Meet Rachel Webster, Member of the Women of UGA Leadership Council

Women of UGA’s mission is to foster a lifelong commitment to the University of Georgia by creating opportunities for personal and professional development, instilling a spirt of giving, and investing in the future of the university, its students and alumnae. We recently got the chance to interview Rachel Webster (ABJ ’08), member of the Women of UGA Leadership Council in order to learn more about her experience at UGA and what drives her to stay involved with her alma mater. Here’s what she had to say!

Tell me about your time as a student here at the University of Georgia and what role the university played in preparing you for your future.

The University of Georgia prepared me in so many ways for life after graduation, not the least of which was the community that the university fosters. I graduated from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, and I was very fortunate to be in the Honors program and a member of the Red & Black newspaper staff. Grady College taught me the habits of being a professional person, the Red & Black helped me practice those habits and the Honors program helped me form relationships with a diverse group of people. The ability to communicate will always be helpful in any professional setting, and many of the people I met at The University of Georgia in various settings are my best friends today.

Do you have a cause that you are passionate about? If so, how do you pursue this in your personal and professional life?

I am passionate about girls and women having equal educational, professional and vocational opportunities. Besides the women of UGA leadership council, I’m also a member of a young women’s professional leadership group, and I’m a mentor to a current college student. I had many opportunities presented to me when I was younger, and I hope to help other women find opportunities that suit them as well.

Why is Women of UGA Leadership Council important to you?

First of all, I would say that finding a group of dedicated alumnae like the Women of UGA Leadership Council is just so rare. These women are so inspiring and hard-working, and I mentioned before how much I value community and relationships. I always enjoy being involved at the University, and through the Leadership Council I am able to have a larger impact via the Women of UGA scholarship fund.

How do you hope to make an impact with Women of UGA, and what excites you most about your future with the council?

I am most excited about the Women of UGA scholarship fund, which is endowed as of this year. The endowment means that the scholarship will continue to help deserving students with their educational costs in perpetuity, which seems like a pretty fantastic legacy for any group of alumni to leave. I am excited by the prospect of spending time with students who receive the scholarship and seeing the difference it makes in their lives to be at the University of Georgia.

What parting advice do you have for students who are trying to determine the best career path for them while at UGA?

This is the best career advice I got, and I got it from my hairdresser. He is a very smart man, and I was struggling in a career that I did not really enjoy. He told me to think about the actual activities that I want to do all day, and then work backwards into finding a job that allows me to do those activities. I literally thought about what I’m good at, and what I think would be valuable to others, and started networking through my communities to find opportunities. I have been in my new career as a public relations professional for about five months now, and it was such a good move for me professionally.

To learn more about Women of UGA, visit alumni.uga.edu/womenofuga and connect with the council on Instagram.

Meet Rubina Malik, Mentorship Chair for the Women of UGA Leadership Council

Women of UGA’s mission is to foster a lifelong commitment to the University of Georgia by creating opportunities for personal and professional development, instilling a spirt of giving, and investing in the future of the university, its students and alumnae. We recently got the chance to interview Rubina Malik (PHD ’15), mentorship chair for the Women of UGA Leadership Council in order to learn more about her experience at UGA and what drives her to stay involved with her alma mater. Here’s what she had to say!

What do you value most about your time spent at the University of Georgia?

What I value most about my time spent at UGA is the education that I received and the friendships that I made. I was taught and molded into the world of being an academic. My professors did this through their rigor in teaching and modeling what they were teaching. Having professors that were and are on the top of their field in publication and practice gave me inspiration and bravery to enter a world that was new to me. The friendships that I made along the way are and were another value that was afforded to me during my time at UGA. My friendships that were developed are still intact. We continue to stay connected personally, and professionally we support each other’s goals and ideas. Currently, we are working on publications together.

Were there any particular professors that had a significant impact on you?

There were many who impacted me –

My dissertation committee (Chair – Dr. Laura Bierema, Drs. Karen Watkins, Kecia Thomas and Juanita Johnson Bailey) and others in the department like Drs. Wendy Ruona and Kathleen DeMarrais. The wealth of knowledge that was imparted on me crossed my department and colleges as well – There were others across campus, like at the Terry College of Business who also mentored me, like Dr. Dawn Bennett-Alexander. All those named and others have impacted me significantly during my tenure at UGA as well as presently.

Why is Women of UGA Leadership Council important to you?

The council is important to me for several reasons. One, I like to surround myself with like-minded individuals so being on the council allows me to be around women who are committed to making an in impact in their community as am I. Secondly, I am a believer of giving back whether that is monetarily or in service. I do both and being of service is where my heart is, it is where I feel like I can make the biggest difference – hands in the dirt – arranging opportunities for graduates to engage and develop through the mission of the council.

As Mentorship Chair, what do you hope to accomplish during your two-year term?

I am a product of successful mentoring, so this is something very close to my heart. In the next two years I hope to set up an effective mentoring program that will connect alumnae with the best of the best who have taken their education from UGA and are now making an impact in their chosen fields. This is a two-way street to me – being able to give and being able to take – the perfect formula for learning and developing. I want the young alumnae to know that they too can make an impact, run companies and have their dreams come true as many of the mentors will share in our mentoring program.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your job as a professor at Morehouse College?

I am so blessed to be living my purpose in my professional life. Being an assistant professor at Morehouse is one of the most rewarding aspects of my life. I get to cultivate our future leaders! It is not about just teaching them theory of business in the classroom, it is also about grooming them to be global minded leaders – teaching and modeling for them ethics and integrity as well as being of service. I get to create projects that allows them to take their learning in the classroom and put it into practice – we do projects for non-profits, they volunteer with me at Tedx events, or volunteer in one of the local schools – all to create a well-rounded leader who is ready to impact the world around them! Nothing is more rewarding for me than hearing from a former student about that one project or event they did that helped them discover what they are passionate about. As a mentor to some of my students – the ultimate reward is to get a call being told that I am now a “grandmentor!”

Do you have any parting advice to offer students or recent graduates?

BE A YES! Be engaged, never stop learning and never give up. Always pay it forward. There is so much happening around you, be a yes to take the time to attend events, meet new people and learn from opportunities that are presented to you. Take the time to develop your mind and your skillset, to not let someone say no to you because you do not have something – be well-rounded enough to be able to be considered or at least have a learning attitude so that they will give you a chance!

Meet Ali Gant, Member of the Women of UGA Leadership Council

Women of UGA’s mission is to foster a lifelong commitment to the University of Georgia by creating opportunities for personal and professional development, instilling a spirt of giving, and investing in the future of the university, its students and alumnae. We recently got the chance to interview Ali Gant (AB ’01, MPA ’11), member of Women of UGA Leadership Council in order to learn more about her experience at UGA and what drives her to stay involved with her alma mater. Here’s what she had to say!

Tell me about your time as a student here at the University of Georgia and what role the university played in preparing you for your future.

I moved away from the Georgia when I was in 8th grade, only to return to attend UGA five years later, not really knowing anyone that well. This was before Facebook, so I didn’t have too many connections! I pledged Phi Mu and to this day there are 12 of us in my pledge class who go on an annual girls trip, most of us with young children and jobs and responsibilities that we vow to always leave behind for a weekend to reconnect. My involvement in Greek Life was the first domino not only in student activities, but set me up for the life I lead today.

The national charity for Phi Mu is Children’s Miracle Network, and as freshmen we got involved with Dance Marathon (now UGA Miracle). I went on to serve on the Executive Committee for three years. My second  year was the year we broke $100,000! What a long way they have come. After my junior year, I interned at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in the Foundation, which launched my non-profit fundraising career, and I now work for the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta with 16 years of non-profit work under my belt. It all started at UGA.

In 1999, I was selected to be an Orientation Leader. I was #11, and this guy from Rossville, GA named Chris Gant was #12. We met the same day that we met the team. I married Chris Gant in 2004, and another couple – Gretchen D’Huyvetter Cobb and James Cobb – were also on that team, and we are godparents to their fourth son. We ourselves have three sons  who are already big Georgia Bulldogs.  It all started at UGA.

UGA gave me the opportunity to test the waters in my extracurricular life, and I learned that I love hospitality. Whether that was welcoming campus visitors as an OL or as a Visitors Center employee or doing admissions sessions with GRT — I was given those experiences and that has continued in my life. I love to help people find their own little spot where they feel comfortable, and I LOVE it when they happen to love UGA, too!

Do you have a cause that you are passionate about? If so, how do you pursue this in your personal and professional life?

I care very much about children and literacy. Exposing children to books and words before age 5 is critical, and I also care deeply about what happens to kids in 3rd grade when school turns from learning to read to reading to learn. I have an English degree from UGA and I have always been a lover of books. I have involved myself in a number of organizations that are working to improve the children of our state in this area. Some of those organizations include the Junior League of Athens, the Junior League of Atlanta, Ferst Foundation and my place of employment — the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

Why is Women of UGA Leadership Council important to you?

I bleed red and black. UGA gave so much to me. I love mentoring women and connecting with women with similar passions. I love scholarships. It’s a perfect match!

How do you hope to make an impact with Women of UGA, and what excites you most about your future with the council?

I hope to remind alumnae that just because we have our group of friends and experiences at UGA that it is not a thing of the past. We are always Bulldogs, we are always a part of the school – past, present, future – even though we aren’t on campus anymore. It’s our duty to connect, give back, and show up.

What parting advice do you have for students who are trying to determine the best career path for them while at UGA?

In my spare time, I help people revamp their resumes. I hear a lot of “I want to do something I feel passionate about.” Doing something you feel passionate about is good. But passion does not ALWAYS equal FUN. You may feel good at the end of the day, but it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy, joyful and carefree. Non-profits have budgets and policies and boards and problems just like corporations do. Realistic expectations will protect from disappointment. I think it’s a great thing to remember.

To learn more about Women of UGA, visit alumni.uga.edu/womenofuga and connect with the council on Instagram.

Meet Frankie Gilmore, Member of the Women of UGA Leadership Council

Women of UGA’s mission is to foster a lifelong commitment to the University of Georgia by creating opportunities for personal and professional development, instilling a spirt of giving, and investing in the future of the university, its students and alumnae. We recently interviewed Frankie Gilmore (BS ’07, MPH ’10), member of the Women of UGA Leadership Council, in order to learn more about her UGA experience and what drives her to stay connected to her alma mater. Here’s what she had to say!

Tell me about your time as a student here at the University of Georgia and what role the university played in preparing you for your future.

My time at UGA is filled with treasured memories! I made life-long friends, great connections, and even met my future husband. I also participated in the Redcoat Marching Band for 4 years which allowed me to fully engage in the Georgia football gameday experience.

I was challenged academically as a biology student in undergrad and a public health student in graduate school, learning that hard work is the best way to be successful. I was also challenged professionally as a member of several student organizations such as the 2006 Orientation Team and Timothy Campus Ministry, which allowed me to discover and hone my skills for the good of the team. Overall, my experiences at UGA helped me to be more professional, resourceful, and comfortable in different work environments and social settings.

Do you have a cause that you are passionate about? If so, how do you pursue this in your personal and professional life?

I am passionate about young mothers being both nurturers and cultivators. As a mother myself, I know it is easy to lose yourself in motherhood and forget the personal interests you had before children. I believe it’s those God-given interests that can allow you to thrive as a mother and whoever else you choose to be. As a member of the Women of UGA Leadership Council I hope to reconnect young moms who may not be in a corporate networking environment to other alumnae. I am also on the Leadership Team of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) in Peachtree Corners which gives me the chance to connect with local young moms and offer support to them during the early years.

Why is Women of UGA Leadership Council important to you?

The Women of UGA Leadership Council offers opportunities for alumnae to feel like their contribution to UGA – as a student and a graduate – is valued and supported whether that’s in the workplace or in the home. As a part of the council, I look forward to discovering new ways to connect women within the UGA Community.

As a member of the Council’s Mentoring Committee, I am working to connect female graduates through a new program that will help cultivate professional mentoring relationships. The program will offer support to alumnae who are seeking professional growth in their careers.

How do you hope to make an impact with Women of UGA, and what excites you most about your future with the council?

I am a stay-at-home mother but also an entrepreneur (freelance wardrobe stylist). I’ve been able to use my education and experiences at UGA to better my family and my business. I believe other women are in my position but aren’t necessarily represented within the Alumni Association and as a result fail to reconnect with our alma mater after graduation. I hope to change that as a council member.

I’m also African American and am honored to represent other women of color on the council. Hopefully I’ll be able to engage more minority alumnae to participate in Women of UGA events and reconnect them back to UGA.

Overall, what excites me most about being on the council is fostering connections among women who have “walked between the hedges” and have gone on to do great things in the world.

What parting advice do you have for students who are trying to determine the best career path for them while at UGA?

Take advantage of all the academic and extracurricular opportunities at UGA and learn more about your professional and personal interests. However, do so within reason! You’ll need time during your tenure at UGA to decide what kind of life you want to live beyond the Arch. It’s important to find where that balance lies for you between pursuing your passions through your career and/or through your personal life. Nevertheless, it’s your life and it doesn’t just start after graduation. It’s happening now so don’t waste a minute! Go Dawgs!

Meet Erica Gwyn, Fundraising Chair for the Women of UGA Leadership Council

Women of UGA’s mission is to foster a lifelong commitment to the University of Georgia by creating opportunities for personal and professional development, instilling a spirt of giving, and investing in the future of the university, its students and alumnae. We recently got the chance to interview Erica Gwyn (BSED ’00), fundraising chair for the Women of UGA Leadership Council in order to learn more about her experience at UGA and what drives her to stay involved with her alma mater. Here’s what she had to say!

What brought you to the University of Georgia, and what are you doing now?

I applied to, and was accepted at, several schools including Clemson and Auburn, but the HOPE Scholarship was an unprecedented program that made UGA both financially and educationally attainable. Actually, UGA was not my first choice, but I loved my time in Athens. I currently live in metro Atlanta where I own and operate two companies, The Nonprofit Guru, LLC – a non-profit fundraising consulting firm, and Kaleidoscope Kids Camp of GA, LLC – an out-of-school time program for youth in grades K-8.

You mentioned that your firm, The Nonprofit Guru, specializes in fundraising. What does your typical day look like, and what do you enjoy most about your work?

The Nonprofit Guru is truly a conglomerate of my 20-year career working in non-profits where we provide small shop organizations with the toolkit for enhancing their board governance procedures, retooling program design and evaluation methods, volunteer management best practices and grants/fundraising management and compliance strategies. A typical day currently involves my working with my team of tech consultants as we are set to roll out a series of webinar courses and group coaching activities to reach a broader community world-wide.

How do you think your career path will influence your capabilities as fundraising chair for Women of UGA Leadership Council? 

Philanthropy was a skill that I learned as a student at UGA, so it feels very natural to volunteer my time with the Women of UGA Leadership Council. I believe that my given career path will allow for me to provide the leadership team with a foundation to develop fundraising guidelines with strategy to meet our overarching goals! I love to see the look on my peers’ faces when we all come together to accomplish our goals with intentional best practices.

What type of impact do you hope to have throughout your term?

This is a tough one for me as it is so early in my term, but my overarching goal is to be able to work with the team to fund multiple students with a scholarship during this term. We have already met and satisfied the goal of endowing the scholarship in record-breaking time, so for me the greatest impact would be bringing awareness to the endeavor through increased marketing and visibility to our UGA alumni, friends and supporters.

What do you value most about your time at Georgia?

What I value most about my time at UGA was the opportunity to explore my leadership skills and having a safe place to make mistakes and cultivate lifelong friendships that I cherish and maintain to this very day.

Many students feel uncertain about their future and choosing a career path – what advice would you offer to students about this?

I can honestly say that having the courage to explore my true career interests beyond what looked “best on paper” is what allowed me to find my true passion. For today’s student, I believe that there is still no greater lesson learned than through a hands-on approach (ie. internships, research, mistakes while working towards goals, etc.), and living in a different country for at least three months to gain a greater appreciation for cultural diversity.

To learn more about Women of UGA, visit alumni.uga.edu/womenofuga and connect with the council on Instagram.

Meet Amber Gizzi, Outreach Chair for the Women of UGA Leadership Council

Women of UGA’s mission is to foster a lifelong commitment to the University of Georgia by creating opportunities for personal and professional development, instilling a spirt of giving, and investing in the future of the university, its students and alumnae. We recently got the chance to interview Amber Gizzi (BSFCS ’14), outreach chair for the Women of UGA Leadership Council in order to learn more about her experience at UGA and what drives her to stay involved with her alma mater. Here’s what she had to say!

Tell me about your time as an undergrad and what role the University of Georgia played in pursuing your passion.

For most of my life, the University of Georgia (and figuring out how to get myself there) WAS my passion. I was so singularly focused on that one goal that I don’t think I gave much thought to what would happen next if I pulled it off and got accepted. I entered my freshman year on an athletic scholarship with absolutely no direction academically, and for the next two years I changed my major at least once a semester. There were times when I wished someone had forced me to pick a major and get moving, but instead everyone at UGA supported me each time I changed my mind, allowing me to find something I truly loved and was actually good at. Interior design was such a natural fit for me that I still don’t know how it took me so long to get there, but regardless, I would not be where I am today without every single advisor, coach, and mentor who quietly stood by while I found my own way.

I noticed you work at Pineapple House Interior Design. Walk me through a typical day on the job. What do you enjoy most about your career?

In January of this year, my business partner and I took over as the new owners of Pineapple House. I’ve spent a large portion of the last six months trying to wrap my head around the business and financial side of the company by monitoring every dollar that goes in and out and learning how to read financial reports (not a big topic of discussion in design school!). I’m really enjoying running the company and implementing changes that make us more efficient, but I’m still heavily involved in the design side of the business, too. Pulling together the initial design is creative and challenging and is followed by a lot of managing orders and being the point of contact for both contractors and the client. The most rewarding part of my job is the end where everything comes together and you get to see the client’s reaction to their dream home that you worked so hard to make a reality.

What made you want to become involved with Women of UGA?

I mentioned that I’ve loved UGA my entire life and while some people make their impact as a student, I feel like I have much more to offer the university and community now that I’m more mature and established in my career. I had been thinking about ways to get more involved and give back, and applications for the Women of UGA leadership council came at the perfect time and seemed like a great way to reconnect.

As outreach chair, what do you hope to accomplish during your term?

I think that many people graduate from college and feel like the community and support system they’ve had the past four years is suddenly gone, so my biggest goal is to eliminate that feeling for female graduates. Through my recent involvement, I’ve seen firsthand that the UGA Alumni Association really is a huge thriving community that wants to embrace every single graduate. We have been reaching out to existing alumnae as much as possible through social media and events, but I hope to also team up with student organizations such as sororities and women’s sports teams to let students know that we’re here for them even after they leave Athens.

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Were you involved with any organizations here at UGA? If so, what did you enjoy most about that involvement?

I was a scholarship member of the Women’s Varsity Equestrian team at UGA. Since UGA is so big, I think it’s important to find your place and a core group of people who share your interests whether it’s a sport or a club. I grew up a huge fan of UGA sports, so it was very surreal to me to be a member of one of the teams I had cheered for my whole life. Through athletics, I made many lifelong friends and I can’t imagine navigating my first couple of years without great coaches and advisors to look out for me.

What’s the best piece of professional advice you have ever received?

So many things come to mind here but this is something I think about a lot – the most difficult thing about being in a creative career is that the creative part is so small compared to the management/administrative/financial part, but the creative part is your passion that led you to this career in the first place. There have been several instances where I was so overwhelmed with running a business that I started to wonder if I even liked interior design anymore. My husband Danny has been so helpful in all of these instances by either talking to me about design and reminding me why I love it, or indulging me as I ramble on about all the other things I could do with my life. These moments always pass pretty quickly, but the advice is to never lose sight of your passion, and if you do, give yourself time to rediscover it because it is rarely gone forever.

To learn more about Women of UGA, visit alumni.uga.edu/womenofuga and connect with the council on Instagram.

Meet Teri Cloud, President of the Women of UGA Leadership Council

Women of UGA’s mission is to foster a lifelong commitment to the University of Georgia by creating opportunities for personal and professional development, instilling a spirt of giving, and investing in the future of the university, its students and alumnae. We recently interviewed Teri Cloud (ABJ ’94), president of the Women of UGA Leadership Council, in order to learn more about her UGA experience and what drives her to stay connected to her alma mater. Here’s what she had to say!

Why did you choose to attend the University of Georgia? What, in your opinion, makes UGA stand out as compared to other universities?

I had my sights set on the University of Georgia since I was a young girl, and I wanted to be a journalist—just like Lois Lane! #superreporter

To me, there is no school like UGA. I love Athens and I love our beloved mascot and our unified spirit and our school pride. Mostly I suppose I love the type of people UGA attracts: diverse, rich in experiences and knowledge (not pretentious but proud, hungry!).

Tell me more about your background in journalism and how this led you to a career in marketing. What are you doing now?

Once I was at UGA, I learned more about the lifestyles of reporters (and the lack of pay and job opportunity!), I decided a more suitable route would be to pursue public relations (with a dual minor in marketing and English). My most appealing “skill” to employers after I graduated was graphic design, so my first job out of school was as a graphic designer in the art department for a large pharmaceutical company. I designed over-the-counter packaging, working closely with compliance and marketing, and realized my passion was on the marketing side.

Next stop: a headhunter successfully recruited me into a position as marketing coordinator for Troutman Sanders, LLP, one of Atlanta’s largest law firms. I eventually led that department, then years later moved to Holland & Knight, an international top 20 law firm and finally was recruited to be the director of marketing for BNKJ, LLP, a local accounting firm in Atlanta (I was engaged at the time, wanting to start a family in the foreseeable future, so wanted a position where I didn’t need to travel).

Earlier this year, BNKJ merged with Carr, Riggs, & Ingram, LLC (CRI), which is a $300 million top 20 US accounting firm and the fastest-growing. I am now the marketing communications manager for CRI, responsible for all of the firm’s marketing content—website, promotional materials, proposals, branding pieces and other marketing-driven materials. I have been in professional services marketing for more than 20 years (both accounting and legal marketing).

Describe your time as an undergrad here at UGA.

Please, it was UGA – it was fantastic! Every second was special and wonderful, and my friends and I all tried desperately to find jobs in Athens after we graduated so we could prolong our time there. I was always busy at UGA. I was in a sorority, wrote for the Red & Black, was a tour guide for the Georgia Recruitment Team, and got my FCC license so I could DJ and have a talk show (called Viewpoint) on WUOG radio (Athens ONLY alternative!). I was also briefly a water girl for our newly-formed ice hockey team. It was a riot!

What made you want to get involved with Women of UGA Leadership Council?

I have been involved for several years in community organizations, civic and professional organizations, but besides making my annual financial contributions, a football game or gymnastics meet here and there, or writing a sorority recommendation, I had lost touch. Then I ran into a dear friend of mine who is on the UGA Alumni Board of Directors. She reminded me how much I love UGA and encouraged me to get involved.

This council is relatively new. What do you hope to accomplish during your current term as president?

Obviously, we want – and intend – to fulfill our mission of helping a high school graduate who achieved entry into UGA but who needs assistance to attend the university without worry of how to pay for books or survive financially.

We also want to strengthen the UGA women’s support system. We want to encourage other alumnae to re-engage, remember how special the UGA bond is, and grow the Women of UGA community wherever we have alumnae. If we help even a small group of women find their way back to UGA, I will feel we’ve made a difference as a council. I’m very proud of our group and so honored to be a member. I know we will accomplish great things!

What advice do you have for current students? For recent graduates?

I would offer the old adage to accept the things they cannot change. If they mess up, clean up what they can of the mess and be better going forward. Really, it’s all you can do, and we all know it’s a waste of time and energy to dwell on the past.

Recent grads? Travel and explore while you can, but while you do, be sure to write down things you learn and experience that could translate well to a potential employer. (Did you not run out of money in Europe like your friends did because you thought ahead? Did you solve a great problem while abroad or learn about an emerging technology?)

If you had to choose your single greatest achievement, what would it be and why?

I found a really great husband in Emmett (it took some time and frog-kissing, believe me!), and we are just so overwhelmingly proud of our two children, Charlotte (9) and Jackson (11). They are empathetic and kind and respectful and brilliant (I’m a mom—allowed to be biased!), and I wish I had known them when I was a child because I would want to be best friends with them both. My son’s only flaw is that he says he wants to be a Yellow Jacket. Why??

To learn more about Women of UGA, visit alumni.uga.edu/womenofuga and connect with the council on Instagram.

Women in Business: Bulldog 100 and 40 Under 40

Written by Claire Dickey

We caught up with three women, previously recognized through 40 Under 40 and Bulldog 100, to learn a bit more about their careers and what these programs have meant to them.

The University of Georgia has been running its 40 Under 40 and Bulldog 100 programs for over six years, recognizing successful, young graduates of the university for their professional or philanthropic endeavors.

Since the inception of these programs, more than 100 women have been honored for their work. In fact, the University of Georgia has established a Women of UGA Council with 15 dedicated alumnae as a part of the Women of UGA network. Their goals include creating a sense of community, involving themselves philanthropically and empowering women through the program.

We caught up with past honorees Keysha Lee (40 Under 40 ’12), Ashley Edmonds (40 Under 40 ’15) and Maureen Clayton (Bulldog 100 ’12-’15) to talk about their experience as women in business.

Keysha Lee:

  • 40 Under 40 Class of 2012
  • ABJ ’97
  • Executive Producer and Host of Lessons with Mrs. Lee

What She Does:
“Lessons with Mrs. Lee was born out of two desires: one desire was to give my high school students more exposure and hands-on experience in the broadcast field. The second was to feed my own passion for [storytelling]. We reach out to successful people who are interested in sharing their journey or personal formula for success.”
Her Experience with 40 Under 40:
“The recognition has allowed me to continue to grow my show, and to meet new goals. It’s really opened up so many doors. I recently had the opportunity to attend Dinner with a Dozen Dawgs, and I was able to literally and figuratively sit at the table with our first, female Senior VP for Academic Affairs and Provost, Pamela Whitten. That connection was really strong for me, and an inspiration. It made me look at the progress of women and where we can go.”
Future Goals:
“Currently, I’m seeking new interns for my summer series with the Atlanta Dream, Atlanta’s WNBA team. This summer will be their 10th year in the WNBA. Some of my biggest goals are to write a book titled Lessons with Mrs. Lee, and to get my show on a major network or commercial TV station.”
UGA’s Role:
“Professor Hazinski in the Grady College of Mass Communications and Journalism gave us immeasurable opportunities, exposure and advice. Even now I call him for advice concerning ventures that I’m pursuing.”
Tips for Success:
“Be a planner, do your homework, write down your goals. Also, be up on the industry; research women you admire, look at their paths and reach out to them.

Ashley Teusink Edmonds:

  • 40 Under 40 Class of 2015
  • ABJ ’05, MBA ’11
  • Founder and CEO, Smartsy LLC

What She Does:
“Smartsy is the parent company for the different brands that I’ve developed. Lilywrap was the first brand; it’s a reusable, stretchy giftwrap that I developed in an entrepreneurship course through the Professional MBA program at the Terry College of Business. The second main product is Beer Greetings, a decorative six pack carrier and greeting card in one.”
Her Experience with 40 Under 40:
“The PR and marketing that has come from [40 Under 40] has really allowed me to meet a lot of people and grow my business. Since I’ve won, I’ve been asked to come speak at a variety of different university-sponsored events through which I’ve connected with different individuals, done collaborations and even hired from.”
Future Goals:
“The year 2016 was focused on getting Beer Greetings into retailers. We’d primarily sold online through Amazon, so those 800 stores came about in one year. This year is about continuing to grow and streamlining processes. As for a personal focus, working smarter and making the most of my time.”
UGA’s Role:
“UGA introduced me to an array of people. It really took me out of my comfort zone and broadened my horizons. It taught me the skills necessary to be a successful entrepreneur, everything from PR and marketing, to business functions such as accounting and finance, and even operational skills.
Tips for Success:
“It’s hard to compartmentalize, especially when you’re an entrepreneur. Learn to turn off home when you’re at work and work when you’re at home. Also, do your research. Talk to anyone and everyone that’s in a similar role. Don’t be afraid to jump in.”

Maureen Clayton:

  • Bulldog 100 Classes of 2012 – 2015
  • ABJ ’80, MA ’84
  • President of Insight Strategic Communications & Founder of Nest Egg Communications
  • Member of the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors

What She Does:
“[Insight Strategic Communications] focuses on internal communications for corporations and publicly and privately held businesses. Nest Egg Communications is a niche company focusing on ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) companies. We provide communications consulting materials that help employees understand what it means to be employee-owned.”
Her Experience with Bulldog 100:
“I’m humbled to be on the list four times, but the benefit for me is the opportunity to meet other women business owners, and to be able to celebrate and support each other. One of the things I’ve done since is hold a luncheon for other female winners to talk about our businesses, how we got started and some of the challenges we’ve had along the way.”
What it’s Meant:
“It’s just a fantastic experience. I don’t think there’s any greater recognition that you can receive as a business owner than to be recognized by your university. The thing that meant the most to me was having my three sons [at Bulldog 100] while my business was being recognized.”
Future Goals:
“My favorite part is when the customer is pleased, so I’d like to continue to do so. There is no way to categorize how good it feels to do something that delights someone else. If it brings them convenience or peace of mind, that’s the most satisfying.”
UGA’s Role:
“I’m a journalism school grad, and I love the Grady College. I had two professors that I took most of my major classes with, and one of the things that I got from them, that I didn’t have before, was a confidence and belief that I could do anything I set my mind to. They were always very encouraging and believed in [their students.]”
Tips for Success:
“Don’t be afraid to try it. If you have confidence and believe it’s a good idea, try it. And if it fails, so what? You can try something else. People get too hung up on the fact that things might not work out. You learn more from your failures than from your successes.”

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