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Hancock County employee earns Vinson Institute certificate, saves county millions

Hancock County Clerk Borderick Foster’s cost-saving initiative succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Not even a courthouse fire so hot it melted a brass bell could deter him.

When Hancock County leaders began seeking new ways to cut costs and build reserves, Foster figured out how to save $5.5 million by refinancing a jail construction bond. But first he had to track down or re-create copies of the bond documents that were destroyed when fire gutted the Hancock County Courthouse on the square in Sparta.

Foster made the cost-saving initiative his capstone project when he enrolled in the Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s Certified Public Manager (CPM) program. He presented the project results to his 26-member class in late spring and received his CPM certification at a graduation ceremony this summer.

Refinancing the 1989 jail construction bond reduced the principal and interest payments by $550,000 a year, saving the Hancock County general fund $5.5 million over the bond’s 10-year repayment plan, Foster said. The savings have allowed the county to expand its road resurfacing program (Foster also serves as county road administrator), make some much-needed building repairs and start building an emergency reserve in the county general fund.

“Last year, we were doing a campaign on ways to save,” Foster said. “This was the end of October, and you can only refinance these bonds in December and June, so we had a short deadline to get it done that year.”

It didn’t help that the very documents Foster would need had been destroyed when fire ripped through the county’s 130-year-old courthouse in 2014.

“It was a nightmare at first. I had no idea how we were going to re-create all these files, because when the courthouse burned, all that stuff was destroyed,” he said.

Foster turned to the network he had built years earlier while collecting and organizing county documents. That network included the original bond issuer, the Bank of New York (now BNY Mellon). Bank employees scanned hundreds of documents and sent electronic copies to Hancock County.

“I printed those documents out, and I reconstructed the bond the best that I could,” Foster said.

County Commission Chair Helen G. “Sistie” Hudson helped Foster pull everything together quickly enough to refinance the jail bond late last year.

Foster says he’s still amazed by how much the county could save by refinancing the jail bond.

“It only extended the payment schedule by one year, so if we had not done the refinancing, we would still be paying that huge amount each year. Now I can see how we can even build some reserves and give the general fund a break,” he said.

The 300-hour CPM curriculum, delivered in Georgia exclusively by Institute of Government faculty, is designed to help managers with state and local government agencies strengthen their leadership skills to earn nationally recognized certification. The program features a combination of in-class learning, independent study and a capstone project, according to CPM instructor Marci Campbell, an Institute of Government faculty member.

“The capstone project is a CPM requirement and has to help improve efficiency, customer service or program effectiveness,” Campbell said.


WRITER

Roger Nielson Public Relations Coordinator—Carl Vinson Institute of Government

nielsen@uga.edu • 706-542-2524

Georgia Center offers course on machine learning and data science for executives

The UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel now offers a new course for business executives that demystifies machine learning and data science and focuses on the practical applications of these revolutionary technologies in business.

Taught by Jagannath Rao, a professor in the UGA College of Engineering and a senior vice president of data services for Siemens, the course is designed for people with little to no coding experience, and provides hands-on experience building and implementing data science projects.

Participants in the inaugural class were from Lockheed Martin, Quicklogic Corporation, Sandia National Laboratories, Recro Gainesville Development LLC, and NASA, among others.

“This course focused on making AI practical in a corporate environment and is geared to leaders tasked with setting such strategy for their business,” said Chris Rogers from SensiML Corp, who was in the first class.

New business accelerates after SBDC helps Atlanta consultant align his work processes

Charles Broom had worked 15 years as a consultant, helping small and large businesses hire specialized professionals, create strategic plans and negotiate contracts.

By 2017, he was ready to be his own boss.

“Eventually, I got to a place where I wanted to do the ultimate challenge; start and sustain a business,” he said.

He set up offices for his project management and staffing support service, the RieLes Group, at a Peachtree Center high-rise in downtown Atlanta. He soon realized he needed someone to help him and reached out to Paul Wilson of the UGA Small Business Development Center, run out of Georgia State University.

“Charles was a terrific resource for growing other companies. He’d ask them the hard questions and help them develop strategic plans,” Wilson said. “He contacted us and asked for assistance in developing strategies to pursue his own contracts. He wanted our help getting the knowledge in his head onto paper so he could develop his own road map for his company.”

Wilson helped Broom brainstorm Broom’s vision, mission, company values, goals and objectives. He then helped Broom create a strategy mapping tool that focused on four key areas: personnel, finance, marketing and growth. Broom also sought his assistance in putting in place the multiple operational processes he needed to run his company: accounting, human resources and recruiting to fill the staffing needs of his contracts.

“Before, he had consulted on these areas,” Wilson said. “Now, he had to operate in them.”

For each mapping section, they worked together to focus on where the business was and what Broom wanted it to look like.

“Paul imposed timelines and challenged me to make the most of our time together,” Broom said. “We drilled down to specific action items. He then held me accountable about taking the time to visualize the business prior to acting on these items. This step was difficult, but necessary.”

Broom learned his messaging wasn’t clear, so he invested in a consultant who redesigned and refreshed his branding and website.

“Charles took the initiative to get help and invest in his business,” said Wilson, “then he started to see results.”

Revenues for the RieLes Group were in the six figures in 2018, and the company had been awarded a federal contract for more than $1 million. The company now manages several professionals in six states, the numbers ebbing and flowing given ongoing contract needs.

The RieLes Group is well-positioned for the additional contracts Broom expects to hold soon.

“Thanks to the work and time put in with Paul and the SBDC, I’ve learned the importance of forecasting and having systems and processes in place. They have prepared us to meet all new opportunities.”

UGA’s first Archway Partnership community continues to build on its successes

When they keep inviting you back, you must be doing something right.

Colquitt County leaders have continued to fund the Archway Partnership in their community, nine years beyond the original five-year commitment to the program.

“We just really believe in it,” said Chip Blalock, executive director of the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie and chair of the Colquitt County Archway Partnership. “Our funding partners invest in the program because they know we’ll get a good return on it.”

An impact study from March 2017 shows that in the 12 years between 2005, when the University of Georgia launched its Archway Partnership in Colquitt County, through 2017, the area realized an additional $226.9 million in economic activity, an average of nearly $19 million a year.

And the program is going strong today, as the community continues to tap into UGA resources to help create businesses and jobs, develop leaders and address critical challenges, like public healthcare, infrastructure needs, education, housing, zoning and downtown design.

Since 2005, more than 169 UGA students and 18 faculty have worked on 134 projects in the south Georgia county.

In recent months UGA students completed a crime survey of the county, which resulted in the city hiring two additional police officers; produced a design for a Moultrie Welcome Center in a vacant storefront on the town square; and kicked off the second year of a leadership program designed to prepare African American males to be community leaders one day.

“Growing up in this community, a lot of the leaders I looked up to are getting older and we do not see the next group to take their place,” said Brian Knighton, principal of Stringfellow Elementary School in Moultrie. Knighton and Colquitt County native Ralph “RJ” Taylor brought the idea to the Colquitt Archway Partnership in 2017, and worked with faculty from the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development to create the program.

“I feel an obligation to give back and help develop that next generation of leaders.”

Leadership Legends in Moultrie GAThe relationship between the county and the university and the desire to “give back,” also influenced a group of Colquitt County natives to set up the UGA Moultrie-Colquitt County Alumni Scholarship Fund. Every year in perpetuity this fund will provide at least one academically talented student from Colquitt County High School with a scholarship to attend UGA. Using a dollar-for-dollar match from the UGA Foundation, the group so far has provided Georgia Commitment Scholarships for five students to attend the University of Georgia.

“With these scholarships, the community has launched a new partnership with the University of Georgia that will benefit our students from Colquitt County,” said Jimmy Jeter, a local businessman, who contributed to the endowment.

Colquitt County was the pilot community for the Archway Partnership, which was developed by faculty in UGA Public Service and Outreach and UGA Cooperative Extension. Based on the extension model, Archway placed a UGA employee—an Archway professional—in Moultrie to address economic development issues in the county.

Initial projects included helping the county find a cost-efficient way to pay for expansion of its wastewater system in order to accommodate a new chicken processing plant that would bring 1,500 jobs to the area.

UGA also facilitated meetings to adopt a zoning ordinance and land-use plan for the county, an effort that had failed in the past.

After a series of community meetings, the Archway Executive Committee identified the county’s most-pressing needs: Increasing the graduation rate for high school students and improving the health status of local residents.

Since then, 13 Georgia counties have been Archway Partnership communities. Six have graduated from the program. Seven, including Colquitt, are still active.

In 2009, when the YMCA in Moultrie received a grant to establish the Healthy Colquitt Coalition, UGA’s College of Public Health (CPH) became involved. The county’s relationship with CPH led to additional grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Health Alliance.

Colquitt County officially graduated from Archway in 2011. But UGA continued its commitment to the community with support that included a grant funded through CPH. When that grant ended, the original local funders—Colquitt County, the City of Moultrie, the Colquitt County Board of Education and Colquitt Regional Medical Center— agreed to continue with Archway, each giving $10,000 a year to pay for a part-time Archway professional and cover operations.

“We just really refused to end it because of the great relationship we have with UGA,” Blalock said.

When the opportunity arose for each funder to contribute $5,000 more for the Archway professional to work full time, they all agreed, Blalock said.

“That’s just an illustration of the buy-in,” he said. “It’s about what we can do to make Moultrie and Colquitt County better.”

The Leadership Legends program began with 13 African American eighth grade boys in fall of 2018. As ninth graders this school year, they will be assigned mentors from the community, whose interests are similar to the student’s aspirations. In 10th grade, the program will focus on community engagement in Colquitt County. When the students graduate from the program at the end of 10th grade, they will become mentors for participants in the next Leadership Legends class. The program already is showing positive results.

“When I first started, I didn’t want to speak in public, but now since I’ve been doing it for the last year, it’s going to help me a lot,” said Joseph Stokes, a ninth grader in his second year of Leadership Legends. “Usually, I’d be scared to do something like this, but now I’m not.”

In addition, Colquitt school officials are considering adding a leadership program to the middle and high schools in the county. The Youth in Action Leadership Program, created and implemented by the Fanning Institute, has been in the county’s elementary schools since 2015.

Light pole banner for the city of MoultrieDeveloping a diverse group of leaders is vital to community sustainability, said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute.

“Today’s community leaders have a responsibility to develop the leaders of tomorrow,” Bishop said.

Recent UGA projects underway in Moultrie include a crime survey by geography major Taylor Hafley, which showed the city needed more police patrols. At the same time, a landscape architecture student Ben Proulx, identified areas along the Tom White Linear Park walking trail where tree roots had broken through the asphalt, and stretches that were dark and possibly unsafe.

Proulx suggested the city install lighting in strategic spots along the trail and recommended trees be planted a distance from the trail to avoid future problems with roots. During the process, a property owner next to the trail offered part of his land to be used for a rest station, with shelter from the sun and possibly rest rooms.

Yusheng Fang, a graduate student at the UGA Lamar Dodd School of Art, created a design for a new Moultrie Welcome Center, which will be located in a vacant storefront on the town square.

The task provided an experiential learning opportunity for Fang, whose expertise is in reimagining spaces for their function and possibility.

“On the second floor there is a special barn door and many structures with a sense of industrial design,” she said. “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 university knows we’re a place they can try new ideas,” Blalock said. “It’s all about community.”


WRITER

Kelly Simmons Director of Communications

simmonsk@uga.edu • 706-542-2512

UGA finalist for national economic development awards

For the third year, three University of Georgia programs have been selected as finalists for national awards recognizing innovation in economic development. UGA is the only university that has had three finalists for three consecutive years.

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, both units of UGA Public Service and Outreach, and the New Materials Institute, a component of the UGA Office of Research with roots in the College of Engineering, are among the 24 finalists for the University Economic Development Association 2019 Awards of Excellence. UGA’s finalists are in different categories and will not compete with one another.

UEDA represents higher education, private sector and community economic development stakeholders across North America. Entries were judged by a panel of university and economic development professionals based on the alignment of their institution’s core mission activities with regional economic development goals.

Categories include innovation, talent and place, as well as the intersections of those three categories. Criteria for judging included originality, scalability, sustainability, impact and the feasibility of other organizations replicating the initiatives in their communities.

Programs selected as finalists are:

  • A revitalization/visioning program for downtown Clarkesville, Georgia, developed by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Through the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Partnership, a community revitalization initiative with the Georgia Municipal Association, the Georgia Cities Foundation and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, city and business leaders and Clarkesville citizens came together to create a master plan for their downtown after a fire in 2014 gutted three buildings and destroyed four businesses. New apartments, restaurants and retail outlets in the renovated business district have revitalized the downtown and the master plan continues to drive development. (Place category.)
  • A youth leadership program incorporated into a Loganville, Georgia, high school, developed by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. The Youth in Action program empowers students to facilitate their own goals and establish themselves as leaders in the school community, serving on steering committees that help school administrators develop ideas for school improvement. Since the curriculum was introduced in 2015, high school graduation rates have increased from 78.3% (2013-14) to 86.2% (2016-17) and are well above the state average of 81.6%. (Talent category.)

“It is a validation of our work throughout the state of Georgia as the land- and sea-grant institution that we have had so many finalists for these awards,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for public service and outreach. “We are honored to be recognized in so many different areas.”

  • The UGA New Materials Institute as a model for industry engagement and collaboration with higher education research. In the New Materials Institute, faculty work with public and private partners to pioneer systems and materials that promote a circular economy, meaning that products are recovered and recycled at the end of their useful lives. Programs range from innovative waste management systems to biodegradable materials that meet the high expectations of both industry and consumers. Most importantly, the institute trains the next generation of engineers and scientists to use this holistic approach. (Innovation category.)

“I am pleased that UEDA recognizes the value in connecting translational research units like the New Materials Institute with a range of industry partners to spark new ideas and advances in areas of societal need,” said Vice President for Research David Lee. “We believe our approach with New Materials is replicable across a range of research areas and applications. It has tremendous advantages: for the university in supporting our research, for the partner industries in pushing their R&D forward, and for the public who will ultimately reap the benefits of these collaborations.”

Winners will be announced during the UEDA Annual Summit in Reno-Tahoe, Nevada, Sept. 29-Oct. 2, 2019.


WRITERS

Kelly Simmons PSO Director of Communications

simmonsk@uga.edu • 706-542-2512

Michael Terrazas Director of Research Communications

michael.terrazas@uga.edu • 706-542-5941

New developments at State Botanical Garden will increase educational opportunities, improve access

The University of Georgia broke ground on a trio of projects Aug. 23 at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

The projects—the Center for Art and Nature Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum, the Discovery and Inspiration Garden, and a new entrance—will allow visitors to explore the relationship between art and nature and increase accessibility to garden exhibits and facilities. They will be constructed simultaneously, with completion anticipated in 2020.

“None of this would have been possible without the generosity of many people,” UGA President Jere W. Morehead said during the groundbreaking ceremony. “I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all of the donors whose gifts are bringing these projects to life—those who are with us today and those who are celebrating with us from afar.”

Artist rendering of the Center for Art and Nature Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum

Artist rendering of the Center for Art and Nature Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum

The Center for Art and Nature Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum will house significant holdings from the Deen Day Sanders collection, with an extensive concentration in porcelain. This state-of-the-art facility will be the first of its kind to integrate decorative art within a garden setting and nature through the quality, diversity and evolution of porcelain and other decorative artifacts.

The center will have permanent galleries, visiting exhibitions and classroom space.

“We want to make it an educational, unique experience. I can’t think of another garden where they use ceramics and porcelain in this way,” said Sanders, a longtime supporter of the garden. “The University of Georgia has a decorative arch, landscape design, and it has many, many ways to draw the information that you need to put together these displays. I think it will all work together.”

Surrounding the Center for Art and Nature will be the Discovery and Inspiration Garden with narrow plant beds at eye level for every age so that visitors can get an up-close look at native plants for pollinators. A pond will support the life cycles of frogs and dragonflies, along with other creatures. Classes will be held on a great lawn, which also will serve as a venue for special events.

Artist rendering of the C. Burke Day Jr. Memorial Walkway

The entrance and accessibility project will be the main gateway to the garden from the parking lots above. The C. Burke Day Jr. Memorial Walkway, funded in part by members of the Garden Club of Georgia Inc., will lead to an overlook that provides a glimpse of the new Center for Art and Nature, the Alice Hand Callaway Visitor Center & Conservatory, and the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden. Visitors will travel across an elevated walkway to an elevator or to stairs descending to the visitor center plaza.

Chuck and Suzanne Murphy provided funding for the Discovery and Inspiration Garden.

Deen Day Sanders, the Callaway Foundation, Mike and Betty DeVore, Tom Wight, Jim Miller, and the Garden Club of Georgia Inc. contributed to the entrance and accessibility project.

“Together, we are continuing the legacy of those who first envisioned this garden, and we are weaving new, innovative ideas into our mission,” said Jenny Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. “Building these projects together allows us to be conscientious stewards of the site and donated funds, and reduce disruption during construction.”


WRITER

Kelly Simmons Director of Communications

simmonsk@uga.edu • 706-542-2512

CONTACT

Jenny Cruse-Sanders State Botanical Garden Director

crusesanders@uga.edu • 706-542-6131

New Faculty Tour provides education and impact

The trip ended where it began, with a large coach bus parked outside the Georgia Center in the August heat, a group of about 50 faculty, administrators and staff milling about with their luggage and backpacks.

Except, with the UGA 2019 New Faculty Tour now complete, that’s where the similarities ended. The group that boarded the bus Aug. 5 was subdued, even quiet, few of the participants familiar with each other. When they stepped off the bus on Aug. 9, there was laughter, smiling, hugs and hearty handshakes—and a lot of plans being made.

That was the impact of their five-day trek across their new home state, a whirlwind odyssey that carried the group from Athens to the mountains of North Georgia, down through Atlanta to the sandy soils of the south, east to the Atlantic coast and then back again. Five long, jam-packed days that started on the bus at 7 a.m. and ended past 9 p.m. with few breaks in between—and every minute its own reward.

“On this tour, you will recognize the historical and synergistic bond that exists between the university and the citizens of this state,” President Jere W. Morehead told the group just before they departed. “You’re going to see a lot of love for UGA. It’s deep and profound.”

New Faculty Tour members Katie Higgins (L) and Megan Wongkamalasai in front of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta (Photo: Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

New Faculty Tour members Katie Higgins (L) and Megan Wongkamalasai in front of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta (Photo: Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

The president was not exaggerating. At just about every stop along the way, the riders were greeted by waves of affection for their university—not just love but also excitement, gratitude and a whole lot of pride. Somewhere around Hawkinsville (population 4,589; located 50 miles south of Macon) it became difficult to remember just how many guest speakers had punctuated their remarks with, “By the way, I went to Georgia, too. Go, Dawgs!”

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Rachel Fusco, now the Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Health and Well-Being in the School of Social Work. “It was incredible to learn about the social, cultural and economic life of Georgia—a state I admittedly did not know much about. I was touched by the pride people had in their towns and how hard they are working to keep them vital.”

In fact, it is the university’s work in partnering with these communities that provided so much inspiration. Whether they were praising the efforts of the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, the Archway Partnership or the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, or simply the steady stream of talent that emerges from UGA after each commencement, the Georgia citizens and leaders who spoke to the New Faculty Tour all expressed a deep appreciation for UGA’s devotion to its state.

In Hawkinsville, it was the Archway Partnership’s assistance in conducting a needs assessment that helped the community keep its regional hospital. In the hills of Dawson County, it was UGA Cooperative Extension and Small Business Development Center expertise that helped propel Georgia’s wine industry to an $80 million state economic impact. On the coast, it was Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s work to convince shrimpers to use turtle excluder devices in their nets that contributed to 2019’s record-breaking year for sea turtle nests.

At Pinewood Atlanta Studios, spanning 400 acres of former farmland in Fayette County, it was the UGA Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications’ participation in the Georgia Film Academy, intended to produce more screenwriters and content producers for Georgia’s $9.5 billion film industry. And in Macon, it was the work of one of 17 UGA-operated Small Business Development Center offices, which over the past five years have helped create 1,741 new businesses and more than 13,000 jobs statewide.

New Faculty Tour members Richard Lee (L) and Liliana Salvador at Pinewood Studios in Atlanta (Photo: Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

New Faculty Tour members Richard Lee (L) and Liliana Salvador at Pinewood Studios in Atlanta (Photo: Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

“It’s unique, in my experience,” said Mattia Pistone, a new assistant professor of geology who hails from Italy, of UGA’s statewide impact. “Coming from Europe, [places like] ETH Zurich, University of Bristol, University of Lausanne, none of those universities have such deep community ties. They are very good institutions, but they don’t have much of a connection to their local or national communities.”

Some tour riders were already participating in this impact, including Jermaine Durham, a new assistant professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and program director for the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing. Previously he’d worked for the Housing Authority of Savannah, and on Aug. 9, Durham received a warm greeting from Malik Watson, public service associate for the Vinson Institute in Savannah, with whom he’d worked on housing projects.

The new faculty also used their time together on the bus to discuss ways to enhance UGA’s research enterprise and strengthen its global reputation.

The university’s widespread state involvement was not lost on the 2019 tour’s most notable participant, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost S. Jack Hu, who participated  in the entire tour alongside his new faculty colleagues.

“Being a land-grant and sea-grant university, we need the state as much as the state needs us—we are tied together,” Hu said to his fellow tour participants during a reception with alumni in Atlanta. “Our outreach and service activities are everywhere in this state, and that is truly an exemplar compared with all the public universities I know of. Many of you also come from public universities, and you’ll see that UGA truly is an exemplar.”

New Faculty Tour member Nina Johnson at UGA Tifton (Photo: Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

New Faculty Tour member Nina Johnson at UGA Tifton (Photo: Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

By tour’s end, what had begun as a group of strangers was transformed into something more. Many of the riders had connected on Facebook and were busy posting photos and engaging with each other online. There was a dedicated Slack group, an elected “class president” (Dee Warmath, assistant professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences) and a pledge from the provost to hold a reunion.

“I promise I’ll host it, and we’ll invite everyone who went on the tour, including the faculty and staff from Public Service and Outreach who came with us,” Hu said. “The Georgia Center is under Vice President Jennifer Frum [of Public Service and Outreach], so we already have a location.”

This was the 35th UGA New Faculty Tour since it began in 1977. It has been held in all but seven years. Budget constraints cancelled the tours in 1991, 2003-04 and 2009-12. About 1,500 UGA faculty members have participated in the tour since it began.

The tour is coordinated by the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach and is made possible by major support from the Office of the President and the Office of the Provost. Additional sponsors include the UGA Alumni Association,
UGA Foundation and a multitude of other units and supporters of the University of Georgia.


WRITER

Michael Terrazas

michael.terrazas@uga.edu • 706-542-5941

PHOTOGRAPHER

Shannah Montgomery

smont@uga.edu • 706-542-3638

MEDIA CONTACT

Kelly Simmons

simmonsk@uga.edu • 706-542-2512

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.”


WRITER

Scott Michaux

smichaux@bellsouth.net

MEDIA CONTACT

Kelly Simmons PSO Director of Communications

simmonsk@uga.edu • 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 sadams1234@uga.edu 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.

New Faculty Tour heads out with new provost on board

UGA’s whirlwind tour of the state kicked off its 35th run on Monday, with destinations including Amicalola State Park in the north Georgia mountains, the state Capitol and National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Pinewood Studios in Fayetteville, the UGA Griffin and Tifton campuses, Macon and Hawkinsville in middle Georgia, and the Pin Point Heritage Museum, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, Gulfstream Aerospace and the Georgia Ports Authority on the coast.

S. Jack Hu, who began work July 1 as UGA’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, will be among the 40 new faculty members on the tour, who represent 18 university departments.

“Our new faculty always learn something about Georgia on this tour that they didn’t know before coming to UGA,” said Jennifer L. Frum, vice president for Public Service and Outreach. “Many discover similarities in their teaching and research, which can lead to great interdisciplinary partnerships. This year they have the added bonus of getting to know Dr. Hu just as he arrives at the University of Georgia.”

From Monday morning through Friday afternoon, Aug. 5-9, 2019, tour participants will pass through 41 of Georgia’s 159 counties, stopping in 16 cities to learn about Georgia history, culture, demographics, geography and economic drivers.

Along the way, the new faculty members, all of whom have been at UGA for no longer than two years, are encouraged to look for ways they can use their teaching and research to addresses challenges in Georgia communities.

“Over the years, this tour has provided opportunities for our faculty and students to take their academic knowledge into communities and apply it to address a real-world situation,” UGA President Jere W. Morehead said. “Participants on the tour come back to campus with a solid understanding of UGA’s role as the state’s land-grant and sea-grant mission.”

The New Faculty Tour began in 1977 and has been held in all but seven years. Budget constraints canceled the tours in 1991, 2003-04 and 2009-12. About 1,500 UGA faculty members have participated in the tour since it began.

The tour is coordinated by the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach and is made possible by major support from the Office of the President and the Office of the Provost. Additional sponsors include the UGA Alumni Association, UGA Foundation, and a multitude of other units and supporters of the University of Georgia.


WRITER

Kelly Simmons Director of Communications

simmonsk@uga.edu • 706-542-2512

State Botanical Garden alliance wins national award for conservation

The Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance (GPCA), headquartered at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at UGA, received a 2019 Environmental Excellence Award in the category of “Ecosystem, Habitat, and Wildlife” from the Federal Highway Administration for its work with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT).

This award recognizes GDOT’s unique partnership with the GPCA for over 20 years to restore rare plant community habitats, safeguard protected plant species, and address invasive plant species across the state both on and off rights-of-way.  The GPCA crafted and maintains a centralized database to collaboratively monitor priority species and a network of “Botanical Guardians” to monitor protected plant communities, which has resulted in successful mitigation and restoration.”

This biennial award recognizes leaders across the country who make outstanding contributions to environmental stewardship and partnerships above and beyond traditional transportation project outcomes.

Mincy Moffett, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and GPCA awards chair, accepted the award from the Federal Highway Administration on Aug. 7th. State Botanical Garden Director Jenny Cruse-Sanders will attend the Aug. 27 DNR meeting, where the GPCA will be recognized.


The GPCA is a network of more than 40 Georgia universities, botanical gardens, zoos, state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, and private companies that are committed to ecological land management, native plant conservation, and protection of rare and endangered plants. Its mission is to study and conserve Georgia’s flora through multidisciplinary research, education, and advocacy; facilitate the recovery of rare, threatened, and endangered plants of Georgia and the southeast through collaborative efforts.

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.

 


MEDIA CONTACT

Baker Owens Archway Partnership Public Relations Coordinator

baker.owens@uga.edu • 706-542-1098

Roger Nielsen Institute of Government Public Relations Coordinator

nielsen@uga.edu • 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.

 


MEDIA CONTACT

Leah Moss Public Relations Coordinator

leahmoss@uga.edu • 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.”


MEDIA CONTACT

Leah Moss Public Relations Coordinator

leahmoss@uga.edu • 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.


MEDIA CONTACT

Kelly Simmons  Director of Communications

simmonsk@uga.edu • 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.

 

GIVE TO ACCESSIBILITY AT THE GARDEN

 


MEDIA CONTACT

Leah Moss Public Relations Coordinator

leahmoss@uga.edu • 706-612-0063