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National Beer Day: Alumnus brewing for a cause

Matt StevensMatt Stevens (AB’03, MPA’14) is the Director of Community and Culture at Creature Comforts Brewing Co. in Athens. For National Beer Day we’re asking the questions everyone wants to know – from how Creature Comfort’s philanthropy started to Stevens’ top three favorite beers.

The fact that your role exists is unique. You’re clearly passionate about the Athens community, how did that come about?

My role tries to activate the same value with both an internal and external focus, that value being the question of how to use a company to add value to people’s lives. The external focus is, obviously, the community side. Before we’d ever brewed any beer—before there was Tropicalia—there was this value system. What we know how to do is brew beer. But why we do it, in part, is to add value to the community around us. We hope the city of Athens is better off because we’re here helping to support it.

As for my internal focus, we hope our employees view their work as more than “just a job.” We hope every hire is a lifetime hire. Not merely for retention purposes, but we look to invest in our people, and more than just professionally, but personally as well. It looks a lot of different ways, but that’s the basic framework: The simple question of how our employee experience can add value to our people. Great companies recognize that their employees can work anywhere. The fact that they’ve chosen to dedicate their careers to steward our brand demands that we endeavor to, in turn, invest back into them.

Share a little about the Get Comfortable Campaign.

Get Comfortable started in 2015, and initially it was just a slice of the year—from November to January. One of the first things we did once we had more bandwidth was to extend the campaign duration. We wanted this community impact work to be who we are, not just something we do. So today we launch the program every year in January and wrap mid-November, which gives us six weeks at the end of the year to close the books, to disburse funds, and then reload for the next year.

Creature Comforts SignThe program itself stems from our belief that companies have a role to play in the solutions of tomorrow. We cannot simply outsource social services work to the government or nonprofit agencies. Though both sectors absolutely have a role to play, the private sector has a responsibility as well. John Mackey, who founded Whole Foods, wrote a fantastic book a few years back titled Conscious Capitalism, wherein he makes the argument that companies can be capitalistic but also conscientious in the way they go about it. The Get Comfortable campaign, then, is our expression of this belief, our flagship program to participate in the civic wellbeing of our community.

Specifically, we hope this program helps to align the business community to resource the agencies who do our city’s most pressing work. We hope to make serving as simple, as strategic, and as effective as possible for local businesses.

For a full list of the partners and events, visit GetCurious.com.

What was your favorite UGA memory?

I am going to have to go with a sports memory—my father and grandfather played football here so Georgia football memories run deep. I would say being with my dad in Jordan-Hare back in 2002 when we clinched the SEC East for the first time in years. It was the David Greene to Michael Johnson in the fourth quarter with 15 yards and basically zero seconds to go—I leapt into my father’s arms. It was just one of those classic Georgia sports memories.

Favorite UGA professor?

Richard Neupert. I took his introduction to film course—that’s why I not only changed my major but also why I went on to grad school. I received my masters in film studies from the University of Edinburgh before returning to UGA for a now-defunct PhD. Dr. Neupert and I still cross paths from time to time since he still serves on the board of Cine. He is so community-minded, but he’s also this incredible scholar and I admire him greatly.

What are your top three favorite beers?

creature comforts

Arcadiana, it is a barrel-aged saison. Subtle, juicy, delicious. If you like a saison, you should totally try this one.

The Silent World is one of our lesser known releases. It’s a black lager, which is a very unique style. Given its inky black appearance, our brewers named it in homage to the classic Jacques-Yves Cousteau documentary from the 1950’s titled Le Monde du Silence. As a former film scholar, I obviously appreciated the nod to quirky cinema.

This year’s Get Comfortable IPA is a collaboration with Russian River. It was a dream to have Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo come from California this past January to work with our team on that recipe. The result is staggering, one of our best IPAs to date. And of course, all the profits go toward a philanthropic end.

What’s one of your favorite places to grab dinner post-Creature Comforts?

Got to go with my gut, Seabear. In a city full of incredible dining, it remains my very favorite. 

Creature Comforts has expanded to the Southern Mill, which was previously a warehouse near Chase Street, what’s the future of Creature Comforts?

Opening the Southern Mill has given us tremendous new capacity. Throughout 2019 we are looking to continue expanding our distribution footprint statewide. For context, we opened our doors in April 2014 and from day one we were in only two markets, Athens and Atlanta, until last November. In November we opened Augusta and Columbus. And last month we opened up Savannah and more of coastal Georgia. So we’ve gone from two cities for four years to nearly the entire state in the last six months! The new tank capacity, then, has enabled us to release quite a bit more volume and, just as exciting, to create many new recipes through our innovation program. So both our customers and our brewers are pleased with the recent expansion.

Happy 108th Birthday to Lessie Smithgall (ABJ ’33)

Lessie Smithgall at a Phi Beta Kappa event at Brenau University in March 2019. Photo by AJ Reynolds/Brenau University.

Lessie Smithgall at a Phi Beta Kappa event at Brenau University in March 2019. Photo by AJ Reynolds/Brenau University.

Lessie Smithgall, University of Georgia alumna and trailblazing journalist, turned 108 on April 1, 2019.  Mrs. Smithgall (ABJ ’33) has created a life worth celebrating through her philanthropic support of Grady College of Journalism and a myriad of arts and environmental organizations across the state.  Today, we are tipping our hats to her most recent recognition: per current records, she is the oldest living graduate of the University of Georgia and oldest living member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Lessie Smithgall (ABJ '33) in her 1933 senior year portrait at UGA.

Lessie Smithgall (ABJ ’33) in her 1933 senior year portrait at UGA.

Mrs. Smithgall was an active student leader on campus.  She was a member of Alpha Gamma Delta when women’s fraternities were just beginning at UGA, and she was President of Women’s Student Government and Zodiac.  Her academic achievements were recognized through the honors societies Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi, and she was treasurer of Theta Sigma Phi, a society for women in communications. These moments of leadership would serve as cornerstones for her career and philanthropic influence.

A few short years following her graduation, Mrs. Smithgall was instrumental in bringing the prestigious broadcast award, the George Foster Peabody Awards, to UGA.  Through an introduction of her WSB Radio colleague, Lambdin Kay, to her mentor, School of Journalism Dean John Drewry, the Peabody Awards were established in 1940.  Since then, UGA has been the host of the broadcast equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize.

A portrait of Lessie Smithgall (ABJ '33) in February 2016 by Tracy Bosworth Page (ABJ ’88).

A portrait of Lessie Smithgall (ABJ ’33) in February 2016 by Tracy Bosworth Page (ABJ ’88).

To further support the Peabody Awards and Grady College, Mrs. Smithgall and her late husband, Charles, established the Lambdin Kay Chair for the Peabody Awards.  This fund provides program support for the Director of the Peabody Awards and the Peabody-Smithgall Lecture Series.  Mark your calendar and attend this year’s lecture on April 3. Eric Deggans, NPR’s full-time TV critic, will present his lecture entitled “Decoding Media’s Coverage of Race, Gender and Differences.”

Mrs. Smithgall’s impact extends beyond campus, into the media, arts, and the preservation of Georgia’s landscape through Smithgall Woods Conservation Area.  She and her husband co-founded WGGA radio in 1941 and The Gainesville Times in 1947.  Their joint generosity supported the press, state and local arts councils, and the conservation of land for decades, lifting up communities in North Georgia and beyond.  A plaque at the entrance to The Gainesville Times displays a quote that clearly reflects their disposition: “Guided by the constitutional principle of the public’s right to know, we dedicate this building to the continued enlightenment and freedom of the people of North Georgia.”

Whether on UGA’s campus, Georgia’s foothills, or through broadcast journalism, Lessie Smithgall has been elevating the people and principles she believes in for 108 years. Join us in wishing her a very happy birthday by attending her eponymous lecture, enjoying the arts, or engaging with quality journalism.  With each of these acts, you’re taking part in the legacy of a true Bulldog legend.

Happy birthday, Mrs. Smithgall!

National Dentist’s Day 2019 – Dr. Vy Do (BS ’10)

Dr. Vy Do (BS '10) in front of a dental clinic he volunteered his talents at in Kikiyu, Kenya.

Dr. Vy Do (BS ’10) volunteering at a dental clinic in Kikiyu, Kenya.

Is there a better feeling than freshly cleaned pearly whites? We owe halitosis-free breath and healthy gums to our fearless dentists, without whom the world would have far less smiles! On National Dentist’s Day, we’d like to recognize all those who care for our toothy grins.

Dr. Vy Do (BS '10) celebrated his 30th birthday at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia and brought his UGA pride with him.

We have many alumni who go on to become dentists – take Dr. Vy Do (BS ’10), for example. Vy is an associate dentist at several Atlanta-area practices, treating everyone from young children to grandparents. He believes that his varied experiences and interests at UGA prepared him for his career and gives back to his alma mater to make a difference for current and future students.

Learn more about Vy’s UGA experience – from studying abroad in Italy to playing in the university orchestra – and his journey to become a dentist here.

A special thanks to Vy for being a lifelong supporter of UGA – and thank you to all of our dentists for reminding us to floss. Happy National Dentist’s Day!

Meet Kelly Kautz, Events Chair of 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 Kelly Kautz (AB’ 99, JD’02), 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! 

Kelly Kautz

What year did you graduate from UGA? What was your major?

I was a double dawg. I graduated in 1999 as a political science/criminal justice major, then I graduated from the School of Law in 2002.

Why did you choose to attend UGA?

I knew I wanted to go into law and possibly politics. If you look at the leaders of our state in that time, everyone was a University of Georgia graduate. If you looked at the governor, justice on the supreme court, secretary of state or speaker of the house, all of them were UGA graduates. It was the most influential university in our state, so I chose to come to UGA.

What path led you to establishing your own law firm/practice?

At the time, I wanted to run for elected office. I opened up my own practice so I could have the time and flexibility to do that.

How did you get involved with the Women of UGA Leadership Council?

I’m passionate about the University of Georgia. I’m a huge fan of not just sports, but the university itself. I wanted to give back to the university in ways that would continue to touch peoples’ lives, even after they have left school. When I heard that Women of UGA was being formed, I thought it would be a great opportunity to do what I wanted to do.

What are you enjoying most about serving on the Women of UGA Leadership Council?

I think there is a great group of women on the council. Everyone is equally passionate about our school. I’m chair of the events committee, so I work on planning and events, such as our Cookies and Cocoa, event we having coming up. Just being able to have outreach with not only women on the council, but other alumni coming back is really exciting.

What is the most valuable piece of career advice someone gave to you?

In the 8th-grade I had an attorney say, “If you take away one person’s rights, what’s to stop you from having the domino effect on others?” Another time, someone told me, “you can’t say anything about things unless you’re willing to make a difference.” That’s when I decided to go into criminal law and politics.

What advice would you give to graduating seniors or recent college graduates?

I would tell them that it’s difficult out there. It’s a different place and especially finding a job can be difficult sometimes. However, you all (students) have a great network of alumni, and you can’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. You can’t give up. You have to keep trying.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you visit Athens?

As funny as it sounds, I really love coming back to Athens to eat. There are so many great restaurants in Athens. I love going back to the different restaurants. I really love to come back and have Cecilia’s Cakes. I think they sell them in a couple of restaurants, but they have a location on Milledge Avenue that I love to visit when I come back to Athens. I have a little 3-year-old who just got to ring the Chapel bell last time we visited Athens, so I can’t wait to start making these same memories with him.

How has being part of the Women of UGA Leadership Council benefitted you?

It has helped me reform a connection and attachment with the university. I feel like a lot of times when we leave the university, we lose that connection we had with the university. I have loved coming back to where I belong and feeling that attachment with the university.

What is your favorite UGA memory?

I spent eight years in Athens, and I don’t have any bad memories. I met my husband in Athens. I made lifelong friendships there. They’re all great memories. I used to be in charge of parade for homecoming in Athens. Working with the older cheerleaders that come back for the games, parade and pep rallies was such a blast and always a great time. Sharing that enthusiasm was them is one of my fondest memories.

Meet Alissa Vickery, 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 Alissa Vickery (BBA ’01, MACC ‘01), 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 kind of advice would you give to a current UGA student?

Work hard and appreciate the fact that, whether you’re paying for it or your parents are paying for it or you have scholarship money, that what you’re doing day-to-day matters, embrace what you’re doing, the classes you’re taking and what they’re trying to teach you because the more immersed in the content you can become the more relatable it will be. Your grades matter!

The other thing I would say is to figure out something other than school to become a part of because when you come out of school, you don’t want all you have on your resume to be your GPA. People are looking for someone well-rounded, especially with the current job market. If you want to set yourself apart, figure out how to make sure you’re a well-rounded individual.

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

I was that kid in high school who never had to study that hard so I think I came to Georgia not really knowing how to study as a result, and I got slapped in the face pretty hard my freshman year first quarter. I failed my first test. It was a calculus test and I thought “I had this class before. It’s fine.” It wasn’t fine because I just didn’t know how to be a student, but I turned it around pretty quick. I figured out how to study, and I did come out of that class with an A even though I failed that first exam. So I learned how important hard work and perseverance are, whether you get the A or the B.

How did you get involved with Women of UGA?

A women I had met through work had mentioned that the Alumni Association was looking to create a new women’s affiliation group similar to young alumni and black alumni, specifically geared towards women, and she thought that I would be great so I applied.

For me, UGA continues to be a part of who I am and what we do in our free time. We come up for football game, come up for gymnastic meets occasionally. We love the town and try to come back every chance we get, and this was just sort of one more way to still be engaged with the university and at the same time giving back my time and trying to make a little bit of a difference.

What about the Women of UGA Council excites you the most?

For me, it’s all about outreach to the alumni community. It’s a lot of networking and getting to know new people but through that our end goal is that we want to raise money for scholarships for students in need. We want to close the gap for students who need a scholarship to be able to attend UGA. You can really make a difference in someone’s life that way. We want alumni to feel engaged and impacted enough that they’ll want to give back.

So what’s your favorite memory from UGA?

My freshmen year we played Auburn at Auburn, and it was a really cool game. It was the first time any game had gone to four overtimes with the new rules. It was at Auburn and some of my friends from high school went to Auburn and obviously, I had friends at Georgia too. We were all together and sitting in the second row, in front of the band with the students. It was the game that Uga actually leapt up at the Auburn player and tried to bite him because the Auburn player was taunting him. I’m actually in that picture that you see everywhere of Uga jumping up at the guy! We also won that game so Georgia fans rushed the field afterwards. It was one of those things that looking back at is such a cool experience! Go Dawgs!

Meet new alumni board member Truitt Eavenson (BSAE ’83)

When Truitt Eavenson transferred to the University of Georgia from Emmanuel College, he was not sure about which career path to take. Eavenson, who grew up on a farm in Carnesville, Georgia, began looking through the course catalog and was fascinated with agricultural engineering. Once he met with the department head, Robert Brown, he committed to studying agricultural engineering.

Now, more than 20 years later, Eavenson is the vice president of Georgia Power in the Southeast region thanks to the education he received at UGA. To that end, he is dedicating his time to giving back to the place that helped shape him by serving on the board of the UGA Alumni Association.

“No matter what your career is or where you go in life you really don’t get there alone. There are always people helping you,” says Eavenson. “I think that we have a responsibility to go back and help people who are behind us be successful.”

Prior to joining the alumni board, he served on the College of Engineering and College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences advisory boards. He often returns to campus to speak to undergraduates, and hopes to prepare students for life after graduation.

“I really just want to make a difference. When my service is finished with whatever I am doing, I want people to say ‘I’m really glad he was here; he really did make a difference.’”

Eavenson offered advice to students preparing for life at UGA and beyond: “You can go to college for four years, and you can graduate with a degree, and go get a great job,” he said. “Or you can come to Athens and really get involved in the university. Look for the opportunities that are available to you and have an experience that you’ll always cherish and always be glad you did.”

 

Alumni spotlight: Chuck McCarthy

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

Chuck McCarthy, The People Walker

What did you want to be when you grew up?                      

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

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

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

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

Chuck McCarthy, The People Walker

What is your favorite thing to do in Los Angeles?

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

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

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

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

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

What do you know for sure?

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

What will you never understand? 

Why someone would go anywhere other than UGA.

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

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

10 questions with filmmaker Malena Cunningham Anderson (ABJ ’80)

This post was contributed by Bridgette Burton (AB ’11, ABJ ’11, MPA ’17), marketing & communications chair, Black Alumni Leadership Council.

Where are you from? Born in Laurens, S.C., but grew up in Gray Court, S.C.

What made you decide to come to school at the University of Georgia? I followed my father, Odell Cunningham (BBA ’72), who was an older student when he graduated from UGA in 1972.

Anderson on her high school graduation day with her father who is also a Georgia alumnus

What was your major? Journalism with an emphasis on public relations

What was your most memorable college experience? There are many but pledging Zeta Psi chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority was the best!

Where do you live now? Atlanta

Where do you work and what do you do? I founded my own production company Newslady Productions last year. I’ve reinvented myself utilizing my journalism skills, and I’m a documentary filmmaker. My first film, “Little Music Manchild: The Malik Kofi Story” won Best Documentary at the BronzeLens Film Festival in 2017.

However, I spent 23 years working in television news as a reporter and anchor. I started my career working behind the scenes at CNN; I worked as a reporter in Lexington, Kentucky, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Savannah. I also worked in Birmingham, where I won two Emmy Awards for reporting and was part of the six o’clock news team that won an Emmy for Best Newscast. In 2004, I left TV News and founded Strategic Media Relations, a media consulting firm that I ran until 2014.

What advice would you give to graduating seniors and recent graduates? Don’t just search for a job. Instead, look for opportunities to learn and grow in your career so that you can be an owner or employer. We need more African American students to recognize the power in being the person who writes the checks, not just someone who waits to get a check.

Anderson with fellow award-winning journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault

What is the most important lesson you learned in college? I learned that it’s important to network and get involved in campus organizations. This helps prepare you to work and collaborate with others. The more you get to know people on campus, and the more they know you, the more they can serve as connections when you begin your career.

Malena (second from left) with friends on graduation day.

What do you know for sure? What I know for sure is that no one will ever ask ‘What was your GPA?’ Grades matter, but being a reliable, hardworking professional, who also makes a difference and goes the extra mile on the job and in the community is more impactful.

Is there anything else that you would like for people to know? I’m extremely proud to be a second generation African American graduate of UGA. Go DAWGS!

Alumnus Spotlight: Joey Shonka (BS ’05)

Joey Shonka (BS ’05), a long distance hiker and mountaineer, is trying to become the first person to traverse the entire Andes mountain range on foot. He has completed the Triple Crown of Hiking, which refers to the three major U.S. long distance hiking trails: the Appalachian Trail (AT), the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Joey has written the following books about his experiences hiking each of these trails.

“The Darkness in the Light” (about the AT)

“An American Nomad” (about the PCT)

“A Strong West Wind” (about the CDT)

In July 2013, Joey began his attempt to create the first unbroken chain of footsteps across the continent of South America. He started his trek at Cape Froward, the southernmost point on the mainland of South America. As part of his current journey, he has already hiked nearly 5,000 kilometers, crossed parts of the world’s third-largest glacier network and summited seven of the highest peaks in the Americas. Joey checks in via a location tracker on his website to keep family, friends and fans updated. Recently, he was spotted near the Rio Vilcanota in Peru. Joey plans to culminate his hike in Columbia, political unrest permitting, around March 2016.

Learn more about Joey and follow his adventures around the world here.

Alumna Spotlight: Jennifer Bellamy (ABJ ’08)

BellamyAlumna Jennifer Bellamy (ABJ ’08) is one of the newest members of the 11Alive Atlanta team. A native Atlantan, Jennifer graduated from UGA with a degree in broadcast news and a minor in Spanish. Her career began in Macon, Georgia, where she worked for 13WMAZ as a reporter, producer, and fill-in anchor. She then joined News19 in Columbia, South Carolina, as a general assignment and political reporter. Jennifer was later promoted to weekend anchor.

Earlier this year, Jennifer was recognized by the 2015 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards for Outstanding Local Television Investigative Reporting as a part of the News19 team. She also received a South Carolina Broadcasters Association STAR award for her coverage of South Carolina’s Department of Social Services.

11Alive is home to many Georgia alumni and the UGA Alumni Association is thrilled to see another graduate join its ranks. Congratulations, Jennifer!