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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 cviog.uga.edu/training-and-education/online-courses/.


WRITER

Roger Nielsen Carl Vinson Public Relations Coordinator

nielsen@uga.edu • 706-542-2524

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.

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 www.fanning.uga.edu/ICLI.


WRITER

Charlie Bauder Public Relations Coordinator

charlie.bauder@fanning.uga.edu • 706-542-7039

CONTACT

Matt Bishop Fanning Institute Director

mlbishop@uga.edu • 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.

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 outreach.uga.edu/awards/pso-employee-spotlight/.

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 www.fanning.uga.edu/community-leadership-conference/.


WRITER

Charlie Bauder Public Relations Coordinator

charlie.bauder@uga.edu • 706-542-7039

CONTACT

Matt Bishop Fanning Institute Director

mlbishop@uga.edu • 706-542-6201

SBDC Contractor Academy supports local businesses

Food may be the love language of the Classic City. From staples to newly established restaurants, Athens is never short on good eats. So, in a town with a lively food scene, how can a small business stand out?

For Rashe Malcolm, chef and owner of Rashe’s Cuisine, the answer came in the form of the Contractor Academy, a training program for local business owners offered by the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC), a unit of Public Service and Outreach.

The Contractor Academy provides resources for small businesses, ranging from caterers to real estate developers, looking to work with larger corporations or government agencies. On Oct. 23, Malcolm joined 14 other business owners in the second of four sessions held in Clarke County. The day’s topic? Marketing and business development.

From cooking lessons to personalized meal prep, Malcolm understands that it’s not just her food that drives business. “The Contractor Academy has made me realize there’s a way I can present my services to enhance how I introduce my product, so people will look at it in a different light,” she said.

Over the course of six weeks, SBDC consultants helped contractors position their businesses to break into new markets and expand their client base.Sessions covered strategic planning and execution, financial readiness and scalable infrastructure.

SBDC consultant Bart Njoku-Obi speaks at the Contractor Academy

The Contractor Academy is one of many SBDC resources helping local business owners grow their accounts. Bart Njoku-Obi, a consultant with the SBDC Office of Minority Business Development, explained, “The individuals here have the opportunity to come back and connect directly with our consultants to take the principles they’ve learned in the program and apply them.”

“I’m really changing my business, and a lot of it is through advice that I’ve been getting from the SBDC,” said Julie Lorenz, CEO of Olis, an Athens-based company that makes lab instruments called spectrophotometers. For Lorenz, the Contractor Academy refreshed her perspective and got her thinking beyond the day-to-day grind of running a business. “One of the most important lessons that these classes teach us is to make time to work on your business—not just in your business,” she said.

Malcolm agreed.

“Because I took this class, I don’t have to be just another restaurant. I don’t have to be just another caterer,” she said. “I can be an expert in this field, providing services that others, who didn’t come to this class and didn’t do the research, may not be able to tap into.”

The SBDC serves communities through 17 regional offices across the state, six of them in partnership with other University System of Georgia universities. The first Athens Contractor Academy was supported by the University of Georgia Office of the President, in collaboration with Athens-Clarke County Economic Development, Envision Athens and the Northeast Georgia Business Alliance.


WRITER

Hayley Major Editorial Account Manager

hayleyrm@uga.edu • 706-542-0060

Leadership institute helps Macon businesses grow

An entrepreneurial leadership curriculum developed by the University of Georgia is helping several Macon business owners lead their businesses to new heights.

In 2018, NewTown Macon—a nonprofit organization focused on economic and cultural development in downtown Macon—contacted the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development about developing a program that would blend leadership and entrepreneurial skills development for current and aspiring business owners in downtown Macon.

“We have a small business loan program, and a lot of people that we help finance never have taken a business loan before,” said Bethany Rogers, director of business and real estate development for NewTown Macon. “They often need some coaching to get them across the finish line, so we were trying to figure out a way to offer that in a group setting. After bringing our ideas to the Fanning Institute, we saw the need to also include leadership and personal development as part of the program.”

Building on NewTown Macon’s program vision, Fanning Institute faculty designed the curriculum for the NewTown Macon Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy and facilitated the initial class in fall 2018.

“We developed a unique curriculum that injects leadership development as a core component to successful entrepreneurship,” said Brandy Walker, a public service associate at the Fanning Institute. “We first asked participants to focus on themselves as a person, a leader and a business owner in order to set them up for success in developing their business plan.”

Over the course of four sessions, participants focused on developing leadership skills critical to working with others to grow their business, while also learning more about business plan development and other entrepreneurial skills.

“Having Brandy’s expertise in curriculum design and presentation added tremendous value to the program,” Rogers said. “Her work made the curriculum much more digestible for the participants and much more dynamic.”

NewTown Macon Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy participant Nora Stephens poses with her food truck.

Nora Stephens participated in the NewTown Macon Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy to help her food truck business. (PHOTO: Shannah Montgomery / PSO)

Scott Mitchell, owner of Travis Jean Emporium, an art gallery and gift shop in Macon, credits the academy with helping him grow his business and expand his leadership role in the community.

“Before going into the academy, I decided that this year I was going to step back and not do some things like outside committees,” Mitchell said. “Instead, the academy showed me that I need to step up more.”

As a result, Mitchell joined the Chamber of Commerce board and is the incoming chairperson of Main Street Macon, which he said also opened doors for his business.

“I had 15 months of straight (revenue) increase from the previous year until June 2019,” Mitchell said.

Megan Carson, owner of Sparks Yoga in Macon, also developed her business ownership skills through the academy.

“From a leadership perspective, I was having a hard time delegating and leading my business as much as I should be,” Carson said. “The academy helped create a more concrete vision and mission and take charge of my business more.”

Evaluating her business following the academy, Carson identified a need to re-structure her membership plans and since doing that, membership in the yoga studio has increased significantly, she said.

According to Mitchell and Carson, the academy also strengthened the relationships between business owners in downtown Macon.

“The connections have been very helpful by learning that I have not been alone in these struggles,” Carson said. “I have these connections now that I can reach out to and talk to. We’re all in this together.”


WRITER

Charlie Bauder Fanning Institute Public Relations Coordinator

charlie.bauder@fanning.uga.edu • 706-542-7039

MORE INFORMATION

Brandy Walker Fanning Institute Public Service Associate

brandy.walker@fanning.uga.edu • 706-542-1660

Student-run juvenile court judges cases of first-time offenders

It feels like a real court proceeding.

There’s a judge and a bailiff. Attorneys consult with their clients, first-time offenders who’ve committed minor crimes like shoplifting or fighting. Jurors determine how respondents will make restitution for their crimes.

But there’s one distinct difference between this court and others: All the participants are teenagers.

Created by Emily Boness, a public service associate at the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, and Athens-Clarke County Juvenile Court Judge Robin Shearer, Athens’ peer court has tried more than 580 cases. A partnership between the Fanning Institute, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit, and the Athens-Clarke County Juvenile Court System, the peer court is in its seventh year.

Student Adetokunbo Ojo participates in peer court.

Student Adetokunbo Ojo participates in peer court. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

Although such courts are relatively common throughout the U.S., there aren’t many in Georgia. The goal is to hold juvenile offenders accountable while also giving them an opportunity to perform community service that can expunge their records rather than having them serve jail time for minor offenses.

Cases are also heard and decided much sooner than they would be in county court, and the recidivism rate for peer court participants is much lower than the rate for statewide youth offenders.

For Boness and other Fanning faculty who work on the program, it was important that the Athens court was totally led by the middle and high school students. That means continually training new student volunteers from local middle and high schools to serve as attorneys, bailiffs, judges and jury members. The training focuses on teaching students how to interview a respondent (or defendants in traditional court settings), how to craft opening and closing statements, and how to identify aggravating and mitigating factors in a case.

UGA law students provide guidance and help volunteers prepare for their cases.

Emily Boness talks with members of the peer court jury

Emily Boness, public service associate at the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, is the co-founder of Athens Peer Court. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

“Peer court allows the youth volunteers to learn practical skills like public speaking, persuasive writing and collaboration towards a common goal,” said Ansley Whiten, a second-year law student. “The first-time juvenile offenders also get a lot out of the program because it gives them a second chance. It still holds them accountable for what they have done, without perpetuating the idea that they are part of the ‘system’ now.”

The jury determines how much community service, within baseline sentencing guidelines for the crime, the respondent will need to complete and whether a written and/or oral apology is warranted. After completing their assigned community service, many of the respondents return to serve on peer court themselves.

“We hope they feel a sense of ‘I got to tell what happened. I saw my peers serving in a community leadership role. I was positively influenced by them,’” Boness said.

Emily Boness helps student Maya Cornish into the judge’s robe.

Emily Boness helps student Maya Cornish into the judge’s robe. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

“They see other teenagers in leadership roles, and therefore can see themselves there too,” said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute. “Peer court would be a great addition to any community’s efforts to develop leadership skills in youth. The process is positive and that helps to positively influence the offenders to stay involved—on the right side of the law next time.”

In total, more than 300 middle and high school students have served on the Athens peer court.

One of those students is Maya Cornish. A junior at Clarke Central High School, Cornish has served on peer court for four years. In addition to being a leadership opportunity, she views peer court as an opportunity to effect change.

“These are peers doing something for each other and just trying to help improve the community,” she said. “We’re trying to teach other kids that they can be so much more. They can actually grow from this experience.”


WRITER

Leigh Beeson Writer/Editor

lbeeson@uga.edu

Partnerships help Georgia businesses find trained employees and students find good jobs

What happens when there are more jobs than qualified people to fill them?

That is a critical issue for many Georgia communities and one that the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government is working to address.

Recent one-day conferences in Gwinnett and Tift counties, organized by the Vinson Institute, drew hundreds of attendees. Among them were representatives of k-12 schools, postsecondary institutions, businesses and economic development professionals from across the state.

“Economic development across Georgia is one of our highest priorities at the University of Georgia,” Jennifer Frum, vice president for UGA Public Service and Outreach, said in welcoming participants to the Innovating Georgia’s Workforce Pipeline conference at the UGA Gwinnett campus. “How we all prepare the rising generation for the workforce is of utmost importance.”

Much of Georgia’s problem stems from a mismatch in skills that employees possess and openings that business need to fill. One longer term solution to this problem is working with students in the workforce pipeline to make them aware of in-demand positions and the pathway to get there.

Georgia school systems now have access to a resource to assess middle school student aptitude and interest for a certain field, said Dawn Mann, program manager for career guidance and counseling at the Georgia Department of Education (DOE). The results help them guide students along their paths to graduation and into careers.

A similar assessment has been offered to Georgia high school students for several years now and the results show that 92 percent of female students had an aptitude for engineering. But only 35 percent were interested in that field of work.

“Students are interested in careers they know about,” Mann said. “This is information that can change the game.”

An attendee speaks at the Innovating Georgia's Workforce Pipeline Conference

In 2017, the Paulding County College and Career Academy (CCA) began a High Demand Career Day to help students who were unsure about their plans after graduation. Results from a survey of students’ aptitude and interests are used to carefully curate a day full of opportunities to connect them with postsecondary options at local institutions or employment with area businesses.

“We had people who joined the workforce right after graduation because of that event,” said Marores Perry, CEO of the Paulding CCA .

It’s imperative to help students and their parents know what jobs are available, and the skills required for those jobs, said Katy Castanien, with the Spalding-Griffin County College and Career Academy (CCA). The Spalding-Griffin CCA launched an innovative “Made in the Region” program to help educate parents about advanced manufacturing careers and other opportunities that are in their backyard.

“Parents don’t understand that these are great STEM careers,” Castanien said. “Going into manufacturing is not a dead end job. There are lots of opportunities.”

Already, the partnerships between k-12 schools, post-secondary institutions and businesses are helping address the state’s workforce deficit.

In the Fall of 2018, Georgia Power became one of the first businesses to use YouScience results in order to recruit students with a high aptitude in energy and utility related skills. They invited students to come out and learn more about what a day in the life at Georgia Power would look like in many of the high demand, skilled labor roles.

As a result of the event, 11 students were offered Georgia Power Summer internships and seven other internships were offered through other sources. The company is now providing scholarship support for five of the students pursuing an Electrical Lineworker Apprentice Certification (ELAC) through South Georgia Technical College, said Brooke Perez, community and economic development manager for Georgia Power.

“We know that workforce development plays a critical role in our community’s economic development success, said Greg Wilson, a public service associate in workforce development at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. “Over the past five years, the Institute of Government has had the opportunity to partner with state agencies, workforce development boards, communities, and other organizations as they seek to strengthen their workforce efforts. The conference builds upon this work and seeks to strengthen the workforce ecosystem. We look forward to facilitating future conversations and building more connections among workforce development professionals.”


WRITER

Kelly Simmons Director of Communications

simmonsk@uga.edu • 706-542-2512

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

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

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 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.

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

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