Catching up with D.C. Dawgs president Maeve Szambelan (ABJ ’11)

While Maeve Szambelan (Connolly) was studying telecommunications at UGA, the most valuable lesson she learned was not about writing scripts or editing videos– it was about success. The Sandy Springs native attended Marist High School, and came to UGA with dreams of becoming a broadcast news anchor. But, toward the end of college, she realized that the passion for service that she developed through involvement with her sorority was pulling her in a different direction. Instead of resisting, she followed that urge, and today she works in Washington D.C. helping higher education institutions secure federal funding for scholarships and other initiatives. The lesson she learned– “You’re ultimately in charge of shaping your own future. Be proactive, be determined and get involved.”

Washington D.C. Maeve Connolly (1)

Describe UGA in three words. 

Community, football and excellence.

What was your most memorable college experience?

In general, it was the opportunity to be involved in leadership positions. I was president of Phi Mu and president of the Panhellenic Council. My UGA experience was the most memorable four years of my life. My husband also went to Georgia, and when I got married on July 30, we got married in Athens. We wanted to show our family and friends our favorite place.

What are you up to now?

I am the managing director at McAllister & Quinn, a government relations consulting firm in Washington D.C. that helps colleges and universities secure federal funding for a variety of scholarships, research projects and programming. I recently worked with a college to apply for, and secure, a $2 million grant through the Department of Education that will be used to implement a five-year plan to strengthen the institution, with a focus on improving retention of at-risk students.

What is your favorite thing to do in D.C.?

I feel like I should say something related to politics or history, but in my spare time I like to explore new restaurants. New neighborhoods are popping up all over D.C., and Bon Appetit named D.C. “Restaurant City of the Year.” I also love walking past the White House on my way to work everyday, and exploring the city on foot.

How did you get involved with your local chapter? 

I started meeting up with other grads to watch football games and then I started asking how I could get involved. I started small with philanthropic events, and then eventually stepped into my current role as president. There are so many grads here that I didn’t know when I went to Georgia.

The D.C. Chapter leadership attended the annual Alumni Leadership Assembly in Athens last spring.

The D.C. Chapter leadership attended the annual Alumni Leadership Assembly in Athens last spring.

What is your favorite event that you have done with the D.C. chapter?

That’s a hard one. I would probably say an event that we did with the Terry grads called Bowling with Veterans. We did it at the Armed Forces Retirement Home. About 30 people came, and it was really fun. We got to spend time with older veterans. It was a great day, a lot of fun and a nice way to feel like we were making an impact.

What advice would you give to recent graduates?

Everything happens for a reason. Do your best. Show up and try hard. Have a strong work ethic and produce solid work product, and things will happen for you in your career. I didn’t know that I would end up where I am– I showed up as an intern. The grunt work pays off in the end.

Interview with Kramer Johnson (BBA ’08), digital experience at Chick-fil-A

Have you used the new Chick-fil-A One app? If so, you’re using something that was created by a team of Georgia Bulldogs. Jamie Lewis (AB ’12, AB ’12), digital specialist, recently interviewed Kramer Johnson, a 2008 Terry College of Business graduate and senior consultant for digital experience at Chick-fil-A in Atlanta.

Tell me about your time at UGA. 

I studied International Business, and I grew most during my time in the Institute for Leadership Advancement. My few classes and thirty classmates in ILA helped shape who I am today. Outside of the classroom, I loved enjoying Athens with people. There was always another place to visit – or another person to meet.

What was your path to working at Chick-fil-A? 

After starting my career in management consulting at EY, a friend from UGA recruited me to Chick-fil-A. I “learned this business” during three years of consulting Chick-fil-A operators on their local marketing plans. In 2013, UGA graduates David Salyers (BBA ’81) and Michael Lage (BBA ’05) shared a big vision for how we might reinvent the Chick-fil-A guest experience through mobile. I didn’t know much about mobile technology, but I knew this was going to be something special. Thankfully, they invited me to bring my in-house experience to the project.

How did your time at UGA help prepare you for your current career?

My relationships at UGA taught me the things that can’t be learned in a textbook. The community in Terry College and ILA helped me see how business can me be so much more than dollars and cents.

Tell me about the process of creating and launching the Chick-fil-A One app. What was your role in this project and how were other UGA graduates involved?

I lead Membership Engagement for the Chick-fil-A One App. I was lucky enough to design the “treats” element of our app. Giving free food to app users is our way of saying thanks. I’m thrilled to say that UGA grads brought Chick-fil-A One to life in all kinds of ways – Marketing, IT, Operations, Training, Accounting, and more. Bulldog fingerprints are all over it!


That moment when a largely UGA-designed app hits No. 1 in the App Store

Chick-fil-A is one of several corporate alumni chapters. Why do you think it’s important to stay involved with your alma mater? What is something you’ve enjoyed about participating with the CFA corporate chapter?

President Morehead inspired our chapter’s motto: Connect, Give, Hire. I’m so grateful to UGA, and this is a small way to help the university thrive. The chapter helps us connect with UGA in deeper ways, give more and focus on hiring UGA grads – some of the best talent around.


What is one of your fondest UGA memories?

This one’s easy. I met my beautiful wife, Hayley (BBA ’08), at a table near the tray return at the original Bolton dining hall. We made her friend eat all of her Jell-O in one bite… and the rest is history. We live in Atlanta with our two wonderful daughters.

If you could give one piece of advice to a student entering their senior year this fall, what would it be?

Get up early. Later in life, I learned the magic of getting up early to accomplish the most important task of that day: maybe it was quiet time, exercise, or writing notes to loved ones. I wish someone had taught me this purpose-driven habit when I was at UGA.

Summer Send-Off for Corporate Chapter Interns

As summer comes to an end, UGA student interns will soon head back to Athens equipped with a summer’s worth of experience from a variety of companies and organizations. Two of the UGA Alumni Association Corporate Chapters recently hosted events to honor their UGA student interns before they begin the fall semester. UGA alumni working at The Home Depot (above) and Chick-fil-A headquarters organized networking and panel discussion gatherings to bid farewell to the young adults who dedicated time and talents over the summer.

The UGA Alumni Association would like to extend its gratitude to the following panelists and organizers for making these Corporate Chapter Student Send-Off events a success:

The Home Depot
Panel discussion on Friday, July 22

Moderator: Wes Neece (BBA ’00)
Ryan Zupancic (MBA ’15)
Rob Thomas (BBA ’08, MACC ’09)
Michelle Pyne (BSED ’07, MBA ’11)
Matthew Pitts (BSA ’11)
Andrew Sexton (BBA ’15)
Tommy Ryan (BBA ’96, MED ’98)

Chick-fil-A Intern Send-Off

Chick-fil-A Intern Send-Off

Panel discussion on Monday, July 25

Moderator: Todd Phinney (BBA ’88)
Allison Duncan (BBA ’09)
Amy Ohde (MBA ’02)
Wayne Hoover (ABJ ’83)
Robin Hoover (BSED ’83)

UGA Alumni Association Corporate Chapters foster networking, fellowship and camaraderie among UGA graduates in the workplace. To learn more, please email, call (404) 814-8820. If you or your company are interested in hiring UGA students or alumni, please click here to learn more from the UGA Career Center.

Interview with Jenna Thomas (ABJ ‘06)

After learning UGA’s very own Jenna Thomas (ABJ ’06) was a finalist in the Agency PR Professional of the Year category at the 2014 PR News PR People Awards we decided to reach out and ask Jenna how her time at UGA prepared her for a successful career at Nebo and what the future holds for the PR rockstar!

What do you feel like has been your biggest success in the last year?

In the past year, we’ve experienced a lot of growth and success on our digital public relations, social and content team at Nebo. We’ve expanded our team, enhanced our capabilities and have brought on a host of exciting new clients and projects. And, for the first time, we have secured a number of nominations and wins for local and national award recognitions from leading industry organizations.  It’s been so exciting to see our team grow and evolve, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s to come.

How did your time at UGA help you prepare for the career you have now?

My time at UGA really helped confirm my passion for journalism, public relations and media industries. The Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications first exposed me to the range of exciting career paths and opportunities available in those fields. I left UGA knowing where my passions and strengths lied. My time at Grady helped put me on a track to pursue what I really wanted to do and taught me that dedication and hard work can set you on a path for success.

What is your favorite UGA tradition?

The Arch is such an iconic symbol for UGA. I was first told during my introductory tour of campus about the long-standing tradition of only passing under the arch after you’ve earned a UGA degree. On my graduation day, it was so amazing to stand in the (very long!) line after the ceremony and get a picture taken in my cap and gown after walking under the arch for the very first time… as a UGA grad.  That, and of course, game days in Athens! It’s so great to get together with other fellow Dawgs on Saturdays during football season wherever you are, but nothing beats game day in Athens.

Where do you think you will be in 5 years?

I’m hoping to further grow and expand our team and really take our PR, social and content capabilities to the next level. Atlanta has been an amazing place to work in PR and digital, and in just the past year, I’ve been really lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of two really amazing local campaigns –Choose ATL– a community driven initiative to brand Atlanta as a digital hub and Build the BeltLine – a grassroots campaign to raise funds to help support the development. I hope that over the next five years, I get the opportunity to continue to help improve my local community and to be a part of campaigns that make a real difference in other causes that I’m passionate about.

What organizations outside of work are you involved with?

I currently serve on the board of the Atlanta Ad Club as the Communications & Public Relations Lead for the 2015 American Advertising Awards – the local tier for the advertising industry’s largest competition. I am also a member of the Atlanta Press Club – comprised of media and PR executives that aims to support the journalism community as well as the American Marketing Association (AMA) Atlanta – an organization composed of public relations, creative, interactive and marketing professionals.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Three words – change the world!