top of the structure, where it will be installed.

The Center for Art and Nature, or CAN, Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum is part of a trio of construction projects underway at the garden. Also in progress is construction of a main entranceway that will include an elevator to improve access for visitors in wheelchairs, pushing strollers or who have trouble navigating stairs. Donors to the new entrance and accessibility project include Sanders, the Callaway Foundation, Tom Wight, Jim Miller, Mike and Betty Devore, the Garden Club of Georgia Inc. and donors from across Georgia.

Deen Day Sanders signs the topping-out beam.

“I just feel that it’s important for everyone to easily access the garden,” Betty DeVore said. “There are people, either young or old or infirmed, that have a hard time traversing down to the garden. This is going to allow easy access for all.”

The third project is a Discovery and Inspiration Garden that will surround the CAN to allow visitors to explore the relationship between art and nature. The garden will have native plant beds, a pond and a great lawn where classes and special events can be held. Chuck and Suzanne Murphy provided funding for the Discovery and Inspiration Garden.

“I cannot imagine us not having this here,” Cruse-Sanders said of the new facilities. “It is a perfect marriage of art, gardens, botany and everything we love about the botanical garden. The new entrance and accessibility project will create a beautiful front door for this garden and bring more visitors to the garden to enjoy what we have here.”

The topping-out ceremony is an ancient construction tradition that signifies the project reaching its last beam or the building’s highest structural element. Those involved in the project sign the beam, symbolizing their permanent place in the building and hopes for success of the building and safety for the construction teams working on it.

Construction crew, donors and SBG staff sign the topping off beam for the new Center for Art and Nature being built at SBG


Émilie Gille Public Relations Coordinator • 706-583-0964


Jennifer Cruse-Sanders State Botanical Garden Director • 706-542-6131

Fanning Institute to host fifth annual leadership conference at UGA this week

A native of southeast Georgia, Lynda Brannen Williamson spent her life working to improve the Statesboro community as a civic leader, a legacy that continued after her passing with the creation of the Lynda Brannen Williamson Foundation in 2014, and later the LBW Leadership Academy.

That legacy now extends to northwest Georgia, where the LBW Foundation launched a leadership academy last fall, supported by Georgia Power.

“Lynda had the vision of these academies expanding throughout the South,” said Lisa Lee, president of the Lynda Brannen Williamson Foundation. “Taking this program and expanding it to other cities is an easy and natural progression. Our original goals were to focus on servant leadership, mentorship and building a base of community servants that would build upon itself to ensure a community of servant leaders. We are also grateful to Georgia Power for its support of Lynda’s vision to develop women leaders throughout the state.”

Building these successful collaborations for leadership development is a focus of the fifth annual Community Leadership Conference, Feb. 4-5, 2020, at the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel. Organized by UGA’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Advancement, the conference draws participants from across Georgia as well as from neighboring states.

This year’s conference theme is “Together. Serve. Transform.”

“When we pool our leadership skills and talent in communities, we can work together to collectively serve the needs of our citizens and thus transform our communities through leadership development, building a stronger future,” said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute. “Again this year, our conference will highlight successful leadership programs, initiatives and collaborations that attendees can implement in their own communities.”

The Lynda B. Williamson Foundation worked with the Fanning Institute to develop a leadership curriculum for young women in southeast Georgia. Since the academy began in 2015, more than 70 women have participated in the program, which covers personal leadership, communication and conflict, strategies for effective leadership, career and professional skill development, and multigenerational leadership. Once they’ve completed the program, the women mentor high school girls in their communities, helping them better understand social media etiquette, build their resumes and manage conflict.

Representatives from the Lynda B Williams Foundation with the Fanning Institute’s Innovations in Community Leadership Award in 2019.

Representatives from the Lynda B Williams Foundation with the Fanning Institute’s Innovations in Community Leadership Award in 2019. (PHOTO: Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

“Lynda Williamson was a personal friend and colleague,” said Anne Kaiser, Georgia Power vice president for community and economic development. “To see a foundation created in her honor that supports the development of women leaders in communities across Georgia and promotes the ideal of servant leadership epitomizes what Lynda believed in and stood for. At Georgia Power, we are proud and honored to support the Lynda B. Williamson Women’s Leadership Academy (LBWLA) to help carry on Lynda’s spirit.”

The LBWLA was the recipient of the Fanning Institute’s Innovations in Community Leadership Award in 2019. The program also was recognized as a Four for the Future community partnership by Georgia Trend Magazine and UGA Public Service and Outreach in 2016.

Sessions at this year’s conference will highlight nonprofit leadership development, leadership development programs, and innovations and research in leadership development.

Also this year, the Fanning Institute will offer Reflective Structured Dialogue training as a post-conference opportunity Feb. 6 – 7.

“An important skill for any leader is the ability to bring people together and lead difficult conversations on sensitive issues,” Bishop said. “Reflective Structured Dialogue is a proven method that gives everyone in the room a voice and creates an atmosphere to move forward.”

During the conference, the institute will also present the 2020 Innovations in Community Leadership Award.

For more information on the 2020 Community Leadership Conference, visit


Charlie Bauder Public Relations Coordinator • 706-542-7039


Matt Bishop Fanning Institute Director • 706-542-6201

Carnegie Foundation reaffirms UGA as community engaged university

The University of Georgia has been recognized for excellence in public service and outreach, being designated as a community engaged institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for a second time.

The classification was first awarded to UGA in 2010.

“Receiving this classification is a national recognition of the University of Georgia’s expansive outreach programs and their impact on Georgia, the United States and the world,” UGA President Jere W. Morehead said. “As the state’s land-grant and sea-grant university, working with communities to build a stronger, more prosperous Georgia is central to everything we do.”

The Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement Classification recognizes public service and outreach activities such as service-learning and university-community partnerships. This elective classification requires submission of extensive documentation and evidence of unique and distinctive university partnerships with local, statewide and global communities.

“The institutions that we are recognizing today are doing extraordinary work in addressing their societal responsibilities in and through community engagement and service. In doing so, they bring scholarship, knowledge, and expertise to bear in the address of real challenges in our communal lives,” said Paul LeMahieu, senior vice president at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. “They inspire us, even as they instruct us how to be our best selves in service to our communities.

UGA’s application was coordinated by the Office of Public Service and Outreach with contributions from Cooperative Extension and colleges and schools across the university.

“We are very pleased that the Carnegie Foundation recognizes the University of Georgia’s vast partnerships with communities and organizations across Georgia and beyond,” Vice President for Public Service and Outreach Jennifer Frum said. “Everything we do is focused on helping to create jobs and prosperity, developing the state’s leaders, and solving critical statewide challenges. To have this work and its impact recognized nationally is a tribute to the hard work of our faculty and staff.”

Since the initial classification in 2010, UGA has greatly expanded its outreach programs and opportunities for students. President Morehead’s focus on experiential learning has meant that every undergraduate student now graduates with a meaningful, hands-on learning experience outside of the classroom setting. The number of service-learning courses at UGA has more than doubled since 2010, with 250 individual courses carrying the official “s” designation. In 2018-19, more than 7,150 students enrolled in at least one service-learning class, providing more than 300,000 hours of service and an estimated $7.7 million economic impact on Georgia communities.

In partnership with local communities, the university’s Small Business Development Center, with 17 locations around the state, helped create 450 businesses and more than 3,000 jobs last year alone. The university’s economic impact on Georgia is estimated at $6.5 billion annually, $973 million of which comes from the impact of UGA’s outreach programs.


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


Jennifer Frum Vice President for Public Service & Outreach • 706-542-6126