Written by Whitten: Year-End Gratitude

ProvostPamelaWhittenTo celebrate the end of the year, the UGA Alumni Association is featuring a post from Written by Whitten, Provost Pamela Whitten’s blog. 

As we approach the end of 2015, the University of Georgia community has so much to be proud of—and so much to look forward to in 2016.

Our students set several new academic records that reflect their extraordinary talent and the outstanding instruction and mentorship they receive from our faculty. Our freshman retention rate, for example, climbed by a full percentage point to reach a record 95.2 percent, and our six-year graduation rate climbed to 85.3 percent.

Students in our Honors Program earned some of the world’s top academic awards—including the Marshall, Truman and Udall Scholarships—and our faculty members received some of the nation’s most competitive teaching awards. In one notable example, UGA was the only university in the nation with two recipients of the Beckman Award for teaching excellence—Dawn D. Bennett-Alexander in the Terry College of Business and Melisa “Misha” Cahnmann-Taylor in the College of Education.

Our research enterprise surged forward, as well, with a 7 percent increase in external funding in the past fiscal year. Some notable grants this year include $18.8 million for Athletic Association Professor Samantha Joye’s ongoing work to investigate the long-term effects of the BP oil spill; an $8.2 million project led by associate professor Ted Futris in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences to improve the lives of children and families in the child welfare system; and a $1.9 million grant to professor Richard Gordon to make UGA’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute a National Resource Center for Latin American Studies. The success of these faculty members and many others in garnering support for their research in an extremely competitive funding environment is an indication of the quality of their work and its impact on our nation and world. Our faculty members are truly leaders in their fields.

Our dedicated faculty and staff in our Public Service and Outreach units reached across the state to strengthen the economy and enhance quality of life. Our Small Business Development Center, one of eight PSO units, worked with more than 4,700 business owners and prospective entrepreneurs to help create more than 3,000 new jobs and launch more than 330 new businesses. Marine Extension recently opened the state’s first oyster hatchery to help revive a once-thriving coastal industry, and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government trained more than 22,000 elected officials and public employees.

And last but certainly not least, our alumni and other supporters helped us achieve a new fundraising record that will result in more scholarship support for students and more endowed chairs to help attract and retain the world’s top faculty.

The accomplishments noted above and the many others that are too numerous to be listed here are the result of the dedication of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and other supporters. As 2015 draws to a close and we prepare for 2016, I’d like to once again express my appreciation for the many people who make the University of Georgia one of the nation’s leading public universities.

End of the Year Reflection

Meredith GurleyPlease read the following note from Meredith Gurley Johnson (BSFCS ’00), executive director of the UGA Alumni Association:

The year is coming to a close and I am enjoying taking a look back at the previous 12 months – what a year it has been!

The successes we have enjoyed would not be possible without the continued support of our generous donors, loyal alumni, friends, parents, UGA faculty and students. The UGA Alumni Association’s priority is to serve our university by fostering strong relationships between our nearly 300,000 alumni and the university’s exceptional students.

I am personally thankful and proud of the Alumni Association’s staff, board members and volunteers for all that they have accomplished in 2015. Together, we created an updated strategic plan and are proposing new events and activities that will connect alumni to UGA in meaningful ways.

While there is plenty of which we should be proud, we are eagerly looking forward to 2016 and all the “new” that the New Year will bring. We will be launching an updated chapter structure, accompanied by new regional events and programs that will further connect alumni to students and the university. We will also be unveiling a new website and other digital communications resources for alumni and friends.

The work we do influences the lives of young people and that motivates us to accelerate our strategic plan to further engage alumni in the coming years.

Again, I thank those individuals who have helped us achieve so much thus far, and I invite anyone who is passionate about UGA to contact the Alumni Association to find out how they can play a role in what we do.

Happy holidays from the UGA Alumni Association – Go Dawgs!

Alumnus Spotlight: Drew Cronic (BSED ’97)

Drew Cronic (BSED ’97) was recently honored as the American Football Coaches Association’s NAIA Region 1 Coach of the Year. Cronic has been a member of Reinhardt University’s football program since 2012, and was named head coach in 2015. In the span of a few months, he has led Reinhardt into its best season record yet, with nine wins and just two losses.

Drew Cronic

For Cronic, this passion for athletic achievement is nothing new. While at UGA, he was a member of the football team where he earned varsity letters and Southeastern Conference All-Academic honors in 1996 and 1997. After graduation, Drew continued to pursue his passion as a graduate assistant coach at the University of West Georgia, and continued to develop at other programs, such as Furman, James Madison, and Central High School in Carrolton, Georgia.

Reinhardt Director of Athletics Bill Popp said, “I’m so proud of the accomplishments of our football program, and this is one of those ‘icing on the cake’ moments for Coach Cronic. I could not be more proud of him and the young men on that team for the job they did this year. This is a very well-deserved honor for Drew Cronic.”

On the other hand, Cronic believes that the team won this award, and is looking forward to the future of coaching this young football program.

“Head coaches win awards because assistant coaches and players do an amazing job,” Cronic said. “Really, I consider this a team award. This was the year we were really able to put Reinhardt on the map and start turning some heads around the country.”

UGA Alumni Association supports Black UGA Reunion

The UGA Alumni Association welcomes the opportunity to assist student groups and other organizations on campus and provide financial support for events. In October, the UGA Alumni Associaton and its UGA Black Alumni Group helped to support the Black UGA (BUGA) Reunion, which brought together students and alumni from across campus. Below is a recap of the event from Zari Wilson, president of theBlack Educational Support Team at UGA.

The purpose of the BUGA Reunion was to unite students and encourage inclusivity at UGA. In additon, the reunion served as an opportunity for students to learn more about the UGA Alumni Association and its programs, including UGA Black Alumni. This was a collaborative effort with more than 10 organizations from UGA’s Multicultural Services and Programs Department and International Student Life Department. The event, which attracted more than 200 attendees, featured a T-shirt giveaway, games, food and time for mingling and conversation. The event created a relaxed atmosphere for students to meet one another and allowed several African Amnerican student organizations to network and work together as a team. This collaboration sparked a desire among the African American student body to continue to co-host events together in an effort to bring about unity in the campus community. It was awesome to see the efforts of so many come together to produce an event that will continue into the future. 

University of Georgia alumnus to lead USG Board

The Board of Regents, the 19-member governing body for the University System of Georgia, elected new officers for 2016 on November 11.

Kessel Stelling (BBA ’78) was elected as chairman of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Stelling, who currently is the Board of Regents’ vice chairman, will begin his one-year term as chairman January 1, 2016.

“In the eight years I’ve served on the Board of Regents, there have been significant positive changes within the University System of Georgia, and I understand we must continue to evolve in order to keep college affordable and ultimately grow our economy by graduating more Georgians,” said Stelling. “I’ve been fortunate to learn from the excellent chairmen who have come before me, and I look forward to serving as chairman of this outstanding board.”

Stelling is the chairman and CEO of Synovus, a financial services company based in Columbus, Georgia with approximately $28 billion in assets. Synovus provides commercial and retail banking, investment, and mortgage services to customers in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee. A Georgia native, Stelling is the Immediate Past Chairman of the Dean’s Advisory Council of the Terry College of Business, and serves on the board of directors of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Financial Services Roundtable.

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UGA receives $1.49 million grant for HIV, TB research training in Uganda

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Every year, 50,000 people die in East Africa from tuberculosis. Worldwide, 1.5 million people die from the disease. And when HIV infection is added to the mix, TB becomes even more deadly. The University of Georgia is fighting against these numbers with a new $1.49 million grant from the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health.

UGA is partnering with Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, to train Ugandan scientists in new and emerging methods increasingly important in understanding the complex transmission dynamics of HIV and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis.

According to the World Health Organization, TB infections now rival HIV/AIDS as a leading cause of death from infectious diseases. Persons co-infected with TB and HIV are estimated to be 27-32 times more likely to develop active TB disease than persons without HIV.

“Infectious diseases do not respect human political borders,” said Dr. Christopher Whalen, the grant’s principal investigator and the Ernest Corn Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology in the UGA College of Public Health. “What is in Africa today could be in the U.S. tomorrow. Remember the concern about Ebola? It is better to contain infectious diseases at their source. To do this, you must build capacity in areas where the disease is most serious.”

UGA will use the five-year grant to enhance computational and molecular epidemiology training in tuberculosis and HIV in Uganda. To achieve this goal, the program will train two predoctoral students in molecular and computational epidemiology, offer non-degree technical training in computational epidemiology and bioinformatics, and support a variety of additional research and training activities in Uganda.

Training will be integrated into ongoing research projects Whalen is leading to investigate how social interactions that make up daily life in Uganda contribute to TB transmission in the context of a mature HIV epidemic.

Bioinformatics and computational epidemiology are currently not available in Uganda. “Disease transmission is difficult to study because it involves a community,” Whalen said. “Since it is not possible to study everyone in a community, we use the molecular and computational approaches to infer patterns of transmission within the community.”

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True and loyal be.

Alma Mater, thee we’ll honor,

True and loyal be,

Ever crowned with praise and glory,

Georgia, hail to thee.

So goes the chorus of the University of Georgia Alma Mater. Words we proudly sing before football games and commencement ceremonies. Do we ever stop to reflect on their meaning?

Today is #GivingTuesday, a national day of philanthropy. Many spent Friday filling shopping bags with gifts, shopping local on Saturday, and scouring the internet for deals yesterday. Today is the first day of December and a symbolic beginning to the season of giving. Let us not forget the individuals and organizations that depend on our generosity to thrive.

UGA can sometimes be forgotten as a nonprofit worthy of that generosity. Tuition and state dollars do not fully fund the research, service and teaching that takes at the university; private giving closes the gap. Those donations fund scholarships for students who cannot afford to attend UGA (even with the HOPE Scholarship), incredible facilities to house endless hours of studying and teaching, events to promote networking and career exploration, and much more!

Today, UGA reminds you to keep it in mind when making your end-of-year gifts – no matter their size. Because when it comes to our alma mater, we hail to thee.