Q&A with Alex Urban (MA ’12), TOUR Championship Executive Director

Alex Urban (MA ’12) is living his childhood dream: this past May, the PGA TOUR named Alex executive director of the TOUR Championship. After falling in love with the sport of golf early in life, he now plans, facilitates and advocates for one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the United States. The TOUR Championship is truly Alex’s perfect workplace, and why wouldn’t it be? It’s full of Bulldogs!

The TOUR Championship runs August 24 – 28, the first under Alex’s leadership (want to go? Here’s how to do that). Ahead of the big event, Alex generously took some time to answer a few questions about his time at UGA, the PGA TOUR, and everything in between.

Q: What is your first UGA memory?

A: My first memory is walking into the Grady College when I was touring colleges for grad school and being instantly amazed by the campus and the facilities. I was, at the time, choosing between UGA and UF, and thankfully, there is no doubt in my mind that I made the best possible decision.

Q: Where did you spend most of your time on campus?

A: When I was on campus, I was mainly in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. I love that part of campus because it’s right there by the Tate Student Center and, of course, Sanford Stadium. Outside of Grady, I did spend a decent amount of time at the Zell B. Miller Learning Center and the Main Library – graduate school requires a lot of reading and writing! As a former competitive swimmer, the 50-meter pool in Ramsey was awesome too.

Q: As you progressed in your career, what was the most valuable lesson from UGA that you carried with you?

A: I learned so many things in my time at UGA—both in and outside of the classroom. One thing that has really stuck with me is the value of measuring progress and success. For example, when we evaluate marketing campaigns or tactics, it’s easy to fall into the trap of just guessing what is working and what is not. It’s so important to create accurate ways to measure output both pre- and post-implementing tactics so you work with the best information to make decisions.

Also, the value of listening is something I am always being reminded of. There are a lot of smart people in the world, and teams operate so much better when leaders get out of the way and listen. There is nothing more important than listening – to a similar point above, listening allows you to get the full picture before making strategic decisions.

Q: What is the best thing about being executive director for the TOUR Championship?

A: Very few people in the world get to say they work in their dream job, and I am one of the lucky members of that club. When I was 15 and thinking about what I might do for a living, I knew it was a dream to work in sports, but then to work in my favorite sport is special. I love the sport of golf so much and this job. I feel like I get to make my own mark on the history of the game and make a positive impact on our community.

Q: How often do you hear “Go Dawgs” from players and other PGA TOUR staff?

A: All the time! As you might imagine, there are a ton of Dawgs that work for the PGA TOUR, especially with it being headquartered not too far away in Ponte Vedra Beach outside of Jacksonville. I was at our headquarters for five years, and of course, the Georgia-Florida game is a can’t-miss event every year. As far as our players, there are so many on TOUR that you can’t go too long without running into a Dawg.

I was lucky enough to be working the Sony Open in Oahu during the first national championship game against Bama and helped set up the bet between Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas where the loser had to wear the winner’s jersey for a hole during the Pro-Am. While it was a sad week for UGA that time, Kevin was a good sport. There have been a lot of happy Dawgs at the PGA TOUR since January!

Q: What does your day-to-day look like in your job?

A: I get asked this all the time, and it’s so hard to answer because it changes so much depending on the time of year or even the day of the week. We put on a small city to operate a world-class tournament like the TOUR Championship, so on any given day, we might be working with one of our proud partners – Southern Company, Coca-Cola and Accenture – or doing budgeting, marketing, speaking engagements, operational build items, signage, community outreach, permitting—the list goes on. It is truly impossible to get bored in a role like this given the breadth of the job.

Q: What does the volume of UGA golfers on tour say about the program Coach Haack runs?

A: It says three things in my mind:

  1. Coach Haack knows how to identify great players.
  2. He knows how to coach them so that they grow into PGA TOUR-level players.
  3. UGA is an ideal place to hone a player’s skill.

It is truly amazing what Coach Haack has been able to accomplish, and the ever-growing, already huge list of Dawgs on TOUR highlights that. I teed it up a few times at the University Golf Course, and it’s obviously a pretty good test of golf!

Q: How does the PGA TOUR involve itself in philanthropy in the communities it touches?

A: Throughout the season, PGA TOUR events generate millions of dollars for the communities they play in, and none underscore the importance of that more than the TOUR Championship here at East Lake. Since 1998, the tournament has generated more than $42 million in charitable donations to the East Lake Foundation, the First Tee of Metro Atlanta, Purpose Built Communities and a few other local charities. These charities directly impact the community immediately surrounding the course—what the East Lake Foundation and the Cousins family have been able to accomplish to improve this area is remarkable.

You look at the construction of an impressive building like the Drew Charter School, and you can see that charitable impact at work—it isn’t just a number. And those things all work in concert to make the city of Atlanta and East Lake a better place to live. We take that responsibility very seriously. Every year, two First Tee of Metro Atlanta students earn the right to hit the opening tee shot on Thursday through a series of essays, interviews and golf tournaments. It is such a special way to start the week and highlight our commitment to this community.

 

Thank you to Alex for spending some time with us and giving us a peek into the working life of a Bulldog running the TOUR Championship! Find tickets to the event on their website, and watch the top 30 PGA TOUR players compete at East Lake Golf Club from August 24 – 28. Stay informed by following the official TOUR Championship on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Welcome Class of 2022

Hello, New Graduates!

Congratulations on graduating from the University of Georgia and becoming alumni of the greatest institution in the land! You’ve worked very hard to get to this moment, and you deserve to make the most of this amazing accomplishment.

Maranie Brown, president of the UGA Young Alumni Leadership Council with President Jere Morehead

You now join a global network of hundreds of thousands of UGA alumni, who are passionate about the student experience and continue to give back to the University. Whether attending football game-watching parties, serving as a mentor, donating to important causes to support students on campus, or volunteering in a local chapter or affinity group, alumni remain engaged, excited, and committed to the UGA experience.

Personally, I have chosen to serve students and young alumni as a member of the UGA Young Alumni Leadership Council. This year, I begin my term as President, and I promise another year of engagement and impact. The mission of the Young Alumni Affinity Group is to provide dynamic opportunities for young alumni to engage with and give back to the University of Georgia. With a presence of over 40,000 young alumni in Atlanta and even more across the world, members of the Young Alumni Leadership Council have been charged with creating and implementing programming and raising awareness of the importance of connecting and giving back to the University. We hope you will join us at signature events, like the Young Alumni Takeover at Ponce City Market, participate in our various outreach initiatives, and invest in our mission and UGA.

As you know, Bulldogs Never Bark Alone, and it’s an honor to welcome all of you as UGA Alumni. Congratulations again on achieving #AlumniStatus. Go Dawgs!

Maranie


Maranie Brown
President
Young Alumni Leadership Council

Bulldog Bestseller: ‘A Flicker in the Dark’ lands on NYT bestseller list

January 2022 was quite the month for Stacy Willingham (ABJ ’13).

Her beloved Georgia Bulldogs defeated the University of Alabama to claim the national title on January 10. The next day, her first published novel, “A Flicker in the Dark,” was released. And on January 30, that novel landed on the New York Times bestseller list—the same day she turned 31.

For the 2013 UGA graduate who now lives in Charleston, the process of becoming a published author was a whirlwind affair … one that began on UGA’s campus more than a decade ago.

“My sister attended UGA in the Class of 2010,” says Willingham. “When I was deciding between schools, I spent one weekend with her in Athens and was sold.”

A Start in Athens

While on campus, Willingham—described by her college roommates as “creative, uplifting, easygoing and active”—kept busy. She joined Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, majored in magazines in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, and studied abroad.

“I was lucky enough to study abroad twice,” Willingham reflects. “The first time was in Cortona, Italy. The second time was in London, where I interned at a marketing and PR company called Bespoke Banter. I still think about both experiences often and never take them for granted.”

But it was her Grady classes that laid the foundation for the transformation of her writing hobby into a career.

“Learning how to interview is a skill I still use, even though I don’t interview people anymore. Understanding how to get past surface-level answers taught me how to find the real meat of a story, which now influences the way I create my characters,” explains Willingham. “Studying journalism helped me realize that everyone has a story to tell, and it’s usually not the one we expect. In addition, knowing how to craft a pitch—which I learned at UGA—was invaluable when querying agents.”

Finding the ’Write’ Path

After graduation, Willingham moved to Atlanta and worked for a local marketing agency, Havas Sports & Entertainment. Even with some occasional freelance work on the side, she yearned for more opportunities to write. She began dabbling in fiction, noting that while she had dreams of being published, she was primarily seeing it as a creative outlet. After a few months, though, she realized that she enjoyed writing fiction more than anything. She decided to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in writing from the Savannah College of Art and Design while continuing to work full-time.

By 2019, she had completed graduate school, was back home in Charleston and had two finished novels under her belt. She unsuccessfully shopped the first book around to publishers for five years, but her second novel catapulted her into the high-stakes world of book publishing.

“I secured a literary agent about two weeks after finishing ‘A Flicker in the Dark;’ we spent about six months editing it together,” says Willingham. “Then, we sent it out on submission in June 2020, which ultimately led to my book deal. The road from book deal to publication took another 18 months, during which I got to peek under the hood of the publishing process.”

A Flicker in the Dark book cover

A Dream Come True

By January 30 (her birthday), Willingham’s thriller hit the New York Times bestseller list and was being developed into an HBO Max series by actress Emma Stone’s Fruit Tree and A24.

“I did a lot of anxious thumb-twiddling until it finally hit the shelves,” she says. “It landed on the bestseller list instantly, which means our presales and first-week sales were enough for it to debut at No. 9. I’m still in shock! Hitting the New York Times bestseller list was a dream come true.”

A Cheering Section

After years of hard work, Willingham celebrated with an array of supporters—many of which are listed at the end of “A Flicker in the Dark.” This includes her husband, Britt (BSES ’13), who she met through a mutual friend during her junior year at UGA.

Stacy and Britt on their wedding day

Stacy met her husband, Britt, during their junior year at the University of Georgia.

“Being married to a fellow Dawg is amazing—he’s even crazier about football season than I am, so we spend a lot of time watching games at our local alumni bar (Home Team in Charleston), as well as going to Athens as often as we can and traveling for the big away games. The most fun was probably the UGA vs. Notre Dame game in 2017.”

Stacy and Britt travel frequently to attend UGA football games.

When Stacy and Britt aren’t traveling to watch the Bulldogs play in person, they attend the Charleston Alumni Chapter’s game-watching parties. You can find your local alumni chapter’s game-watching parties posted to alumni.uga.edu/gamewatching during football season.

As she answers questions for this profile and reflects on her dream coming true, she admits she had doubts and fears throughout the process. The words of Teddy Roosevelt, shared by her dad, ring true and spur her on.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Advice for Future Dawgs

Stacy Willingham

Roosevelt’s remarks resemble the advice she would share with graduating Bulldogs.

“Entering the working world is amazing in many ways, but don’t forget to make time for yourself and your passions. Your job is important, but so are your hobbies and your free time. A lot of figuring out what you want to do with your life is through trial and error and giving yourself the space to explore. It’s tough to do that when you’re glued to your desk.”

Just think if Willingham had not dabbled in writing fiction and given herself the freedom to write novels. It’s a risk that paid off—and a success that can never be taken away.

“It’s an accomplishment that I get to carry with me for the rest of my life.”

Willingham’s thriller, “A Flicker in the Dark,” is a page-turner from start to finish. Set in Louisiana, the novel’s lead character explores a tumultuous and sordid family history to discover new secrets that threaten her happiness. Secure your copy from any major bookseller—or Avid Bookshop, a Bulldog-owned business in Athens. (And mark your calendar: Willingham’s second book, All the Dangerous Things, will be released on January 10, 2023!

Meet Daniella Singleton, UGA Young Alumni Leadership Council secretary

The University of Georgia’s Young Alumni Leadership Council is made of graduates of the past two decades who connect alumni in their age demographic to UGA. Whether that means raising money for Campus Kitchen at UGA through a Cooking Class with Peter Dale (ABJ ’99) or interviewing alums like comedian Mia Jackson (AB ’00), they work to ensure that the 40,000 young alumni living in metro Atlanta are connected to their Bulldog family and that they Never Bark Alone.

We recently chatted with Daniella Singleton (BS ’08, AB ’08), secretary of the Young Alumni Leadership Council, to learn about her role as a project manager at Google and her experience at UGA.


Daniella SingletonHow did you become secretary for the Young Alumni Council?  

A good friend, Shayla Hill, was on the council when it first started. When she saw that they were taking applications for new members, she encouraged me to apply. I’ve enjoyed working with Luke Massee, Frances Beusse and Realenn Watters [from UGA’s Office of Alumni Relations]. I liked being as involved, so B.C. — before Corona —  I signed up to be the secretary. I was especially excited to be part of the all-female executive team with Elizabeth Cox, the president, and Jasmin Severino Hernandez, the vice-president.

What do you enjoy most about being on the council?

I enjoy the interactions that we have. It was hard this past year with COVID-19 and trying to be safe and respect people’s boundaries. Being on the Young Alumni Leadership Council is about engaging with other graduates, who I may or may not have known, and learning about their UGA experience and their passions.

What’s the most important thing you learned at UGA?

One of the biggest takeaways has been that while I might not be from Athens, it will always be home — that includes my dearest friends who were involved in my life and my child’s life. UGA is also where I learned how to communicate. It’s where I had a full-time internship through the criminal justice program. I learned how to balance. I’ve learned so many things about myself that Athens will always be home. As soon as get off 316, I immediately feel like I’m home.

What advice would you give to a UGA student? 

Cherish it, make memories, and stay up late laughing with friends. Because 1) you won’t get naps when you’re an adult and 2) it’s not as easy as an adult. Just continue to learn. Feed that hunger. Fuel that thirst of just wanting to know more. So say yes. Do it. Be more involved. Do what you can, meet who you can, and create memories that will last forever.

What’s your favorite UGA memory? 

It’s a tie. The first was serving on the committee for Dance Marathon (now UGA Miracle), and how emotional and amazing an experience it was. The second was the 2007 UGA vs. Auburn “blackout” game in 2007.   

 

 

Meet Morgan Cook, UGA Young Alumni Leadership Council member

The University of Georgia’s Young Alumni Leadership Council is made of graduates of the past two decades who connect alumni in their age demographic to UGA. Whether that means raising money for Campus Kitchen at UGA through a Cooking Class with Peter Dale (ABJ ’99) or interviewing alums like comedian Mia Jackson (AB ’00), they work to ensure that the 40,000 young alumni living in metro Atlanta are connected to their Bulldog family and that they Never Bark Alone.

We recently chatted with Morgan Cook (BBA ’15, MBA ’19), a member of the Young Alumni Leadership Council, to learn about her role as a project manager at Google and her experience at UGA.

Morgan CookHow did you become a member of the Young Alumni Leadership Council?

I serve on Terry College’s Young Alumni Board, and when I thought I was going to roll off it last year, I explored ways to stay involved at UGA. I had attended some Women of UGA events, and learned that there was also a Young Alumni Leadership Council. Once I applied, I talked to Luke Massee [in the Office of Alumni Relations] about it and then got on it! 

What do you enjoy most about being on the council? 

There are probably two things. One of them is just staying active with UGA. I got so much out of my college experience that I’ve always wanted to give back. Another is just the social interaction and the networking with the council and the alumni relations staff. 

What’s the most important thing you learned at UGA? 

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. 

What advice would you give to a UGA student? 

I would say get involved in campus life and organizations because it’s only going to enhance your college experience. 

What’s your favorite UGA memory? 

Probably either the 2013 Georgia vs. LSU football game or running into Miss Sandra on campus. 

 

Peter Dale cooks with the Young Alumni Council

Chef and restauranteur Peter Dale (ABJ ’99) led a virtual cooking class with the Young Alumni Council and it went deliciously. Peter is an award-winning chef and has flavored Athens’ dynamic food scene with restaurants like The National, Seabear Oyster Bar, Condor Chocolates and Maepole. Peter demonstrated three recipes over the course of the evening: a local greens with pears and asiago cheese salad, gambas al ajillo, and chocolate budino.

If you missed the event, don’t worry! The recording is just above the post title on this page, and here we have the recipes and ingredient lists straight from Peter.

By the end of the event, attendees donated an impressive $1,700 toward the purchase of a food truck for Campus Kitchen at UGA that will allowed them to expand their service. That total recently reached $2,500, triggering matched funds from the UGA Young Alumni Council (for a total of $5,000) and reaching the fundraising goal for the truck purchase. Thanks for getting that food truck rolling, Bulldog donors!

From midfield to Capitol Hill: Sanford Stadium means the world to Christina Swoope Carrere

Written by: Charles McNair

Christina Swoope Carrere (BS ’11) first stood on the 50-yard line in Sanford Stadium in the fall of 2004The nervous teen from Alpharetta, Georgia was only a junior in high school. 

It was halftime during a University of Georgia football game, and she was conducting the Redcoat Marching Band as it spelled out GEORGIA on the gridironShe had earned this opportunity after winning the UGA Summer Marching Band Camp Drum Major Conducting Competition, representing Atlanta’s Johns Creek High School. 

Christina dreamed of one day leading the splendid UGA troupe, even though she didn’t match the typical profile of a Redcoat Drum Major. “Most notably,” she recalls, “I was not a music major.” 

Three years later her dream came true. She raised both arms at midfield at the head of that same Redcoat Band – the first Black female drum major in UGA’s history. 

In 2009, she once again stood at midfield in Sanford Stadium. This time, she raised a rose bouquet as one of the first Black homecoming queens in UGA historyChristina’s 100-watt smile shone through tears. The Redcoat Band – her Redcoat Band – erupted in celebration.

That was the moment I realized how much of my life has been changed because of this university,” Christina says. “Some of the most special moments in my life took place on that field. 

Marching into a bright career

Christina’s 50-yard line has now moved north, to Washington, D.C.  

At graduation, she was named a Barbara Jordan Health Policy Scholar, working in the office of then U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe. The Jordan program brings talented young scholars to Washington, D.C., to work in congressional offices and learn health policyChristina showed an aptitude for health policy analysis, with a focus on issues affecting underserved populations. She went on to earn a Master of Science in public health at Johns Hopkins University, then became policy analyst at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 

Today she works in the White House Office of Management and Budget, focused on Medicare and the 60 million Americans it serves. She’s tasked with informing views on complex and sensitive policy areas like Medicare eligibility and prescription drugs.  

It’s meaningful work. Christina led the development of a Medicare prescription drug reform package that produced nearly $90 billion in savings to the Medicare trust funds, reduced drug prices and modernized drug benefits. She also earned recognition for her pivotal role in developing a balanced government policy to reduce the supply and demand of addictive opioids. 

Christina brings the same boundless energy to government work that she brought to UGA. 

“Some people burn the candle at both ends,” she says. “I’m the kind who just throws the whole candle in the fire.” 

This kind of zeal marked her years at UGA. She was Student Alumni Council vice president and Events Committee chairOmicron Delta Kappa secretary, a 2009 Presidential Scholar, UGA Outstanding Senior Leader, INROADS Rising Star (and Intern of the Year), UGA EXCEL Award recipient, and UGA Choice Award recipient.  

And her UGA honors still haven’t stopped.  

In 2020, Christina received UGA’s Young Alumni Award, given to those who attended the university in the past 10 years, and who have embodied the Pillars of the Arch—wisdom, justice and moderation–and provided notable service to UGA. 

View from a bridge 

Christina loves a quote from former United States First Lady Michelle Obama: 

“When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”

“I like to expand on that,” Christina laughs. “Not only do you not slam the door, but you also open all the emergency exits and windows and get a bigger table and pull up chairs.”   

As a trailblazer, it’s my responsibility to make sure I am not the last. A path is only useful if others know it exists, and I’m committed to reaching back to help others find it. 

She’s as good as her word. She stays close to UGA as the immediate past president of the Redcoat Band Alumni Association Board of Directors, the founder and chair of the Redcoat Young Alumni Council, and a 40 Under 40 Class of 2016 honoreeShe returns regularly to speak to UGA students and alumni, building new bridges to her alma mater.  

And on the subject of bridgesSome of my favorite UGA memories are of walking across campus with friends and standing on the bridge looking into Sanford Stadium, Christina says. 

From there, Christina can see the 50-yard line. 

“It’s a really special place,” she says. “So much happened there that made me who I am.” 

Editor’s Note: 

Our Georgia trailblazer series profiles Black students at UGA who took the first brave steps to create the diverse and inclusive university we are today. Want to know more about other pioneers?   

Charlayne Hunter (ABJ ’63) and Hamilton Holmes (BS ’63) were the first Black students to enroll at UGA.  

Mary Frances Early (MMED ’62, EDS ’67) was the first Black student to graduate from UGA. The College of Education is named for her. Learn more at: 

UGA helped Kaitlin Miller to “serve well and wholeheartedly”

Kaitlin Miller (AB ’13, AB ’13, ABJ ’13) is passionate about the people in her life. They inspire her, they guide her and they even helped her become a Bulldog.

“UGA was a natural choice for me for several reasons,” said Kaitlin. “It was close to home. My older sister went there, and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. Some colleges are so specialized, but UGA had so much breadth that allowed me to test, try and experience.”

Kaitlin triple majored in International Affairs in the School of Public and International Affairs, Public Relations in Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and Economics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, enjoying the variety of coursework offered by all three schools.

She also participated in the Honors Program and the Student Government Association, and she was a tour leader at the UGA Visitor’s Center and a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, Palladia, Sphinx Society, Dean William Tate Society and Blue Key. All along the way, she built friendships that she maintains and treasures to this day.

Kaitlin’s favorite memory at UGA is homecoming week of her senior year. She was on the homecoming court and remembers feeling that Bulldog spirit all over campus all week long: everywhere she went and in every meeting she attended. She was amazed to see generations of alumni coming home to Athens to attend the game.

As an official ending to her college career, she gave a speech at graduation. An avid runner, she recalls running through campus, weeks beforehand, with her speech on a loop in her head. She hoped to honor those who invested in her. She recalls it was one of those moments where God carried her through.

Kaitlin’s advice to current students, “Humble yourself enough to seek counsel from those wiser than you.”

Everything that the Triple Dawg learned in her studies, through balancing extracurriculars, classes and leadership roles and by surrounding herself with people she looks up to has paid off. Kaitlin has worked at Chick-fil-A since she graduated and has served in several roles along the way: Digital Marketing, Hospitality Trainer, International Learning Designer and, currently, the Menu Team.

“I get to work with phenomenal people who are wise and kind with a strong sense of purpose and significance,” said Kaitlin.

Today, she serves as leader of Chick-fil-A’s UGA Alumni Corporate Chapter. There are currently 300 UGA alumni either on staff or operating Chick-fil-A restaurants. They like to invest in students through the connect-hire-give initiative by both mentoring and giving to Let All the Big Dawgs Eat program, a need-based food scholarship program.

“We’re a restaurant; it makes perfect sense for us to feed hungry kids and let them focus on school and leadership,” said Kaitlin.

She just finished graduate school in May. When asked what’s next, she said, “I just try to make the most of each day; serve well and wholeheartedly.”

Class of 2020 breaks Senior Signature record

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

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

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

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

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

UGA Alumni Association welcomes new volunteers to board of directors and leadership councils

The University of Georgia Alumni Association Board of Directors recently welcomed Kevin Abernathy, Elliot Marsh, and Charlita Stephens-Walker as new board members. In addition, 16 new alumni volunteers have joined the Black Alumni Leadership Council, Women of UGA Leadership Council, and the Young Alumni Leadership Council. 

“These graduates reflect the characteristics of a true Bulldog: committed, caring and spirited,” said Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of alumni relations. “They are leaders in their communities, and they will bring an important voice to these leadership groups as we seek to foster a supportive and inclusive community for the more than 332,000 living alumni around the world. I’m looking forward to working with each of them.” 

Kevin Abernethy served as president of the Student Government Association before graduating from UGA in 1999. Today, he is an assistant U.S. attorney with the Middle District of Georgia, defending federal agencies and recovering assets for the U.S. Treasury. Abernethy participates in the UGA Mentor Program, was named to UGA’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2013, completed the Harvard Kennedy School’s Emerging Leaders program, is on the School of Public and International Affairs Alumni Board of Directors, and serves on the advisory board for UGA’s vice president of student affairs. 


A Statesboro, Georgia, native, Elliott Marsh earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and a master’s degree in agricultural leadership from UGA. Today, Marsh is a financial advisor with Edward Jones. He has earned several honors, including the J.W. Fanning Distinguished Young Professional Award from the Agricultural Economics Association of Georgia, and was named to the 40 Under 40 lists for both UGA and Georgia Trend Magazine. Marsh is a past president of UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Alumni Association. 



Charlita Stephens-Walker earned an undergraduate degree in public relations from UGA and is now the national director of corporate and cause partnerships for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. She is an Alliance Theatre trustee and is on the board of Women in Film and Television Atlanta. She guides students through the UGA Mentor Program and is a charter member of The 1961 Club, a giving society established by the UGA Black Alumni Leadership Council. She resides in Decatur, Georgia. 


The following alumni will join the leadership councils for the UGA Alumni Association’s three affinity groups that seek to build relationships with specific alumni populations in the metro Atlanta area:   

Black Alumni Leadership Council  


Ashley Noel Carter (BSA ’10), Army National Guard military officer and contractor, U.S. Army, McDonough, Georgia.  


Stacey Chavis (MSL ’19), managing director, Campaign Academy, Brookhaven, Georgia.  


Corinna Ellis (AB ’92), senior mortgage loan officer in the financial services industry, Sandy Springs, Georgia.  


Extriara Gates (MSW ’11), behavioral health and family support manager, Bobby Dodd Institute; owner, Lavender Grove Psychotherapy, Atlanta, Georgia.  


Sara Hall (BSW ’09, MSW ’11), clinical social worker, hematology and bone marrow transplantation, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.  


Shayla Hill (BBA ’08), assistant director of digital strategy, Georgia Institute of Technology, Tucker, Georgia.

Women of UGA Leadership Council  


Kim Eilers (BSED ’95, MED ’97), real estate agent, Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty, Smyrna, Georgia.  


Cecilia Epps (BS ’08), freelance sign language interpreter, Lithonia, Georgia.


Christy Hulsey (ABJ ’97), creative director, Colonial House of Flowers, Marietta, Georgia.  


Crystal Ivey (MBA ’14), brand manager for Diet Coke, The Coca-Cola Company, Conyers, Georgia.  


Stephanie Jackson (BBA ’13, MACC ’14), land finance analyst, Ashton Woods Homes, Brookhaven, Georgia.  

Young Alumni Leadership Council  


John Bowden (BBA ’13, BBA ’13), associate broker, Harry Norman Realtors, Atlanta, Georgia. 


Maranie Brown (BSFCS ’12), digital program manager, You Are Here, Smyrna, Georgia. 


Morgan Cook (BBA ’15, MBA ’19), senior risk analyst, Beecher Carlson, Atlanta, Georgia.   


Maxwell Mitchell (BBA ’12, MACC ’13), mergers and acquisitions manager, Deloitte, Atlanta, Georgia.  


Pierce Persons (ABJ ’14), director of operations, Room 422, Atlanta, Georgia.  


To view the full list of UGA Alumni Association board members visit alumni.uga.edu/board-of-directors and alumni.uga.edu/networks for the complete list of leadership council members.