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.”

Athens Alumni Office
Wray-Nicholson House
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Athens, GA 30602
(706) 542-2251 | (800) 606-8786

alumni@uga.edu

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

ugaatl@uga.edu

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