ABC’s Deborah Roberts pledges $100K to UGA

Deborah Roberts

ABC’s Deborah Roberts pledges $100K to UGA for scholarship

Award-winning correspondent and University of Georgia alumna Deborah Roberts has committed $100,000, matched by the UGA Foundation, to establish a need-based scholarship through the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program.

“We are thrilled that such a distinguished alumna has committed to supporting need-based aid at UGA,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Her generosity is an example of the tremendous alumni support that continues to move our university into the future. Deborah’s gift will open the door to higher education for students today, tomorrow and in perpetuity.”

Roberts has risen through the ranks of television news, received numerous awards and been a regular reporter and contributor for programs such as “Dateline NBC,” “20/20,” “Nightline” and “Good Morning America” to name a few.

“I feel honored, privileged and, indeed, blessed to be able to offer a student who’s dreaming of success the opportunity to make those dreams come true,” said Roberts. “Growing up in small-town Georgia, I know the value of education and embrace this opportunity to change lives and futures.”

Roberts’ scholarship will provide aid to graduates of Perry High School, which she attended, as well as other high schools in middle Georgia.

Through the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program, the UGA Foundation matches—dollar for dollar—any gift in the amount of $50,000, $75,000 or $100,000 to establish an endowed, need-based scholarship for undergraduate students. The scholarship is awarded within a year of the donor making their gift, and from that point forward, the endowment grows—increasing the size of the scholarship award over time and helping student after student earn a UGA degree.

Since the matching program’s creation in 2017, over $54 million has been dedicated to new need-based scholarships, with over 265 donors giving to the program. Scholarship recipients also benefit from academic support in the form of tutoring, workshops, academic coaching and more.

Born in Perry, Georgia, Roberts began her post-UGA career at WTVM-TV in Columbus, Georgia, and her connection to the university has remained through her many positions since then. In 1993, she received the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award, presented annually to high-achieving young alumni.

In 2006, Roberts delivered UGA’s Holmes-Hunter lecture, and in 2016 she presented an Alumni Seminar. Earlier this year, she participated in a panel discussion entitled “Grady Greats: A Conversation on the Enduring Values and Power of Journalism.” She will deliver UGA’s spring undergraduate Commencement address on May 10.

As a major component of the Commit to Georgia Campaign’s effort to remove barriers for students, the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program has been a critical element of UGA’s fundraising success over the past two years. To find out how you can contribute to that success, visit give.uga.edu/georgia-commitment.

Father, daughter share in graduation celebrations

Jacksons

Jenna Jackson has a law degree from UGA. Her father John Jackson has a business degree from UGA. (Photo by Chad Osburn/UGA)

Originally posted on UGA Today on May 2, 2019. Written by Sara Freeland.

When John W. Jackson gives the address at Terry College of Business Convocation May 10, it will be an event almost 50 years in the making.

Jackson first stepped onto campus in 1972. He was one of the first 10 African Americans to play football for the University of Georgia. He walked on to the football team as a free safety the year after the team was desegregated (in 1971) when UGA was a different place.

The same day he is giving his convocation speech, Jackson’s daughter, Jenna Jackson, will be graduating with a Master of Public Administration and Policy in the Graduate Commencement ceremony.

“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for people like my dad,” Jenna Jackson said. “There’s no me getting a degree if there’s no John Jackson in the ’70s who will brave hostile conditions.”

John Jackson

John Jackson, front row, third from left, played J.V. football for UGA in 1972. (Photo from 1973 Pandora)

1972-1976

John Jackson was one of around 600 African American students who earned UGA degrees between 1972 and 1976. “I had an incredible learning experience,” he said. “There were so many acts of kindness from professors.”

When there was a fire in his residence hall, Payne Hall, and his books were water damaged, one of his professors offered up his own book for Jackson to use to study.

“The environment at Georgia was very encouraging to me. More people wanted me to succeed than fail,” he said. “The problems I had at Georgia were so insignificant I discarded them. It prepared me for life after college—the barriers you had to overcome, that you had to be prepared. I left Georgia ready to compete in the corporate world.”

Why UGA?

John Jackson, who graduated from UGA with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1976, was the youngest of eight children. His father had a sixth-grade education and worked in the mailroom of a prominent Atlanta law firm staffed by many UGA-educated attorneys. His father saw the value of an education and encouraged his children to attend college.

“When you’re growing up, parents want you to be the very best that you can. They want you to be far better than them,” he said. “The best way to do that was to become educated.”

Two of John Jackson’s older brothers attended Morris Brown College, and Jackson was the first to attend the University of Georgia.

After his first year of college, his father encouraged him to give up football in order to more fully focus on his education. He even received a scholarship from his father’s law firm.

For extra spending money, Jackson worked the morning shift at McDonald’s. He’d come in at 4 a.m. and then go to his 8 a.m. business policy class with William Tate, now namesake of UGA’s Tate Student Center. Tate was a notoriously tough professor who took an interest in Jackson. He remembers Tate asking him, “Have you thought about going to banking? I would give you a recommendation.”

John Jackson went on to raise $60 million to co-found Bank of Atlanta. It’s the accomplishment he’s most proud of—founding the bank and keeping it profitable during the Great Recession.

Second-generation Bulldog

Jenna Jackson attended law school at UGA not because of her father’s influence, but partly because of her mom. She was looking at area law schools and wanted to stay close enough to check on her mother, who was battling breast cancer in Atlanta. She went on to work in football recruitment for UGA during and after law school and was named Miss UGA in 2013. In 2015, she was named Miss Georgia, but said Miss UGA was her favorite title.

Jenna Jackson

Jenna Jackson at the School of Law. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

“I got to see how the University of Georgia makes positive changes for all different types of people,” she said.

Jenna Jackson was also the third black Miss UGA. She said that like her father before her, there was some pressure that came with the role.“He was very quietly in the background,” she said.

“He had been through it. He was under immense pressure. You have to be twice as good to go half as far—he taught me that so subtly that it wasn’t a burden.”

Now, she’s finishing her second UGA degree—this time from the School of Public and International Affairs. “I really want to help people be the best version of themselves, and I thought the Master of Public Administration would help me to do that.

“It’s an honor to be graduating the same day he speaks. To hear him, to see him,” she said. “I understand the sacrifice he made for his family.”

Convocation speech

Jackson has spent more than 30 years working in banking, including 15 years at Bank South. At SunTrust, he had an $800 million loan portfolio. He co-founded Bank of Atlanta in 2004, which was acquired for $3 billion by State Bank and Trust in 2014. He currently serves on the UGA Terry College of Business’ Dean’s Advisory Council.

He also started the Emerson W. Jackson Scholarship Foundation to honor his father. He’s given out 10 or 11 small grants to students who embrace some of his father’s core values of respect, integrity and kindness.

When he received the offer to be the Terry Convocationn speaker, the timing was right.

“Sometimes you wonder if you’ve made a difference,” he said. “My name is not widely known outside the banking arena. But it reenergized me, reaffirmed that what I was doing was right, that I was making difference.”

Meet Shontel Solomon, Outreach Chair of the Black Alumni Leadership Council

In October 2015, the UGA Alumni Association launched the UGA Black Alumni Affinity Group, which is led by the Black Alumni Leadership Council. The council seeks to connect with black alumni and students through shared experiences, and to continue building a welcoming and supporting campus community. Shontel Solomon (BS ’10) is outreach chair of the Black Alumni Leadership Council, and we recently interviewed her to learn more about her UGA experience and what drives her to stay connected to the university.

Shontel SolomonWhen did you graduate from UGA and what did you do after graduation?

I graduated from UGA in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. I knew that I wanted to become a therapist, so I ended up attending Valdosta State University for 3 years in their American family therapy program. I received my Master of Science in marriage and family therapy from there and went on to become a licensed MFT. I am currently working as the Clinical Supervisor at the Walk of Life Counseling Center, LLC with a fellow UGA alumnus, Damaris Solomon Johnson (BS ’08).

How did you get involved with the UGA Alumni Association?

I had been working with the Black Alumni Affinity Group before they were official in 2015. In 2014, I helped with homecoming.  We wanted homecoming to be a staple. We wanted it to be something where black alumni could really feel connected to UGA. We wanted students to see the alumni and be like, “They look like me, and we can connect that way to the university.” Ambré Reed (BSFCS ’09) another member of the Black Alumni Leadership Council, helped me get involved and get connected with the Black Alumni Affinity Group.

What excites you the most about serving on the Black Alumni Leadership Council?

Everything about it excites me. I get to connect with alumni. There are thousands of UGA graduates around the United States. Homecoming is my favorite event, and I look forward to it every year. I’m on the Black Alumni Retention and Engagement Committee, which hosts the homecoming every year. I get so excited to see alumni come back, support and link up with their friends. You get to see the “old school” people coming back, sororities, fraternities and everyone gets to see each other. It’s that ultimate black experience. It’s such a beautiful thing to see at the University of Georgia. The Black Alumni Leadership Council has such a great vision for the black alumni council. We are a minority at this institution, but our alumni need to be highlighted.  It just excites me every year to be more involved and help create more events that our black alumni can participate in.

What was the most important experience you had as a student?

Being part of Pamoja Dance Company my freshman year really helped connect me with other black students. I was one of the only black students from my high school to attend UGA in my class. Pamoja not only helped me get connect with other students, but black students in particular. That was a really important experience for me because I was able to speak with them [other black students], get connected with them, foster relationships with different people, join black organizations on campus and just network with people like me who were interested in doing what I wanted to do. It was helpful for me to feel connected and make friends. It helped me join organizations such as Black Affairs Council, NCNW and the NAACP.

Black Alumni Leadership Council

What is your favorite thing to do when you visit Athens?

When I come with my friends for Homecoming, we enjoy moments that remind of when we were students. We really love to go eat and have a great time. Last year, we went to Choo Choo just to have some nostalgia. Another time we went to Kelly’s on Lumpkin Street. We also go downtown to the bars. Those nostalgic moments remind us of the great times that we had at UGA.

What advice would you give to a current student?

Join the amazing organizations on campus. Whatever your niche is, you should join and do something to give back, get connected and network. I think too many people assume that you only network to get a job, but that’s not true. You can network with your peers on campus and get to know them. It helps you feel like you’re not by yourself. There are people out there who want to help you, but to do that you have to have some type of hub in the form of those organizations. But, don’t overdo it because you are still a student. Joining organizations is part of the experience of college, and it’s a resume builder.

Finish this statement. I am most proud to be a Bulldog when_______?

I am most proud to be a Bulldog when I can help students or a fellow alumni get connected to the institution, help them to launch their careers or be a mentor to them. I love helping them to feel proud of being a student at UGA and encouraging them to remain involved with the institution after graduation.

Have you heard about the 1961 Club?

The 1961 Club is a giving society for donors who support the Black Alumni Scholarship Fund. The 1961 Club was created to engage more than 14,000 living African-American alumni from UGA. The name of the society comes from the year when Hamilton E. Holmes (AB ’63) and Charlayne Hunter-Gault (ABJ ’63) arrived on campus. Click here to learn more.

40 Under 40 reflections: Amelia Dortch

The 40 Under 40 program began in 2011, and celebrates the personal, professional and philanthropic achievements of young UGA graduates. To continue our 40 Under 40 coverage, we caught up with three agriculture professionals–Amelia Dortch, Travis Moore and Sam Watson–from the 2017 honorees to learn about their career journeys and the wisdom they’ve gained along the way. 

Meet Amelia Dortch

  • 40 Under 40 Class of 2017
  • ABJ ’06, MPA ’12
  • Alabama State Public Affairs Specialist for the United States Department of Agriculture

Professional journey

Amelia Dortch oversees the marketing and communication efforts for Alabama’s farmers and land owners. Her priority is to help people help the land. Dortch supports farmers and landowners in conserving natural resources–the very thing they rely on the most.

She graduated from UGA with a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting in 2006. Right out of school, she worked as a news and weather anchor for WNEG News Daybreak, a daily newscast.  In 2009, Dortch returned to UGA to pursue her graduate’s degree in public affairs. While in grad school, she scored an internship with the United States Department of Agriculture and has worked for the USDA ever since.

Being named 40 Under 40

“I was amazed and honored. You see alumni who are doctors and saving lives or doing great research – yes I work in agriculture, but I guess everyone can make an impact in a small way.”

Amelia and Corey Dortch

Amelia and Corey Dortch

Greatest risk–an even better reward

“I got laid off when I was working in television. The biggest risk I took was going back to school while working full-time. Grad school was a stable environment, but yet a tough choice. Thank God I made that choice – it gave me a plan B. Now, I get to craft a different kind of story from behind the scenes. My journalism background helps me think outside the box. Human interest helps me connect with my customers.”

Lessons from UGA

“The best thing I did at UGA was getting involved. Volunteering for the community helps you. Doing things for free is the best way to learn. It doesn’t cost anything other than time and energy.”

Words of wisdom

“Sometimes, circumstances force you to rearrange things. I was forced to rethink the typical career process. It was a learning experience. But it’s about figuring it out and making it work. You can always change your path! It’s okay. Go discover a new passion. It just means you’re a person that’s ever evolving. But always remember, people are the root of it all.”

Career destination

“I’d like to continue growing in public affairs. I want to stay within corporate, nonprofit or government work. The sky is the limit.”

10 questions with filmmaker Malena Cunningham Anderson (ABJ ’80)

This post was contributed by Bridgette Burton (AB ’11, ABJ ’11, MPA ’17), marketing & communications chair, Black Alumni Leadership Council.

Where are you from? Born in Laurens, S.C., but grew up in Gray Court, S.C.

What made you decide to come to school at the University of Georgia? I followed my father, Odell Cunningham (BBA ’72), who was an older student when he graduated from UGA in 1972.

Anderson on her high school graduation day with her father who is also a Georgia alumnus

What was your major? Journalism with an emphasis on public relations

What was your most memorable college experience? There are many but pledging Zeta Psi chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority was the best!

Where do you live now? Atlanta

Where do you work and what do you do? I founded my own production company Newslady Productions last year. I’ve reinvented myself utilizing my journalism skills, and I’m a documentary filmmaker. My first film, “Little Music Manchild: The Malik Kofi Story” won Best Documentary at the BronzeLens Film Festival in 2017.

However, I spent 23 years working in television news as a reporter and anchor. I started my career working behind the scenes at CNN; I worked as a reporter in Lexington, Kentucky, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Savannah. I also worked in Birmingham, where I won two Emmy Awards for reporting and was part of the six o’clock news team that won an Emmy for Best Newscast. In 2004, I left TV News and founded Strategic Media Relations, a media consulting firm that I ran until 2014.

What advice would you give to graduating seniors and recent graduates? Don’t just search for a job. Instead, look for opportunities to learn and grow in your career so that you can be an owner or employer. We need more African American students to recognize the power in being the person who writes the checks, not just someone who waits to get a check.

Anderson with fellow award-winning journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault

What is the most important lesson you learned in college? I learned that it’s important to network and get involved in campus organizations. This helps prepare you to work and collaborate with others. The more you get to know people on campus, and the more they know you, the more they can serve as connections when you begin your career.

Malena (second from left) with friends on graduation day.

What do you know for sure? What I know for sure is that no one will ever ask ‘What was your GPA?’ Grades matter, but being a reliable, hardworking professional, who also makes a difference and goes the extra mile on the job and in the community is more impactful.

Is there anything else that you would like for people to know? I’m extremely proud to be a second generation African American graduate of UGA. Go DAWGS!

DeRetta Cole Rhodes helps women get to the C-Suite

This post was contributed by Bridgette Burton (ABJ ’11, AB ’11), marketing and communications chair for the Black Alumni Leadership Council.

DeRetta Cole Rhodes (BS ’92, PHD ’10), who is past president of the College of Family & Consumer Sciences Alumni Association, delivered a talk at the TEDxUGA event on March 22. Rhodes, who is the chief human resource officer for YMCA of Metro Atlanta, gave a talk titled “From Survive to Thrive: Women of Color in Corporate Leadership.” Prior to joining the YMCA, she held leadership positions at FirstData, Turner Broadcasting, Ernst & Young and ADP.

Rhodes spoke about her experience navigating the corporate ranks as a woman of color. Only 4 percent of C-Suite positions are held by women of color, and Rhodes has dedicated her work to increasing that number. In her TEDx Talk, which is linked below, she talks about giving a voice to underrepresented groups, the importance of mentorship and fighting for equity–from earning her Ph.D. to rising to her current position.

We caught up with Rhodes and asked her a few questions about her favorite things about the University of Georgia.

What made you decide to come to school at the University of Georgia? 

I was excited about UGA and the opportunities. UGA was my first choice.

What was your favorite class at Georgia?

Business Law taught by President Morehead

How did you get involved with the Alumni Association? 

I have always wanted to be connected to UGA, even after graduation and the best way for me to stay connected was to be a part of the Alumni Association.

Describe Athens in three words.  

Quaint, fun, great restaurants (perfect for a foodie)

Describe UGA in three words. 

Inspiring, Insightful, education – continuous learning

What was your most memorable college experience? 

The friendship and relationships that I made while I was there

What do you know for sure?

I know for sure I don’t know everything.

What will you never understand?  

So many things I am still trying to understand, hence the importance of education and what you continue to gain from UGA – continuous learning.

What advice would you give to graduating seniors and recent graduates?

Don’t quit and persevere.

Alumnus donates art collection to UGA School of Law

This article was originally published on UGA Today on March 5, 2018.

Writer: Heidi Murphy

William Elliott Stiles Jr.—an accomplished artist, Atlanta attorney and University of Georgia School of Law alumnus—is donating 10 pieces of his work to his alma mater. The hand-painted originals will portray various legal themes and contain references to the School of Law.

“I am very grateful William is donating some of his unique artwork to the law school,” School of Law Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said. “His collection will enhance our collection and provide thought-provoking imagery for members of the law school community for decades to come.”

William Stiles

William Stiles

Stiles, a 2006 cum laude graduate of the law school, began painting while in high school and said this creative activity was a much needed stress reliever during his time as a law student. In fact, while studying in Athens, he created and donated a piece titled “The Common Law” to the school. This painting reflects relevant case law, theories, ideas and history examined during the first semester of legal studies.

Law Oak

“UGA Law Oak,” is part of Stiles’ “Concept Collection” of which 10 originals will be donated to the law school.

The newpieces he plans to donate to the school are part of his “Concept Collection,” which is “firmly rooted in the practice of law and has excerpts of U.S. Supreme Court opinions in the background,” according to Stiles. He began this body of work after experiencing a significant health scare in 2015. While recovering, law school classmates and former professors encouraged him to return to this creative outlet. Stiles said his law school family “helped to restore his confidence” and rediscover this stress reliever.

It is anticipated that Stiles’ new artwork will be installed in the main part of Hirsch Hall this summer.

Stiles, who specializes in commercial vehicle litigation, currently practices with Bey & Associates in Atlanta. He is married to Amber Barrow Stiles, who is also a 2006 graduate of the School of Law.

Meet TJ Snowden, Vice President of the Black Alumni Leadership Council

In October 2015, the UGA Alumni Association launched the UGA Black Alumni Affinity Group, which is led by the Black Alumni Leadership Council. The council seeks to connect with black alumni and students through shared experiences, and to continue building a welcoming and supporting campus community. TJ Snowden (BSED ’04, EDD ’19) is vice president of the Black Alumni Leadership Council, and we recently interviewed him to learn more about his UGA experience and what drives him to stay connected to the university.

When did you graduate from UGA and what did you do after college?

I graduated from UGA in 2004 with a degree in sports communications. After more than three years of work in retail management and collections, I returned to UGA to work as a financial aid counselor in 2007. In 2012, my wife Lesley and I moved to Washington, D.C. where I continued my career in higher education and graduated with a master’s degree in nonprofit management from Trinity Washington University in 2015. Currently, I am the director of financial aid at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C. and a second-year doctoral student in UGA’s Student Affairs Leadership Program.

How did you get involved with the Alumni Association?

I reconnected with a great group of UGA black alumni in D.C. where I learned that UGA was developing the Black Alumni Affinity Group. As my wife and I were planning to move back to Atlanta in 2016, it just so happened that Realenn Watters (AB ’04), a friend and alumna, was working for the Alumni Association and encouraged me to apply for a position.

Which Black Alumni event are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the work we have been able to do with the Admitted Student Reception. In two years, we have helped move the diversity needle at UGA, bringing in one of the most diverse incoming classes in 2017. Equally as important, the Black Alumni Leadership Council has been able to secure more than 40 black alumni at each of these events to welcome these new students of color to the Bulldog Nation.

 

TJ Snowden

How has serving on the leadership council benefited you?

Participating in the Black Alumni Leadership Council has allowed me tap into a larger network of UGA black alumni to help further our cause of recognizing and supporting black excellence at our alma mater.

What is the most important experience you learned as a student?

Embrace the space, and I mean that metaphorically. UGA is a special place, and a number of my greatest memories as a student came from getting involved on campus. Some 13 years after I graduated from undergrad, I still relish those experiences gained and relationships I cultivated. It was an environment that I was under-prepared for when I entered. Thankfully, I found ways to contribute to the university community, and more importantly, the Black UGA community, as a member of the Zeta Iota chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

What is one piece of advice you would give to UGA students?

Network. There is only so much that a resume, diagnostic test or GPA can tell about your ability to excel at a task or job. Having someone who can vouch for your character and potential speaks volumes. Dawgs take care of Dawgs.

UGA is committed to its students and mission as a land and sea grant university. What is your commitment?

I’m committed to increasing diversity and black philanthropy at UGA. UGA has only been integrated for a little more than 57 years, so there is a need to develop and sustain philanthropic efforts among black students and alumni to aid UGA in its support of students of color.

UGA Alumni Association Launches The 1961 Club

The date was January 9, 1961. Amidst a crowd of National Guardsmen, the figures of Hamilton E. Homes and Charlayne Hunter appeared on the University of Georgia’s North Campus. They were two students registering for their spring classes and simultaneously making history. Holmes and Hunter became the first African-American students to register at UGA, but it didn’t happen easily. After almost three years working to desegregate the nation’s first state-chartered public university in court, the young man and woman joined a population of 7,000 all-white students.

A young graduate student named Mary Frances Early, who had received her bachelor’s degree from Clark College in Atlanta, saw the crowds surrounding Holmes and Hunter on that winter day, and she decided she wanted to join them. Four months later, Early enrolled at UGA in the music education master’s degree program, and in 1962, became the first African-American student to graduate from the University of Georgia. Holmes and Hunter graduated the following year. They  faced hardships that led to riots and suspensions, but they remained resilient through it all. Thanks to Hamilton E. Holmes, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Mary Frances Early, the University of Georgia was forever integrated for the better.

To commemorate their strength and bravery, the UGA Alumni Association launched The 1961 Club, a new giving society for donors who support the Black Alumni Scholarship Fund. The 1961 Club was created to raise engagement for the more than 14,000 living African-American alumni from UGA. The name of the society comes from that momentous year when Holmes and Hunter-Gault arrived on campus.

The 1961 club officially launched on Jan. 9 during a networking event for alumni and students at Paschal’s Restaurant in Atlanta.

The Black Alumni Scholarship Fund was created in 1981 by professor James Simmons, Jr. and Horatio Lanier; and the fund provides renewable scholarships to undergraduate students who demonstrate promising leadership qualities and a commitment to advancing racial equality.

In accordance with the year and the name of the giving society, The 1961 Club asks UGA alumni, donors and friends to give a gift of $19.61, $196.10 or $1,961, to support the Black Alumni Scholarship Fund. Members of The 1961 Club will also receive donor recognition from other UGA giving societies that correspond with their giving level.

“It is imperative for black alumni to donate to the scholarship because it provides students with a community of support and opportunities to grow,” said Raymond Phillips, president of the Black Alumni Leadership Council. “Students are the future. Our students are at the precipice of achieving their dreams, and it is important for alumni to reconnect, guide and support them, so they can continue the legacy that was started in 1961.”

Join The 1961 Club by supporting the Black Alumni Scholarship Fund at give.uga.edu/the1961Club.

Meet Lisa Conley, Member of the Black Alumni Leadership Council

In October 2015, the UGA Alumni Association launched the UGA Black Alumni Affinity Group, which is led by the Black Alumni Leadership Council. The council seeks to connect with black alumni and students through shared experiences, and to continue building a welcoming and supporting campus community. Lisa Conley (MED ’09, EDD ’20) is a member of the Black Alumni Leadership Council, and we recently interviewed her to learn more about her UGA experience and what drives her to stay connected to the university.

When did you graduate from UGA and what did you do after college?

I attended UGA as a working graduate student. After completing my degree in 2009, I continued to work in the Professional Education Department at Georgia Tech. To expand my teaching skills, I obtained a part-time job at Literacy Action Incorporated in 2010. That was one of the best experiences I’ve had as an educator.

How did you get involved with the Alumni Association?

I received an email and showed up to a meeting.  The rest is history.

Which Black Alumni Event are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the Brunch and Learn: In the Black, A Discussion of Wealth and Finance in the Black Community event we had in March. I attended the new faculty tour last summer, and we met Dr. Kenneth White from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, and talked with him about his work. I was thinking we have to find a way for him to come and speak about his research about financial planning in the black community. To be able to include a new black faculty member and a black alumni entrepreneur — Mr. Mohamed Massaquoi (BS ’08) — at our event was amazing. We had a great turnout and hit several of the goals of the Black Alumni mission. I feel like that event helped us reach a great cross-section of alumni.

Image result for lisa conley uga

How has serving on the Black Alumni Leadership Council benefited you?

It is difficult to engage graduate students at any school, as most people have an affinity to their undergraduate institution. It is also tough to engage the working/commuter graduate student who is there to get the degree and move on. My engagement with the university has increased a great deal being involved with the Black Alumni Leadership Council, plus it feels great to know people that went to UGA! They help me understand more about the background of certain things and provide a deeper insight. I no longer feel like an “outsider” as an alumna. More than once, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with the President and the Dean of the College of Education. I am not sure I would have been able to do that as often as I have as a non-serving graduate. For me, that is a cool perk.

What is the most important experience you learned as a student?

I would say the most important experience I gained was confidence. I emerged from graduate school confident in my abilities. I was also more confident in my intelligence. It was as if I forgot somehow, but doing the rigorous work (and doing it well) was such a boost for me. I had that “I actually know what I’m doing and what I’m talking about” epiphany. It was great.

What is one piece of advice you would give to UGA students?

My advice is to succeed anyway. There may be mean people that call you names or treat you unfairly. It isn’t about them, it is about you. Find a way around them and succeed despite their efforts to hold you back.

UGA is committed to its students and mission as a land and sea grant university. What is your commitment?

I stumbled across this picture the other day from our winter event, and it says it best; I want to help the next generation at UGA to achieve their goals and dreams.