20 Questions with ENO’s Parker Browne on National Hammock Day

Parker Browne Fishing

July 22 is National Hammock Day–a day to celebrate the simple art of relaxation in the great outdoors. In honor of this holiday, we checked in with UGA grad Parker Browne (BBA ’08), the international sales manager for Eagles Nest Outfitters, Inc. (ENO) in Asheville, to learn more about him and his path since graduation. Parker is originally from Tifton, Georgia, and earned a bachelor’s degree in management from the Terry College of Business.


Why UGA?

Two reasons:
1) My paternal grandparents met while attending UGA (Billie Gaskins Baker and Louis Davis Browne). So, as many students could say, it runs in the family.
2) The caliber of the school. What better in-state school is there?

Favorite memory as a student?

Sitting on the front porch of the old Jittery Joe’s Roasting Plant, discussing music and books with my close friends.

Parker Browne in Hammock at Jittery Joes

After graduation, what was your first job?

Vail Resorts lift operator, then security.

What has been your career path since that point?

After the seasonal jobs, I got into sales. I started with Grassroots Coffee Company, then Agilum Healthcare Intelligence. After that, I combined my sales experience with my passion for the outdoors, and landed my first professional job in the outdoor industry with YETI.

What is ENO?

Twenty years ago, ENO became the catalyst that sparked the hammocking counter-culture. With the creation of the DoubleNest Hammock, and the first ever hammock suspension system, ENO revolutionized hammocking and cultivated a tribe of nomadic adventurers across the US (and now globally!).

What do you do for ENO?

As the international sales manager, I manage and cultivate the relationships with our international distributors.

What is great about working for ENO?

I have been a fan of their product since my days at UGA. Now I get to sell something I believe in, as well as travel globally and get exposed to different cultures and economies.

Why do you think people enjoy hammocks so much?

As lives have gotten more complicated and connected, we need a way to relax. What better way than in a hammock? ENO made the process of set up and take down easy (less than a minute).

Where is the craziest place you’ve seen someone take a hammock?

One of my recent favorites is a group that built their own hammock stand out of bamboo and slept on a sandbar in the middle of the ocean in Hawaii. I also love all of the epic shots we get from the National Parks, a cause close to the heart of ENO.

What is your favorite ENO product?

It’s still the DoubleNest Hammock and Atlas Straps.

ENO DoubleNest Hammock

OK, so transitioning to a little about UGA and Athens … who is a UGA grad that inspires you?

Alton Brown (AB ’04)

What makes you most proud to be a Georgia Bulldog?

The connections I’ve made with Bulldogs across the U.S.

Have you maintained a connection to UGA since graduation and if so, how?

I come back a few times a year, and try to get home for at least one football game each season.

Favorite place to eat in Athens:

Amici!

Favorite book:

Trout Bum by John Gierach

Favorite movie:

The Big Lebowski

Favorite musician/band:

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit

Favorite podcast:

The Dollop or WTF with Marc Maron

If you had $1 million to donate to UGA, what would you help fund?

Sustainability research in food production/agriculture

If a student was interested in doing something like you in the future, what advice would you give them?

Start in retail. Working for a local business (like Half-Moon Outfitters) will get you exposure to the terminology and ‘feel’ of the outdoor industry. It is also a great way to network with people from the industry, which is the easiest way to get a foot in the door!

Talking Nature Photography Day with Eric Bowles (BBA ’79)

UGA alumni can be found doing amazing things all over the world, so we were delighted to find Eric Bowles (BBA ’79) on the board of directors for the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), which established Nature Photography Day (June 15)A professional photographer specializing in the Southeast United States, Eric’s work has been published in magazines, newspapers, and commercial publications.  

Why did NANPA create Nature Photography Day?  

Nature Photography Day was created by NANPA to enhance awareness of the power of nature photography in telling important stories. June 15 would be a time to invite family and friends outside and to learn about the natural sights and places in their neighborhoods. Why not look to local scenes, where you can see and appreciate nature even in your own backyard? 

What are some of your favorite places to photograph nature? 

The diversity of nature in the United States is quite amazing. We’re very lucky to have so many places to go to see and photograph nature. One of the best known parks is Yellowstone National Park. The geysers are the icons of the area – and Old Faithful is the most famous.  

Yellowstone National Park

Photo by Eric Bowles (BBA ’79) | www.bowlesimages.com

Closer to home, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is one of my favorite places to visit. Wildlife thrives in the Okefenokee – alligators, snakes, and a tremendous variety of birds. But what people don’t think about are all the beautiful wildflowers that are found in the Okefenokee. 

Alligator in the Okefenokee Swamp

Photo by Eric Bowles (BBA ’79) | www.bowlesimages.com

How has being a UGA graduate influenced your career? 

My undergraduate degree is in finance, and I spent more than 20 years in banking with what is now Bank of America. The foundation I received in business and finance has helped me with roles on boards and leadership roles throughout my career.  

UGA also has a tremendous research program, and photographs are part of many research initiatives. I’ve photographed several research projects through UGA.  One project involved counting and photographing birds at the edge of the Gulf stream to document migration. Sometime you get the unexpected – such as a sea turtle that decided a scientific instrument was a toy – resulting in the measuring equipment being many miles off course. 

What’s the story behind one of your photos? 

One of my favorite photos was made in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This particular photo idea started with just a small plant on a mossy rock. I returned to the area at least a half dozen times over the next four weeks working on compositions and watching the plant begin to bloom. We had just enough rain for the stream to rise and create just the shot I wanted, but it continued to rain every day over the next week and the water continued to rise.  By the end of the week, a torrent of water was flowing rapidly through the quiet stream and the blossoms were gone.  

Waterfall in the Smokies

Photo by Eric Bowles (BBA ’79) | www.bowlesimages.com

What’s your best tip for a Bulldog looking to get into nature photography?

Photography in general requires some degree of specialization. If you choose what you love and are truly passionate about your photography, you can build a successful career. It’s not just about making good photographs–that’s a given. It’s about spending the time and effort to find projects and work that you truly enjoyYou may not be ready to specialize right away, so it’s fine to explore different areas. Take a look at all the places you see still photography and short videos to get an idea of the opportunities available.  

 

College of Pharmacy dean, alumna is committed to success of others

The UGA Alumni Association is proud to spotlight Kelly Smith (BSPH ’92, PHARMD ’93), dean of the UGA College of Pharmacy, who returned to her alma mater in late 2018.

Endowment honors UGA Press Advisory Council member Peggy Heard Galis (AB ’68)

Peggy Heard Galis

The Peggy Heard Galis History Ph.D. Apprenticeship will allow history Ph.D. candidates to gain insight into and experience in the scholarly publishing process.

The University of Georgia Press created an endowment to fund a publishing apprenticeship program for students from UGA’s graduate history program. The Peggy Heard Galis History Ph.D. Apprenticeship will allow history Ph.D. candidates to gain insight into and experience in the scholarly publishing process.

A giving campaign organized by the UGA Press funded the endowment. UGA Press Advisory Council member Charley Tarver made the lead gift and served as the fundraising chairperson, while Lucy Allen served as the fundraising co-chair and helped connect local and out-of-state contributors with the endowment. Because of Tarver and Allen’s efforts, the campaign received nationwide donations now totaling over $100,000.

The endowment honors Galis for her many years of service to the press, the history department, and UGA. A resident of Athens, Galis and her husband Denny Galis are both graduates of UGA. She is a founding member and current vice chair of the UGA Press Advisory Council. She has long been actively involved in community, cultural and educational organizations, including the Clarke County School District, the Georgia Museum of Art, the Athens Clarke Heritage Foundation, the Southern Historical Association and the Southern Foodways Alliance.

“Peggy Galis is a human super-connector. We are thrilled to announce this teaching and learning program that honors her intellectual curiosity, her love of history and books, embodied in her deep commitment to UGA students and the UGA Press,” said UGA Press Director Lisa Bayer.

The Peggy Heard Galis apprentices will be Ph.D. students in the UGA history department. The apprentices will receive an in-depth introduction to university-press publishing and participate in the process by which scholarly books are acquired, peer reviewed, developed, edited and approved for publication. In addition, they will learn how to communicate professionally with various parties in the industry, juggle multiple tasks at once and manage a project’s status long-term.

“Peggy Galis is the history graduate program’s secret weapon. She fundraises, hosts and promotes events, and asks astute questions of every speaker who darkens our door. Peggy is a PR department, development office, and Ph.D. dissertation committee rolled into one,” said Cindy Hahamovitch, B. Phinizy Spalding Distinguished Professor of History at UGA. “How perfect is it that an apprenticeship designed to teach history graduate students how publishing works will be named in Peggy’s honor?”

Apprenticeships like these enhance the UGA learning environment, a primary goal of the Commit to Georgia Campaign. With over $1.2 billion raised, the campaign has already transformed UGA by way of new scholarships, learning opportunities, facilities and more. To find out how to help build on the campaign’s success in its final year, visit give.uga.edu.

Eric Baker: Out of This World

Eric Baker

Eric Baker (ABJ ’90) is an Imagineer for The Walt Disney Company, with credits including just-opened Galaxy’s Edge.

*In honor of Galaxy’s Edge officially opening in Disneyland on May 31, UGA is highlighting Eric Baker (ABJ ’90), a Grady graduate and creative director with Walt Disney Imagineering.

This story originally ran in the Summer 2019 issue of Georgia Magazine.

A long time ago in a galaxy not so far, far away …

A young Eric Baker ABJ ’90 was making his own Star Wars playsets because store-bought versions weren’t good enough. The son of an art teacher and a building contractor, Baker made his own Yoda masks from forms he sculpted, molded, and casted with help from his mom.

Now, he’s a creative director with Walt Disney Imagineering, working on the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge-themed lands opening in Disneyland this summer and Walt Disney World this fall.

“I love taking these worlds and bringing them from film to something people can actually go see and touch and really be a part of,” he says.

Baker attended the University of Georgia where he studied telecommunications and theatrical design. He knew he wanted to make films, so he learned model building, special effects, and set design through his course work. As a student, his first job in the industry was at Cable 13 doing Larry Munson’s makeup for his Tuesday night show.

TV Career
From the Earth to the Moon

Baker’s work on the Tom Hank’s mini-series “From the Earth to the Moon” earned him an Emmy nomination.

After graduation, Baker found work at Nickelodeon doing props on the hit show Clarissa Explains it All, coming up with games to gross people out for Double Dare, and testing pool games for Nickelodeon Guts.

That led to other film and TV work including The Mickey Mouse ClubSesame Street 3D MovieBad Boys 2, and the Tom Hanks mini-series From the Earth to the Moon  (which earned Baker an Emmy nomination).

But after 20 years in film production, the industry was changing, so Baker took an entry level model-building job with Universal Studios’ creative department.

 

 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Baker built concept models for Universal’s Harry Potter theme parks in Florida, California, and Japan.

They asked him to build a castle—which turned out to be Hogwarts. For the next two years, Baker built concept models for Universal’s Harry Potter theme parks in Orlando, California, and Japan.

The worlds are fully immersive, from taking the Hogwarts Express train from Platform 9 ¾ to drinking a cold butterbeer on the giant benches of the Leaky Cauldron. The worlds are layer upon layer, from haunted portraits to fountains that come alive with a souvenir wand.

The work Baker did for Diagon Alley in Orlando (which has 106,000 props) was such a game changer that the Themed Entertainment Association created a new award for it: the Paragon award, which won’t be awarded again until someone tops the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

And Baker is up to the challenge.

Star Wars
Galaxy's Edge

Galaxy’s Edge opened in Disneyland on May 30, and Disney World’s version will open August 29.

Disney took notice of Baker’s work and offered him the job he’d dreamed of since he was a young Padawan: Star Wars. Now he’s overseeing construction of thousands of pieces of props and set dressing for the immersive Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which means a lot of flying between Florida and California (commercial, not on an X-wing).

He’s visited the Star Wars film sets and Skywalker Ranch where he photographed some of the original props from the film, which was another dream come true for him. “Star Wars changed my life,” he says.

But ultimately, his job comes down to using the Force for good.

“I love going to work in the morning to see the look on kids’ faces the first time they come into the park. That’s the most rewarding thing I do: making people happy.”

 

Elaine Cassandra with Student of the Year Plaque

Career Center honors 2019 Student Employee of Year

Since Elaine Cassandra (BSA ’19) was in middle school, she knew she wanted to be a veterinarian, but her love for animals started long before that.

This past year, Cassandra was a senior studying animal health and working at the University of Georgia’s Small Animal Rehabilitation Service as a student worker. On April 10, she was thrilled to learn that she had been named the 2019 Student Employee of the Year during a luncheon hosted by the UGA Career Center. Her supervisor, Jodi Seidel, was pleased to nominate Cassandra for this honor.

Seidel, the Small Animal Rehabilitation supervisor, said Cassandra was “confident and proved early on that she was a fast learner. Being able to trust in Elaine’s abilities has taken some stress off my day-to-day routine and allowed us to treat even more patients.”

Cassandra has helped increase the number of patients seen to 12 in one day. Her most notable work, though, has been the transformational physical therapy that allows animals to reclaim their strength, agility and improve their overall quality of life.

Faculty and clients also shared stories in Seidel’s nomination letter, noting Cassandra’s ability to demonstrate compassion and patience even with the highest-needs patients (like a vizsla named Gunner who suffered from osteoarthritis in multiple joints and a neuropathy). Gunner’s owner, Cheryl, shared an example of Cassandra’s patience.

“On her first night of dog sitting, I came home to find Elaine on the kitchen floor next to Gunner’s dog bed (studying for a class, no less!),” she said. “That’s what it took to keep him calm and settled, and she didn’t think twice about having to do such.”

Cassandra said she was just doing what came naturally to her at work. She said working with the animals is the best feeling in the world.

Cassandra will continue to pursue a career caring for animals when she enrolls as a graduate student in UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine this fall.

The University of Georgia employs more than 5,000 student employees. Each spring, the UGA Career Center celebrates those students’ contributions to labs, offices and programs across campus.

The Student Employee of the Year Awards Luncheon, co-sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs, brought together 100 of the top student employees, based on nominations by their supervisors.

An Interview with ‘Most Engaged’ Kim Metcalf

Kim-Metcalf-at-Alumni-WeekendKim Metcalf’s (BSEH ’93, MS ’96) reputation preceded her. I’d recently witnessed her receive the title of Most Engaged, an award created just for her, during an Alumni Association Board of Directors meeting. UGA Development and Alumni Relations staff members had described her as outstanding, awesome, incredible and every other raving adjective. Well … she exceeded every accolade.

Kim Metcalf Most Engaged Sash and Scepter

In recognition of her outstanding commitment to the University of Georgia, Kim Metcalf was presented with a tiara, sash and scepter during a UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors meeting in 2019.

Beginning her UGA involvement

Kim joined the environmental health science club during her second year of college, then represented the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences on the University Council. Kim helped found Epsilon Nu Eta, the Environmental Health Science Honor Society. Her favorite extracurricular activity, though, was Arch Society, a student organization that serves as official hosts and goodwill ambassadors on behalf of the university. As a charter member, she still feels immense loyalty and connection to UGA because of it.

Mentee to mentor

Kim graduated with a Bachelor of Science in environmental health in 1993. “I always stayed in touch with my professors,” Kim mentioned. In fact, she had the opportunity to earn her master’s degree because of Phillip Williams, her professor and mentor who later became the founding dean of the UGA College of Public Health. He asked her to be the “guinea pig” for a new academic program. In 1996, UGA awarded her its first ever Master of Science in environmental health. Williams also opened doors to help launch her career. In describing their friendship, Kim said, “He came to my wedding. He’s always been a constant in my life.”

Since graduation, Kim has found herself on the other side of many mentorships with UGA students. “Sometimes kids just need someone to be there,” she said, “It’s not always about career paths and internships. Sometimes they just got dumped and need a new perspective! I love being a port in the storm for kids.”

Kim Metcalf and her mentee Briana Hayes

Kim Metcalf meets with her mentee, Briana Hayes, during the pilot phase of the UGA Mentor Program.

One of her mentees is now considered a “bonus brother” to her four children. They met during an alumni luncheon and she discovered his family had recently moved away. “I gave him my card and told him to call me for a home-cooked meal. Now he’s like my fifth child.”

I’d guess most of Kim’s mentees feel like part of her family.

“Me” time

Kim runs her own environmental consulting business, Riverbend Environmental, a four-time Bulldog 100 honoree. It’s safe to say she doesn’t have a ton of free time and yet she spends it volunteering; she considers it her “me” time. She speaks to UGA classes regularly and she has served as vice president for the Athens Alumni Chapter for several years. At the time I spoke with her, Kim was planning an Arch Society reunion, too.

Kim Metcalf at Bulldog 100 in 2015.

Kim Metcalf’s company, Riverbend Environmental, was recognized as a 2015 Bulldog 100 fastest-growing business owned by a UGA graduate.

Perhaps one of Kim’s greatest volunteer roles at UGA has been with the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors. She was a member in the early 2000s for four years, and then came back to serve again in 2015. When we met, she had just finished her second two-year term. Being on the alumni board is prestigious and time-consuming – serving twice speaks volumes about Kim’s commitment to her alma mater.

Predictably, Kim has said the most rewarding experience during those terms has been working with the other board members. “They are all selected for a particular reason and they all bring unique leadership perspectives. It’s given me the opportunity to form foundations of friendship that will last forever,” she said.

Kim Metcalf at UGA Alumni Board of Directors Meeting

Kim participates in a strategic brainstorm session during a UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors Meeting.

When asked to describe the work they’re doing, Kim said, “We are a working board that is actually making a difference. We are ‘friend-raising’, guiding decisions, bringing people in, reengaging them and networking.” UGA will only continue to improve with exceptional board members who are dedicated and excited–people like Kim.

A love for people

Kim’s passion for UGA cannot be overstated. Her fourth child was baptized at the Chapel on campus. While planning an Athens visit from Atlanta when her first child was just a few months old, the hotel asked if her reservation was for a prospective student. She answered without hesitation, “Absolutely!” But Kim’s consistent involvement is cultivated by a deeper love for connecting with others.

“People always say everyone has a talent,” she told me. “I just love people. I love helping people.”

Kim Metcalf laughs with fellow attendees during the 2019 Alumni Weekend

Kim Metcalf laughs with fellow Bulldogs during the 2019 Alumni Weekend in Athens.

Meeting Kim was delightful. She lived up to her reputation of being truly outstanding, awesome, incredible and more. Her commitment to the University of Georgia is impressive and I’m sure anyone she’s met would agree!

One might say she’s a #DGD.

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), who graduated from UGA’s College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences with a degree in biological engineering, 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.