Maria Taylor shares her experiences with future leaders

Maria Taylor (ABJ ’09, MBA ’13) is an alumna who models what it means to be committed to the University of Georgia. Most recently, Maria participated in the Terry Leadership Speaker Series where she shared her wisdom and experiences with UGA students 

A breakthrough reporter on the national stage, Maria became the first black female to co-host ESPN’s College Gameday, and she is currently in her second season. Maria has a passion for developing leaders–whether it is through her charity, The Winning Edge Leadership Academy, or by serving on the Grady Society Alumni Board 

As a double Dawg, Maria earned her bachelor’s degree in broadcast news in 2009, and her MBA in 2013. She was a student athlete in two sports: basketball and volleyball. During the Terry event in the UGA Chapel, Maria was interviewed by Kendall Kazor (BBA ’19), a fellow UGA volleyball alumna.

Opportunities are nearly endless for graduates to return to campus–like Maria–and share their advice and experiences with fellow students. Interested? The UGA Alumni Association can help connect you with the right person on campus.

UGA named No. 13 Best Public University by U.S. News & World Report

As University of Georgia alumni and friends strengthen their commitment to UGA year over year, the world is taking notice—U.S. News & World Report named UGA No. 13 on its list of 2019 Best Public Universities.

This ranking (up three spots from last year’s ranking) represents the power of the ever-increasing support UGA has received in the last several years, particularly from alumni—in fact, a “loyal alumni participation number” factors into the U.S. News & World Report ranking.

Our alumni’s support is critical to UGA’s success, and the stronger UGA becomes, the more accomplished and engaged our alumni become. Yvette Dupree (BBA ’03, MAT ’07, PHD ’12), a member of the Young Alumni Council, is an example of our motivated alumni who understand this well.

“The Young Alumni Council wants alumni to realize that their gifts are vitally important to the university’s ranking and our reputation around the world,” said Yvette. “The better the ranking, the better it is for alumni. It’s a win-win.”

“The Young Alumni Council wants alumni to realize that their gifts are vitally important to the university’s ranking and our reputation around the world. The better the ranking, the better it is for alumni. It’s a win-win.”

Alumni organizations like these empower our alumni and, in turn, empower the university. Our alumni chapters are ready to welcome Georgia Bulldogs all over the world, help them stay connected to UGA, and make sure they never bark alone.

To those who have made a gift to UGA in the last year, thank you for your continued commitment to your alma mater. If you have not already made a gift, please learn more about the Commit to Georgia Campaign and consider making a gift today to count in upcoming rankings.

Alumni spotlight: Chuck McCarthy

We caught up with Chuck McCarthy (AB ’03), artist, actor and founder of The People Walker, to talk about how his UGA experience led him to an unexpected, but satisfying, career path. McCarthy’s one-of-a-kind business is a combination of the services provided by a personal trainer and a dog walker. The People Walker’s mission is to connect people who want to go on a walk with walking partners.

Chuck McCarthy, The People Walker

What did you want to be when you grew up?                      

I wanted to go into medicine because my grandfather was a doctor. I originally started school as a pre-med major but then went into the art school. I didn’t know what I specifically wanted to be, but I knew I had to do something creative. Art school prepared me for life because it was so subjective. There was no right or wrong answer for most things in the art world. That’s true for a lot of things when you graduate.

Walk me through the foundation of your business, The People Walker. Tell me about the very first moment this brilliant idea came about.

At first, the idea came up as a joke. I was looking for a way to make money while getting more exercise, so I thought about being a dog walker. But I didn’t want to pick up dog poop. There’s a lot of personal trainers and dog walkers in Los Angeles, so I thought maybe I’ll just start walking with people.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there were people who would want or need this service. People could use my company for two services: motivation and safety. We know that we need exercise but it can be hard to motivate ourselves to walk. Even the most motivated people need someone to hold themselves accountable. Then, safety was also an essential service. A few years ago, my mom went on a walk alone in the woods and fell. She broke her leg in about seven different places. People need safety from falling down, being alone, being cat-called or being bothered by others.

Chuck McCarthy, The People Walker

What is your favorite thing to do in Los Angeles?

I love to go on hikes. Even with all the walking I do, I still find myself finding new paths in the park that I live next to. You feel like an explorer when you find new places by yourself. There’s a book about a lot of the secret stairs here in L.A. but I’ve been reluctant to read it because I want to find them myself.

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

Find a job and don’t be scared to do something that isn’t exactly what you want to do. But, don’t feel like you have to stay in that job. A lot of times, people discover that they are working at a job that can lead to other opportunities. Get your foot in the door, but don’t get your foot stuck in the door. That sounds like a good saying, right?

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken that resulted in the most rewarding outcome?

Moving to California was a pretty big risk. It led to the life that I live today.

What do you know for sure?

There are always gonna be problems in life. But life is really about trying to deal with those problems. It’s always easier to deal with those problems if you have the help and support from other people.

What will you never understand? 

Why someone would go anywhere other than UGA.

Is there anything you wish you could change when looking back at your career decisions? 

No, because I think that everything you do leads to the next part of your life. You can’t be in this moment right now in your life without having made the mistakes that you’ve made, the wins that you’ve had and the right decisions you’ve made – you went to the high school, you went to and played whatever sports you did as a kid. Whether or not you won or lost a game, passed or failed the test, or lost money or made money that has led up to where you are in your life. You can’t really get rid of one thing without getting rid of everything else.

Brandon Stewart (BBA ’06) dishes on becoming a Jimmy John’s franchisee

Written by Liz Powell (BS ’06, ABJ ’06), a member of the Young Alumni Leadership Council.

Brandon Stewart had big plans of becoming a pilot before starting school at UGA, but after arriving in Athens he decided to become a lawyer instead. However, a critical piece of advice from Earl Leonard, the namesake of the Terry College of Business Leonard Leadership Fellows program, changed everything.

He asked Leonard about his tips for success after law school even though Stewart wasn’t sure he wanted to be a lawyer. Leonard replied, “Brandon, if you don’t want to be a lawyer, for goodness sakes, don’t go to law school.”

From that moment on, Stewart stopped following the path he felt he should take and instead, created his own. That path originally led him to pursue a career in finance, but after several years of working in investment banking and private equity, Stewart determined that he wanted to work more closely with people.

This led him to Jimmy John’s, where he became a franchisee, and opened his first store in Birmingham, Alabama in 2011. Today, he owns 52 Jimmy John’s locations across the Southeast. He credits his success to this mantra: “My employees are the most important part of my business and I will always treat them with respect and fairness.”

Brandon with his wife, Elizabeth, and son, George.

Stewart resides in Birmingham, and when he’s not traveling for work, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Elizabeth, and his 2-year old son, George. He also makes time to give back to the local community by volunteering with the Phoenix Club of Birmingham, Boys and Girls Club of Central Alabama and Birmingham Zoo.

We caught up with him and asked a few questions about his time at UGA and how he’s making an impact in his community, today.

Favorite class at UGA
“Lessons in Leadership,” taught by Pat Pittard, executive-in-residence at Terry College. He taught me to read the Wall Street Journal every day. He also showed me that I want to, and should, teach to inspire others after retirement.

Most memorable college experience
The first time I walked out of my dorm on football Saturday. I had no idea.

Athens in three words
Southern, nostalgic and easygoing.

The importance of UGA
UGA means so much for me and completely changed my life. I’ve reinvested about every single dollar I have made in my business and employees, but giving back to UGA is on my mind all of the time. I cannot wait for my business to reach a mature point to enable additional giving.

Advice to graduating seniors and recent graduates
Build a network, read often and never stop learning.

UGA gardens recognized as some of Georgia’s most charming landscapes

One of the finest things about UGA is its breathtaking landscapes. The book “Seeking Eden: A Collection of Georgia’s Historic Gardens” features three of UGA’s most recognized green spaces — the President’s House and Garden, the Founders Memorial Garden and North Campus.

Seeking Eden Authors

“Seeking Eden,” written by Staci L. Catron and Mary Ann Eaddy, takes readers through the rich history and current appearance of 30 Georgia gardens in detail and alongside beautiful imagery, photographed by James R. Lockhart. The highlighted landscapes were first recognized in the early 20th century publication, “Historic Gardens of Georgia, 1733-1933,” published by Peachtree Garden Club.

Seeking Eden book cover

The publishing of “Seeking Eden” was supported by a $75,000 gift from the Mildred Miller Fort Foundation in Columbus, Georgia. All proceeds from the book sales will benefit the Garden Club of Georgia’s Historic Landscape Preservation grants and scholarship program.

Order your copy of “Seeking Eden: A Collection of Georgia’s Historic Gardens” on UGA Press today.

Godfrey Powell takes hold of technology

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

Atlanta native Godfrey O. Powell, Jr. (BBA ’00), who leads product strategy for media partnerships at Facebook, delivered a talk at the TEDxUGA event on March 22. Powell majored in finance and management information systems at Georgia, and prior to joining the team at Facebook, he worked in investment banking at JPMorgan Chase, held leadership positions at Samsung and launched a film studio at Marvel Enterprises. His talk, titled “Taking Hold of Our Technophobia,” was about the intersection of media and technology.

Powell spoke about grappling with excitement around new technology and the fear of not being able to control the rate at which we are receiving information. He examines public opinion around technologies of the past, like the printing press and the automobile, to contextualize our fear of and relationships with technologies today. He also offered tips about how Wakanda, the fictional country in Black Panther, can serve as a model for how Americans can use technology as a tool, rather than forming unhealthy dependencies on smartphones.  

We caught up with Powell and asked him a few questions about his favorite things about the University of Georgia.

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

I wanted a large state school with a combo of good brand name, strong academics, and great sports programs. The deciding factor was I got a full HOPE Scholarship.

What did you think you would be when you grew up? Do you still have plans to become that? 

I always loved the idea of being a businessman and entrepreneur growing up.  The specifics I never knew.  Due to the current state of tech, I am fascinated to be in it and feel a high degree of entrepreneurship. At a certain point in the future, I may explore starting my own business.

What did you learn from your TEDx experience? 

I loved, and was quite challenged by, the creating and delivering a TEDx Talk. The basics of this process are obvious but worth mentioning: getting the right topic that matches your credibility and educates the audience, structuring the talk and then being (hopefully) entertaining. UGA was quite impressive in the way they organized the event, making it a large community event, and providing tons of tools and institutional knowledge to guide me in crafting the talk. I know from talking to the other presenters they felt the same way.   

I spent the first six weeks ideating on what topic I wanted to speak on, and how it could resonate. Then, I spent the next three weeks writing an outline, getting feedback from the team and putting together visuals. Then, I spent the last three weeks writing out the full draft and in the process memorizing it. The last week, I practiced it six times a day and each day made slight tweaks. Along the way, I shared it with trusted friends and family for feedback, which was a critical step in mastering the tone of piece and making it my own. I finally felt good the day before after dress rehearsal and getting feedback from the TEDx Talk curator. 

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

Throughout my career I’ve used this same thesis: I pursue things that just seem interesting and unique to collect experiences. Each step, I thought about the potential for growth and learning. Am I joining an area that has industry growth? When you look at industry growth, it matters less the exact role, but just getting involved.  

 

Honoring UGA’s first African American four-year students

Last week, the highly anticipated film Hidden Figures starring Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae was released in theaters nationwide. The film tells the story of African American women engineers and mathematicians who helped John Glenn to become the first American to orbit Earth.

For black alumni at UGA, we have some hidden figures in the form of the first three African American first year students to enroll at the University of Georgia and graduate four years later– Harold Alonza Black, Ph.D. (BBA ’66), Mary B. Diallo, Ph.D. (AB ’66, MA ’73) and Kerry Rushin Miller (BS ’66). UGA will officially recognize the 50th anniversary of their graduation at an event titled “Conversations with the Class of 1966: UGA’s First Black Freshman Graduates” on Thursday, January 12 at 5 p.m. in the UGA Chapel.

Black and Diallo recently spoke with the Black Alumni Leadership Council about their experiences breaking barriers.

Diallo is an Athens native who is currently an associate professor at Florida A&M University. The French major said her high school band teacher encouraged her and three other students to apply to UGA. When asked about the people who influenced her the most at Georgia, she said, “I don’t want to name one person because many people made a significant impact on me—some professors, a few college friends, my family, people in my community, as well as people in other cities, states, and countries.”

Mary Diallo, Harold Black and Kerry Miller

Black is an Atlanta native who originally planned on following his older brother to study at Purdue, but after UGA’s desegregation he applied because the school offered more scholarship opportunities. The economics major said his most memorable college experience was befriending six fellow freshman at orientation. As the only black male student to live in a residence hall in 1962, he recalled his room windows broken into at night and the segregated bathroom he used was repeatedly vandalized.

“Given that I knew my great grandmother, who was a slave, I can marvel at the changes that have occurred in this country and especially in this part of the country,” Black said. “I actually thoroughly enjoyed my UGA experience and would not change it for any other.”

Now, as a retired finance professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee, he encourages students to “follow your dreams and never let mere mortals dissuade you from your goals.”

(L-R): Yvette Daniels (AB ’86, JD ’89), Malena Cunningham Anderson (ABJ ’80), Mary Frances Early (MMED ’62, EDS ’71) and Myrna White (ABJ ’81) at the Women of UGA Holiday Luncheon in December.

In celebration of the desegregation of the university, UGA Black Alumni thank the first freshman graduates Harold Black (BBA ’66), Mary Diallo (AB ’66, MA ’73) and Kerry Miller (BS ’66), as well as the first black graduate Mary Frances Early (MMED, 62, EDS ’71), and the first black undergraduates Charlayne Hunter-Gault (ABJ ’63) and Hamilton E. Holmes (BS ’63) for their courage. Thank you all for being our “hidden figures.”

Written by Bridgette Burton (AB ’11, ABJ ’11)

Winter Warm-Up: Black Alumni Scholarship Fundraiser

Written by Realenn Watters

The UGA Black Alumni Affinity Group hosted “Winter Warm-Up: An Evening of Soul, Spirits & Scholarship” on Thursday, December 1 at American Spirit Whiskey in Atlanta. Attendees enjoyed touring the distillery and learning about the whiskey making process from owners (and Georgia graduates) Charlie Thompson (AB ’99, MBA ’03, JD ’03) and Jim Chasteen (BBA ’98). A portion of the ticket price supported the Black Alumni Endowed Scholarship.

The scholarship is 35 years old, and UGA Black Alumni plans to increase the endowment significantly over the next five years to support more outstanding Black Alumni Scholars. There are currently five scholars who receive the renewable scholarship every year to help to underwrite the cost of their educational pursuits. They are: Charles Orgbon III, April Davis, Khadar Haroun, Orobosa Idehen and JaKari Goss.

Since July 2016, nearly $2,000 has been given to support outstanding students of color at UGA, with $900 raised at the December 1 event. If you would like to make a gift to the Black Alumni scholarship, please click here. All gift amounts are appreciated and help students like Charles, April, Khadar, Orobosa and JaKari reach their goals!

Check out photos from the event.

Feature photo by Carole Kaboya (AB ’10)

Catching up with Oxford scholar Mitra Kumareswaran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Dominique Holloman, president 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. Dominique Holloman (BS ’01, AB ’01, MED ’04, JD ’04) is president of the Black Alumni Leadership Council. In this role, Holloman leads strategy and determines how best to engage graduates and connect them back to the university and its mission. We recently interviewed Holloman to learn more about her UGA experience and what drives her to stay connected to the University of Georgia.

Dominique Holloman

Dominique Holloman

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

I graduated from UGA in 2001 with degrees in Psychology and Sociology. I then attended Georgia Law where I completed a dual degree program earning a JD and a Master of Education in Sport Management in 2004. I have previously worked in collegiate athletic administration and Nonprofit. I am currently in a career transition. 

How did you get involved with the Alumni Association?

My road to my involvement with the Black Alumni Leadership Council and the Alumni Association is almost a decade long. I volunteered to be on the planning committee for a Black Alumni Weekend that was held in February 2008. Following that experience, I joined the Multicultural Alumni Steering Committee. I was a member of that committee until it was folded into the Black Alumni Leadership Council this past Spring. 

What Black Alumni event are you most proud of?

The event I am most proud of is the Minority Admitted Student Reception we co-host with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions in April where we meet with incoming freshmen and share all things Georgia. It is wonderful to reconnect with fellow alumni who come to share their experiences with these incoming students. It is fun to reminisce about the great times I had at Georgia and share my amazing memories with the students and their parents. I always leave in awe of the current students who are doing remarkable things on campus and inspired by the unlimited possibilities of the newest members of our Bulldog Nation.

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

Being a part of the Black Alumni Leadership Council has benefitted me in ways I do not think I have even begun to see or will feel the impact of for some time to come. It has been an unbelievable experience to be president of the council. I have learned in great detail about how our university continues to grow and expand to meet the needs of the students it serves while continuing to be a standard of educational excellence. I have reconnected with old friends and classmates in ways that have assisted me professionally. I have been able to develop relationships with professors, staff and administrators, which has allowed us to make very tangible progress in our first year as it relates to our goals to recruit, retain, engage, donate and serve. On a more personal level, leading the BALC has made me a better leader as it relates to implementing vision by laying the foundation for something so much bigger than me or the council as a whole. Very few people have the opportunity to be a part of something from the ground up and I am grateful for the experience.

 

Bill Thomas (AB '88) and Dominique Holloman (AB ’01, BS ’01, MED ’04, JD’04) and current UGA students working together to bring in new Bulldogs.

Bill Thomas (AB ’88) and Dominique Holloman (AB ’01, BS ’01, MED ’04, JD’04) and current UGA students working together to bring in new Bulldogs.

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

Say yes.

What does it mean to you to be a black graduate of the University of Georgia?

I am proud to be a UGA alumna. Everyone who knows me knows I bleed red and black. To be a black graduate enhances that feeling of pride because I am representing a legacy of academic excellence established by Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes. It means that I am making wider the path walked by Mary Frances Early and Chester Davenport. It means that I am an example to future UGA grads of how Georgia allows you to fulfill the dreams you have for your future and those you did not even know you had. Georgia allowed me to shape my life in a way that I do not think would have been possible many other places. I dreamed it and I was able to do it.

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

Be curious about everything all the time. Doors do not open to those who do not knock. I am so jealous of the opportunities available to students now. There are so many programs I am interested in and definitely would have taken advantage of if they had existed during my time in Athens.

The university of Georgia is committed to its students and mission as a land-and sea-grant university. What is your commitment? 

My commitment is to give my treasure to UGA and to get others to do the same. I have given much of my time and my talent since I have left Athens. I am now in a place personally and professionally where my dollars can make the impact I want to see. I was blessed during my time as a student to only have to worry about my next assignment or exam. There are students who are hungry, who are unable to purchase needed books and supplies, who cannot support themselves in addition to completing final requirements like an unpaid internship or student-teaching, or are unable to participate in life-changing experiences like study abroad. That is disappointing and unacceptable to me and I hope it is to other graduates as well. My commitment is scholarships.