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UGA three-year fundraising average hits record $235.1 million

Donors have long been a powerful source of progress at the University of Georgia, and the past year was no exception. Private donations to UGA in fiscal year 2023 reached $242.8 million, the second-highest fundraising total in the university’s history.

“I want to express my sincere thanks to each and every donor for helping us continue to elevate the University of Georgia to new heights,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “UGA would be a vastly different place without the generous support of our alumni, friends and the UGA Foundation. Private giving helps faculty members raise the bar in their fields, helps connect communities across Georgia to university resources, and helps students achieve things they never thought possible.”

From July 2022 to June 2023, 71,223 donors contributed to UGA, resulting in the third consecutive year—and sixth year of the last seven—that donations have surpassed $200 million. The university’s three-year rolling average, which averages the three most recent years of giving, rose to a record $235.1 million—the third consecutive year this number has risen and the sixth consecutive year it has exceeded $200 million.

“What is so special about the UGA community is that their support is not just strong, it is always so consistent” said Neal Quirk, who chaired the UGA Foundation Board of Trustees during FY23. “Year in and year out, our donors give generously, and that reliable support is so very valuable. No matter what economic conditions arise, the university and its students can thrive thanks to the backing of our great alumni and friends. It makes our entire board very grateful and very proud.”

Over the course of the year, donors endowed 16 faculty positions, bringing UGA’s total to 356, and created 158 scholarship funds. In total, private giving established 301 endowed funds, which will provide reliable, long-term funding to a multitude of areas at the university.

But these numbers tell just a small part of the story. Donor support for UGA took many forms during the 2023 fiscal year. Among them:

  • The UGA College of Engineering is significantly expanding its work in electric mobility thanks to a $5 million investment from Georgia Power Company—the largest single gift ever made to the college. This funding will create scholarships for students pursuing an e-mobility certificate, support e-mobility research and facilitate a statewide e-mobility network and community partnerships.
  • A new, women-directed fundraising group, Georgia Women Give, launched in March to invite more women to become philanthropists and deepen their engagement with UGA. Since then, the group of 75 founding donors have raised over $1.8 million, all directed to three funds supporting scholarships, study away and UGA priority areas.
  • The UGA Poultry Science Building continued to receive significant support, including the largest single gift toward the building to date: a $3 million pledge from the Luther and Susie Harrison Foundation. The building—a 70,000+ square foot, state-of-the-art facility on D.W. Brooks Drive—will help make UGA the global epicenter of poultry science. Its doors will open this fall, with classes beginning in spring 2024.
  • A gift of $1.5 million that, along with a previous commitment, established the John and Alice Sands Offensive Coordinator position on the football team.
  • Chick-fil-A pledged $1.5 million to develop a new statewide youth leadership program and annual summit. The Youth LEAD Georgia program will provide college- and career-readiness through leadership development for 30 to 40 rising Georgia high school sophomores and juniors each year, and the summit will take place at UGA, bringing together high school students from each of Georgia’s 159 counties.

The University of Georgia’s annual Dawg Day of Giving provided perhaps the best example of how widespread support for UGA has become. On March 30, donors contributed 11,091 gifts to UGA in 24 hours, setting a single-day giving record at the university for the second year in a row. Donors hailed from all 50 states, and their gifts totaled $5.6 million.

The annual Senior Signature student giving campaign also set a record this year, with 3,377 members of the Class of 2023 donating to the class gift program, which has been in place since 1991. Parents of UGA students set high watermarks as well when the Parents Leadership Council both raised and awarded over $1 million to benefit campus organizations.

“UGA’s status as a powerhouse of academics and athletics relies so much on donor support. We just can’t thank our generous supporters enough,” said Jill S. Walton, interim vice president for development and alumni relations. “Our successes are in large part thanks to them, so watching that support grow is exciting—just imagine where our students, our university and our state will go next.”

UGA career fairs host record number of students, employers

This story was originally published on UGA Today on Oct. 20, 2022.

The University of Georgia Career Center hosted a record number of students and employers during its annual Fall Career & Internship Fair and Fall Engineering & Computer Science Career & Internship Fair held on Sept. 28 and 29.

Over those two days, 526 employers and more than 3,900 students passed through the doors of The Classic Center in downtown Athens where the events were held. The day after the fairs concluded, more than 60 employers hosted individual interviews with 388 students.

“The increase in attendance by companies this year signals that the appetite for recruiting UGA students has never been greater,” says Scott Williams, executive director of the UGA Career Center. “We’ve seen uncertainty and upheaval in labor markets, and it’s really exciting to help additional employers actively engage our pipeline of well-prepared students.”

A bevy of companies from a wide array of fields attended the events. Among those recruiting during the career fairs were The Home Depot, Google, Deloitte, AT&T, Delta Air Lines, FedEx, General Electric, Peace Corps, Siemens, BMW, Lockheed Martin, and Oracle. They were seeking to fill both full- and part-time positions, as well as internships in a variety of industries.

Successful events like these are one of the ways UGA has achieved a reputation for securing successful futures for its graduates. For the past ten years, over 90% of each year’s graduating class gained employment, entered graduate school or engaged in post-grad internships within six months of graduation. The fields these graduates entered—as reflected in the career fairs’ attending businesses—run the gamut, but engineering and computer science are rapidly growing interests among UGA graduates and students. Growth in those areas figures to continue with the establishment of the UGA School of Computing and the recent completion of the UGA College of Engineering’s renovation of the Driftmier Engineering Center.

“We were also pleased at the impressive number of UGA alumni who were back on campus representing their employer during the fairs,” says Williams.  “They proudly wore their ‘alumni’ ribbon on their nametag and were able to more directly connect with students who may share a major or extracurricular activity with the recruiter.”

To prepare students for the fairs, the Career Center holds Resume Review Days. This year’s four-day event attracted 738 students for individual meetings with a Career Center staff member or volunteer employer representative.

“We knew that such strong student interest in our Resume Review Days was a harbinger for successful career fairs,” says Williams.  “But watching a record number of students walking into the hall, realizing all the opportunities open to them and making personal connections that will improve their future was tremendously fulfilling for our team.”

Computer science gets a new home at UGA

In 1984, Bill Gates was on Time Magazine’s cover for the first time, Steve Jobs launched the original Apple Macintosh PC and eight University of Georgia faculty members launched UGA’s computer science department. Thirty-eight years later, what began with a single undergraduate program has today grown into the UGA School of Computing.

Now, more than 4,600 UGA computer science alumni have a school to call their own, and thousands of students looking to enter what is a massive—and still growing—field can look to UGA’s enhanced commitment and know that they can pursue their passion as a Bulldog.

The School of Computing is jointly administered by the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences—where UGA Computer Science began—and the College of Engineering.

“The University of Georgia is committed to creating synergies across our campus that foster new opportunities for students and faculty and better serve communities in Georgia and around the world,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “I am excited about the positive impact the School of Computing will have on research and education in the STEM disciplines at UGA.”

Those disciplines are among some of the most popular ones at the university:

  • The College of Engineering is the fastest growing college at UGA—the number of engineering majors has almost quadrupled since 2012;
  • Computer science enrollment at UGA has increased by 202% over the last eight years;
  • And the number of UGA graduates with a bachelor’s degree in computer science has jumped from 51 in 2013 to 256 in 2021.

It makes sense why students would have such an interest in pursuing these fields. Nationally, employment in STEM-related occupations is projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to grow 8% through 2029, which is more than double the 3.4% growth projected for non-STEM occupations. Within STEM, computer science and engineering are among the fields with the highest forecasted growth.

The School of Computing is the home to the Institute for Artificial Intelligence as well as the Institute for Cybersecurity and Privacy, allowing students to delve deep into these specifics areas. And partnerships with the Department of Energy and UGA’s Institute for Integrative Precision Agriculture allow for even more nuanced, high-level work.

Faculty at the School of Computing are experts in a vast array of disciplines, including artificial intelligence, data analytics, bioinformatics, parallel and distributed computing, robotics, virtual reality, evolutionary computing and beyond. The number of faculty and the range of their expertise figures to grow in the next few years.

“The strategic hiring of new faculty will create new opportunities for undergraduate and graduate instruction while also supporting research in areas that are of strategic importance to our state and world,” said UGA Provost S. Jack Hu.

UGA Class of 2021 achieves 92 percent career outcomes rate

Ninety-two percent of the University of Georgia Class of 2021 are employed, attending grad school or engaged in post-grad internships, all within six months of graduation, according to career outcomes data released by the UGA Career Center. The information includes undergraduate, graduate and professional students who earned degrees between August 2020 and May 2021.

Specifically, among 2021 UGA graduates, 63 percent reported being employed full time; 20 percent were attending graduate school; and 9 percent were engaged in post-graduate internships, fellowships, residencies, postdoctoral research, part-time jobs, reported their status as entrepreneurs or said they were not seeking employment.

“UGA students are exceptionally talented and possess not only the technical skills, but also key career readiness skills that employers are seeking. This includes leadership, teamwork, critical thinking and professionalism,” said Scott Williams, executive director of the UGA Career Center. “Furthermore, our university community is becoming more involved in helping students achieve their career goals, evidenced by the over 1,200 faculty and staff who were nominated and identified by students via UGA’s Career Outcomes Survey as individuals who greatly influenced their career development and decision making.”

A total of 2,950 unique employers hired graduates from UGA’s Class of 2021. Of the graduates working full time, they reported working across all sectors of the economy, including:

  • Business – 73 percent
  • Education – 17 percent
  • Government – 6 percent
  • Nonprofit – 4 percent

Top employers for the Class of 2021 include AT&T, Cox Communications, General Motors, State Farm Insurance and Wells Fargo & Company.

Of those graduates employed full time, 61 percent said they secured employment prior to graduation and 99 percent were hired within six months of graduation.

Following time off for travel, December 2021 graduate Merryn Ruthling will work as a SHINE marketing associate at Deloitte (a Top 25 Employer for the Class of 2021). She credits the UGA Career Center as the number one reason she landed this role. She met with her UGA career consultant to practice interviews, build a portfolio, create targeted resumes and cover letters and, finally, for tips on salary negotiations. Ruthling first visited the Career Center as an incoming freshman.

“Meeting with various career consultants helped me learn that getting a job is a combination of who you know, your experiences and what you study–not just what you majored in,” she said.

UGA welcomes and prepares students from around the world, but as a land- and sea-grant institution, it places great emphasis on ensuring the state of Georgia has a strong pipeline of leaders across all industries. Of the Class of 2021, 71 percent accepted jobs within the state of Georgia. The other 29 percent secured positions across 48 states and 21 countries. Some out-of-state destinations include Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

The 20 percent of 2021 graduates furthering their education have enrolled in top schools, including Columbia University, Duke University, Emory University, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, the University of Virginia and, of course, UGA.

For example, Lizy Hoepfinger, a December 2021 UGA graduate, chose to continue her education rather than entering the workforce following graduation.

“Using resources provided by the UGA Career Center, I determined what kind of job I want; from there I realized that going to grad school was the best next step for me,” she said.

Hoepfinger began a Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence at UGA and plans to pursue a career with an innovative tech company upon completion of her degree.

The UGA Career Center calculates the career outcomes rate each January by collecting information from surveys, phone calls, employer reporting, UGA departments, LinkedIn and the National Student Clearinghouse. The preceding data is based on the known career outcomes of 7,618 graduates from the Class of 2021.

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UGA Class of 2021 sets new Senior Signature participation record

The University of Georgia Class of 2021 set a Senior Signature record with 3,009 students making a gift to the university prior to graduation. This is the fifth consecutive year that the graduating class broke the preceding class’s participation record and the highest donor count in the program’s 30-year history.

Students are asked to contribute to UGA through the Senior Signature program during their final year on campus. In appreciation for giving back to the university, students’ names are included on a plaque in Tate Plaza in the heart of campus.

“This record is a true sign of the senior class’s Bulldog tenacity,” said Kevin Nwogu, Student Alumni Council president-elect who also helped lead this year’s campaign. “They managed challenges presented by the pandemic alongside preparing for graduation—and still made room to give back to their soon-to-be alma mater.”

Senior Signature allows students to select any fund on campus to receive a portion of their gift—and students often select a program or department that enhanced their college experience. This year’s minimum donation was $30 in honor of Senior Signature’s 30th anniversary.

This year, the Student Alumni Council, which educates the student body on how philanthropy at UGA improves lives, launched a new component to Senior Signature in which donors to the program vote on a student organization to receive a grant from the Senior Signature endowed fund. The hope is that this new initiative will build a ‘philanthropic cycle’ in which students donate, direct and receive funds—building an understanding of the power of private support at universities like UGA.

Senior Signature was established in 1991. Since then, more than 40,000 students have donated to UGA through the program—their names still visible on the plaques in Tate Plaza.

Learn more about Senior Signature at alumni.uga.edu/seniorsignature.

UGA Class of 2020 achieves 91% career outcomes rate despite pandemic

Of University of Georgia Class of 2020 graduates, 91% were employed or attending graduate school within six months of graduation, according to career outcomes data released by the UGA Career Center. The Class of 2020 data includes undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who earned degrees between August 2019 and May 2020.

Regarding 2020 UGA graduates:

  • 61% were employed full time.
  • 22% were attending graduate school.
  • 8% were engaged in post-graduation internships, fellowships, residencies, postdoctoral research, part-time jobs, reported their status as entrepreneurs or were not seeking employment.

“The impact of COVID-19 on the job market has been significant with fewer job opportunities, postponed or rescinded job offers, and more students altering plans to attend graduate school,” said Scott Williams, executive director of the UGA Career Center. “Overcoming all of these challenges reflects the tenacity, determination and resilience of the Class of 2020.”

Of those who reported full-time employment, 40% cited the UGA Career Center as the most effective resource used during their job search. Another 29% credited experiential learning for helping them find employment, indicating the university-wide experiential learning requirement is boosting career preparation. The requirement took effect in fall 2016, making the Class of 2020 the first graduating class for which every undergraduate student was required to have at least one significant hands-on learning experience.

Graduates from UGA’s Class of 2020 were hired by 2,880 unique employers and are working full time across all sectors of the economy, from business (72% of graduates working full time) to education (17%), government (6%) and nonprofit (5%). Top employers for the Class of 2020 include Amazon, Bank of America, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Deloitte and The Home Depot.

Of graduates employed full time, 59% secured employment prior to graduation and 99% were hired within six months of graduation.

“Despite the last few months of my college career being spent in a virtual environment, the UGA Career Center made every effort to provide the Class of 2020 with the resources we needed enter the ‘real world’ in these unprecedented times,” said Jyoti Makhijani, a May 2020 graduate who earned a degree in marketing.

When Makhijani’s start date with Big Four accounting firm KPMG was delayed from July to November as a result of the pandemic, she continued to lean on the UGA Career Center, which offers programming for both students and alumni.

“During these months of uncertainty, I continued networking through virtual Arch Ready sessions,” Makhijani said. “I remember attending a budgeting and money management Arch Ready presentation as an alumna and thinking how much I appreciate that the UGA Career Center is there for students and alumni every step of the way.”

Nearly three-quarters of Class of 2020 graduates working full time accepted employment within the state of Georgia. Graduates landed in 48 U.S. states and 33 countries in the six months after graduation, with top out-of-state destinations spanning the country and including major metropolitan areas such as Boston, Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C.

The Class of 2020 data showed an increase in students who chose to pursue additional education, up three percentage points from the Class of 2019, amid uncertain economic conditions. The 22% of 2020 graduates furthering their education have enrolled in top graduate or professional schools including Columbia University, Duke University, Emory University, Georgetown University, Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University and Vanderbilt University.

The UGA Career Center calculates the career outcomes rate each January by leveraging information from surveys, phone calls, employer reporting, UGA departmental collaboration, LinkedIn and the National Student Clearinghouse. The preceding data is based on the known career outcomes of 8,581 graduates from the Class of 2020.

For more information on how the Class of 2020 overcame the pandemic and its economic effects, visit career.uga.edu/outcomes.

To learn about hiring UGA graduates, visit career.uga.edu/hireuga.

Isakson gift caps $4.5 million fundraising effort for Parkinson’s research chair

The University of Georgia’s campaign to create the John H. “Johnny” Isakson Chair for Parkinson’s Research and Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) Eminent Scholar position reached its goal of $4.5 million in private commitments, and the final contributor was the former U.S. Senator for whom the chair is named.

“We are deeply honored that Senator Isakson (BBA ’66) has made this commitment to the university. His decades of service to our state and nation and his support of UGA and higher education inspired this entire effort,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “We also are very grateful for the generous gifts from additional individuals and organizations that are supporting this endowed position.”

The Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar position will help UGA attract a leading authority on brain disorders—with an emphasis on Parkinson’s, with which Isakson was diagnosed in 2015—to engage in teaching, research and public service. Fundraising for the chair attracted a variety of donors including individuals, businesses, foundations and more.

“I’m very proud to play a part in this effort,” said Isakson. “Of course, I’m honored that this position would carry my name, but more than anything, I am glad to see so many willing to give so much for this important cause. My deepest gratitude goes out to everyone who gave.”

A major supporter of the Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar position is the Georgia Research Alliance. GRA grows Georgia’s economy by expanding university research capacity and seeding and shaping startup companies around inventions and discoveries. UGA currently has 18 GRA Eminent Scholars on faculty, and a 19th is set to join the university in fall 2021.

The Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar will also be the director of UGA’s forthcoming Center for Brain Science and Neurological Disorders. Fundraising efforts are underway for the center, which will leverage UGA’s broad, comprehensive strengths to create an interdisciplinary program that will expand opportunities for collaborative and innovative solutions.

“I think the supporters of both the Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar and this new center understand the unique position UGA occupies and the potential for great work that comes with that,” said Kelly Kerner, vice president for development and alumni relations. “It’s very exciting, seeing these things come together and knowing that all the great work to come will honor a great man.”

Johnny Isakson

Isakson graduated from UGA in 1966 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in real estate. He met his future wife, Dianne, while both were UGA students, and they married in 1968. The year prior, he began working for Atlanta real estate firm Northside Realty, eventually serving as its president from 1979 to 1999.

His political career began in 1976, when he was elected to the first of seven terms in the Georgia House of Representatives. He was Republican minority leader in the Georgia House from 1983 to 1990. In 1993, he was elected to the Georgia State Senate, serving there until he was appointed chair of the state Board of Education by Gov. Zell Miller in 1996.

Isakson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999 and served as a U.S. representative until he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. He was reelected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 and 2016. Among his duties in the U.S. Senate, he served as chair of the Committee on Veterans Affairs and chair of the Select Committee on Ethics.

After his 2015 diagnosis with Parkinson’s, Isakson continued to work in public service until his health compelled him to resign from the Senate on Dec. 31, 2019. In 2017, Isakson received the Fox Foundation’s Parkinson’s Advocacy Award for his work to improve the lives of people living with the disease and for his advocacy in funding new treatments.

UGA rises to No. 15 among nation’s best public universities ranked by U.S. News & World Report

This article is adapted from a piece originally written by Leigh Beeson for UGA Today.

The University of Georgia has advanced to No. 15 in U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 ranking of the best public universities in the nation. This marks the fifth consecutive year that UGA has placed in the Top 20, climbing from the No. 16 position last year.

“This outstanding news is yet another clear sign that the University of Georgia is strengthening its position among the very best public research universities in America,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “The consistency of our national ranking is a testament to the commitment of our talented faculty, staff and students; to the generosity and support of our loyal alumni and friends; and to the effectiveness of our vision and strategy to reach new heights of academic excellence.”

UGA is one of two institutions—along with the Georgia Institute of Technology—to make the top 20 from the state of Georgia. Georgia is one of only four states (including California, Virginia and Florida) to have more than one institution in the top 20. In addition, UGA and the University of Florida remain the only two institutions from the Southeastern Conference to be in the top 20.

The University of Georgia shares the No. 15 ranking with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is ranked behind two other institutions tied at No. 13, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Texas at Austin. UGA is just ahead of Ohio State University and Purdue University, which are tied at No. 17.

“Once again, the University finds itself in very good company in this national ranking,” said S. Jack Hu, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “I am confident that as we continue to enhance undergraduate programs, expand our research enterprise, and grow the reputation of our excellent faculty, UGA’s position in reputational assessments will only continue to rise.”

UGA did, in fact, climb in U.S. News’ reputational category this year—a peer assessment rating by presidents, provosts and deans of admissions that accounts for 20% of an institution’s score. In addition, the University continued to perform very strongly in key measures of student outcomes such as retention, degree completion and student selectivity.

 

A bicyclist rides beside blooming crepe myrtle trees and glowing light posts lining the North Campus sidewalk on a summer evening. (Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

UGA’s six-year graduation rate increased to 87%, and its retention rate rose to 96%. Graduation and retention rates comprise the largest percentage of the ranking criteria, accounting for 30% of an institution’s total score.

Another 20% is determined by faculty resources, such as class size and the student-to-faculty ratio. Almost half of all classes at UGA consist of fewer than 20 students, and the ratio of students to faculty members has remained constant at 17 to 1.

Academic quality of the student body also factors into an institution’s total score. The class of 2023, upon which this year’s ranking is based, brought an average high school GPA above 4.0, an average SAT score of 1359 and an average ACT score of a record 31. The percentage of freshmen in the top 10% of their graduating classes remained steady at 60%.

This year’s freshman class also entered the University with a GPA of over 4.0, the fourth consecutive year of the incoming freshman class meeting or exceeding that benchmark. The Class of 2024 also had an average ACT score of 31, tying the previous year’s record-breaking ACT score, and an average SAT score of 1351. As in 2019, fewer than half of 29,065 applicants were accepted.

UGA also earned high marks in several individual categories. The Terry College of Business ranked among the nation’s top 25 Undergraduate Business Programs, and its insurance/risk management program claimed the top spot in the country for insurance and risk management.

In addition, UGA was ranked as one of the top 25 best colleges for veterans.

Support by alumni also factors into UGA’s U.S. News ranking. Thirteen percent of alumni donated to UGA in the final year of the Commit to Georgia comprehensive campaign, which raised a record-setting $1.45 billion by the time it ended on June 30, 2020.