A good mentor is simple to find

The UGA Mentor Program offers connection and inspiration to participants in a variety of professional fields, including those who serve or plan to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. 

The ease of finding a mentor with his exact dream job was the first among many pleasant surprises for Cadet Chase Martel ’25 when he first began to use the Mentor Program’s online platform. An ambitious undergraduate in the Terry College of Business, Chase’s expectations were exceeded soon after he first engaged with the program. His professional goal is to become a Judge Advocate General in the United States Air Force, and he thought the likelihood of finding a UGA alum in that career who was also a mentor was low. Enter: a “major” surprise. 

“It’s been really impactful to have someone who is working my dream job to offer his perspective and experience by looking back to when he was in my shoes,” Chase describes. “It’s sort of like looking at myself years down the road.” 

Major Kevin Mitchell (AB ’05) joined the Mentor Program thinking that if today’s students were anything like he was, a little extra guidance would be helpful as they navigate college and the job market. When Major Mitchell was a first-generation rural student, there were many times that he had a network of people to help him navigate his career path. In the spirit of a true Bulldog, Major Mitchell decided then to pay it forward to the next generation by serving as a UGA mentor.  

The mentor-mentee pair mainly meets through Zoom calls and emails given Major Mitchell’s station in Hawaii, but they were able to meet face-to-face when Major Mitchell returned to Athens as one of the UGA Alumni Association’s 40 Under 40 honorees in 2023. The duo met up for coffee and a walk around campus. From Candler Hall, where Major Mitchell studied as a student, to Sanford Stadium, where Chase remembered his experience watching the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship his freshman year, the pair discussed their respective memories at UGA. Despite being decades apart in age and experience, the two had similar college experiences.  

Cadet Martel and Major Mitchell used virtual meetings to overcome time and distance.

A benefit for both 

Chase is not the only one who benefited from participation in the mentor program; Major Mitchell did, too.  

“Not only does it allow you to provide advice to someone who is passionate about what you do, but it also allows you the space to reflect on the aspects of your job that really fulfill you,” Major Mitchell says.  

That reflection is invaluable to professionals who may not initially think they have anything to offer the next generation. “It’s inspiring for me to see someone Chase’s age be so excited and thoughtful about the future,” Major Mitchell describes. “It’s a comforting thought to have Chase as an example of how the next generation will navigate the world.” 

“It’s almost like recharging your batteries,” he continues. “It’s energizing to know that what you do matters to people and that the future is in good hands because of it.” 

It should come as no surprise then that the two encourage both potential mentors and mentees to try the program for themselves. Even if a potential mentee has a less-than-clear idea of their dream job, the Mentor Program can help mentees receive a practical perspective that may be difficult to access in a classroom. As for potential mentors, it can provide an inspiring and energizing opportunity for reflection.  

“I couldn’t ask for a better college or post-grad experience than the one I’ve had with UGA,” Major Mitchell says. “Not just with a successful football team and all the joy that entails, but participating in this program and meeting Chase has been a really meaningful way to stay engaged with the university.” 

Whether it’s being a part of Bulldog Nation, or being a part of a greater collective in the armed forces, Major Mitchell and Chase’s experience in UGA’s Mentor Program highlights the importance of connecting with fellow Bulldogs who share your passions and values.

2024 University of Georgia graduates embody a culture of giving

Senior Signature campaign raises more than $100,000 for students, campus funds.

Every spring, the University of Georgia graduating class contributes a gift to the university to mark their legacy on campus for generations of students to come. The Class of 2024 has continued this tradition with a strong showing of support for their soon-to-be alma mater. For the fourth year in a row, over 3,000 student-donors contributed to the Senior Signature campaign.

This year, 3,201 members of the 2024 class contributed over $100,000 through Senior Signature, the university’s class gift program that has been in place since 1991. Undergraduate, graduate and professional students participate in the campaign.

“My fellow members of the Class of 2024 have demonstrated the importance of devoting time and energy to their passions,” said Caroline Reedy, outgoing president of the UGA Student Alumni Council. “We all know how important it is to leave things better than we found them, and the Class of 2024 has truly shown their commitment to campus, even as they are getting ready to leave it.”

The minimum Senior Signature donation is $30 and serves as an opportunity for students to learn how financial support can be designated to a variety of funds across campus. Each student donor is invited to direct $20 of their gift to an area of campus that made a positive impact on their time here. This year, students contributed to 621 funds at UGA. Among those funds were the Undergraduate Student Emergency Fund and the Sunshine Fund, both geared toward supporting holistic student well-being on campus.

The remaining $10 of a student’s donation is combined with other class members’ gifts to provide grant funding to a student organization of the group’s choice. This year, student donors selected XChanged Life to receive the grant during the upcoming academic year. The organization plans to host an event tailored to exchange, international, and UGA students, with the aim of exposing more international students to American culture, facilitating cultural exchange, and promoting greater interconnectedness among the student population at UGA.

In addition to supporting future generations of Bulldogs, student donors’ names will be engraved on the Class of 2024 plaque in Tate Plaza, just steps away from Sanford Stadium, Tate Student Center and Memorial Hall. The plaque will be installed ahead of Spring Commencement.

The tradition of student giving 

Reedy and fellow members of the UGA Student Alumni Council engage their peers throughout the year to connect with alumni and to participate in campus traditions that enhance the student experience. They also strive to impress upon other students the importance of giving back philanthropically to UGA.

Their efforts, which include hosting fundraising events, peer-to-peer education via social media and email, and tabling on campus during the 2023-2024 academic year, help to engage their peers throughout their time at UGA.

“Students have a lot of opportunities to give back beyond the Senior Signature program,” said Reedy. “Initiatives like Beat Week, Dawg Day of Giving, and other special fundraising campaigns give students the opportunity to leave their mark on this university in a way that best suits them and their experiences here.”

To learn more about Senior Signature, go to alumni.uga.edu/seniorsignature.

Former dean establishes UGA college’s first chair

UGA alumni, faculty and friends receive 2024 Alumni Awards

The University of Georgia recognized this year’s Alumni Awards honorees during a luncheon April 5 in Athens. The annual Alumni Awards were first presented in 1936 to celebrate those individuals and organizations that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to UGA. The 2024 honorees are:

“This year’s recipients have shown time and time again that their devotion to the University of Georgia is truly in a class of its own,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “Their commitment and generosity continue to make our university stronger and more equipped to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.”

2024 Alumni Merit Awards

The Alumni Merit Award is the oldest and highest honor for a UGA graduate. The award is presented to individuals who bring recognition and honor to the university through outstanding leadership and service to UGA, the community and their profession.

Susan Waltman graduated from UGA in 1973 and 1975 and is now special counsel for the Greater New York Hospital Association. Over the years, Waltman has shared her time and expertise with her alma mater by serving on the UGA Foundation Board of Trustees, UGA Foundation Emeritus Trustees Leadership Committee, UGA Research Foundation Board of Directors and the advisory boards of UGA’s Honors Program — now the Jere W. Morehead Honors College — and the College of Public Health. Since 2006, Waltman has hosted the Honors in New York Internship Program and, in many cases, stays in touch with those interns, writing recommendations for graduate school, scholarships and other professional opportunities. She extends her UGA support to include financial giving, having established scholarship funds in the College of Public Health, the Law School and as part of the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program. She created the Public Health Outreach Support Fund and the Honors in New York Internship Fund at the Honors College and regularly supports the Let All the Big Dawgs Eat Scholarship Fund and the Fund to Advance Diversity and Inclusion. For decades, she has nurtured a growing culture of UGA philanthropy among alumni in the New York region by hosting lunches and gatherings, including regular holiday dinners, and by attending UGA alumni activities.

Craig Barrow III is a 1965 UGA graduate whose direct family ties to the university date back generations, starting with his late grandfather who graduated in 1896. The Wormsloe Historic Site in Savannah, Georgia, has been in Barrow’s family since 1737, and 750 acres of that land were eventually donated to the state of Georgia in an effort to conserve and democratize access to the land. In 2013, Barrow arranged for the Wormsloe Foundation to donate 15 acres of the estate to UGA to become the Center for Research and Education at Wormsloe. Wormsloe’s unique landscape and the Barrows’ meticulous documentation of human activity onsite now offer UGA students and faculty opportunities for research, education and community outreach. In 2016, Barrow began raising funds for the Experiential Learning Center at Wormsloe, which was dedicated in 2023. Barrow is a founding member of the UGA Libraries’ Board of Visitors, a founder and former chair of the UGA Press Advisory Council and a UGA Foundation emeritus trustee. He led the fundraising effort to build the new Richard B. Russell Jr. Special Collections Libraries Building at UGA. In 2010, the Barrow family was recognized as the Family of the Year by the UGA Alumni Association. Barrow is managing director at Stifel Financial in Savannah.

2024 Family of the Year Award

The Family of the Year Award is presented to a family that demonstrates a history of loyalty to UGA. These individuals bring recognition and honor to UGA through outstanding leadership and service to the university and the community at large.

Shell and Wyck Knox’s family connections to UGA date back to the 1920s. By the 1930s, no fewer than five individuals from the Knox and Hardman families had graduated from the university, followed by nine more in the 1960s, including Shell and Wyck, who would unite the families in 1967. After graduating from UGA in 1962 and 1964, Wyck began an exceptional law career while Shell, who graduated in 1966, devoted her time to education, the arts, historic preservation and conservation. In the 1980s, she became one of the first women to serve on the UGA Foundation Board of Trustees, a distinction she would one-up when she became the first woman chair of the board. In recognition of her service, Shell received the UGA Alumni Merit Award in 2000. Over the years, Shell and Wyck have served on a litany of boards and committees, including the Law School Board of Visitors, the Metropolitan Atlanta Olympic Games Authority, the UGA Athletics Board of Directors, the Georgia Museum of Art Board of Advisors, the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame Board of Judges and the Georgia Historical Society Board of Curators. Notably, Wyck served as a founding director and chair of the Georgia Lottery Corporation Board of Directors, helping to launch the lottery and the HOPE Scholarship it funded, which has provided scholarship support to millions of Georgia students. Their children, Wyck Knox III, Shell Knox Berry, Hardman Knox and Davis Knox, share their parents’ dedication to service. Hardman is a past chair of the Terry College of Business Alumni Board and will become a UGA Foundation advisory trustee on July 1. Davis served on the Terry College Young Alumni Board and the UGA Innovation District External Advisory Board. The Knox family has made gifts to many UGA schools, colleges, causes and initiatives, including the Morehead Honors College, School of Law and Terry College of Business. Their Knox Scholarship Fund alone has supported over 280 students since it was established in 1976.

2024 Faculty Service Award

The Faculty Service Award is presented to current or former faculty or staff who have demonstrated loyalty and service to the university through outstanding leadership in higher education.

After 40 years of service, Victor K. Wilson retired from UGA in 2023. The 1982 and 1987 UGA graduate’s first job was with his alma mater as director of orientation and assistant director of admissions. His career path eventually took him to leadership positions at Agnes Scott College, Northern Arizona University, and the College of Charleston before returning him to UGA in 2013. Starting then, he served as assistant to the president, associate vice president for student affairs and, most recently, vice president for student affairs. In that final role, Wilson served as the chief student affairs officer, overseeing 16 departments and nearly 600 staff members focused on enriching student learning and supporting student development. Wilson has held leadership roles in several national student affairs organizations and serves on the boards of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, St. Mary’s Health Care System, Athens Academy and the Red Cross of Northeast Georgia. Wilson supplemented his professional service with generous gifts to UGA, supporting the Arch Society, Blue Key, the Dean of Students Support Fund, Multicultural Services and Programs, UGA Miracle Dance Marathon and a variety of scholarship funds. Wilson also established a scholarship, named for his mother, for members of UGA’s Black Male Leadership Society.

2024 Friend of UGA Award

The Friend of UGA Award is presented to a non-alumnus or organization for their devotion to the greater good of the university.

Callaway Foundation Inc. is a place-based foundation that supports quality of life in Troup County, Georgia. The foundation’s initial wealth was generated in the early 1900s, as entrepreneur Fuller Callaway Sr. created banks, insurance companies, real estate companies and textile mills. He was known for developing vibrant mill village communities and for his philanthropic support for schools, churches, hospitals and other charitable organizations in Troup County. Callaway Sr.’s legacy was carried on by his two sons. Cason, the older son, helped to found Callaway Gardens while Fuller Jr., established what later became Callaway Foundation Inc. Fuller Jr. and his wife, Alice Hand Callaway, helped to steward Callaway Foundation Inc. and the Fuller E. Callaway Foundation for more than 50 years. Callaway Foundation, Inc., the larger of the two foundations, has contributed over $440 million during its 81-year history to religious, educational and charitable organizations. These organizations are mainly located in Troup County, but a few exceptions include institutions that serve Troup County residents, such as UGA. The foundation’s philanthropic engagement with the university began in 1978, and its impact can be seen across campus. Callaway Foundation Inc. helped UGA build the Performing and Visual Arts Complex on East Campus; it aided the enhancement of the Health Sciences Campus; it supported endowed, need-based Georgia Commitment Scholarships; it helped the School of Law extend its law clinic services to rural and underserved parts of Georgia and much more. The area of UGA that has benefited the most from its support is the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, where the Alice Hand Callaway Visitors Center and Conservatory, the Callaway Administration Building, and the entrance and elevator to the Garden Plaza are all named in honor of the enduring relationship between the garden and the foundation.

2024 Young Alumni Award

The Young Alumni Award is presented to individuals who bring recognition and honor to UGA through outstanding leadership and service to the university, the community and their profession. The recipient must have attended UGA within the past 10 years.

David B. Dove, a 2009 and 2014 UGA graduate, is a partner at Troutman Pepper law firm in Atlanta. He began his career in Georgia state government soon after graduation and became the chief of staff and legal counsel for then-Secretary of State Brian P. Kemp. He went on to serve the now-governor as executive counsel and was Kemp’s lead attorney in landmark victories in the Tri-State Water Wars in 2020 and 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 presidential election and over 800 days under a state emergency. He is the only person to serve as executive counsel at the beginning of both the first and second terms of a Georgia governor. Today, Dove shares his expertise with UGA students as a UGA School of Law adjunct professor and through mentoring relationships. He also chairs the UGA School of Public and International Affairs Alumni Board and serves on the Law School Alumni Council, the Uniform Law Commission’s Georgia Delegation and the Atlanta Chapter of the Federalist Society Executive Board. In 2019, Dove was named a UGA 40 Under 40 honoree, and in 2023, he received the UGA Law School Young Alumni/Alumnae of Excellence Award.

“This year’s honorees are, as always, inspiring and reflect a level of commitment to the University of Georgia that is unmatched in most other individuals and organizations,” said Lee Zell, president of the UGA Alumni Association. “We thank them for their loyalty, their commitment and their passion, and are so proud to recognize them in this way.”

More about these distinguished members of the UGA community, including video spotlights, is available at alumni.uga.edu/alumniawards.

Get to know the Georgia Women Give executive committee

Georgia Women Give is a nationwide, women-directed fundraising group inviting more women to become philanthropists and engage more deeply with the University of Georgia. Founded in the spirit of The First 12, the first women to attend UGA, the group is committed to philanthropy, community and learning. 

GWG concentrates giving and increases impact by asking donors to designate their gifts to any of three specific funds: a merit-based scholarship fund, a study away support fund and an unrestricted fund that will send money to high-priority areas as directed by an executive committee. 

The Georgia Women Give executive committee is comprised of: 

Elizabeth Correll Richards, Chair, Atlanta, GA  

Cortney Beebe (AB ’98), Naples, FL  

Suzy Deering (BSFCS ’92), Bluffton, SC  

Ali Gant (AB ’01, MPA ’11), Chattanooga, TN  

Erika Lane (BBA ’93), Athens, GA  

Stephanie Powell (BSED ’94, MED ’97, EDS ’99), Statham, GA  

Diane Smock (AB ’74), Greenville, SC 

We asked them a few questions about who they are, their connection to UGA, and more. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

Cortney Beebe: I was in charge of the 2005 Superbowl for Alltel in Alltel Stadium. We took 500 customers and clients, split up and stayed in three locations for three days and I didn’t lose anyone. All were alive and accounted for on Monday morning. 

Diane Smock: The Upstate Mediation Center is the sole provider of mandated mediation services on a sliding fee scale to litigants who otherwise would not have access to mediation. When it lost its funding, I was hired to oversee its closing. Instead, I was able to secure sustainable funding and otherwise improve the internal operations. Twenty years later, the UMC is still in operation and is thriving. 

What’s your favorite UGA-related memory?

Elizabeth Correll Richards: In 2017, UGA played Notre Dame. Both of my children were students at Georgia and all their friends wanted to go to the game, but it was expensive. So, I rented an RV, loaded 13 sophomores and seniors in the RV with my husband and drove to South Bend, Indiana, where we rented a house near the stadium. It was a weekend for the books. 

Ali Gant: Without a doubt, it was the summer of 1999. I was so lucky to be selected as one of 12 Orientation Leaders. That summer shaped the rest of my life: the way I lead both small and large groups, the way I can work as a part of a team of dynamic individuals and, most importantly, the fact that I met my husband. We didn’t get married for five more years, but that summer planted the seeds for the rest of my life. 

What constitutes a perfect day for you?

Cortney: No alarm, a stack of pancakes, a good workout (optional), then pack a cooler and spend all day on the beach with an amazing book. Then, a hot shower, dinner with my hubby and great friends, and head to bed early. Rinse and repeat. 

Diane: Waking up early to enjoy coffee, the New York Times (in hard copy!), and chatting with my husband before our busy days begin. Spending the day hiking in the nearby mountains with a few friends, then coming home to sit by the fire while enjoying a glass of wine or cup of tea and getting lost in the pages of a good book.

Stephanie Powell (left) and Diane Smock at the 2024 Georgia Women Give spring event’s signature luncheon.

What trait do you consider to be your “superpower?”

Erika Lane: My superpower lies in my organizational skills and ability to self-motivate. Balancing the daily demands with the beautiful things in life that keep you going: family, friends, travel and a little tennis. 

Suzy Deering: Being a Christian female in male-dominated industries. It allowed me to be empathetic and vulnerable which truly was a superpower.

Elizabeth: The ability to stay up late. It never bothered me when my kids pulled an all-nighter or needed a late-night ride. I am generally up until 3 a.m. – but don’t schedule anything for an early morning, I hate those! 

Elizabeth Correll Richards speaks at the 2024 Georgia Women Give spring event’s panel discussion.

Who is the woman you most look up to? Why?

Stephanie Powell: Laura Bush and Dolly Parton. These ladies are both classy, iconic women who know how to get a job done with grace and grit. 

Suzy: My grandmother was an amazing God-loving soul who stood tall and strong and provided unconditional love and a listening heart. I’m grateful my mom followed her mother’s footsteps and continues to fill that role. My mom is one of the strongest women I know. 

What traits do you value most in your friends?

Erika: When it comes to friendships, I value honesty, trust, and openness. Someone who will show up at your door with a bottle of wine – sometimes to laugh, sometimes to cry and hopefully many times to celebrate. 

Ali: I appreciate friends who, first and foremost, value kindness above all else. I also value friends who send me funny memes. 

Ali Gant speaks with an attendee of the annual Georgia Women Give spring event luncheon.

What were your favorite things to do with friends during your time at UGA?

Diane: As soon as the weather started to warm up after a chilly winter, several of us would wake at sunrise, pile into a car, and drive for hours to Sea Island, Tybee Island or even Panama City beach for a weekend of sun and fun, then drive back on Sunday night, sunburned and happy. 

Stephanie: During my time at UGA, you could find me Between the Hedges on game days as a Georgette, at the Zeta house, Spanky’s, listening to live music at the Georgia Theatre or (believe it or not) at Legion Field, which was a fun gathering spot for outdoor concerts and student events.

LEARN MORE ABOUT GEORGIA WOMEN GIVE

UGA donors’ 11,711 gifts break single-day record

UGA seeking nominations for annual Footsteps Award

Award recognizes alumni who embody spirit of university pioneers 

The University of Georgia is accepting nominations for its Footsteps Award. This annual award recognizes a UGA graduate each year who is following in the pioneering footsteps of Charlayne Hunter-Gault (ABJ ’63), Hamilton Holmes (BS ’63) and Mary Frances Early (MMED ’63, EDS ’67).

Members of the UGA community are invited to submit nominations for the Footsteps Award by completing a short form available online at alumni.uga.edu/footstepsnomination. The nomination period ends April 15, and the recipient will be announced mid-May.

The honoree must be a UGA graduate who has made a significant positive impact in a variety of areas in their community. Selected by a committee of UGA faculty, staff and students, the recipient will be presented with the award during the 1961 Club Celebration in June.

“We are immensely proud of our alumni for their commitment to improving their communities, both in their personal and professional lives,” said Jill Walton, vice president for development and alumni relations. “These alumni are exceptional representations of a University of Georgia education, and the Footsteps Award is just one way for us to honor their dedication.”

Questions about the award can be emailed to alumni@uga.edu.

About, Behind and Between the Hedges

As generations of Bulldogs would tell you, there’s no line of shrubbery as iconic to sports as the hedges of the University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium. The Chinese privet bushes – Ligustrum sinense, taxonomically speaking – that frame Dooley Field have seen every Georgia home game since 1929. 

For the third time in UGA history, the hedges were removed this February. They’ll be revitalized off-site ahead of the 2024 football season, including a full soil replacement, irrigation, and drainage work. The hedges will be replanted with plants of the same lineage in time for the 2024 G-Day game. 

IN THE BEGINNING 

The hedges’ storied history began in 1926 at the Rose Bowl, when a UGA Athletic Department employee noticed the red rosebushes surrounding the field. Meanwhile, back in Athens, UGA’s president at the time, Steadman V. Sanford, had started construction on what he hoped would become the best college football stadium in the South. 

The employee suggested that rosebushes be planted around the field, and the idea was received well – with one caveat. Rosebushes wouldn’t thrive in Athens’s climate. Fast-growing, hardy Chinese privet given to the university by an Atlanta donor would be planted instead. 

In 1929, the university sent the governor’s son, who was a UGA student, and his ROTC instructor to Atlanta in a khaki-green military truck to pick up the bushes. The truck, owned by the ROTC department, was the only vehicle in the university fleet large enough for the job. As the legend has it, the truck’s headlights went out on the way back and the ROTC instructor crawled onto the hood of the truck to light the way, clinging on with one hand and holding a flashlight with the other while the governor’s son drove. 

Once the truck arrived at the stadium, workers planted the hedges overnight with hours to spare until the next day’s game against Yale. The 1929 Georgia-Yale game was the first one played in newly dedicated Sanford Stadium. It was the largest athletic event ever held in the South at that time, with 30,000 fans and the governors of nine southern states in attendance – a fitting crowd for Georgia’s first victory Between the Hedges. 

THE 1996 OLYMPIC GAMES 

Covering about 5,000 square feet around the playing field, the hedges take up a significant amount of sideline. This became an issue when Sanford Stadium was used to host soccer games for the 1996 Olympic Games held in Atlanta. Soccer fields are about 25 percent larger than football fields, so the hedges and a concrete walkway had to be briefly removed to create extra space. 

Healthy clippings from the hedges were taken to nurseries in Georgia and Florida run by UGA alumni, propagated into full plants and replanted after the Games in a ceremony featuring Georgia football legends and state politicians. 

“They’re the sons and daughters of the original hedges,” said the late coach Vince Dooley. 

The hedges were removed for a second time in 2017 for the construction of a new locker room and scoreboard on the West endzone. Each bush was numbered so it could be replanted exactly where it had been dug up. 

WHAT’S GROWING ON 

Five feet tall and five feet wide, the hedges – and the chain-link fence they conceal – have also served to protect the safety of fans, athletes and coaches over the years. Dooley Field has been stormed by fans only once, after a victory against the University of Tennessee in 2000. The hedges’ crowd control success has led to the installation of similar plantings at other stadiums around the country.

Today, maintaining the hedges is a labor of love. Chinese privet, considered an invasive weed in other parts of the country, grows at a rate of about three feet per year. A dedicated maintenance team, including students from the university’s turf program, work tirelessly throughout the football season to trim the hedges into their signature boxy shape. Armed with gas-powered trimmers, weed eaters and hand-held clippers, the job takes about two hours each time. 

When the hedges return to grace the sidelines of Sanford Stadium this spring, they’ll have been a Georgia football tradition for 95 years – you could say they’re some of the Bulldogs’ oldest supporters. 

Lisa Sarajian is living la vie en rose

A passion for the arts led Lisa to study abroad. Now, she helps Bulldogs who want to do the same. 

When Lisa Sarajian (BBA ’82) was a student, Athens felt imbued with a certain kind of magic. The city’s music scene was reaching its peak with the emergence of beloved bands like R.E.M., Pylon and the B-52s. As a freshman, Lisa spent her time after classes listening to bands play on Legion Field, exploring the growing downtown area and taking walks through UGA’s beautiful historic North Campus.  

An international business major with a passion for the arts, Lisa loved immersing herself in Athens’ cultural scene. She could frequently be found wandering the galleries of the Georgia Museum of Art and attending free classical music concerts on North Campus. Music was at the center of life in Athens and the sound of live concerts spilled out onto sidewalks everywhere… on campus, downtown and in public parks.  

“I just found there was always something fun to do,” Lisa said. 

Lisa’s favorite Saturday afternoon activity was going to film screenings. A native of Marietta, Georgia, she hadn’t had as much access to the arts as she had wanted to growing up, and the thriving cultural scene she had become a part of was absolutely invigorating for her. Moving out of the suburbs to live in Athens opened up her world. 

“It was my first introduction to foreign and independent films,” she said. “I would take some French classes and go to a French film festival.” 

When Lisa learned about an opportunity to study abroad in France for the summer of 1979, she was thrilled. The trip, which focused on the arts, led her to Normandy, Paris and the Loire Valley.  

  • Lisa (second from left) in Loire with friends on her study abroad trip in 1979.
  • Lisa (second from right) with her host family on her study abroad trip in 1979.
  • Lisa on a trip to Paris in 2004.
  • Lisa took her father, a career naval aviator, on a trip to Normandy in 2007.
  • Lisa (second from left) with her sister and nieces on a trip to Paris in 2010.

“It was such a transformative experience for me,” she said. “I knew that I wanted to bust out at some point and see the world and broaden my horizons and I would not have had that opportunity otherwise.” 

After graduating from UGA, Lisa went on to her first job, a role in finance she gained with the help of UGA’s career services department, now centralized in the Career Center. She worked in a few different jobs in the finance and advertising industry before moving to New York City to start her job at Standard & Poor’s, where she worked for almost three decades.

Lisa remembers her study abroad trip as one of the most meaningful experiences of her time at UGA, but she also understood firsthand how finances could be an obstacle for students hoping to study abroad. She had been unable to work a summer job that year, which was an important source of support through her time at UGA.  

Lisa wanted to make it possible for more students to have a life-changing experience abroad like she did, so she created a study abroad scholarship. 

“I was drawn to this opportunity as a way to give back and to give other people that opportunity as well, particularly kids who would not otherwise have the means to travel,” she said. 

After her retirement in 2015, Lisa went back to school, earning certificates in gardening through the New York Botanical Garden and studying French. Today, she lives on the Upper West Side of New York City. She is a board member and consultant for various nonprofits in her area, including The Trust for Public Land, and an active member of the West Side Community Garden, where she maintains a plot. She stays connected to her friends from UGA with regular lunch dates, and she returns to France as often as she can.

GIVE TO EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING

Project Red grows campus impact thanks to student donors

Period poverty, or a lack of access to proper menstrual products and the education needed to use them effectively, has affected billions of people around the world. Project Red hopes to change that, one free biodegradable menstrual product at a time – and with the support of thousands of Senior Signature donors, the student organization is ready for the challenge. 

Project Red, a UGA student organization formed in May 2020, works with UGA’s Facilities Management Division to place free biodegradable menstrual products in all-gender restrooms in 11 central locations on the UGA campus. The group also fosters discussions about menstrual health and period poverty, conducts research to identify needs and menstrual equity concerns among the student body and serves as a model for other organizations throughout the Southeast. 

Project Red was initially supported by a grant from Aunt Flow, a menstrual product provider, and a 2020 Campus Sustainability Grant from UGA’s Office of Sustainability. As the organization grew and awareness of its work increased, Project Red’s resources struggled to meet demand. It needed financial support to continue to make an impact. 

That support came in 2023, when Project Red was chosen to receive the 2022-2023 Class Gift. The group used the $6,000 donation to purchase two new dispensers, 15,000 menstrual products, and a series of promotional materials. It also reserved funding for future expenses to expand their reach on campus and continue to combat period poverty at UGA. 

Senior Signature

The Class Gift is coordinated by the Student Alumni Council and funded by Senior Signature, an annual giving campaign for graduating students to give back to campus by contributing to areas that were significant to their UGA experience. Each student’s minimum contribution is $30, with $10 supporting the Class Gift initiative and the other $20 being directed to a fund of the student’s choosing. UGA student organizations are eligible to apply for the Class Gift each spring to receive funds for the following academic year. Senior Signature donors vote on the final Class Gift recipient. 

“By being able to select the class gift, students are making their mark on UGA,” said Emily Neece ’25, the Student Alumni Council’s vice president of philanthropy. “The graduating class gets to support something that will help other students and leave a legacy.” 

With the collective support of Senior Signature donors, Project Red is able to continue to meet student needs across campus — but Senior Signature’s impact does not stop there. The Class of 2024 will select another organization as the recipient of its Class Gift. During the 2024-2025 academic year, this organization will receive up to $6,000 to support their work within our campus community.

LEARN ABOUT SENIOR SIGNATURE