COVID-19 researcher Erin Mordecai (BS ’07) named to 40 Under 40

Erin Mordecai (BS ’07), an infectious diseases researcher at Stanford University, was named to the University of Georgia 40 Under 40 Class of 2020. But this isn’t her first time making headlines this year.

As an assistant professor of biology, Mordecai studies how major human-caused global changes, like climate change, land use change or global movement, affect infectious diseases in humans and wildlife. Using innovative mathematical and statistical modeling, she seeks to understand how humans are changing the world and how those changes affect human health.

In March, as the nation came to a grinding halt due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mordecai saw an opportunity to contribute her expertise during a time of uncertainty. Mordecai led her team of infectious diseases researchers to develop a COVID-19 intervention model, which was then made available online. Her interactive website allowed users to model the spread of COVID-19 over time using non-pharmaceutical interventions, like social distancing and quarantine. During a time in which many government officials and members of the general public were not yet familiar with these strategies, her website was critical for communities in her region. Wary of the resurgence of the 1918 flu pandemic, when most major cities ended control measures within eight weeks, Mordecai wanted to help people understand the effectiveness of long-term strategies.

“Our model, and historical evidence, shows that fully lifting control measures at any point in the epidemic could lead to a second wave,” Mordecai said. “When you have a population where most of the people remain susceptible, fully returning to business as usual is extremely risky, and could result in many lives lost unnecessarily.”

Screenshot of the interactive website developed by Mordecai’s team. Source: https://covid-measures.github.io/.

 As communities continue assessing how long social distancing measures need to be in place, Mordecai believes it is important to recognize how to prevent a resurgence, especially when a widespread vaccine is not available yet.

“There’s a lag of about three weeks between an intervention being lifted and its resulting effect on deaths,” Mordecai said. “Policymakers won’t be able to begin assessing the results of their actions until three weeks later, when the virus could have spread widely through the population.”

In order to prevent that problem, communities are developing processes to manage a potential second wave.

“There may be some potential to bring a second peak under control and respond more quickly if testing is sufficiently widespread prior to reopening and if it’s combined with rigorous contact tracing and infected isolation,” Mordecai said.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel for communities eager to return to normalcy. However, communities must be prepared to move to a test-and-trace system, in which testing is widespread and those who encounter sick individuals are isolated. They also must be able to intensify and relax social distancing and quarantine measures based on the number of hospitalizations and deaths.

“Our work shows that we could considerably relax the level of social distancing we’re practicing in the general population if we could more comprehensively test all symptomatic and high-risk individuals for COVID-19 and isolate them to prevent transmission,” Mordecai explained.

Mordecai’s model has become a useful tool for San Francisco Bay Area public officials as it allows them to compare different strategies, while seeing how their policies now will affect their options down the road.

At UGA, Mordecai was a Foundation Fellow, a Ramsey scholar and an honors student, earning an honors interdisciplinary studies degree in mathematical biology. She went on to earn her Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“Fortunately for me, UGA remains a world leader in the ecology of infectious disease, and these deep research connections continue to bring me back to campus at least once a year,” Mordecai said.

 

Vision and generosity grow for generations

Today, we celebrate Dan B. Franklin (BSC ’38, BBA ’62, BLA ’63) and the way his vision and generosity demonstrate how investing in the future can keep your hard-earned money working for generations. A bequest from his estate established the Dan B. Franklin Distinguished Professorship in the College of Environment + Design.

Who was Dan B. Franklin?

Franklin first received a degree in Economics from the University of Georgia in 1938. After a successful career working for the R.C. Cola Company, he returned to the university and, in 1963, earned a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture with a concentration in landscapes and gardens.

A prolific and celebrated garden designer in Atlanta and throughout the Southeast, Franklin received numerous awards during his long career, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia Chapter of American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). He was also inducted as a Fellow with ASLA, the organization’s highest honor. In 1991, he received the UGA College of Environment + Design’s Distinguished Alumni Medal.

Franklin’s love of UGA and for the profession of landscape design led to the creation of a lasting gift. The professorship named in his honor is intended to help a scholar/educator who shares his passion for plant life promote education, research and service excellence in landscape architecture, garden design and horticulture in particular. Meet the current Dan B. Franklin Distinguished Professor, Brad Davis, and learn more about the positive impact Franklin’s gift continues to have.

Discover how easy it can be to leave a legacy that counts.

Stafford, Smart endow new social justice program for UGA Athletics

This story was originally published on the University of Georgia Athletics site on August 14, 2020.

The University of Georgia Athletic Association has launched an ambitious program that seeks to implement strategic initiatives in the areas of diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice, according to an announcement Friday by UGA J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity.

To fund the cost of the initiative in perpetuity, initial significant gifts totaling $500,000 have been made by former UGA quarterback Matthew Stafford and his wife Kelly ($350,000) and current Bulldog head coach Kirby Smart and his wife Mary Beth ($150,000). These commitments are part of larger gifts made by both the Staffords and Smarts, the specifics of which will be forthcoming as they are finalized.

“The generosity of Matthew and Coach Smart allows the Athletic Association to implement strategic initiatives in diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice,” said McGarity.  “These gifts will help the Athletic Association educate, implement dynamic programming, and execute service opportunities to achieve our goals, those being to foster critical consciousness, cultural competence and further developing change within the Athletic Association and our greater community.”

“I am grateful to Matthew Stafford and Coach Kirby Smart for their generous gifts to fund this important initiative and am excited about the opportunity the program presents for us to promote an inclusive culture among our student-athletes, coaches, and staff,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead.

The primary goal of this program is to continue developing an environment that will effect meaningful change in these areas for all the Association’s members, including student-athletes, coaches and staff.

“The Athletic Association remains committed to leading a sustained dialogue on diversity, inclusion and innovation in what continues to be historic times for our nation,” said Matt Borman,  Deputy Athletic Director for Development.  “The significant gifts from Matthew and Coach Smart will allow the Athletic Association to apply important initiatives in these critical areas. We have exceptional student-athletes, staff, and community leaders who will help us inspire, motivate, and stimulate meaningful action moving forward in this effort.”

Submit a photo wearing a UGA-themed mask

Wondering how you can help keep yourself and others safe as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic? One simple way is to wear a mask! 

Masks reduce the spread of COVID-19 from respiratory droplets, especially in public settings—like a college campus. Wearing a mask, combined with social distancing (6 feet) and frequent sanitation, is critical as we navigate the pandemic. Some people may not know they are infected due to a lack of symptoms, so it’s important to take precautions and correctly wear a mask at all times, especially in instances when social distancing may be difficult. If wearing a mask is not possible due to mental or physical conditions, consult a health care provider for alternative safety methods. 

Let’s show our strength as a Bulldog Nation; masks are a symbol of respect for our family, friends, and fellow Dawgs. 

Wearing a UGA-themed mask? Send us a photo to be featured on our socials! 

UGA mentors want you to join their ranks!

The UGA Mentor Program celebrates its first birthday on August 21. Mentors with at least one 16-week mentorship under their belts are excited about the program’s success, and are eagerly helping to recruit fellow alumni to join in the fun by becoming mentors by August 20—the first day of fall semester. Students are entering or returning to a challenging campus environment due to the pandemic. By connecting with a mentor, students benefit from having an ally as they navigate the new school year and prepare for the future.

Getting started with the UGA Mentor Program is easy: Simply create a profile at mentor.uga.edu and students can connect with you based on your unique interests and experiences. Your contact information will not be shared with students unless you agree to enter a mentoring relationship with them.

Would you commit to a 16-week mentorship by investing just a few hours each month? Experienced mentors will tell you, it’s a rewarding and fulfilling way to give back to UGA and serve exceptional young Dawgs!

 

Special thanks to super mentors Douglas Bailey (BSA ’80), Ansley Booker (MS ’13), Ericka Davis (AB ’93), Mary Elizabeth Sadd (BBA ’87) and Abram Serotta (BBA ’68, MACC  ’70) for submitting videos. Go Dawgs!

Georgia Law’s first Black graduate, Chester C. Davenport, passes away

Chester C. Davenport and UGA Law students

Davenport, center, with law students during a visit to the UGA School of Law in 2016.

The following message was shared by Georgia Law Dean Rutledge. We join Dean Rutledge in expressing our condolences to the friends and family of Chester Davenport, and are proud of the legacy he leaves on campus–and beyond.

It is with profound sadness that I share that Mr. Chester C. Davenport (LLB ’66), the University of Georgia School of Law’s first African-American graduate, passed away this past Friday, August 7.

Mr. Davenport was an incredibly important figure in our school’s history. He was a leader. He graduated in the top five percent of the Class of 1966 and served as a founding member and Executive Editor of the Georgia Law Review. He was a successful attorney, public servant and businessman. Mr. Davenport was also a regular supporter of the School of Law and the university throughout his life. The UGA chapter of the Black Law Students Association bears his name, and he received the law school alumni association’s highest honor — the Distinguished Service Scroll Award — in 2016. These are only a few highlights of his life.

We are in communication with Mr. Davenport’s family and will share information about memorial services as it becomes available. In the meantime, please keep his family in your prayers and thoughts during this time of mourning.

Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge
Dean & Herman E. Talmadge Chair of Law

UGA Foundation elects 12 new trustees

The University of Georgia Foundation approved changes in board positions during its June 11-12 annual meeting, which was held virtually. The changes took effect July 1.

The UGA Foundation welcomed 12 new trustees and accorded six trustees emeritus status. The new members will join current trustees to comprise a 50-member board.

The board voted unanimously to elect the following individuals to the board:

James G. “Guyton” Cochran, of Carrollton, is the CFO and executive vice president at Southwire Company. He earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from UGA in 1988 and a master’s degree in business administration from Georgia State University in 1995.

James L. “Jim” Dinkins, of Atlanta, is the president of Coca-Cola North America. Prior to his appointment, he was president of the Minute Maid Business Unit. He earned a bachelor’s degree in management from UGA in 1984 and an MBA from Emory University in 1992.

Keith Kelly, of Newborn, is the president and CEO of Kelly Products. He earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from UGA in 1980.

Elizabeth Correll Richards, of Atlanta, is chairman and CEO of Quality Staffing of America Inc. She earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and child psychology from The Ohio State University in 1992.

Jodi Selvey, of Atlanta, is the senior vice president for Colliers International. She earned her bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from UGA in 1984.

John F. Schraudenbach, of Duluth, was a partner at Ernst & Young in Atlanta prior to retiring in June 2019. He previously served as chair of the Terry College of Business alumni board. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business from UGA in 1981 and a master’s degree in accounting from UGA in 1982.

Dorothy Barfield Sifford, of Nashville, Tennessee, is active in various local, national and international nonprofits, ministries, and educational initiatives and endeavors. She earned her bachelor’s degree in family and consumer sciences from UGA in 1994.

Kimberly L. “Kim” Stamper, of Alpharetta, is a retired marketing professional who earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing from UGA in 1989. She remains actively engaged in mentoring young women, philanthropy and volunteering in her community.

Earl Howard Young, of Atlanta, is the president of General Wholesale Beer Co., a multi-generational family business. He earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from UGA in 1982.

Three advisory trustees were also elected to assist committees in defining and achieving the board’s strategic goals:

Natalie Schweers Coghill, of Augusta, is founder of The Gracestone Group and senior vice president for Synovus Securities Inc. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from UGA in 1995 and a law degree from UGA in 1998.

Vernon “Trey” Googe III, of Atlanta, is the president and CEO of Yancey Bros. Co. He earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from UGA in 1991 and a law degree from UGA in 1994.

Rebecca B. “Becky” Winkler, of Charlotte, North Carolina, is founder and owner of Department 732c. She graduated summa cum laude from UGA in 1998, earning degrees in psychology and Chinese. She also earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology from DePaul University in 2004.

The following individuals also will join the UGA Foundation Board of Trustees in ex-officio positions:

Asim Ahmed, the UGA Student Government Association president, succeeding Rachel Byers.

Savannah C. Hembree, the president of the UGA Staff Council, succeeding Marie Mize.

The UGA Foundation Board of Trustees accorded emeritus status to six trustees whose terms concluded on June 30: Kathryn L. Ash, Elizabeth W. “Betsy” Camp, Frank D. Foley III, Larry D. Thompson, Russell C. “Rusty” Lindner and Robert H. Stolz.

The complete UGA Foundation Board of Trustees is available at https://give.uga.edu/uga-foundation/trustees-and-committees/.

Because of Tatiyana Sinkfield’s scholarship, ‘this is only the beginning’

Tatiyana Sinkfield (BSA ’20) has a lot to celebrate these days. She is one of the University of Georgia’s newest alumni, having graduated in May with a Bachelor of Science and Arts in Biological Science from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. She also graduated as a first-generation college student and a proud alumna of the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program.

Through this program, Sinkfield was one of five students to receive a scholarship from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. The foundation established the scholarships to support, in perpetuity, students from Atlanta’s historic Westside neighborhoods.

Sinkfield was both surprised and grateful when she learned that she was the recipient of a Georgia Commitment Scholarship supported by the Angela and Arthur M. Blank Scholarship Fund, and her family and friends were equally as thrilled.

“This scholarship program provided me with on-campus resources, educational support and motivation. The staff members were so encouraging and kind,” said Sinkfield.

In addition to the financial resources and on-campus support offered through this scholarship, Sinkfield also enjoyed the unique opportunity of meeting Arthur Blank in 2018 over a small dinner on campus with the other Blank Foundation scholarship recipients. She recalls the group’s inspiring discussion on success after college, community engagement and setting and achieving important life goals.

One of her biggest life goals is to become a pediatrician, and Sinkfield plans to take a gap year to study and gain additional hands-on experience in the medical setting before attending medical school next fall. She believes that the rigor of her coursework at UGA has prepared her for medical school and equipped her with important skills like time management and accountability. Additionally, Sinkfield says that interacting with people from different places and different backgrounds at UGA has really strengthened her interpersonal skills, which she asserts are essential to becoming a good doctor.

The impact of her Georgia Commitment Scholarship extended beyond the classroom, as she emerged as a natural leader on campus during the last four years. Sinkfield served as a resource to several fellow Georgia Commitment Scholars pursuing the pre-medical route and volunteered with numerous organizations including Piedmont Athens Regional Hospital, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, and Georgia DAZE, an overnight campus visitation program for talented high school seniors from historically underrepresented areas that have been admitted to UGA.

Like so many students, Sinkfield points to a nighttime football game under the Sanford Stadium lights as one of her favorite UGA memories. She vividly remembers the energy and school spirit that filled the stadium and said the feeling of camaraderie among the Bulldog Nation was utterly surreal.

Sinkfield plans to carry that same feeling of camaraderie into the next chapter of her life, remaining forever proud of her time at UGA and grateful for her Georgia Commitment Scholarship.

“The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation scholarship has helped me achieve not only my goals at UGA, but laid a foundation for my future successes. This is only the beginning.”

Life changing! (a salute to mentorship)

Featuring guest blogger Sara Ervin, Class of 2022

Meet Sara Ervin.

In her own words, Sara is an “untraditional student” who had a circuitous route to where she is today.  She came to the University of Georgia after obtaining her bachelor’s degree in rural studies from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and a master’s degree in mass communication from Valdosta State University.

She admits her academic focus could, at times, wander. She initially entered college to become a veterinarian. But then a strong desire to help people made her change course. While she wasn’t clear about precisely what she wanted to do, there was one nagging thought in the back of her mind – a career in the FBI. “I’m very protective,” she says. “Taking down the bad guys seemed like a good choice.” Still, that notion seemed more like a dream than a reality. She didn’t even know the first step to take, so she tucked the idea away.

She came to work at UGA as a student/faculty coordinator, responsible for managing student services and faculty affairs for the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics within the College of Public Health. But she still wrestled with “exactly what I wanted to do with my life.”

In 2018, she gained acceptance to begin work on a PhD in UGA’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication program. Still employed full time at UGA, and now a part-time PhD student, her plate was full. That’s where the UGA Mentor Program came into play.

Let’s let Sara pick up her story from here in her own words:

In August 2019, a few weeks into the semester, I received an email about the UGA Mentor Program. It doesn’t matter what level you are in your educational journey; you should always seek and accept help whenever you can. The overview was just a 30-minute presentation, so I thought, ‘what was there to lose?’

I understand the benefits a mentor can have, but I never had one before. Knowing what I know now, I wish I could have had this opportunity when I was a freshman in college. Hindsight is 20/20, and that is why I am so passionate about sharing my story.

A unique feature of the UGA Mentor Program is the ability to search and choose from a vast number of mentors. All mentors are UGA alumni who are volunteering their time and expertise. There is an online platform making it easy to find one that fits your needs.

My interest and research areas include crisis communication, disaster preparedness, and terrorism/counter-terrorism. I considered this niche as unique and not a popular combination, so I was not getting my hopes up about finding someone that fit all these criteria.

But after an hour of reading profiles under the keywords like crisis communication, terrorism, and disaster, I found an alumnus by the name of Mark Ball, who graduated UGA with a bachelor’s in international affairs (AB ’08). Mark is currently a lieutenant in the United States Navy. He has been in the Navy for over seven years; his experience matched each of my ‘unique’ interests. I clicked his name, sent him an email about myself asking for him to be my mentor. Within a couple days there was a reply. A few emails later, our first meeting was set.

Since he is stationed halfway around the world, we met via FaceTime and it went great.

The UGA Mentor Program provides many resources to help you prepare and use to ensure that one-on-one sessions with a mentor go smoothly and successfully. After an hour and a half, we got to know each other personally and professionally, established goals, and set expectations. Our relationship grew organically. We hit it off, and the time truly flew by.

The mentoring was very structured. After each of our meetings, there were deliverables I was responsible for preparing before our next meeting. Mostly my idea, but he agreed they would help. For instance, one task was to put into writing 1) Why I want to get a PhD, 2) Identify areas I want to research and why, and 3) Why I want to be an FBI Agent.

We would discuss my goals and these topics in depth. Mark asked a few questions. I remember the moment like it was yesterday. He listened and about halfway through, in a very calm tone as if he were telling me the weather, he asks, ‘Have you ever considered the Navy Reserves, as an intelligence officer? This could also be a beneficial segue into the FBI.’

I wish I could say that the Hallelujah Chorus rose in the background and fireworks shot off, but that was not the case. I had not considered joining the military in over a decade. I pondered a military career in high school when we had a career day, but quickly swatted away the idea.

But I am a nerd. I love to learn things. Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the more you know! So, I did my due diligence. I spent weeks researching his suggestion, looking at the ins and outs of the Navy, the intelligence world, and the military in general. I asked friends and family for their input. I thought and prayed about it.

Then one sunny day in October, I contacted a Navy recruiter. After we met, I thought and prayed about it a bit longer, before deciding this is exactly what I needed and should do. I finally know what I want to do for the rest of my life!

Mark has been by my side every step of the way. He has not only guided me along the steps of entering the military, which is not an easy feat, but he has also helped guide me in my studies. Many of our conversations have been about current events and what research topics would be beneficial. If I can learn and research pertinent information about my future career field, why not?

Our ongoing mentor/mentee relationship has been truly life changing. I can honestly say that I had no idea that I would benefit as much as I have from the relationship or the program. I can only imagine what I would have gotten from this program had I had the same opportunity my freshmen year in college.

I am forever grateful to Mark and the UGA Mentor Program. I cannot recommend this program enough. It is beneficial for any age, educational level, or stage of life. One day, I hope I can give back to a student just as much as Mark and the program have given to me.

Inspired by this life changing story? Want to play a role in helping a student achieve their dreams?