40 Under 40 Spotlight: Mario Cambardella reinvents urban landscaping

For Mario Cambardella (BLA ’06, MEPD ’11, MLA ’13), connecting his professional purpose to a personal passion to make a difference ultimately set him on a pathway for success. It’s why he pursued a variety of service-oriented efforts to reinvigorate urban landscapes before turning his attention to starting an innovative business that relies on technology to better connect Georgia farmers with new markets in the Atlanta area.

For his personal, professional and philanthropic achievements, Mario ranked among UGA’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2021. The program celebrates young alumni leading the pack in their industries and communities.

Mario and his wife, Lindsey Cambardella (JD ’12).

How did Mario Cambardella find his purpose?

During his time at UGA, Mario connected with Jack Crowley, a professor emeritus in the College of Environment + Design. Mario found that “he understood how to find a solution that achieved true sustainability by balancing economic, social and environmental factors in equal harmony.”

After earning his master’s degree in landscape architecture in 2013, Mario landed an internship with a prestigious firm based in Colorado. However, many of his assigned projects didn’t align with his belief that designed landscapes should have a more holistic function that better supports the people who live near them. That’s what ultimately put him on a journey to become the first Urban Agriculture Director in the country.

“The premise is the landscape can be more than beautiful—it can perform, and it can have a function,” Mario said.

He would go on to lead the AgLanta initiative, focusing on bringing sustainable landscaping practices to underutilized properties in the Atlanta area. Relying on its Grows-A-Lot program, Mario acquired several vacant properties that had fallen into disrepair in USDA-defined food desert areas and converted them into community gardens. These spaces would help generate healthy food for the surrounding areas, and would be aesthetically pleasing and create a sense of place for the community.

Mario also helped cultivate the country’s largest municipal food forest, Urban Food Forest at Browns Mill.

What is ServeScape?

After focusing the first phase of his career on revitalizing urban communities, Mario embraced a new challenge when he founded ServeScape. Its goal is to bolster the green industry’s supply chain and enhance its use of technology to better serve customers and empower Georgia’s growers. It is Atlanta’s largest online-only garden center and wholesale plant nursery, sourcing a variety of Georgia Grown plants from farmers and horticulturists across the state.

ServeScape connects the bounty of growers with wider audiences, expanding their market and boosting revenues, while enabling property owners in urban areas to curate their own sustainable landscapes with native plants.

“We can enable beautiful and resilient landscapes all across the country because we’re relying on technology and a simple methodology,” Mario noted. “It’s bringing forward the idea that the products of every farmer can now get to market. And then when it gets to the market, we can actually make sure that it gets to the right hands.”

Mario (left) with his ServeScape team.

How is ServeScape sustainable?

Mario created ServeScape with sustainability in mind. ServeScape elevates locally grown products and locally stationed experts to foster a closer, greener community in the Metro Atlanta area. The company brings together landscape designers, plant experts and professional installers to create a landscape that challenges the norms of retail sellers.

By being a fully online marketplace, ServeScape does not waste resources on large, expensive plant nurseries and instead ships plants directly from the farm to clients’ doors. ServeScape’s designers also create a customized landscape that can last in each individual environment. Plants are meticulously curated to not only be beautiful, but also functional and resilient, reducing the need for replacements and leading to economic and environmental success.

“Through every job and project, I keep in mind that working in the natural and built environment makes you a student of each project site,” Mario said. “I hope I never lose the sense of adventure and excitement of seeing a site for the first time. Losing touch with the land distances yourself from many of the reasons this profession is so unique, engaging and rewarding.”

ServeScape is provides landscape design services throughout metro Atlanta and the Athens area, while AgLanta continues to advance its mission of advancing and supporting urban agriculture in the city.

Do you know an outstanding young grad leading the pack in their industry or community? Nominate them for the 2022 Class of 40 Under 40! Nominations close on April 8.


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

UGA advertising alumni shine with Super Bowl commercials

Jason Kreher (ABJ ’00), a Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication alumnus, had a hand in creating two of the most popular commercials during this year’s Super Bowl.

He served as creative director for both the Irish Spring cult-horror parody and the minimalist Coinbase DVD logo reference. The Coinbase ad was ranked No.1 by Ad Age and AdWeek and received a Super Clio for best ad in the Super Bowl.

View Irish Spring Ad View the Coinbase Ad

Getting to know Jason

Jason enrolled at UGA in 1996 already interested in the journalism school. He gives a lot of credit to Karen Whitehill King’s media class in which he said he learned “literally everything I know today.” 

After graduating in 2000, Jason traveled to Florence, Italy, before returning to the United States and landing a job as an assistant account executive on the intel account. In 2008, Jason joined the international advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy where he worked his way up to the creative director of its entertainment and editorial division.  

During this time, he earned the 2017 Henry W. Grady Mid-Career Alumni Award. Though he finds the ‘Mid-Career’ part of the title “hilariously diminutive,” he still asserts that this was the most exciting award to receive—and he’s received a lot of awards, including two Grand Prix’s at the Ciclope International Festival of Craft and the AICP’s Campaign of the Year, to name a few.  

After 14 years with Wieden + Kennedy, Jason found a new position as chief creative officer North America at Accenture Interactive. It was with this agency that Jason created and directed the Coinbase and Irish Spring ads for the Super Bowl. 

Jason (right) with Karen Whitehall King and Grady alumnus Tatum Shaw (ABJ ’02).

About the ads

He says he is pleased with the ads’ receptions. He prides himself on creating provocative ads, so when Coinbase’s one-minute-long bouncing QR code received mixed reviews, he was thrilled it was getting lots of attention.

“The Coinbase response was incredibly fun to watch happen in real time,” he said. “I love that once the dust settled, the spot came in first in the AdWeek and Ad Age polls and dead last in the USA Today poll. We knew the commercial wasn’t for everyone, but that was never the point. The number of people who scanned and the number of people who stayed and signed up exceeded our clients’ wildest expectations.”  

Despite being the more traditional of the two commercials—if you can call a sweaty man stumbling into a cleaning-obsessed cult traditional—Jason is happy with how the Irish Spring ad turned out, too.  

“Irish Spring made a few top ten lists as well,” he said. “But the funniest part is that I snuck in my high school’s logo on the main character’s shirt. Apparently, Brookwood pride is very real, almost alarmingly so. My clients were like, ‘why is our social feed lighting up in Snellville Georgia all of a sudden?’ Nice work, Internet Broncos.”  

All of Jason’s work—advertisements, short films, songs and more—are on his website. 

Jason shooting a campaign in Prague.

If you want more Super Bowl ads by Georgia Bulldogs …

Grady alumnus Andy Pearson (ABJ ’06, AB ’06) also had a hand in a popular regional commercial for Liquid Death.

Andy served as the vice president of creative services for the ad which featured small children (and one pregnant woman) partying and drinking the non-alcoholic sparkling water to Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law.” The brand purposefully markets itself to look alcoholic to give those who don’t want to drink a healthier alternative without feeling pressured.

Andy also has his own website with his many advertising campaigns. He and his wife, Liza Behles, also have a joint website where they freelance remotely as a creative duo.


Support the next generation of ad industry professionals by giving to the Advertising Education Fund.

Donate to the Advertising Education Fund

Tyler Jefcoat (BBA ’07, MBA ’13) guides a new generation of accounting graduates

In 2002, after graduating high school in Columbus, Georgia, Tyler Jefcoat (BBA ’07, MBA ’13) took an interest in Athens and the University of Georgia for two reasons: its music scene and its business school. While music stayed as a hobby, Tyler thrived in UGA’s Terry College of Business as an undergraduate.

After graduating and working as a retail bank manager, Tyler realized that corporate culture didn’t suit him. With encouragement from two key figures in his life, his dad and father-in-law, he returned to UGA and enrolled in an MBA program. It was here where he found his true passion for entrepreneurship.

“I came out of that MBA experience realizing that I just wasn’t a great corporate guy. I needed to build something for myself—so, I did,” Tyler said. “I literally got to present a concept company that we built, Care to Continue, as my final project in the MBA entrepreneurship class. I got great support from the university and from my classmates.”

Care to Continue trained and empowered caregivers for in-home senior care. Tyler stayed with Care to Continue for five years. The first year was difficult as they tried to market their name and build a loyal client base. By year two, though, the company was well-established within the market.

27 target customers met with Tyler and his cofounder to help build the essence of the brand in January of 2013. The name, Care to Continue, came out of this focus group.

“We were onto something because we understood our customer,” he said. “I think we were in a good market, but it was hard; it was crazy. And I was grateful that I got to sell my part of that business, because that was a 24/7/365 animal.”

Tyler sold his portion of Care to Continue in 2018 after realizing that the direction the business was heading didn’t follow his vision. He helped train the new leadership team for 100 days. While selling his part of the company benefitted him and his family, he stressed over what his next steps should be.

His wife, Emily (AB ’08)—whom he met through an undergraduate club at UGA—was by his side the entire time, assuring him of his path while keeping their two daughters in mind.

“I had a bunch of great opportunities. And my wife said, ‘Tyler, these opportunities all seem to be in Chicago or Atlanta or New York. You need to find something that’s not in Chicago or Atlanta or New York.’ And so, we started looking for ideas.”

Not wanting to uproot his family’s life for a career in a big city, Tyler found the answer in Athens. While having a coffee with one of his friends, Tyler considered a new idea: e-commerce. He found that there was a need he could fill in bookkeeping for small-scale entrepreneurs.

“I went to my wife—like I did when I started Care to Continue—and said, ‘I’m thinking about starting a company in an industry in which I’ve never worked or had any business with … what do you think?’” he laughed. “Thankfully, she told me that we should do it.”

In 2018, Tyler launched Seller Accountant, an accounting firm that provides e-commerce sellers on Amazon with bookkeeping and fractional CFO (financial coaching) services. The business works with sellers to create and implement customized accounting plans for each unique circumstance.

Using the experience and knowledge he gained from his first company, Seller Accountant quickly became one of the top accounting businesses in the Amazon marketplace.

Ashley Carter, Partner and COO of Seller Accountant, standing with the company’s first four Terry interns: Lizzie Rose (BBA ’20), Erna Brandt Braxton (BBA ’19, MAcc ’20), Addie Young (BBA ’20, MAcc ’21) and Christian Joseph (BBA ’20, MAcc ’21) in their original 1 Press Place incubator office in downtown Athens.

Tyler is passionate about helping others, and with his new business, he leverages his business and finance background to assist small sellers.

“Leading and encouraging small business owners makes me feel alive,” he said. “It gets me so excited.”

His drive to help others led him back to UGA, where a friend encouraged him to rent space in the Delta Innovation Hub in the Innovation District.

The Innovation District connects bright minds from UGA and beyond. Located across multiple buildings in North Campus and downtown Athens, the Innovation District connects students, faculty, alumni and local businesses. Tyler immediately connected with the Innovation District’s vision.

“The vision of the Innovation District—attaching faculty and alumni ideas to reality and helping them come into fruition—I was like, ‘Man, that’s where I am right now with Seller Accountant.’”

Tyler moved his business into the Delta Innovation Hub in 2021. Now, he and Seller Accountant find inspiration within the Hub while working alongside UGA’s graduate accounting program to help UGA students and alumni.

Tyler proudly wearing UGA gear.

“We’ve made it our mission to empower students, and we’re seeing results,” he said. “Like graduate assistantships for the graduate accounting program: two years in a row, one of our few students has landed that opportunity. We’re seeing anecdotal evidence that they’re getting higher salaries coming out of the accounting program.”

Knowing what it’s like to be an uncertain graduate, Tyler hopes to foster an environment where a student can succeed in finding the career most suited to them–whether that’s as an employee at Seller Accountant or an entrepreneur forging their own path.

“Could I be a part of someone’s story or their career and get a lot of benefit from it? Absolutely. And there’s no better place to be than on UGA’s campus for that to happen.”

LEARN MORE ABOUT ENTREPRENEURSHIP AT UGA

DC Dawgs: a love story

UGA has brought so many couples together over the years, but the love story of Lynne (DVM ’03) and Rob (BS ’99) Randolph differs from the usual tale. They met after graduating: during flag football practice on The Ellipse near the White House, to be exact. It’s a little unconventional, but UGA still played its part in uniting the couple through the Washington, D.C., alumni chapter.

Before meeting, Lynne and Rob came to the university for very different reasons. Lynne’s family has a long history with UGA. Her grandfather, Dr. John Munnell, was a professor emeritus in the College of Veterinary Medicine, which inspired Lynne to follow in his footsteps and attend UGA’s veterinary graduate program. Her stepdad, John F. Munnell Jr. (AB ’77), her uncle, Clayton Munnell (BSED ’91), and her many aunts, Ginny Munnell Morris (AB ’80, JD ’06), Emily Ann Munnell (ABJ ’82), Amy Munnell (AB ’84) and Mandy Munnell (BFA ’85), all graduated from UGA. Emily even works for UGA’s Division of Development and Alumni Relations. Lynne always knew that she would become a Bulldog because of these relatives.

Rob, on the other hand, grew up in Montana, where the winters are cold and harsh. Tired of temperatures that pushed into the negatives, he decided to transfer to a school in a warmer climate and that offered a late acceptance deadline. While UGA wasn’t a place he felt destined to attend, Rob still became fully immersed in Bulldog culture. He roomed with a few men’s tennis players and partied hard when they won the 1999 NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Championship in Athens.

Lynne and Rob together at the 2022 CFP National Championship in Indianapolis

Lynne and Rob together at the 2022 CFP National Championship in Indianapolis.

While the two never met in Athens, they like to believe that they took a class together. Lynne took an undergraduate class in biochemistry and may have sat in the same 300-person lecture hall as Rob. They also frequented the same spots downtown. It’s not for certain, but they think it’s fun to believe it was.

Lynne and Rob officially met as DC Dawgs in August of 2004. They each joined the chapter to reconnect with fellow Bulldogs and became active members: watching football games as a group (Dawgs Never Bark Alone, after all) and playing flag football, which brought the pair together. While they didn’t begin dating until later, Lynne recalled what would become their first outing–when Rob “bamboozled” her.

Lynne loved live music—another reason she appreciated Athens—and discovered that a band she followed, OLD 97’s, was playing in D.C. at the 930 Club. She asked alumni in the chapter if anyone wanted to go with her, and Rob responded, “I love going to live music.” She found out later why he spoke so carefully: he listens to NPR and doesn’t actually like music all that much.

Rob maintains that he did not bamboozle her, and he went along solely to spend time with her. “He didn’t know any of the songs,” Lynne laughed, “but he still had fun, and it all worked out.”

Adalynne and Jack sitting on the throne chairs at Manhattan Cafe.

Adalynne and Jack sitting on the throne chairs at Manhattan Cafe.

While they never bonded over music, Lynne and Rob did bond while attending different chapter events. They got married on May 25, 2008, and now have two children, Adalynne and Jack, who is named after Lynne’s grandfather. They’re in elementary school, but Lynne and Rob hope they’ll attend UGA when they’re older.

The Randolphs make regular trips to Athens with Adalynne and Jack and try to attend at least one football game a year. They walk around campus and local parks and ensure they dine at their favorite Athens eateries, including The Taco Stand, Little Italy and The Grit.

“If we cannot go to those three places, it has not been a successful trip to Athens,” Lynne said. “Another must-do is that we have to go to Manhattan Cafe. That’s one place Rob and I had in common while we were in school. We love to take the kids there. The owner has kids, too, and he loves when we come.”

Despite living over 500 miles from UGA, Lynne and Robert are still Bulldogs at heart. They love that they can still engage with the university through the D.C. Dawgs Alumni Chapter. They regularly buy UGA gear for themselves and their children and recently received their order of championship merch in the mail. The UGA Alumni Association has been great for this couple, and they’re forever grateful that it brought them together in the first place.

The Randolph family on Christmas wearing their UGA gear.

The Randolph family on Christmas wearing their UGA gear.

Eugenia Harvey named inaugural Footsteps Award winner

This story was originally published on UGA Today on Feb. 9, 2022.

The University of Georgia named Eugenia Harvey as the recipient of the inaugural Footsteps Award during the university’s annual Holmes-Hunter Lecture on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

The award recognizes a UGA graduate who follows in the pioneering footsteps of Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Hamilton Holmes and Mary Frances Early, UGA’s first enrolled Black students and first Black graduate, respectively, by making a significant positive impact in human rights, race relations or education in their community.

“When I received my acceptance letter from UGA, my mother reminded me that I was following in the footsteps of those who paid the price for me to attend my desired school,” said Harvey, who graduated with a Broadcast Journalism degree. “I bring those words up from deep within my heart today as I receive the inaugural Footsteps Award from this, my university. With gratitude and purpose, I walk forward, hoping to brighten the path for those yet to come.”

Harvey serves as the Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for The WNET Group and is part of the organization’s senior leadership team. She plays a central role in the efforts to build a more inclusive, equitable and anti-racist organization. The WNET Group is the community-supported home of New York’s THIRTEEN – America’s flagship PBS station – WLIW21, operator of New Jersey’s statewide public television network NJ PBS, and Long Island’s only NPR station WLIW-FM.

In addition to her role as Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, Harvey also oversees The WNET Group’s Community Engagement team, which has partnered with thought leaders from over 400 community organizations to convene solutions-oriented discussions around systemic racism in New York City and across the country.

Harvey is also an award-winning producer, and continues to serve as Executive Producer for The WNET Group’s Chasing the Dream: Poverty & Opportunity in America, providing critical programming on poverty, opportunity and justice in America; Peril & Promise: The Challenge of Climate Change, a reporting initiative reporting on the human stories of climate change and its potential solutions; and Exploring Hate: Antisemitism, Racism and Extremism, examining the roots and rise of hate in America and across the globe.

“Eugenia brings diverse and underrepresented stories to light and diversifies the talent behind and in front of the camera,” said Yvette Daniels, president of the UGA Alumni Association board of directors. “Her impactful work promotes social justice and inspires audiences to improve the world. We are honored to call her a Bulldog and honored to name her the winner of the inaugural Footsteps Award.”

“Eugenia is such a great example of UGA alumni at their best: she went out into the world, she is excelling in her field and she is making a real difference,” said Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of the UGA Alumni Association. “The work she has done and will continue to do makes her a perfect choice for this first Footsteps Award.”

Harvey will be honored in Atlanta at the spring reception of The 1961 Club, a UGA giving society named for the year of desegregation at UGA and composed of donors to the university’s Black Alumni Scholarship Fund. Nominations for the 2023 Footsteps Award will open in the fall.

Family ties lead to lesson in giving

Parents’ philanthropy inspires new generation of Bulldogs

Jeff and Allison Mitchell live on a steady diet of maroon and orange in the college town of Blacksburg, Virginia, where both Jeff and Allison are Virginia Tech alumni, regularly attending football games to cheer on the Hokies. Despite this familiar connection with Virginia Tech, their daughter Elizabeth Grace (ABJ ’21) elected to forge her own path at the University of Georgia.

Elizabeth Grace’s time in Athens offered her an education needed to succeed beyond graduation and it provided valuable lessons around the importance of giving and service. So, while Jeff and Allison may have earned their degrees elsewhere, they’re now building a legacy of giving alongside their daughter at UGA.

New Colors, Same Focus

When Elizabeth Grace arrived on campus, Jeff and Allison instantly joined the Bulldog family, swapping out their Hokies’ attire for red and black. They regularly visited the Classic City during Elizabeth Grace’s four years in Athens, engaging, giving and serving, primarily through service on UGA’s Parents Leadership Council, to demonstrate what a legacy of giving looks like.

“We wanted Elizabeth Grace to understand that supporting her university is something she needed to take the long-term view on,” Jeff said. “Don’t put it off and think ‘I’ll start giving later;’ get started now.”

Giving back is as natural for Jeff and Allison as breathing; they provide ample philanthropic support to a host of institutions and organizations, including their alma mater. They lead by example to ensure those lessons of generous giving are passed on to Elizabeth Grace.

Creating a New Legacy

As graduation neared, Jeff and Allison wanted to honor their daughter’s time at UGA and illustrate why giving is important. The Mitchells decided to recognize her with a legacy gift — a philanthropic gift made in honor of her time at UGA — establishing the Elizabeth Grace Mitchell Student Support Fund.

They sought her involvement, working with her to identify what she wanted the fund to address on campus. Elizabeth Grace recommended that the fund provide financial support to students in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication who are majoring in her field of study, entertainment and media studies (EMST).

“The Mitchell family’s support of student projects will help us fuel EMST film projects – the very heart of the department’s experiential learning efforts,” said Charles Davis (MA ’92) the dean of the Grady College. “This sort of support takes on increasing importance the more hands-on work we do as a college, so we deeply appreciate the fund and what it signifies.”

photo of the Mitchell family with Grady College Dean Charles Davis

Jeff and Allison Mitchell (far left and right) with their daughter, Elizabeth Grace Mitchell (AB ’21) and Grady College Dean Charles Davis (MA ’92) in December 2021.

The fund also gives the opportunity for Elizabeth Grace to engage philanthropically with UGA right after graduation. She’ll contribute directly to it, allowing her to start her own journey of giving while building a legacy that endures long after she’s graduated.

More Opportunities with PLC

In addition to the legacy gift, the Mitchells joined the Parents Leadership Council (PLC) during Elizabeth Grace’s freshman year. Ultimately, this decision launched the couple’s philanthropic journey at UGA.

The PLC offered the chance for their family to build a meaningful connection with the university, including a social network that Jeff and Allison could trust would support Elizabeth Grace during her time in Athens. The service-oriented group provides funding through parents’ annual gifts to various student programs and initiatives on campus.

In the last decade, the group has awarded more than $3.8 million to undergraduate student organizations and is the top supporter of the President’s Venture Fund. The response to these types of needs, as well as the opportunity to help prioritize what needs should be addressed, resonated with Jeff and Allison. It allowed them to proactively help determine how their contributions improved campus—something they offered their daughter when setting up the Elizabeth Grace Mitchell Student Support Fund.

Forever Connected to the Bulldog Family

For Jeff and Allison, establishing the legacy gift for Elizabeth Grace is the culmination of a series of relationships, experiences and opportunities that ultimately will connect them to UGA for the rest of their lives.

“Everybody knows the University of Georgia, but to have your daughter attend from out-of-state and understand the brand and the legacy here, it’s just special,” Jeff said. “We’ve met many, many passionate UGA alumni, and their joy and passion are infectious. You spend any time here, and you just get it. So, we’re happy to celebrate Elizabeth Grace and support the University of Georgia.”

Jeff and Allison hope their philanthropy will inspire other Bulldog parents to establish their own legacies in honor of their students’ UGA experiences. Doing so enables the next generation to strengthen UGA by creating new avenues to success for future Bulldogs.

Want to know more? Consider being a part of parent philanthropy at UGA and establishing your own legacy gift to benefit future generations of Bulldogs! Learn more about UGA’s Parent Fund and Parent Leadership Council.

Learn More About the Parent Fund Learn More About the PLC

Written by Johnathan McGinty (ABJ ’00)

Full-circle moments: The UGA Mentor Program at its finest

[Image above (L-R) – Christina Carrere (BS ’11) and Kelly Strachan (AB ’21) on a balcony overlooking the West Wing of the White House, Spring 2021.]

In a perfect world, participation in the University of Georgia Mentor Program begins as a student in Athens and continues for a lifetime—once a Dawg, always a Dawg—once a UGA Mentee, forever a UGA Mentor. That’s what’s shaping up for Kelly Strachan (AB ’21).

Finding her footing as a first-gen student

The first in her family to attend college, Kelly Strachan realized how overwhelming navigating life at UGA could be when she moved into Creswell Hall her freshman year. Finding mentorship within the UGA alumni base helped her grow confidence and find direction. Kelly took the initiative to find three different mentors during her time at UGA. She first connected with Brian Dill (AB ’94, MBA ’19). Kelly credits Brian, VP of External Affairs for Tanner Health Systems, with helping her find her passion for health administration and policy. Later, Marylen Rimando (PHD ’19), who represents strong women in the field as a health scientist with bioinformatics firm IHRC, Inc., became Kelly’s mentor. Kelly has stayed in touch with both her earlier mentors, but it was her mentorship with Senior Medicare Program Examiner with the White House Office of Management and Budget, Health Division, Christina Carrere (BS ’11), that has proven to be truly life-changing.

From SPIA to the White House

Kelly was a student in UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs when she first reached out to Christina through the UGA Mentor Program. Christina says a part of her heart will always be in Athens, but since her work largely keeps her confined to Washington, DC, she looked for more consistent and meaningful ways to stay engaged with UGA and its students. The UGA Mentor Program fit the bill. What started as a general informational interview with Kelly, quickly grew into deeper discussions about graduate school, career paths, personal challenges each have faced, diversity in the workplace, resulting in a connection that has long outlasted the formal mentor-mentee cycle in the UGA mentor program (typically 16 weeks).

“Kelly and I initiated our mentor-mentee relationship during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was important given my work in health policy and her interest in the field. The timeliness of the pandemic gave us opportunities to discuss the different roles individuals play in responding to something of this magnitude as well as the good, bad and ugly of how policy is formed and shaped using real-world examples in real time,” said Christina.

Several months into their connection, Christina wrote a letter of recommendation for Kelly to Christina’s graduate school alma mater (John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where Kelly is now a graduate student and a graduate teaching assistant). Later, Kelly spotted a posting on Christina’s LinkedIn page about an internship on Christina’s team at the White House. Kelly applied and got the position all on her own. It just so happened that Christina was on a leave of absence throughout the application and interview process. Back in time for Kelly’s first day, Christina counts taking Kelly on her first tour of the White House complex and grabbing a picture with her outside the West Wing (see photo above) as a cherished memory.

Christina says, “Seeing a relationship that started as a virtual connection grow into all of this is a testament to the power of the UGA Mentor Program and its ability to connect students and alumni across the world in meaningful ways.”

Paying it forward

Even while still a student at UGA, Kelly wanted to make certain that every student experienced how giving and supportive the UGA community can be. “One of my proudest roles was being an ambassador for the Mentor Program,” Kelly says. Ambassadors of the UGA Mentor Program work with other students and UGA Career Center staff to foster a culture of mentorship at UGA by developing programming, partnerships and marketing strategies that bring heightened awareness to the UGA Mentor Program.

Recently, Kelly heard from previous mentor Marylen about her current mentee, a UGA student who wants to follow a path similar to Kelly’s. Kelly was all too happy to connect with her and plans to stay in touch. Kelly described it as a full-circle moment. “I truly hope every student at UGA, who may be feeling a little lost or overwhelmed like I was, finds the support they deserve.”

January is National Mentor Month, and January 17 is International Day of Mentoring. To learn how you can become involved with the UGA Mentor Program, visit mentor.uga.edu.

Full medal jacket: Harold Berkman’s SVRC legacy

This was written by Charles McNair

Alumnus Harold Berkman fought for his country … and the Student Veterans Resource Center will remember him for it

On Friday, November 19, 2021, the University of Georgia’s Student Veterans Resource Center (SVRC) will proudly dedicate a new display – a waist-length wool jacket spangled with World War II combat medals.

The Eisenhower jacket perfectly fit UGA alumnus Dr. Harold Berkman (BBA ’49) from 1945 until the day he passed away in 2020 at age 94.

“Dr. Berkman was very proud of that jacket and what it stood for,” says Steve Horton (ABJ ’71, MED ’85) of the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors. “He only wore it around fellow veterans and on special occasions.”

Harold Berkman's military uniform on display with various medals and two books placed on a table

Horton first met Dr. Berkman around 2016. Horton, retired Associate Director of Athletics at the University of South Florida (USF), was serving as scholarship coordinator for USF’s Office of Veteran Success. After retiring in 2007 from the University of Miami, Berkman had started a charitable foundation that awarded scholarships to combat veterans at a number of universities, including both USF and UGA.

Naturally, two men with UGA degrees became friends.

“He was a Bulldog,” Horton says. “He was proud of it, proud of his family, and proud of his military service.”

Berkman’s jacket exhibits that service pride. It bears the elite Army Combat Infantryman Badge, a Bronze Star, the Chevalier de las Legion d’honneur from France, and three campaign stars for action in the Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe campaigns.

After Berkman’s death, Horton worked with his family to find a natural ‘fit’ for the jacket. He looked at a number of military museums, then decided (with the Berkman family’s approval) on the University of Georgia and its SVRC. That organization supports military-connected students by easing their transitions into civilian life, improving their educational experiences, and preparing them for civilian careers.

“Dr. Berkman would be proud to know the university and its veteran resource center displays his jacket and medals,” Horton says.

A girl in the Catskills

Berkman’s illustrious life – and his path to UGA – began in New York.

His parents, first-generation Belarus Jewish immigrants, carved out their version of the American Dream. They did well enough to vacation in the Catskills where, one golden summer in his childhood, Harold met an attractive young girl named Muriel.

She never left his thoughts.

Berkman graduated from high school in June 1944, the same month as D-Day. He got a draft notice, went through basic training, and shipped off to Europe. The 18-year-old rode with 22,000 other GIs aboard the RMS Queen Elizabeth, a gigantic Cunard luxury liner recommissioned for the war as a troop ship.

Harold Berkman poses for a picture in his military uniform while sitting on a tank

Berkman reached France in early January 1945. Manning a machine gun, the young man spent his first 55 days in unrelenting combat as part of the 317th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division, units in General George S. Patton’s 3rd Army.

As the Allies drove Hitler’s German forces back through France, Berkman won a Bronze Star for valor. He lived through the Battle of the Bulge, Germany’s last offensive against Allies on the western front. Near the war’s end, the Jewish kid from New York was among the first soldiers to liberate Buchenwald, the notorious German concentration camp.

After the war, Berkman joined a wave of returning soldiers attending college on the GI Bill. He chose the University of Georgia, and he raced through school in less than three years to get back to Muriel, that girl from his Catskill summers, as soon as possible.

In an interview with the University of South Florida Foundation, Berkman explained, “If I didn’t get home, she would have been lying on the beach with somebody … and it wouldn’t have been with me.”

Muriel, now 92, lives in retirement in Florida.

“When Harold came back, we started dating,” she says. “He lived in Monticello, New York, and I lived in Brooklyn, so he would drive three hours to take me on a date. We married in 1950 in Brooklyn. We went on a cruise for our honeymoon.”

A rising academic star

The couple cruised into married life in Far Rockaway, New York, where the enterprising Harold opened Valencia Liquor in nearby Jamaica, New York. He grew that entrepreneurial venture into a prosperous chain of 10 storefronts in New York and Connecticut.

Berkman wanted more in life, though, than a retail chain. On the side, he studied at St. John’s University and earned master’s and doctoral degrees in business. He then entered academia at C.W. Post College, a Long Island university where he taught business and sociology.

He became a rising-star academic – Berkman would eventually write or co-write 18 textbooks and publish many articles, mostly on marketing. The University of Miami picked him up by creating the new position of Vice Dean of its MBA program. Berkman spent 30 years at Miami, where he finished his career. He continued to be academically entrepreneurial, founding and leading the Academy of Marketing Science and the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

He and Muriel started a family. A son was born in 1951 and a daughter, Karen, blessed their lives in 1954.

“Dad was very organized and tidy, a personality trait rather than one related to his military career” Karen recalls. “In fact, he never spoke of the military when I was growing up. It was not until he retired at 81 that we started hearing about the war experiences. It became his new identity until he died.”

Karen carved out a distinguished academic career too. She became Dr. Karen Berkman, serving as USF’s Executive Director of the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. She also launched USF’s LGBT Student Scholarship – the first at any state university in Florida.

This kind of goodness characterizes the Berkman family, which oversees the Harold and Muriel Berkman Charitable Foundation, Inc. That organization awards some 60 student scholarships a year, at $1,000 each, to various institutions of higher learning. It also funds marketing research. Many military veterans benefit from its scholarships.

Memories preserved

In his 80s, as Berkman began to talk more about the war years, he reached out to other veterans. He considered his most notable achievements for veterans to be leading efforts to create a custom CIB (Combat Infantryman Badge) Florida license plate and creating the Battle of the Bulge Association to honor those who fought in that historic WWII episode.

At a memorable oral history recording with The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Berkman talked about Buchenwald.

“This was the first time Americans had seen a concentration camp,” Berkman said. “I was one of the first GIs in Buchenwald. When I walked in, the ovens were still warm. The inmates weighed 75 pounds, and bones were stacked high where the furnaces were. [It’s] a thing I’ll never forget.”

Berkman told how General Patton drove in to see the camp. Patton notified the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, Dwight Eisenhower, and the two generals walked through the grim concentration camp together.

Happier times lay ahead for Berkman.

“My father liked to play tennis and golf,” Karen remembers. “He was very good with his hands. He could fix or build things. He enjoyed family and friends. He spent most hours working – he didn’t have a lot of down time – but we took vacations to Florida or upstate New York when we were young.”

Muriel, the girl he met in upstate New York, still adores the handsome young man she met in the Catskills.

“Harold was determined, diligent, hard-working, and loyal,” Muriel says. “He was generous to others and expected respect. Whenever he set a goal, no matter how difficult to achieve, he would pursue it until he accomplished it.”

That’s the formula Berkman used to woo Muriel. That’s the formula that quickly earned his UGA degree and made multiple businesses succeed. That’s the formula that brought him a long and successful tenure in academe.

Harold Berkman poses for a photo in his military uniform

Harold Berkman was a man in full with a life in full – a life spangled in medals and honors, worthy of its proud place of remembrance at UGA.

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Dugan Bridges’ (ABJ ’06) “distillery” helps entrepreneurs find the spirit of their idea

Dugan Bridges’ walk to work has, over the years, put him on bustling New York City sidewalks and Hollywood studio lots. Those walks through the global financial capital and the center of the entertainment universe taught him a lot and helped him grow. But it’s his walk to work today—past the Chapel, by the Arch and under the oak trees of North Campus—that he calls “heaven on earth.”

The Oconee County native came to UGA in 2002 with a strong interest in media production, so he set his sights on an ABJ in Telecommunication Arts. In his first three years at UGA, he took on a fairly high-profile extracurricular activity: the position of UGA Mic Man.

The Mic Man is a student who works to fire up Bulldog fans at football games. If you’ve watched or attended a game in Sanford Stadium and seen someone cheering, dancing, and screaming in front of the student section next to Hairy Dawg, you were looking at the Mic Man.

“I was baptized into college football and became a huge Georgia fan because of that,” said Dugan. “I traveled to all the games with the cheerleading team and the mascot. I ate with the athletes, I worked out with the athletes. It was an amazing experience.”

Dugan served as the Mic Man for three years, after which he focused on his major coursework and new extracurricular pursuits.

“I built relationships with people who are some of my best friends now, and we were making films on the side with whatever cameras I could get a hold of through the journalism school,” said Dugan. “I loved it, and I fell in love with UGA.”

Dugan, as Mic Man, leads the student section in Calling The Dawgs.

After graduating in 2006, Dugan headed for New York, where he found a job with a large marketing firm producing corporate videos for brands like Ford, Gillette and American Airlines. The work—though different from what he’d done in college—provided experience and connections.

It was also during this time that he met Jennifer, a New York-born woman who shared a surprising connection with Dugan.

“She loved that I was from Athens,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘How do you know about Athens?’ And I found out she was a big music fan, particularly REM. She said, ‘I read a book about them and the town they’re from, and I’ve always wanted to go there.’”

The future Mrs. Dugan Bridges would eventually get her wish. But for now, they were just dating, while Dugan and the college friends who accompanied him to New York continued to produce short films that were getting accepted to more and more film festivals.

In 2012, Dugan began eyeing a move to California. The prospect of leaving his college friends spurred the group to act on an idea they’d been kicking around since their Athens days. Financing was the big question, until someone suggested what was then a relatively unknown avenue for funding: Kickstarter.

“Time was running out, and it was the only shot we had,” said Dugan. “We thought we knew enough people, but movies are expensive, so this was the kind of favor you can only ask for once. We hoped that our network would show up, and thankfully, they did.”

“The Little Tin Man” became one of the first feature films to be funded by Kickstarter. The film premiered in 2013, was accepted to numerous film festivals around the country and eventually garnered interest from Gravitas Ventures and Amazon, who became its distributors.

Dugan and friends at an event for “The Little Tin Man”

By this time, Dugan and Jennifer had moved to Los Angeles, where the film’s success opened doors for Dugan as he began to pivot his career.

“In New York, I was doing more producing, some writing,” said Dugan. “But in LA, I was much more focused on pursuing writing and directing. The success of the film helped me meet working Hollywood screenwriters and producers and have them treat with me respect and not as some outsider.”

Those opened doors turned into a variety of opportunities for Dugan: mentors gained through writers groups, the chance to direct a fully funded short film, a position working for Robert Zemeckis, the award-winning director of “Forrest Gump” and the “Back to the Future” trilogy.

In 2016, Dugan and Jennifer welcomed their first child, Ronen. Dugan’s career continued to develop as Ronen did, but when his son took his first steps, Dugan’s perspective began to shift.

“As soon as he was able to start walking around, it was like I started having visions,” said Dugan. “For the first time in my adult life, a yard with green grass, a house, all that stuff really started to appeal to me.”

As Dugan’s interest in keeping his family in a one-bedroom apartment waned, his interest in returning to Georgia grew. But because of his work, leaving LA was a big decision.

“Ultimately, I realized that Hollywood is not a place—it’s a direction that you’re going,” said Dugan. “I realized I could go to Georgia, create, stay in contact with my networks in Los Angeles and New York, and help the community that’s growing here and has a desire to make something permanent.”

The Bridges family moved to Athens in 2018. Over the next year, Jennifer got a job with St. Mary’s Health Care System, Dugan got the pieces in place for a business, and Ronen got a brother. When Clark was born, the demands of home began to compete with the demands of work, and the family took a leap: Dugan would launch his business, and Jennifer would stay home with the kids.

Dugan with Jennifer and Clark

Dugan created F7 Film Distillery, a company that helps organizations and individuals refine the stories they share to their audiences. Dugan started F7 in his home, but reached out to UGA early on.

“I wanted to be in a creative environment, and I couldn’t think of a better one than on campus at UGA,” he said. “So, I put out some feelers, and the message I got was ‘This is a great idea, and we have something in the works, so we’ll get back to you.'”

That something was the Delta Innovation Hub. Located on Spring Street near downtown Athens, the Delta Innovation Hub is part of UGA’s Innovation District and hosts startup venture efforts, helps faculty become entrepreneurs, provides students the chance to work alongside UGA corporate partners and serves as the university’s front door for industry engagement.

In late 2020, Dugan was offered a space in the Hub, which opened earlier this year. In September, F7 Film Distillery officially moved in.

Dugan on the set of “Rubber Room,” a TV pilot he directed and co-wrote

Now, alongside his F7 work, Dugan is working with UGA student interns, sharing ideas with other start-ups in the building and preparing to take part in pitch competitions to help aspiring entrepreneurs sharpen and curate their ideas. And when he leaves work, he’s able to walk back under those North Campus oaks, by the Arch and past the Chapel on his way home, to a family that’s grown by two—Micah, 2, and Scarlett, 6 months—since they moved to Athens.

“When I moved back into town from LA and New York, I asked myself, ‘If I’m going to plant here for the next decade, how do I want to live it?’ And all I could think was, ‘I’d love to be back on campus,'” Dugan said. “There’s just so much energy. Surrounding yourself with these aspirational people takes you back to an aspirational time in your own life.

“That’s the environment I wanted to be in, and I found it.”

Celebrating Global Diversity Awareness Month by highlighting a special mentoring relationship

Graduate student Kehinde “Kenny” Lawal came to the University of Georgia from Nigeria. She credits her mentor, Alex Gomez (BSBCHE ’13), with helping her make the most of her time on campus.

The Mentee

Kenny decided to attend UGA because she wanted to earn a Master of Science in engineering at a reputable university. Her husband, also a graduate student at UGA, influenced her decision.

Moving to Athens also was Kenny’s first time in the United States. She found the university system here different from back home, and it took her a couple of semesters to feel comfortable.

Kenny eventually joined the UGA Mentor Program to gain a better understanding of the American energy industry. Her search to find a mentor with experience in that field led her to Alex.

“My mentor has been great at showing me where I was at the time and where I needed to be,” Kenny said. “He guided me in setting short- and long-term goals. He also made me aware of opportunities available at UGA to help me build a brand for myself.”

Kenny says her positive experience with Alex has inspired her to become a UGA Mentor when she graduates.

The Mentor

Here, in his own words, Alex describes his experience mentoring Kenny.

It has been a pleasure to get to know Kenny. As an international student, she has overcome unique challenges that I never experienced as a student. Talking through stories together, I got to see how those challenges have her well-prepared for times of transition. Her resilience will not only benefit her career, but it also serves as an example for me to learn from. I use the insights I gain from talking with Kenny to illustrate to others who are considering becoming mentors that mentorship is a two-way learning experience.

I am always impressed by students who are taking advantage of the opportunities UGA provides, and that goes for Kenny, too. Mentorship is an investment. It requires that both mentors and mentees put in energy and effort in order to come out with a valuable experience. Kenny always took any “homework” I gave her and acted on her own to get it done. Her initiative has continuously encouraged me, especially how seamlessly she manages classes, research and family—all while still prioritizing personal development.

Kenny is goal-oriented, proactive, curious about educational and career opportunities, and extremely qualified to excel in whatever she does. Itt has been rewarding for me to watch her confidence grow to match her abilities and qualifications. Kenny is certain to go on to be a great reflection of UGA.

It may amaze you how much you get out of being a UGA Mentor