Meet NOLA Chapter Leader Mary Lane Carleton (AB ’96)

While attending grad school in New Orleans, Mary Lane Carleton (AB ’96) got involved with her local alumni chapter through football game watching parties. Now, as a historic preservation consultant in New Orleans, she’s an active chapter leader. Mary Lane shared with us her experience hosting UGA students on service trips to the city and the value of friendships she’s made through the New Orleans Chapter.

When did you graduate from UGA and what are you up to now?

I graduated from UGA in August 1996, finished in three years! That was the summer of the Olympics and we had three events on campus and a week off to accommodate them. Luckily, UGA allowed me to go through graduation in June even though I still had summer quarter to complete.

Today, I am a self-employed historic preservation consultant based in New Orleans, specializing in Historic Tax Credit project applications and National Register of Historic Places nominations.

How did you become involved with your alumni chapter?

When I moved to New Orleans to attend graduate school at Tulane, I looked on the UGA Alumni Association’s website to see if there was a chapter. There was, so I started attending game watching parties. My involvement grew from there and now I’m part of the chapter leadership team! It’s true that part of success is just showing up and being involved.

New Orleans alumni chapter members at a Trash Mob cleaning litter with UGA IMPACT students.

What chapter event are you most proud of?

We host an annual dinner for UGA students visiting New Orleans with the IMPACT (Alternative Spring Break) program where alumni provide a meal and have an opportunity to interact with students and learn about what is happening on campus. We’ve hosted this event for six years now! It’s a rewarding and fun experience every year to see what dynamite students are at UGA. Their willingness to be involved and give their free time while on their spring break is inspiring. We have also started having a “social” with our New Orleans University of Florida Chapter in advance of the big game, and that’s a fun tradition we plan to continue.

How has being part of your local chapter benefited you?

Being a part of my local chapter has produced a lot of friendships with fellow Dawgs I would not have met otherwise in my daily life. The friendships are definitely my most valued aspect of being involved and being a chapter leader. It’s also helped me hone my leadership and organizational skills.

Mary Lane with fellow alumna Valentina Williams (PHARMD ’12) at Mardi Gras.

What is the most important lesson you learned during your time at UGA?

I think the most valuable lesson I learned, and understood while at UGA (versus in hindsight) was to get to know your professors and/or advisors.  I got to know my Franklin College advisor well, and used to go visit her even after I moved to the Political Science Department. She helped me out of a schedule jam one time and it was absolutely because I had gotten to know her on a personal level.

If there is any advice you could give to a current student, what would it be?

My advice to current students would be the same answer as in the above question, as well as be flexible. College (and life) will not always go your way, be able to adapt, change your schedule, or take a class that might be outside of your area of study. Meet as many people as you can, both students and professors/advisors/professionals in your chosen field. Take time to appreciate UGA life in the moment, it goes by so fast! Take advantage of every opportunity that’s presented to you because it may lead you to your next important step in life.

This post was written by Kendall Little ’17, intern for DAR Communications.

No business like show business

This feature was originally published in the March issue of Georgia Magazine.

Emily Hammond Cook’s (AB ’07) journey into the New York theater scene sounds familiar at first. After graduating from UGA, she moved to the Big Apple with no job or apartment—just big dreams and ambition. Cook’s interests, however, were not performing on the stage and under the bright lights, but working behind the scenes.

Since then, Cook has carved out a role off-Broadway in the management side of nonprofit theatre, helping make the art form accessible to the general public. In that capacity, she played a supporting role in the developing stages of the smash-hit musical “Hamilton.”

Cook majored in theater at UGA, while also taking business classes.

“I love UGA and am so deeply grateful to it for all the ways in which it shaped and molded me into who I am today,” said Emily. “Those four years in Athens were the most formative years of my life and I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for UGA and the experiences and relationships formed there.”

Emily now donates to the UGA Department of Theatre and Film Studies in recognition of the lasting impact it has had on her career. She hopes her gifts will help ensure the support the department deserves and will inspire others to acknowledge the need for funding.

As president of the NYC Dawgs Alumni Chapter and a member of the 40 Under 40 Class of 2015, Emily remains deeply connected with her alma mater and encourages alumni in New York City to connect with their fellow Bulldogs.

After graduation, Cook landed an internship in the casting department at the Manhattan Theatre Club, an acclaimed Broadway nonprofit theater company. “I loved being in on the audition process and seeing how new shows are developed,” she says. “It was a huge learning experience in how nonprofit theaters are run.” After the internship, Cook worked as an assistant to the executive producer of the company, Barry Grove, who became a mentor and, as she says, provided a “master class in theater producing.”

From there, Cook took a job in general management at the Public Theater, a premier off-Broadway nonprofit, where she works on budgets, contracts, and union matters. By chance, she took a role as the co-company manager of a new musical in development. Her job was to serve as a caretaker of the cast, “doing everything to keep them healthy and happy.” That production was “Hamilton.”

“We knew the show was special and were confident it was going to be a hit, but we had no way of predicting the cultural phenomenon it has become,” Cook says. The show earned stellar reviews and played to capacity houses full of celebrities at the Public Theatre before moving to Broadway.
“It was a life-changing experience getting to be a part of the revolution that is ‘Hamilton.’”

Show business goes on for Cook, who now serves as the general management planning and programs manager at the Public Theatre, which produces 10 to 15 shows a year and presents the renowned Shakespeare in the Park, which has offered free productions in Central Park for over 50 years.

Cook says her philosophy about theater aligns with the Public’s ethos: “Theater shouldn’t be an elitist art form; it should be accessible to all, created by all, and should share the stories of all walks of life.”

Know an outstanding young alumnus like Emily Hammond Cook? Nominations are open for the 40 Under 40 Class of 2017 are open until April 7!

New Affinity Group Leadership Councils

The UGA Alumni Association has officially launched the leadership councils for the Women of UGA and Young Alumni Affinity Groups! The Alumni Association launched its first official affinity group, UGA Black Alumni, in 2015 after increased demand from the university’s more than 14,000 Black graduates to establish meaningful connections with the university. That group operates under a five-prong mission to recruit, retain, engage, donate and serve.

After receiving a high volume applications for the councils, members of the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors selected 15 individuals to serve in each inaugural council.

Women of UGA

As the largest population of alumni, Women of UGA will focus on programming, mentorships and fundraising for the Women of UGA Scholarship Fund.

Mission Statement:
To foster a lifelong commitment to the University of Georgia, Women of UGA creates opportunities for personal and professional development, instills a spirit of giving, and invests in the future of the University, its students and its alumnae.

Women of UGA Leadership Council Members:

Anne Beckwith (BBA ’90)

Brooke Bowen (ABJ ’07, JD ’10)
Legal Counsel
Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia

Teri Cloud (ABJ ’94)
Director of Marketing
Babush, Neiman, Kornman & Johnson, LLP

Ali Bracken Gant (AB ’01, MPA ’11)
Planned and Asset Giving Officer
Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Frankie Gilmore (BS ’07, MPH ’10)
Stylist & Personal Shopper
Gilmore Style Consulting

Amber Nixon Gizzi (BSFCS ’14)
Executive VP & Partner
Pineapple House Interior Design

Erica Gwyn (BSED ’00)
The Nonprofit Guru, LLC

Kelly Kautz (AB ’99, JD ’02)
Law Offices Kelly D. Kautz

Rubina Malik (PHD ’15)
Executive and Teach Coaching & Consulting
The Malik Group

Bailey Maxwell (ABJ ’09)
HR Generalist
Bennett Thrasher, LLP

Terri Julian Polk (BBA ’86)
Director of Brand Development
The Coca-Cola Company

Sarah Rettker (BBA ’10)
Investor Engagement Manager
Georgia Chamber of Commerce

Diane Vaughan (ABJ ’83)
Senior Development Director
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Alissa Vickery (BBA ’01, MACC ’01)
SVP Accounting and Control
FleetCor Technologies, Inc.

Rachel Webster (ABJ ’08)
Financial Advisor
Vantage Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley

Young Alumni

With more than 40,00 young alumni living in the Metro Atlanta area, the Young Alumni Leadership Council will create programming and encourage young alumni to commit to their passion at UGA.

Mission Statement:
The mission of Young Alumni is to provide dynamic opportunities for young alumni to engage with and give back to the University of Georgia.

Young Alumni Leadership Council Members:

TJ Callaway (BBA ’07)
Founder and CEO
Onward Reserve

Elizabeth Cox (BBA ’13)
Strategy Project Manager
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Sumita Dalmia (BSFCS ’10)
Corporate Attorney
McDonald’s Corporation

Yvette T. Dupree (BBA ’03, MAT ’07, PHD ’12)
Business and Computer Science Instructor
Henry County Board of Education

Derek Hammock (BBA ’15, MACC ’16)
Assurance Staff

Shayla Hill (BBA ’08)
Digital Services Manager
Arch Mortgage Insurance Company

Travis Johnson (AB ’11)
Chief of Staff
Office of the Attorney General of Georgia

Adam C. Johnson (MBA ’16)
Senior Consultant

Joshua W. Jones (AB’08, ABJ ’08, MBA ’16)
President and CEO
Red Clay Communications

Courtney McCants (BBA ’10)
Account Executive
ION Media Networks

Caleb Nicholson (BSED ’09)
Field Event Selection Consultant
Chick-fil-A Inc.

Ezekiel Osibanjo (BBA ’15)
Advisory Associate

Elizabeth Powell (BS ’06, ABJ ’06)
Development Services Manager
Emory University

Anna Daniel Reddish (BSA ’08, MADS ’09)
Assistant Director for Student Initiatives
Eastern Region, AVMA

Ryan Scates (AB ’10, JD ’13)

The UGA Alumni Association Affinity Groups invite you to save the following dates:

March 25: Finance and Wealth in the Black Community Brunch
March 30: Women of UGA Evening at Vino Venue
April 11: Minority Admitted Student Reception in Atlanta
June 23: 2017 Young Alumni Night at SweetWater

Aardra Ambili’s (MS ’14) path to success

Aardra Ambili graduated from UGA less than 5 years ago and is already making waves in the technology field. The UGA Alumni Association recently emailed Aardra about her recent entrepreneurial success with Raybaby, a non-contact sleep and wellness tracker for infants.

What advice would you give to a current UGA student who wants to start their own business?

The journey is definitely long and hard, but not impossible. I would certainly advise aspiring entrepreneurs to expect a certain level of hardship and expect to build resilience over time. I have found it helpful to surround myself with friends and family who are encouraging and supportive. Entrepreneurs live an isolated life especially in the early stages of the company and for people who aren’t  accustomed to not having a social life- they might find it uncomfortable. Entrepreneurs really are a different breed because you end up living in a distant future that might never materialize. As a culture, we also need to celebrate failure- that we as individuals can experiment with different outcomes of our decisions and some of them might be wrong, we need to begin to accept that culture fully. As UGA students, I would strongly urge them to connect with their community – you are in the midst of like-minded people who believe in innovation and collaboration. You might even be eligible to receive funding and grants as a UGA student and they usually go a long way in helping one pave one’s entrepreneurial ambitions.

What are some of your fondest memories from your time at UGA?

My fondest memories at UGA were spent studying at the UGA library, working on different projects. Not kidding. I was studying for my master’s in artificial intelligence and it was a tough program. I remember spending hours either alone or with my friends solving problems – they were never easy and you could never expect to breeze through them. But I loved challenging problems. I remember walking through campus in the fall; it was so beautiful, a perfect time for meditation on the million thoughts that were running through our heads. I remember being inspired by a fellow doctoral student who had been an entrepreneur, and being genuinely inspired by the enthusiasm, initiative and energy. I think that we often underestimate our potential, and we keep forgetting about human resilience and capability, we need to keep reminding ourselves of our human civilization’s inclination towards greatness.

What was the inspiration for Raybaby? 

We met a lot of mothers and fathers who are extremely worried about their children’s wellness, whether they were sleeping well or breathing well. It so happened that one of the founder’s parents was having a conversation on electronics and how they are all powered by lithium ion batteries, and how they all  inherently carry a safety risk. And he asked a thought-provoking question: “How can you place a lithium ion powered electronics device on someone who is sleeping?” The conversation has evolved to where it is now – and we are extremely proud of what we are creating- a non-contact alternative to the current vital monitoring solutions, which is a much safer option. Parents shouldn’t have to choose between vital monitors and video cameras- they should have both in one product.

Currently, doctors track respiration rate by placing their hand on the babies chest and counting breaths manually, which is inefficient. Our solution doesn’t require any kind of electronic device on the baby’s body, a huge relief since parents can now sleep safe and not worry about exploding lithium ion batteries. 

Our product, Raybaby, notifies parents/caregivers/daycare centers:

  • when your baby rolls over
  • when your baby is awake
  • when your baby is sleepy or sleeping
  • or even when your baby is running a fever

We are supported by Johnson & Johnson and HAX as part of their joint consumer device health accelerator program. J&J is helping us create a more market ready and baby friendly product. We use clinically-tested and FDA approved components.

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

While at UGA, I published some papers in applied machine learning – applications where we use artificial intelligence to solve real world problems. But I realized I wanted to make a difference and it took some time for me to realize the way to do it might be to take a break from academia (I had initially planned to apply for a doctorate degree) and work in the field. I went on to work in a few startups and I believe that the time I spent at UGA really helped me to think critically about problems and how to solve them. It made me realize the importance of a community and how communities tackle tough problems. As individuals we are often short-sighted and are trapped in biases and in small mindsets, however when you have a team with varied experiences they bring in their own set of rich expertise and perspective and that makes all the crucial difference when solving problems. Serendipitously, I soon met Ranjana and Sanchi, my fellow founders, who are as excited and as passionate as me, we are strung together by the desire to make a deep lasting impact on people’s lives.

You can learn more about Raybaby and Aadra’s work at

UGA alumna changes lives in Uganda

Kupendwa Ministries, founded by Amy Washington (BBA ’09) in 2011, is a maternity home for Ugandan teenagers facing crisis pregnancies. Amy, a Watkinsville native, first visited Uganda after graduation and during a return visit in 2010, a severely malnourished little girl living in an unstable home was placed in her arms. Amy relocated permanently to Uganda in 2011 to adopt this child, and five more orphans were placed in her care soon after. Upon discovering childbirth is the number one cause of death in Uganda, Amy knew she had to do something to help alleviate this devastating statistic.

Abby Bryant and Amy Washington (BBA ’09) teaching Amy’s seven children to Call the Dawgs all the way from Jinja, Uganda.

She opened Kupendwa driven by a mission to “save lives, two at a time.” Since then, more than 50 mothers and babies have lived at Kupendwa, and Amy has served as foster mom and grandma to them all. Today, she has legally adopted five of her seven children and is in the process of adopting the remaining two. This past spring, Amy and Dr. Juliet Sekandi, assistant professor in UGA’s College of Public Health, met while Juliet was conducting research on the university’s behalf and formed an instant friendship.

Dr. Juliet Sekandi and Amy Washington (BBA ’09) visiting in Jinja, Uganda

Amy asked Juliet, a native Ugandan, to speak at Kupendwa’s second annual fundraising banquet and on November 17 they were reunited stateside. Juliet’s heartfelt message helped the banquet successfully raise $40,000. Amy and Juliet serve as a shining example of how professors and students can impact one another’s lives beyond the classroom. As they reside in each other’s native homelands, their commonalities have bonded them in a truly one-of-a-kind friendship. For more information about Kupendwa Ministries visit

2017 Bulldog 100 Celebration

On February 4, the University of Georgia Alumni Association and friends of UGA gathered in Atlanta to celebrate the 100 fastest-growing companies owned or operated by UGA alumni during the eighth annual Bulldog 100 Celebration.

The 2017 fastest-growing business was Chicken Salad Chick, helmed by president and CEO Scott Deviney, who received his degree in economics from UGA’s Terry College of Business in 1995. The company is based in Auburn, Alabama, and was started by a stay-at-home mom and her software salesman husband after selling chicken salad at PTA meetings.

To date, the company operates 62 restaurants and has sold 146 franchises in eight states, selling chicken salad in 15 flavor profiles. In 2016, Chicken Salad Chick landed at No. 37 on Inc. Magazine’s annual list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the U.S., raking in $9.8 million in 2015, with a growth rate of more than 6,000 percent in the past three years. The company has also been named one of’s top Movers and Shakers and one of Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2015 Breakout Brands.

View the complete ranked list of all 100 companies at

This year’s keynote speech was given by Double Dawg Debbie Storey (AB ’80, MBA ’06), retired executive vice president of mobility customer service at AT&T, author of Don’t Downsize Your Dreams. As Storey wrapped up her remarks, she encouraged all of the evening’s guests to stay connected to the University of Georgia. 

Nominations are now open for the Bulldog 100 Class of 2018. Learn more about the criteria and nominate a business today.


The Illustrator Behind the Commit to Georgia Campaign

Portions of this interview will appear in the March issue of Georgia Magazine.

As the University of Georgia community prepared for the kickoff of the Commit to Georgia Comprehensive Capital Campaign, it became very clear that the best conduits to the tell the story of the state’s flagship university are its graduates. Enlisting the help of spoken word artist Mike Young (ABJ ’14) and illustrator Seth McWhorter (CED ’11), these active young alumni helped bring Georgia’s goals of breaking barriers and opening doors, enhancing the learning environment and solving grand challenges to life. Today, we will share portions of an interview with McWhorter, but be sure to keep an eye out for your copy of Georgia Magazine to learn more about Young.

McWhorter calls Athens home, and has designed logos and illustrations for a variety of companies, including Coca-Cola and its subsidiaries. He started his career at a landscape architecture firm in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and is currently an art director at Fitzgerald & Co. advertising agency in Atlanta. McWhorter’s black & white illustration of the Arch can be seen on the cover of the campaign CASE Statement, and additional drawings of the chapel bell, Abraham Baldwin, Uga and Herty Fountain will be used in other campaign materials.

When asked what he wanted his UGA legacy to be, McWhorter said, “it’s an honor to have something I created used to benefit UGA, a place that’s meant so much to me throughout my life.”

Celebrating UGA’s 232nd Anniversary

In January, the University of Georgia celebrated Founders Week, which was held in honor of the university’s 232nd anniversary. The University of Georgia Charter was signed on January 27, 1785, making UGA the first state-chartered institute of public higher education and the birthplace of public higher education in America.

The week kicked off with the presentation of the President’s Medal to Paul M. Kurtz, retired associate dean and professor in the UGA School of Law. The President’s Medal recognizes extraordinary contributions of individuals who are not current employees of UGA and who have supported students and academic programs, advanced research and inspired community leaders to enhance the quality of life of citizens in Georgia.

The medal presentation was followed by the annual Founders Day Lecture, presented by the UGA Alumni Association and the UGA Emeriti Scholars and the Office of the President. This year’s lecture speaker was Charles Bullock, Richard B. Russell Chair in Political Science, Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor and University Professor, and his lecture was titled “The Highs and Lows of the 2016 Presidential Election.”

The Student Alumni Association kept the celebratory feelings going throughout the week with a series of events for students, including a T-Shirt giveaway, Tradition Tuesday and a birthday party in Tate Plaza.

Honoring UGA’s first African American four-year students

Last week, the highly anticipated film Hidden Figures starring Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae was released in theaters nationwide. The film tells the story of African American women engineers and mathematicians who helped John Glenn to become the first American to orbit Earth.

For black alumni at UGA, we have some hidden figures in the form of the first three African American first year students to enroll at the University of Georgia and graduate four years later– Harold Alonza Black, Ph.D. (BBA ’66), Mary B. Diallo, Ph.D. (AB ’66, MA ’73) and Kerry Rushin Miller (BS ’66). UGA will officially recognize the 50th anniversary of their graduation at an event titled “Conversations with the Class of 1966: UGA’s First Black Freshman Graduates” on Thursday, January 12 at 5 p.m. in the UGA Chapel.

Black and Diallo recently spoke with the Black Alumni Leadership Council about their experiences breaking barriers.

Diallo is an Athens native who is currently an associate professor at Florida A&M University. The French major said her high school band teacher encouraged her and three other students to apply to UGA. When asked about the people who influenced her the most at Georgia, she said, “I don’t want to name one person because many people made a significant impact on me—some professors, a few college friends, my family, people in my community, as well as people in other cities, states, and countries.”

Mary Diallo, Harold Black and Kerry Miller

Black is an Atlanta native who originally planned on following his older brother to study at Purdue, but after UGA’s desegregation he applied because the school offered more scholarship opportunities. The economics major said his most memorable college experience was befriending six fellow freshman at orientation. As the only black male student to live in a residence hall in 1962, he recalled his room windows broken into at night and the segregated bathroom he used was repeatedly vandalized.

“Given that I knew my great grandmother, who was a slave, I can marvel at the changes that have occurred in this country and especially in this part of the country,” Black said. “I actually thoroughly enjoyed my UGA experience and would not change it for any other.”

Now, as a retired finance professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee, he encourages students to “follow your dreams and never let mere mortals dissuade you from your goals.”

(L-R): Yvette Daniels (AB ’86, JD ’89), Malena Cunningham Anderson (ABJ ’80), Mary Frances Early (MMED ’62, EDS ’71) and Myrna White (ABJ ’81) at the Women of UGA Holiday Luncheon in December.

In celebration of the desegregation of the university, UGA Black Alumni thank the first freshman graduates Harold Black (BBA ’66), Mary Diallo (AB ’66, MA ’73) and Kerry Miller (BS ’66), as well as the first black graduate Mary Frances Early (MMED, 62, EDS ’71), and the first black undergraduates Charlayne Hunter-Gault (ABJ ’63) and Hamilton E. Holmes (BS ’63) for their courage. Thank you all for being our “hidden figures.”

Written by Bridgette Burton (AB ’11, ABJ ’11)

Winter Warm-Up: Black Alumni Scholarship Fundraiser

The UGA Black Alumni Affinity Group hosted “Winter Warm-Up: An Evening of Soul, Spirits & Scholarship” on Thursday, December 1 at American Spirit Whiskey in Atlanta. Attendees enjoyed touring the distillery and learning about the whiskey making process from owners (and Georgia graduates) Charlie Thompson (AB ’99, MBA ’03, JD ’03) and Jim Chasteen (BBA ’98). A portion of the ticket price supported the Black Alumni Endowed Scholarship.

The scholarship is 35 years old, and UGA Black Alumni plans to increase the endowment significantly over the next five years to support more outstanding Black Alumni Scholars. There are currently five scholars who receive the renewable scholarship every year to help to underwrite the cost of their educational pursuits. They are: Charles Orgbon III, April Davis, Khadar Haroun, Orobosa Idehen and JaKari Goss.

Since July 2016, nearly $2,000 has been given to support outstanding students of color at UGA, with $900 raised at the December 1 event. If you would like to make a gift to the Black Alumni scholarship, please click here. All gift amounts are appreciated and help students like Charles, April, Khadar, Orobosa and JaKari reach their goals!

Check out photos from the event.

Feature photo by Carole Kaboya (AB ’10)

Athens Alumni Office
Wray-Nicholson House
298 S. Hull Street
Athens, GA 30602
(706) 542-2251 | (800) 606-8786

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Live Oak Square
3475 Lenox Road NE, Suite 870
Atlanta, GA 30326
(404) 814-8820

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