Women in Business: Bulldog 100 and 40 Under 40

Written by Claire Dickey

We caught up with three women, previously recognized through 40 Under 40 and Bulldog 100, to learn a bit more about their careers and what these programs have meant to them.

The University of Georgia has been running its 40 Under 40 and Bulldog 100 programs for over six years, recognizing successful, young graduates of the university for their professional or philanthropic endeavors.

Since the inception of these programs, more than 100 women have been honored for their work. In fact, the University of Georgia has established a Women of UGA Council with 15 dedicated alumnae as a part of the Women of UGA network. Their goals include creating a sense of community, involving themselves philanthropically and empowering women through the program.

We caught up with past honorees Keysha Lee (40 Under 40 ’12), Ashley Edmonds (40 Under 40 ’15) and Maureen Clayton (Bulldog 100 ’12-’15) to talk about their experience as women in business.

Keysha Lee:

  • 40 Under 40 Class of 2012
  • ABJ ’97
  • Executive Producer and Host of Lessons with Mrs. Lee

What She Does:
“Lessons with Mrs. Lee was born out of two desires: one desire was to give my high school students more exposure and hands-on experience in the broadcast field. The second was to feed my own passion for [storytelling]. We reach out to successful people who are interested in sharing their journey or personal formula for success.”
Her Experience with 40 Under 40:
“The recognition has allowed me to continue to grow my show, and to meet new goals. It’s really opened up so many doors. I recently had the opportunity to attend Dinner with a Dozen Dawgs, and I was able to literally and figuratively sit at the table with our first, female Senior VP for Academic Affairs and Provost, Pamela Whitten. That connection was really strong for me, and an inspiration. It made me look at the progress of women and where we can go.”
Future Goals:
“Currently, I’m seeking new interns for my summer series with the Atlanta Dream, Atlanta’s WNBA team. This summer will be their 10th year in the WNBA. Some of my biggest goals are to write a book titled Lessons with Mrs. Lee, and to get my show on a major network or commercial TV station.”
UGA’s Role:
“Professor Hazinski in the Grady College of Mass Communications and Journalism gave us immeasurable opportunities, exposure and advice. Even now I call him for advice concerning ventures that I’m pursuing.”
Tips for Success:
“Be a planner, do your homework, write down your goals. Also, be up on the industry; research women you admire, look at their paths and reach out to them.

Ashley Teusink Edmonds:

  • 40 Under 40 Class of 2015
  • ABJ ’05, MBA ’11
  • Founder and CEO, Smartsy LLC

What She Does:
“Smartsy is the parent company for the different brands that I’ve developed. Lilywrap was the first brand; it’s a reusable, stretchy giftwrap that I developed in an entrepreneurship course through the Professional MBA program at the Terry College of Business. The second main product is Beer Greetings, a decorative six pack carrier and greeting card in one.”
Her Experience with 40 Under 40:
“The PR and marketing that has come from [40 Under 40] has really allowed me to meet a lot of people and grow my business. Since I’ve won, I’ve been asked to come speak at a variety of different university-sponsored events through which I’ve connected with different individuals, done collaborations and even hired from.”
Future Goals:
“The year 2016 was focused on getting Beer Greetings into retailers. We’d primarily sold online through Amazon, so those 800 stores came about in one year. This year is about continuing to grow and streamlining processes. As for a personal focus, working smarter and making the most of my time.”
UGA’s Role:
“UGA introduced me to an array of people. It really took me out of my comfort zone and broadened my horizons. It taught me the skills necessary to be a successful entrepreneur, everything from PR and marketing, to business functions such as accounting and finance, and even operational skills.
Tips for Success:
“It’s hard to compartmentalize, especially when you’re an entrepreneur. Learn to turn off home when you’re at work and work when you’re at home. Also, do your research. Talk to anyone and everyone that’s in a similar role. Don’t be afraid to jump in.”

Maureen Clayton:

  • Bulldog 100 Classes of 2012 – 2015
  • ABJ ’80, MA ’84
  • President of Insight Strategic Communications & Founder of Nest Egg Communications
  • Member of the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors

What She Does:
“[Insight Strategic Communications] focuses on internal communications for corporations and publicly and privately held businesses. Nest Egg Communications is a niche company focusing on ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) companies. We provide communications consulting materials that help employees understand what it means to be employee-owned.”
Her Experience with Bulldog 100:
“I’m humbled to be on the list four times, but the benefit for me is the opportunity to meet other women business owners, and to be able to celebrate and support each other. One of the things I’ve done since is hold a luncheon for other female winners to talk about our businesses, how we got started and some of the challenges we’ve had along the way.”
What it’s Meant:
“It’s just a fantastic experience. I don’t think there’s any greater recognition that you can receive as a business owner than to be recognized by your university. The thing that meant the most to me was having my three sons [at Bulldog 100] while my business was being recognized.”
Future Goals:
“My favorite part is when the customer is pleased, so I’d like to continue to do so. There is no way to categorize how good it feels to do something that delights someone else. If it brings them convenience or peace of mind, that’s the most satisfying.”
UGA’s Role:
“I’m a journalism school grad, and I love the Grady College. I had two professors that I took most of my major classes with, and one of the things that I got from them, that I didn’t have before, was a confidence and belief that I could do anything I set my mind to. They were always very encouraging and believed in [their students.]”
Tips for Success:
“Don’t be afraid to try it. If you have confidence and believe it’s a good idea, try it. And if it fails, so what? You can try something else. People get too hung up on the fact that things might not work out. You learn more from your failures than from your successes.”

Alumna Profile: Ivey McCloud (BBA ’04)

Written by Bridgette Burton

Ivey McCloud (BBA ’04) was set on becoming an educator and attending Auburn University, just like her father who played football there. But, when she came to the University of Georgia in eighth grade for a band competition, she fell in love with Athens, and there was no going back. Today, the marketing major works full-time in Atlanta for the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, but still makes time to give back to her alma mater. Recently, she turned her passion for UGA into action by joining the Terry College of Business Young Alumni Board, which is comprised of 60 Terry graduates from across the country who are charged with outreach and engagement to Terry’s young alumni community. Through the Young Alumni Board, she serves on the Undergraduate Support Committee, where she mentors current undergraduate students. Learn more about Ivey below.

Where are you from?
Powder Springs, GA

What made you decide to come to school at the University of Georgia?
My very first visit to UGA was when I was in the eighth grade. I came for a band competition. I remember my band director at the time, Erin (Brodie) Cole, a UGA alumna, gave us a mini tour of the campus and took us to The Grill for dinner. I immediately fell in love with Athens and the campus. I knew UGA was the school for me.

Describe UGA in three words.
Challenging, dynamic, exciting.

What was your most memorable college experience?
My most memorable college experience was becoming a member of the Eta Xi chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. in the spring of 2002.

Where do you work and what do you do?
I’m a customer marketing manager at Kimberly-Clark Corporation. I develop the annual marketing strategy for our Scott Shop Towel brand at Walmart and Sam’s Club. In this role, I have been successful at launching several brand extensions and national marketing promotions.

What did you think you would be when you grew up? Do you still have plans to become that?
Growing up, I always knew I would be an educator like my parents. I never waivered from that career decision until I got to UGA and was exposed to other majors and career paths. Through my active participation in campus organizations, such as the Minority Business Student Association, I decided to change my major from primary education to marketing my second semester at UGA.

What advice would you give to graduating seniors and recent graduates?
Be open to taking risks. I had to learn early on to give up on some of the things I thought were in my 10-year life and career plan. You never know where your next adventure may be, so be flexible and willing to go with the flow.

Is there anything else that you would like for me to know?
In November, I participated in Terry’s “Careers in Marketing” alumni panel with two other graduates who work in the field of marketing. It was great to engage with current students and provide them with insights on how to pursue a career in marketing. As part of my continued giving to UGA and the Terry College of Business, I will be featured in the “Terry Excellence Fund” campaign where I explain why I give back to the Terry College of Business. I have been fortunate to work for Fortune 200 companies that have company matching programs, which allow me to essentially double my donation to the university!

UGA Legacies: Bill (AB ’88) and Melonie Thomas (BBA ’86)

Written by Bridgette Burton

With commencement season approaching, UGA Black Alumni is reaching back to tell the stories of graduates who have a legacy at the university. Additional stories will be shared on social media using #UGABlackLegacies.

The Thomas Legacy

A legacy of service to UGA is a hallmark of the Thomas family. Bill Thomas (AB ’88) and his wife Melonie Davis Thomas (BBA ’86) are engaged with the UGA Alumni Association through the Board of Directors and Black Alumni Affinity Group.

Bill, is a native of East Point, Georgia and Melonie is from Daytona Beach, Florida.

Melonie visited campus as a National Merit Scholar, and on a tour with her mother ran into Dean Rusk. Their conversation with him solidified her decision to choose UGA over the University of Florida. Melonie lived in Brumby Hall her freshman year and Bill lived in Russell Hall. The two met as freshman through their mutual friend Lonnie Walls (AB ’03).

“I was supposed to walk to a ‘Jessie Jackson for President’ rally downtown with my friend Lonnie. When I arrived at his room in Russell Hall, he said two others were going too,” Melonie said. “Those two turned out to be Bill and his roommate, Todd Wooten (BS ’87, JD ’91). I wasn’t too happy initially about walking across campus with three guys, and Lonnie was more than willing to send them on their way, but I decided it was fine. Long story short, Jessie didn’t show up and we, along with half of campus, ended up at The Grill talking and laughing. They all walked me back to Brumby. That was the start, and years later Todd was our best man, we still love The Grill and Lonnie is our pastor.”

After graduation, Bill pursued a career in law enforcement. He is a veteran, and has worked as a federal prosecutor and Assistant United States Attorney. Today, he has a boutique law firm, The W.H. Thomas Firm, LLC in Atlanta. He is also a member of the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Melonie uses her degree from the Terry College of Business as a communications team lead with the Centers for Disease Control. She extends her expertise to not only combat health disparities, but to combat educational inequality as a UGA Black Alumni Leadership Council board member. Through their work with the university, the Thomases strive to create college access opportunities for students of color.

The couple has remained committed to the university since graduation. Bill was instrumental in the creation of what was a DeKalb County Chapter of the UGA Alumni Association, which ultimately inspired him to get involved with the Board of Directors.

“I wanted to see a stronger African American presence in the Alumni Association, and I wanted to make sure that my African American classmates knew of the lifelong benefits that came with being a part of the university,” Bill said.  “I also wanted to make sure that future students and their parents knew that UGA was an option for them when it came time to consider college options.”

As president of the former DeKalb County Chapter, he spearheaded events to raise awareness about UGA among middle and high school students and their parents. They also hosted former U.S. Poet Laureate and alumna Natasha Trethewey (AB ’89)

Bill and Melonie’s history of giving back to UGA goes beyond time and money– their love and affinity for the school extends to their daughter, Erin, who graduated in 2016 with a degree in history and a minor in Arabic.

Erin, Bill and Melonie Thomas

The Thomas family (L-R: Melonie, Erin and Bill) at Ring Ceremony in 2016.

“She was in the first class to live in Delta Hall (UGA’s residency in Washington, D.C.),” Melonie said. “Her last year in Reed, she lived in the same room that Bill lived in for a short while, 33 years earlier.”

They are both passionate about staying connected and giving back to the university, as well as to their communities. Melonie said that she initially only contributed financially to the Terry College of Business, but that when Bill got involved with the DeKalb County Chapter she became inspired to connect parents and students to UGA.

“Go back to your high schools and middle schools and tell other students about the amazing opportunities that UGA has to offer,” Melonie said.  “Talk to them about what it takes to get into and be successful at Georgia.”

L-R: Kevin Aycock, Bill and Melonie Thomas at the 2015 Bulldog 100 Celebration

“Continue to be a part of the university throughout your life and career,” Bill echoed.  “It will provide you great opportunities beyond the few years that you have, or will, spend on campus earning your degree. Give back to the university financially to ensure that it remains a world class institution, and that it can attract and retain deserving students.”

$1.5 million gift enhances UGA’s proactive alcohol education

The University of Georgia will enhance its alcohol education and prevention programs thanks to a $1.5 million gift from UGA alumnus Jack Fontaine and his wife, Nancy, of Houston, Texas. The donation is their latest in nearly $6 million of support to the Fontaine Center for alcohol awareness and education since the center’s establishment 11 years ago.

This gift will allow the Fontaine Center to increase the capacity of its Collegiate Recovery Community, as well as expand its proactive educational programming both on campus and throughout the state.

Jack Fontaine notes that the center has come a long way in its first decade, in both quantity and quality of service.

“When we first started, we had a few counselors and two to three weeks’ wait time,” he said. “We were reactionary, and now we’ve grown to be proactive.”

Following an expansion of the University Health Center building in 2009 the Fontaine Center gained prominent and additional space and has grown to better meet the needs of UGA’s students.

Liz Prince, who has served as director of the Fontaine Center since 2012, described the center’s growth from assisting with individual cases of alcohol abuse to its current comprehensive programming that covers other drugs like marijuana and prescription drugs, as well as issues of interpersonal violence and sexual assault response.

“We’re able to address things that really impact students where there’s an intersection between alcohol and drugs and violence,” she said.

Now the center offers a “spectrum of services,” including prevention, early intervention and recovery support. They are also able to put students and families in touch with trusted treatment professionals around the country. Students know and trust the Fontaine Center and are getting in touch with counselors much earlier. Student organizations such as Greek Life groups and academic interest groups are reaching out to the center to request presentations and information sessions.

Prince said that the center has earned the respect of colleagues in the community and around the state.

“It’s a more fine-tuned, visible program,” she said. “We’re better at partnering with folks on campus and in the community instead of everything being situated within the Health Center.”

Later this spring, the Fontaine Center will host the inaugural summit of state schools, technical colleges and independent college and universities to discuss the recommendations of the University System of Georgia’s Alcohol and Substance Abuse Task Force, co-chaired by University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead. The summit is yet another program made possible by the Fontaines’ support.

Prince is excited at the prospect of national experts and state colleagues coming together to form best practices for helping students. She feels a lot more can be accomplished through collaboration and sharing ideas.

“Schools can take each other’s ideas and tweak them,” she said. “Campuses are different, but we can all benefit from learning about each other’s approaches.”

What’s the ultimate goal of all of these efforts?

“A culture shift,” Prince said.

Today, a larger number of students are coming to campus who abstain from drinking or who drink very little or moderately. This progress presents new challenges, however. The number of at-risk students may have decreased at the university in recent years, but the students who are abusing alcohol and other drugs are doing so in ways and with drugs that are potentially much more harmful than in the past.

Prince admits progress is incremental, but she appreciates the successes of the Fontaine Center’s first 11 years.

“Ultimately, we’re trying to change behavior, and you can’t just do that overnight,” she said. “But with the support of the Fontaines and the university administration, we’re educating more students than ever, including in high schools, and we’re having a positive impact on our state and students’ lives.”

Make a gift to support this cause or visit give.uga.edu to contribute to another area about which you are passionate.