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.

 

Meet Erica Parks, Member of the Black Alumni Leadership Council

Last October, 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. Erica Parks (MPH ’11) 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 of Georgia.

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

I graduated in May 2011. I got my master’s in public health from the College of Public Health. After I graduated, I was unemployed for 38 months. During that time, I volunteered with the Alumni Association and started attending the Women of UGA luncheons, where I started giving financial seminars. I drove to Fort Jackson and interviewed for a job. Before I got back, I was called and told I was the No. 1 candidate. I started screaming, because it took literally all I had to get to that interview.

How did you get involved with the Alumni Association?

We hosted a networking event where we had a panel talking to students about life after college and the importance of networking. Stuff like that led me to serve on the Black Alumni Leadership Council.

Which Black Alumni Event are you most proud of?

I have a very strong feeling about giving. The UGA Black Alumni Brunch and Learn: A Discussion of Finance and Wealth was the first event that we made about giving and “making the ask.” Giving is important, and if you want people to provide, you have to be the first person to give or show support.

Erica Parks

Erica and Lindsey Smith, recipient of the Black Student Scholarship, at Homecoming 2017. Lindsey was Erica’s guest at Sanford Stadium’s Skye Suite that night.

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

I love being engaged, but I have not been able to be as engaged as I want to because I live in South Carolina. I’m still searching for ways I could be engaged more, either in the Black Alumni realm or the UGA realm. Since I can’t be heavily involved, I sponsor individuals. That’s how I give. I’m challenging myself to be more engaged in a variety of things.

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

I had a lot of professors that stretched me. I was influenced greatly by one of my professors at UGA, Dr. Corso, and learned how to be a mentor thanks to her. You may not like it when you’re going through it, but you appreciate it once it’s over!

Erica at the 241st Army Birthday Ball with three of her mentees. From left to right: Jasmine Cunningham, Deborah Koleoso and Shay Alexander

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

Build relationships, because that will cover everything. Building relationships is so important — you never know when you’ll have to reach back to have someone vouch for either the work you’ve done or your character.

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

I’m committed to the G! I give with my time, my talents, and my money. I make sure that I’m diverse in my giving — now, I’m looking at what I can do for Women of UGA because of the opportunities they provided me with when I was unemployed. I’m committed to supporting UGA’s mission, its programs, and its students.

Meet Bridgette Burton, 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. Bridgette Burton (AB ’11, ABJ ’11, MPA ’17) is a member of the Black Alumni Leadership Council and currently serves as the marketing and communications committee chair. We recently interviewed her to learn more about her UGA experience and what drives her to stay connected to the university.

Bridgette, center, and others at Cultivating Connections, and professional networking event for students and alumni,

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

I have three degrees from the university — two from my undergraduate experience,  a bachelor’s in theatre and in public relations, and a third degree in 2017, a master’s in public administration. After college, I moved to Chicago and worked for Steppenwolf Theatre Company, where I worked as an assistant house manager and concierge. That was my first time living in a place outside of Georgia and I fell in love with the city. In 2012, I accepted a position at the UGA Performing Arts Center as the house manager and volunteer coordinator. I was then promoted to the assistant box office manager in 2014 and now serving as the interim box office manager.

How did you get involved with the Alumni Association?

It was actually when I was in Chicago! Grady College hosted an alumni event in Chicago and I came out to it. I was able to connect with former teachers and fellow alumni and it was kind of a call to action to be more involved. Once I moved back to Athens, I immediately joined the Athens Chapter and I haven’t looked back.

Which Black Alumni Event are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the Brunch and Learn event we held in March. It combined many of the tenets of our mission together: engage, donate and serve. It was great to see so many alumni attend this event and be engaged with the topic. The crazy thing is we have so far to go in terms of expanding it, so to see it be successful the first time was great.

How has serving on the BALC benefited you?

Serving on the council has benefited me in many ways:

1. I am serving alongside different generations of passionate men and women who love UGA just as much as I do. We all have so many gifts and talents that when we come together, magic happens. The things that we have been able to accomplish in just two years is unprecedented and I am proud to be a part of this group.

2. My perspective on fundraising has shifted. I am thankful for the workshops and training that has been given as a member of the council. I can share my story about the this place in Athens that I love and connect with others about their passions. The lessons and people I have met through this experience has helped me be a part of the establishment of the Mary Frances Early Graduate Student Support Fund.

3. I can give back to the university because it has given so much to me. Serving on the council, I can see the my volunteerism in action and how it helps students, faculty and staff. To hear about the Black Alumni Scholars and their achievements is a testament to the work the council and alumni across the world does. Their graduation is enough and I see that in my serving the university, I helped in a small way.

4. I get to fine tune my PR skills. Serving as the Marketing and Communications Chair for the council, I oversee the content of the social media pages and the Black Alumni Newsletter. I have a PR degree and in my professional work, I do not always get the opportunity to put my Grady skills to use, but serving on the council, I get to explore that skill set in different ways. Campaigns like #UGABlackAlumniCouples, #UGABlackAlumniTravel and #PostYourUGAPapers have been innovative social media experiences that have engaged alumni in ways I never thought would happen.

Bridgette, far right, and other members of the BALC at the annual Homecoming tailgate in 2017.

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

As I student, I learned to use all of your resources that are available on campus. When you leave it, you realize how great the university is. Ray Paolino in the Department of Theatre and Film Studies always made the metaphor of the toolbox for actors: Each acting method or practice can be pulled out to help you create a character. Well, this can also be applied to other areas as well.

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

I would say to always be open to learning and challenging yourself. It is not always an easy process, but you will value it so much with every new lesson or opportunity.

 

UGA Black Alumni reflect on homecoming using #UGAHomecomingToMe

This post was contributed by Bridgette C. Burton 

As homecoming weekend approaches, we wanted to get reflections from our Black Alumni Leadership Council on what Homecoming meant to them. Members could respond to one or both of the following prompts:

What is Homecoming to You?

Describe UGA Homecoming in three words. 

 

Ambre Reed (BSFCS ’09), BALC Retention and Engagement Chair

Homecoming is a celebration of Georgia’s variety of Black experiences. Good, bad and sometimes ugly, when we come back to the Quad, we get a chance to write OUR story, create lasting memories, and show campus that we are #OneUGA.

 

Melonie Thomas (BBA ’86), BALC Secretary

#UGAHomecomingToMe is: Multi-generational, Spirited, Reconnection

 

 

 

T.J. Snowden (BSED ’04), BALC Vice President

To me, the homecoming experience means exactly what it says: “A home coming.” It is a welcoming sight to converge on Myers Quad to see friends and UGA family whom I have known for more than 15 years. It is coming home to a familiar place where I came of age (as a Louisiana transplant), and created a host of memories that cemented my decision to attend UGA as one of the best decisions I have ever made. Each Homecoming, I find myself more energized about connecting with the future of UGA, especially for students of color, and how UGA strives to transform itself into an inclusive environment for students and alumni to feel welcome. I cannot wait to be back among familiar faces and spaces to enjoy in fellowship that keeps getting better every year.

 

Tonya Henderson Freeman (AB ’86), BALC Fundraising Co-Chair

Homecoming brings back so many memories of my favorite time in my life– my years at UGA. Reminiscing on the long-lasting relationships that I cultivated while there, I get so excited to see old friends and familiar faces. The music, the energy, the partying, the stepping, the red and black, the football game, the HYPE!!!! I am elated to see all the young kids making memories as we did, memories that they will have for a lifetime. Gooooo Dawgs!! SO READY!!!!

 

Sheryl Merritt (BSHE ’88)

My three words for #UGAHomecomingToMe are very old school… “Off the chain!”

 

 

 

Bridgette Burton (ABJ ’11, BA ’11, MPA ’17), BALC Marketing and Communications Chair

#UGAHomecomingToMe is where I fall in love with UGA all over again. Every year, I am surrounded by amazing people who want to see me do well, who support me in my present and have guided me from my past. I have an opportunity to meet current students and share my experiences with them. Homecoming is sometimes the only time of year where I get to see some of my friends, and it is a time where I cherish the laughter and hugs. There is no other feeling than being with my Bulldog family. Can’t wait to see everyone! GO Dawgs!

UGA Black Alumni family, what is homecoming to you? Share your reflections with us via social media using the hashtag #UGAHomecomingToMe. 

Meet Melonie Thomas, 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. Melonie Thomas (BBA ’86) 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 graduated in 1986 with a degree in marketing, and after a brief stint in retail management, I moved to LA and earned my MBA at Pepperdine University. As of 2000, I’ve been in the business of public health. Today, I live in Dunwoody, Georgia.

How did you get involved with the Alumni Association?

I met Realenn Watters at a faculty and staff organization event and was asked what could be done to encourage more black students to apply to and attend UGA. I asked her what was being done in that area, so she told me to get involved with this other group that had the same ideas, and the group eventually became the Black Alumni Leadership Council.

L-R: Yvette Daniels, Melonie Thomas and Randy Groomes

Which Black Alumni Event are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the Admitted Students Reception because so many people come together to form a really great environment of caring and sincere interest. It serves as a reunion for a lot of the alumni. The students are glad to hear about the different programs that interest them, and the parents are relieved to hear from people that look like them and found a home at UGA.

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

It’s allowed me to work with many passionate and caring people who have the same goals that I do. It provides a little extra purpose in life – we can do things in this organization that have a meaningful, lasting impact for centuries to come.

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

You’re not on an island. Ask for help if you need it – there’s help at UGA for just about any kind of challenge, or any kind of change that you want to make. Reach out to other people and ask for help.

L-R: Kevin Aycock, Bill and Melonie Thomas at the 2015 Bulldog 100 Celebration

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

Don’t be afraid to step out and try something. Even if you aren’t sure that it will be a great fit for you, you’ll never know until you try. Don’t be afraid to take that step into a different career path. Also, maintain your relationships with your professors and friends beyond what’s expected in the curriculum. Stay in touch with those professors – they have a lot of insight and can help guide you, both in your career and in life. Many of the friends I made at UGA are still my friends today.

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

I’ll go back to the BALC and our mission to recruit and retain qualified black students and faculty, to engage with students and other alumni, to encourage other alumni to donate to the university, and to encourage alumni to serve, in whatever capacity they can. If I can get corny for one second, I’m a GIRL (imagine the Power G). Giving to support scholarships, involving myself wherever and however I can, returning to the university and leaving a legacy through the work I do.

Melonie and her husband Bill (AB ’88), a member of the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors, were also featured on the blog in Spring 2017.

Meet Sheryl Merritt, 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. Sheryl Merritt (BSHE ’88) 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 graduated from UGA in 1988. I was hired by Macy’s in their Executive Training Program and went to work there with intentions of moving up the ranks through management into a buyer role. However, I didn’t enjoy retail. I got my MBA in marketing from Mercer University and took a management buyout package to leave AT&T and begin my career in entertainment. I’ve worked for 20 years in various roles from radio stations (Hot 97.5), record labels, production companies (Organized Noize, Rowdy Records, Arrow Records) and a performing rights organization (BMI). I am a writer who has authored three books, “Dates With Jesus,” “Climbing Mountains,” and “Jesus Mark: Identifying Your Service Mark.” I also write for BMI’s R&B/Hip-Hop Awards, the Trailblazers of Gospel Music and Gospel Artist Dorinda Clark Cole’s TV Show.

Sheryl, far right, and other members of the BALC at Cultivating Connections, an event in partnership with the UGA Career Center.

How did you get involved with the Alumni Association?

I first got involved with the Alumni Association when I was asked to serve on the Multicultural Planning Committee.  Shortly after, I spearheaded efforts with the DeKalb County Chapter and served as vice president, and later, co-president. I was asked to join the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors and served for 3 years. Now, I am a proud inaugural member of the Black Alumni Leadership Council.

Which Black Alumni event are you most proud of?

I am most proud of our first fundraiser we hosted last year. I am also proud of the homecoming tailgate and how it has grown. The support the Alumni Association gave us last year was phenomenal. Homecomings are special at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) and for so many years, that wasn’t the case for black alumni at UGA. Now, we also have something to look forward to – someplace to go and see old friends while meeting new ones.

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

I get greater access to the university, its staff, students and other alumni through the events, activities and meetings. It has also connected me with a great group of council members – our synergy is amazing! We work hard and get the job done.

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

I learned that it was important to develop my leadership skills and to not follow the crowd. As president of the Zeta Psi Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and member of the Black Affairs Council and Panhellenic Council, I was able to flourish and activate my leadership style.

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

I would advise them to get to know students who are culturally different from them so they can learn about them and their experiences. I would also advise students to network with alumni and their teachers for greater opportunities. Lastly, take advantage of all the university has to offer.

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

My commitment is to use my creativity, alumni connections and resources to effectively collaborate with others to further the mission of the Black Alumni Leadership Council – to recruit, retain, engage, donate and serve. I have mentored students from UGA throughout my career– through the Alumni Association and on my own. I will continue to give back and ensure that students of color receive every advantage and graduate!

Meet Ambre Reed, 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. Ambre Reed (BSFCS ’09), second from left in the above image, 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 graduated in December 2009 from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences with a degree in financial planning. Because I graduated in December, I knew I wanted to go to graduate school, so I worked in UGA’s Main Library as a library assistant. After that, I started [graduate school] at Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies to get my master’s in public administration, with a concentration in non-profit management. Today, I live in Washington D.C. and work at a non-profit organization called Year Up, a national organization that helps get low-income students into a training program for information technology and business, and helps them to get full-time jobs.

How did you get involved with the Alumni Association?

When I moved to Atlanta to attend Georgia State, I met an alumnus named Jay Bailey. He worked for a non-profit that I was involved in, and he was very involved in organizing black alumni. He actually helped start the Black Alumni Affinity Group Homecoming Tailgate at Myers Quad. Working with him and meeting alumni really gave me a chance to see other black alumni whom I hadn’t met. Another alumna, Brandi Decker- Hunter, managed a Black Alumni social media site, and asked that I assist in transitioning the group over to Facebook. From there, I managed the group, and it now has more than 3,000 members.

Which Black Alumni event are you most proud of?

The Homecoming Tailgate; I think that’s the event that’s grown the most and helped bring awareness to black alumni on a campus level, as well as with alumni. Working to build that event on Myers Quad is something that I’m super excited about.

Photo provided by Lisa Conley (MED '09)

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

Serving on the Black Alumni Leadership Council has shown me the power of community and the power of building a network. I always saw that there was a huge UGA network, but that didn’t necessarily include people who look like me. Finally meeting black alumni that look like me, and seeing that there are so many, has really benefitted me and showed me that while everyone may have a different experience, we’re still UGA.

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

I learned that networking is super important while working with the NAACP. This became evident when I hosted a series of events called “A Call for Consciousness,” which focused on social justice issues. I asked a panelist to come to the event. This panelist later reached out to me with a paid internship offer because she remembered me from organizing the event series and thought I would be a great fit for her internship.

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

Don’t put yourself in a box. Be open to opportunities; don’t limit your definition of success to look like everyone else’s. Do what you love and find a way to do that even if it doesn’t appear possible.

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

My commitment is building and leveraging the community that is UGA. I can see that we have a strong community, even from miles away in Washington, D.C., so I’m committed to building and growing our community.

 

Meet Ericka Davis, 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. Ericka Davis (AB ’93) 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 of Georgia.

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

I graduated in 1993 with an English degree and got my first real job working for the Georgia Department of Human Resource as a service coordinator. From there, I transferred to the Foster Care program and started graduate school at Southern Polytechnic State University (now Kennesaw State University). This led to my first job and leadership role in communications with the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). After six years with DJJ, I became the Director of Communications for the Georgia Building Authority, State Properties Commission and Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission, simultaneously under the State Property Officer. From there I served as Division Director of Communications for the Georgia Department of Transportation, then on to serve as the Director of Communications for Fulton County for five years until I landed my current role as Communications and Media Relations Director for the Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.

How did you get involved with the UGA Alumni Association?

I have been actively recruiting students to UGA with another alumnus, Randy Groomes (BBA ’92, MBA ’11), since graduation. I saw the opportunity to serve on the Black Alumni Leadership Council as a more formal way to continue to work with fellow graduates. I have also been a donor for some time.

Which Black Alumni Affinity Group event are you most proud of?

I’m always proud of the council’s work to engage minority students, especially when we celebrate accepted students at the annual reception in Atlanta. I am also a huge fan of our Black Alumni Homecoming. The success has been amazing and it is a strong reminder of the close knit family we are.

How has serving on the black alumni leadership council benefited you?

It has allowed me the opportunity to meet alumni that I didn’t know previously, and share our collective passion for the university, diversity and inclusion among the student body, faculty and staff. It’s redefined for me just what it means to be a part of Bulldog Nation.

Photo provided by Ericka Davis (AB '93)

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

Wow, that’s tough because I learned so much. I would have to say that my experience as a summer orientation leader was the most important experience. That experience gave me confidence that I did not have before. You can’t be shy or an introvert representing UGA, giving tours daily and speaking about UGA to parents and thousands of incoming freshmen. You have to know and love UGA to be successful. That was a huge confidence builder for a 20-year-old about to go out into the world.

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

Embrace every opportunity to both learn and lead at UGA, and get job experience while you are there. Many students are enjoying the college experience, but they aren’t taking full advantage of it so that they can build a resume, body of work and talent while they are matriculating.

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

My commitment as an alumna and proud member of the Black Alumni Leadership Council is to recruit African American students, faculty and staff to the university, to retain and support students to completion of degree programs, to engage current students and alumni through mentoring and professional development, to donate and encourage other alumni to do so, and to serve as a UGA ambassador in the community. GO DAWGS!

Sister, Sister

Hailing from Lilburn, Georgia, Lauren (AB ’04, JD ’07) and Jennifer (ABJ ’08) Bellamy have been making a difference ever since they stepped foot on the University of Georgia campus. These dynamic sisters are full of Bulldog pride and have a wealth of memories together and separately from their time at Georgia. As senior counsel at Gordon & Rees LLP, Lauren specializes in handling cases involving contracts, business torts, telecommunications litigation, consumer fraud actions, entertainment disputes and employment law.

Jennifer chose to follow a different career path than her older sister. Her passion for journalism led her to pursue a career in broadcast news. You can catch her reporting the news on 11Alive (WXIA-TV) in Atlanta.

UGA Black Alumni marketing and communications committee member Ivey McCloud (BBA ’04) sat down with the two sisters and talked about their UGA experience.

McCloud: What made you decide to attend the University of Georgia?

Lauren: My parents made me! Seriously, HOPE Scholarship made UGA really competitive to get into and it made financial sense. My parents convinced me this was the right decision for me and they were right!

Jennifer: I chose to attend UGA because I was interested in a career in journalism and the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication has a wonderful reputation. I also had a good idea of what UGA had to offer outside of academics thanks to visiting campus to spend time with my sister. 

McCloud: What activities or organizations were you involved in on campus?

Lauren: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., National Pan-Hellenic Council, University Judiciary, resident assistant, and C.L.A.S.S. (Continuing the Legacy of African American Student Success) advocate

Jennifer: Resident assistant and C.L.A.S.S. advocate at Russell Hall, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., National Pan Hellenic Council, Grady Ambassadors, Abeneefoo Kou Honor Society, Homecoming Court 2007 and National Society of Black Journalists 

McCloud: What was the biggest impact you made on campus at UGA?

Lauren: I would say being a C.L.A.S.S. advocate was my most impactful experience. I was able to mentor freshmen in my dorms and hopefully impact a lot of students in a positive way.

Jennifer: I think working in a freshman dorm allowed me to impact the lives of a number of our university’s newest students. I hope I was able to help give them an introduction to life on campus, help them learn to solve problems on their own, encourage them and knowledge share with them about activities and courses.

McCloud: What was it like attending the same school as your sister? What types of obstacles, if any, did you have to overcome?

Jennifer: Attending UGA with my sister was awesome! Lauren started her first year of law school when I started my freshman year.  She was very involved on campus so I did get the “Lauren’s little sister” thing from time-to-time when I first came to Athens, but I think I was able to make my own way as well. Lauren was always there when I needed her and I was able to be there to support her as well. I think it helped strengthen our relationship even more. She’s my best friend!

McCloud: How do you feel your relationship with your sister has developed given that you and your sister attended the same college?

Lauren: It’s really great because we have so much in common that other people may not share. We pledged the same sorority, and Jennifer did a lot of the same activities that I did in college, so we have a lot of shared experiences.  Now, we often go back for events in our sorority together, we go back for football games and we always have a partner to go to homecoming with.

 

Meet Tonya Freeman, Fundraising Committee Co-Chair for 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. Tonya Freeman is the fundraising committee co-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 of Georgia.

Tonya Henderson Freeman<br />(AB ’86)</br>

Tonya Freeman

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

I graduated in December 1986, and my degree is in statistics. I was already working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so I went back to work at CDC. That is where I’m still working 31 years later!

 

Which Black Alumni Affinity Group event are you most proud of?

I’m really proud of the UGA Black Alumni Brunch and Learn: A Discussion of Finance and Wealth we hosted in April. We invited former UGA football player Mohamed Massaquoi (BS ’08) and UGA professor Kenneth White, Ph.D. to speak about finances and wealth in the black community.

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

[The Black Alumni Leadership Council] has helped me express to fellow alumni how important it is to still be a part of UGA. Getting black alumni to understand that it’s important to stay connected to UGA, to give back to UGA, and showing them some of the programs and scholarships for the students is important. I’m actually enjoying the generations that I’ve come in contact with. It’s not just about my generation, it’s about the generations behind us and ahead of us.

Tonya with members of the Black Alumni Leadership Council at the 2016 Black Alumni Scholarship Fundraiser.

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

How important college is, but also how fun college can be! You’re building relationships that last for a lifetime, and I really feel like anybody that hasn’t had the opportunity to experience college is really missing a great opportunity in life.

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

If you need studying habits, always go to the library first! Go to the library before you go back to your dorm. For me, that’s how I made it. I’d always do my homework before going back to the dorm. Another thing I’d say is to never underestimate your networking opportunities; not just with students, but with your professors and staff at UGA.

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

My commitment is to give back financially to UGA, to support UGA and to be a good steward for a school that I’m really proud of.

Athens Alumni Office
Wray-Nicholson House
298 S. Hull Street
Athens, GA 30602
(706) 542-2251 | (800) 606-8786

alumni@uga.edu

Atlanta Alumni Center
Live Oak Square
3475 Lenox Road NE, Suite 870
Atlanta, GA 30326
(404) 814-8820

ugaatl@uga.edu

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