Archive for month: October, 2019
Bob Sleppy (BS ’05, MBA ’10) is the executive director of Nuçi’s Space, an Athens, Georgia, nonprofit that allows musicians to meet with doctors about physical and/or mental health issues.
For World Mental Health Day today (October 10), we asked Bob to share a little about Nuçi’s Space, his UGA experience, and how attitudes toward mental health issues have evolved over the two decades since Nuçi’s Space first opened its doors.
How does Nuçi’s Space serve the Athens community?
Nuçi’s Space was created in memory of 22-year-old UGA student and talented musician, Nuçi Phillips, who was diagnosed with clinical depression in high school. Although he fought courageously, Nuçi sadly lost his battle, and on Thanksgiving Day 1996, he ended his life.
Nuçi’s Space is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to prevent suicide by actively supporting the emotional, physical, and professional well-being of musicians. Nuçi’s Space advocates for and helps to alleviate the suffering of those living with a brain illness while also fighting to end the stigma attached to such illnesses. To accomplish this mission, Nuçi’s Space provides a healthy, safe environment in which musicians are supported and guided to affordable, obstacle-free appropriate professional care. While appropriate treatment of brain illnesses is crucial, Nuçi’s Space also recognizes and strives to heighten awareness in order to help to identify preventive tools, including how individuals can maintain healthy lifestyles.
Since its inception, Nuçis’ Space has financially assisted 2,000+ musicians, subsidized 23,000+ appointments with mental health professionals, at a cost of over $1.2 million.
Describe your biggest challenge as executive director of Nuçi’s Space.
I don’t know if there is just one challenge that stands out from the others. The challenge is finding balance among all the roles and responsibilities that come with the job. I’ve found that the best way to overcome this challenge is to hire great people and lean on them to help navigate the daily ups-and-downs of managing a nonprofit organization.
How does Nuçi’s Space collaborate with UGA?
Our collaboration with UGA and its students is almost too extensive to share in its entirety. In addition to the students who volunteer with us, we regularly work with the Music Business Program, AU/UGA Medical Partnership, Institute for Nonprofit Management and Leadership, School of Social Work, Student Health Center and the UGA Police Department. The University of Georgia has been a terrific partner in our growth and we continue to look for new and exciting ways to collaborate.
How has your UGA education prepared you for this role?
In addition to the high caliber of professors, fellow students and endless learning opportunities, the attribute that really makes the University of Georgia stand out is its commitment to service learning and community engagement. The opportunity to apply the lessons learned in the classroom to real-world situations is unparalleled.
How has the community perception of mental health evolved since you started at Nuçi’s Space?
I was hired as the executive director in 1999. Fortunately, I have seen some improvement in how depression and suicide are perceived by the public. Most of the stigma related to mental illness can be attributed to a lack of understanding and misinformation. The more we talk about mental illness, share our personal stories and feel empathy for each other, opportunities to lessen the stigma will occur. This weekend, during the third quarter of the UGA vs. South Carolina football game, the crowd will be asked to hold up three fingers in remembrance of Tyler Hilinski, the brother of South Carolina’s quarterback Ryan Hilinski. Tyler lost his battle with mental illness when he took his own life in 2018. Twenty years ago, I couldn’t have imagined that 92,746 football fans would pause for a moment to honor those we’ve lost or who continue to suffer with a mental illness.
Did you have a favorite professor?
I had great professors and lecturers throughout my undergraduate and graduate programs. My experience as a student in the Terry Part-time MBA Program was beyond what I could have hoped for. Some of the professors who come to mind are Dr. Ann Buchholtz, Dr. Dwight Lee, Charles Lankau III, and Dr. Bob Boehmer. However, I attribute a good portion of my professional success to Dr. David Harvey. His financial accounting class was very challenging, but it solidified the work ethic my parents instilled in me when I was younger. I have such a profound respect for Dr. Harvey and was delighted when he accepted a position on the Nuçi’s Space Board of Directors earlier this year, nearly 12 years after I attended my first class with him.
What is your favorite part of teaching?
I have been fortunate to teach Theory and Management of Nonprofit Organizations, Social Entrepreneurship and Nonprofit Leadership through the Institute for Nonprofit Management and Leadership at the UGA School of Social Work for the past 8 years. My favorite part of teaching are the ongoing relationships I have with students. I try to incorporate a Socratic style of teaching so that we discover, analyze, discuss and solve problems in the classroom together. Often my interaction with students extends beyond graduation. I receive occasional emails from former students who stay in contact with me. I love watching them transition from students into colleagues.
Has teaching enhanced your ability to perform your role at Nuçi’s Space?
Absolutely. The blessing and curse of teaching very smart students is that they keep me on my toes. My responsibility as an instructor to stay current on trends and best practices in the nonprofit sector directly impacts my role as an executive director.
Most meaningful experience at Nuçi’s Space?
I have so many great experiences at Nuçi’s Space that it’s impossible to choose just one. One of my proudest moments was when my work at Nuçi’s Space and my involvement with UGA coincided. Nuçi’s Space has been recognized four times (2012,2013, 2015, 2016) as a Bulldog 100 business, recognizing the 100 fastest growing businesses owned or run by an alumnus.
While the Bulldogs earned a “W” versus Notre Dame last month, one surprising brand also took home a marketing ‘win.’ Irish Spring, a popular soap line, enjoyed 15 minutes of internet fame thanks to an idea from Mallory O’Brien (ABJ ’12), the co-vice president for the NYC Dawgs and a social media community manager at Colgate-Palmolive, Irish Spring’s corporate parent.
After Georgia-based grocery chain Dill’s Food City announced in a now-viral post that it wouldn’t sell Irish Spring prior to the game against the Fighting Irish, Mallory had some great ideas that led to the brand reacting accordingly.
Though there had never been a reason for Irish Spring to need a Twitter presence, this turned into the perfect opportunity to start a social media storm. Now verified with over 3,000 followers, the account has been an immediate success.
In Irish Spring’s second tweet ever, the brand poked fun at the grocery store and claimed they were about to send a whole lot of soap to Athens. This gained almost 3,000 retweets and over 16,000 likes.
Irish Spring jumped head-first into the social media space, but followed only four accounts–the University of Georgia being one of them. But this wasn’t the brand’s only impact on the internet. Mallory suggested sending brand ambassadors to campus for that glorious–and crowded–football Saturday in Athens.
Who would have anticipated that a Bulldog was behind this campaign from ‘up north?’ Surprising as it may be, we know that all great things start at the University of Georgia.
Here’s to good, clean fun and a Georgia win!
This article was written by Leigh Raynor Arndt.
All Bulldogs know that Saturdays in Athens are not for sweatpants. For those seeking a more refined gameday look, alumna Melissa Mahoney (BFA ’87) has designed a particularly stylish way to don your red and black. Her beautiful silk scarves have landed in the UGA Bookstore and embody Melissa’s love for her alma mater. The scarves’ combined artistry and practicality reflect the story of Melissa’s career–a path she began as a UGA student.
With several artists in her family, Melissa comes by her creative streak honestly. An Atlanta native, she now lives in Palo Alto, California. She’s led her own graphic design firm, Indigo Creative, since 1993. The success of her business now allows her to spend more time on another passion: painting.
Melissa’s scarf design uses high-energy swirls that run throughout her latest “Vortices” series, which is a collection of paintings and textiles. In addition to designing for UGA, she’s created scarves for Stanford and tech-juggernaut Google. And she’s been her own boss for more than 25 years. She attributes much of this success to the knowledge and skills she gained at UGA.
Melissa’s graphic design major and fine arts minor gave her practical know-how while allowing her to explore her artistic side. “Not all graphic designers can draw and paint, but these are great skills to have,” said Melissa. “They have helped me stand out in my field.”
After graduation, Melissa pursued graduate studies through UGA Cortona, a program that just celebrated its 50th anniversary. In Italy, Melissa was inspired by seeing in person the art that she’d studied for years. The trip also emboldened her. “Going to Italy gave me the courage to try new things and venture out,” said Melissa. Ultimately, her experience abroad led her to follow her dream of living in California.
After a few years working in Atlanta, Melissa packed up her belongings and drove across the country to the West Coast. With no job offer in tow, the move was risky. But the reward for her bravery has been a long career in California, the state that now “feels like home.”
Melissa continues to exhibit the courage she developed at UGA. A cold call and months of determination led to her Google scarf. A scarf for another tech giant will soon be on the way, too.
“There are so many ways to make a living as an artist,” Melissa said. “I’m lucky to do what I love. And I love sharing my passion. Seeing others enjoy my art brings me so much joy.”
Visit Melissa in Athens on November 22 and 23 for a “Scarf Pop-up” at the UGA Bookstore! Learn more.
And on Sunday, October 20, San Francisco Bulldogs can let their creative side loose during a workshop Melissa will lead at the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara.
6/29/20: Renewvia continues to grow its work in Africa. Find out more on the company’s plans to expand in Kenya, Nigeria and all of Africa.
Trey Jarrard (AB ’93) is the CEO of Renewvia Energy. He founded Renewvia Energy in 2008 to develop solar power systems in financeable favorable regions across the United States. Under his leadership, the company expanded internationally in 2013 to develop utility-scale solar in Uruguay and then, hybrid and standalone solar photovoltaic and battery-powered microgrids in the Marianas Islands in 2016, Kenya in 2018 and Nigeria in 2019. Today, Renewvia operates under an expanded mission not only to add value to its U.S. clients, but also to improve the quality of life for people who live in power challenged areas while providing above market returns for investors.
Trey came to Athens recently to speak to several classes and tour campus. We asked him a few questions to find out more about what he does, his company and how his time at UGA shaped his professional path.
What made you want to start your own business? And why this particular business?
Opportunistic timing with target market. Specifically the activation of substantial commercial tax benefit for renewables in the US led me into the solar sector.
How did your time at the University of Georgia impact your professional and personal path?
Peer connections made at UGA directly introduced a unique track that would otherwise not have manifested in any form. One specific UGA connection changed my professional path completely from one sector over a short period of time that resulted in me identifying the current opportunity I am pursuing.
What is your favorite part of campus to revisit? What brings you back or keeps you connected to UGA?
The campus has grown so substantially over the last 25 years, some areas are difficult to recognize but old campus remains my favorite.
What are you most proud of professionally?
Being part of the initial funding of a large publicly traded company and starting an international company.
Many governments, non-profits, and individuals are working to create a more sustainable society and a more sustainable economy. Where do you see Renewvia fitting in to these efforts? What role can your work play in building a better future?
Renewvia is directly contributing to multiple governments in sub-Saharan to help solve poverty through provision of affordable and reliable sustainable power. Every solar microgrid Renewvia builds in Africa directly replaces a form of fossil fuel, disposable batteries or solid fuel, thus avoiding and reducing carbon emissions. Providing power in these communities directly impacts health, productivity, safety and gender equality. Improvements in each of these areas provides the people of these communities a critical element for improving quality of life in multiple forms.
If you could give one piece of advice to students, what would it be?
Meet as many people as you can, get to know them, learn from them and stay in touch.