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Experience in UGA Public Service and Outreach helped prepare alumna for pandemic recovery

Dealing with a crisis is nothing new for Sarah Jackson (BA ’11, MPA ’15), community partnerships manager at the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA/HS).

Now, with COVID-19, she’s finding her connections to UGA more helpful than ever.

“A lot of the issues that are coming up in addition to the actual virus are around food issues, food access, food waste,” said Jackson, who was a Public Service and Outreach Student Scholar at UGA. “It’s something that my career has prepared me for all along, from back in my days at Campus Kitchen and working at UGArden, and as part of that, I understand the food system.”

“What I’ve been doing for the last 10 years has educated me on what that looks like and why our current challenges exist in this new COVID-19 environment.”

Jackson’s job at GEMA usually has her on the front lines of disasters, like tornados and hurricanes, working with local non-profits. While the disaster is different this time, much of the response is the same—helping communities recover.

For example, she has been working with Team Rubicon, a disaster response organization that has pivoted to helping food banks, local counties and schools with logistics to get food to where it is needed.

Jackson says her college experience—she was the first director of the UGA Campus Kitchen and a UGAarden intern—provides her with unique insight into some of the particular issues surrounding the pandemic. Some of her mentors then are now colleagues in the COVID-19 fight. Jackson helps them navigate logistics surrounding waivers and supplies and they have helped her tap into resources to help local communities across the state.

Long-term recovery is going to be difficult, especially for communities that experienced tornadoes in addition to the economic fallout from the pandemic. Jackson is forging new connections through the UGA Archway Partnership and UGA Extension in order to have more points of contact in communities around the state.

“My understanding of the Public Service and Outreach units has been really helpful,” Jackson said. “We’ve been connecting on many levels, so UGA has remained close.”



Shannah Montgomery PSO Public Relations Coordinator

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