UGA Miracle Rivalry Week

Think back to your college days when the easiest way to make new friends outside of your residence hall was to get involved in a student organization. Through these small groups, you were able to make friends and shape your college experience. And although each student at UGA is different, they’re all brought together by a shared desire to beat Florida at the annual UGA vs UF football game. But this year, one student organization is taking the rivalry off the field.

This year, UGA Miracle has embraced the UGAvsUF rivalry and has turned it into something good. After a lot of planning and collaboration, UGA Miracle and the University of Florida’s Dance Marathon (DM) will compete against each other to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network and their respective Children’s Hospitals. Both organizations are competing with the same goal: to beat the other team “off-the-field.”

Since 1995, UGA Miracle has worked to raise money for the Comprehensive Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Beyond fundraising, students make hospital visits, plan events for the organization’s adopted “Miracle” children and families, and raise awareness for the hospital and Children’s Miracle Network. What started out as 300 members raising $20,000 in its first year has grown to 1,600 students raising $683,251 in 2015! Today, UGA Miracle is the largest campus organization at UGA. It will host its largest event, Dance Marathon, on February 20, 2016. For 24 hours, students and families will dance for those who cannot and help raise funds for Miracle children.

To kick off Rivalry Week, UGA Miracle hosted a Car Smash on Memorial Plaza. For a small fee, students could purchase the opportunity to smash a UF-themed vehicle. Today, UGA Miracle is hosting a series of percentage nights on St. Simons Island. Locations include Chick-Fil-a, Brogan’s, and Gnats Landing. The week’s events have raised funds for Children’s Miracle Network in the hopes of beating the University of Florida’s Dance Marathon. The winner will be revealed on Saturday, and there will be a surprise featuring one of the Miracle families during the first quarter of the game.

Alumni play a critical role in supporting UGA Miracle’s success. From the numerous donations to being involved in UGA Miracle as a student, there is no doubt that alumni have helped build the organization into what it is today.

By holding this week-long competition, the students of UGA Miracle hope to blow last year’s fundraising total out of the water and beat the Gators twice in one weekend. Interested in helping UGA Miracle reach their goal? Click here.

As their motto says, everything is “For the Kids,” so this week, help these students change the lives of the children of Children’s Healthcare.

2015 40 Under 40 honoree Arthur Tripp, Jr (AB ‘09) named assistant to the president

UGA President Jere W. Morehead (JD ’80) will welcome Arthur Tripp Jr. (AB ’09) to his staff on November 11 as assistant to the president. Tripp currently serves as senior policy adviser for Rep. David Scott, who represents Georgia’s 13th Congressional District in Washington, D.C.

“I am very pleased that Arthur is joining our staff,” Morehead said. “His extensive involvement as a student leader at UGA and his significant professional experience on Capitol Hill have prepared him well for this important position. He will be an outstanding addition to the president’s office, and I look forward to his contributions.”

In his new role as assistant to the president, Tripp’s primary responsibilities will be focused on student affairs and diversity relations. He also will serve as the liaison to the Staff Council, Retirees Association and Board of Visitors, as well as represent the Office of the President in the planning of several annual campus events.

“It is truly an honor to join the Office of the President,” Tripp said. “There is no greater privilege than to serve the administration, faculty, staff, students and alumni of UGA as assistant to the president. I look forward to supporting President Morehead and his vision for this great institution.”

Arthur Tripp, Jr/ (AB '09) and former UGA football player Rennie Curran

Arthur Tripp, Jr/ (AB ’09) and former UGA football player Rennie Curran

As the senior policy adviser for Scott, Tripp has managed Scott’s assignments on the Financial Services Committee and the Agriculture Committee, has overseen legislative processes for House bills and has coordinated a congressional hearing that brought together presidents from every 1890 African-American college to testify before the House Agriculture Committee for the first time in history. Prior to serving as senior policy adviser, Tripp was legislative assistant for Scott for five years.

While in Washington, D.C., Tripp served as a member of the UGA School of Public and International Affairs board of directors and as president of the Georgia State Society board of directors.

Earlier this year, Tripp was named a member of the 40 Under 40 Class of 2015 by the UGA Alumni Association, an honor given to alumni under the age of 40 who have made a significant impact in business, leadership, community, educational or philanthropic endeavors.

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Grady grads give back, help hire students

Every year, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication hosts ADPR Connection, a student-run networking event organized by members of UGA PRSSA and Ad Club. This annual event invites professionals from Atlanta and the surrounding area to Athens to network with the best and brightest that Grady has to offer. For many of the participating employers, coming to Athens is a trip home, as many are UGA alumni. Being able to give back to UGA and help foster the future generation of communications professionals by providing internships and jobs is seen as an honor.

“When I arrived at Grady, it was obvious that there were opportunities at every corner. All I had to do to be successful was take advantage of them. I benefitted from the network of Grady alumni supporting students through PRSSA, the UGA Alumni Association and the Career Center. I’m grateful for my Grady experience, and that’s why I stay involved as an alumna. It’s important to give back by offering yourself as a resource to students who can benefit from your experience.

Also, it’s honestly rejuvenating to return to campus and interact with students who have fresh ideas and optimism. It’s nice to get out of the office and return to a place where people are excited about the future.” – Alyssa Stafford (MA ’15), Communications Specialist at Piedmont Healthcare

Even those who did not graduate from UGA understand the value of a degree from Grady and the caliber of students the college produces, which is why many employers make an effort to participate in ADPR Connection year after year.

“We are so proud to be affiliated with Grady College and the programs surrounding it. I can’t say enough about how thrilled we are to be able to tap into the graduating students every year. nearly 25 percent of our employees are Grady grads, and each one of them is extremely qualified to play a role in our agency for many years to come.” – Brad Dodge, CEO of Dodge Communications

Kudos to you, Grady College, for creating an opportunity for your alumni to mentor current students and stay connected with their alma mater!

UGA sets record high freshman retention rate

The University of Georgia has set a record in a key measure of student success: Its freshman retention rate increased by a full percentage point from 2014 to 2015 to reach 95.2 percent.

The freshman retention rate measures the percentage of a school’s first-time, first-year undergraduate students who continue at that school the next year. The national average for public, four-year institutions is 80 percent, and UGA’s 95 percent retention rate places it among the nation’s top universities in this measure.

“We continue to invest in faculty, staff and innovative programs to ensure that students at Georgia’s flagship university have an unparalleled learning experience,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Our high retention rate is one sign that these investments are having a positive impact on student success.”

In addition to reaching a new height in freshman retention, UGA also saw its six-year graduation rate increase to 85.3 percent, another record that is well above the national average of 59 percent for four-year institutions. UGA’s four- and five-year graduation rates are 62.5 percent and 82.4 percent, respectively, which compare to national averages of 39.4 percent and 55.1 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

In fall 2016, UGA will become the largest public university in the nation to require that each of its students engage in hands-on learning-through internships, study abroad, service-learning, research and other forms of experiential learning-prior to graduation. Morehead noted that in addition to helping prepare students for careers or graduate school, experiential learning has been shown to enhance student learning and promote on-time graduation.

“Our graduation and retention rates are very strong, but we’re striving for greater success for our students in this important area,” Morehead said. “In addition to changing the lives of individuals, each additional UGA degree represents a significant contribution to the economic vitality of our state and nation.”

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The power of THANK YOU

A recent UGA study found that a key ingredient to improving couples’ marriages might just be gratitude.

“We found that feeling appreciated and believing that your spouse values you directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last,” said study co-author Ted Futris, an associate professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Last week, I stopped by my favorite bagel joint en route to work. The gentleman behind the counter remembered my “regular” and had it ready as soon as I paid. I left a generous tip as a thank you for his making me feel like a true “local.”

This morning, Executive Director of the UGA Alumni Association Meredith Gurley Johnson (BSFCS ’00) shared a number of handwritten thank you notes with our team. These were messages from alumni and friends who had attended recent events or been recognized as 40 Under 40 honorees during our luncheon last month in Atlanta. It was a wonderful way to begin a beautiful fall Friday morning.

Knowing the importance of saying thank you, the university strives to foster an “attitude of gratidude” among students, faculty and staff who benefit from the generous support of alumni and donors. We ask them to take a moment and recognize the benefits they enjoy as a result of others’ making a financial gift or volunteering their time. There are donor recognition events such as “Thank a Donor Day,” and numerous emails, cards, videos and phone calls to alumni and friends.

This morning, my team would like to take yet another moment to say thank you. We appreciate the support of so many who believe in the power of this place. UGA changes lives and makes the world a better place. Your gifts help make all of that possible.

Research like the study mentioned above, experiential learning opportunities like the International Genetically Engineered Machine Giant Jamboree in Boston (which the UGA Alumni Association helped sponsor thanks to unrestricted gifts to the Georgia Fund), and so much more.

If you have ever made a gift to the University of Georgia, pat yourself on the back this morning and accept a digital handshake (or hug!) from those of us at the UGA Alumni Association.

(And then watch this special thank you video from this year’s Thank A Donor Day!)

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This blog post was written by Elizabeth Elmore (ABJ ’08, BBA ’08), director of communications.

Ryan Seacrest to headline UGA’s spring Commencement ceremony

When Ryan Seacrest takes the stage for the University of Georgia’s spring Commencement ceremony on May 13, 2016, in Sanford Stadium, he will have two tasks—inspire a new class of UGA alumni and receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the university he attended as a freshman.

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved Seacrest’s honorary degree during its Oct. 14 meeting. Other than an earned doctorate, the honorary degree is the highest recognition UGA can bestow and is given to recognize a person who has a sustained record of achievements of lasting significance.

Seacrest holds pre-eminent positions in broadcast and cable television, as well as nationally syndicated radio and local radio. He is celebrated internationally as host of the top-rated prime-time talent showcase “American Idol” on Fox. He is host and executive producer of ABC’s annual New Year’s eve program, “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest.” He also has an agreement with NBCUniversal that includes on-air broadcasting and producing duties across the NBC and E! networks.

On radio, Seacrest is host of “On Air with Ryan Seacrest,” his market-topping nationally syndicated Los Angeles morning drive-time show for iHeart Media’s 102.7 KIIS-FM, as well as a nationally syndicated Top 40 radio show.

Ryan-Seacrest

Seacrest is being honored by the university for his commitment to youth-oriented initiatives.

Seacrest’s philanthropic efforts include his service as chairman of the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, which has opened eight broadcast media centers—known as Seacrest Studios—in pediatric hospitals across the country. Through these studios, patients have the opportunity to explore the creative realms of radio, television and new media and are provided with a variety of programming during their hospital stays. Students from local journalism schools intern with the studios to learn about broadcasting, programming and operating a multimedia center. 2015 40 Under 40 honoree Mamie Shepherd (ABJ ’13) is a program coordinator at the Ryan Seacrest Foundation.

“We look forward to welcoming Ryan Seacrest back to the UGA campus,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Through Seacrest Studios, he has channeled his success into a source of comfort and creativity that has positively impacted the lives of pediatric patients and their families while providing significant learning opportunities for students. I am sure he will have a compelling message to deliver as the Commencement speaker.”

Seacrest is also honorary chair of the Grammy Foundation and is on the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Seacrest, who attended UGA in 1992, moved to Hollywood to pursue a broadcasting career that he began as a radio intern while attending Dunwoody High School. Twenty-four years later, he is known internationally for his work in television and radio.

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Introducing UGA Black Alumni

The UGA Alumni Association is proud to launch UGA Black Alumni, the official affinity group for black graduates of the University of Georgia. There are other organizations and groups that seek to connect black alumni and students, and this group is another opportunity for those important interactions. UGA has enrolled the most diverse student population in history, and UGA Black Alumni will connect alumni and students with shared experiences to continue building a welcoming and supportive campus community. Get involved and make a difference at your alma mater!

2015 40 Under 40 honoree Arthur Tripp (AB ’09) and former Georgia football player Rennie Curran

If you are passionate about building a welcoming UGA community for all Bulldogs, and enjoy helping fellow alumni connect to their alma mater, you should consider volunteering on the UGA Black Alumni Leadership Council. Completing an interest form is the first step!

If you have questions about UGA Black Alumni, email Realenn Watters (AB ’04) at ude.agu@srettawr.

UGA Alumni Association Supports UGA iGEM’s Competition Success

UGA iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) was able to come back to Athens with the sweet satisfaction of accomplishment after a successful weekend in Boston at the 2015 iGEM Giant Jamboree, an annual synthetic biology competition put on by MIT. The UGA team brought home the gold for its measurement project and was runner-up in the overall measurement competition. In addition to these two major achievements, the UGA iGEM team developed the first Archaeal Interlab study ever in iGEM history. In other words, the UGA team is the first college team to take on the challenge of extensively studying archaea, single-celled organisms that resemble bacteria. To make their success even better, they competed against 2,700 other attendees and 280 teams and were able to perform at the competition’s highest level.

For this year’s competition, the UGA Alumni Association sponsored UGA iGEM’s trip to Boston. This funding was made possible by generous gifts to the Georgia Fund. The UGA Alumni Association uses private support like this to make an impact on campus and in the lives of students, which often includes supporting student groups on campus!

The UGA iGEM team was created in 2012, and from its start, has been a team destined for success in helping to advance the field of synthetic biology. Within a year’s time, this young team went from being the new, “rookie” team to being a dominant, medal-winning team. This year’s medal is just one to add to their collection and like the others, it is the product of constant efforts, passion and excellence in scientific research. The goal of the UGA iGEM team is to establish the feasibility of Archaea in the field of synthetic biology. The 2015 UGA iGEM team includes 16 students and is led by Rebecca Buchanan, a fifth-year student studying biochemistry and molecular biology.

The purpose behind iGEM’s Giant Jamboree is to raise awareness on synthetic biology research as well as to promote collaborations for the development of practical solutions. The teams are judged on their research novelty, impact toward real world solutions, outreach, collaborations and more. All in all, the students that participated in this year’s competition exemplify UGA’s motto of “to teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things,” and the UGA Alumni Association is honored to have helped them achieve their goals.

Alumnus Spotlight: John Christopher “Kit” Cummings (BBA ’89)

Assistant Director of Communications Jamie Lewis (AB ’12, AB ’12) recently interviewed alumnus Kit Cummings about his career and time at UGA. Kit is an international author, speaker and human rights and peace activist. After a lengthy career in ministry, Kit began working as a motivational speaker and was invited to speak inside a maximum security prison. This event was the catalyst for what Kit calls the “Power of Peace Program.” Kit recently published Peace Behind the Wire, which raises funds for that program.

Tell me a little bit about your background. What pushed you to attend UGA and what did you study?

I have been in the Atlanta area for my entire life and never plan to relocate. I’ve traveled the world for work, but every time I get off the plane in Atlanta, I am happy to be home. My father played basketball at UGA in the 1950s and I was raised a Bulldog—I always planned to go to school in Athens. I graduated from Walton High School in 1982, played soccer at Georgia Southern University in 1982-1983 and transferred to UGA in 1984. I graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing from the Terry College of Business.

What was the inspiration for your book and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

I have been a public speaker for 25 years, and in the last 10 years or so, I began to get more involved in corporate motivational training. I was invited into a prison environment and that changed my life forever. I began to work with individuals who had made some of the worst choices and were experiencing some of the most drastic consequences. My mind change principles worked powerfully among this population and led to the creation of my organization, the Power of Peace Project, Inc. My new book, Peace Behind the Wire, tells the fascinating story of how 12 convicts in a dangerous maximum security prison, in the midst of a gang war, unknowingly started a peace movement that is now spreading to schools and prisons across the country. I intend to use this model, and the curriculum that was created from it, to spread peace throughout schools and communities around the world. I figure if it can work in the most dangerous places, which it has, then it can interrupt and redirect our at-risk youth, too.

What is next for you? Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?

I continue to go where I’m invited and that has taken me on speaking tours around the country and even overseas into prisons in South Africa, Honduras, Ukraine and Mexico. At the end of this year, I will be going to India to plant seeds for the Power of Peace Project. I have connected with both the Gandhi and Mandela Foundations abroad, as well as the King Center here. Going forward, I see my organization and its volunteers working with states and foreign governments to create peace and help heal our wounded world. My dreams are BIG and the future is bright.

How did your time at UGA lead you to where you are now and did you have any particularly inspiring courses or professors? 

I had the time of my life at UGA. Athens was a place I never wanted to leave! The nightlife, the music scene, the culture of a small town combined with a large thriving university probably did more to shape me than I realize. I lived right downtown at University Towers and experienced all that college life had to offer. I have always been able to relate well to different cultures, and ethnic/socioeconomic backgrounds and I believe my time at UGA only helped to strengthen that—which has had a huge impact on my work. I loved my marketing courses and professors and believe that I have carried what I learned there into many areas of my calling.

What is your fondest memory of UGA?

My fondest memory was when the Bulldogs beat the No.1 ranked Florida Gators in Jacksonville 24-3 in 1985. We rushed the field and attempted (unsuccessfully) to tear down the goal posts. My friends and I were photographed coming over the fence and put on the front page of the Jacksonville Times! Classic.

Alumnus Spotlight: Jack B. Hood (AB ’69, JD ’71)

Jack B. Hood (AB ’69, JD ’71) is a Georgia Bulldog fan, lawyer, author and banjo player – and a proud Double Dawg. After graduating from Georgia Law, he went on to earn a degree in international law from the University of Cambridge (Darwin College) in 1972. He is an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Alabama in Birmingham, and is a member of the Georgia, Alabama and District of Columbia bars.

Earlier this year, Jack returned from an American Bar Association (ABA)-sponsored trip to Ireland and the United Kingdom to attend the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede. Jack is descended from Saer de Quincey, the first Earl of Winchester and one of the 25 barons that forced King John to seal the document in 1215. Saer de Quincey was also a Templar Knight who “took the Cross” and later died on November 3, 1219, while on the Fifth Crusade at the siege of Damietta in Egypt.

The ceremonies at Runnymede on June 15, 2015, were attended by British royalty and dignitaries from around the world, including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, William, the Duke of Cambridge, Princess Anne, Prime Minister David Cameron, the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Hubbard, president of the ABA, and Loretta Lynch, attorney general of the United States.

Jack and his grandson Walkin 

Jack, his daughter, and grandson attended exclusive events for ABA members at the residence of U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley at Deerfield in Phoenix Park, Dublin, and at U.S. Ambassador to the UK David Barzun’s residence at Winfield House in London.

England’s Prince William 

They visited Darwin College at the University of Cambridge, attended formal dinners and enjoyed Darwin’s annual formal ball. They also managed to tour Royal Air Force Bases at Duxford, Mildenhall, and Lakenheath with the assistance of a current USAF JAG officer living in Cambridge.

Jack’s time at UGA led to his successful career as a lawyer, professor and author. Several of his undergraduate and law professors took a personal interest in his education and motivated Jack to become a productive member of the legal profession. Those inspirational professors at Georgia included Ed Best, Perry Sentell and Dean Rusk.

Learn more about Jack Hood.