Docebo unlocks a world of opportunity for UGA students

Rocio "Ro" Sanchez Lobato

Rocio “Ro” Sanchez Lobato (AB ’15, MS ’17) works as a customer success specialist at Docebo.

Athens is celebrated for all it is home to. It is the home of the Georgia Bulldogs, home to renowned restaurants and live music venues and the home and birthplace of public higher education. What most do not realize is that Athens is also home to the North American location for the global tech company, Docebo. And that office is a prime example of the many benefits of UGA’s corporate partnerships.

Docebo, Latin for “I will teach,” provides a learning ecosystem for companies and their employees, partners, and customers designed to increase performance and learning engagement. The company’s artificial intelligence-powered learning platform blends social and formal learning and helps over 1,500 companies around the world. Docebo’s newest office in downtown Athens is booming, hiring motivated young employees like Rocio Sanchez Lobato (AB ’15, MS ’17).

Rocio, affectionately known as “Ro,” is a customer success specialist for Docebo. A native of Marbella, Spain, Ro made a name for herself stateside as a member of the UGA women’s golf team. Like many collegiate athletes, she struggled when it came time to turn in the clubs.

“It is hard to see opportunities past sports,” Ro says. “It is very hard to expose yourself to something different.”

Ro Sanchez Lobato

Ro Sanchez Lobato’s (AB ’15, MS ’17) story is a demonstration of the strength of UGA’s corporate partners and partnerships.

Ro overcame these challenges with some help from UGA Athletics’ Career Development Program, a resource offered to athletes to help them transition from sports to careers. “Think of that thing you can do that no one else can,” says Leigh Futch, director of student athlete development and founder of The Georgia Way Network. Recalling these words helped Ro to find her niche at Docebo: bilingual communications. Because of her ability to speak fluent Spanish, Ro manages large accounts in South America.

Most students believe that they must leave Athens to find opportunity. Ro says Docebo is flipping that narrative by offering top-notch workforce experience and opportunities right here in Athens. With an abundance of full-time positions and internships in sales, account management, customer support and company implementation, Docebo provides new and exciting learning opportunities for UGA students and alumni alike.

“We need more companies like Docebo in Athens,” Ro states. “We are like a big family—we do stuff together outside of work. Someone is looking out for you and pushing you to be better. With Docebo, you learn so much.”

Before stepping into her current role, Ro had no formal tech training. Now, Ro teaches and talks about Docebo’s tech with the accounts she manages, and as a result, she encourages UGA students from all backgrounds to apply.

Beyond its hiring efforts, Docebo partners with the university in several ways. Last year, the company opened its doors to students for an open house. Docebo also regularly sends company representatives to speak in Terry College of Business classes and attend university-sponsored sales competitions. Additionally, Docebo serves on the advisory board of the Management Information Systems program.

Corporate partners like Docebo, who pour their resources into the classroom, create a cyclical effect, helping students to grow, learn, and become high-quality job-seekers like Ro.

If your company is interested in engaging with UGA’s talented students, please visit itstartswith.uga.edu/corporate.

(Docebo photos by Emily Dukes)

JIT for Mother’s Day: Alumni-owned Helmsie offers “modern Southern goods for momma and babe”

JIT (just in time) for Mother’s Day, we’re spotlighting Helmsie, a Georgia-based lifestyle brand that offers “nostalgic and Southern goods for momma and babe.”

Helmsie is the dream child of Sarah Howell (MS ’10) and her BFF Karla Pruitt, a licensed wallpaper, fabric and greeting card designer. The pair was interested in merging the South’s “rich, timeless culture” with the “renewed interest of uniquely Southern design.”

Today, their business focuses on being well-designed, yet functional–all in an effort to serve today’s “style-conscious momma.” They pride themselves on producing goods that will “add a little whimsy and joy to your day-to-day.” Here are just a few of the products available at helmsiebaby.com/shop:

Not Your Momma’s Alphabet Cards ($15)

Helmsie-Alphabet-Flash-Cards

Photo: Helmsie

I’m MOMMA Necklace ($30)

Helmsie-Momma-Necklace

Photo: Helmsie

Bee Earrings ($20)

Helmsie-Bee-Earrings

Photo: Helmsie

Enamel Pins

Helmsie-Enamel-Pins

Photo: Helmsie

Pink Bee Poster ($34)

Helmsie-Bee-Poster-Print

Photo: Helmsie

Helmsie-Sarah-Howell-Americas-Mart-Booth

Photo: Helmsie

Sarah graduated from UGA in 2010 with a master’s degree in biological engineering (her undergraduate degree is from Furman University) and is an associate adjunct professor at Ashford University, teaching courses in health care ethics and medical statistics. In 2017, she added co-founder and CEO of Helmsie to her resume. This engineer-turned-entrepreneur manages the business side of house for the brand from her home in Atlanta. The wife and mother of two admits to also being an avid collector of vintage jewelry.

In late 2018, Helmsie announced its wallpaper debut with Hygge & West–another woman-owned business.

 

Interested in supporting this entrepreneurial alumna? Visit helmsiebaby.com to order online or inquire about wholesale purchases. Or follow them on Instagram.

Interested in supporting UGA students seeking to follow in Sarah’s business-running footsteps? Consider making a gift to UGA’s Entrepreneurship Program Support Fund.

Megan Reeves (AB ’18) is working to preserve the future

We all have favorite destinations: the sunny Miami beaches, the picturesque Grand Teton Mountains, The Great American City of Chicago, charming Savannah and the buzzing Big Apple. We want to share these places we love with friends and family, and incorporating sustainability into our lives ensures we will always be able to do that.

Megan Reeves (AB ’18) grew up with Stone Mountain in her backyard. She and her family spent weekends hiking, visiting national parks, and enjoying the outdoors, all of which sparked an interest in sustainability. The value of sustainable practices solidified for Megan when, as a communication studies major, she worked towards earning the Certificate in Sustainability at the University of Georgia.

The Sustainability Certificate, created in 2016, was a response to requests by students for more sustainability education in the university’s curriculum. The program aligns with UGA’s 2020 Strategic Plan that declared leadership in sustainability research, education and service would become “hallmarks” of the university.

“The Certificate in Sustainability provides students with foundational knowledge and leadership skills to create systemic change, add value to businesses, and improve the world. Our students learn by doing: working in interdisciplinary teams to develop sustainable solutions to real-world challenges and community needs,” said Kevin Kirsche, director of the Office of Sustainability at the university.

Megan Reeves and colleagues

Left to right: Dr. Ron Balthazor, Megan Reeves, and Melissa Ray

In Megan’s opinion, the uniqueness of the Sustainability Certificate program comes from the diverse coursework and the differing educational backgrounds of students united by a common passion for sustainability. The interdisciplinary approach of the certificate, supported by 10 schools and colleges, provides a holistic education for students, who take courses in three spheres of sustainability—ecological, economic and social—taught in an array of departments. At the program’s conclusion, students complete hands-on capstone projects that tackle a variety of sustainability challenges.

Megan has had the privilege of watching the program flourish from the first small cohort of 20 students to 160 current students. The program opened many doors for Megan. The most influential experience Megan had during the program was working as the Sustainability Certificate Intern alongside Dr. Ron Balthazor and Melissa Ray, both of whom oversee the program. During the internship, Megan met with a wide variety of students, spreading the word on the new program, and she worked alongside people she calls “the most uplifting and outstanding individuals.”

Dr. Balthazor says Megan “embodies the very best of what we hope for in students in the Sustainability Certificate program.”

“Like so many of our students, she sees the challenges we face with clear eyes and diligently and enthusiastically works toward solutions,” said Dr. Balthazor. “Her interesting mix of sustainability-focused course work and her experience in internships and our capstone project all give her perspectives and skills that she brings to her ongoing work in sustainability.

“She is, in every way, an inspiration to me, and I know she will accomplish so many good things. She gives me great hope.”

Today, Megan works on the Recycling and Waste Division team at Cox Conserves. This branch of Cox Enterprises focuses on enhancing sustainability within all extensions of Cox and the communities they serve. The division, launched in 2007, has ambitious goals, including being zero-waste-to-landfill by 2024 and carbon- and water-neutral by 2044. Megan believes her time in the Sustainability Certificate program prepared her to be successful at Cox Conserves.

Megan and Hairy Dawg

Megan and Hairy Dawg pose for a photo on North Campus.

Dr. Balthazor and Melissa remind their Sustainability Certificate students to “remember the why” behind sustainability: people. As a part of the sustainability industry, Megan now sees the value of this wisdom. It’s easy to get caught up in debates around sustainability, but we must remember the end goal: preserving the places we love for the people we love.

Because of her experience in the Sustainability Certificate program, Megan has two pieces of advice to others hoping to follow a similar path. The first: don’t be afraid to pick people’s brains, because doors will open when you ask questions and show your curiosity. The second: always go back to the “why.”

If you are interested in giving to advance sustainability initiatives at the University of Georgia, please demonstrate your commitment to Sustainable UGA.

ABC’s Deborah Roberts pledges $100K to UGA

Deborah Roberts

ABC’s Deborah Roberts pledges $100K to UGA for scholarship

Award-winning correspondent and University of Georgia alumna Deborah Roberts has committed $100,000, matched by the UGA Foundation, to establish a need-based scholarship through the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program.

“We are thrilled that such a distinguished alumna has committed to supporting need-based aid at UGA,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Her generosity is an example of the tremendous alumni support that continues to move our university into the future. Deborah’s gift will open the door to higher education for students today, tomorrow and in perpetuity.”

Roberts has risen through the ranks of television news, received numerous awards and been a regular reporter and contributor for programs such as “Dateline NBC,” “20/20,” “Nightline” and “Good Morning America” to name a few.

“I feel honored, privileged and, indeed, blessed to be able to offer a student who’s dreaming of success the opportunity to make those dreams come true,” said Roberts. “Growing up in small-town Georgia, I know the value of education and embrace this opportunity to change lives and futures.”

Roberts’ scholarship will provide aid to graduates of Perry High School, which she attended, as well as other high schools in middle Georgia.

Through the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program, the UGA Foundation matches—dollar for dollar—any gift in the amount of $50,000, $75,000 or $100,000 to establish an endowed, need-based scholarship for undergraduate students. The scholarship is awarded within a year of the donor making their gift, and from that point forward, the endowment grows—increasing the size of the scholarship award over time and helping student after student earn a UGA degree.

Since the matching program’s creation in 2017, over $54 million has been dedicated to new need-based scholarships, with over 265 donors giving to the program. Scholarship recipients also benefit from academic support in the form of tutoring, workshops, academic coaching and more.

Born in Perry, Georgia, Roberts began her post-UGA career at WTVM-TV in Columbus, Georgia, and her connection to the university has remained through her many positions since then. In 1993, she received the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award, presented annually to high-achieving young alumni.

In 2006, Roberts delivered UGA’s Holmes-Hunter lecture, and in 2016 she presented an Alumni Seminar. Earlier this year, she participated in a panel discussion entitled “Grady Greats: A Conversation on the Enduring Values and Power of Journalism.” She will deliver UGA’s spring undergraduate Commencement address on May 10.

As a major component of the Commit to Georgia Campaign’s effort to remove barriers for students, the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program has been a critical element of UGA’s fundraising success over the past two years. To find out how you can contribute to that success, visit give.uga.edu/georgia-commitment.

Happy National Teacher Day!

Teachers

From left to right: Dr. Tina Harris, Dr. Keith Herndon, and Courtney Aldrich.

Today, for National Teacher Day, we are celebrating the sacrifices made, knowledge shared and kindness shown by UGA faculty and alumni teaching across the world. Keep reading for special shout-outs from UGA students to a few of their favorite teachers on campus …

Dr. Tina Harris (AB ’90, MA ’92) is a professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. She teaches on the topics of communication and race. Dr. Harris has enjoyed great success throughout her career and has been recognized for that success with awards such as the 2017 Engaged Scholar from the Office of Public Service and Outreach and the 2017 Special Collections Faculty Fellows.

Marquan Norris, Class of 2021, public relations major, communications and design and media minor

Dr. Keith Herndon (ABJ ’82) is a professor in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. His teaching specialty is entrepreneurial journalism with a focus on innovation and emerging business models. Herndon began his career as a visiting professor within Grady College in 2012. In 2016, he became a full-time professor. Herndon is the director of the Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership and the William S. Morris Chair in News Strategy and Management.

Caitlyn Richtman, Class of 2019, journalism and women’s studies double major

Courtney Aldrich (MED ’05) is associate director for the Institute for Leadership Advancement (ILA) in the Terry College of Business. ILA develops values-based leaders that serve their communities and organizations. Aldrich began working with ILA in 2007 as assistant director and has been associate director since 2012.

Hanh Nguyen, Class of 2020, advertising major, communications minor

We hope you’ll join us today in saying THANK YOU to a UGA faculty member who improved your college experience or thanking a Bulldog teacher across the state and country helping prepare the next generation of great leaders!

–Written by Maya Jones, a May 2019 graduate, during her UGA internship in Spring 2019.

May the Fourth Be With You: Star Wars and the Dawgs

Throughout generations, one firm thing has remained a cornerstone in nerd culture: Star Wars. Whether you love or hate the prequels, no matter your opinion on Solo, and whether or not you think Han shot first, fans have remained passionate about and loyal to the Star Wars universe.

A similar passion can be found among Georgia Bulldog fans. And when the two combine, it only leads to greatness.

On May the Fourth, we’re proud to bring you five ways the Dawgs and Star Wars are connected – enjoy you will: 

1. Former Georgia football player Chris Conley (ABJ ’14) makes viral Star Wars fan film.

In 2014, then junior wide receiver Conley wrote and starred in a Star Wars fan film called “Retribution.” The 26-minute film has over half a million views, and led to plenty of interviews asking for Conley’s Star Wars opinions. Now playing professionally for the Jacksonville Jaguars, fans just have to wait until December for Conley to share his thoughts on the upcoming Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. 

Former UGA wide receiver Conley created a Star Wars fan video.

Former UGA wide receiver Conley created a Star Wars fan video.

2. Kemp Remillard (BFA ’04) illustrates Star Wars books.

After studying graphic design at UGA, Remillard established a sucessful career as a concept artist, designer and professional illustrator. In particular, Remillard illustrated all of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens Incredible Cross-Sections” and “Star Wars:  The Last Jedi Incredible Cross-Sections”  and illustrated cross-sections in “Star Wars: Complete Locations” and “Star Wars: Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide.” Remillard now works for Massive Black Inc., and has done work for other well-known companies such as Hasbro, DK and Cartoon Network. 

 

Baker speaks to UGA students during a guest presentation in April 2018.

Baker speaks to UGA students during a guest presentation in April 2018. Photo courtesy of Sarah Freeman/Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication

3. Grady grad turned Imagineer designs Disney’s Star Wars land.

Once he had completed working on the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” for Universal Studios, Eric Baker (ABJ ’90) was offered a job he couldn’t refuse: designing “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” for The Walt Disney Company. Imagineer Baker had been sworn to secrecy about most things at the time of his meeting with UGA students in 2018. Still, he gushed about his time visiting Skywalker Ranch, stopping by the set of Solo: A Star Wars Story and seeing original film props. When “Galaxy’s Edge” opens May 31, 2019, don’t forget that there was a Dawg behind it all. 

 

 

4. Caitlin Plesher (AB ’15, AB ’15) co-hosts Star Wars podcast.

With nearly 4,000 Twitter followers, Skytalkers is a bi-weekly podcast covering all things Star Wars. Plesher and her co-host, Charlotte Errity, were invited to the recent Star Wars Celebration in Chicago, and featured on the Podcast Stage. They recently celebrated 100 episodes of Skytalkers. Be sure to check out this podcast for a Dawg’s view on the Star Wars universe. 

Plesher and co-host Errity discuss Star Wars in their "Skytalkers" podcast.

Plesher and co-host Errity discuss Star Wars in their “Skytalkers” podcast. Photo courtesy of Skytalkers.

5. Marshall Shepherd explains weather in the Star Wars universe.

Prior to the release of The Force Awakens, Marshall Shepherd, professor and director of UGA’s atmosphere sciences department, wrote an article for Forbes on the science of the weather on the different Star Wars planets. Shepherd compares the environments on Earth to the desert planet of Tatooine and the ice planet of Hoth. This article combines the world of Star Wars and atmospheric sciences, a combination that not many people can say they are experts in. Thanks, Dr. Shepherd! 

No matter what walk of life we are from, Bulldogs can agree: Star Wars is one of the most storied science fiction universes of all time. Have a great May the Fourth, and may the Force be with you, always!  

 

Father, daughter share in graduation celebrations

Jacksons

Jenna Jackson has a law degree from UGA. Her father John Jackson has a business degree from UGA. (Photo by Chad Osburn/UGA)

Originally posted on UGA Today on May 2, 2019. Written by Sara Freeland.

When John W. Jackson gives the address at Terry College of Business Convocation May 10, it will be an event almost 50 years in the making.

Jackson first stepped onto campus in 1972. He was one of the first 10 African Americans to play football for the University of Georgia. He walked on to the football team as a free safety the year after the team was desegregated (in 1971) when UGA was a different place.

The same day he is giving his convocation speech, Jackson’s daughter, Jenna Jackson, will be graduating with a Master of Public Administration and Policy in the Graduate Commencement ceremony.

“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for people like my dad,” Jenna Jackson said. “There’s no me getting a degree if there’s no John Jackson in the ’70s who will brave hostile conditions.”

John Jackson

John Jackson, front row, third from left, played J.V. football for UGA in 1972. (Photo from 1973 Pandora)

1972-1976

John Jackson was one of around 600 African American students who earned UGA degrees between 1972 and 1976. “I had an incredible learning experience,” he said. “There were so many acts of kindness from professors.”

When there was a fire in his residence hall, Payne Hall, and his books were water damaged, one of his professors offered up his own book for Jackson to use to study.

“The environment at Georgia was very encouraging to me. More people wanted me to succeed than fail,” he said. “The problems I had at Georgia were so insignificant I discarded them. It prepared me for life after college—the barriers you had to overcome, that you had to be prepared. I left Georgia ready to compete in the corporate world.”

Why UGA?

John Jackson, who graduated from UGA with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1976, was the youngest of eight children. His father had a sixth-grade education and worked in the mailroom of a prominent Atlanta law firm staffed by many UGA-educated attorneys. His father saw the value of an education and encouraged his children to attend college.

“When you’re growing up, parents want you to be the very best that you can. They want you to be far better than them,” he said. “The best way to do that was to become educated.”

Two of John Jackson’s older brothers attended Morris Brown College, and Jackson was the first to attend the University of Georgia.

After his first year of college, his father encouraged him to give up football in order to more fully focus on his education. He even received a scholarship from his father’s law firm.

For extra spending money, Jackson worked the morning shift at McDonald’s. He’d come in at 4 a.m. and then go to his 8 a.m. business policy class with William Tate, now namesake of UGA’s Tate Student Center. Tate was a notoriously tough professor who took an interest in Jackson. He remembers Tate asking him, “Have you thought about going to banking? I would give you a recommendation.”

John Jackson went on to raise $60 million to co-found Bank of Atlanta. It’s the accomplishment he’s most proud of—founding the bank and keeping it profitable during the Great Recession.

Second-generation Bulldog

Jenna Jackson attended law school at UGA not because of her father’s influence, but partly because of her mom. She was looking at area law schools and wanted to stay close enough to check on her mother, who was battling breast cancer in Atlanta. She went on to work in football recruitment for UGA during and after law school and was named Miss UGA in 2013. In 2015, she was named Miss Georgia, but said Miss UGA was her favorite title.

Jenna Jackson

Jenna Jackson at the School of Law. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

“I got to see how the University of Georgia makes positive changes for all different types of people,” she said.

Jenna Jackson was also the third black Miss UGA. She said that like her father before her, there was some pressure that came with the role.“He was very quietly in the background,” she said.

“He had been through it. He was under immense pressure. You have to be twice as good to go half as far—he taught me that so subtly that it wasn’t a burden.”

Now, she’s finishing her second UGA degree—this time from the School of Public and International Affairs. “I really want to help people be the best version of themselves, and I thought the Master of Public Administration would help me to do that.

“It’s an honor to be graduating the same day he speaks. To hear him, to see him,” she said. “I understand the sacrifice he made for his family.”

Convocation speech

Jackson has spent more than 30 years working in banking, including 15 years at Bank South. At SunTrust, he had an $800 million loan portfolio. He co-founded Bank of Atlanta in 2004, which was acquired for $3 billion by State Bank and Trust in 2014. He currently serves on the UGA Terry College of Business’ Dean’s Advisory Council.

He also started the Emerson W. Jackson Scholarship Foundation to honor his father. He’s given out 10 or 11 small grants to students who embrace some of his father’s core values of respect, integrity and kindness.

When he received the offer to be the Terry Convocationn speaker, the timing was right.

“Sometimes you wonder if you’ve made a difference,” he said. “My name is not widely known outside the banking arena. But it reenergized me, reaffirmed that what I was doing was right, that I was making difference.”

Clementine Creative: Marketing Agency Brings Juicy Storytelling

Clementine

Sometimes big stories start in small places. One of those places: Clementine Creative Agency, a boutique marketing agency based from the first floor of a century-old building on the edge of bustling Marietta Square. Founded in 2015 by Jennifer Minton Nilsson (BBA ’00) and Merissa Corbet Davis (BFA ’03), Clementine Creative has become a wellspring of creative branding, dauntless design and authentic storytelling for a diverse and growing list of clients in the metro Atlanta area and beyond.

The agency initially sprang from the decade-long professional history of its two founding partners who worked together as part of an in-house corporate marketing and creative team for a prominent Atlanta-based homebuilding company. “I was the Vice President of Marketing and Merissa was our Art Director. We were lucky in that the company placed a value on branding and creative visioning that a lot of others may not. We rode out a lot of challenging times in the industry, but we learned a lot in the process too,” says Jennifer. “As we collaborated, we began to focus in on how powerful our craft could be in terms of creating a brand and a vision and then communicating that story in a way that was unique and genuine, something that people could connect with. That kind of storytelling makes things happen. It is not only fulfilling to create, but it makes a real impact on the business, even in the hard times.”

Clementine

“So much of it became about just taking those extra moments to be thoughtful,

Clementine

having the courage to take a step back and think creatively, look for the fresh approach – then the persistence to follow through the details and get it right,” adds Merissa. “Doing what, in a lot of cases, others wouldn’t take the time to do. Ultimately, we knew we wanted to create an environment built around that way of working and really honor the craft with great design that had an impact on people. And that was the seed of Clementine.” As Clementine’s reach has grown, so has its team – currently rounded out by two more UGA alumnae, Rachel Regal Melvin (BBA ’12) who heads up social media and engagement and Emily Noles (AB ’18), the agency’s client account and marketing coordinator.

With a select team for support, Clementine has been busy bringing stories to life from logo and branding packages to websites, social media campaigns, retail experience centers and more.

Clementine Creative

Highlights of Clementine’s recent work include two national award winners: a creative branding implementation (complete with onsite, web and social media components) for Marietta Square Market, the city’s anticipated new food hall destination opening this spring, as well as a brand experience center for Pratt Stacks, a new condominium destination in Atlanta’s Grant Park. Located in The Beacon Atlanta, the center is defined by a full wall mural, commissioned from a local artist, and combines everything from street art to architecture with video and interactive presentations for an immersive lifestyle experience. “We’ve had the opportunity to work with a growing list of clients from all walks and that’s a part of the challenge and the fun for us,” says Rachel. “We get to create these things and then see them come to life out in the world. When our clients see success, we get to celebrate with them. Everyone has a unique story to tell, so there’s always a new creative challenge for the team.”

And, at least for now, that team is red and black through and through. “There’s always room for another Dawg in the office,” jokes Rachel. Emily, the team’s most recent alum, adds, “When you think about it, it’s fun to have this team where you can see all these different facets of UGA working together. Merissa studied on the fine arts side in Lamar Dodd. Jennifer and Rachel both have a background in marketing from Terry. I was in advertising at Grady. We all have a common ground in the Georgia community, but we also all have different training, different specialties, different experiences that we bring to our work as a team and I think that collaboration really shows in the finished work.” Sounds like the makings for a great story.

Want to see more? Get a taste of Clementine’s work on their website at clementinecreativeagency.com.

See.Spark.Go gives 100+ UGA students hands-on experience

Brittany (ABJ ’04) and Andy Thoms (BSFCS ’02) married their passions for storytelling and entrepreneurship to establish See.Spark.Go, an Athens-based public relations agency with offices in Atlanta and Newport Beach, Calif., and 24 full-time employees. While building their successful business, they also provided an important training ground for UGA students by offering unique experiential learning opportunities.

Brittany, a Grady College of Journalism alumna, has a background in national-brand public relations, and Andy, a Family and Consumer Sciences alumnus, was born with a natural entrepreneurial mentality. Playing off their strengths, the couple opened a PR firm with the purpose of building relationships to drive results.

Relive your glory (glory) days

 

“We started See.Spark.Go because we really wanted to be choosy about the types of stories that we told as a PR agency,” Brittany said. “We had the short-term goals of living in Athens, starting our own business, and telling the best stories.”

From the beginning, interns have been an integral part of See.Spark.Go. The company started as a staff of three – Brittany, Andy, and an intern. As the first year went on, the couple realized how vital to the business their intern had become, so they continued to recruit students that were also passionate about the company’s mission.

Since its founding in 2007, the company has hired over 100 University of Georgia students as interns, and following the university’s 2016 implementation of an experiential learning requirement for undergraduate students, this internship opportunity has become even more valuable.

See.Spark.Go, an alumni-owned PR agency in Athens, has given hundreds of UGA students experiential learning opportunities as interns.

“I think it creates a win-win environment. Students get to see agency operations at a high level, and the business benefits from that youthful knowledge of what’s trending currently,” Andy said.

Kaci Pollack, now an employee of See.Spark.Go, started with the company as an intern.

“I really feel like my experience in Grady College was completely enhanced by my time as an intern at See.Spark.Go. They worked really well together to give me a well-rounded education. I think that’s what the company is able to do for our students who come from Grady,” Pollack said.

Through the internship program, students gain more than just the experience of working at a PR and communications agency. Brittany and Andy invite guest speakers to talk to the interns about other life skills, such as budgeting and resume development.

“At the end of the day, Brittany and I have a passion to see people discover their dreams. What better time to start dreaming than during your time as a university student?” Andy said.

The glue of experiential learning is UGA’s community partners, like Andy and Brittany Thoms of See.Spark.Go, who provide life-altering opportunities for students to cultivate their professional and personal development and in turn, gain immeasurable skills that will be poured back into our state and nation in the years to come.

See.Spark.Go’s trust in UGA students has paid off. After starting out in their Athens home and growing to a small office off Atlanta Highway, the agency moved to its current location, a charming house on Milledge Avenue. The company has since expanded to include offices in Atlanta and California, due to its growing team and burgeoning business, specializing in integrated communications and brand management for organizations such as fab’rik, Your Pie, Farm Burger, Kanakuk Kamps, Airstream, and All Pro Dad.

If your company is interested in partnering with UGA to provide experiential learning opportunities, please visit itstartswith.uga.edu/corporate.

Meet new alumni board member Truitt Eavenson (BSAE ’83)

When Truitt Eavenson transferred to the University of Georgia from Emmanuel College, he was not sure about which career path to take. Eavenson, who grew up on a farm in Carnesville, Georgia, began looking through the course catalog and was fascinated with agricultural engineering. Once he met with the department head, Robert Brown, he committed to studying agricultural engineering.

Now, more than 20 years later, Eavenson is the vice president of Georgia Power in the Southeast region thanks to the education he received at UGA. To that end, he is dedicating his time to giving back to the place that helped shape him by serving on the board of the UGA Alumni Association.

“No matter what your career is or where you go in life you really don’t get there alone. There are always people helping you,” says Eavenson. “I think that we have a responsibility to go back and help people who are behind us be successful.”

Prior to joining the alumni board, he served on the College of Engineering and College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences advisory boards. He often returns to campus to speak to undergraduates, and hopes to prepare students for life after graduation.

“I really just want to make a difference. When my service is finished with whatever I am doing, I want people to say ‘I’m really glad he was here; he really did make a difference.’”

Eavenson offered advice to students preparing for life at UGA and beyond: “You can go to college for four years, and you can graduate with a degree, and go get a great job,” he said. “Or you can come to Athens and really get involved in the university. Look for the opportunities that are available to you and have an experience that you’ll always cherish and always be glad you did.”