Spotlight on UGA students

Class of 2020 breaks Senior Signature record

The UGA Class of 2020 set a record for Senior Signature gifts, with 2,977 graduating students participating in the program. Senior Signature is the university’s class gift program in which students donate $50 to UGA prior to graduation. This is the fourth consecutive year the graduating class has broken the previous year’s record.

The Class of 2020 beat the Class of 2019’s record by more than 400 participants. Their accomplishment is particularly impressive given the interruptions this class experienced during their final year on campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This achievement demonstrates the tenacity and generosity of UGA’s newest alumni.

“It’s amazing that we achieved 2,977 donors this year, especially having to do everything virtually,” said Autumn Pressley, president of the Student Alumni Council (SAC). “Kevin, the Senior Signature Chair on SAC, did an amazing job putting together a campaign and promoting it. His efforts were definitely the driving force that helped us exceed our goal.”

Senior Signature was established in 1991 with just several hundred donors in its first year. Since that time, more than 37,000 students have participated. Each year, graduating seniors are asked to “make their mark” on UGA by donating $50. Of that gift, $20 is directed to an endowed fun supporting student programming and the other portion can be designated to a specific school, college, department, program, or scholarship that the student wishes to support.

Join us in congratulating and thanking the Class of 2020 for this record-breaking effort. Ring the bell!

Elaine Cassandra with Student of the Year Plaque

Career Center honors 2019 Student Employee of Year

Since Elaine Cassandra (BSA ’19) was in middle school, she knew she wanted to be a veterinarian, but her love for animals started long before that.

This past year, Cassandra was a senior studying animal health and working at the University of Georgia’s Small Animal Rehabilitation Service as a student worker. On April 10, she was thrilled to learn that she had been named the 2019 Student Employee of the Year during a luncheon hosted by the UGA Career Center. Her supervisor, Jodi Seidel, was pleased to nominate Cassandra for this honor.

Seidel, the Small Animal Rehabilitation supervisor, said Cassandra was “confident and proved early on that she was a fast learner. Being able to trust in Elaine’s abilities has taken some stress off my day-to-day routine and allowed us to treat even more patients.”

Cassandra has helped increase the number of patients seen to 12 in one day. Her most notable work, though, has been the transformational physical therapy that allows animals to reclaim their strength, agility and improve their overall quality of life.

Faculty and clients also shared stories in Seidel’s nomination letter, noting Cassandra’s ability to demonstrate compassion and patience even with the highest-needs patients (like a vizsla named Gunner who suffered from osteoarthritis in multiple joints and a neuropathy). Gunner’s owner, Cheryl, shared an example of Cassandra’s patience.

“On her first night of dog sitting, I came home to find Elaine on the kitchen floor next to Gunner’s dog bed (studying for a class, no less!),” she said. “That’s what it took to keep him calm and settled, and she didn’t think twice about having to do such.”

Cassandra said she was just doing what came naturally to her at work. She said working with the animals is the best feeling in the world.

Cassandra will continue to pursue a career caring for animals when she enrolls as a graduate student in UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine this fall.

The University of Georgia employs more than 5,000 student employees. Each spring, the UGA Career Center celebrates those students’ contributions to labs, offices and programs across campus.

The Student Employee of the Year Awards Luncheon, co-sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs, brought together 100 of the top student employees, based on nominations by their supervisors.

Class of 2019 sets Senior Signature record

For the third year in a row, UGA’s graduating class has set a Senior Signature giving record.


2,540 graduating seniors collectively donated $127,000 to the university through this fundraising campaign spearheaded by the UGA Student Alumni Association. Each student donor’s name has been engraved on a plaque in Tate Plaza in honor of their commitment to UGA.

“I gave to the Senior Signature campaign because of those who have come before me and given, as well as for those who will come after me,” said Nash Davis, a member of the Class of 2019 and president of the Student Alumni Association. “Giving to UGA provides opportunities that I myself will never have the opportunity to gain anything from and I think that’s what makes giving so important.”

Senior Signature was established in 1991 with just several hundred donors in its first year. Since that time, over 35,000 students have donated more than $1.5 million to UGA through the program. Each year, graduating seniors are asked to “make their mark” on UGA by donating $50. Of that gift, $20 is directed to the Georga Fund and the other portion can be designated to a specific school, college, department, program, or scholarship that the donor wishes to support.

Join us in congratulating (and THANKING) the Class of 2019 for this record-breaking effort. RING THE BELL!

A Student’s Perspective on Thank a Donor Day 2019

When it comes to Tate Plaza, students are used to passing some pretty strange things on their way to class. A camel, a cow or just a bunch of extracurricular flyers are not out of the ordinary at all on any day of the week. However, a Tate Plaza event so spectacular that it requires the presence of President Morehead, Miss University of Georgia, Hairy Dawg and hundreds of students only happens once a year. The eighth annual Thank a Donor Day 2019 was on April 11th, 2019, and the student body is better because of it.

Hairy Dawg and a student

Hairy Dawg took photos with students who attended TADD, including the author.

Thank a Donor Day, simply put, is a day where students and faculty members thank university donors for all they have contributed to the University of Georgia. All of our colleges, campus facilities, certificates and student programs are what they are because of the university’s generous donors. Thank a Donor Day is a celebration of those donors, while also being important for educating the student body about what goes on behind the scenes at a university.

A student signs a banner dedicated to thanking donors.

A student signs the banner thanking donors.

Thousands of students depend on and benefit from scholarships – those are thanks to donors. All of the state-of-the-art new facilities on campus, like the Terry expansion or the new Veterinary Medicine building, have been built thanks to donors. Programs like the Public Affairs Professional Certificate program at Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication have been founded thanks to the generosity of a donor. See? There’s a lot to be thankful for as a University of Georgia student, because at least several aspects of all our educations are made possible because of donors.

It’s important to take a day to give back, while still making that show of appreciation simple for a student on the go. More than 900 students expressed their gratitude through signing the community thank-you card, writing a note and decorating posters. It was easy to genuinely thank donors in a time-efficient manner. Plus, no student can resist the lure of a free t-shirt and a Chick-fil-A lemonade and cookie in exchange for their act of thanks.

A photo of the t-shirt table at TADD.

Students who completed all three of the tasks on their card received a free t-shirt, and a Chick-fil-A cookie and lemonade.

It was a beautiful day, filled with students smiling, saying thank you, and becoming made aware of all the ways others have contributed to making their time at the University of Georgia a worthwhile and excellent experience. While Thank a Donor Day is only once a year, hopefully it encourages students to remember every day to be grateful for all the things we are so lucky to have here.

Before and after Thank a Donor Day, Athens faced some pretty terrible weather. On the day of the event, the sun was shining and the conditions were perfect for an outdoor event. Maybe that’s a sign that we are better on days that we are thankful.

Check out our Instagram story here.

The First UGA Tradition: Freshman Welcome

Before Calling the Dawgs during the first home football game of the season, ringing the Chapel Bell after acing a test, or taking photos at the Arch after graduation, each University of Georgia student steps barefoot ‘Between the Hedges’ and assembles into the iconic “G” for their official class photo during Freshman Welcome.

Freshman Welcome is an annual event hosted by the Student Alumni Council, Student Government Association and the Office of the President. This event provides the opportunity for first-year students to stand under the Sanford Stadium lights and be officially welcomed into the Bulldog family.

This year, Freshman Welcome occurred on Sunday, August 11, with a pre-party in Reed Plaza featuring a rock climbing wall, snow cones, a mechanical bulldog and upperclassman celebrating the arrival of the Class of 2022.




After much anticipation, UGA ’22 was welcomed into the stadium for the first time as University of Georgia students. Prior to stepping foot on the field, first-year students were greeted by Student Government Association President Ammishaddai Grand-Jean and Student Alumni Council President Nash Davis. Following, UGA President Jere Morehead (JD ’80) welcomed the students to the University. UGA ’22 also heard from head football coach, Kirby Smart (BBA ’98) and men’s basketball head coach, Tom Crean.

After learning the game day cheers and traditions, UGA ’22 took to the field for their official class photo. Following the photograph, students snapped photos on the field before going back to their residence halls to prep for their first day of college classes.


Welcome to the Bulldog family, Class of 2022! We’re so glad you’re here.

Posted by University of Georgia on Sunday, August 12, 2018

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Make history at 1785 Day

The Student Alumni Association (SAA) has issued a challenge to the entire campus–to get 1,785 student donors to give $17.85. This will all lead up to 1785 Day which will take place in Tate Plaza on August 16 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This event will include free t-shirts, food and photos with Hairy Dawg for students who donate. 

The SAA is an association for UGA students to network and engage with alumni. The SAA is governed by the Student Alumni Council (SAC) who promotes UGA traditions, cultivates student philanthropy and connects students to alumni.  

This is the first event of its kind that the SAA is putting on and Nash Davis, the president of the SAC, could not be more excited to start the school year off with a strong campaign.  

“We want to celebrate the institution that we know and love and try to help everyone realize how lucky we are. We also want everyone to know how much SAA and SAC can impact a student’s experience,” Davis said. 

Davis joined the SAA his freshmen year after a search of how to be more involved on campus. Once he found out what the SAA does, he knew it was a place for him.  

“I stress the opportunities that our organization can give these students and how we truly enjoy setting them up for success, and we’ll do anything in our power to help them be successful,” Davis said.  

When students donate as a part of 1785 Day, they will automatically become a member of the SAA and will receive exclusive benefits such as professional development, spirit days, involvement opportunities and a free SAA t-shirt. The SAA hosts events throughout the school year such as Freshmen Welcome and ghost tours of North Campus. Members of the SAA also get exclusive opportunities to network with UGA alumni at events such as the monthly Advice from the Big Dawgs lunch and Dinner with a Dozen Dawgs.  

Usually membership dues are $20, but in honor of the event, every donation of $17.85 includes membership. Davis looks forward to 1785 Day because it means that more students will be members of the SAA early in the year so they can participate in the events all year long. 

Ja’Kyra Austin is the SAC’s Vice President of Membership, and she joined the SAA after she transferred to UGA.  

“A phrase we often hear in the council  is ‘planting a tree, even if we don’t get to enjoy its shade’ and it has been something we remind ourselves of not only when we donate but also when we are encouraging others to donate,” Austin said. “We shouldn’t wait to donate until after graduating, when our small gift could change a life or improve our campus today.” 

Austin is passionate about helping others students find what they are passionate about because she knows from personal experience the struggle of finding out what to do after college. She donates to the Career Center so that they can help other people find their way during college and afterwards.  

Student philanthropy helps to support need and merit-based scholarships, experiential learning opportunities and any other area of campus students designate when they make their gifts. Of the $17.85 students donate, $7.85 will go to the Georgia Fund to support the student experience at UGA and $10 can be designated to a school, college, department or program the student is passionate about.  

Join Davis and Austin in honoring UGA’s history by making history with the SAA at 1785 Day!

Catching up with Oxford scholar Mitra Kumareswaran

UGA student Mitra Kumareswaran spent her junior year at Oxford University in England taking scenic bike routes between classes, enjoying the views of the parks and studying everything from genetics to Shakespeare at the university’s historic libraries. The biology and English double major is passionate about both science and the humanities, and hopes to combine them some day in order to better the lives of children with autism. As a recipient of the Alumni Association’s Oxford scholarship, by the time Mitra returned to UGA she had walked the same halls as Oscar Wilde and saw the blackboard that once displayed Einstein’s equations.


“I majored in biology and English because I’m interested in neuroscience and learning development,” Kumareswaran said. “Since I am also passionate about arts, the idea of taking only science classes just wasn’t enough. I hope to use my knowledge in these different areas of study to open a school that works with autistic kids’ language development, regardless of their socioeconomic status.”

Kumareswaran knew early on that she wanted to study in Oxford, and the UGA at Oxford program immediately captured her attention during her college search. As an Oxford Scholar, she experienced an intimate classroom setting in courses with no more than three other students. The organizations she joined there let her brush shoulders with renowned scholars and hear researchers from around the world talk about new developments such as sheep cloning and DNA manipulation.


In addition to the classroom experience, Kumareswaran says that studying at Oxford helped her to step outside her comfort zone and become a more analytical thinker.

“Through my experiences at UGA and Oxford, I understand the world much more than I ever thought I would,” she said. “I learned the importance of being passionate and going forward when something is scary because the worst someone can tell you is no.”

She thanks the Alumni Association scholarship she received for making her dreams of studying at Oxford a reality. She says that the scholarship made it possible for her to have the financial ability to study for two semesters at Oxford University, experience the centuries-old traditions there and make life-long friendships overseas.

“It feels great to know that donors and alumni at UGA support my education, not only in Athens, but also abroad,” Kumareswaran said.

This blog was written by Nellie Pavluscenco ’18, intern for DAR Communications. 

Coca-Cola First Generation Scholars Fall 2016 Welcome Reception

The University of Georgia’s newest cohort of Coca-Cola First Generation Scholars was introduced on Wednesday, September 7th, at an on-campus welcome reception in the Miller Learning Center. These 12 first-year students proudly join 37 current Coca-Cola First Generation Scholars who each receive $5,000 annually in scholarship support from The Coca-Cola Foundation. Funding for this scholarship is renewable for up to three additional years, provided that the student maintains a 2.8 GPA during his or her first year of enrollment and a 3.0 GPA in subsequent years.

2016-2017 First year scholars

2016-2017 First year scholars

The Coca-Cola Foundation has provided $3 million and funded scholarships for 126 students since its inception at UGA in 2007. The program is housed in the Office of the Vice President for Instruction, and scholarship recipients are selected by the Office of Student Financial Aid and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Students selected for this scholarship have already been accepted to UGA and do not apply for the awards.

In addition to providing annual scholarship support to students, the program also connects the newest cohort of scholars with other Coca-Cola First Generation Scholars and to a UGA faculty or staff mentor. A total of 16 mentors are available this year for first-year scholars to choose from as they begin their college career. Many of these mentors were in attendance at the reception on Wednesday evening.

Two Coca-Cola First Generation Scholars, senior marketing major Shanteria Hines (Hinesville, Ga.) and sophomore international affairs major Gina Ford (Loganville, Ga.), provided brief remarks and “words of wisdom” to the newest class of scholars at the event. Ford encouraged students to take advantage of all opportunities and experiences in college, while Hines made a strong case for pushing outside of one’s comfort zone and befriending peers in areas all across campus.

“Being a Coca Cola First Generation Scholar has been a tremendous honor,” said Hines. “I have been able to explore opportunities on campus that I wouldn’t have even known about, like the Student Affairs Academic Advisory Board, thanks to the support and mentorship from this wonderful fellowship. From the fun socials to the informative workshops to an amazing cohort, I can definitely say that being a Coca-Cola First Generation Scholar has been an important and impactful part of my college career.”

All scholars

 All scholars

UGA strives to provide a program environment where Coca-Cola First Generation Scholars will experience support and encouragement in college which paves the way for a successful transition into post-graduate career plans. Previous UGA alumni of the Coca-Cola First Generation Scholars program have utilized their collegiate degrees to pursue careers in areas such as software engineering, research, certified public accounting, editing and blogging, and marketing. Alumni Scholars have also pursued post-graduate studies in law, engineering, international affairs, and clinical social work.

Class of 2020 Freshman Welcome Recap

On Wednesday, August 10, the eve before fall classes started, members of the Class of 2020 (w0w!) gathered in Sanford Stadium for Freshman Welcome. Hosted by the Student Alumni Council and Student Government Association, this event formally welcomes the new students into the Bulldog family and offers them the opportunity to hear from President Jere Morehead (JD ’80) and Coach Kirby Smart (BBA ’98), learn gameday traditions, and form the iconic Power G on the field at Sanford Stadium.

Students were treated to entertainment from their peers before entering Sanford Stadium

Students were treated to entertainment from their peers before entering Sanford Stadium




Selfies with President Morehead on the field!

Selfies with President Morehead on the field!

The Class of 2020

The Class of 2020

Coach Kirby Smart welcomes the Class of 2020 to the Bulldog Nation at Freshman Welcome!

Posted by UGA Alumni Association on Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Scholarship recipient visits Spain on study abroad

Charles Orgbon III, a repeat recipient of the Black Alumni Scholarship and member of the Class of 2017, took advantage of UGA’s incredible study abroad opportunities and traveled to Spain this summer. Charles wrote about his trip for Huffington Post in “3 Learned Lessons from Studying Abroad in Spain.”

By choosing to study abroad in Spain, I agreed to be open-minded about the people and the place where I would be living. Yet, when I landed in Spain this past May, I was mentally unprepared for the many differences between American and Spanish culture. Having grown up in the South, I am familiar with fried green tomatoes, wide open spaces, pick-up trucks, and a slow-talking drawl. Seemingly, everything I could have imagined was different in Spain.

Language was of course the most profound difference between America and Spain. One must understand that Spanish is not uniform from one Spanish-speaking country to another, and often times, Spanish, or language in general, can be spoken with multiple distinct accents within a country’s borders. At times, I would be corrected for using a word that was popular in South American Spanish, but not popular in European Spanish, and many times my American way of pronouncing words became a roadblock for comprehension.

In the city of Seville and the surrounding community of Andalucía, the culture were more noticeably influenced by Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula between 711 and 1492. This Muslim influence has also created a sweeping effect on the Spanish language around the world. Words such as tarea (task) come from the Arabic word ṭaríḥa, taza (cup) comes from Arabic’s tasa, and zumo (fruit juice) comes from Arabic’s zum.

Another fascination of mine was the similarities between European English and European Spanish for common phrases. For example, in Spain, the signs for the bathrooms would translate directly to toilets. Similarly, in England, the English signs for the bathrooms had also read toilets. Yet, in America, we label bathrooms as bathrooms, and use the Spanish translation for bathrooms (baños). Moreover, in America, if we must order food and we do not want to dine at the restaurant, we usually order to-go or take-out, but in England, they say to carry and in Spain, the English translation is the same: to carry (para llevar).

When it comes to cultural differences, you may be wondering: what are some tips for navigating a new world?

Embrace the difference. When I first arrived in Spain, I could not stop thinking about how everything was better in America, and by the time I had come back to America, I could not stop thinking about how everything was better in Spain. Better is not the best word to use when traveling abroad. Different is the more appropriate word. The sooner you can embrace this difference, the sooner you can begin the process of learning and feeling more like a global citizen.

People are different, but sometimes they really aren’t. While in Spain, you may wonder why people are dining so late in the evening, why fewer people own Apple products, why restaurants rarely provide indoor seating, why the men enjoy wearing jeans and closed-toed shoes in 100-degree summer heat, why WhatsApp is more popular than GroupMe, why the milk and eggs are left unrefrigerated, why they use two-pronged sockets instead of three-pronged sockets, and so much more. Instead of getting caught up in the human condition of always asking why, sometimes it can just be comforting to just recognize that we are all humans. We are motivated and influenced by very similar desires, ideas, and even fears.


Separate yourself from American culture. It was remarkable that I had traveled 4,000 miles away from home, and on a 2-hour bus ride from Seville to the beach, the Spanish motor coach played a 2003 DVD of “Destiny’s Child – World Tour.” If you’re looking to find Americans, you’ll find them in Spain, but why would you choose to study abroad and then not fully immerse yourself in the culture? Beware of when you are judging or even rejecting the culture, and understand when to remind yourself of the purpose for the trip.

Having lived with a family that does not English, taken classes with professors who do not know English, and made many friends with Spanish speakers and learners, my Spanish language proficiency greatly improved. I was changed insofar that now I feel more confident and resilient when placed in situations where nothing feels familiar. I have a greater respect for individuals who immigrate to America, and English language learners, because they have to also overcome the same potential barriers I had to overcome.

This experience would have been impossible for me without the support of my university, the University of Georgia, the Gilman International Scholarship, and my language program partners, Spanish Abroad, CLIC (el Centro for Lenguas and Intercambio Culturas), and Brookhaven Community College’s Multinational Academic Program (MAP).

Interested in learning more about how you can support students like Charles through the Black Alumni Scholarship? Email Realenn Watters (AB ’04).

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post.