Made by the Bulldog Nation

Finding a home as a first-generation student

Written by Jasmin Severino Hernandez (AB ’13, AB ’13), UGA Young Alumni Leadership Council Outreach Chair

I transferred to the University of Georgia in 2010, with no idea how the transition would work. I came from a small liberal arts college, where I felt like I was a big fish in a little pond. At UGA, I felt quite the opposite. I felt like the world was my oyster, but I also felt lost in the sea of people. As a first-generation student, it felt lonely because I was immersed in a new experience with no idea how to navigate it all. I graduated from UGA in 2013, with a degree in political science from SPIA & another in Spanish from Franklin.

I have amazing memories from UGA.

The first was when my roommate convinced me that pageants could teach me how to be confident in myself. With her help, I competed in various pageants throughout undergrad. My greatest memories are from competing in Miss UGA in 2012 and 2013. I was a runner-up in the 2013 competition and it is a moment I will never forget. My mic went out during my talent routine and the audience only heard the last 30 seconds of my song … ironically where I had to sing the highest note. I received a standing ovation before the judges made me do it all over again!

“Some of our greatest memories involve our similar journeys as first-generation students trying to find a home, a voice, and ourselves in a new and unfamiliar place.”

In 2013, I also found my home away from home. I became a sister of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Incorporated, which is an academic sorority. The Delta Alpha Chapter of LTA helped me grow into the professional I am today. The sisters embraced me at a time when I needed support. They taught me the value of hard work and inspired me to always believe in myself and to embrace life’s unexpected twists and turns. I am still very involved with my sorority and I enjoy seeing how our sorority changes the lives of other first-generation Latinas at universities across the country.

Lastly, UGA introduced me to the love of my life. While at UGA, I met a boy who I am lucky enough to now call my husband. For an entire semester, we would casually run into each other on North Campus. One day, we finally spoke, and the rest is history. We took our engagement photos on North Campus, as a sweet nod to the place that sealed our fate. We were married on homecoming day this year, October 19, 2019, and we still enjoy calling the Dawgs on Saturdays. Some of our greatest memories involve UGA and our similar journeys as first-generation students trying to find a home, a voice, and ourselves in a new and unfamiliar place.

Today, I serve as the Outreach Committee Chair for the UGA Young Alumni Leadership Council because I truly believe that although my time at UGA was challenging in many ways, it also helped me grow immensely. I am very thankful for it all.

Somewhere along the way, UGA gave me everything I needed. Somewhere along the way, I found a home.

Featured image above by Claire Diana Photography

Jittery Joe’s to release UGA-themed coffee for the Dawgs

This Friday, Athens-based coffee company Jittery Joe’s is set to showcase its newest beverage, Attack the Day Coffee! The designers at The AdSmith, all of whom are UGA alumni, developed the ultimate can design to help the Bulldogs kick off the 2017 football season. Given that Jittery Joe’s head roaster, Charlie Mustard (MS ’97), is a UGA grad as well, it’s no surprise that this project is full of Bulldog pride!

The coffee can features the official Bulldog logo and the following description: “Jittery Joe’s Coffee Roasting company and UGA Athletics have teamed up to create a special coffee for the Bulldog Nation. Rich and smooth with a lively aroma, this dark roasted coffee brews a big, bold cup. Just what you need on your side when you Attack the Day! GO DAWGS!”

Kirk Smith (BFA ’85), president of The AdSmith, spent his time at UGA studying graphic design while working with his company part-time. Charlie Mustard earned his master’s degree in nutrition after attending Clemson as an undergraduate. What do the two have in common? They both root for the Dawgs on Saturdays and support their alma mater however they can.

Volunteering is of utmost importance to Kirk, who is a board member of the Cancer Foundation, Free to Breathe and the Clarke County Mentor Program. The AdSmith has generated numerous designs for the university, many of which help brand the UGA Athletic Association.

Charlie is a strong proponent of environmental and social consciousness. In fact, one of his go-to mottos is “the bike is the answer.” Jittery Joe’s has created custom blends for UGA in the past – including Terry College’s High Yield and other savory Bulldog blends.

To try out this limited edition coffee for yourself, head on over to your nearest Jittery Joe’s location on September 1! The product will also be available online at jitteryjoes.com.

Attack the Day Coffee is an officially licensed product in partnership with UGA Athletics. Thanks to Kirk and Charlie for helping bring the game day spirit alive – every day – for Bulldog fans!

Two Brothers, One Booming Pecan Business

Rob (BSA ’96) and Eric Cohen (BSA ’00), two University of Georgia graduates, have uncovered one of Georgia’s best kept secrets – the pecan. The roots of the pecan in Georgia originates from Savannah, Georgia. The tree nut has been a staple item for Georgia landowners since the late 1800’s, which has led to the state becoming one of the country’s top pecan producers.

The brothers developed farming skills at an early age while working on their family’s farm in Brinson, Georgia. They learned the tricks of the trade from their father, who farmed pecans part-time. Throughout college, both brothers used the knowledge that they gained from their agriculture courses to assist on their family’s pecan orchard. Ultimately, Rob received his degree in plant protection and pest management, while Eric pursued agriculture economics.

The Cohen brothers would have never imagined that they would be running a successful business when they purchased their first pecan orchid back in 2000. Their farm, Pecan Ridge Plantation, spans across five counties, encompassing land in Thomasville all the way to Lake Seminole. Along with selling to international markets, both brothers began to expand their pecan knowledge by working on their own projects within the industry. Rob offers pecan consulting services, while Eric runs Truffles by Tate, a pecan truffle business.

Photo: Garden and Gun

Photo: Garden and Gun

Eric’s business is unique, in that his trained dog, Tate, finds concealed pecan truffles. After Eric realized that pecan truffles were difficult to find, but were a hot commodity, he turned to Dr. Tim Brenneman for assistance. Dr. Brenneman, a University of Georgia plant pathology professor, served as a mentor, and helped Eric find markets for his product. Now, Eric sells his product to both local and non-local high end restaurants, as well as food enthusiasts, who are looking to experiment with the truffles.

The limits for their pecans are endless. In 2014 the Cohen brothers started their own pecan oil business, and in 2016 became the first business to sell pecan truffle oil on the market. Recently, Eric was named to the UGA Alumni Association’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2016.

Read more about these Bulldog brothers in Garden and Gun.

Alumna recognized by L’Oreal Paris’ Women of Worth Program

In May of 2009, Books for Keeps founder Melaney Smith (BBA ’89) met an Alps Road Elementary second-grader who was disappointed that school was breaking for summer. Why? When school ended, so did her access to books.

Smith wanted to help, and learned that many of the student’s classmates were in a similar situation. Without books, the reading skills some of these second graders had developed during the school year could decline over the summer, a circumstance recognized by educators as “summer slide”.

“I thought, ‘why doesn’t somebody do something about this?’  And then I thought, ‘I am somebody,’” said Smith.

Research led her to Dr. Jennifer Graff, a professor at the University of Georgia College of Education who co-authored a study on the topic.

Adopting the methods used in the study, Smith started Books for Keeps’ primary program: Stop Summer Slide! This flagship initiative provides 12 books to every child in the elementary schools served by Books for Keeps. In 2015, Stop Summer Slide! was offered to students in ten elementary schools, eight in Athens elementary schools and one each in Atlanta and Warrenton.

At the end of each school year, Books for Keeps hosts mock book fairs where the children come to their respective schools’ media center and select the books they would most like to own.

“If we expect them to read at home during the summer with no encouragement from adults, they have to have something they like to read,” Smith said.

Volunteers help children find the books they want, and ask the students questions to align book-collection needs for the following year. All schools in the program have been designated as Title 1 schools, which means 90 to 100 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch, Smith said.

This month, her efforts were rewarded with at $10,000 grant from the L’Oreal Paris’ Women of Worth program. Now Smith is in the running for an additional $25,000 to be determined by public vote and awarded at a ceremony in New York on December 1.

Click here to vote once per day for Smith to help Books for Keeps win $25,000.

Books for Keeps recently completed a plan to expand to all elementary Clarke County schools in Athens and at least five more in Atlanta.

“We don’t add a school until we have community support that we know will last,” she said. “Our expansion funds are seed money, but there has to be community support.”

She hopes exposure from the L’Oreal honor will help spread the word about Books for Keeps, particularly in Atlanta. And she hopes to meet and network with her fellow Women of Worth winners next month in New York.

If you would like to help, consider joining the Books for Keeps initiative by volunteering, donating books, offering a monetary gift, hosting a book drive, or spreading the word through social media and your daily personal interaction with others. Your contributions could make a difference in the life of a child.

umano on Shark Tank

Alex (BBA ’09) and Jonathan (BBA ’07, AB ’07) Torrey, brothers and co-founders of umano, share a passion for fashion and philanthropy. The brothers founded umano in 2011 in Athens, Georgia, a town they describe as “the place where southern soul meets the heart of indie rock.” The UGA graduates launched their social entrepreneurial venture with one simple idea at the core of their brand: fashion for good.

Through umano, which means ‘human; mankind; to show humanity and act humanely towards others’, Jonathan and Alex are dedicated to elevating everyday fashion essentials to create fashion with a purpose. Despite not having much fashion experience, the brothers set out to create fashion for good because they believe that every kid deserves a chance; it isn’t about geography, color or creed.

Their passion to create great fashion is equaled only by their drive to advocate for education by equipping children in impoverished communities with basic school supplies needed to succeed. umano visits dozens of partner schools in impoverished communities in the United States and abroad. The brand’s “virtuous cycle” starts and ends with a Giving Trip, where umano visits a partner school to give backpacks full of essential school supplies and collect drawings. Kids draw the brand’s signature PocketArt, which is featured on umano’s T-shirts and with every purchase, umano gives a backpack to students in Athens, Harlem, Los Angeles, Mexico and Peru, with a partnership in Haiti set to commence soon.

Friday, November 20 at 9:00 p.m., umano will be featured on the high-stakes reality show Shark Tank on ABC. Shark Tank is a television show that features The Sharks – tough, self-made, multi-millionaire and billionaire tycoons – as they invest in America’s best businesses and products. The Sharks give people a chance to chase the American dream, and potentially secure business deals that could make them millionaires. The brothers will pitch their unique concept and try to convince the panel of sharks that their company is worthy of an investment. Tune in to support Alex and Jonathan and see whether or not a Shark will join the umano team!

For more information regarding umano, please visit their website.

Alumni Spotlight: Josh Collins (BSEH ’97, MS ’99)

Josh Collins (BSEH ’97, MS ’99) is the proud owner of Athen’s newest juke-joint style restaurant, Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken. Located at 1120 Baxter Steet, Athen, GA, the restarunt stives to bring together traditional, southern-family recipes with an atmosphere that will attract a diverse crowd.

The UGA Alumni Association’s Strategic Communications intern, Emilie Clarke ’15, had the opportunity to catch up with this outstanding alumnus. Read below to find out more about Josh’s entrpreneurial endeavors.

You recently opened Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken, tell me a little bit about the restaurant. What steps did you take to open your own business? What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Champy’s was founded in Chattanooga in 2009 by a good friend of ours, Seth Champion, who was raised on the Mississippi Delta.  Although Champy’s of Athens is the fifth location, which also includes Daphne, Alabaster and Muscle Shoals, AL, we are not a franchise. We refer to ourselves as a “friendchise” between buddies that enjoy great food in a fun atmosphere. The atmosphere is fun for all ages.

My wife, Amy, and I have talked about moving to Athens for the past 10 years and I knew that Athens was a Champy’s explosion waiting to happen. We worked on selling the idea of Athens to Seth for over two years then invested everything we had into opening, including having to go all the way to Mississippi to get a business loan because local banks wouldn’t work with us. We cashed in our 401Ks, are still living in an RV and continue to invest all of the elbow grease we have every day.

 

Interior of Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken

Where do you see the company in five years?

For the Athens Champy’s, I can see a destination spot that draws customers from all over Georgia and visiting sports rivals, a thriving catering business for everyone that wants good southern food, and a restaurant full of locals that are drawn to our bluesy atmosphere. As for expansion, I definitely see a second location in five years, maybe an hour or two from Athens.

What chefs or types of cuisines are your biggest food influences?

Flavors from the Deep South – Mississippi Delta hot tamales, fresh fried chicken and homemade sides. Our recipes were handed down from Seth Champion’s grandfather over 40 years ago.

How did your time at UGA help you achieve your personal and professional goals? Did you have a favorite professor or class that really stuck with you? Favorite memory from your time at UGA?

My environmental health sciences degree kick-started my corporate career and provided me with 15 years of business experience that I lean on every day to run the restaurant.

I would have to go with two professors, Dr. David MacIntosh and Dean Phil Williams of the Health Science Campus. You didn’t ask, but I couldn’t forget about Ms. Sandra McPeake who was the department’s assistant in the late 1990s. She couldn’t always keep me out of trouble, but she tried her best!

Football Saturdays in Athens are my favorite memory.  All of them…

What advice would you give to future graduates or young alumni who aspire to own their own business?

Just do it.  No one is going to make it happen, but you.

To learn more about Josh Collins (BSEH ’97, MS ’99) and Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken visit ChampysChicken.com.

Alumna Spotlight: Christina Sass (AB ’02)

Since graduating from UGA, Christina Sass (AB ’02) has led a successful career in the for-profit and nonprofit world. Her passion for empowering others inspired her to co-found Andela, a global talent accelerator that produces world-class remote developers and connects them with top employers. Andela finds the brightest young people in Africa and gives them the training and mentorship to thrive as full-time, remote developers for companies around the world.

The UGA Alumni Association’s strategic communications intern, Emilie Clarke ’15, had the opportunity to catch up with this outstanding alumna:

Tell me a little bit about Andela. Where do you see the company in five years?

Andela began as a pilot of a model that I’ve been dreaming about finding for years — a scalable way for brilliant young people living in places where economic opportunities are scarce to receive training and employment that leads to lifelong careers without debt and without leaving home.

At Andela, we find and train these young people – starting in Lagos, Nigeria – to be world-class remote web developers. We are unlocking the world’s untapped human potential and creating a talent pipeline for global industries, most of which struggle to find tech talent. With more than 10,000 applications coming in from across Africa to participate in the program and with 100 percent client retention so far, I’d say we are onto something!

Walking into the Andela office in Lagos, Nigeria and seeing 70 people (25 percent young women) who have a new career path and who feel like a family because of Andela — that is my proudest career accomplishment.

In five years, we plan to scale, scale, scale. I foresee us having centers in Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and others across Nigeria. I foresee companies viewing us as the go-to place for world-class software developers. They can feel great about hiring through Andela because of the social impact.

Christina Sass (AB ’02) at an Andela exposé

How did your time at UGA help you achieve your goals? Did you have a favorite professor or class?

I met a group of friends in Myers Hall that are still some of my closest friends in the world. We all spent the millennium New Year’s Eve together and have spent every single New Years together since 1999. You read that right – 15 years of dear friends who meet annually to watch UGA bowl games and to ring in the New Year together. Individuals from that group are now teaching literature at top high schools. They are teaching media and communications at UNC and philosophy at Purdue. They are city planning for Los Angeles. They are professional musicians who got their start in Athens. They are dear friends who have shaped me personally and professionally since we were all at UGA.

My favorite professors were Dr. Loris Magnani in Astronomy and Physics and Dr. Edward Halper in Ancient Philosophy. Both are still st UGA. If you are a student, stop what you are doing and sign up for their classes immediately.Dr. Magnani’s classes left me in awe of the universe. Dr. Halper made Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and Maimonides come alive and showed how their work can guide our everyday lives.  Personally, his own life exemplified how unity and purpose in one’s thinking and one’s action shape a life well-lived.

You are being honored by the New York Business Journal for its Women of Influence Award. Who are some influential figures in your life? Where do you draw inspiration?

My father, Jurgen Peter Sass, is the greatest inspiration in my life. He left post-war Germany at twenty-two with only a suitcase and $200 and built a meaningful life. He instilled in my brother and me, the way that only a German can, that education would be the greatest determining factor of the quality and richness of our lives. We had Aristotle and FDR quotes on our fridge. We debated literature and politics over long dinners. We traveled and studied the geography and history of new places as a family. He fueled my endless curiosity about the world and gave me the initial courage and street smarts to travel everywhere!

I have also had the privilege to meet and work with vibrant young people across the globe who fight to get an education. From my first campers at the YMCA in Athens to my current Fellows at Andela who are teaching me to code, young people who hustle and succeed against all odds inspire me every day. At Andela we call this #allheartallhustle.

What advice would you give to future graduates or young alumni looking to create global impact?

Find the overlap between what you are passionate about and what the world needs most. Start with the Millenium Development Goals or focus on job creation in areas of highest unemployment. Doing what feels good is not enough. Don’t side-step the hard work of researching what really works: what is scalable and sustainable, what is safe for local communities, and what is aligned with what local communities need and want. Do the research and then go apprentice with those who are doing it best. Listen when you are out in the field. Have hundreds of cups of tea and just listen. Never stop asking yourself if this is truly the best (most efficient, most effective) way to solve the problem you are trying to solve. And no matter where you go – even to the farthest corners of the earth- never stop loving the Georgia Bulldogs.

The UGA community is proud to call Christina a member of the Bulldog family.

Visit Andela’s website to learn more.

Alumnae Work to Save our Hearing

Athens, a town where music flourishes, is packed with music venues and sold-out shows. However, two of Athens’ biggest fans , alumnae Katie Carmody (BSED ’08) and Caroline DeCelles (BSED ’08, MED ’10), realized that most people were unaware of the long-term, damaging effects concerts can have on hearing.

Inspired by their undergraduate studies in music business and communication sciences and disorders and by their passion for music, the two graduates started We’re hEAR for You, a non-profit organization that raises awareness for hearing conservation. We’re hEAR for You supplies free earbuds to concert-goers in Athens and across the nation.

Earbuds provided by We’re hEAR for You

In an interview with the Red & Black, Carmody and DeCelles shared their passion for hearing protection.

“We’re trying to break the stigma of hearing protection. People think that hearing protection will decrease the quality of a show, but it actually filters out damaging frequencies. We’re hEAR for You focuses on education. Once people understand the science on why they need to protect their hearing, they are so much more likely to use hearing protection,” said Carmody.

We’re hEAR for You has established chapters in Atlanta, Nashville, Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins, but the group’s largest chapter is in the Classic City.

In Athens, the organization’s major effort is to supply music venues, bars and other music-related operations, such as Nuci’s Space, with free ear buds and hearing protection resources. The public is taking full advantage of the earbuds because they have to be restocked frequently.

DeCelles and Carmody are working in collaboration with the UGA Hugh Hodgson School of Music and to encourage students to get involved in advocating for hearing protection. The organization takes part in the annual International Hearing Awareness Day on campus, too.

As the organization continues to grow, it will work with musicians nationwide to promote hearing conservation. Currently, We’re hEAR for You has recruited 25 bands to carry its earbuds on tour. Carmody operates as a liaison with these artists and ensures the bands remain stocked. The organization even coordinates with music festivals to provide the earbuds to fellow music lovers.

Visit We’re hEAR for You online to partner with them or learn more about their cause.

Source: This was originally published in the Red and Black

Alumna Spotlight: Sara Alread (BFA ’09)

Sara Alread (BFA ’09) of Saint Simons Island, Georgia successfully launched her business, Little River Designs, in April 2013. The web-based business features rustic hand-crafted, wooden designs for the Southern home. Litter River Designs is a family business in every sense of the word. Sara’s father is a carpenter, while her mother and sister serve as constant inspirations for new designs. The idea to create Little River Designs came in the form of a new family member.

Sara shares how Litter River Designs got its name, “On November 30, 2011, my nephew, River, was born. He became our inspiration and official mascot. We were already making signs, planning weddings and building furniture for ourselves when friends became interested in what we were creating. Soon after River was born, Little River Designs began.”

Little River Designs centers around a timeless family tradition: tracking grandchildrens’ growth-spurts on the wall at grandma’s house. Little River Designs’ most popular item is the wooden Grow Chart Rulers.

      Grow Chart Rulers by Litter River Designs

Today, Little River Designs continues to develop its online business and clientele. A recent expansion includes a line of wedding signs and the personalization of all Litter River Design products. As Sara and her team grow the Little River Designs line, they have gained the attention of a few big crafting and design websites. The business has been featured on SwissMissSweet Peach100 Layer CakeRustic Wedding ChicGolden Isles Magazine, and in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

To learn more about Sara and Little River Designs, check out the website and Facebook page.

Sisters Rethink “Something Borrowed”

Borrowing MagnoliasSisters Ashley Steele (ABJ ’06), of Charlottesville, Virginia., and Cali Brutz (AB ’08), of Athens, Georgia., own and operate two businesses that are modernizing the wedding industry. Steele and Brutz began working together in 2008 at the ages of 24 and 22, respectively. At the time, Steele was planning her own wedding and Brutz was a photographer. During the wedding planning process, the pair identified a number of issues that arise for the soon-to-be brides. Looking to solve those issues sparked several entrepreneurial projects.

The duo’s latest venture, Borrowing Magnolia, uses a concept similar to that of Rent the Runway and Warby Parker in that brides will be able to rent wedding dresses for their big day directly from Borrowing Magnolia. The dresses available for rental will be provided by former brides who are interested in earning extra cash by lending their gown to another individual. Borrowing Magnolia ensures that the dresses are in good quality by limiting each dress to three rentals annually and five total. Sizes range from 0 to 24 and alterations are available as long as the changes are reversible

Borrowing Magnolia lives to serve the bride. The sisters ensure the brides-to-be that, “Borrowing Magnolia is committed to helping you find your dream gown, the way the modern bride does the dress. We make it easy for you to buy or borrow a designer gorgeous gown at a fraction of the retail cost, while still having a white-glove personalized boutique experience from start-to-finish. Look fabulous in your dream dress, save some cash, go green, and focus on what really matters on your wedding day. That’s what we’re all about.”

The sisters have obviously been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and show no signs of stopping. This year, Borrowing Magnolia is expected to have over 800 dresses in their collection by the end of the year; the business was featured in the New York Times’ Style Section; and reality show producers are in talks of covering their business endeavors.

Congratulation to Ashley and Cali on their stellar sucess and best wishes as they continue to help women live their dream weddings.