Truist Bank provides funding for SBDC to establish entrepreneurship academy

The UGA Small Business Development Center received a grant from the Truist Foundation to establish a training and development program for small business owners and entrepreneurs in the Savannah area.

The Truist Entrepreneurship Academy will be a two-year program that will, through a series of eight modules, guide participants through topics necessary to grow a successful business. Modules have been developed and will be delivered by experienced SBDC faculty.

“This generous grant from Truist Foundation enables us to bring a new program with high-level business training to Savannah-area businesses,” said Becky Brownlee, area director of the SBDC office in Savannah. “We are looking forward to launching the Truist Entrepreneurship Academy in January 2022.”

The grant will enable 40 business owners from the Savannah area to participate in the program at no cost. Interested business owners are invited to apply online. Ideal program participants can create economic impact through job creation and increased revenue.

“At Truist, our purpose of inspiring and building better lives and communities aligns directly with efforts of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center,” said Patton Dugas, Savannah market president at Truist, on behalf of Truist Foundation. “The Truist Entrepreneurship Academy will help entrepreneurs and small businesses prosper in our community and add to the economic vitality of our region.”

About the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center

The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center is a top provider of small business assistance in Georgia. The program is a Public Service and Outreach unit of the University of Georgia, funded through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

About Truist Foundation

The Truist Foundation is committed to Truist Financial Corporation’s (NYSE: TFC) purpose to inspire and build better lives and communities. Established in 2020, the foundation makes strategic investments in nonprofit organizations to help ensure the communities it serves have more opportunities for a better quality of life. The Truist Foundation’s grants and activities focus on leadership development, economic mobility, thriving communities and educational equity. Learn more at

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Georgia Center’s youth director recognized with Public Service and Outreach award

Alyssa Weyant, director of youth programs at the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel, was recognized with a Public Service and Outreach Spotlight Award in September. PSO Vice President Jennifer Frum surprised Weyant during a Zoom meeting.

“For the past two years you have had to be tenacious and overcome a lot of challenges,” Frum said. “The fact that you all did 30 virtual camps and 14 in person is amazing, especially with no issues with Covid.”

Weyant was nominated for the award by colleague Tristan Webb, who noted her strong work ethic during the pandemic, as well as her willingness to take on other responsibilities.

She received a gift box of treats and a framed certificate recognizing her Employee Spotlight Award. The award is presented to PSO employees who go above and beyond their normal responsibilities, who produce outstanding work and who contribute significantly to the strategic mission of the university.

Thirteen of the awards have been presented since the program was introduced in November 2019.

For more information or to make a nomination, go to

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UGA faculty member recognized as one of state’s most influential Asian Americans

As Georgia business communities continue to diversify, the UGA Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is expanding its service to include programs in foreign languages.

SBDC consultant and Philippine-born Benny StaRomana is a key component to moving that agenda along. He brought his career in global sales and marketing to the United States 25 years ago, and since then has been both personally and professionally engaged with the Asian communities in Georgia.

This summer, StaRomana was recognized as one of the 25 most influential Asian-Americans in Georgia by the Georgia Asian American Times, a biweekly newspaper based in Suwanee, Ga.

“Benny is well known in the community and very popular with his clients,” said Allan Adams, the UGA SBDC state director. “So, his visibility and his activities in the community led to his recent recognition.”

Benny StaRomana headshotDuring the pandemic, the UGA SBDC organized multi-lingual webinars in Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese, in addition to English, helping Asian-American business owners apply for federal assistance. More than 323 Pan Asian business owners attended the webinars.

“Afterwards, whoever attended those sessions, we would contact them and offer them our services,” StaRomana said.

He also worked with the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia to help Filipinos like himself start businesses in Georgia. He has helped the chamber with its strategy and development since 2019.

More than 450,000 Asians live in Georgia — about 375,000 of them in metro Atlanta according to 2020 U.S. census data.

Since 2000, UGA SBDC consultants have helped more than 7,500 established Asian-owned businesses. SBDC consultants have helped another 237 Asian clients launch new businesses since 2011.

The UGA SBDC plans to continue offering multi-lingual opportunities and increase collaboration with Asian business and community organizations. StaRomana will be part of those efforts, tapping into his global work experience and years as owner of a private consulting business. (SantaRomana & Associates LLC went on to win the grand prize in the 2011 Gwinnett County Amazing Entrepreneur competition.)

Meanwhile, he’ll dedicate some of his own time by volunteering with different local organizations, such as the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, Gwinnet Technical College and the Gwinnett County Entrepreneur Center.

“A big part of [the award] is the fact that I’m a business consultant for the SBDC,” StaRomana said. “That puts me in a prime position to be helping people. It’s both a responsibility and a privilege to be doing that.”

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Émilie Gille Public Relations Coordinator • 706-583-0964


Benny StaRomana SBDC Business Consultant • 678-985-6820

Laura Brewer is the latest PSO employee in the spotlight

The Georgia Center’s Laura Brewer is the most recent recipient of the Public Service and Outreach Employee Spotlight Award, recognized for her work in youth academic programs hosted by the center.

Brewer, director of the Office of Academic Special Programs at the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel, was surprised with the award, presented by PSO Vice President Jennifer Frum during a recent meeting. Brewer received a gift basket of treats and a framed certificate recognizing the award.

Brian Stone, Brewer’s colleague at the Georgia Center, nominated her for the award, citing the many hours that she puts into planning events like the Georgia Science & Engineering Fair, the state’s Junior Science & Humanities Symposium and the Regional State History Day.

“She truly wants each student to have a robust and fair experience in these competitions and goes above and beyond to ensure that her programs are organized and engaging,” Stone wrote in his nomination. “She represents the best of PSO as she interacts with the many young students, their parents, and their teachers in providing these programs. She has demonstrated great creativity and flexibility over the past year to shift to a virtual environment while maintaining the standards of her programs.”

Know someone who deserves to be in the spotlight? Nomination information and forms can be found at

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UGA leadership development effort expanding across Georgia

A University of Georgia leadership initiative will partner with seven new organizations over the next year to develop leaders equipped to address critical issues in communities across Georgia.

The J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach, developed the Innovations in Community Leadership Initiative in 2020 with private funding donated by members of the Fanning Institute Advisory Board, most notably a lead gift from the James L. Allgood Family.

Through the initiative, the institute provides resources and technical support to communities and organizations in Georgia seeking to enhance their leadership development efforts.

“Strong communities must have leaders from all walks of life who can identify challenges and know how to build the right team to affect change,” said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute. “The Innovations in Community Leadership Initiative allows us to support communities who share this commitment, but lack the resources needed to make it happen.”

The 2021 Innovations in Community Leadership Initiative recipients are:

  • The Baxley-Appling County Chamber of Commerce, which is redesigning its adult community leadership program to incorporate curriculum surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion as well as multigenerational leadership.
  • Forward McDuffie, which will develop and implement an entrepreneurial leadership academy in McDuffie County.
  • Lee County Family Connection, Inc., which is developing a new youth leadership program with a peer mentorship component.
  • The Moultrie-Colquitt County Development Authority, which is developing a youth leadership curriculum for the school system that focuses on soft skills.
  • Synchronicity Theatre in Atlanta, which is incorporating leadership skills development into its training initiative for young Black, Indigenous, and people of color in the theatre industry.
  • The Towns County Youth Leadership Initiative, which will develop a new community-based youth leadership program.
  • The Wheeler County Chamber of Commerce, which will design and implement a new adult community leadership program for the county.

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“We are excited to partner with the Fanning Institute to create a new program that will develop engaged leaders who can address challenges and take advantage of opportunities in Wheeler County,” said Janice Mock, board president of the Wheeler County Chamber of Commerce. “The Innovations in Community Leadership Initiative will allow us to establish something sustainable that can impact our community for years to come.”

Over the next year, Fanning Institute faculty and staff will work with these organizations to develop and build out their proposed leadership programs.

“This year’s initiative elicited very strong proposals from communities and organizations of all sizes from throughout Georgia,” said Brittany Adams-Pope, Fanning Institute public service assistant. “The recipients represent all areas of our state and we look forward to cultivating successful partnerships with these organizations.”

As part of the Innovations in Community Leadership Initiative, communities are expected to sustain and continue the programming over multiple years.

In 2020, eight organizations partnered with the Fanning Institute to develop leadership programs through this initiative and implementation of those inaugural programs is ongoing.

“We worked with last year’s recipients to design and implement sustainable leadership development programs that will position them to take advantage of economic development and other opportunities,” Bishop said. “We look forward to partnering with this year’s recipients to achieve similar successes.”

The institute will accept applications for the next round of the Innovations in Community Leadership Initiative in spring 2022. For more information, click here.


Charlie Bauder Fanning Institute Public Relations Coordinator • 706-542-7039


Matt Bishop Fanning Institute Director • 706-542-6201

Students dive back into summer camp at UGA

The pool was their ocean. Their underwater remotely operated vehicle was named Rainbow.

Using PVC pipe and pieces of foam, Elsie Summers and other campers at the UGA Center for Continuing Education’s Ocean Discovery Summer Academy designed remotely operated underwater vehicles and then tested them to see if they would work.

“My friend, Katie, and I have always wanted to be marine biologists when we grow up, so camp has been really fun and this is really cool,” said Elsie, a rising seventh-grader. Her friend, Katie Campbell, also was at the camp.

The teams of campers used PVC pipe for the body of the vehicles, foam for buoyancy and metal bars to weight it down enough to go underwater. Three remote control propellors maneuvered the vehicles through the water.

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During the weeklong program, campers learned about marine life and the marine exploration that can be done with remotely operated vehicles.

“Since we’re not by the ocean, we bring the ocean to the kids,” said Emily Davenport, program director for the Department of Marine Sciences and camp instructor. “We talk a lot about the deep ocean and why we should care about the ocean even though we can’t see it here in Athens. They get a feel for what it might be like to drive under the water and explore.”

The Summers team’s vehicle, made from colorful PVC, was a little too buoyant when they put it in the Department of Marine Sciences’ pool initially. But after they removed a piece of foam from its frame, they were able to successfully maneuver it under the water.

Thanks to a grant the Department of Marine Science received from the Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf (ECOGIG) research group, the Ocean Discovery camp was offered at a reduced cost this year, and six campers were awarded scholarships to attend.

Many of UGA’s camps were able to return to in-person participation this year after going online last summer.

“We made a plan for virtual camp this summer, but I was relieved that we got to do in-person instead,” said Ben Thomas, a lecturer in the College of Engineering and an Advanced Engineering Summer Academy instructor. “A big part of our camp is getting to experience the tools and the machines and have safe places to learn about them.”

A student rides a stationary bicycle attached to a water pump while two people watch

In the Engineering Summer Academy, campers try different methods to power a water pump. This team is generating power using a stationary bike. (Photo: Shannah Montgomery / PSO)

Campers explored the various types of engineering, including electrical, mechanical and technological, and worked on engineering projects. They developed a portable water pump system that could be used in a remote location without running water. One group tried a bicycle-powered pump, while another tried setting up a system with a single solar panel and a battery.

“I’m really learning a lot,” said rising 10th-grade student Kayla Davis. “I love studying science and now I love engineering too because you get to do what you love and build things that are creative.”

The UGA Center for Continuing Education partnered with eight other UGA departments and one non-UGA organization to offer 32 camps this summer, 12 of them in-person.

Fashion design, mini-medical school, coding and 3D animations are among the Summer Academy selections. The American Sign Language Summer Academy is being led by the nonprofit Georgia Center of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Atlanta this summer.

Learn more and register at


Émilie Gille Public Relations Coordinator • 706-583-0964

UGA webinars to help government leaders better understand American Rescue Plan Act

The UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government is providing a series of free webinars to help government leaders plan and think strategically about how to invest in their communities with American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. These webinars, part of the Vinson Institute’s Funding the Future series, will cover the funding governments are receiving through the act, how it compares to the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding, allocations and distribution, audit requirements and reporting, internal control, and strategic planning.

The American Rescue Plan Act has allocated significant financial resources to local governments of all sizes. These funds must eventually be accounted for, their use reported, and sub-recipients must be monitored. In Managing ARPA Funds, UGA faculty, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, the State Accounting Office, the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts, Georgia Department of Community Affairs, as well as city and county financial officers will discuss both mandatory requirements and best practices in managing these funds.

The Managing ARPA Funds webinar will be on June 29 from 10-11:30 a.m. Register Now

Georgia Center graphic designer in the Spotlight in May

Natalie Stephens, a graphic designer for the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel, is the latest Public Service and Outreach staff member to receive the PSO employee Spotlight Award.

PSO Vice President Jennifer Frum surprised Stephens with the award during a sales and event coordination division meeting at the Georgia Center, and praised her work.

“You totally make (the Georgia Center) look great on Instagram and Facebook,” Frum said.

Stephens was nominated for the award by colleague Sue Smith, who supervises Stephens.

“Natalie makes my department run faster and better, has brought a host of new ideas and visuals to the work that the Georgia Center produces, and … has yet to say no to anything she’s been asked to do,” Smith wrote in her nomination. “She adds so much value to the Georgia Center … and I believe she should be recognized and celebrated beyond our unit.”

Stephens received a gift basket of treats and a framed certificate recognizing the award.

Find out more about the PSO Spotlight and how to nominate an employee at

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2021 Four for the Future

Now in its ninth year, the Four for the Future Awards, co-sponsored by Georgia Trend magazine and UGA, recognize communities and regions that have worked across public- private sector and nonprofit boundaries to address challenges in ways that will lead to improved quality of life. These partnerships demonstrate effective collaboration, leadership and innovation, and offer the promise of long-term community benefits. The 2021 recipients are:

Washington County Branding Initiative

Washington County and its eight communities have a lot to offer but did not have a unified brand identity, tools or message needed to maximize promotion, marketing and economic development efforts. The Carl Vinson Institute of Government was commissioned by Archway Partnership on behalf of Washington County to facilitate a countywide branding process and create a brand identity. Vinson Institute graphic designers took the information provided by county residents and created a visual identity that captured the county’s diverse and unique sense of place. Each community designed its own logo to fit within the county brand. The county now has tools to use for recruiting industry and the Chamber of Commerce has a brand message to attract tourism, enhance marketing and aid local merchants.

Barrow County Grow It Know It

A needs assessment conducted by UGA showed that teachers in Barrow County were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about farm to school programming. However, there are significant barriers to starting the programs, including a need for teacher training, support for starting and managing school gardens, securing garden materials and supplies, coordinating cooking activities, and integrating farm to school programming into the curriculum. The Office of Service-Learning partnered with Barrow County Extension, Georgia Farm Bureau, and Barrow County School District to launch Grow It Know It (GIKI), an experiential training program for educators to learn a food- and garden-based curriculum. Since 2018, 53 Barrow County educators have participated in Grow It Know It training, serving 1,239 students in 2019-2020. UGA received a $150,703 USDA grant to support the Barrow County farm to school effort through GIKI.

NewTown Macon Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy

The nonprofit NewTown Macon, which focuses on economic and cultural development in downtown Macon, saw that many people trying to start new businesses needed coaching to help them find funding. Current and aspiring business owners also needed leadership and entrepreneurial skills. So NewTown Macon reached out to the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development for help. Fanning faculty designed curriculum for the NewTown Macon Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy and facilitated the first class in fall 2018. Over four sessions, participants focused on leadership skills critical to carrying out a business vision, and learned more about business plan development. Participant Scott Mitchell, owner of Travis Jean Emporium, reported that his revenue increased in the months following the academy. Also, Mitchell became more involved in the business community, which he said also opened doors for his business.

Camden County Coastal Green Infrastructure

The Camden County Extension office regularly experienced flooding when it rained. In addressing that problem, Camden County and Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant created a demonstration site to support educational outreach and engagement. Using grant money from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to fund the project and assistance from state and local partners, Camden County Extension now has a 262-square-foot bioretention cell that manages more than 14,000 gallons of water annually. The bioretention cell not only addressed the county extensions office’s flooding problem, but provided a new teaching tool to help local residents learn about stormwater management. In addition, a UGA Public Service and Outreach Student Scholar, who interned with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, helped design the cell and coordinate construction training for Camden County’s Public Works Department—a valuable experiential learning opportunity.

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Grover Andrews, who ushered the UGA Center for Continuing Education into the 21st century, dies at 91

Former UGA Public Service and Outreach Vice President Grover J. Andrews died March 26, 2021. He was 91.

Andrews was associate vice president for Public Service and Outreach and interim director of the Georgia Center from 1998 until he retired in 2001. From 1989 until 1998 he was director of instructional services for the Georgia Center. He also served as adjunct professor of adult education in the UGA College of Education from 1989 through 1996.

As interim director, Andrews oversaw the Georgia Center’s continuing reorganization, which began in FY 97.

In FY 2000, the center completed a strategic plan that called for “sweeping initiatives that will greatly enhance UGA’s ability to serve the people of Georgia and beyond.” Among those initiatives was to transform the Georgia Center into a Center for the 21st Century and to expand distance education activities to interface with the Global Learning Online for Business and Education (G.L.O.B.E.) Initiative of the University System of Georgia. The Web version of Principles of Marketing Research, implemented in July 2000, was UGA’s first Web course to offer continuing education credits.

Over the next year, before Andrews retired, the center added a Conference Services Area and hired an assistant director to oversee it; expanded distance education, particularly Web-based programming; and expanded efforts in campus and state outreach.

Andrews’ career in higher education began after his service in the U.S. Navy and spanned more than 40 years with six institutions, where he was dedicated to teaching, research and practice in the field of adult education and accreditation.

He also served as an associate executive director for the Commission on Colleges, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. There he directed the research project that produced the first comprehensive accreditation standard for continuing education programs within colleges and universities. He also conducted research and developed guidelines for the use of the Continuing Education Unit and was instrumental in establishing the International Association for Continuing Education and Training, for which he then served as president.

Andrews was inducted into the inaugural class of the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame (IACEHF) in 1996. The IACEHF, based at the University of Oklahoma College of Continuing Education, recognizes men and women who have made distinguished contributions to the field of adult and continuing education.

His many honors include being selected for the Julius Nolte Award given by the National University Continuing Education Association (1995) and the Southern Association of Colleges Meritorious Service Award (2003).

According to his obituary, Andrews’ greatest legacy may be his dedication of hours and years to mentoring colleagues young and old. “They surely benefited from his graciousness, support, and wisdom beyond what any award could possibly measure. As one colleague stated, he will also be remembered as a true southern gentleman.”

Born in Batesville, Arkansas, Andrews was preceded in death by his parents Grover Jones and Ruth Burlie Andrews, and his three siblings.

Memorial gifts may be directed to the UGA Foundation, Development and Alumni Relations, Athens, Georgia 30602 with memo designating gifts to the benefit of the Georgia Center for Continuing Education.

Lyndhurst Foundation awards sixth round of funding to Institute of Government

The Georgia Downtown Renaissance Partnership, a program of UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, was recently awarded $120,000 by the Lyndhurst Foundation. This is the sixth time the foundation has funded the program since 2015, bringing its total support to $590,000.

Since its first gift, the Lyndhurst Foundation, based in Chattanooga, has enabled the Institute of Government to assist local governments with revitalization efforts in northwest Georgia and southeast Tennessee. Over the course of its partnership, the foundation has empowered communities and improved the region by supporting planning and design projects in McCaysville, Trenton, Chickamauga, Chatsworth, Rossville, Ringgold, Lookout Mountain, and Murray County, Georgia, as well as Copperhill, Ducktown, and Athens, Tennessee. The latest round of funding will support downtown master planning efforts for the cities of LaFayette and Fort Oglethorpe.

Funds from Lyndhurst converted a historic rail depot in Chickamauga into a welcome center, and in Rossville were used to update the grounds around the duck pond at the historic John Ross home and to improve an old textile mill for use in business and social ventures — initiatives that contribute to long-term livability and resilience of Lyndhurst’s greater Chattanooga service region, which includes communities in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.

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More recent funding supported a unique economic development partnership with communities on the Georgia and Tennessee border. The Copper Basin Renaissance Strategic Visioning and Planning (RSVP) collaboration united key leaders from McCaysville, its twin city of Copperhill, Tennessee, and nearby Ducktown, Tennessee, in a community-driven alliance to help the region’s economy flourish. It was the first two-state RSVP, a component of the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Partnership, which is a revitalization initiative of the Institute of Government conducted with cooperation from the Georgia Municipal Association, the Georgia Cities Foundation, and other partners.

The Copper Basin RSVP strategy complements public and private quality-of-life amenities already in place or under development. The RSVP also served to enhance existing partnerships among the cities, all of which are members of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and his staff supported the work on the Copper Basin RSVP with the Institute of Government since the initial discussions about the project. Ralston, a longtime proponent of economic development initiatives like the RSVP, represents a district that includes McCaysville and Fannin County.

In 2020, UGA Public Service and Outreach (PSO) recognized Lyndhurst with its annual Door Impact Award in recognition of its support of helping Georgia communities.

Institute of Government employee receives PSO award for virtual programming during the pandemic

Carl Vinson Institute of Government Program Coordinator Michael Moryc is the 10th recipient of the Public Service and Outreach Spotlight Award for his work helping institute faculty transition to online programming when the COVID-19 pandemic began last year.

“It’s no surprise how you all responded to COVID and helped governments get through these times,” PSO Vice President Jennifer Frum told Moryc during a Zoom meeting on Feb. 19. “I’m always inspired and in awe of you all.”

Moryc , who works out of the institute’s Atlanta office, enabled the institute to conduct dozens of events virtually including the 2020 Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators, webinars designed to help cities and counties navigate the fiscal crisis created by the pandemic and planning sessions with local governments.

His innovation led to a new line of service for the institute’s state services unit: customized virtual meeting management.

“Michael has consistently provided a high level of service for clients,” said Beverly Johnson, a faculty member in the Vinson Institute who nominated Moryc for the award. “However, his desire to use his skills to help his colleagues and their clients above and beyond his normal duties is worthy of recognition at this level. Because of his willingness to work long hours, problem solving abilities, and collaborative spirit, the institute was able to identify new ways to support clients, create a new line of business and fulfill its mission to ‘promoting excellence in government’.”

Moryc received a gift box of treats and a framed certificate recognizing his Employee Spotlight Award. The award, launched in November, is presented to PSO employees who go above and beyond their normal responsibilities, who produce outstanding work and who contribute significantly to the strategic mission of the university.

For more information or to make a nomination, go to

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PSO award goes to Fanning Institute researcher for determination, dedication and loyalty

A strategic planning meeting at the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development appeared routine until UGA Public Service and Outreach (PSO) Vice President Jennifer Frum appeared on the Zoom screen and called out the latest PSO Employee Spotlight Award winner, Karen Duncan.

“Karen always goes above and beyond the call of duty to assistant whomever she’s working with in her role as a research professional. Her attention to detail and work ethic is present in all of her interactions with faculty, staff and students,” Frum said. “During COVID 19, Karen quickly and seamlessly adapted all of our reporting strategies to meet the evaluation and data needs of teaching and facilitating virtually.”

Duncan received a gift box of treats and a framed certificate recognizing her Employee Spotlight Award, presented to PSO employees who go above and beyond their normal responsibilities, who produce outstanding work and who contribute significantly to the strategic mission of the division.

Duncan’s primary responsibility is to manage Fanning’s administrative database system that records and reports the institute’s work. In this role, she works with all faculty, program coordinators, public relations coordinators and others to ensure the institute’s work is accurately represented and promoted.

Fanning Institute Director Matt Bishop nominated Duncan for the award

“For 30 years, Karen has remained a constant strength and supporter of the units and faculty she has served through her work at the Fanning Institute, Public Service and Outreach, and the University of Georgia,” Bishop wrote in his nomination. “Her determination, dedication and loyalty exemplify commitment to excellence and servant leadership.”

The PSO Employee Spotlight award was established in 2019 as a way to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements and contributions of employees throughout the year. Duncan is the ninth PSO employee to receive the award since November 2019.

For more information or to make a nomination, go to

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Georgia Center food and banquet manager is in the PSO Employee Spotlight

Katie Phillips is the latest Public Service and Outreach employee surprised with an Employee Spotlight award during a Zoom meeting.

Phillips, food and beverage banquet manager at the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel, was nominated for the award by Georgia Center Director Stacy Jones after Jones received two letters from customers praising Phillips for her service.

“Thank you for helping me provide a (First Year Odyssey) social event this year that was enjoyable and relatively stress free,” wrote education professor Michele Lease. “It’s part of my FYOS each year that students really enjoy, and I was worried that it would not be possible to pull it off this fall.”

Lease placed individual orders for each of her students so that they could get exactly what they wanted. Phillips labeled each wrapped order with the students’ names so they could easily pick their meal out of the bunch without lingering close to other people.

“You really embody the spirit of what we want to recognize with the Employee Spotlight,” PSO Vice President Jennifer Frum told Phillips in presenting the award over Zoom. “Thanks for making the Georgia Center look good. Thank you for making UGA look so good. It really reflects so well on all of us.”

Phillips also heard from Naomi Norman, associate vice president for instruction and director of the FYOS program.

“Everything that has been so disrupted for everyone that it’s wonderful to know that people are finding creative ways to bring people together,” Norman wrote.

Phillips received a gift basket of treats and a framed certificate recognizing the award.

“Not only did these individuals see Katie’s commitment to the Georgia Center but they also saw an employee who pays attention to the details, understands the individuals she is serving, and does it all with enthusiasm and a smile,” Jones said. “She personifies the service standard we want and strive for in our work at the Georgia Center.”

Find out more about the PSO Spotlight and how to nominate an employee at

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UGA poised to assist nonprofits apply for COVID-19 relief funding

Nonprofit organizations in Georgia that have been hurt financially by the pandemic can reach out to the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development for assistance in applying for federal aid.

The Economic Aid Act, a part of the overall Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, allocates more funding to support nonprofits through both the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

“The COVID-19 pandemic has both increased the demand on many nonprofit organizations and hampered their ability to raise the funds necessary to operate and support their communities,” said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit. “This additional funding, which includes increased nonprofit eligibility, will help these organizations continue their vital work.”

The legislation also creates a set-aside for small nonprofits with 10 or fewer employees and nonprofits located in distressed areas, and sets up targeted programs for disadvantaged nonprofits and nonprofits that have been hardest-hit by the pandemic.

“Often times, it is the small nonprofits and those in distressed areas which are called upon the most in difficult times like these, yet they can often suffer the most from funding interruptions and declines, so this funding is of particular importance to them,” Bishop said.

Key components of the legislation include:

  • A second draw of the PPP loan that will now be available to additional nonprofit organizations who do not employ more than 300 employees. This program provides Small Business Administration (SBA) loans of up to $10 million to certain nonprofits and tax-exempt veterans’ organizations. Nonprofits are also eligible to have portions of these loans forgiven, effectively turning the loans into grants.
  • An emergency EIDL advance grant that will allow eligible nonprofits that have applied for an EIDL loan to request an advance on that loan up to $10,000.
  • Elimination of the requirement to deduct an EIDL advance from the PPP forgiveness loan.
  • The Save Our Stages Act , which allocates $15 billion in SBA grants to live venues, independent movie theaters, and other cultural institutions—including those operated by nonprofits.

The institute has set up a nonprofit assistance help line to field inquiries and provide guidance with the funding opportunities. The number is 706-363-0926.

“We encourage nonprofits who have questions to reach out to us and we will connect them with the resources and support available to them,” Bishop said.


Charlie Bauder Fanning Institute Public Relations Coordinator • 706-542-7039


Sayge Medlin Fanning Institute Asst. Director and Public Service Associate • 706-542-4550

Public Service & Outreach COVID-19 Resources


UGA SBDC offers no-cost online small business training

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

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

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

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

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

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

To find an upcoming training program visit

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

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

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

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

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

A screen capture showing an online GSEF presentation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other notable awards from this year’s fair include:

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

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

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


Sue Myers Smith Georgia Center Public Relations Manager


Laura Brewer Georgia Center Program Director