Women in Business: Bulldog 100 and 40 Under 40

We caught up with three women, previously recognized through 40 Under 40 and Bulldog 100, to learn a bit more about their careers and what these programs have meant to them.

The University of Georgia has been running its 40 Under 40 and Bulldog 100 programs for over six years, recognizing successful, young graduates of the university for their professional or philanthropic endeavors.

Since the inception of these programs, more than 100 women have been honored for their work. In fact, the University of Georgia has established a Women of UGA Council with 15 dedicated alumnae as a part of the Women of UGA network. Their goals include creating a sense of community, involving themselves philanthropically and empowering women through the program.

We caught up with past honorees Keysha Lee (40 Under 40 ’12), Ashley Edmonds (40 Under 40 ’15) and Maureen Clayton (Bulldog 100 ’12-’15) to talk about their experience as women in business.

Keysha Lee:

  • 40 Under 40 Class of 2012
  • ABJ ’97
  • Executive Producer and Host of Lessons with Mrs. Lee

What She Does:
“Lessons with Mrs. Lee was born out of two desires: one desire was to give my high school students more exposure and hands-on experience in the broadcast field. The second was to feed my own passion for [storytelling]. We reach out to successful people who are interested in sharing their journey or personal formula for success.”
Her Experience with 40 Under 40:
“The recognition has allowed me to continue to grow my show, and to meet new goals. It’s really opened up so many doors. I recently had the opportunity to attend Dinner with a Dozen Dawgs, and I was able to literally and figuratively sit at the table with our first, female Senior VP for Academic Affairs and Provost, Pamela Whitten. That connection was really strong for me, and an inspiration. It made me look at the progress of women and where we can go.”
Future Goals:
“Currently, I’m seeking new interns for my summer series with the Atlanta Dream, Atlanta’s WNBA team. This summer will be their 10th year in the WNBA. Some of my biggest goals are to write a book titled Lessons with Mrs. Lee, and to get my show on a major network or commercial TV station.”
UGA’s Role:
“Professor Hazinski in the Grady College of Mass Communications and Journalism gave us immeasurable opportunities, exposure and advice. Even now I call him for advice concerning ventures that I’m pursuing.”
Tips for Success:
“Be a planner, do your homework, write down your goals. Also, be up on the industry; research women you admire, look at their paths and reach out to them.

Ashley Teusink Edmonds:

  • 40 Under 40 Class of 2015
  • ABJ ’05, MBA ’11
  • Founder and CEO, Smartsy LLC

What She Does:
“Smartsy is the parent company for the different brands that I’ve developed. Lilywrap was the first brand; it’s a reusable, stretchy giftwrap that I developed in an entrepreneurship course through the Professional MBA program at the Terry College of Business. The second main product is Beer Greetings, a decorative six pack carrier and greeting card in one.”
Her Experience with 40 Under 40:
“The PR and marketing that has come from [40 Under 40] has really allowed me to meet a lot of people and grow my business. Since I’ve won, I’ve been asked to come speak at a variety of different university-sponsored events through which I’ve connected with different individuals, done collaborations and even hired from.”
Future Goals:
“The year 2016 was focused on getting Beer Greetings into retailers. We’d primarily sold online through Amazon, so those 800 stores came about in one year. This year is about continuing to grow and streamlining processes. As for a personal focus, working smarter and making the most of my time.”
UGA’s Role:
“UGA introduced me to an array of people. It really took me out of my comfort zone and broadened my horizons. It taught me the skills necessary to be a successful entrepreneur, everything from PR and marketing, to business functions such as accounting and finance, and even operational skills.
Tips for Success:
“It’s hard to compartmentalize, especially when you’re an entrepreneur. Learn to turn off home when you’re at work and work when you’re at home. Also, do your research. Talk to anyone and everyone that’s in a similar role. Don’t be afraid to jump in.”

Maureen Clayton:

  • Bulldog 100 Classes of 2012 – 2015
  • ABJ ’80, MA ’84
  • President of Insight Strategic Communications & Founder of Nest Egg Communications
  • Member of the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors

What She Does:
“[Insight Strategic Communications] focuses on internal communications for corporations and publicly and privately held businesses. Nest Egg Communications is a niche company focusing on ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) companies. We provide communications consulting materials that help employees understand what it means to be employee-owned.”
Her Experience with Bulldog 100:
“I’m humbled to be on the list four times, but the benefit for me is the opportunity to meet other women business owners, and to be able to celebrate and support each other. One of the things I’ve done since is hold a luncheon for other female winners to talk about our businesses, how we got started and some of the challenges we’ve had along the way.”
What it’s Meant:
“It’s just a fantastic experience. I don’t think there’s any greater recognition that you can receive as a business owner than to be recognized by your university. The thing that meant the most to me was having my three sons [at Bulldog 100] while my business was being recognized.”
Future Goals:
“My favorite part is when the customer is pleased, so I’d like to continue to do so. There is no way to categorize how good it feels to do something that delights someone else. If it brings them convenience or peace of mind, that’s the most satisfying.”
UGA’s Role:
“I’m a journalism school grad, and I love the Grady College. I had two professors that I took most of my major classes with, and one of the things that I got from them, that I didn’t have before, was a confidence and belief that I could do anything I set my mind to. They were always very encouraging and believed in [their students.]”
Tips for Success:
“Don’t be afraid to try it. If you have confidence and believe it’s a good idea, try it. And if it fails, so what? You can try something else. People get too hung up on the fact that things might not work out. You learn more from your failures than from your successes.”

UGA Legacies: Bill (AB ’88) and Melonie Thomas (BBA ’86)

With commencement season approaching, UGA Black Alumni is reaching back to tell the stories of graduates who have a legacy at the university. Additional stories will be shared on social media using #UGABlackLegacies.

The Thomas Legacy

A legacy of service to UGA is a hallmark of the Thomas family. Bill Thomas (AB ’88) and his wife Melonie Davis Thomas (BBA ’86) are engaged with the UGA Alumni Association through the Board of Directors and Black Alumni Affinity Group.

Bill, is a native of East Point, Georgia and Melonie is from Daytona Beach, Florida.

Melonie visited campus as a National Merit Scholar, and on a tour with her mother ran into Dean Rusk. Their conversation with him solidified her decision to choose UGA over the University of Florida. Melonie lived in Brumby Hall her freshman year and Bill lived in Russell Hall. The two met as freshman through their mutual friend Lonnie Walls (AB ’03).

“I was supposed to walk to a ‘Jessie Jackson for President’ rally downtown with my friend Lonnie. When I arrived at his room in Russell Hall, he said two others were going too,” Melonie said. “Those two turned out to be Bill and his roommate, Todd Wooten (BS ’87, JD ’91). I wasn’t too happy initially about walking across campus with three guys, and Lonnie was more than willing to send them on their way, but I decided it was fine. Long story short, Jessie didn’t show up and we, along with half of campus, ended up at The Grill talking and laughing. They all walked me back to Brumby. That was the start, and years later Todd was our best man, we still love The Grill and Lonnie is our pastor.”

After graduation, Bill pursued a career in law enforcement. He is a veteran, and has worked as a federal prosecutor and Assistant United States Attorney. Today, he has a boutique law firm, The W.H. Thomas Firm, LLC in Atlanta. He is also a member of the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Melonie uses her degree from the Terry College of Business as a communications team lead with the Centers for Disease Control. She extends her expertise to not only combat health disparities, but to combat educational inequality as a UGA Black Alumni Leadership Council board member. Through their work with the university, the Thomases strive to create college access opportunities for students of color.

The couple has remained committed to the university since graduation. Bill was instrumental in the creation of what was a DeKalb County Chapter of the UGA Alumni Association, which ultimately inspired him to get involved with the Board of Directors.

“I wanted to see a stronger African American presence in the Alumni Association, and I wanted to make sure that my African American classmates knew of the lifelong benefits that came with being a part of the university,” Bill said.  “I also wanted to make sure that future students and their parents knew that UGA was an option for them when it came time to consider college options.”

As president of the former DeKalb County Chapter, he spearheaded events to raise awareness about UGA among middle and high school students and their parents. They also hosted former U.S. Poet Laureate and alumna Natasha Trethewey (AB ’89)

Bill and Melonie’s history of giving back to UGA goes beyond time and money– their love and affinity for the school extends to their daughter, Erin, who graduated in 2016 with a degree in history and a minor in Arabic.

Erin, Bill and Melonie Thomas

The Thomas family (L-R: Melonie, Erin and Bill) at Ring Ceremony in 2016.

“She was in the first class to live in Delta Hall (UGA’s residency in Washington, D.C.),” Melonie said. “Her last year in Reed, she lived in the same room that Bill lived in for a short while, 33 years earlier.”

They are both passionate about staying connected and giving back to the university, as well as to their communities. Melonie said that she initially only contributed financially to the Terry College of Business, but that when Bill got involved with the DeKalb County Chapter she became inspired to connect parents and students to UGA.

“Go back to your high schools and middle schools and tell other students about the amazing opportunities that UGA has to offer,” Melonie said.  “Talk to them about what it takes to get into and be successful at Georgia.”

L-R: Kevin Aycock, Bill and Melonie Thomas at the 2015 Bulldog 100 Celebration

“Continue to be a part of the university throughout your life and career,” Bill echoed.  “It will provide you great opportunities beyond the few years that you have, or will, spend on campus earning your degree. Give back to the university financially to ensure that it remains a world class institution, and that it can attract and retain deserving students.”

$1.5 million gift enhances UGA’s proactive alcohol education

The University of Georgia will enhance its alcohol education and prevention programs thanks to a $1.5 million gift from UGA alumnus Jack Fontaine and his wife, Nancy, of Houston, Texas. The donation is their latest in nearly $6 million of support to the Fontaine Center for alcohol awareness and education since the center’s establishment 11 years ago.

This gift will allow the Fontaine Center to increase the capacity of its Collegiate Recovery Community, as well as expand its proactive educational programming both on campus and throughout the state.

Jack Fontaine notes that the center has come a long way in its first decade, in both quantity and quality of service.

“When we first started, we had a few counselors and two to three weeks’ wait time,” he said. “We were reactionary, and now we’ve grown to be proactive.”

Following an expansion of the University Health Center building in 2009 the Fontaine Center gained prominent and additional space and has grown to better meet the needs of UGA’s students.

Liz Prince, who has served as director of the Fontaine Center since 2012, described the center’s growth from assisting with individual cases of alcohol abuse to its current comprehensive programming that covers other drugs like marijuana and prescription drugs, as well as issues of interpersonal violence and sexual assault response.

“We’re able to address things that really impact students where there’s an intersection between alcohol and drugs and violence,” she said.

Now the center offers a “spectrum of services,” including prevention, early intervention and recovery support. They are also able to put students and families in touch with trusted treatment professionals around the country. Students know and trust the Fontaine Center and are getting in touch with counselors much earlier. Student organizations such as Greek Life groups and academic interest groups are reaching out to the center to request presentations and information sessions.

Prince said that the center has earned the respect of colleagues in the community and around the state.

“It’s a more fine-tuned, visible program,” she said. “We’re better at partnering with folks on campus and in the community instead of everything being situated within the Health Center.”

Later this spring, the Fontaine Center will host the inaugural summit of state schools, technical colleges and independent college and universities to discuss the recommendations of the University System of Georgia’s Alcohol and Substance Abuse Task Force, co-chaired by University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead. The summit is yet another program made possible by the Fontaines’ support.

Prince is excited at the prospect of national experts and state colleagues coming together to form best practices for helping students. She feels a lot more can be accomplished through collaboration and sharing ideas.

“Schools can take each other’s ideas and tweak them,” she said. “Campuses are different, but we can all benefit from learning about each other’s approaches.”

What’s the ultimate goal of all of these efforts?

“A culture shift,” Prince said.

Today, a larger number of students are coming to campus who abstain from drinking or who drink very little or moderately. This progress presents new challenges, however. The number of at-risk students may have decreased at the university in recent years, but the students who are abusing alcohol and other drugs are doing so in ways and with drugs that are potentially much more harmful than in the past.

Prince admits progress is incremental, but she appreciates the successes of the Fontaine Center’s first 11 years.

“Ultimately, we’re trying to change behavior, and you can’t just do that overnight,” she said. “But with the support of the Fontaines and the university administration, we’re educating more students than ever, including in high schools, and we’re having a positive impact on our state and students’ lives.”

Make a gift to support this cause or visit give.uga.edu to contribute to another area about which you are passionate.

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 Rayiot.org

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 www.kupendwaministries.org.

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 FastCasual.com’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 alumni.uga.edu/b100.

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.”

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


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


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