Isakson gift caps $4.5 million fundraising effort for Parkinson’s research chair

The University of Georgia’s campaign to create the John H. “Johnny” Isakson Chair for Parkinson’s Research and Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) Eminent Scholar position reached its goal of $4.5 million in private commitments, and the final contributor was the former U.S. Senator for whom the chair is named.

“We are deeply honored that Senator Isakson (BBA ’66) has made this commitment to the university. His decades of service to our state and nation and his support of UGA and higher education inspired this entire effort,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “We also are very grateful for the generous gifts from additional individuals and organizations that are supporting this endowed position.”

The Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar position will help UGA attract a leading authority on brain disorders—with an emphasis on Parkinson’s, with which Isakson was diagnosed in 2015—to engage in teaching, research and public service. Fundraising for the chair attracted a variety of donors including individuals, businesses, foundations and more.

“I’m very proud to play a part in this effort,” said Isakson. “Of course, I’m honored that this position would carry my name, but more than anything, I am glad to see so many willing to give so much for this important cause. My deepest gratitude goes out to everyone who gave.”

A major supporter of the Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar position is the Georgia Research Alliance. GRA grows Georgia’s economy by expanding university research capacity and seeding and shaping startup companies around inventions and discoveries. UGA currently has 18 GRA Eminent Scholars on faculty, and a 19th is set to join the university in fall 2021.

The Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar will also be the director of UGA’s forthcoming Center for Brain Science and Neurological Disorders. Fundraising efforts are underway for the center, which will leverage UGA’s broad, comprehensive strengths to create an interdisciplinary program that will expand opportunities for collaborative and innovative solutions.

“I think the supporters of both the Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar and this new center understand the unique position UGA occupies and the potential for great work that comes with that,” said Kelly Kerner, vice president for development and alumni relations. “It’s very exciting, seeing these things come together and knowing that all the great work to come will honor a great man.”

Johnny Isakson

Isakson graduated from UGA in 1966 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in real estate. He met his future wife, Dianne, while both were UGA students, and they married in 1968. The year prior, he began working for Atlanta real estate firm Northside Realty, eventually serving as its president from 1979 to 1999.

His political career began in 1976, when he was elected to the first of seven terms in the Georgia House of Representatives. He was Republican minority leader in the Georgia House from 1983 to 1990. In 1993, he was elected to the Georgia State Senate, serving there until he was appointed chair of the state Board of Education by Gov. Zell Miller in 1996.

Isakson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999 and served as a U.S. representative until he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. He was reelected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 and 2016. Among his duties in the U.S. Senate, he served as chair of the Committee on Veterans Affairs and chair of the Select Committee on Ethics.

After his 2015 diagnosis with Parkinson’s, Isakson continued to work in public service until his health compelled him to resign from the Senate on Dec. 31, 2019. In 2017, Isakson received the Fox Foundation’s Parkinson’s Advocacy Award for his work to improve the lives of people living with the disease and for his advocacy in funding new treatments.

Minority-owned Bulldog 100 businesses have much to offer

Whether 2021 kicked off the way you imagined or not, there’s no better way to bring in February than to highlight and support the minority-owned alumni businesses that made it on this year’s Bulldog 100, a list of the fastest-growing companies owned or operated by UGA alumni! 

Explore the 2021 Bulldog 100 minority-owned businesses below. In honor of Black History Month, we’ve specifically highlighted the businesses led by Black alumni.

Black-Owned Businesses

Calendly

Calendly is an Atlanta-based online scheduling tool founded by Tope Awotona, who credits his tenacity to his experiences growing up in Lagos, Nigeria. His business offers a tool that for those who are always on the go or constantly scheduling meetings. It simplifies meeting scheduling and cuts down on unnecessary emails. Calendly’s user-friendly interface sorts out time zones, and sends reminders and confirmations.

Location: 
Atlanta, GA
Bulldog: Tope Awotona (BBA ’02), Founder/CEO

LeaseQuery

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Georgia Azih, CEO of LeaseQuery, boldly founded the business in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and recession. If you’re an accountant or financial professional, LeaseQuery is the service for you. The software helps accountants and financial professionals eliminate errors through its CPA-approved, cloud-based solution. LeaseQuery is built by accountants for accountants.  

Location: Atlanta, GA
Bulldog: Georgia Azih (BBA ’03), Founder/CEO

The Barnes Law Office LLC

The Barnes Law Office LLC logo

Latasha Barnes is an attorney, and owner and managing attorney of a law office that will fight for you. The Barnes Law Office LLC is in metro Atlanta and specializes in DUI defense, criminal defense and personal injury.  

Location: Atlanta, GA
Bulldog: Latasha Barnes (AB ’05, AB ’05), Owner and Managing Attorney 

The Brogdon Firm LLC

The Brogdon Firm provides ethical, client-centered representation for injury victims in Atlanta and across Georgia. Gino Brogdon Jr., founder and litigator of The Brogdon Firm, was named the 2018 “Attorney to Watch” for Atlanta Attorney at Law Magazine, so you can be sure you’re getting the best service. 

Location: Atlanta, GA 
Bulldog: Gino Brogdon Jr. (JD ’11), Founder and Litigator  

Edwards & Hawkins LLC

Edwards and Hawkins Law represents five decades of competent, ethical and aggressive legal representation. They specialize in wrongful death, auto and trucking collisions, vaccine injury, personal injury, business/commercial litigation and slips and falls. Cameron Hawkins, a trial lawyer at EH LAW, was recognized in 2017 as the UGA School of Law Young Alumni of Excellence. 

Location: Atlanta, GA
Bulldog: Cameron Hawkins (JD ’08), Partner 

Other Minority-Owned Businesses

Svaha USA

Svaha USA logo

Svaha USA is an online retailer specializing in science, technology, engineering, arts and math-themed (STEAM) apparel and products. Jaya Iyer found inspiration from the company through her daughter, who could not find clothing that reflected her interests. Svaha’s mission is to shatter gender stereotypes in the apparel industry and encourage STEAM education for girls and boys, and women and men. 

Location: Chantilly, VA
Bulldog: Jaya Iyer (MS ’03), CEO 

Biren Patel Engineering

Biren Patel Engineering logo

Biren Patel Engineering believes in making life simple for clients and team members. Biren Patel serves as the president and is a licensed professional engineer in 12 states and the District of Columbia. His business’s modern, yet simple, collaborative work environment better serves the power utility industry through electrical substation and solar plant engineering. 

Location: Macon, GA
Bulldog: Biren Patel (MBA ’12), President 

Agora Vintage

Agora Vintage logo

Agora Vintage is a woman-owned business in Athens that sells all the authentic designer items and estate jewelry that your heart desires. You can shop for Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermès items with a guarantee of high-quality customer service and a style that can’t be beat.  

Location: Athens, GA
Bulldog: Airee Edwards (AB ’99), CEO

Expert Technical Solutions

A successful connection — that’s what you can expect from Expert Technical Solutions, a leading provider of technical and IT talent that strives to bring companies and the right people together. The Bulldog business offers services such as customized contract, contract-to-hire, or direct-hire.

Location: Atlanta, GA
Bulldog: Ram Bhojwani (BBA ’05), President 

Murray & Osorio

Murray Osorio PLLC is a national full-service immigration law firm, connecting the world through innovative and compassionate immigration solutions for individuals and businesses. 

Location: Fairfax, VA
Bulldog: Benjamin Osorio (AB ’03), Managing Partner 

A great and growing relationship (a tribute to mentorship)

Written by guest blogger Jackson Fox (BBA ’20) who, as an undergraduate, was paired with Annie Dawson (BBA ’08) through the UGA Mentor Program.

The UGA Mentor Program was the best thing I ever did to prepare for my career.

Going into my senior year, I expected the job search to be a breeze after completing a summer internship within the insurance industry. I fully expected to have a job locked down by December. However, the idea seemed to fade after the fall career fair passed, and I hadn’t secured a job. I thought I knew everything there was to know about the insurance field. As I was struggling with the job search, one of my friends suggested I look into the UGA Mentor Program. Little did I know, it would be the game changer in helping me explore job opportunities.

My mentor is Annie Dawson. From our first conversation, I knew that Annie truly cared for me and wanted to help me succeed. Annie is the director of underwriting, national binding authorities at RT Specialty, one of the largest insurance brokerages. I had no idea what it entailed to be a director of underwriting or what it was like to work for such a large insurance brokerage. This was the start of my humbling learning experience with Annie.

In our initial conversation, Annie immediately offered to set up a job shadowing opportunity at RT Specialty’s Atlanta office. Through this experience, I met with many professionals and learned more from them than I would have ever expected. Annie also went out of her way to set up a meeting between me and a broker at Marsh & McLennan Agency. My conversation with Annie’s contact allowed me to learn more about the different aspects of the insurance world.

Through the job shadowing opportunity, informational interview, and monthly conversations with Annie, she helped me hone my interests within the insurance industry and expanded my understanding of the field. With her help, I was able to turn my career aspirations into detailed and specific career goals. I now know that I want to become an insurance underwriter thanks to my mentor.

My relationship with Annie has been truly life changing. I can honestly say I did not know that I would benefit as much as I have from our mentoring relationship through the UGA Mentor Program. I can only imagine how I would have benefitted from this program had I joined my during my freshman year in college.

Thank you, UGA Mentor Program, for facilitating such a great relationship that aided in my personal and professional growth. Thank you, Annie Dawson, for bringing out the best in others and being such a wonderful person and mentor. Having you in my corner was the greatest reward of all.

Best wishes to Jackson as he continues his job search using the clarity gained from his mentor’s guidance. If you want to change a student’s life like Annie, join the UGA Mentor Program today!

 

 

$1 million gift to promote Terry College Sustainability Initiative

The University of Georgia received a $1 million pledge to the Terry College of Business to launch the college’s new Sustainability Initiative and fund faculty support for the endeavor.

The pledge by the family of Joanna and Stuart Brown of Telluride, Colorado, will help attract, retain and support a scholar who serves as a champion for sustainable development instruction. The endowment will provide financial resources to launch the environmental initiative and annual funds to support programs at Terry for years to come.

Stuart Brown serves as a director of Brown-Forman Corp., one of the largest American-owned companies in the spirits and wine business. He graduated from UGA in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in history, and Joanna Brown earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1987. Their son, Stuart Brown Jr., graduated in 2014 with a degree in political science.

“I have been involved with many sustainability and Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance initiatives at the company,” Stuart Brown said. “It is important to us to be a sustainability leader in the beverage alcohol industry, as well as in corporate America. As Brown-Forman celebrates 150 years of business excellence, we want to encourage Terry students to embrace the vitally important values of sustainability.”

Plans for Terry’s Sustainability Initiative include hiring faculty, expanding course offerings, launching a new undergraduate area of emphasis in sustainable development and supporting new experiential learning opportunities, said Benjamin C. Ayers, dean of the Terry College of Business. The Terry College is focused on securing additional funding for a sustainability speaker series, research support, faculty-led study away programming and internship opportunities.

“With this important gift, we hope to advance a culture of sustainability within the college that transcends one course or a single major,” Ayers said. “Our goal for sustainability initiatives is to educate and inspire students to become ethical leaders who create sustainable businesses and develop innovative models that transform business in all sectors.”

Brown-Forman was founded in 1870 and is headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. It employs more than 4,700 people worldwide, with about 1,300 located in Louisville. Brown-Forman sells its products globally and has more than 25 brands, including Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester and Herradura, in its portfolio of wines and spirits.

To learn more about Terry’s new Sustainability Initiative, please contact Kathy Ortstadt in the Terry Development and Alumni Relations Office at ortstadt@uga.edu.

UGA athletics director pledges $100K to need-based aid

Josh Brooks (MS ’14), the newly named J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics at the University of Georgia, recently pledged $100,000 to create a need-based scholarship that will support UGA students from Athens-Clarke County.

“This generous gift reaffirms Josh’s commitment to the success of University of Georgia students,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “I am very excited about the future of UGA Athletics with Josh at the helm, and this scholarship gift is a terrific start to his tenure. Need-based aid is a vital tool to improve our university, so we are grateful to Josh for his support in that area.”

Brooks’ pledge came less than a week after he became UGA’s 12th director of athletics, his seventh post in 11 years working for the university’s athletic association.

“I love this town, this community, and I want to help make a difference here locally,” said Brooks. “I have three children who go to school here in Athens-Clarke County, I live here in Athens, and I’m aware of how many kids are in need in this county, so it is important to me to help these students find a pathway to the University of Georgia.”

Brooks’ gift will create a Georgia Commitment Scholarship (GCS), adding to the more than 550 endowed, need-based scholarships created under the GCS program since its launch in January 2017. These scholarships will be awarded in perpetuity and provide recipients with support through special on-campus programming in partnership with the Division of Academic Enhancement.

“Our new director of athletics has only been in the role a week, and he’s already making a positive impact at UGA,” said Kelly Kerner, UGA vice president for development and alumni relations. “Josh’s belief in the power of a UGA education—and the support he’s demonstrated as a result—will open doors for generations of students.”

Marlise O. Harrell, 1969

The scholarship, which will be named the Marlise O. Harrell Georgia Commitment Scholarship, honors Brooks’ late mother-in-law.

“Education was always important to her, it was something she always stressed with my children, her grandchildren,” said Brooks. “She had a heart of gold, and she was someone who always put other people first in everything she did.”

This gift is the latest example of Brooks’ support for the Athens-Clarke County community. He was heavily involved in the creation and implementation of the “Dawgs for Pups” initiative benefitting Athens-Clarke County students. The initiative has, to date, provided Wi-Fi hotspots and organized food and coat drives for grade-school students.

“For me, charity starts locally,” said Brooks. “So, when I was blessed with the opportunity to become director of athletics, I felt the responsibility to give back. The University of Georgia has done so much for me, and I felt it was important that I give back in a way that supports the university and the community I love.”

International mentoring does a world of good

In honor of International Mentoring Day, a highlight of National Mentoring Month, the UGA Mentor Program is featuring a couple of our international mentors and mentees.

Finding common ground a world away

Matt Hodgson outside his work

After double majoring in criminal justice and psychology at UGA, Matt Hodgson (AB ’95) went on to earn a master’s degree in forensic science from George Washington University. He now lives in Brisbane, Australia, and works for the Queensland Police Service. He has always wanted to give back to UGA in some way, and the opportunity to mentor students was a perfect opportunity.

Hodgson says he was lucky to have a couple of great mentors in college, even though UGA didn’t have a campus-wide mentorship program at the time.

“You just had to find people who would take you under their wing,” he recalled. “I was lucky to strike up some friendships with faculty members. They gave me good advice—and not just about academics—also about career paths and just life itself. I’m hoping I can do the same for someone else.”

Hodgson has mentored two UGA students. One of those students, Gabrielle Fontaine (’22), explained that she chose to contact Hodgson through the UGA Mentor Program website because of her interest in forensic psychology and the fact that he was based internationally.

“The time difference and different seasons made for great conversation and broadened my knowledge of what life is like in Australia,” Gabrielle said. “Having him as a mentor allowed me to think about expanding my search to consider a career overseas.”

For Hodgson, mentoring is a way to stay involved with the Bulldog family.

“Mentoring brings together the perfect mix for me,” Hodgson said. “I am able, with experience and hindsight, to chat and help out students with career, study or other advice—plus I get to hear and share insights about UGA life and events.”

Gaining confidence one step at a time

Portrait of Kenny Lawal

As a UGA graduate student from Nigeria, Kehinde (Kenny) Lawal (’22) struggled to acclimate to the UGA system, which differed from her home country. She also felt inferior to others on campus. Joining the UGA Mentor Program inspired her.

“It has been rewarding for me to watch her confidence grow to match her abilities and qualifications,” said Lawal’s mentor, Alex Gomez (BSBCHE ’13). He goes on to sing her praises. “She is goal-oriented, proactive and extremely qualified to excel in whatever she does.”

In addition to looking to build her confidence, Lawal joined the UGA Mentor Program because she wanted to get a clear understanding of a career in the energy industry in the United States. “I was hoping I could get direction from someone with experience in that field,” she explained. “Alex has been so great in showing me where I was and where I needed to be by setting short- and long-term goals. He has also shown me opportunities available to me at UGA that I needed to take advantage of to build a brand for myself. My focus has shifted from just getting a degree to also leveraging relationships that matter. I am looking forward to being an impactful and friendly mentor, just as Alex Gomez has been to me.”

Creating a network for success

Portrait of Zada Smith

For Zada Smith (’21), who hails from the Bahamas, enrolling at UGA wasn’t her first experience living in Georgia, but she was still surprised by how much had changed since she was a child. She described the culture shock as immense.

“The hardest part about being at UGA was feeling socially disconnected,” said Smith. “It seemed as though everyone knew people from their high schools and had a success network surrounding them. Trying to find the courage to reach out to professors and make friends was tough.”

Smith found a safe haven in the UGA Mentor Program.

“I didn’t have the courage to reach out to someone and ask for mentoring,” she said, “but the UGA Mentor Program had a platform of mentors ready to help. It was a great way to learn about my field from someone established.”

Smith’s mentor Matthew Dials (BLA ’07) said, “Having an international mentee provided a unique perspective on the challenges some students face and how important the UGA network is for providing a support system to help them succeed.”

Connecting Bulldogs with Bulldogs

The UGA Mentor Program platform is well-suited to facilitating international connections. As communication takes place via text, email, phone or video conferencing, bridging distance is no problem.

“I suppose the biggest challenge has been trying to coordinate time zones and finding the right time to call for a chat,” Hodgson explained. “Australia is a day ahead of Georgia, so I’ll be calling in the morning and speaking to a mentee who is a day behind me in the afternoon.”

There are more than 2,600 mentors in the UGA Mentor Program. While the majority are located in the United States, there are mentors in 18 other countries. All program participants agree that preparation and planning are key to a successful mentoring relationship, whether international or not. The Mentor Program provides resources to help guide discussions, set goals, and get the best results from every interaction.

UGA helped Kaitlin Miller to “serve well and wholeheartedly”

Kaitlin Miller (AB ’13, AB ’13, ABJ ’13) is passionate about the people in her life. They inspire her, they guide her and they even helped her become a Bulldog.

“UGA was a natural choice for me for several reasons,” said Kaitlin. “It was close to home. My older sister went there, and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. Some colleges are so specialized, but UGA had so much breadth that allowed me to test, try and experience.”

Kaitlin triple majored in International Affairs in the School of Public and International Affairs, Public Relations in Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and Economics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, enjoying the variety of coursework offered by all three schools.

She also participated in the Honors Program and the Student Government Association, and she was a tour leader at the UGA Visitor’s Center and a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, Palladia, Sphinx Society, Dean William Tate Society and Blue Key. All along the way, she built friendships that she maintains and treasures to this day.

Kaitlin’s favorite memory at UGA is homecoming week of her senior year. She was on the homecoming court and remembers feeling that Bulldog spirit all over campus all week long: everywhere she went and in every meeting she attended. She was amazed to see generations of alumni coming home to Athens to attend the game.

As an official ending to her college career, she gave a speech at graduation. An avid runner, she recalls running through campus, weeks beforehand, with her speech on a loop in her head. She hoped to honor those who invested in her. She recalls it was one of those moments where God carried her through.

Kaitlin’s advice to current students, “Humble yourself enough to seek counsel from those wiser than you.”

Everything that the Triple Dawg learned in her studies, through balancing extracurriculars, classes and leadership roles and by surrounding herself with people she looks up to has paid off. Kaitlin has worked at Chick-fil-A since she graduated and has served in several roles along the way: Digital Marketing, Hospitality Trainer, International Learning Designer and, currently, the Menu Team.

“I get to work with phenomenal people who are wise and kind with a strong sense of purpose and significance,” said Kaitlin.

Today, she serves as leader of Chick-fil-A’s UGA Alumni Corporate Chapter. There are currently 300 UGA alumni either on staff or operating Chick-fil-A restaurants. They like to invest in students through the connect-hire-give initiative by both mentoring and giving to Let All the Big Dawgs Eat program, a need-based food scholarship program.

“We’re a restaurant; it makes perfect sense for us to feed hungry kids and let them focus on school and leadership,” said Kaitlin.

She just finished graduate school in May. When asked what’s next, she said, “I just try to make the most of each day; serve well and wholeheartedly.”

Isobel Mills (BFA ’12) made her passion her profession thanks to a UGA education

Isobel Mills (BFA ’12) is always eager to try new things. As a child, Mills was interested in puzzles, building with Legos and drawing. She was always drawn to texture and she found a way to bring texture to life through ceramics.

She knew she wanted to major in art, but once she was accepted into the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia, she discovered the parallels between ceramics and fabrics. Once she learned to sew, there was no turning back.

“When I see a picture or a painting, I think of how to make it textural. I always see pleats,” said Mills.

She moved to New York a month after she graduated and spent the next eight years working and learning.

“My UGA degree prepared me to do many different things, and I tried many different things—from interior design to jewelry design—but I never worked as a fabric designer, so I continued to create my own fabric designs when I wasn’t working,” said Mills.

“I decided to quit my job at the end of 2016. I then made it my job to learn the business. Consequently, I made a pattern a day, learned new skills by watching YouTube videos, got certified in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and met with everyone I knew to network and pick their brains. Turns out people really and truly want to help, so don’t ever be afraid to ask—that one took me a while to learn.”

She officially launched ISOBEL in May of 2018 in NYC because she lived up the block from her dream showroom, Studio Four NYC. She knew that was where her line belonged, and she wasn’t moving until that dream became a reality. Once she got accepted into that showroom, the first domino fell: Other showrooms began reaching out, and her line slowly grew. She moved back to Georgia nearly two years later once she felt that her line had a presence.

Mills stayed in close contact with some of her UGA professors who gave her invaluable advice along the way on how to get started. One of her professors, Clay McLaurin, was five years into his launching his own brand as well, and he happily shared his experience and wisdom with her.

Her hard work eventually paid off. In addition to her online presence, her fabrics are featured in seven showrooms across the country.

Mills’ favorite memories at UGA are the times she spent with classmates and friends. She recalled the many hours outside the classroom that she spent working on projects and the enduring friendships that were born out of those long hours. For years, she’s met up with friends she met through her sorority for one football game a year, even when she lived in New York.

Her advice for current students: “Listen to your internal voice. Always do what you love, don’t give up and you will find a way to make your passion your profession.”

These days, Mills serves on the Board of Visitors at Lamar Dodd. She feels honored to sit on a board with people who have so much experience and for whom she has so much respect. She feels called to give back to the school that gave so much to her.

Calculus tutoring, broken teeth and California: the Aikens have a one-of-a-kind UGA story

Andrew (BS ’97) and Ashley Aiken (BS ’97) are an impressive pair. Andrew is one of Atlanta’s top oral surgeons, with a private practice regularly named among the city’s best. Ashley is a nationally recognized educator and researcher in neuroradiology. But this power couple can trace their origin to an ecology course and calculus tutoring at UGA.

Ashley was always a very motivated student and knew early on that she wanted to go to medical school, so she pursued a biology degree at UGA while in the Honors Program.

Andrew’s undergraduate course was set after conversations with an advisor. He didn’t have Ashley’s singular purpose, but he did know that he liked sciences and the outdoors, so he became an ecology major.

Ashley and Andrew met each other through mutual friends early on in their time at UGA. They hit it off, but it wasn’t until their third year that someone made a move.

“I signed up for an ecology class he was in, which was… let’s say it wouldn’t have been a class I’d normally look into,” said Ashley.

It wasn’t long before Andrew reciprocated: “I asked her to tutor me in calculus, which, if I’m honest, was really more about spending time with her than the calculus.”

After some nudging from their friends, the pair finally started dating. They both graduated in 1997, and while Ashley was ready to head to medical school, Andrew took some time to figure out his next steps. A clear path forward wasn’t coming to him, but a need for new veneers on three teeth that were broken a decade earlier playing tennis led Andrew to a life-changing visit with his dentist.

“I started talking with my dentist about what I wanted to do, and he started telling me about dentistry,” said Andrew. “I had been going to him for about 20 years, so we knew each other pretty well, so based on that and everything we talked about during these visits, he said he thought I’d be a good fit for it.”

So, Ashley enrolled at the Medical College of Georgia in 1997, and Andrew followed suit two years later to attend dental school.

After two years in Augusta, Andrew and Ashley married, in 2001. The newlyweds faced a difficult decision soon after. Ashley finished her internship in 2002 and was ready to begin her residency, but Andrew was still in the process of completing his dental degree.

They both wanted to attend The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), which had highly ranked programs in both of their areas. But to stay on track, Ashley would have to go a year ahead of Andrew. Seeing this as a chance they had to take, the Aikens decided to spend a year apart after having been married for just one year.

Andrew and Ashley at Andrew’s dental school graduation in 2003

This sacrifice would prove worthwhile. At UCSF, Ashley found her calling and was able to work with mentors who helped her set the course of her career while she completed a residency and fellowship. Once Andrew joined her, he earned his medical degree and completed an oral & maxillofacial surgery residency program at UCSF.

The Aikens also welcomed twin daughters, Frances and Olivia, while in California. And even though they were on the other end of the country, on fall Saturdays, they would gather with other Bulldogs at a bar called The Bus Stop to cheer on the Dawgs.

As Ashley was finishing up her fellowship in 2007, she knew she wanted to stay in academia, and thanks to several UCSF connections, she was able to find an opportunity at Emory University. Over the next two years, Andrew finished his residency while Ashley worked as junior faculty at UCSF and kept her Emory connections open.

In 2009, the family of four moved back to Georgia. Since then, Ashley has become director of Head and Neck Imaging at Emory and program director for the Neuroradiology Fellowship in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences. Andrew is in private practice at Oral Surgery Specialists of Atlanta. The Aikens also added a son, Walker, shortly after moving back to Georgia.

With their return to Georgia, the Aikens were also able to return to the friendships they made while at UGA, and they found those connections were just as strong as they had left them.

“We still have so many close friends from UGA,” said Ashley. “Some that are in Albany, some in Athens, some in Texas, a lot that are in Atlanta, and those connections are some of the biggest reasons that I’m so thankful we made the choice to attend the University of Georgia.”

Their renewed connection to UGA includes the school itself, by way of a shadowing program Andrew participates in. UGA students interested in dentistry and oral surgery go to his office and follow him throughout the day to explore the work of an oral surgeon.

“I’m happy to give back and let people come back and see if they like oral surgery because it’s a really wonderful profession,” said Andrew.

The Aikens’ story begins at UGA. And though they have achieved so much beyond Athens and staked an impressive claim out in the world, it’s clear that the Classic City never left their hearts.

“My time at Georgia was the best four and a half years of my life,” said Andrew. “I met my wife, I met good friends, and I created shared experiences with people that I’m still in touch with 20 years later.”

A not-so-spooky Halloween coloring page for Dawg fans of all ages

Leah Hansen (BFA ’16), a UGA graphic designer, alumna and die-hard Dawg fan, designed a coloring page for the Halloween season for Bulldogs of all ages. Can’t visit a pumpkin patch this year or don’t have time to make a jack-o’-lantern? Why not get creative and show your spooky spirit by downloading our pumpkin carving stencils or other coloring pages?

When you’ve finished coloring your page, be sure to post a photo on social using #AlwaysADawg and tag our account so we can share with the rest of the UGA Alumni family! Happy coloring and happy Halloween!