Danielle Derkink (MBA ’05) commits to inclusivity, advocacy

Danielle Derkink (MBA ’05) is an enthusiast, whether she’s talking about her extensive experience in hospitality, being an advocate for women and diversity in the workplace, or creating awareness about childhood arthritis.

The daughter of Dutch immigrants, Derkink fell in love with hospitality at a young age through a family friend who was a live-in general manager at a hotel in Houston. She remembers learning about a new area of hospitality each time she visited her friends. She was curious and intrigued by the way a hotel functioned. Forgoing her initial childhood dream of being a female fighter pilot, Derkink embraced the excitement of a hotel management career instead and followed her passion to the Netherlands, where she received her Bachelors of Hospitality Administration at The Hotelschool The Hague.

Moving back to the United States to begin her career in hospitality, Derkink quickly began moving up the ranks as her career aspirations continued to grow. It was at this time she decided to pursue her Masters of Business Administration at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business. Upon completing her degree, she took a promotion to Washington, D.C. and served as a hospitality ambassador for the Terry MBA program in the city.

After a career opportunity in Tampa, FL and the birth of her first child, Elle, Danielle made the move to back to Atlanta and to IHG, a company that has allowed her to live out her other passions – philanthropy and advocacy for women and inclusivity in the workplace.  When Elle was 2 years old, she was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. In search of a support network, Derkink began volunteering with the Arthritis Foundation’s Georgia Chapter, of which she is now acting co-chair of the juvenile arthritis committee. Derkink has partnered with other organizations including the University of Georgia’s Alpha Omicron Pi to raise awareness about the disorder. Each year the Juvenile Arthritis Foundation and the sorority team up to put on the annual 5K “Run for the Roses” as a fundraiser. This year, the race will be on March 28th.

Danielle (far right) at a Lean In event with Sheryl Sandberg (second from left) and other Atlanta-based Lean In leaders, Emily Schwarz and Alison Eminger.

Danielle (far right) at a Lean In event with Sheryl Sandberg (second from left) and other Atlanta-based Lean In leaders, Emily Schwarz and Alison Eminger.

IHG has provided Derkink a platform to demonstrate her commitment to women and inclusion in the workplace. For the fifth straight year, IHG has received a perfect score by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI). At IHG headquarters, Derkink has led the Women’s Lean In Group, inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s book. Derkink also actively attends IHG’s representation at the Atlanta Pride Parade annually, bringing her two daughters—and this past year, her mother too—to encourage them to be their authentic self.

In addition to her philanthropy and advocacy, Derkink has engaged with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ newest major Hospitality and Food Industry Management. IHG will sit on the board of the new major, helping to guide curriculum and support students. The University of Georgia is grateful to alumni, like Danielle Derkink, who are making an impact in their workplace and reconnecting with the university.

2020 Alumni Awards recipients unveiled

The Alumni Association will celebrate individuals and organizations that have demonstrated a deep commitment to bettering the university during its 83rd annual Alumni Awards Luncheon on April 24.

This year’s honorees include:

Lynda Bradbury Courts

The Honorable Johnny Isakson

Dr. Hamilton E. Holmes Family

Peter Shedd

Sanford and Barbara Orkin

Christina Swoope Carrere

2020 Alumni Merit Awards

The Alumni Merit Award, which is given to those who bring recognition and honor back to the University of Georgia through outstanding leadership and service, will be presented to Lynda Bradbury Courts and the Honorable Johnny Isakson.

As a lifelong philanthropist, Lynda Bradbury Courts (AB ’63) has supported and served the university for decades in a multitude of ways. Perhaps most notably, she served as the chair for the University of Georgia Foundation board of trustees from 2004 to 2005.

After graduating from UGA, Sen. Johnny Isakson (BBA ’66) had a multi-decade career of public service to the state and the university. He holds the distinction of being the only Georgian ever to have been elected to the state House, state Senate, U.S. House and U.S. Senate.

2020 Family of the Year Award

The Dr. Hamilton E. Holmes family will receive the Family of the Year Award, which is presented to a family that demonstrates loyalty to UGA.

Dr. Hamilton Holmes Sr. (BS ’63) helped pave the way for future generations of students as the first African American male to attend UGA. The Holmes family has continued his legacy of opening doors and making campus more inclusive through their great support of UGA over the years.

2020 Faculty Service Award

Peter Shedd is receiving the Faculty Service Award. First presented in 1969, the award recognizes current or former UGA faculty and staff who have distinguished themselves in service to the university.

Peter Shedd (BBA ’74, JD ’77) has shown boundless commitment to the university and its students and faculty. He is an emeritus professor of legal studies at Terry College of Business. He was named the 1993 CASE Georgia Professor of the Year. He previously served as the associate dean of business, executive assistant to the president, interim VP for instruction and director of Terry College’s full-time MBA program. He has written numerous articles and two leading textbooks in the areas of the legal and regulatory environments of business and business law.

2020 Friend of UGA Award

Sanford and Barbara Orkin will be honored with the 2020 Friend of UGA Award, which is given to any non-alumnus or organization that has demonstrated outstanding loyalty and support to the University of Georgia and the UGA community.

Sanford (H ’19) and his late wife Barbara, who passed away in Nov. 2019, have demonstrated unyielding commitment to supporting the endeavors of UGA’s students, faculty and staff. They have provided tremendous financial support across the university including the Terry College of Business, the Mary Frances Early College of Education, College of Public Health, UGA Athletics, Carl Vinson Institute and the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases.

2020 Young Alumni Award

The Young Alumni Award will be presented to Christina Swoope Carrere. This award is given to those who attended UGA in the past 10 years, have embodied the Pillars of the Arch—wisdom, justice and moderation–and provided notable service to the university.

Christina Swoope Carrere (BS ’11) was the first African American female drum major of the Redcoat Marching Band and is the immediate past president of the board of directors for the Redcoat Band Alumni Association. She was also in UGA’s 40 Under 40 class of 2016. She currently serves as the senior Medicare program examiner for the Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C.

Learn more about the Alumni Awards program, or view a list of previous award recipients.

 

2020 Bulldog 100 spotlight: Marc Gorlin’s three most transformative moments

Marc Gorlin (ABJ ’95) is a Bulldog 100 regular.

This marks the sixth consecutive year he will be honored. But 2020 represents a new level of achievement for the serial entrepreneur: two of his companies have landed among the top 100 fastest-growing Bulldog businesses.

Kabbage, which simplifies the loan process for small businesses, made its Bulldog 100 debut in 2015 at No. 1. Kabbage remained in the top five the next three years, clocking in at No. 3 in 2016, No. 2 in 2017 and No. 5 in 2018. Kabbage ranked No. 38 in 2019.

Marc’s newest company, Roadie, connects drivers with businesses to provide faster and cheaper delivery solutions. Roadie cracked the list for the first time in 2020.

On Feb. 8, the Bulldog 100 Celebration will be held for the first time in Athens—in the Sanford Stadium West Endzone, just steps from where Marc took classes at Grady College. And Marc will leave the event with twice the hardware—one award for each of his children, Lily and Mills, to carry to the car.

We asked Marc to reflect on his success and the moments that were most critical for his transformation from journalism student to Bulldog 100 CEO. Here were his top three …

1. Dad’s Advice

Find a deal, not a job.

Leaving UGA with a degree in newspaper journalism in 1995, Marc received a piece of advice from his father that would alter his life journey: find a deal, not a job.

Marc’s dad encouraged him that post-graduation, with no spouse, mortgage or car payment, was the best time to take risks and push his limits. Instead of settling for a safe job, Marc set out into the world, confident in his ability to find the next great idea and use his Grady-given storytelling abilities to attract investors and customers.

“A lot of being an entrepreneur is telling stories and convincing people,” Marc says. “To make companies go, you’ve got to persuade your first customer, your first investors, your first employees to join something new.”

2. Time with Mimi

Take action before the moment’s gone.

Amid the day-to-day grind, one can easily overlook important relationships. Marc’s experience did just the opposite: he took six years off to care for his grandmother, Mimi, until she passed at age 100.

“Sometimes, the universe makes space for you to do what you need to do when you only have a certain window to do it in,” Marc says. “Those are the life opportunities you really need to take advantage of because you can’t get them back.”

After Mimi passed, Marc returned to the entrepreneurial world and co-founded Kabbage in 2008. But he did not forget the lesson he learned, and still strives to make space for his family. He understands time is finite and windows of opportunity do not last forever.

3. Roadside Realization

Be a figure-it-outer.

One Thursday in 2014, Marc was on the road to his Gulf Coast condo, where a water leak sparked a bathroom renovation. This was tile day.

He received word that the replacement tiles arrived broken and new ones would not arrive from Birmingham until Monday. Marc’s plans were shot. Sitting off an exit near Montgomery, Alabama, Marc watched as cars zipped by.

“There’s bound to be somebody leaving Birmingham right now heading toward Montgomery who would be more than happy to throw a box of tiles in their trunk,” Marc says, recounting that day. “That’s when it hit me that there’s an unbelievable, untapped transportation map that already exists made up of all of our personal vehicles.”

And just like that, an idea—and a company—began.

“Be aware of what’s going on around you,” Marc says. “Then, be a figure-it-outer and find solutions.”

By the time the tiles arrived, Marc had an entire business plan written. Oh, and his shower looks great now too.

3 Buzzworthy Bulldog 100 Businesses: Buckhead Beans, Rev Coffee Roasters, and Three Tree Coffee

Written by: Leigh Raynor Arndt

In Atlanta, Buckhead Beans is revitalizing office coffee. In Smyrna, Rev Coffee Roasters is bringing perfectly-roasted beans to the ’burbs. And in Statesboro, Three Tree Coffee Roasters is making a difference, one mug at a time. But what do these three game-changing coffee companies have in common?

They are all owned by Bulldogs. And they’re growing fast.

On Feb. 8, we’re celebrating Buckhead Beans, Rev Coffee Roasters, and Three Tree Coffee as 2020 Bulldog 100 businesses. Each year, Bulldog 100 recognizes the fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by University of Georgia alumni. Read on to learn more about the Bulldogs behind these exceptional companies.

(Spoiler: caffeine isn’t the only secret to their success.)

Buckhead Beans: Matt Ades (AB ’94, MED ’96) + Jeff Ramsey (BBA ’95)

What inspired UGA grads Matt Ades and Jeff Ramsey to start Buckhead Beans? Water cooler talk. In 2014, the college friends invested in an Atlanta-based vending company providing coffee to offices around the city. As they strategized how to revitalize the business, they asked around to see how people felt about the coffee at work. Across the board, the response was the same: yuck.

“Matt and I recognized a movement in Atlanta like craft beer, but with coffee,” said Jeff. “New cool shops were opening across the city. We knew there was good coffee here. But we also knew that a lot of businesses were stuck in the ’80s with subpar office coffee.”

So, Jeff and Matt decided to connect the dots. They started with one van and one local roaster. Today, Buckhead Beans has grown to 10 vans and partnerships with 10 roasters, including Counter Culture, Batdorf and Bronson, and Beanealogy. And one of their top roasters is fellow Bulldog-owned business Rev Coffee Roasters (more on them next!). Inspired by these coffee connoisseurs, Buckhead Beans is now perfecting its own roasting techniques.

Buckhead Beans has rid stale coffee from the breakrooms of more than 300 Atlanta businesses. And relationships that Jeff and Matt formed at UGA have proved vital to this expansion. Jeff shows his continued appreciation for his alma mater through a perfect attendance record. In 26 years, he’s yet to miss a Bulldog home game!

Rev Coffee Roasters: Jenn Holt Bimmerle (BA ’02)

As co-founders of Rev Coffee Roasters, alumna Jenn Holt Bimmerle and her husband, Nick, make the perfect team. Jenn likes a white mocha, while Nick drinks his coffee black. Together, they make sure that Rev is a place for every coffee drinker, where everyone gets what they want. And whether you are a purist or you like a dollop of whipped cream, your order will be bolstered by the best beans around.

Jenn and Nick opened Rev in 2008. From the start, their goal went beyond bringing a better cup of coffee to Smyrna. They wanted to embrace the suburbs by creating a cool, community space where neighbors could connect. It’s safe to say they’ve stolen some attention away from Atlanta. This is Rev’s fourth year as a Bulldog 100 business.

“Rev is like Cheers. A non-alcoholic Cheers,” said Jenn. “It’s just a happy place. Everyone is well-caffeinated. Everyone’s in a good mood. When you walk in, you feel comfortable. It feels like home.”

Looking for new ways to celebrate the people that make Smyrna unique, Jenn and her husband started Rev Fest in 2010. The festival brought together local artists, craftspeople, musicians, and coffee lovers for an all-day party. The first Rev Fest was so successful that it is now a bi-annual event.

“A big part of our success is that customers became friends, who then became family,” said Jenn. “When I think of that, I always feel like we’ve done something right.”

Three Tree Coffee Roasters: Philip Klayman (BSA ’11)

As an agricultural economics major at UGA, Philip Klayman not only gained the knowledge he needed to start his own company, but he also found his partner. Philip met his wife, Anna (AB ’11), in Athens. Today, they own Three Tree Coffee Roasters in Anna’s hometown of Statesboro.

The Klaymans’ entrepreneurial drive started with their love of coffee. Devoted drinkers, they began by roasting beans in their backyard. Their hobby grew, and they were soon selling at farmer’s markets. But the Klaymans enjoyed coffee for more than its taste and aroma. They appreciate the community it inspires. Eager to share their passion with others, they opened Three Tree Coffee in 2014.

“Walls come down in coffee shops,” said Philip. “There are not many cultures like coffee culture. It brings diverse people together. Barriers come down, and we recognize our similarities.”

Three Tree’s mission goes beyond serving delicious coffee (like a pour-over made with beans from Limmu, Ethiopia, Philip’s current go-to). The Klaymans are dedicated to using their coffee as a “catalyst for change.” To empower farmers, they only use certified Fair-Trade USA beans and teas. And the shop raises funds for organizations fighting to end human trafficking.

Furthermore, Philip is determined to extend the close-knit community that Three Tree has formed in Statesboro around the globe. By establishing direct partnerships in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Ethiopia, he guarantees that Three Tree only serves coffee and tea from farms that are paid fair wages and use sustainable methods.

“I like to meet with our farmers face to face,” said Philip. “It allows me to develop a better understanding of their challenges so that I can be a solution.”

Check out the full 2020 Bulldog 100 list to learn about more alumni-owned businesses and ways to support fellow Bulldogs.

2020 Bulldog 100 Spotlight: A Network of Loyal Bulldogs

Written by: Maggie Griffin of Maggie Griffin Designs

I grew up in the small, tight-knit community of Hawkinsville, Georgia. The kind of welcoming small-town where you know everyone, and where you’re related to half the county. And the neighboring county too! When I began my freshman year at the University of Georgia in 2002, I was so comforted to see some of those familiar faces from our small town, right there on the big campus of the University of Georgia.

This past fall, when the Bulldog 100 list was announced, I was proud to again see several of those names sharing the honor with me. Hardy’s Peanuts is interwoven into my life, as we grew up on neighboring farms where Ken Hardy (BSA ’93) and Brad Hardy (BSA ’96), along with their family, now run their family farm. I sure wish our grandparents were here to celebrate this achievement with us; they would be so proud! Robert Moore (BSAE ’04), of Moore Civil, is a childhood friend from home, and his wife, Courtney, and I have been great friends since we were kids. He and his brother, Michael Azzolin (PHARMD ’02) (also from Hawkinsville), of PharmD on Demand, get to share this honor together this year, too. It’s been a joy to be included on this list alongside hometown friends and to share that same entrepreneurial spirit with them that we’ve inherited from generations before us.

My husband, David, and I now call Gainesville, Georgia, “home.” We’ve loved getting to know the amazing people who also call this charming “big” small-town “home,” and we are proud to be raising our two boys here as well. The close proximity to Athens is one of our favorite things about the city. Gainesville has been great in supporting my small business and David’s too.

The city has a fantastic community of women business owners, and I am thrilled to see two of my friends on this year’s Bulldog 100 list. Amanda Wilbanks (BBA ’09), of Southern Baked Pie Company, fed me pie in her home kitchen while I was pregnant with my oldest child (who is now almost 7!), before opening her first shop. I am proud of her incredible vision and I sure do love her pies too! Katie Dubnik (BBA ’03), another fellow female business owner and entrepreneur in Gainesville, shares the list with Amanda and me. Her extraordinary business brings invaluable marketing strategies to companies across the Southeast, and she manages a smart, energetic group of creatives at her company, Forum Communications.

I will be forever indebted to the University of Georgia for my education and for the opportunities that this wonderful university has afforded to me and to my family. The network of loyal Bulldogs never ceases to amaze me, and I am so proud to be among this incredible group this year.

Spotlight on 2020 Bulldog 100 business: Agora Vintage

Airee Edwards (AB ’99) wasn’t sure what she wanted to do when she graduated from UGA with a bachelor’s in fabric design, but she knew she wanted to stay in Athens.

So she looked for a business opening, asking herself what was missing, what did Athens not have?

The answer: an open market where anyone could sell their vintage furniture, handcrafted items, art, or whatever, really.

Open Marketplace

“I went to what seemed like every bank in Athens, and I heard a lot of no’s,” Edwards says. But with savings from waiting tables and taking money off the house she’d bought, “a risky move” as she describes it, Edwards convinced a local bank to lend her what she needed to open Agora in 2002. (Agora means “open marketplace” in Greek.)

The only problem? Edwards didn’t have a business degree. But growing up, she’d followed her mother from one craft fair to the next, selling tissue box holders they fashioned from vintage fabrics. That early exposure to entrepreneurship stuck with her.

So she learned as she went, eventually outgrowing the little shop at the corner of Clayton and Pulaski. Sellers had also begun bringing in higher-end items, including women’s clothing and accessories, and Edwards’ husband, attorney and Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Russell Edwards (JD ’10), suggested she move the fashion items to a new store a few blocks away on Broad Street, right across from North Campus.

For a while, the Edwards family headed both stores, an exhausting but incredibly rewarding job. But she eventually decided to focus on one of her first loves—fashion—and grow the now iconic vintage fashion store on Broad, selling the furniture store that would become Atomic Vintage.

When you walk into the recently renovated Agora Vintage, you see an Art Deco-inspired cabinet lined with bags from Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Hermès, just to name a few. But there are also less expensive, gently used Coach, Tory Burch, and Marc by Marc Jacobs bags toward the back of the store. The counter display is full of beautiful, estate jewelry.

To the left, rows of vintage and modern clothes, all marked significantly below retail. Designer shoes are toward the back.

Honored Bulldog Business

But what makes Agora Vintage stand out is Edwards herself. She’s almost always in the store, greeting customers, suggesting items she knows they have to have, and tracking down pieces they’ve inquired about. It’s that attention to detail that has landed Agora several times on the Bulldog 100, which lists the fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by UGA alumni. Agora Vintage has made the list an outstanding six times in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020.

But she never forgets the place that made it all possible, regularly speaking in classes at UGA and supporting the Georgia Museum of Art.

“I tell them the whole story about how I couldn’t get a loan and was eating potato chips for a year, thought I was going to get scurvy,” Edwards says. “I now own a business that allows me to live securely and enjoy some success. UGA helped me build that.”

 

This story was originally published in Georgia Magazine. 

UGA alumnus awarded Schwarzman Scholarship

This story was written by Stephanie Schupska and originally ran on UGA Today on December 4, 2019.

University of Georgia alumnus Shaun Kleber (AB ’16, AB ’16, AB ’16) was one of 148 candidates selected internationally as a Schwarzman Scholar, a graduate fellowship designed to prepare the next generation of leaders with an understanding of China’s role in global trends.

Kleber is UGA’s fifth Schwarzman Scholar. The incoming Class of 2021 was narrowed down from a pool of more than 4,700 candidates from China, the U.S. and around the world. It includes students from 41 countries and 108 universities.

Five classes of Schwarzman Scholars have been named since the highly competitive program opened to applicants in 2015. The fully funded, yearlong master’s program in global affairs is offered at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Students live and learn on the Schwarzman College campus and focus their studies on public policy, economics and business, or international studies.

“I am delighted that Shaun has received this prestigious recognition,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “The University of Georgia’s record of success in this international competition is evidence of the outstanding education we provide to our students and how well we prepare them for success beyond graduation.”

Kleber graduated from UGA in 2016 with bachelor’s degrees in international affairs, political science and economics. A Foundation Fellow and Honors Program alumnus, he spent two years with McKinsey & Company as a business analyst before transitioning to work with City Year, an AmeriCorps program, through which he served as a student success coach in Detroit. He is now a team leader with City Year in Boston and supervises student success coaches at UP Academy Boston, developing tailored strategies for student achievement.

After he completes his year as a Schwarzman Scholar, Kleber will attend Harvard Law School. He plans to pursue a career in education policy and public education administration.

“I met Shaun when he was in high school, and I enjoyed getting the chance to work closely with him while he was a student at UGA,” said David S. Williams, associate provost and director of the Honors Program. “It has been clear all along that he is destined to make a very positive impact on society.”

Kleber’s focus is on education, leadership and policy, with the goal of becoming a national leader in public education. In his time with City Year and in his internship while in college with the superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, he confronted issues such as intergenerational poverty, segregated neighborhoods and insufficient access to basic resources.

Currently, he is working to unlock the potential of individuals through education, he said, before ultimately working to unlock the potential of the American South through both public education and public policy.

“The Schwarzman Scholars program prepares and connects future global leaders, and that makes it the perfect fit for Shaun,” said Jessica Hunt, UGA’s major scholarships coordinator. “He made a profound impact on our campus as an undergraduate, and he has already demonstrated a remarkable commitment to building community in Detroit, Atlanta and Boston. He will no doubt do the same during his year in Beijing as a Schwarzman Scholar.”

UGA’s previous Schwarzman Scholars are UGA alumni Torre Lavelle (BS ’16), Elizabeth Hardister (AB ’18, MPH ’18) and Gabrielle Pierre (BSENVE ’17, MEPD ’18) and Swapnil Agrawal (AB ’19, AB ’19).

For more information on Schwarzman Scholars, visit www.schwarzmanscholars.org.

An interview with Sally Williamson (ABJ ’83)

Sally Williamson

Sally Williamson, Founder and CEO of Sally Williamson & Associates

Sally Williamson (ABJ ’83) has made a name for herself in the communication business.

With 30 years of experience to her name, Sally is the founder and president of the Atlanta-based Sally Williamson & Associates. Focusing on the spoken side of communication, the company is approaching 20 years of executive coaching, consulting, workshops and more to create effective workplace communicators.

The company has published three books that detail her practices’ beliefs: The Hidden Factor: Executive Presence, Leading Executive Conversations, and Storylines and Storytelling: What They Remember and Repeat.  The group has also started a podcast that features female leaders across the business world, with stories from executives at companies like Delta and TD Bank.

Alumni Association: How would you describe your business to someone who is unfamiliar with it?

Sally Williamson: We’re a communication consulting group that helps people influence and impact others through effective communication practices.

AA: How did you get into consulting like this?

SW: I was a journalism school graduate. I was intrigued by messaging in business and thought that I would start out on a public relations track. Instead, I got closer to the communicators and learned the foundational skills of personal delivery and presence.  That’s oversimplifying it, but eventually I brought the two concepts together in executive coaching.

AA: What inspired you to create your own business?

SW: I worked in the training field and saw both the strengths and limitations of a set curriculum.  I was always more intrigued by how people used skills once they left a training program versus how well they did in a workshop. And, I learned that most training formats were weak on the application of skills. I saw an opportunity to blend training with coaching and ensure that skills are applicable in any business setting.

And, that’s what my firm is known for: the customization of training, the added coaching elements and the expertise to understand and solve for the expectations of listeners.

AA: What inspired the start of your podcast?

Sally Williamson

What’s Your Story with Sally Williamson is a podcast that centers on leadership and storytelling.

SW: Two years ago, we released our third book which is called “Storylines and Storytelling: What They Remember and Repeat.” For two years, I did research on how stories are used in business and the skills of a good storyteller. I coined the phrase “the master storyteller” and developed the tools to help anyone become one.

The podcast was a natural outgrowth of that. It’s called “What’s Your Story,” and people who come on the podcast talk about stories in business and how they use stories to make points memorable and repeatable.

AA: Any favorite episodes?

SW: All of them! Don’t want to play favorites. What I love about it is that when we send people an outline for the podcast, they think they’re going to talk about their stories in their business and how they’ve leveraged storytelling to motivate a team, promote a product or position a brand. Ultimately, they reveal themselves as storytellers. And, that’s fun to explore. We’re asking leaders to talk about stories, but they actually illustrate their skills as storyteller.

AA: How do you think your time at UGA impacted your career?

SW: I’m sure my early days relied on technical skills to learn writing disciplines and headlines. But the more long-term impact has been the connection back to the school as a professional. I’ve enjoyed being a part of the Bulldog 100 program for small businesses, and love the opportunities to go back on campus to support programs around professional development.

AA: What advice would you give to a student looking for their first job in the communications field?

SW: Make sure that what you tackle first is experience more than stature. Don’t worry so much about the prestige of the brand you go to work for, or the starting title or role they give you. Put yourself in a position where you can get as much experience as you can and a frontline view of what is really happening around you. It’s the experience you get in the first job that gets you to the second or the third one. I think that’s especially true in public relations and communications – if you can show that you’ve done the work, rather than just been around the work, it makes a huge difference in what you have an opportunity to do next. People in public relations and communications get hired based on experience. What have you done? What do you know how to do?

AA: What are you most proud of, or what has your greatest success been?

SW: There have been many just as there have been many challenges. Success to me is based on how the business has evolved. We’ve been able to take what started as my thoughts and beliefs and grow it into a shared set of tools and skills that a team leverages. I’m proud of that, and that SW&A has become a place where others have developed an expertise and deliver great work. In the last three years, my son has joined the business and that suggests that our product and our work will outlive me.

Employee engagement a key to success, says nonprofit leader

This story was originally posted to the UGA School of Social Work website on Oct. 24, 2019, and was written by Adelia Henderson.

When it comes to running a successful organization, concepts like determination and loyalty often come to mind. But sometimes, a key to success can be something as small as switching out flooring.

Pamela Landwirth (AB ’73), found this out during the bi-annual ‘Cookies and Conversation’ meetings she holds with her staff at Give Kids the World Village, a nonprofit retreat in central Florida for children with critical illnesses and their families.

Landwirth, president and CEO of the organization, spoke about nonprofit leadership and management on Oct. 11 at Studio 225, the new University of Georgia Student Center for Entrepreneurship. The event was sponsored by the UGA School of Social Work. She said when she first started at Give Kids the World Village in 1992, there were only 32 villas and less than 40 employees, so interaction with all the employees was easy.

However, as the Village began to grow, Landwirth said she started “Cookies and Conversation” to stay engaged with employees on that micro level.

“Money is not a motivator,” she said. “But when you ask a housekeeper how you can make their job easier, and they say ‘take out the carpet’, and you put in tile, that’s when you get them more engaged.”

“They feel like you value them; you’re listening to them, and you’re doing something about it.”

Currently, Give Kids the World Village has 166 villas and more than 7,000 families that visit each year from 76 different countries. In Landwirth’s new book, “On Purpose: How Engagement Drives Success,” she outlines how practicing engagement is a key component to maintaining a successful organization.

“The beauty of engagement is that it doesn’t cost any money. It’s not the big parties, it’s not going out and giving raises,” Landwirth said. “Engagement boils down to leadership. There are very few things that have the impact that leadership does.”

Prior to working at Give Kids the World Village, Landwirth spent 16 years with the Walt Disney Company, working in various areas such as casting, attractions sales and park operations. She was then a consultant to the president and CEO of Hard Rock Café.

Give Kids the World Village provides children with life-threatening illnesses and their families a cost-free, week-long vacation to enjoy Orlando’s theme parks. Of each dollar they spend, about 93.1 cents goes directly to programs for the families such as accommodations, meals, tickets and transportation.

Landwirth said she employs a certain formula at the Village in order to maximize success.

“Quality staff experience, plus quality guest experience, plus quality stakeholder experience, plus quality business practices is what we have to focus on for success,” she said. “If any of those legs on the stool are not in sync, the whole thing will fall apart.”

Landwirth advised students interested in the nonprofit sector to take as many business classes as possible, to gain experience that will help them succeed when partnering with corporations, as when Landwirth spearheaded a partnership with the company Hasbro that brought the world’s largest game of Candyland to Give Kids the World Village.

She believes that, in a time where differences tend to pull people apart, it is vital for businesses to appreciate their employees for who they are and give them the resources needed to develop their individual gifts.

“Imagine if you worked for a company that not only helped you define your gifts, but then gave you outlets internally and externally to give those gifts away, how much more engagement we would have in the world,” Landwirth said.

“Our staff and volunteers come together for a common purpose because they want to be a part of something bigger,” she said.

“That’s what I’m hoping the book and discussions like this will do, to help us focus on those things that pull us together, and less on the things that pull us apart.”

Finding a home as a first-generation student

Written by Jasmin Severino Hernandez (AB ’13, AB ’13), UGA Young Alumni Leadership Council Outreach Chair

I transferred to the University of Georgia in 2010, with no idea how the transition would work. I came from a small liberal arts college, where I felt like I was a big fish in a little pond. At UGA, I felt quite the opposite. I felt like the world was my oyster, but I also felt lost in the sea of people. As a first-generation student, it felt lonely because I was immersed in a new experience with no idea how to navigate it all. I graduated from UGA in 2013, with a degree in political science from SPIA & another in Spanish from Franklin.

I have amazing memories from UGA.

The first was when my roommate convinced me that pageants could teach me how to be confident in myself. With her help, I competed in various pageants throughout undergrad. My greatest memories are from competing in Miss UGA in 2012 and 2013. I was a runner-up in the 2013 competition and it is a moment I will never forget. My mic went out during my talent routine and the audience only heard the last 30 seconds of my song … ironically where I had to sing the highest note. I received a standing ovation before the judges made me do it all over again!

“Some of our greatest memories involve our similar journeys as first-generation students trying to find a home, a voice, and ourselves in a new and unfamiliar place.”

In 2013, I also found my home away from home. I became a sister of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Incorporated, which is an academic sorority. The Delta Alpha Chapter of LTA helped me grow into the professional I am today. The sisters embraced me at a time when I needed support. They taught me the value of hard work and inspired me to always believe in myself and to embrace life’s unexpected twists and turns. I am still very involved with my sorority and I enjoy seeing how our sorority changes the lives of other first-generation Latinas at universities across the country.

Lastly, UGA introduced me to the love of my life. While at UGA, I met a boy who I am lucky enough to now call my husband. For an entire semester, we would casually run into each other on North Campus. One day, we finally spoke, and the rest is history. We took our engagement photos on North Campus, as a sweet nod to the place that sealed our fate. We were married on homecoming day this year, October 19, 2019, and we still enjoy calling the Dawgs on Saturdays. Some of our greatest memories involve UGA and our similar journeys as first-generation students trying to find a home, a voice, and ourselves in a new and unfamiliar place.

Today, I serve as the Outreach Committee Chair for the UGA Young Alumni Leadership Council because I truly believe that although my time at UGA was challenging in many ways, it also helped me grow immensely. I am very thankful for it all.

Somewhere along the way, UGA gave me everything I needed. Somewhere along the way, I found a home.

Featured image above by Claire Diana Photography