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Grady College of Journalism celebrates its 40 Under 40 honorees

Sarah Freeman and Dayne Young, along with other talented members of Grady’s team of writers, put these features together!

Seven Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication graduates are represented in this year’s 40 Under 40 class. This annual program celebrates young alumni leading the pack in their industries and communities, and Grady was proud to highlight each of them on their blog this summer/fall.

Angela Alfano

Angela Alfano

Angela Alfano (ABJ ’10, AB ’10) is the senior director of corporate communications for Major League Soccer. She used her public relations education and experience with UGA Athletics to embark on a trailblazing career in professional sports. Alfano also has worked in corporate communications for the National Football League, Washington Football Team and Tough Mudder. She regularly shares her time and expertise with UGA students. Alfano was recognized as a 2019 John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award winner.

Learn more about Angela.

Jennifer Bellamy

Jennifer Bellamy

Jennifer Bellamy (ABJ ’08) is an anchor and reporter for 11 Alive News in Atlanta. Bellamy has been a journalist for multiple television stations around the south. Bellamy’s fellow Grady grads, mentors and past professors supported her on her journey through broadcast news. She has earned various awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award in 2015 for Outstanding Local Television Investigative Reporting for report on “DSS: When the System Fails,” the Bronze Medallion from the Society of Professional Journalists and several Southeast Emmy awards.

Learn more about Jennifer.

Greg Bluestein

Greg Bluestein

Greg Bluestein (ABJ ’04, AB ’04) is a political reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and covers the governor’s office and state politics. He joined the newspaper in June 2012 after spending seven years with the Atlanta bureau of The Associated Press, where he covered a range of beats including politics and legal affairs. He contributes to the AJC’s Political Insider blog and is writing a book, “How the Peach State Turned Purple,” about the 2020 Georgia elections. He discussed the publication process and identifying local angles in national stories in this episode of Grady College’s The Lead podcast.

Learn more about Greg.

Marie Green Broder

Marie Greene Broder

Marie Greene Broder (ABJ ’06, AB ’06, JD ’10) is the first female district attorney for the Griffin Judicial Circuit, including Fayette, Pike, Spalding and Upson counties. Broder graduated from UGA as a dual public relations and speech communications major and continued with a law degree. She has developed a specialty in trying crimes against women and children, and is involved with Promise Place and the Southern Crescent Sexual Assault Child Advocacy Center.

Learn more about Marie.

Bowen Reichert Shoemaker

Bowen Reichert Shoemaker

Elizabeth “Bowen” Reichert Shoemaker (ABJ ’06) is an assistant United States attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a position she has held since 2018. Previously, she was a senior associate at Alston & Bird, LLP and a law clerk to Judge Hugh Lawson. While at UGA, she majored in public relations and was in the Honors Program and Arch Society. Shoemaker earned her law degree from Mercer Law School where she served as editor-in-chief of the Law Review. In her hometown of Macon, Shoemaker serves on the executive board of the Macon Rotary Club, as an adjunct professor at Mercer Law School, and on the executive committee of the Macon Arts Alliance.

Learn more about Bowen.

Britanny Thoms

Brittany Thoms

Brittany Thoms (ABJ ’04) is the co-founder and president of See.Spark.Go, an Athens-based public relations agency. She and her husband, Andy Thoms (BSFCS ’02), founded See.Spark.Go in 2007 with the goal of telling the best stories in the world. They specialize in publicity, social media and digital marketing. Their team has worked with some of the nation’s largest brands on many successful campaigns and events.

Learn more about Brittany.

40 Under 40 Spotlight: Angela Alfano, champion of the sports industry

Angela Alfano (AB, ABJ ’10), senior director of corporate communications for Major League Soccer, is committed to empowering the next generation of sports executives.

For her personal, professional and philanthropic achievements, Angela ranked among UGA’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2021. The program celebrates young alumni leading the pack in their industries and communities.

Angela being interviewed

Angela being interviewed after the John E. Drewry Young Alumni Awards ceremony at UGA.

Who is Angela Alfano?

Angela graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with a master’s degree in Sports Industry Management and received undergraduate degrees in both public relations and political science from the University of Georgia. Angela started her sports communications career working as a student assistant in UGA’s Sports Information Department.

A strategic young executive, Angela has more than a decade of leadership and innovation in communications.

Since joining Major League Soccer in July of 2018, Angela has been instrumental in garnering positive publicity for the league outside the traditional scope of soccer. She showcases the business behind the brand, finding creative ways to highlight executives in the media and oversee strategies for the league.

UGA Sports Communications-Student Assistants Oct 2009

Angela Alfano (lower left) as a UGA sports communications student assistant in 2009.

What led Angela to Major League Soccer?

Prior to her work at Major League Soccer, Angela spent two years at Tough Mudder’s NYC headquarters in the communications department and six years working in public relations for professional football – both at the National Football League (NFL) headquarters and the Washington Football Team.

Angela oversaw corporate communications for the Washington Football Team where she promoted the team’s community relations and publicized player, coach and ownership initiatives off the field. She also oversaw media credentialing, press box staff supervision and event media coverage recaps for the team.

Angela then moved onto the NFL, where she elevated league initiatives, such as Breast Cancer Awareness, Salute to Service and PLAY 60. She led more than 20 press conferences annually at the Super Bowl and developed public relations campaigns for major league events, such as NFL Kickoff and Draft.

Angela at an MLS All Star Game

Angela working at an MLS All Star Game.

How have Angela’s efforts been recognized?

Angela was honored by PRSA Chicago with a Chicago Skyline Award for “Establishing a New Identity for the NFL Draft” and as one of PR News’ “Rising Stars 30 and Under.” In 2019, she received Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award and currently serves on UGA’s AdPR Executive Advisory Council. Angela was also honored as one of Sigma Kappa’s National Headquarters 35 Under 35.

Watch Grady College salute Angela Alfano: 

Where is Angela now?

Angela currently resides in New York with her husband Michael and dog, Lohi.

Angela dedicates her free time to the next generation of young sports PR executives. She serves as a supportive and accessible mentor to women and men in sports businesses. Passionate about championing a new wave of leadership in the industry, Angela and her husband, Michael O’ Brien, created the “Alfano and O’Brien Sports Communication Award”— an endowment through the Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications to help students pursuing a career in the sports industry.

40 Under 40 Spotlight: Eric Gray advocates for inclusive adventure sports

Eric Gray (BSED ’04), executive director of Catalyst Sports, is committed to service and adventure. Eric and his team of dedicated volunteers break down the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from accessing adventure sports in their communities.

For his personal, professional and philanthropic achievements, Eric ranked among UGA’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2021. The program celebrates young alumni leading the pack in their industries and communities.

Discover how Catalyst Sports creates an inclusive environment for people with disabilities: 

How did Eric Gray become involved in Catalyst Sports?

Eric Gray received a degree in recreation and leisure studies from the Mary Frances Early College of Education. From a young age, he had a passion for improving the world around him.

At the age of 10, Gray received treatment for childhood cancer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Twenty-five years later, he returned to Children’s as a recreation therapist to give back and share his experiences to those facing similar circumstances. He also worked for the National Ability Center, where he taught people with disabilities how to ski, snowboard, canoe, climb, horseback, and cycle.

Removing barriers and creating access for people with disabilities is at the heart of Eric Gray’s work.

What is Catalyst Sports?

Catalyst Sports is a chapter based, nonprofit organization which gives people with physical disabilities access to adventures within a supportive community. Adventure sports like climbing and cycling empower people with disabilities to discover their strength.

“The Catalyst Sports family has helped me in my recovery, helped me heal and grow, test my physical and mental boundaries and has introduced me to new groups of people who love life and embrace challenges. I can’t thank you enough,” said Michael Breed, an active member of Catalyst Sports.

How can you support the mission to make sports more inclusive?

Private support is essential to Catalyst Sports’ success. The nonprofit relies on contributions from the community to ensure a more inclusive tomorrow. Donations support opportunities for training, certification, scholarships, recruitment, and purchasing new equipment.

SUPPORT CATALYST SPORTS

National Nonprofit Day Spotlight: Park Place Outreach Youth Emergency Services

August 17 is National Nonprofit Day, an opportunity to recognize, acknowledge and celebrate the positive impact of nonprofits.

Park Place Outreach Youth Emergency Services is an alumni-operated nonprofit based in Savannah, Georgia that serves runaway, homeless and at-risk youth aged 11 to 21. Since 1984, it has improved the lives of more than 6,500 young people. We spoke with Julie Wade (AB ’97, JD ’00), a dedicated alumna and executive director of Park Place Outreach, to learn how her nonprofit is making a difference.

What is Park Place Outreach’s mission?

Park Place Outreach is committed to leading and serving. The nonprofit strives to provide services to at-risk youth and their families, increase their functional level and reunify families whenever possible.

What resources does Park Place Outreach offer?

Park Place Outreach is proud to provide programs and services to at-risk youth and their families in the Savannah area. Since Wade’s appointment as executive director of Park place Outreach, she has initiated programs that raise awareness for homeless youth and advocate for safe, affordable housing.

“These are good kids in bad situations with no place to call home. With our help, we can change their legacy,” said Julie.

Park Place Outreach offers four main programs which include:

  • The Transitional Living Program (also designated as a Child Caring Institution by the state) provides temporary shelter to run away and homeless youth, victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking, and other youth in crisis.
  • The Street Outreach Program works to prevent the exploitation of youth living on the streets or in unsafe living conditions. The program’s mobile unit engages with homeless youth or those who are at-risk for homelessness or human trafficking to deliver care packages containing food and hygiene materials, as well information on safety and local resources.
  • Family Preservation for Teens works with teens and their families to receive case management services, support services and placement prevention services to help teens remain safely in their homes to sustain and maintain family stability.
  • Rapid Re-Housing Services mitigate homelessness by helping families and individuals find and stay in housing.

How has Park Place Outreach grown over the years?

Park Place Outreach made the 2021 Bulldog 100, a list of the 100 fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by UGA alumni. Julie Wade and her team at Park Place Outreach are curious and innovative, tenaciously searching for better answers and more impactful solutions.

Julie Wade

Julie Wade, executive director of Park Place Outreach.

Park Place Outreach expanded into a new facility with increased living and working spaces for their programs. The newly remodeled youth emergency shelter allows team members to provide a safe environment for vulnerable youth in the Savannah community. The nonprofit has also grown environmentally conscious, having recently received a LEEDs Green Building certification.

What led Julie Wade to Park Place Outreach?

Julie Wade demonstrates the value of a degree from the birthplace of higher education. After graduating from the UGA School of Law, Julie clerked for a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, practiced law at various firms and served on the Board of Education for Savannah/Chatham Public Schools. Julie joined Park Place Outreach in 2017, applying her legal background to child advocacy.

Julie has been honored by the UGA Alumni Association’s 40 Under 40 for leading the pack in the nonprofit industry. She is dedicated to creating better communities around the world and empowering the next breed of Bulldogs to continue that tradition.

“Together we can make this a better world. Park Place Outreach is in the business of changing lives, giving hope and improving odds by ensuring that youth have access to safety, guidance and caring adults.”

How can Bulldogs support Park Place Outreach?

Park Place Outreach relies on charitable donations to provide programs and ensure a safer tomorrow. Julie and her team invite you to join them on their mission to protect those most at-risk in our communities, the children.

SUPPORT PARK PLACE OUTREACH

UGA Alumni Association unveils the 2021 Class of 40 Under 40

Alumni Association recognizes outstanding graduates under the age of 40  

The University of Georgia Alumni Association has unveiled the 40 Under 40 Class of 2021. This program celebrates the personal, professional and philanthropic achievements of successful UGA graduates under the age of 40. The honorees will be recognized during the 11th annual 40 Under 40 Awards Luncheon Sept. 10 in the Tate Student Center on campus.

This year’s outstanding group of young alumni includes a Major League Soccer communications director, United States Air Force commander, 11Alive News anchor, White House senior policy advisor and an award-winning writer.

“We are excited to unveil this year’s class of 40 Under 40 and welcome them back home to Athens for the awards luncheon in September,” said Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of alumni relations. “I continue to be amazed by the excellence of our young alumni. These outstanding individuals exemplify leadership in their industries and communities.”

Nominations for 40 Under 40 were open from February to April, and more than 400 nominations were received for this year’s class. Honorees must have attended UGA and uphold the Pillars of the Arch, which are wisdom, justice and moderation. Additional criteria are available on the UGA Alumni Association website.

“This year’s honorees highlight the transformational work UGA graduates are doing early in their careers,” said Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of alumni relations. “Among this year’s class are individuals who are solving some of the greatest challenges facing our country and the world. During a particularly challenging year, we are especially proud to call them members of the Bulldog family.”

The 2021 Class of 40 Under 40, including their graduation year(s) from UGA, city, title and employer, are:

Angela Alfano (ABJ ’10, AB ’10), New York, New York, senior director of corporate communications, Major League Soccer 

Jennifer Bellamy (ABJ ’08), Atlanta, anchor, 11Alive News 

Lauren D. Bellamy (AB ’04, JD ’07), Atlanta, senior associate general counsel, Grady Health System 

Greg Bluestein (AB ’04, ABJ ’04), Dunwoody, Georgia, political reporter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution 

Marie Greene Broder (AB ’06, ABJ ’06, JD ’10), Griffin, Georgia, district attorney, Griffin Judicial Circuit

Gayle Cabrera (BBA ’06), Cary, North Carolina, market president, SVP, Truist

Mario Cambardella (BLA ’06, MEPD ’11, MLA ’13), Chamblee, Georgia, founder/CEO, ServeScape

Shontel Cargill (BS ’10), Johns Creek, Georgia, assistant clinic director, Thriveworks

Rebecca Chancey (BS ’04), Atlanta, Georgia, lieutenant commander, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Public Health Service

Carter Coe (MFR ’11), Atlanta, managing partner, Chinook Forest Partners

Harin J. Contractor (AB ’04, AB ’04), Washington, D.C., senior policy advisor, National Economic Council at the White House

Tunisia Finch Cornelius (BS ’04), Atlanta, doctor, Divine Dermatology & Aesthetics

William Flowers Crozer (JD ’12), Washington, D.C., vice president, BGR Group

Jennifer A. Crozier (BS ’06), Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, assistant professor and director of breast cancer research, Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center

David A. Dy (BS ’03), Tuscola, Texas, commander, 7 Operational Medical Readiness Squadron, United States Air Force

Keith Giddens (MACC ’04), Charlotte, North Carolina, market managing partner for Charlotte, Dixon Hughes Goodman

Eric Gray (BSED ’04), Atlanta, executive director, Catalyst Sports Inc.

Cody Hall (AB ’15), Dawsonville, Georgia, director of communications, Office of the Governor

John Hyer (PHARMD ’12), Murphy, North Carolina, CEO and owner, King’s Pharmacy

Whitney Ingram (BS ’11, PHD ’16), Albuquerque, New Mexico, R&D S&E electronics engineer, Sandia National Laboratories

Ryan Loke (AB ’16), Atlanta, deputy chief operating officer, Office of the Governor

Josh Mackey (AB ’05), Atlanta, partner/founder, Capital City Public Affairs

Ana Maria Martinez (BBA ’04), Decatur, Georgia, president/staff attorney, Georgia Latino Law Foundation/DeKalb State Court

Willie Mazyck (BSED ’04, MED ’06, MBA ’14), Atlanta, senior vice president of talent development, XPO Logistics, Inc.

Anna Wrigley Miller (AB ’14), Watkinsville, Georgia, general government division manager, Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget

E. Heath Milligan (BSFCS ’05), Marietta, Georgia, principal, Macallan Real Estate

David W. Okun (AB ’12, AB ’12), Alexandria, Virginia, country officer, U.S. Department of State

Jitendra Pant (PHD ’18), Ann Arbor, Michigan, scientific research fellow, University of Michigan

Biren Patel (MBA ’12), Macon, Georgia, founder and president, Biren Patel Engineering LLC

Doug Reineke (AB ’05), Atlanta, director of state government relations,  CareSource

Victoria Sanchez (AB ’08, MA ’10), Washington, D.C., special assistant, U.S. Department of State

Terrel Sanders (BS ’05), Accra, Ghana, lieutenant commander, lab director, Infectious Diseases, Global Health Engagement, U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3 Ghana Detachment

Josh Sandler (BBA ’09), Nairobi, Kenya, co-founder and CEO, Lori Systems

Hilary Shipley (BSFCS ’04), Savannah, Georgia, principal, Colliers International Savannah

Bowen Reichert Shoemaker (ABJ ’06), Macon, Georgia, assistant united states attorney, U.S. Attorney’s Office

Cara Winston Simmons (AB ’03, MED ’07, PHD ’18), Athens, director and adjunct faculty, University of Georgia

Daniel W. Stewart (BSFCS ’05), Augusta, Georgia, president and COO, Wier / Stewart

Brittany Thoms (ABJ ’04), Watkinsville, Georgia, president, co-founder, See.Spark.Go

Tracey D. Troutman (BSA ’07, MAL ’08), Washington, D.C., director, Office of Outreach, Diversity and Equal Opportunity, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service

Raquel D. Willis (ABJ ’13), Brooklyn, New York, writer, activist

World Chocolate Day: Q&A with alumni-owned Condor Chocolates

Condor Chocolates store front

The Condor Chocolates cafe located in Five Points. A second location in Downtown Athens is coming soon.

Located in the historic Five Points neighborhood of Athens, Georgia, Condor Chocolates produces bean-to-bar chocolates, confections, gelato and beverages. Brothers and co-owners Peter Dale (ABJ ’99) and Nicholas Dale (BSA ’04) opened the city’s first specialty chocolate shop in 2014 as a homage to the world-class cacao of Ecuador. Visitors can witness chocolate production while indulging in handcrafted desserts. In honor of World Chocolate Day (July 7), we sat down with Peter (a UGA 40 Under 40 honoree back in 2012) to learn more about this alumni-owned chocolate shop.

Peter Dale

Peter Dale, co-owner of Condor Chocolates.

Tell us about your background.

We’re brothers, born, raised and educated in Athens. Nick worked in agriculture after graduating from UGA. His expertise has been invaluable in sourcing beans directly from Ecuador. I graduated with a journalism degree before realizing my passion for food. There’s still a storytelling piece of what we do, which relates to my experience at Grady College. We tell stories through food and beverage rather than the written word.

What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur from UGA?

Lean into the UGA community for advice, support and a very loyal customer base.

What is Condor’s mission?

We bring people together through delicious and beautiful flavors. Crafted with pride and integrity, grown in Ecuador, made in Georgia, from our family to yours.

What product would you recommend to a first-timer at Condor? 

The affogato! Meaning drowned in Italian, the affogato is a shot of espresso with a scoop of chocolate gelato. The gelato sandwich is also a perfect option for summer! It’s two cookies, filled with gelato and coated with cocoa nibs.

How has Condor grown?

Since opening in 2014, we have expanded chocolate making to the Chases Street Warehouses, allowing us to make more products and reach more people. We also have a new café coming soon in downtown. Check it out!

Can you give us a sneak peek at any new products?

In a few weeks, we’re launching our Bulldog Bark, a milk chocolate bar with dried strawberries, pecans and cocoa nibs. With football season coming up, we’re excited to share a red and black product with our Dawgs.

How can alumni support Condor?

We love seeing alumni at the café. Our Bulldog bars and upcoming Bulldog Bark make great hostess gifts and stocking stuffers. Out-of-state alumni can shop for Condor at condorchocolates.com.

How is Condor celebrating World Chocolate Day?

Every day is World Chocolate Day at Condor Chocolates. But on July 7, we will show our customers the whole chocolate production process from bean to bar.

Checking in with Alumni Board Member Wes Neece

There’s a group of committed UGA alumni who dedicate their time, energy, and financial resources to bringing Bulldogs together year-round, worldwide, and lifelong. These spirited Alumni Board members represent the diverse and passionate UGA alumni family and strive to provide feedback, guidance and leadership as the University of Georgia seeks to ensure that its graduates Never Bark Alone. Throughout the year, we’ll get to know these individuals; they hail from various backgrounds and are involved in all corners of campus. Their goal: to empower the next breed of Bulldog to continue ta tradition of excellence.

Name:

  • Wes Neece

I live in:

  • Atlanta, GA

Degree:

  • 2000 – BBA in Management Information Systems (UGA)

I joined the board in:

  • 2018

Ways I support UGA:

Wes Neece with Home Depot

Wes represents UGA at a Home Depot summer intern networking breakfast in 2018.

My first job after graduation:

  • A computer programmer at The Home Depot

The class at UGA that I enjoyed most was:

  • Intro to Management Information Systems. I love the way that business and technology interact.

What makes me most proud to be a Georgia Bulldog:

  • The fact that our academic reputation continues to escalate!

My family includes:

  • Wife, Becky (BS ’01)
  • Daughters, Rowan and Carlson
  • Dogs, Olaf and Dolly
Wes Neece with his kids

Wes enjoys a tailgate on Myers Quad with his two daughters, Rowan and Carlson.

A special connection I have to UGA is:

  • I met my wife and my best friends there.

As a student, I was involved in:

My favorite place to study on campus was:

  • Law Library— cool, quiet, and close to downtown for when study time is over!

On a Friday night in college, you would have found me:

  • Having one too many at Sons of Italy and Steverino’s

When I was a student, I lived in:

  • Creswell
  • University Commons
  • College Park

My greatest accomplishment as a student:

  • Graduating Magna Cum Laude— I was proud of the balance I struck between partying and school!

My favorite memory from graduation:

  • I only slept for 90 minutes the night before my graduation ceremony. My mom was mortified that I wore flip flops to it!
Wes Neece graduation

Wes wearing his infamous flip flips at graduation in 2000!

A fellow UGA grad who inspires me is:

My favorite tradition at UGA:

  • The Battle Hymn Trumpet solo

When I visit Athens, I have to grab a bite at:

  • The Last Resort

On game day, you’ll find me:

  • Rushing to make kickoff after a kid’s soccer game!

My most disliked athletic rival is:

  • University of Florida— everyone knows that Gators wear jean shorts!

A few of my favorites:

  • Book: Pillars of Earth
  • Podcast: The Daily
  • Movie: The Shawshank Redemption
  • Band: Mumford & Sons
  • TV show: The West Wing
Wes Neece at Rose Bowl

Wes cheers on the Dawgs at the 2018 Rose Bowl.

Favorite alumni-owned restaurant:

No. 1 tip to a graduating Bulldog:

  • There will be higher highs (wedding day, birth of your children, etc.), but know that when you look back at your life, your time in Athens will be one that you long for. You only get one go at this. Make sure you enjoy it!

No. 1 tip to a fellow Georgia grad who has lost touch with their alma mater:

  • Your school has so much to offer you. It gives you a sense of grounding of who you are, who you were and, most importantly, what used to be important to you. A sense of grounding is incredibly important in the chaos that is today. Let UGA be an anchor for you.

Wes, who you might recognize from UGA’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2017, supports UGA in a variety of ways—including being a wonderful advocate at The Home Depot—and we appreciate his ongoing commitment to his alma mater.

Erika Parks Headshot

Where commitment meets community: Erica Parks (MPH ’11) advocates for veterans

Erica Parks (MPH ’11) refers to herself as a “vetpreneur.” The UGA alumna leverages her experiences with the armed forces, public health and entrepreneurship to advocate for veterans through Camouflage Me Not.

The seed of advocacy was planted in Parks as a young girl, but her experiences in the United States Army Reserve and as a veteran helped the seed grow. When Parks deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan, in 2003, her leadership roles and a near-death experience taught her the importance of speaking up for herself and others.

“That time in Afghanistan means so much to me,” Parks said. “The unity I have with my comrades is unmatched.”

When she returned from deployment, Parks earned an undergraduate degree from Kennesaw State University and then applied to UGA’s Master of Public Health program. The program exposed her to health policy and the idea of working with veterans.

Parks founded Camouflage Me Not in 2018 to increase social awareness around veterans’ transition to civilian life. Through the advocacy nonprofit, she shares a specific message on behalf of veterans: “Don’t hide me.”

Erica Parks (MPH ’11) served as a medical supply sergeant with Fort Gillem’s 427th medical logistical battalion in the United States Army Reserve. Parks served almost nine months of active duty in Bagram, Afghanistan, in 2003.

The need for support

After earning her master’s degree, Parks experienced 38 months of chronic unemployment. She felt that as a woman of color and a veteran, that she was overlooked and undervalued.

“The song says, ‘And the Army goes rolling along,’” Parks said. “And it does.”

The armed forces offer housing, training, and employment services to members. When veterans transition to civilian life, many of those services are no longer available, Parks said. Women and minorities may feel the challenges of the transition into veteran status even more deeply—as Parks knows from her own experience.

“There is so much training to prepare a soldier, but not the same training when they leave,” Parks said. “Transition programs need a serious overhaul.”

 

Erica Parks (MPH ’11) was honored at the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s inaugural Veterans in Business Awards with the Veteran Owned Business Award. The audience listens to a video of Parks discussing her military service, lessons learned from service, Camouflage Me Not and her transition from the military to the business world.

Starting conversations

Through advocacy, research, and collaboration, Camouflage Me Not ignites conversation around veterans’ transition and uses public health initiatives and current issues to start a conversation around veteran transition. Since founding the organization, Parks has brought veterans non-veterans to the table while partnering with communities and local governments. But Parks isn’t stopping there.

Her next goal is to attain 501(c)(4) status, which transform Camouflage Me Not into a social welfare organization. With this status, Camouflage Me Not can extend the conversation about veteran transition to legislative assemblies through lobbying.

“Camouflage Me Not means don’t hide me and don’t throw me away,” Parks said. “I’m committed to people who deserve support but might not know what they need.”

Camouflage Me Not presents “Food for Thought – Mental Nourishment for Everyone.” In partnership with Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Lotus Family Wellness Clinic, Radio One, Mental Health America, Erica Parks (MPH ’11) and retired Command Sgt. Maj. Lamont Christian served as co-hosts.

Advocating for the next generation

After UGA prepared Parks to launch her nonprofit, Parks dedicates time to UGA’s next generation of change-makers. She helped establish the UGA Black Alumni Leadership Council and was named a Class of 2016 40 Under 40 honoree. She is also a member of the College of Public Health Alumni Working Group dedicated to connecting and uniting alumni of the College of Public Health.


WHERE COMMITMENT MEETS COMMUNITY

Whether life takes them to new cities or to the neighborhoods where they grew up, Georgia Bulldogs do more than get jobs – they elevate their communities. Bulldogs lead nonprofits, effect change and create opportunities for others. Wherever people are suffering, wherever communities are looking for effective leaders and whenever the world cries out for better solutions, Bulldogs are there to answer the call to service. It’s more than our passion. It’s our commitment.

Caroline Odom, an intern with UGA’s Division of Development and Alumni Relations, brings you a spring blog series that celebrates Bulldogs who embrace that commitment to helping others in their communities thrive.

Want to read about other Bulldogs impacting their communities?

Where commitment meets community: Jack Hartpence (AB ’15) pairs passion with community empowerment

On August 23, 2017, University of Georgia alumnus and 40 Under 40 honoree Jack Hartpence (AB ’15) was driving from Jackson, Wyoming, to Aspen, Colorado, on a business trip. As he attempted a U-turn in the large van he rented for the trip – the only vehicle the rental company had available – he was T-boned by a tractor-trailer.

“As I saw the truck coming and realized I was going to die, the only thing that came to my mind was one question: What have I done positively for the world and other people?” Hartpence said.

Walking away from the accident unscathed, Hartpence felt that he had been given a second chance to answer that question.

After graduating from UGA with a bachelor’s degree in English in 2015, Hartpence worked in politics, with think tanks and for campaigns. He used his previous experience with research and data to determine where the world struggled most.

“Water is the world’s most pressing problem,” Hartpence said. “Sustainable access to safe drinking water is the foundation for quality of life on earth today. With access to safe drinking communities can move to address secondary and tertiary quality of life indicators such as gender equality, economic opportunity, education, and health.”

In 2018, he co-founded Powwater, public benefit corporation that builds transparent technology and makes impact investments to improve access to clean water in East Africa and South Asia and empower the communities which they serve.

“A marathon, not a sprint”

As Hartpence explored how to address access to clean water, he noticed that many wells drilled by Western organizations provided only temporary solutions across Africa, Asia, and South America. With an average shelf life of only 18 months, donated wells weren’t a sustainable solution, the key problem being that they weren’t engaging the communities they affected.

Hartpence contacted Nobel laureate and professor Muhammed Yunus, the founder of microfinance. Through the mentorship of Yunus, Powwater established itself as a social business. Funding is reinvested into communities that lack access to clean water, allowing those communities to establish their own water systems that enhance their economy.

With this model, Powwater doesn’t have to rely on donations or outside funding. Instead, Powwater can “make money to do good for the world,” Hartpence said. By doing so, Powwater has brought sustainable drinking water to over 80,000 people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Bangladesh.

Jack Hartpence (AB ’15) gives a thumbs up with the Powwater team in Mombasa, Kenya.

Fueled by passion

Hartpence’s experience at UGA showed him the importance of doing what you love. He wasn’t fulfilled by what he was learning as an economics major, so he became an English major during his sophomore year. That program gave him a sense of purpose and creativity. .

“There were students who were far better writers than me, but I was passionate. I loved it,” Hartpence said about a senior class project that was recognized at graduation as the English department’s best work in digital humanities. “That lesson has played through my life. Passion is everything.”

After his accident in 2017, Hartpence found a renewed passion for life and improving the world. That commitment fuels Hartpence and his team as they consider the future of clean water across the globe.

Jack Hartpence (AB ’15) spoke on behalf of Powwater at the 2019 United Nations Global Assembly. Hartpence poses for a photo with Nobel laureate and professor Muhammed Yunus, a mentor of the company.

The future of clean water

As Powwater looks to the future, the company is using technology to create transparency around water, and better serve communities around the world with safe drinking water.

This spring, Powwater will launch the Powwater app, a mobile marketplace for water. The app will provide transparency around the quality of water, cost and timing of delivery from the thousands of private water suppliers that exist across the globe today. By creating transparency and empowering consumers, Hartpence believes Powwater can lead the way for higher quality and more affordable water globally.

With this app, Hartpence aims to optimize the private water market for the 2 billion people in the world relying on it today.

“We want to be a company that shares ideas and works with partners to get the job done,” Hartpence said. “I’m committed to empowering communities around the world with sustainable access to safe drinking water. I’m committed to doing everything I can do to be better tomorrow than I was today.”

A day in the life

In September 2020, we invited Jack to host an Instagram story takeover as a member of the 40 Under 40 Class of 2020. Watch the video below to check out a day in the life of operating Powwater:


WHERE COMMITMENT MEETS COMMUNITY

Whether life takes them to new cities or to the neighborhoods where they grew up, Georgia Bulldogs do more than get jobs – they elevate their communities. Bulldogs lead nonprofits, effect change and create opportunities for others. Wherever people are suffering, wherever communities are looking for effective leaders and whenever the world cries out for better solutions, Bulldogs are there to answer the call to service. It’s more than our passion. It’s our commitment.

Caroline Odom, an intern with UGA’s Division of Development and Alumni Relations, brings you a spring blog series that celebrates Bulldogs who embrace that commitment to helping others in their communities thrive.

Want to read about other Bulldogs impacting their communities?

Life lessons from the 40 Under 40’s two black belts

Stacey Chavis and Jack Hartpence.

Stacey Chavis (left) and Jack Hartpence (right) are the 40 Under 40 Class of 2020’s only two Tae Kwon Do black belts.

Success. What’s the secret?

It’s an answer everyone is seeking—and for good reason. For answers, a good place to start would be this year’s 40 Under 40 class, which is filled with Bulldogs who are leading the pack in their industries and communities.

Success, and the secret to achieving it, is different for each person. But for two of this year’s 40 Under 40 honorees, there was a common ingredient—an ancient art that taught lessons to help them succeed.

Stacey Chavis (MSL ’19) and Jack Hartpence (AB ’15) earned a spot in the 40 Under 40 Class of 2020. Chavis lives in Atlanta and works in political fundraising, training and advocacy. Hartpence resides in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, bringing sustainable water solutions to communities around the world. While their lives look different, they both attribute their success to the lessons they learned from Tae Kwon Do, a Korean form of martial arts.

Hartpence: Live in the present

When Hartpence looks back on his life, he sees that Tae Kwon Do wasn’t just an after-school activity. It introduced him to an entire thought tradition that valued the importance of staying rooted in the present.

His Tae Kwon Do instructor taught him to meditate to clear his mind and let go of distractions. Today, regular meditation is part of Hartpence’s routine, helping him stay calm in tough moments and foster creativity.

But it wasn’t always this way. After surviving a 2017 car accident in which he was T-boned by a tractor trailer traveling at 60 mph, Hartpence was forced to reckon with the reality that his time is limited. He leaned into the familiar teachings of his Tae Kwon Do experience to root himself in the only moment he truly has—the present one.

“If we are anxious, we’re afraid of the future. If we’re sad, we’re down on the past,” Hartpence said. “We need to stay in the present moment. And if we just stay here in that present moment, then what we’re able to do is live our best moment.”

Since then, Hartpence has sought to prioritize altruism in his daily life, working to create a better world and live presently, knowing that time should not be taken for granted. He shared more about his story and his work in a recent Instagram story takeover on the UGA Alumni account.

Chavis: You will fail

Chavis started practicing Tae Kwon Do as a middle schooler in Greenville, South Carolina. At first, she was reluctant, signed up by her mother to take part alongside her younger brother. She ended up loving it and the three ended up practicing together as a family.

Stacey Chavis and her family at Tae Kwon Do practice.

Stacey Chavis (right) at Tae Kwon Do practice with her mother (left) and brother (middle) in the mid-1990s.

A few years later, Chavis tested for her black belt. She failed.

“The biggest lesson I learned is that you will fail,” Chavis said. “You will fall on your face, but you have to pick yourself back up and try again.”

Chavis had to wait six months before she could test again. She trained hard and earned her black belt on the second attempt. The experience still influences her perseverance today.

“My life lesson is that I give myself three times to apply for something,” Chavis said. “If at first you don’t succeed, try again because maybe this time wasn’t your time.”

Hartpence: Embrace competition

Through Tae Kwon Do, Hartpence participated in sparring competitions. Those experiences established an appreciation for competition that Hartpence has stitched into the culture of his company, Powwater.

“Competing is not a bad thing. The ancient word ‘compete’ is a Greek word that means ‘strive together,’” Hartpence said. “You want to fight against a guy who’s better than you in your practice. In the process of competing, we get better together.”

At Powwater, the company culture reflects the ethos of competition. Hartpence encourages an open forum model, which encourages all employees to step into the arena with their thoughts and ideas. He believes this approach breaks down bureaucratic structures that limit the flow of good ideas from employees and creates a dialogue in which ideas are debated and developed for the benefit of the entire company.

Chavis: Build relationships

Chavis works in politics, a field where it’s easy to only focus on building relationships with those who are in the same party. For the advocacy work that Chavis does, that approach doesn’t cut it.

In Tae Kwon Do, Chavis trained as part of a community. She learned her forms (a detailed and choreographed series of kicks and strikes), practiced her technique, sparred with, and broke boards alongside her classmates. That community, comprising students from different backgrounds, became crucial to her training and is reflected in her relational approach to work today.

“I tell people all the time: people do business with people who they know and like,” Chavis said. “So, it’s building those relationships, it’s building that community and camaraderie, and it’s working toward a common goal.”

As a public policy advocate, Chavis’s job is to identify and promote solutions to problems facing the state of Georgia. To do this, she depends on her relationships with members of both major political parties.

“I have friends who are drastically different from me but we can agree that no child should be trafficked for sex, we can agree that Georgia needs to make investments in our education system, we can agree on making neighborhoods safer for families,” Chavis said. “So, we can find areas that we can agree and work together to address those problems.”

Tae Kwon Do is not a prerequisite to success but for these two, their martial arts experience definitely gave them a leg up.