Life changing! (a salute to mentorship)

Featuring guest blogger Sara Ervin, Class of 2022

Meet Sara Ervin.

In her own words, Sara is an “untraditional student” who had a circuitous route to where she is today.  She came to the University of Georgia after obtaining her bachelor’s degree in rural studies from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and a master’s degree in mass communication from Valdosta State University.

She admits her academic focus could, at times, wander. She initially entered college to become a veterinarian. But then a strong desire to help people made her change course. While she wasn’t clear about precisely what she wanted to do, there was one nagging thought in the back of her mind – a career in the FBI. “I’m very protective,” she says. “Taking down the bad guys seemed like a good choice.” Still, that notion seemed more like a dream than a reality. She didn’t even know the first step to take, so she tucked the idea away.

She came to work at UGA as a student/faculty coordinator, responsible for managing student services and faculty affairs for the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics within the College of Public Health. But she still wrestled with “exactly what I wanted to do with my life.”

In 2018, she gained acceptance to begin work on a PhD in UGA’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication program. Still employed full time at UGA, and now a part-time PhD student, her plate was full. That’s where the UGA Mentor Program came into play.

Let’s let Sara pick up her story from here in her own words:

In August 2019, a few weeks into the semester, I received an email about the UGA Mentor Program. It doesn’t matter what level you are in your educational journey; you should always seek and accept help whenever you can. The overview was just a 30-minute presentation, so I thought, ‘what was there to lose?’

I understand the benefits a mentor can have, but I never had one before. Knowing what I know now, I wish I could have had this opportunity when I was a freshman in college. Hindsight is 20/20, and that is why I am so passionate about sharing my story.

A unique feature of the UGA Mentor Program is the ability to search and choose from a vast number of mentors. All mentors are UGA alumni who are volunteering their time and expertise. There is an online platform making it easy to find one that fits your needs.

My interest and research areas include crisis communication, disaster preparedness, and terrorism/counter-terrorism. I considered this niche as unique and not a popular combination, so I was not getting my hopes up about finding someone that fit all these criteria.

But after an hour of reading profiles under the keywords like crisis communication, terrorism, and disaster, I found an alumnus by the name of Mark Ball, who graduated UGA with a bachelor’s in international affairs (AB ’08). Mark is currently a lieutenant in the United States Navy. He has been in the Navy for over seven years; his experience matched each of my ‘unique’ interests. I clicked his name, sent him an email about myself asking for him to be my mentor. Within a couple days there was a reply. A few emails later, our first meeting was set.

Since he is stationed halfway around the world, we met via FaceTime and it went great.

The UGA Mentor Program provides many resources to help you prepare and use to ensure that one-on-one sessions with a mentor go smoothly and successfully. After an hour and a half, we got to know each other personally and professionally, established goals, and set expectations. Our relationship grew organically. We hit it off, and the time truly flew by.

The mentoring was very structured. After each of our meetings, there were deliverables I was responsible for preparing before our next meeting. Mostly my idea, but he agreed they would help. For instance, one task was to put into writing 1) Why I want to get a PhD, 2) Identify areas I want to research and why, and 3) Why I want to be an FBI Agent.

We would discuss my goals and these topics in depth. Mark asked a few questions. I remember the moment like it was yesterday. He listened and about halfway through, in a very calm tone as if he were telling me the weather, he asks, ‘Have you ever considered the Navy Reserves, as an intelligence officer? This could also be a beneficial segue into the FBI.’

I wish I could say that the Hallelujah Chorus rose in the background and fireworks shot off, but that was not the case. I had not considered joining the military in over a decade. I pondered a military career in high school when we had a career day, but quickly swatted away the idea.

But I am a nerd. I love to learn things. Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the more you know! So, I did my due diligence. I spent weeks researching his suggestion, looking at the ins and outs of the Navy, the intelligence world, and the military in general. I asked friends and family for their input. I thought and prayed about it.

Then one sunny day in October, I contacted a Navy recruiter. After we met, I thought and prayed about it a bit longer, before deciding this is exactly what I needed and should do. I finally know what I want to do for the rest of my life!

Mark has been by my side every step of the way. He has not only guided me along the steps of entering the military, which is not an easy feat, but he has also helped guide me in my studies. Many of our conversations have been about current events and what research topics would be beneficial. If I can learn and research pertinent information about my future career field, why not?

Our ongoing mentor/mentee relationship has been truly life changing. I can honestly say that I had no idea that I would benefit as much as I have from the relationship or the program. I can only imagine what I would have gotten from this program had I had the same opportunity my freshmen year in college.

I am forever grateful to Mark and the UGA Mentor Program. I cannot recommend this program enough. It is beneficial for any age, educational level, or stage of life. One day, I hope I can give back to a student just as much as Mark and the program have given to me.

Inspired by this life changing story? Want to play a role in helping a student achieve their dreams?

 

University of Georgia unveils 40 Under 40 Class of 2020

The University of Georgia Alumni Association has unveiled its 40 Under 40 Class of 2020. This annual recognition program celebrates the personal, professional and philanthropic achievements of successful UGA graduates under the age of 40.

This year’s honorees work in a variety of industries and include a Paralympic athlete, a veterinarian for SeaWorld, an emergency room doctor in New York City, a policy director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a “Good Morning America” producer.

“This year’s honorees highlight the amazing work UGA graduates are doing early in their careers,” said Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of alumni relations. “Among this year’s class are individuals who are solving some of the greatest challenges facing our country and the world. During a particularly challenging year, we are especially proud to call them members of the Bulldog family.”

The 2020 Class of 40 Under 40, including their graduation year(s) from UGA, city, title and employer, are:

Ashish Advani (PHARMD ’07), Atlanta, Georgia, CEO, InpharmD

Thomas D. Beusse (AB ’08), Marietta, Georgia, Executive Director, Georgia Retail Association

Ginny Barton Bowen (BS ’04), Atlanta, Georgia, Lieutenant Commander, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Eddie Beanard Bradford Jr. (BBA ’04), Atlanta, Georgia, Tax Principal, Frazier & Deeter LLC

Laine Bradshaw (BSED ’07, MED ’07, PHD ’11), Athens, Georgia, Founder and CEO, Navvy Education LLC

Jeffrey Brown (AB ’05), Decatur, Georgia, Vice President of Development and Marketing, Partnership Against Domestic Violence

Geary D. Bush (BSA ’03), Gainesville, Georgia, General Surgeon, Longstreet Clinic

John D. Cates (AB ’07, MBA ’11, JD ’12), Augusta, Georgia, Chief Operating Officer, Meybohm Real Estate

Stacey A. Chavis (MSL ’19), Brookhaven, Georgia, Managing Director, Campaigns Academy

Rennie Curran (BBA ’17), Atlanta, Georgia, CEO, Keynote speaker, Author and Personal Development Coach, Game Changer LLC

Chuck Efstration (AB ’04), Auburn, Georgia, State Representative, Georgia General Assembly

Wells Ellenberg (AB ’13), Washington, D.C., Governmental Affairs Manager, Southern Company

Claire Erlacher-Reid (DVM ’08), Orlando, Florida, Senior Veterinarian, SeaWorld Florida

Jason Faircloth (BSAE ’05), Carrollton, Georgia, Vice President of Sales, National Accounts, Southwire Company LLC

Tsion Firew (BS ’07), New York, New York, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center

Houston A. Gaines (AB ’17, AB ’17), Athens, Georgia, State Representative, Georgia General Assembly

Adam Gobin (AB ’06, BS ’06, MPH ’08), Atlanta, Georgia, Assistant Vice President, Wellstar Health System

Leslie Hale (MPA ’13), Athens, Georgia, Executive Director, Books for Keeps

Mamie Marie Harper (BSW ’09), Atlanta, Georgia, Executive Director and Founder, Carrie’s Closet of Georgia

Jack Hartpence (AB ’15), Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Co-Founder and CEO, Powwater

Jasmin Severino Hernandez (AB ’13, AB ’13), Brookhaven, Georgia, Associate Attorney, Chamberlain Hrdlicka at Law

Eric Jones Jr. (AB ’12, ABJ ’12), New York, New York, Entertainment Producer, ABC News, Good Morning America

Brittany DeJarnett Kisner (BSED ’07), Aiken, South Carolina, Co-Founder and Chairman, The Kevin and Brittany Kisner Foundation

Samantha Arsenault Livingstone (BSED ’05, MED ’08), Williamstown, Massechusetts, Founder and CEO, Livingstone High Performance

Cheryl L. Maier (AB ’04, BS ’04), Atlanta, Georgia, Medical Director, Emory Special Coagulation Laboratory, Emory University School of Medicine

Jay McCracken (BS ’05), Atlanta, Georgia, Neurosurgical Oncologist, Piedmont Atlanta Hospital Brain Tumor Center

Ashley McMaster (ABJ ’06), Washington, D.C., Vice President, Membership and Development America’s Essential Hospitals

Erin Mordecai (BS ’07), Stanford, California, Assistant Professor, Stanford University

Kiana C. Morris (MBA ’14), Atlanta, Georgia, Associate Director for Policy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

David G. Quintero (BBA ’06), Armed Forces Pacific, Deputy Director for Dental Specialists, Periodontist, United States Navy

Jamelia Outlaw Smith (ABJ ’03), Atlanta, Georgia, Director, Diversity and Inclusion, Cox Enterprises

Matt Stevens (AB ’03, MPA ’14), Athens, Georgia, Vice President of Strategic Impact, Creature Comforts Brewing Co.

Mikaya Thurmond (ABJ ’12), Raleigh, North Carolina, Anchor and Reporter, WRAL-TV

Charles T. Tuggle III (BS ’05), New Orleans, Louisiana, Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgery, LSU Health Sciences Center

Jarryd Wallace (AB ’19), Watkinsville, Georgia, Professional Athlete and Director of Affordable Blade Project, Xiborg Inc., United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee

Lauren K. Ward (JD ’07, MNR ’12, PHD ’17), Boone, North Carolina, General Counsel and Director of Regulatory Affairs, Forest Landowners Association

Franklin West (PHD ’08), Athens, Georgia, Associate Professor, University of Georgia

Amanda Dalton Wilbanks (BBA ’09), Gainesville, Georgia, Owner and Founder, Southern Baked Pie Company

Matthew Wilson (BSA ’06, JD ’14), Brookhaven, Georgia, Attorney, Wilson Law Firm, State Representative, Georgia General Assembly

Tosha Dunnigan Wright (BSFCS ’05), Douglasville, Georgia, Co-Founder, The Wright Stuff Chics

Nominations for 40 Under 40 were open from February to April, and 374 alumni were nominated for this year’s class. Honorees must have attended UGA and uphold the Pillars of the Arch, which are wisdom, justice and moderation. Additional criteria are available on the UGA Alumni website.

Due to the challenges presented by COVID-19, there will not be a 40 Under 40 Awards Luncheon this fall. Plans to celebrate this year’s class virtually are under way.

Brighten your screen while working from home

Video conferencing is an essential tool for those working from home and sheltering in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many video conference platforms, such as Zoom and Teams, allow users to bring a little creativity and inspiration to the work day with custom backgrounds. So we asked, why not let UGA alumni artists help you step up your background game?

These creative Bulldogs hold degrees from across campus, and their creations are the perfect backdrop to brighten even the most mundane virtual meeting. We have sized these to the specifications for Zoom, but anticipate they can be used in other platforms.

Meet the Artists

Laura Deems (BFA ’17)

Laura Deems is an Atlanta-based abstract artist who earned her bachelor’s degree from UGA. She has a background in textile design and a fascination with color theory, and this quote from her website puts it better than we could: “The canvas ceases to serve as a window to convey images and ideas for her, becoming a field for the visual marriage of line and color. The immediacy and freedom of her bold marks against swaths of brilliant hues are the defining vehicle of her work that collectors and designers alike just can’t get enough of.”

Natalie French (BSA ’05, DVM ’12)

Natalie French is a self-taught artist and designer who prefers the “calming, whimsical feel” of watercolor. She started her company, Tulip Magnolia Art + Design, in 2015 when she was 8 months pregnant with her second daughter. She is a licensed veterinarian and practiced equine medicine after vet school, and now spends time with her two daughters and painting. She enjoys spending time outside, which influences her adventure shirts.

Natalie Kilgore (AB ’06)


Natalie Kilgore started her stationery business, Natty Michelle Paperie, in 2009. In the beginning, she designed wedding stationery and hand-drawn maps for couples getting married. Over 10 years later, she has now expanded her business to offer a variety of handmade products that feature her artwork, including prints, gifts, and apparel. She frequently collaborates with other small businesses in Georgia and across the country to develop new product lines, such as letterpress goods, woodcut ornaments, and screen printed T-shirts. Natalie works out of her home studio just outside of Athens, and lives with her husband and two children. Shop her collection online or follow her on Instagram.

Clay McLaurin (BFA ’00)


Trained as a textile designer, Clay McLaurin started his career designing for a jacquard mill in New York City. He then moved from designing to teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design and at UGA’s Lamar Dodd School of Art. Well-versed in textile knowledge, Clay brings his personal discoveries to life in a collection of textiles and wall coverings for the home. Clay is the founder of Clay McLaurin Studio; his works can be found in showrooms in the United States, Australia, England, and Canada.

Isabella Nixon (BFA ’20)

Isabella Nixon is a recent UGA graduate and former member of the Student Alumni Council with a degree in interior design from the Lamar Dodd School of Art. Isabella’s art skills include free-hand drawing, architectural drafting, computer-aided design, AutoDesk, SketchBook, physical and electronic models, and other graphic media. She has presented ideas both visually and verbally by integrating knowledge of historic and contemporary architecture and interior design. Isabella has a strong passion for photography, graphic design, and the arts.

Ryan Sichelstiel (ABJ ’15)


Ryan Sichelstiel hails from South Georgia. In 2015, he graduated from UGA with a degree in advertising and studio art and a certificate in personal and organizational leadership. As a New York City-based senior hybrid graphic designer, Ryan has experience with both print (layout and editorial) and digital (social media, banner ads, iconography, web design, presentation).

Planning to inspire generations to come

Connie Crawley and her husband Art are long-time members of the Athens community with a passion for music, art and higher education. Since moving to Athens in 1987, the Crawleys have witnessed the ongoing transformation of the University of Georgia and its surrounding community. Connie was a Cooperative Extension state nutrition and health specialist for 28 years, and Art earned a doctorate from UGA’s Mary France Early College of Education. Classes and student performances introduced the couple to UGA’s campus culture and grew their love for opera, theater and art. Their belief in the power of a holistic college education is reflected in their support for both academics and campus culture.

Their experiences on campus inspired the Crawleys to leave a legacy that would benefit students for years to come. As beneficiaries of scholarships that aided their own educations, they understand the importance of lifting the financial burden of higher education. Connie and Art chose to make a planned gift that will fund future student scholarships and ensure future students have the same opportunities they enjoyed for growth through educational and cultural experiences. The Connie Crawley Travel Award Fund and the Art Crawley Graduate Student Support Fund will provide financial aid to UGA students in perpetuity.

Connie’s advice is, “If you want to have a long-term impact on the future, donate to an institution of higher education. It will guarantee the continued strength of our nation and the world. Education isn’t just about getting a job; it is about getting a broader mindset and worldview.”

Art’s experience working at other universities instilled in him the joy of watching students grow and evolve into new people. Connie sums up their philosophy, “We know we owe these institutions for what they have given to us. This is the least we can do.”

Interested in learning how you could create a lasting legacy? Plan today to change lives tomorrow.

Kevin Jones (BSFCS ’05) connects UGA to his business

Kevin Jones (BSFCS ’05) wears red and black proudly everywhere he goes. Whether he’s at work or home, people know he is a Georgia Bulldog by the passion he exhibits. Kevin currently serves as the senior procurement manager at RaceTrac where he has been instrumental in connecting his company with the University of Georgia.

A first-generation college student, Kevin was attracted to UGA because of the school’s reputation and the variety of cultural scenes in Athens: music, food, football, Greek life and the arts. Athens is a special place that offers something for everyone, a perfect complement to the university.

Upon graduation, Kevin started his career with Kauffman Tires before serving in the United States Army for five years. After his years of service, he went to work for McMaster-Carr, during which time he earned an MBA. The program prepared him for his position at RaceTrac, where he has been for the last four years.

In his early days at RaceTrac, Kevin noticed the company was hiring across the state and region for supply chain positions, but not from his alma mater. He was determined to change that. He knew the supply chain program at UGA was growing and the students graduating from the program were experienced and knowledgeable. It was clear the supply chain program was striving to become a prominent program in the state, and he wanted to see more red and black at RaceTrac.

RaceTrac provides a collaborative, light-hearted and family-like environment. Working in an open space allows access to senior executives at the company and creates a ripple effect of fun. The company operates cross-functionally, overlapping departments and opening the door to innovative ideas. Because of the welcoming culture of the company and the inter-connectivity among departments, Kevin knew it would be a great learning environment for supply chain students.

While attending last summer’s UGA corporate alumni event, Kevin connected with UGA’s Office of Corporate Relations who introduced him to Marty Parker, director of the UGA Supply Chain Advisory Board. The advisory board serves as the primary point of contact between industry and the UGA Supply Chain program, ensuring that the supply chain curriculum meets the needs of employers, providing speakers for classes, and connecting employers to bright talent. Kevin joined the board on behalf of RaceTrac to create a pipeline of supply chain talent from UGA.

“Investing in the university as a company representative is what I should be doing as an alumnus, in my opinion,” said Kevin. “I believe that by supporting UGA with time and financial generosity, a company or individual is investing in future employees.”

Kevin encourages current students to take advantage of networking and experiential learning opportunities, including internships, while also enjoying Athens and all the city has to offer. For those who have just graduated, his advice is timely, “Give yourself grace. It’s not going to be perfect but failure is part of growth.”

Chloe Washington (BS ’07) is here to help

Chloe Washington (BS ’07) is a woman filled with passion. She is passionate about her work, passionate about helping children and passionate about the University of Georgia.

As a senior program manager in marketing operations at Mailchimp in Atlanta, she loves working for an organization focuses on helping small businesses be successful, and she enjoys mentoring those early in their career to help them acquire the skills to succeed and find their career passion.

Washington is equally passionate about the University of Georgia. In high school, she wanted to attend a good school with lots of team spirit, and UGA fit the bill. She still gets chills when she heads to Athens because it feels like coming home; she met some of her closest friends at UGA, and she stays in touch with former professors. She graduated in 2007 with a fashion merchandising degree from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and then found her way into project management. There’s been no stopping her since.

She makes it a habit to attend events with several alumni groups, including Women of UGA, UGA Black Alumni and UGA Young Alumni. She participates in UGA’s “Give That Dawg a Bone,” by writing letters to incoming freshmen. She finds it fulfilling to share tips and advice with these new students. She always includes her email address and some of the students keep in touch with her throughout their college career.

Washington’s best advice to college students is to find a balance between freedom and discipline, and to leave space to explore new options.

“There’s nothing wrong with changing course, and being willing to pivot can lead to new opportunities,” Washington says.

In addition to helping college students, Washington is passionate about helping children. She has spent a lot of time volunteering with a nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring joy to children experiencing homelessness through the magic of birthdays. Although the organization is headquartered in Dallas, Washington saw a great need for it in Atlanta, and she was instrumental in helping to get it started there. It is now a regular program at three different shelters in Atlanta.

Washington also has had the opportunity to share her love of the Bulldogs with her cousin and uncle, who also attended UGA.

“Football season is really an exciting time for my family because red and black runs deep in our blood,” Washington says.

At home with the kids this summer?

By Frances Beusse and Jennifer Johnson, UGA Alumni Association

Summer is officially here, but it looks a little different than those past. If your traditional summer plans have been canceled, we’ve put together a few UGA-themed activities to enjoy with your kids instead.

Scroll through each section below (swipe on mobile) and have a wonderful summer, Dawgs!

Head Outdoors

State Botanical Garden of Georgia

Scavenger Hunt

Explore the great outdoors by participating in one of the many scavenger hunts available at the Botanical Gardens of Georgia.

Green Thumb

Plant a garden with tips from UGA Extension Office and 4-H.

Concrete Canvas

Grab some chalk and create your best “Go Dawgs,” Super G or Bulldog driveway art.

Get Active

UGA Cross Country Student Athlete Morgan Green Training

Dancing Shoes

Candace Haynes is teaching virtual dance classes presented by the Black Alumni Leadership Council. Check the alumni events calendar to attend the next one!

Football Ready

Get in football shape! UGA Football Director of Strength and Conditioning Scott Sinclair has posted several workouts on Twitter so you can follow along at home.

Read Together

UGA Alumni Author Books for Kids

Young Adults

Is your older child into the Young Adult Fantasy genre? Check out Rebecca Ross (AB ’12) and Jackson Pearce (AB ’07), authors who both graduated from Franklin College with degrees in English.

The Magician’s Hat

For younger readers, check out “The Magician’s Hat” by former UGA football player and Super Bowl champion, Malcolm Mitchell (AB ’15).

Virtual Camp

In addition to writing children’s books, Malcolm also provides a free summer READCamp for K-12 students through his Share the Magic Foundation.

Be A Star

Rennie Curran (BBA ’17) is a former UGA Football player and Class of 2020 40 Under 40 Honoree. He wrote the children’s book, “What Does It Take To Be A Star?” with his daughter Eleana.

Enjoy the Arts

UGA Student Playing the Trumpet

At Home Museum

Explore the Georgia Museum of Art at Home. Learn more about glass art and oil abstractions—or find toddler activities like swipe art and more.

Concerts

Watch Hodgson at Home presented by the UGA School of Music.

Coloring Time

Uga X Coloring PageGrab your crayons, markers or colored pencils and enjoy these coloring pages from the UGA Alumni Association and UGA Athletic Association—no need to stay in the lines!

Take a Virtual Trip

UGA Sanford Stadium Aerial

Alaska

Learn about Alaskan native culture and traditions by watching 2019 Peabody Nominee Molly of Denali on PBS Kids.

Sanford Stadium

Do your kids like Minecraft? Take a Minecraft virtual tour of Sanford Stadium or check out the 2020 virtual Commencement created by UGA students.

Camp

Virtually visit 4-H summer camps supported by UGA and participate in daily activities ranging from environmental education to livestock judging!

For more information and resources, please visit the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, 4-H or Georgia Public Broadcasting.