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Georgia Sea Grant helps coastal communities plan for port expansion

As the $652 million Savannah Harbor Expansion Project begins, the University of Georgia and Georgia Sea Grant are poised to help coastal residents adapt to changes that are expected to bring additional jobs and prosperity to their communities.

“Most of the regional attention to the Savannah Harbor deepening has focused on the ecological effects to the river and adjacent wetland ecosystems,” said Georgia Sea Grant director Charles Hopkinson. “We want to shift the focus to local communities so that they are prepared to handle the secondary impacts that are likely to accompany the port expansion, such as new transportation and parking needs or the school and housing needs of an expanded workforce.”

As the country’s fourth busiest container port and creator of $18.5 billion annually in personal income from port-related jobs, much is riding on the success of Savannah’s port expansion. Plans include dredging 32 miles of the harbor’s navigation channel to allow the port to accommodate supersized freighters from Asia and the Pacific coast of Latin America that will come to the east coast through the newly expanded Panama Canal, due to be completed in 2015.

“The changes will affect the entire coastal corridor between Georgia’s two main maritime ports, and we want to help each community benefit from the development,” said Stephen Ramos, assistant professor in UGA’s College of Environment and Design, who received funding from Georgia Sea Grant to conduct research and consult with the coastal communities.

During the construction phase of the project, the Corps of Engineers estimates that 3,700 one-year jobs will be created within Georgia and South Carolina. Ramos will investigate the best ways for communities to accommodate the temporary workforce and study whether it could translate into long-term job creation. He also will look at whether local communities need to invest in infrastructure improvements to accommodate additional truck and rail traffic. The number of cargo containers requiring transportation following the port expansion is expected to increase from 2.9 million to 6.5 million by 2030.

“All of these changes are very positive for coastal Georgia,” said Hopkinson. “We just need to make sure that our coastal communities are prepared.”

Georgia Sea Grant is one of 33 programs in NOAA’s National Sea Grant network that enhance the practical use and conservation of resources in coastal and Great Lake states. A unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach, Georgia Sea Grant provides research, education and outreach to create a sustainable economy and environment in coastal Georgia.

President visits Sandersville and Augusta to see firsthand how UGA serves the state beyond the arch

Dr. Geoffrey Sheen (left) demonstrates the technology in his dental laboratory for UGA President Jere W. Morehead during a visit to the Mustard Seed Dental clinic in Augusta.

Government, business and community leaders in Washington County, Ga, recently welcomed UGA President Jere W. Morehead to Sandersville, sharing highlights of the ways the university has helped them address critical issues in the community.

Through the Archway Partnership, which was launched in Washington County in 2007, UGA has provided resources to help establish an afterschool and summer program for teens, launch collaborations with nearby colleges and universities to improve health care in the community, and lay the ground work for building a tourism industry.

Faculty, staff and students from a number of UGA colleges and schools, including the Lamar Dodd School of Art, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the College of Environment and Design, and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources have provided services to the county since the partnership was established.

“We have a true partnership, we feel,” Chris Hutchings, Washington County Board of Commissioners administrator, told Morehead. “We really (benefit from) the students of UGA who come down here and do the projects. Students value real world experience and we are real world down here in Washington County.”

UGA President Jere W. Morehead listens as Dr. Jean Sumner, an internist in Sandersville, talks about the Georgia Rural Medical School Program, which places medical students from Mercer University in Macon into medical offices in Washington County for some of their required rotations. From left, Morehead, Joy Norris, from the Boys and Girls Club in Sandersville, Jennifer Tatum from the Washington County Board of Education, and Sumner.

Following his trip to Sandersville, Morehead traveled to Augusta to visit a dental office and lab that has benefitted from services provided by the UGA Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Dr. Geoffrey Sheen, owner and operator of the Mustard Seed Dental Studio, said he has realized a 10 percent increase in revenue this year over last. Gross profit is up by 28 percent for the year, he said.

The Augusta office of the SBDC has helped Sheen and the studio, which employs 18 people, with strategic planning, human resources, and financial analysis. The SBDC also helped Sheen secure loans that enabled him to buy new equipment, lower expenses and increase profit by hiring employees for in-house technical work that had previously been outsourced. He also was able to purchase a second building to expand the lab, and plans to increase his workforce to 50 employees in the future.

Both the Archway Partnership and the SBDC are units of the UGA Office of Public Service and Outreach, which helps create jobs, develops leaders and addresses the state’s most critical challenges.

For more on the Archway Partnership, go to http://www.archwaypartnership.uga.edu. To learn more about the UGA SBDC, go to http://www.georgiasbdc.org.

Garden Earth Naturalist Training

Athens, GA – Twenty-two K-5 teachers from across Georgia attended a five-day professional development workshop at the State Botanical Garden, June 2-6. These teams of 2-3 teachers from public schools in Oconee, Jackson, Forsyth, Cobb and Fulton counties were chosen from a competitive pool of applicants to attend the Garden Earth Naturalist (GEN) program.

During this week in early June, participants learned about their school sites as ecosystems and how to encourage children to learn from nature by taking instruction outside. The participants learn by classroom lecture, hands-on exercises in the State Botanical Garden, and by sharing tips with each other. “Garden Earth has been a wonderful experience. I have been exposed to so many activities that I know my students will love doing. The hands-on investigations will help my students evolve into life-long learners and stewards of the Earth!” said Bill Nelson, a second grade teacher at Colham Ferry Elementary School in Oconee County.

GEN is taught by Anne Shenk, director of education at the State Botanical Garden; Carol Hoffman, an education specialist in the UGA Odum School of Ecology; and Deborah Tippins, a science professor in the UGA College of Education. The teachers participating in the program will continue their work later in the year, completing online training to earn five PLU credits. They will have access to lessons through a manual and the GEN website (gen.uga.edu) and will share lessons and handouts they develop with each other online. Although schools do not have to create gardens to benefit from these resources, many will develop projects such as butterfly gardens, ecosystems for pollinators, after school clubs, or a family science night. The GEN lessons meet the state science curriculum.

“The Garden Earth Naturalist program inspires teachers to foster a love of nature in children, while also encouraging and promoting stewardship of the earth,” said Kathy Venable of Gum Springs Elementary School in Jackson County. “I can’t wait to put the lessons to practice at my school.”

The GEN program is a collaboration of three UGA units: the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, the Odum School of Ecology and the College of Education Department of Math and Science Education. It is federally funded by the Teacher Quality Program for the Improvement of Math and Science Education.

Pictured (R-L): Adrienne Bagley, Woodland Elementary School, Fulton County; Christine Stroer, Daves Creek Elementary School, Forsyth County; Bill Nelson, Colham Ferry Elementary School, Oconee County

Public service and outreach leadership class graduates, gives back

Athens, Ga.–Seventeen University of Georgia faculty and staff graduated from the public service and outreach leadership academy on Monday, then turned the tables on academy leaders, presenting them with a class gift, a pledge of $4,200 to help support the leadership academy in the future.

Members of the 2013-14 Vivian H. Fisher Public Service and Outreach Leadership Academy raised the money in the five days prior to their graduation, which followed a nine-month course designed to help them develop a deeper understanding of the scope and reach of public service at UGA. It is the first time a leadership class has joined together to make a gift, however, alumni of the leadership academy have given more than $11,000 since the program was renewed in 2011.

“There are a number of examples where this year’s class has taken the leadership development, networking, and learning experiences of the academy and created collaborative projects across public service and outreach and UGA as a whole,” said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, which facilitated the program. “The gift to the academy represents a keystone example of that collaborative leadership. The gift will have immediate impact ensuring the academy is successful in the future.”

UGA President Jere W. Morehead was the keynote speaker for the graduation ceremony and told the class that the work they do in public service and outreach is the most relevant to the lawmakers and opinion leaders of the state, and the most visible to Georgia residents.

“The work that you do is the kind of work that keeps us front and center when it comes to the people of the state of Georgia,” Morehead said. “You do the work that tells our story across the state in so many ways.”

Vice President for Public Service and Outreach Jennifer Frum said the service and outreach work of UGA faculty and staff is key to the future prosperity of the state.

“They contribute to the state’s economy by helping grow and create jobs, providing education, training officials and helping extend university resources into communities,” Frum said.

The academy began in 2006, under the direction of then-Associate Vice President for Public Service and Outreach Vivian Fisher. It was discontinued in 2008, due to state budget cuts. Fisher retired in March 2008 and died just six months later. The program was reinstated in 2011 and Frum announced at the graduation of the 2011-12 class that it would be named for Fisher to honor the service she provided the university and state. Fisher’s husband Dexter attended Monday’s ceremony.

Monday’s class was only the third to graduate since the program launched in 2006. Participants included representatives from the six public service and outreach units, extension and two academic units:

  • Susan Allen, Georgia Center for Continuing Education;
  • Suzanne Barnett, Small Business Development Center;
  • Stacy Bishop Jones, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Lawton Brantley, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Carolina Darbisi, J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development;
  • Angel Jackson, Archway Partnership;
  • Lydia Jones, Small Business Development Center;
  • Bernard Meineke, Small Business Development Center;
  • David Meyers, J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development;
  • Gwen Moss, Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach;
  • Diane Murray, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication;
  • Wade Parker, Cooperative Extension;
  • Laura Perry Johnson, Cooperative Extension;
  • Lori Purcell Bledsoe, Cooperative Extension;
  • David Tanner, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Karen Tinsley, College of Family and Consumer Sciences; and
  • Hong Zeng, Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

The 2013-14 Leadership Academy kicked off with a two-day session in Athens last October. Since then the group met eight times over nine months before the June graduation. They learned about each unit of public service and outreach and cooperative extension. In addition, they explored a variety of leadership development topics.

UGA’s Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach includes eight units that contribute to Georgia’s short- and long-term prosperity by bringing university resources to bear on the state’s most pressing economic, social and community needs: Archway Partnership, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, Georgia Center for Continuing Education, Marine Outreach Programs comprised of the Marine Extension Service and Georgia Sea Grant, Office of Service-Learning, Small Business Development Center and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

Archway Partnership and Russell Library collaborate on oral history project

Every community has a story to tell.

And when a community strives to promote tourism and economic development, it’s important to distinguish itself from other communities by telling its story.

At UGA, two campus units are working together to help capture local histories in Georgia as a way of preserving the past and boosting economic development.

The Archway Partnership, a unit of the Office of Public Service and Outreach, is helping take the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies’ oral history program, the First Person Project, to communities across the state to record interviews in Georgia counties.

The First Person Project documents the experiences of everyday Georgians. To date, the Archway Partnership-Russell Library collaboration has taken the oral history project to Sumter and Pulaski counties.

“The Archway Partnership provided us with the connectivity to communities to accomplish our outreach goals and enriched the materials available to students concerning Georgia communities,” said Sheryl B. Vogt, director of the Russell Library.

In February, oral history and media archivists Christian Lopez and Callie Holmes from the Russell Library traveled to Hawkinsville in Pulaski County to record stories about the Ocmulgee River. Interviews were recorded with 12 community members, including a county commissioner and a local author. There were stories about Indian artifacts, the steamboat days, the motorboat club in the 1950s and 1960s, and the more recent Ocmulgee Water Trails Partnership.

“It was a lot of fun reminiscing … about our times on the Ocmulgee River,” said Emmett Head, a Pulaski County resident who participated in the storytelling event. “But, it’s even more important that we save those stories for future generations to hear.”

The Archway Partnership is helping Pulaski County officials develop tourism, in part through fostering an appreciation for the Ocmulgee River. Pulaski County participates in a multi-county partnership to promote the river for economic development. Organized by the National Park Service, the group now boasts a website and is in the process of printing maps for each community. Students from UGA will be working this year to assess the landings in each community.

In Sumter County, the First Person Project recorded eight interviews with citizens who talked about the history of downtown Americus, the tornado of 2007, education in rural communities, industry and business growth and historic preservation. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who grew up in Sumter County, participated in the project by telling stories about his hometown of Plains, his family, his presidency and his return to Georgia. The Sumter County Tourism Council plans to use the interviews in its promotional pieces.

First Person Project audio interviews and select video footage are online to document the experiences of modern Georgians and to serve community efforts in economic development around tourism. To listen to audio excerpts from the project, visit https://soundcloud.com/russelllibraryoralhistory/sets/fpp_ontheroad. To see former President Carter’s interview, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVPu01WCMuM&feature=youtu.be.

Winners announced for Georgia Science and Engineering Fair

Athens, Ga. – More than 700 students from across the state recently competed for more than $25,000 in prizes and awards during the 66th Annual Georgia Science and Engineering Fair, administered and hosted by the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education, a UGA public service and outreach unit.

Students are invited to compete at GSEF after winning top awards at one of the 20 regional fairs throughout the state.

Roswell High School student Anand Srinivasan received the top award, the Kroger Pinnacle Award. Twelve students received the Grand Award, and five of these students were selected to compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles May 11-16. These five winners will join the 23 other students who were selected from regional fairs throughout the state to represent Georgia in competition at international science and engineering fair. Also selected to attend the international fair is the recipient of the Merial Biological ISEF Trip Observer Award, which honors a ninth or tenth grade student who shows the “desire, academic potential, and personality to attend ISEF as a participant in following years.” Award winners were announced at the GSEF Awards Ceremony on March 29.

“The Georgia Science and Engineering Fair is always a truly gratifying experience,” said science fair director Nancy Thompson. “Meeting these young scientists, observing their infectious enthusiasm, and seeing the quality of their research gives us confidence for a bright future.”

The Georgia Science and Engineering Fair is dedicated to encouraging all Georgia teachers and school districts to incorporate active science and engineering research into their classrooms in order to help students develop a love for science; learn to isolate important problems and address them within the framework of organized, logical thought, careful research and a detailed analysis of facts; and showcase and celebrate their achievements.

This year’s top GSEF award winners are listed below by city and school and project title:

The Pinnacle Award – sponsored by the Kroger Co., Atlanta Division

  • Anand Srinivasan, Roswell High School
    “Eukaryotic Gene Finding Via Hybrid Recurrent Neural Networks”

Georgia Science and Engineering Fair Isef Trip

  • Mitesh Bhalani, Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology
    “Synthesizing Py Nanotubes: Toward A Phospholipid Bilayer Model”
  • William Jin, Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology
    “Developing Novel Protein Targets For Pertussis Antibiotics Part 2”
  • Chuanbo Pan, North Oconee High School
    “Myeyeassistant: Computer Vision Based Camera Navigation System”
  • Aksal Vashi and Fernando Cruz, Collins Hill High School
    “Fruit Waste Based Ammonia-Biosorptive Permeable Barriers”

Merial Biological Isef Trip Observer Award

  • Simran Modi, Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology
    “An Assessment of Cardiac Troponin T in Post-Myocardial Infarction”

Georgia Science and Engineering Fair Grand Award Top Ten State Recognition:

  • Zac Adams, Peachtree Ridge High School
    • Amadou Bah, B.E.S.T. Academy
    • Mitesh Bhalani, Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology
    • Jovanay Carter, Coretta Scott King Women’s Academy
    • Fernando Cruz, Collins Hill High School
    • Hope Louise Didier, McIntosh High School
    • William Jin, Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology
    • Chuanbo Pan, North Oconee High School
    • Angelin Ponraj, Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology
    • Anand Srinivasan, Roswell High School
    • Aksal Vashi, Collins Hill High School
    • Jason Wu, Peachtree Ridge High School

PSO Fellow Aliki Nicolaides helps Fanning put collaborative methodology into practice

Aliki Nicolaides keeps a statue of Yoda on her desk and recalls the popular character’s well-known words of wisdom–“you must unlearn what you have learned”–in describing the nature of her work. Nicolaides is fascinated by how people learn and has devoted her career to advancing learning pedagogy, both in theory and in practice.

An assistant professor of education at UGA, Nicolaides was recently named one of three Public Service and Outreach (PSO) Fellows. The PSO Fellows Program, established by the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach in 2011, was designed to help create more service and outreach opportunities for tenured and tenure-track faculty members.

Unlike the highly visual work of other past and current PSO Fellows, Nicolaides serves predominantly behind-the-scenes. Working with the J. W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, Nicolaides evaluates both the practical and theoretical aspects of Fanning’s leadership methodology to better equip trainers to address unforeseen needs in the future.

“My contribution to Fanning, and ultimately to PSO, has been prompting an organizational shift in focus from training to capacity building,” said Nicolaides. “The traditional concept of training assumes that solutions to challenges are known, whereas capacity building refers to preparing both trainers and learners to effectively adapt to ever-changing needs that are in many ways quite difficult to understand.”

Nicolaides’ Fellowship proposal centered on an emerging approach to leadership known as “collaborative methodology.” At root, collaborative methodology assumes that leadership needs are constantly evolving, and as such there can never be a one-size-fits-all solution to any problem. This concept is especially applicable to the complex issues emerging leaders face, and Nicolaides’ Fellowship award is a clear sign of PSO’s commitment to addressing these challenges.

“Collaborative methodology is actually a specialized concept that is not necessarily intuitive for those outside the field people,” said Nicolaides. “It is not simply throwing the preconceived notions of more than one person into a hat and devising a plan that gives equal weight to everyone’s contributions; rather, it is a highly volatile process that inherently shakes the foundation of what trainers think they know.”

Nicolaides frequently cites the concept of the “new normal” when discussing how ongoing changes in economics, race, class, access to resources and traditional leadership structures–among many other topics–constantly redefine cultural norms.

Nicolaides has spent the last 10 months working to collect and analyze data in an effort to integrate the resulting insights into Fanning’s training practices. In academic terms, this process is known as “theory to practice” and serves as the foundation upon which all of her work with Fanning relies. The data provide a starting point for a collaborative dialogue with Fanning and also provides a metric by which progress can be measured over time. Nicolaides is currently compiling and organizing a vast swath of such data, and soon will present the full report to Fanning.

“When my Fellowship began, I hoped and expected to do a bit more work in ‘the trenches,'” said Nicolaides. “However, Fanning has an abundance of excellent people to carry out their work on the ground, and ultimately it was most effective for me to get a clearer view of the big picture while also keeping track of the ‘boots-on-the-ground’ needs. The heart of my work is promoting paradigm shifts, and I hope the successes we have seen so far will ultimately lead me to more work in this capacity.”

PSO Fellow Alfie Vick applies service-learning methodology to environmental design

Alfie Vick is serious when he recounts his first spoken words–“Do it!” followed by “More do it!” and “Me do it!” His mother has told him this story throughout his lifetime, and Vick believes it is a fitting anecdote to reflect his lifelong interest in service.

Vick, the Georgia Power Professor of Environmental Ethics at UGA’s College of Environment and Design, was recently named one of three Public Service and Outreach (PSO) Fellows. The program, created by the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach in 2011, is designed to help create more service and outreach opportunities for tenured and tenure-track professors.

“I’ve been a hands-on learner from a very young age. This personal recognition of the value of actually doing something has certainly led me to heavily incorporate service-learning into my teaching at UGA,” said Vick.

Vick was excited by the opportunity to apply for a PSO Fellowship and was particularly interested in working with the State Botanical Garden, which he has been actively involved with both personally and professionally since he came to UGA.

“I believe the biggest potential impact of working with the Botanical Garden is solidifying its standing as a world-class facility that continually supports tourism, research and recreation that benefits UGA, the general public and, in turn, the vitality of the state,” said Vick.

Over the course of the semester, Vick has partnered with the Garden on a number of efforts. One major initiative involved working with graduate landscape architecture students to develop a design concept for the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies. Each element of the design–including classroom space, demonstration gardens, research plots and outdoor gathering spaces–has been tailored to enhance participant engagement.

Vick has also been a key player in the development of restoration and management plans for the Floodplain and Piedmont Prairie areas at the Garden. He hopes to contribute to the design of a Middle Oconee Water Trail that would connect Ben Burton Park to the Garden by way of the Middle Oconee River.

“Research, teaching and outreach are all primary objectives of these ecological restoration projects, and they will generate significant engagement opportunities for students, faculty and the surrounding community,” said Vick.

Collaboration with UGA faculty and staff members and students, as well as other community partners, has been important to Vick’s recent efforts. Throughout the process of identifying objectives for each project, many other potential research and project ideas have emerged.

“The biggest benefit of a collaborative process is ongoing dialogue,” said Vick. “This has helped everyone involved to identify potential project partners and stakeholders that may participate in some way, whether through financial support, volunteer labor, technical advice or some other form of outreach.”

With many potential projects on the horizon, Vick is excited to have more opportunities than ever for engaging students in service-learning.

“I see in many of my students a familiar restlessness and detachment when they are expected to learn from only a distant and abstract perspective,” said Vick. “When I take students out of the classroom and engage them in practical learning activities, their eyes light up and their questions are more insightful. I am certain that field experiences and service-learning opportunities are critical components of higher education, and I consider my responsibilities as a PSO Fellow to be a privilege.”

Gov. Deal touts UGA’s economic development public service and outreach efforts

Athens, Ga. — Gov. Nathan Deal cited the strong partnership between the University of Georgia and state economic development agencies as a major component of Georgia’s job-creation program during a speech Monday afternoon in Athens.

Deal delivered the keynote address Monday at UGA’s 23rd annual Public Service and Outreach Meeting and Awards Luncheon, held in the Georgia Center’s UGA Hotel and Conference Center.

“We could not have achieved what we have done in Georgia without our local partners working together with us,” Deal said in his address, titled “Georgia’s Economic Future and How UGA Can Help Make It Brighter.”

The governor spoke following a luncheon where UGA Vice President for Public Service and Outreach Jennifer Frum recognized faculty and staff for excellence in service to the university and to the state. The Public Service and Outreach Meeting and Awards Luncheon kicked off the 2014 Honors Week celebration at the university, April 7-12.

Deal was welcomed and introduced by UGA President Jere W. Morehead, who has made UGA’s economic development role a cornerstone of his administration.

In his address, governor touted both the competitive initiatives undertaken through his office and the economic development efforts led by the eight UGA Public Service and Outreach units such as the UGA Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The SBDC last year alone consulted with entrepreneurs managing 4,000 small businesses that employ 3,000 people in Georgia, he said.

Deal pointed out that another UGA Public Service and Outreach unit, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, has worked closely with his office on economically beneficial projects such as a program to eliminate the state sales tax on electricity used in manufacturing and the Governor’s High-Demand Career Initiative. The career initiative offers business leaders the opportunity to inform college and university officials what kinds of skills will best prepare graduates for success in the job market.

“I think it’s going to be one of the things that gives the State of Georgia a leg up when it comes to creating jobs,” Deal said.

Georgia remains America’s best state for businesses partly through its workforce preparation efforts, and that work requires the cooperation of universities and technical colleges. State government encourages that cooperation in a number of ways, such as increasing HOPE scholarship funding and providing tuition grants for critical technical skills such as practical nursing, welding, health technology, and early childhood education.

“We have asked the technical college system to put an emphasis on degrees where jobs are going to be available,” Deal said.

The Public Service and Outreach gathering also featured an address by Gretchen Corbin, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA). Corbin spoke about the many instances in which Public Service and Outreach units at the university assist DCA’s economic development programs.

UGA’s Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach includes eight units that contribute to Georgia’s short- and long-term prosperity by bringing university resources to bear on the state’s most pressing economic, social and community needs: Archway Partnership, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, Georgia Center for Continuing Education, Marine Outreach Programs comprised of the Marine Extension Service and Georgia Sea Grant, Office of Service-Learning, Small Business Development Center, and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

UGA experts available to speak on the 2014 County Health Rankings

Athens, Ga. – While Georgia’s healthiest counties continue to flourish, poorer rural counties continue to struggle with higher obesity rates, less access to healthcare and diminished quality of life, according to a recent national study on county health. University of Georgia experts have been working in rural counties around the state to reverse these trends and are available to speak on their efforts.

The fifth annual County Health Rankings and Roadmaps report was released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The report ranks the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states. It also allows counties to see how well they are doing on 29 factors that influence health including smoking, high school graduation rates, employment, physical activity and access to healthy foods. For information on individual counties in Georgia, see http://www.countyhealthrankings.org.

At UGA, the College of Public Health and Archway Partnership, a public service and outreach unit, have been working together to address specific public health needs of various counties throughout Georgia by making academic resources and students available to communities.

College of Public Health researchers and students, together with county-based Archway professionals, are active in a number of public health projects around the state, including a federally qualified health center in Clayton County, a healthy workforce initiative in Sumter County, childhood obesity prevention in Habersham County and an HIV/AIDS needs assessments in northeast Georgia.

“The model of close cooperation between communities and higher education with a mechanism for implementation is starting to pay dividends across Georgia communities,” said Archway Partnership director Mel Garber.

The county health rankings for Colquitt County, one of the CPH-Archway’s first community partners, illustrate the success of UGA’s community-based health initiatives. The county moved up from 88th to 69th in the state for its health outcomes and from 115th to 85th in health factors. Health outcomes represent how healthy a county is while health factors represent what influences the health of the county.

“The college, along with Archway Partnership, has worked together with the community on health promotion programs and policy changes as well as addressing social determinants of health, such as improved high school graduation rates,” said Marsha Davis, associate dean for outreach and engagement in the College of Public Health.

The UGA College of Public Health and Archway Partnership experts available to comment on the County Health Rankings are listed below:

Marsha Davis
Associate dean of outreach and engagement
Associate professor, department of health promotion and behavior
College of Public Health
706-542-4369, davism@uga.edu

Mel Garber
Director
Archway Partnership, a public service and outreach unit at UGA
706-542-1098, mgarber@uga.edu

Plantapalooza plant sale to be held April 5 at three Athens locations

Athens, Ga. – Plantapalooza, a plant sale at three University of Georgia locations, will be held on April 5 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, The Trial Gardens and the UGA Horticulture Club.

Each sale offers an assortment of plants and access to experts who can help select vegetation and answer gardening questions. All locations will have free parking.

Trees, shrub, herbs, perennials, annuals and more will be available at the Visitor Center and Conservatory and the plazas at State Botanical Garden’s, 2450 S. Milledge Ave. The sale will feature Georgia Gold Medal plants and a broad selection of native plants. Numerous garden specialists, including garden curators, master gardeners and horticulturists, will be on hand to help.

The Trial Gardens at UGA will offer plants difficult to find anywhere else in Georgia. John Ruter, the director of the Trial Gardens and the Allan Armitage Professor of Horticulture at UGA, will lead tours of the garden and sign his newest book “Landscaping with Conifers and Ginkgo for the Southeast.” The Trial Gardens are located at 220 W. Green St., behind Snelling Dining Hall and next to the Pharmacy Building.

The UGA Horticulture Club will have UGA horticulture professors to share their knowledge on the garden and landscape plants for sale at the intersection of College Station and Riverbend roads.

Plantapalooza participants will receive a 5 percent discount stamp on a special card that can be used at participating local nurseries for up to a total of 15 percent off on full price plants during normal business hours that weekend. Nurseries taking part include:

Cofer’s Home and Garden Showplace
1145 Mitchell Bridge Road, Athens
706-353-1519, cofers.com

Goodness Grows
322 Elberton Road, Lexington
706-743-5055, goodnessgrows.com

Piccadilly Farms
1971 Whippoorwill Road, Bishop
706-769-6516

Specialty Ornamentals
3650 Colham Ferry Road, Watkinsville
706-310-0143, specialtyornamentals.com

Thomas Orchard and Nursery
6091 Macon Highway, Bishop
706-769-5011, thomasorchardandnursery.com

Wildwood Specialty Nursery
4970 Lexington Road, Athens
706-201-6559, wildwoodspecialtynursery.com

For more information, see plantapalooza.uga.edu or call 706-542-6014.

Company founded by UGA professors among Top 40 Innovative Technology Companies in Georgia

Athens, Ga. – IS3D LLC, a company that makes interactive educational software and was founded by professors from the University of Georgia, is one of the Top 40 Innovative Technology Companies in Georgia for 2014, according to the Technology Association of Georgia.

TAG’s Top 40 Awards recognize Georgia-based technology companies for their innovation, financial impact and efforts to spread awareness of Georgia’s technology initiatives globally. The 2014 Top 40 list was selected from more than 100 applications submitted by technology companies throughout the state. The group will be recognized later this month at the 2014 Georgia Technology Summit.

“We’re delighted to be named one of the Top 40 innovative companies in Georgia and to be invited to participate in the TAG Technology Summit,” said Tom Robertson, CEO of IS3D LLC and an associate professor of physiology and pharmacology in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. “This is a great accolade, not just for the IS3D team, but also for the UGA researchers and our partner teachers who have worked tirelessly to push our projects forward. Our next step is to raise capital and expand the company, and the summit is a great platform for us to launch this effort.”

IS3D was founded in 2010 by eight UGA faculty and staff members who shared a dream of improving science comprehension and inspiring young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM fields. Through partnerships with more than a dozen school districts, IS3D’s team of artists, designers and programmers have developed a robust catalog of products based on student and teacher feedback, and the software has made many students excited about science for the first time, Robertson said.

“The 2014 Top 40 finalists are an elite group of innovators who represent the very best of Georgia’s technology community,” said Tino Mantella, president and CEO of TAG. “The 2014 Top 40 finalists are shining examples of what makes our state such a hotbed for technology, and we applaud them for standing out as leaders in Georgia’s technology community.”

TAG is the leading technology industry association in the state and serves more than 22,000 members through regional chapters in metro Atlanta, Athens, Augusta, Columbus, Macon/middle Georgia and Savannah. TAG works to educate, promote and unite Georgia’s technology community to foster an innovative and connected marketplace that stimulates and enhances a tech-based economy.

For more information about IS3D LLC, see www.is3donline.com.

Feel like a scientist

Byron Spraggins and Gemerious Smith, 15-year-old ninth-graders at Clarke Central High School, looked like astronauts as they walked around a room at Riverbend Research Lab South wearing full-bodied white impervious suits with mechanical respirators.

This was like no other field trip they had been on before.

The students were trying on suits designed to protect researchers from infectious diseases during lab work. Russell Karls, an associate research scientist in infectious diseases in the College of Veterinary Medicine, brought a foul smelling substance near their masks and asked if they could smell it.

Thanks to the respirator attached to the suit, they could not smell anything but fresh air.

After taking off the equipment, Spraggins said there was something transformative about wearing the suit.

“I got to have the experience that scientists have,” he said. “It made me feel like a scientist.”

Spraggins and Smith were two of the 270 Clarke Central High School students who visited UGA Feb. 24 for a field trip built around visiting faculty, staff and students involved in biosciences research. The ninth-grade class from Cedar Shoals High School visited March 3.

For some students, like Spraggins, it was their first time on a college campus.

A field trip was part of Experience UGA, an initiative to bring Clarke County School District’s students to UGA’s campus, boost the students’ learning experience and promote the value of a college education.

Experience UGA is a partnership between the College of Education’s Office of School Engagement, the Clarke County School District and the UGA Office of Service-Learning-which is jointly supported by the Offices of the Vice President for Instruction and the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach. The nonprofit agency Family Connection-Communities in Schools of Athens also participates in the initiative.

In its inaugural year, Experience UGA will host nearly 5,000 Clarke County students from seven grade levels for field trips sponsored by a variety of academic departments and public service units across campus.

Founding sponsors of Experience UGA are the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach, the College of Education, the Office of the Vice President for Instruction and the President’s Venture Fund. Funding for these trips was provided by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the dean’s office in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Provost Pamela Whitten welcomed the students to UGA and encouraged them to use the visit to figure out their interests.

“This is your chance to take a breath and look around today and throughout high school,” Whitten said. “Keep your eyes open. What do you see that you didn’t know existed that interests you?”

On this particular field trip, the students got to see firsthand how biological research is conducted and how college students at a research university can get involved in the process. Students broke into smaller groups to visit labs like Karls’ in multiple units and colleges with the opportunity for hands-on learning with research equipment.

Like Spraggins, the students could get a feel for what it is like to be a scientist.

Since this particular trip focused on biosciences, Whitten told the students about the varied career opportunities for people who study these fields, including in nutrition, health care, veterinary medicine and environmental sciences.

“There is so much you can do with knowledge in these fields,” she said. “Certainly there are careers that will exist in eight or 10 years when you finish college that don’t even exist today. That’s how fast the world is actually changing.”

Philip D. Lanoue, Clarke County School District superintendent, challenged the students to use this trip as an opportunity to begin preparing for college.

“See for yourself where you could be in four years,” he said. “If you want it, you can get it.”

Institute launches third component of Georgia Downtown Renaissance Partnership

This spring, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government launched the third phase of a statewide economic development partnership that is helping Georgia cities tackle issues that interfere with their potential for growth.

The 14-week Downtown Renaissance Planning and Design practicum is the newest component of the multi-agency collaboration, named the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Partnership (GDRP) and designed to help cities across the state create more vibrant downtowns.

The GDRP also includes the Downtown Renaissance Fellows student internship program and the Renaissance Strategic Visioning and Planning (RSVP) program, which is a downtown revitalization initiative coordinated by faculty at the Institute of Government, a Public Service and Outreach unit at UGA.

The innovative partnership combines the resources of the Institute, the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) and UGA’s College of Environment and Design (CED) to assist cities’ revitalization efforts. Collaborating in the partnership are the Georgia Cities Foundation, the Georgia Downtown Association, and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

“With the assistance of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the CED, the Fellows program and now the Design Practicum have encouraged students to provide incredibly creative ideas to the cities of Georgia. In addition, the RSVP program has had remarkable success using public engagement to develop effective work plans that have already generated results,” said GMA Executive Director Lamar Norton.

Revitalization work through the GDRP began last spring, when the cities of Gainesville, Milledgeville and Porterdale were selected to pilot the Downtown Renaissance Fellows internship program. Fourth-year CED landscape architecture students worked with leaders in those three cities on a variety of projects, including downtown park and green space planning, corridor entrance design, and streetscape improvements.

“Participating cities get assistance on sought-after improvements from enthusiastic, knowledgeable landscape architecture students. The students benefit by getting the opportunity to work on actual projects designed to have a major impact on a Georgia community,” said Danny Bivins, a downtown development specialist with the Institute of Government and GDRP coordinator.

RSVP, the second GDRP economic development program, began last summer in the pilot cities of Cedartown, Cairo and Bainbridge. Communities selected for the RSVP program work with UGA faculty and students over four months to create a development strategy for each city’s downtown revitalization efforts. At the conclusion of the strategic visioning process, a final report with phased implementation recommendations is presented to each city.

“RSVP gives cities a short-term work plan with achievable steps they can implement immediately instead of getting a long-range plan that gathers dust on a shelf,” Bivins said.

The third GDRP revitalization initiative–the Downtown Renaissance practicum–began this January in six cities. The practicum pairs teams of students with cities to develop solutions to community challenges identified by municipal leaders.

The cities of College Park, Conyers, Forsyth, Griffin, Milton, and Washington were selected for the inaugural practicum. Ten CED seniors and graduate students are working with municipal leaders under the direction of Bivins, CED Assistant Professor Douglas Pardue, and Becky Taylor, GMA federal relations and research director. Projects now in progress range from designing a mile-long linear park in the City of Griffin to developing a plan to protect the downtown square in the City of Washington. The students will present their completed projects to city leaders at GMA’s Atlanta headquarters in April.

Scientists use underwater robots to excite students about science

Skidaway Island, Ga. – Can underwater robots catch the imagination of middle and high school students and spark an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics? Researchers and educators from the University of Georgia’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and Marine Extension think so. They are creating an education program focused on autonomous underwater vehicles, also called gliders or underwater robots.

The program, “Choose Your Own Adventure,” will capitalize on Skidaway Institute’s expertise with AUVs and MAREX’s extensive history of marine education. Skidaway Institute scientist and UGA faculty member Catherine Edwards, and MAREX faculty members Mary Sweeney-Reeves and Mare Timmons will direct the one-year project.

The AUVs are a cutting-edge technology in marine research. The torpedo-shaped vehicles can be equipped with sensors and recorders to collect observations under all conditions. They are launched into the ocean and move through the water by adjusting their buoyancy and pitch. Because they are highly energy-efficient, gliders can remain on a mission for weeks at a time. Every four to six hours over their mission, they surface, report their data by satellite phone and receive instructions as needed.

Skidaway Institute’s AUV, nicknamed “Modena,” has been used in several recent projects, including “Gliderpalooza,” a simultaneous, cooperative launch of 13 AUVs from different institutions in 2013.

“Gliders are education-friendly, but the existing outreach activities are stale,” said Edwards. “Our program will develop the next generation of AUV outreach programs by combining cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research with educational activities and strong STEM components.”

The proposed work will highlight the problem of working with the strong tides that are characteristic of the Georgia coast. A big issue in operating gliders there is developing a guidance and navigation system that will function well in that kind of environment. The fast-moving Gulf Stream, located roughly 100 miles off the Georgia beaches, also introduces navigation problems.

“Although the AUVs have GPS systems and can be programmed to travel a set course, tidal and Gulf Stream currents can exceed the glider’s forward speed, which can take the instrument off course and keep us from collecting data where we need it,” Edwards said.

However, on the education side, the predictability of tides makes the proposed program highly intuitive and education-friendly.

“Students who grow up and live on the water already have an intuitive sense of tidal currents,” said Timmons. “Students understand why currents change during certain phases of the moon. This coastal intuition will provide a foundation for us to start an innovative, hands-on approach to STEM activities.”

Activities will depend on grade level so middle school students will have different objectives than those in high school. However, all the activities will address the direction and speed the AUV travels to a destination. The AUV direction and speed will depend on the sea state of coastal waters such as strong currents, storms or high winds.

To address the problem of strong tides, Edwards and a team of Georgia Tech graduate students, co-advised by Fumin Zhang, have developed the Glider Environmental Network Information System, called GENIoS, which optimizes a glider’s path based on data from real-time observations and ocean models. Current doctoral students Dongsik Chang and Sungjin Cho are working to upgrade the system to integrate real-time maps of surface currents measured by Skidaway Institute radar systems.

The education plan is to involve two local educators, April Meeks and Ben Wells, who teach in the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System. Since the activities are multidisciplinary, their expertise in building math curriculum will be valuable as the team integrates concepts of marine science, math and engineering into classroom activities.

“After the initial planning phase, we will be taking the program on the road to Chatham County schools,” said Sweeney-Reeves.

Activities will include student role-playing as an AUV maneuvers through a playing field of vector currents on a large game board. Successful arrival at their destination depends on how the individual pilot responds to currents, wind and density changes in route.

“The real fun will begin when obstacles, like underwater volcanoes, a giant squid or other surprises, cause the pilot to reroute the course of the AUV,” said Sweeney-Reeves.

The activities will allow students to develop analytical skills in a program that will be compliant with Next Generation Science Standards for the 21st Century in the common core state curriculum.

The funded study will include two short glider deployments. A summer 2014 deployment will be used for field-testing, software validation and developing real-world scenarios for the outreach program. A fall deployment will serve as an opportunity for classroom participants to communicate with the glider in real time.

“We hope this one-year program will serve as a springboard for future funding and continued joint outreach by Skidaway Institute and Marine Extension,” said Edwards. “We’d love to develop computer games and apps for tablets and mobile phones that let students fly gliders through even more realistic scenarios based on the measurements we collect in real time.”

The program is being funded through a joint grant from Skidaway Institute, UGA Public Service and Outreach, and the UGA President’s Venture Fund. The UGA President’s Venture Fund is intended to assist with significant funding challenges or opportunities. The fund also supports small programs and projects in amounts typically ranging from $500 to $5,000.

For additional information, contact Catherine Edwards at 912-598-2471 or catherine.edwards@skio.uga.edu; Mary Sweeney-Reeves at 912-598-2350 or msweeney@uga.edu; or Maryellen Timmons at 912-598-2353 or mare@uga.edu.

State Botanical Garden’s Certificate in Native Plants program lays the groundwork for Hall County’s Redbud Project

Margaret Rasmussen is the founder of Hall County’s Redbud Project, a nonprofit, volunteer conservation group based in North Georgia. The project focuses on green space preservation and creating an environmentally sustainable model for future economic development. Rasmussen is also one of the first graduates of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s Certificate in Native Plants (CNP) program, and she is quick to credit much of her growth as a conservationist to her completion of the CNP program in 2008.

“Through the CNP program, I was transformed from a wildflower hobbyist into an activist well-equipped to promote conservation of Georgia’s native plant species,” said Rasmussen. “That was the seed that sprouted the Redbud Program.”

The CNP program requires 80 hours of par¬ti¬ci¬pa¬tion, consisting of four 8-hour core courses, six 4-hour elec¬tives, two 4-hour field trips and 16 hours of vol¬un¬teer ser¬vice. Topics include plant taxonomy for plant identification, Georgia’s natural history, environmental conservation and ecological assessments. Courses are scientific and in-depth, but at a level appropriate for everyone to absorb and apply. In addition, CNP program participants are connected with conservationist agencies and other valuable resources to help them get their own initiatives off the ground.

For Rasmussen and other like-minded conservationists, the study of native plants is a serious matter with profound implications. Native plants are at the foundation of the natural resources and ecosystems that sustain all life. Environmentally irresponsible development is endangering the delicate balance of these ecosystems at an alarming rate, she explained.

“The need for economic development in Georgia and beyond is very real, but when developers shortsightedly clear-cut large tracts of land with no regard for natural resources, I think it is intentionally misleading to claim that it is purely for the good of communities,” said Rasmussen. “This is a challenge conservationists have always faced, and implementing a sustainable model of economic development demands an organized and vigilant effort on our part.”

Rasmussen’s efforts through the Redbud Project are ambitious in scope and would not be feasible without resources provided by the State Botanical Garden. With UGA’s support, the program has already achieved tangible results, including helping to develop the Linwood Nature Preserve for Gainesville Parks and Recreation since 2008. To date, two miles of sustainable and non-invasive nature trails have been constructed throughout 30 acres of an oak-hickory urban forest in Gainesville. Additional features include rain gardens to control stormwater runoff, rainwater capture systems, nature viewing decks (including bridges and boardwalks) and permeable parking areas.

“The core mission of all my work is to promote awareness of the treasure trove of native plants in Hall County’s oak-hickory-pine ecosystems and the value of their conservation, both aesthetically and economically,” said Rasmussen. “Our three-fold means to accomplish this goal are: 1) present programs to organizations and individuals; 2) research, rescue and propagate native plants for private and public landscapes; and 3) develop a publicly accessible site for health and wellness recreation, as well as nature education to encourage stewardship.”

Armed with the knowledge and expertise garnered through the CNP program, Rasmussen and other Redbud volunteers have engaged with community leaders to highlight the impact of native plant species on quality of life and economic prosperity. Furthermore, Rasmussen believes that Redbud’s model of conservation methods for sustainable development can ultimately be duplicated by others beyond Hall County’s borders.

Georgia Center programs engage young scholars across the state

Over the past month, The University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education has hosted two major learning programs to engage middle school and high school students: Northeast Georgia’s National History Day and the Georgia Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. Through college level research, oral presentations and a healthy competitive environment, the programs provided students with fun and challenging experiences designed to enrich learning and improve academic performance.

“For both youth programs, I heard judges remark that many of these students have mastered research skills that most do not acquire until late college or even graduate school,” said Nancy Thompson, program director for the Northeast Georgia National History Day. “The depth of experience gained through these programs is invaluable for aspiring young Georgia scholars.”

The theme of this year’s National History Day competition was Rights and Responsibilities in History. Students submitted research projects within one of five categories–documentaries, exhibits, papers, performances and websites–and top winners will advance to state-level competition in April in hopes of representing Georgia in the National History Day contest in May. The competition offered students who are already passionate about history a great opportunity to explore their chosen subjects more extensively.

The Georgia Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) was made possible through the collaboration of the Department of Defense, Academy of Applied Sciences and the University of Georgia. Fifty high school students across the state were invited to present research papers before a panel of judges and audience of their peers. Additionally, 20 students were chosen to present their research in a poster competition. The five finalists in the Georgia competition will win an all-expenses-paid trip to the National JSHS, and the first, second and third place winners in the Georgia competition will win scholarships as well as the opportunity to compete for more scholarships at the national level.

The JSHS program promotes original research and experimentation in the sciences, engineering and mathematics, and publicly recognizes students for outstanding achievement. By connecting these talented students, their teachers and research professionals in Georgia, and by rewarding research excellence, JSHS aims to widen the pool of trained talent prepared to conduct research and development vital to our nation.

For more information on the programs, visit http://www.georgiacenter.uga.edu/youth/pre-collegiate-competitions.

Athens Peer Court Receives 2014 Program of the Year Award

The Georgia Council of Court Administrators awarded the 2014 Program of the Year Award to the Athens Peer Court (APC) at their annual conference luncheon in Savannah, Ga. on Feb. 11.

APC–an innovative program developed by UGA Public Service and Outreach and local juvenile justice units–provides a meaningful process for first-time youth offenders to accept responsibility and repair the harm caused by their crime while connecting them to the community. In addition, area high school and middle school students gain leadership and career skills as they learn how to serve as advocates, judges, bailiffs and jurors.

Emily Boness, director of Athens Peer Court and a faculty member at UGA’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, and Mallory Parson, case management clerk with the Athens-Clarke County Juvenile Court, accepted the
award on behalf of APC.

Boness’ participation in a similar court as a youth in Alaska led her to law school at UGA. In 2011, she approached Athens-Clarke County Juvenile Court Judge Robin Shearer about the idea of creating a peer court in Athens. Judge Shearer was enthusiastic and supportive of the idea.

Since then, the program has grown significantly and seen great success. In collaboration with UGA law students, the Fanning Institute now trains youth volunteers to run the court. In 2013, Athens Peer Court had 40 active youth volunteers from four Athens-area high schools and four middle schools, and held hearings for 129 cases, up from 52 in 2012. After only two years, APC has the capacity to serve all first-time youth offenders in Clarke County.

Earlier in 2013, Athens Peer Court received the Liberty Bell Award from the Western Circuit Bar Association and was honored by a visit from Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal.

APC is a collaborative effort of the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, Street Law at UGA’s School of Law, the Athens-Clarke County Juvenile Court, and the Department of Juvenile Justice, and is funded by the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, through the Federal Juvenile Accountability Block Grant Program.