2023 G-Day date set, chase for history begins

This year, the University of Georgia could become the first school in modern college football history to win three consecutive national championships, and the Dawgs’ road to glory begins on G-Day, April 15, in Sanford Stadium.

The annual G-Day spring scrimmage will pit Bulldog against Bulldog, capping a month of spring practices with an intra-squad game between the Red team and Black team. G-Day could tell us much about what we’ll see in the fall: who succeeds Stetson Bennett at quarterback? How will Georgia account for departed defensive lineman Jalen Carter? Can the Dawgs find a counterpart for Brock Bowers as dominant and versatile as Darnell Washington?

Kirby Smart plays his cards notoriously close to the vest, so we may not get answers to all these questions, but light will be shed on how UGA plans to transition from 2022 to 2023.

The G-Day game will be open to the public, so watch this space and the UGA Athletics site for information on how you can get a seat in Sanford for our first glimpse of what could be a history-making squad. UGA alumni can also update their info to make sure they’re getting the latest UGA info—about the upcoming season and much more—sent directly to them.

Kelly Layton supports UGA’s future artists and designers

University of Georgia alumna Kelly Layton made a significant investment in the future of the program that gave her her start with a $500,000 gift to create the Layton Graphic Design Endowment.

“Georgia has a great graphic design program, and more people need to know about it,” said Layton. “If you want to pursue art, UGA presents such a great opportunity: a quality program, a rich campus community and a well-rounded, liberal-arts education.”

The endowment will provide substantial support for the graphic design area—part of UGA’s Lamar Dodd School of Art. Graphic design is the most high-demand, selective major in the School of Art, and with her contribution, Layton hopes to both elevate the program and inspire future artists and designers.

“This gift will be transformative for graphic design and our students as we have minimal to no discretionary funds,” said Julie Spivey, graphic design professor and area chair. “We truly cannot thank Kelly enough.”

Layton, who received her bachelor of fine arts degree in 1990, is a longtime donor to the university along with her husband, Brent. Her gift came after a campus visit to the School of Art.

“I had not been to see the graphic design area since I was in school,” said Layton. “And after I went, met with the professors, listened to what the area’s needs were and sat in on a class, I knew the difference I could make and knew I had to contribute.”

Layton works on her senior portfolio in 1990.

Layton works on her senior portfolio in 1990.

Layton’s gift is the largest single commitment in the graphic design area’s history. Spivey, along with the rest of the graphic design faculty, believe that the endowment will help to further improve the small, but accomplished area of study.

Layton herself secured a design position at BellSouth after she graduated, and for half a decade, she climbed the ranks there until the tragic death of her younger sister led her to re-evaluate her life. She decided then to devote herself to supporting her family—she and Brent had a son two years prior to this decision and found they were expecting another two weeks after—and helping Brent grow his consulting business.

“I made sure to keep in touch with my art,” said Layton. “I made logos for my sons’ sports teams, did some volunteer graphic design for their schools, made logos for friends, calligraphy for weddings, things like that.”

The business she helped her husband grow opened doors that eventually led to him becoming president and COO of a company ranked 26 among the 2022 Fortune 500.

Brent and Kelly in 1987, just before that year's Georgia-Florida game.

Brent and Kelly in 1987, just before that year’s Georgia-Florida game.

Her family moved to St. Louis in 2010 and built a life there, but Georgia was never far from their minds—they continued to cheer for the Dawgs, and her oldest son even earned a master of science in business analytics degree last spring. Thanks in part to one of the Laytons’ neighbors, that affinity became something more in the last five years.

“Our neighbor was talking to us about all these organizations he was involved with, all this philanthropy, and he said, ‘First, you learn. Then, you earn. Then, you return,’” said Layton. “And I thought that was a great lesson. And so my husband and I decided: we’ve been blessed to earn a lot, we’re doing well, now we need to start returning.”

Since 2017, they have made numerous substantial gifts to UGA, committing to support—among other areas—athletics, scholarships targeting UGA students from their hometown, UGA’s study abroad program in Spain and now the graphic design endowment.

“The more involved we’ve gotten, the more connected we feel, and the more we want to do,” said Layton. “It’s been such a joy to get reconnected with the university in all these ways, to visit and feel the excitement of being on campus. We just feel like we’re home again, and this is where we want to be.”

Start the year off with Mentorship in mind

January is Mentoring Month, just in time for the beginning of a new year! New beginnings mean new opportunities, and becoming a mentor is a great way to support UGA students as the semester begins.  

In honor of International Mentoring Day on January 17th, we spoke with UGA mentee and UGA Mentor Program Ambassador Moira La Fuente (Class of 2024) and her UGA mentor Melissa Adomako (BS ’13) about their experience in the program and why they believe others can benefit too.


Why did you first choose to engage with the Mentor Program? 

Melissa: I have always been passionate about mentoring and coaching students. Even as a UGA student, I served as a resident assistant, mentoring younger students. The Mentor Program stood out to me because it was a structured way to connect with students and meet people who have similar interests to mine. 

Moira: Mentorship allowed me to be focused on my career. My major is very broad, so having a mentor with experience in different sectors was really important to my professional growth. Having Melissa as an example has been really helpful. 


What has been the most meaningful part of your experience? 

Moira: Connecting on things that are not strictly just professional has been incredibly meaningful to me. Melissa was an international student like I am, so we have connected through shared experiences beyond just career paths. 

Melissa: This relationship has truly blossomed into a friendship. Even though it is a short-term mentoring relationship, I can see our mentorship continuing on throughout our lives. Moira can always reach out to me regardless of what path she decides to take. 


What have you gotten out of the program thus far? 

Moira: I have gained a broader perspective on the different types of jobs that are available for my major. After connecting with mentors, I have realized there is much more to my major than I ever thought. 

Melissa: Staying connected with young people makes me feel young! I am always on the lookout for opportunities to share with Moira and other mentees, and I always try to find connections to my mentee. It keeps me curious and wanting to make more connections. 


What is your favorite part of the UGA Mentor Program? 

Melissa: For me, it’s getting to talk to younger people and advising them on things that I would have done differently when I was in their shoes. When I was at UGA, we did not have the Mentor Program, so I did not have people to reach out to who were in established careers. I wanted to be a resource, because I did not have that. 

Moira: The accessibility is very appealing. As a student living in Athens, I did not think I would be able to connect with a professional like Melissa who travels frequently. Having accessibility to someone who is in the field you want to be in, regardless of location, is very good. 


Why do you think that more mentees and mentors should participate in the program? 

Moira: More mentees should enroll in the Mentor Program because it is not only about professional growth, but also personal growth. It’s a great coaching relationship. 

Melissa: More mentors should join the program to share wisdom. It is always good for older people to share their knowledge with younger people and provide them with a sense of community outside of Athens. Both of my mentees have been absolutely wonderful. 


January, National Mentoring Month, is a terrific time to become a mentor and contribute to the lives of UGA students. You might be amazed how much YOU get out of giving back in this way! Learn more at mentor.uga.edu. 

Become a Mentor

Mentee to Ambassador to Mentor—coming full circle

This story first appeared on UGA Today.

Bella Sci entered the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication focused on working in the Big Apple one day. She credits her experience in the UGA Mentor Program for giving her the confidence to go after what she wanted. “I always wanted to move to NYC, but it seemed so big and so far away,” Sci explained. “Talking to mentors who had made the leap convinced me not to let my fears hold me back.”

Those mentors made Sci realize, if there ever was a time to take a chance, it was right out of college. “I had this idea that when you graduated, you had to know what you are doing. I thought decisions made at this time were permanent—would set the course of my life. My mentors reassured me that nothing is forever, and everyone is still figuring it out. ‘Believing in what is possible is almost more important than what you do right now.’ That perspective shattered any barriers in my mind,” Sci said.

Sci graduated from UGA in May 2022 and took off to New York to follow her dreams. She now works for RocaNews, a small 13-person media startup. She loves her role as community and growth lead where she is helping to build a company with the goal of delivering nonpartisan and balanced news. Sci said, “Doing something I feel passionate about makes me feel fulfilled.”

Now a UGA mentor herself, conquering self-doubt is a message Sci passes on to her own UGA mentee. “Acknowledging the role mentors played in my career development and in providing guidance through my college years, I couldn’t wait to become a mentor and return the favor,” Sci said.

Her UGA Mentee, Kelsey DuPuy (Class of 2025) is benefiting from Sci’s experience. Like Sci, DuPuy is an advertising major at Grady. “Being able to ask questions and get advice from someone who’s been here opened my eyes to things at UGA I didn’t know about. I’ve gained a frame of reference on both college life and what comes next,” DuPuy said. Following advice from Sci, DuPuy has become involved in the Red & Black and is building a network through LinkedIn. The fact that Sci worked in NYC made her an attractive mentor to DuPuy. “Bella’s story is motivating to me. It gives me confidence in the choices I’m making,” she said.

Sci first joined the UGA Mentor Program as a sophomore. “I had just transferred into UGA when a friend told me about the program. I was looking to add some professionals to my life, beyond my friends and family, hoping to gain insight into the real world after college,” Sci recalled. She said it was valuable to speak to someone who had walked in shoes she hoped to one day fill.

Sci was later inspired to become a UGA Mentor Program ambassador, giving her an opportunity to develop programming, partnerships and marketing strategies to bring heightened awareness to the mentor program. “Having had such a fantastic experience with my first mentor, I thought, ‘Why doesn’t everyone have one of these?’ I couldn’t believe people didn’t know about the program. I wanted to let everyone know what it’s like to have someone in your corner,” Sci said.

Now, Sci is a champion for becoming a mentor. “Everyone has something unique to offer. You don’t realize how valuable your experience is until you speak to someone who is looking for exactly what you have to give. I wouldn’t have known that I wanted to work in a startup if I hadn’t connected with a mentor who worked in one,” Sci said. “Your experience is everything. Share it!

January is National Mentoring Month and Jan 11 is “I am a UGA Mentor Day.” To learn more about the UGA Mentor Program, visit mentor.uga.edu.

A UGA parent paints the town red (and black)

2023 Update: The Empire State Building was lit up again in honor of the Bulldogs’ second national championship title.

Note: This was originally posted in January 2022, following the Bulldogs’ first national title.

When the Georgia Bulldogs secured their first national title in 41 years, the outpouring of emotion from University of Georgia alumni and fans was so intense, so widespread, it could’ve painted the sky red and black.

And in New York City, thanks to a UGA student’s parent, it did.

Shortly after the 2022 CFP National Championship finished, the iconic Empire State Building traded its usual illumination for red and black hues, and the world took notice.


But it wasn’t just the Empire State Building. The Helmsley Building at 230 Park Avenue also lit up the night red and black—not just on Monday night, but Sunday and Tuesday, too.

230 Park Avenue in New York City on Tuesday, Jan. 12

Timelapse of 230 Park Avenue the night of Jan. 11

Timelapse of 230 Park Avenue the night of Jan. 11

It all began with Bill Elder, managing director and executive vice president at RXR Realty. Elder, whose youngest daughter, Eliza, is a third-year studying real estate at UGA, had already started planning the lighting of 230 Park Avenue, a building in RXR’s portfolio, when he realized he had an opportunity to go even bigger.

“I had a call scheduled with Tony Malkin [chairman, president and CEO of Empire State Realty Trust, Inc., which owns the Empire State Building], so I thought I’d see if he would do a favor for me,” said Bill. “So, I reached out to him on the Saturday before the game, and I said, ‘My daughter goes to Georgia, and we’re lighting 230 in red and black in honor of the game—do you think you could light up the Empire State Building? And he said ‘Absolutely, done.'”

The following Monday night, Bill was—like the rest of us—consumed by the drama of the national championship’s final minutes and the elation of the celebration that followed, so he didn’t know that Tony Malkin came through on his promise a little bit early: “The World’s Most Famous Building” wore red and black from the moment the Dawgs claimed victory until 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Bill’s role in amplifying the joy of Bulldog Nation is spectacular enough on its own, but it becomes even more so in light of the journey he and his wife Katie took to become UGA fans. Just a few short years ago, the Elders had just a passing familiarity with the university, but once their youngest daughter, Eliza, began to take an interest in attending, things started to change.

“I’ll admit, my first reaction was ‘not a great idea, too big, she’ll get lost,’ but then I went down there, took a tour, and within about 20 or 30 minutes of being on campus, I got immediately comfortable with the place and thought UGA was a great decision,” said Bill.

Katie and Bill Elder at Sanford Stadium

Katie and Bill Elder at Sanford Stadium

Once Eliza became a student, Bill and Katie were approached by members of the Parents Leadership Council (PLC), a group of highly engaged parents who support student-focused organizations and efforts on campus.

“I didn’t realize how much need there was among UGA students,” said Bill. “So, when I heard about the outreach and the kind of need fulfillment that the PLC was doing for these great kids, I was in. How could you not want to help somebody who might be the first person in their whole family to go to college? How could you not want to give students a better chance?”

Bill and Katie have been members of the PLC ever since. Beginning this August, they will serve as chairs of the PLC’s Grants Committee, which administers grants that provide funding to a variety of organizations across UGA’s campus. Last year, the PLC Grants Program awarded 69 grants totaling over $625,000, and the program has awarded more than $3.8 million over its lifetime to groups like Designated Dawgs, the Outreach and Financial Assistance Fund at the UGA Speech and Hearing Clinic, the Student Government Association’s Clothing Closet and the University Health Center’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services Program.

So, when some of Manhattan’s most iconic structures took on the colors of the national champion Georgia Bulldogs, it was an expression of the unbounded joy of alumni and fans who had waited nearly a half-century for a championship, but it was also a culmination of the Elders’ journey.

They are not a family with generations of Bulldogs, they didn’t grow up dreaming of Broad Street or Milledge Avenue, but they believe in the university and its mission just as strongly as a third-generation Dawg from Marietta.

“We went from knowing very little to humbly hoping that we can make a difference at the university,” said Bill. “UGA has embraced us, and we embrace them. We’re really happy to be a part of it, and we’re really proud to be a part of it.”

UGA National Student Speech Language Hearing Association receives 2022 Class Gift

Each year, the University of Georgia’s graduating class leaves their mark on campus through Senior Signature, a program that empowers students to create a positive impact on a school, college, campus organization or scholarship that shaped their experience at UGA. Through a $30 gift, students are able to designate $20 to an area of their choice with the remaining $10 benefiting the Class Gift, which is awarded to an on-campus organization each year. All Senior Signature donors are eligible to participate in selecting the organization that receives funding from their Class Gift.

The Class of 2022 selected the UGA Chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) as the recipient of their Class Gift. The NSSLHA is a group of students with a shared interest in communications sciences and disorders. The organization is based in the Mary Frances Early College of Education and focuses on fundraising for the UGA Speech and Hearing Clinic to support clients in need of financial assistance and to purchase clinic materials or equipment. In addition, the NSSLHA participates in community-service projects each year through local elementary schools.

During the 2022-2023 academic year, the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association used the funds they received through the 2022 Class Gift to provide training in Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing for graduate students pursuing careers in speech-language pathology (SLP). “Having this training will allow me to participate in swallowing evaluations during my clinical internships, that I would not have been allowed to participate in without the training,” says graduate student Ansley Messina. By providing access to additional certifications, the NSSLHA is able to prepare students for their professional career, give a competitive advantage in the job market, and lessen their students’ financial burden after graduation.

“Receiving training in Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) was incredibly invaluable, especially as someone who is interested in pursuing a career in medical speech-language pathology. Not many students, or even professionals within the field receive this training for an evaluation tool that is crucial in determining an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan,” says graduate student Sam Schonhardt. “The course challenged me to integrate my academic knowledge with professional skills in a hands-on format, and it greatly improved my preparedness for my internship in an acute care hospital where FEES is utilized daily. I’m incredibly grateful to the faculty, staff, and students who made this training possible through the 2022 Class Gift.”

UGA student organizations are eligible to apply for the Class Gift each Spring to receive up to $6,000 in funds for the following academic year. One organization is chosen per year. The deadline to submit an application for the 2023-2024 academic year is Tuesday, February 28, 2023 at 11:59 p.m.



Richard Dunn and Xernona Thomas named Footsteps Award recipients

The University of Georgia has named Richard Dunn (ABJ ’93) and Xernona Thomas (ABJ ’91, MSW ’92, EDD ’17) as the recipients of the 2023 Footsteps Award. This annual award, given this year on the 62nd anniversary of desegregation at UGA, recognizes UGA graduates who are following in the pioneering footsteps of Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Hamilton Holmes and Mary Frances Early, UGA’s first African American students.

“Richard and Xernona’s commitment to education in our state is impressive,” said Meredith Gurley Johnson (BSFCS ’00, MED ’16), executive director of the UGA Alumni Association. “The work they have done in building better communities through education follows closely in the footsteps of Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Hamilton Holmes and Mary Frances Early. We are beyond excited to have the opportunity to honor them with this award.”

Dunn, now retired, served as the executive director of the Athens-Clarke County High School Completion Initiative, a program that he founded to increase the graduation rates in high schools across the county. The program focuses on helping students reach graduation and explore career and education opportunities. In 2010, he launched a weekly radio show hosted by local high school students titled “Education Matters” as part of his efforts to improve graduation rates in Athens-Clarke County, particularly for students of color.

A graduate of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Dunn’s passion for journalism drove him to establish The Athens Courier in the 1980s and address the needs of the minority community in Athens. In addition, he hosted the weekly radio show “Community Forum,” which addresses politics, community issues and more. The show is now the longest-running radio talk show in Northeast Georgia.

Thomas spent 31 years working in education as a social worker, assistant principal, principal, chief of staff, and most recently, superintendent of the Clarke County School District where she became the first woman to serve in the role. Thomas sought to reduce exclusionary discipline practices among students of color by identifying inequitable instructional and disciplinary practices and implementing leadership professional learning. She worked to increase language services, encourage parent involvement, develop a district budget to better support district instructional priorities, and opened Clarke County School District’s first charter, Schoolwide Enrichment Model, Foreign Language Acquisition Program and Professional Development School.

Thomas, who received her bachelor’s degree from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, master’s degree from the School of Social Work, and doctor of education from the Mary Frances Early College of Education, collaborated with the University of Georgia to establish the Experience UGA partnership for K-12 students that launched in 2013. During the COVID-19 pandemic, as superintendent, she provided students with technology devices and internet access while they were not meeting in person and ensured that all students 18 and younger had access to breakfast and lunch five days a week. Thomas retired as superintendent in fall 2022.

“Richard and Xernona are excellent examples of what it means to be UGA alumni,” said Yvette Daniels (AB ’86, JD ’89), president of the UGA Alumni Association. “Their combined dedication to students in the Athens community is improving lives every day. We celebrate them as members of the Bulldog family and the recipients of the 2023 Footsteps Award.”

Dunn and Thomas will be recognized during the annual Holmes-Hunter Lecture on February 28 in the UGA Chapel. The Honorable Verda M. Colvin (JD ’90), a Georgia Supreme Court justice and UGA School of Law alumna, will present this year’s lecture.

California dreamin’ your way to L.A. (and the Natty!)

It’s a given that Bulldog Nation is always up for a good road trip, and Georgia’s pursuit of its second consecutive national championship on Monday is more than enough reason to pack up your tailgating gear and hit the road!

Even better, there aren’t many better places to spend a few days than sunny California. Los Angeles is the nation’s epicenter of glitz and glamor, mixing splashes of Hollywood stardom with the sun and soul of the West Coast.

If you’re planning to cheer on the Dawgs, proudly barking at a few passers-by in the process, it’s important to come up with a game plan. There’s a lot to see and do in L.A., which is why we turned to some fellow Dawgs who call California home for some advice.

Check out these ideas from our friends at the Southern California chapter of the UGA Alumni Association and, if you visit any of them, take a pic and tag us on social using #AlwaysADawg.


Looking for a place to stay?

Unlike the Bulldogs’ trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl in 2018, many alumni and fans might be best suited by a stay on the westside of the city. Think crystal blue waters, bodybuilding by the beach and George Strait songs as Ocean Park, Marina Del Rey, Santa Monica and Venice will offer a mix of access and entertainment.

There’s no shortage of glitzy hotels, as well as price-conscious accommodations in that part of town. Here are some of the best ones to consider.

Interested in going sightseeing for celebrities during your time in California? Beverly Hills and Hollywood might be a better fit, and there are a few places worth checking out.


Getting hungry?

L.A. is a food lover’s dream, blending cultures and cuisines that will satisfy those with the most daring of culinary palettes, as well as those looking for a less adventurous meal. There’s no shortage of options!


Santa Monica:

West Hollywood / Beverly Hills:


What’s a Bulldog to do there?

  • If you want the full movie star experience, check out the iconic Chinese Theater which is located adjacent to the famed Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • The Pirate Tower on beautiful Victoria Beach looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale, and it’s just one magical spot in a place filled with fun activities from kayaking to hiking.
  • The Japanese Garden, located near Encino, is a gorgeous, tranquil space that spans 6.5 acres and features a Zen meditation garden and expansive “wet” garden designed for casual strolling.
  • Yes, we’ve given you a ton of food options here, but you can’t not check out Grand Central Market, which is a European-style food hall that’s been in operation for more than 100 years. It’s as much an experience as a culinary outing.
  • LACMA is the largest art museum in the western U.S., featuring a diverse mixture of contemporary art and ancient cultural offerings. And it’s located right next to the famous La Brea Tar Pits, so you can check off two must-do items off your list in one visit.
  • Our motto is “you’ll never bark alone” and if you visit Barney’s Beanery on N. 1st Street in Burbank, you definitely won’t as the Southern California chapter of the UGA Alumni Association regularly gathers there to cheer on the Dawgs!

Hopefully, this gives you a good idea of what to do and where to go in L.A. before the Dawgs take on Texas Christian University for the title. Check out other ways to call the Dawgs with fellow alumni as our team plays for the championship title for the second time in two years. Be sure to tag @UGAAlumni on social media so we can share photos and videos of another Bulldog Nation town takeover!

Written by Johnathan McGinty (ABJ ’00), Partner, The Trestle Collective

The Jerry Tanner Show – 2023 CFP National Championship: TCU

When Kirby lost to Vandy in 2016, dudes online had some HOT takes. I’d like to speak with those gentlemen today. Just a few quick words.

Your Georgia Bulldogs have rung the bell all season long, and they’re not slowing down any time soon! Ring the bell alongside your undefeated Dawgs by donating to your favorite school, college, department or campus resource! Give a gift of any amount and receive a spirited, limited-edition sticker sheet as a thank you: give.uga.edu/gloryglory

Jerry Tanner is everyone you’ve ever met at a UGA tailgate, everyone who’s ever talked about Georgia football by your cubicle, and every message board poster who claims to have a cousin who cut Vince Dooley’s grass. He’s a UGA alumnus, he’s a college football fanatic with a Twitter addiction, and he’s definitely a real person and not a character played by Clarke Schwabe.