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Where commitment meets community: Kristina Forbes (BS ’12) aligns global health initiatives

Kristina Forbes (BS ’12) wears many hats. As the vice president of operations for the Center for Global Health Innovation (CGHI), the University of Georgia alumna also works for an organization that addresses a broad topic with indeterminate reach: global health.

CGHI is an Atlanta-based nonprofit that represents over 250 organizations working together to address global health crises. CGHI also serves as the parent organization for several other entities such as the Global Health Crisis Coordination Center (GHC3), Georgia Bio and the Georgia Global Health Alliance.

With a broad role that comes with a wide reach, every day looks different for Forbes, from tackling information technology issues to planning a virtual awards dinner to directing overall strategy.

Forbes has always wanted to help people, but she never imagined that she would do it through science. She began her time at UGA as an education major but switched to psychology to better engage with people and understand the reasons behind their behavior.

Then Forbes participated in the Terry College of Business’s Institute for Leadership Advancement. While working with a nonprofit for the program’s service-learning project, Forbes found her passion for giving back.

Five days after graduating from UGA, Forbes started a job with the Atlanta Area Council of Boy Scouts of America. In this role, she found great purpose.

“I know what I was doing was making an impact,” Forbes said. “I know my work was important.”

Impact without borders

GHC3, a subsidiary of the Center for Global Health Innovation worked with other partners to donate 100,000 masks to health care workers in Zanzibar. This donation protected 310 doctors providing care to 350,000 people on the island.

Forbes’ current role with CGHI has provided ample opportunities to give back, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic brought public health into the spotlight across the globe.

“Nobody has gone untouched from this,” Forbes said.

Through CGHI and its many entities, national leaders have partnered to discuss how people can safely return to work, school and worship. A partnership with the Department of Public Health led to the development of the PAVE tool, which addresses equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

CGHI’s work also addresses workforce development in life sciences industries and equips Georgia’s high school science teachers with educational equipment through a loaning program.

Although Forbes’ community impact has been concentrated in the state of Georgia, the work she does echoes across borders to address global issues.

“Health is a global issue,” Forbes said. “There is no border.”

A hub for global health’s future

The BioED Institute’s equipment depot, supported by the Center for Global Health Innovation, loans equipment and supplies to high school science teachers across the state of Georgia.

Because of the pandemic, global health has become a more prevalent topic in day-to-day life. And thanks to the presence of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the city has gained traction as a center for public health.

CGHI and its affiliates will fuel this traction with the creation of a global health innovation district in midtown Atlanta. The facility will house offices, laboratories, meeting spaces and a crisis center to help align global health efforts led by nonprofits and corporations.

Through her work with CGHI, Forbes is committed to improving global health initiatives and engagement with community.

“To me, commitment is being engaged,” Forbes said. “I’m committed to creating better health outcomes for everybody.”


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: Randy Tanner (BBA ‘79) invests in Atlanta’s next generation

As a young insurance professional in Atlanta, Randy Tanner (BBA ’79) easily found volunteer opportunities within his industry. But the UGA grad wanted to get more involved in supporting his greater Atlanta community, so he researched new opportunities. His search led him to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta – where, 30 years later, he serves on the board of directors.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a national organization that facilitates one-on-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Through over 235 chapters across the United States, more than 2 million children have been served in the past decade. Another UGA grad, Artis Stevens (AB ’97), became the organization’s president and CEO in January.

In the three decades since first hearing about Big Brothers Big Sisters, Tanner has served as a “big brother” to two “little brothers.” In 1991, he was matched with Cody. After Cody’s family left Atlanta, Tanner then matched with Adam. When Cody moved back to Atlanta, Tanner maintained relationships with both Adam and Cody—as part of the program and as they became adults.

Randy Tanner (BBA ’79) and his ‘little brother’ Adam Meacham at a Big Brothers Big Sisters legacy gala.

The ‘Rolls Royce of mentoring’

Tanner calls Big Brothers Big Sisters’ model “the Rolls Royce of mentoring.” Potential volunteers participate in an orientation process to introduce them to the program. Once a volunteer commits to at least one year of mentoring, the organization matches them with a child and the child’s family.

As Tanner embarked on the journey to become a mentor, he weaved his mentee into his life. From sharing a meal to throwing a football at the park, the flexibility of the program allowed Tanner to invest in mentoring relationships while operating Tanner, Ballew & Maloof, Inc., an independent insurance agency he founded in 1993.

“My responsibility was to get together with them regularly and have a good time,” Tanner said. “I was a part of their lives and let them see my life, ask me questions, and talk about their plans.”

The Big Brothers Big Sisters experience also allowed Tanner to engage in the Atlanta community as he desired when he was first seeking a new volunteer experience.

“In Atlanta, we have such a vibrant nonprofit community,” Tanner said. “There are a lot of good things being done, and the need is great with Big Brothers Big Sisters.”

More than a mentor

Mentoring led Tanner to serve Big Brothers Big Sisters beyond being a big brother. After serving as an ambassador and then a board member, the local board elected him as chair in December 2020.

In this role, Tanner directs fundraising efforts and raises awareness for the organization as it facilitates mentoring relationships with approximately 1,100 children in metro Atlanta. He also gets a front row seat to the organization’s mentoring success stories.

Last fall, Tanner received the 2020 V. Thomas Murray Founder’s Award from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta in recognition of his commitment to the community.

“The award allowed me to reflect and experience a great deal of gratitude for all that I’ve learned during the process and from being a big brother,” Tanner said.

A lifelong commitment

Tanner retired from Tanner, Ballew and Maloof last month, so he plans to dedicate some of his extra time to Big Brothers Big Sisters. Just as Tanner maintained connections with his little brothers, he plans to stay connected with the nonprofit.

To Tanner, commitment means learning how and why you can give back to the community. His ‘how’ has been mentorship, and his ‘why’ has been relationships.

“It’s primarily about having compassion for people and wanting to help those who are in a tougher station of life than you,” Tanner said. “I’m committed to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I anticipate staying involved for life.”


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: Toyin Adon-Abel (ABJ ’05) brings equity to art

On the outside of Krog Street Market in Atlanta, a mural titled “History of Good Trouble” depicts the life of former U.S. representative and Civil Rights activist John Lewis. The mural is part of The Civic Walls Project, an initiative founded by University of Georgia alumnus Toyin Adon-Abel (ABJ ’05).

The Civic Walls Project combines Atlanta’s outdoor art scene and storytelling to advocate for racial justice and civic engagement in Atlanta. The project completed its first mural last summer and has since created nearly 10 murals throughout south Atlanta.

“We’re here to support Black and minority artists to paint pieces that focus on social justice,” Adon-Abel said. “We’re painting these murals to get people out to vote and to be engaged in civics.”

Civic Walls is in partnership with Adon-Abel’s marketing agency and brand initiative, MeddlingMinds. Adon-Abel founded MeddlingMinds after he became disillusioned with experiences in corporate marketing. Through MeddlingMinds, Adon-Abel wants to encourage conscious capitalism that empowers communities.

 

Toyin Adon-Abel (ABJ ’05) founded MeddlingMinds and The Civic Walls Project.

“I believe that marketers are best positioned from a skill set to actually cause social change,” Adon-Abel said. “We know how to communicate with people. We understand storytelling.”

The UGA grad hopes to prove that a brand can prioritize community service while attracting an audience and growing sustainably.

The Civic Walls Project isn’t limited to Atlanta. Since the project’s inception, Civic Walls has gained attention from Miami and Boston. Adon-Abel has been asked to take the project to Nigeria, where he is from. He hopes to expand Civic Walls to the United Kingdom, where his family lives.

Neither is the project limited to walls. Civic Walls has renovated and redesigned two basketball courts in Atlanta, and is exploring augmented reality and digital crypto art.

“Community,” a mural by artist Cassandra “Honey Pierre” Hickey, is located in Atlanta.

For Adon-Abel, the message of the John Lewis mural encompasses the mission of The Civic Walls Project: for people to get into “good trouble” using their expertise to promote justice for all and improve lives.

Adon-Abel credits Eric Johnson (ABJ ’86), director of the UGA Visitors Center, with making the biggest impact on his time at UGA. Adon-Abel worked with Johnson as both a Visitors Center tour guide and an Orientation leader.

“The biggest thing that I learned from EJ [Eric Johnson] is authenticity,” Adon-Abel said. “It ties into what my business model is.”

For Adon-Abel, an authentic commitment to community means a commitment to equity and a constant pursuit of innovative solutions.

“Part of the tagline for my business is ‘creativity conscious,’” Adon-Abel said. “My commitment is finding creative solutions to community problems.”


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

Want to read about other Bulldogs impacting their communities?

Calculus tutoring, broken teeth and California: the Aikens have a one-of-a-kind UGA story

Andrew (BS ’97) and Ashley Aiken (BS ’97) are an impressive pair. Andrew is one of Atlanta’s top oral surgeons, with a private practice regularly named among the city’s best. Ashley is a nationally recognized educator and researcher in neuroradiology. But this power couple can trace their origin to an ecology course and calculus tutoring at UGA.

Ashley was always a very motivated student and knew early on that she wanted to go to medical school, so she pursued a biology degree at UGA while in the Honors Program.

Andrew’s undergraduate course was set after conversations with an advisor. He didn’t have Ashley’s singular purpose, but he did know that he liked sciences and the outdoors, so he became an ecology major.

Ashley and Andrew met each other through mutual friends early on in their time at UGA. They hit it off, but it wasn’t until their third year that someone made a move.

“I signed up for an ecology class he was in, which was… let’s say it wouldn’t have been a class I’d normally look into,” said Ashley.

It wasn’t long before Andrew reciprocated: “I asked her to tutor me in calculus, which, if I’m honest, was really more about spending time with her than the calculus.”

After some nudging from their friends, the pair finally started dating. They both graduated in 1997, and while Ashley was ready to head to medical school, Andrew took some time to figure out his next steps. A clear path forward wasn’t coming to him, but a need for new veneers on three teeth that were broken a decade earlier playing tennis led Andrew to a life-changing visit with his dentist.

“I started talking with my dentist about what I wanted to do, and he started telling me about dentistry,” said Andrew. “I had been going to him for about 20 years, so we knew each other pretty well, so based on that and everything we talked about during these visits, he said he thought I’d be a good fit for it.”

So, Ashley enrolled at the Medical College of Georgia in 1997, and Andrew followed suit two years later to attend dental school.

After two years in Augusta, Andrew and Ashley married, in 2001. The newlyweds faced a difficult decision soon after. Ashley finished her internship in 2002 and was ready to begin her residency, but Andrew was still in the process of completing his dental degree.

They both wanted to attend The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), which had highly ranked programs in both of their areas. But to stay on track, Ashley would have to go a year ahead of Andrew. Seeing this as a chance they had to take, the Aikens decided to spend a year apart after having been married for just one year.

Andrew and Ashley at Andrew’s dental school graduation in 2003

This sacrifice would prove worthwhile. At UCSF, Ashley found her calling and was able to work with mentors who helped her set the course of her career while she completed a residency and fellowship. Once Andrew joined her, he earned his medical degree and completed an oral & maxillofacial surgery residency program at UCSF.

The Aikens also welcomed twin daughters, Frances and Olivia, while in California. And even though they were on the other end of the country, on fall Saturdays, they would gather with other Bulldogs at a bar called The Bus Stop to cheer on the Dawgs.

As Ashley was finishing up her fellowship in 2007, she knew she wanted to stay in academia, and thanks to several UCSF connections, she was able to find an opportunity at Emory University. Over the next two years, Andrew finished his residency while Ashley worked as junior faculty at UCSF and kept her Emory connections open.

In 2009, the family of four moved back to Georgia. Since then, Ashley has become director of Head and Neck Imaging at Emory and program director for the Neuroradiology Fellowship in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences. Andrew is in private practice at Oral Surgery Specialists of Atlanta. The Aikens also added a son, Walker, shortly after moving back to Georgia.

With their return to Georgia, the Aikens were also able to return to the friendships they made while at UGA, and they found those connections were just as strong as they had left them.

“We still have so many close friends from UGA,” said Ashley. “Some that are in Albany, some in Athens, some in Texas, a lot that are in Atlanta, and those connections are some of the biggest reasons that I’m so thankful we made the choice to attend the University of Georgia.”

Their renewed connection to UGA includes the school itself, by way of a shadowing program Andrew participates in. UGA students interested in dentistry and oral surgery go to his office and follow him throughout the day to explore the work of an oral surgeon.

“I’m happy to give back and let people come back and see if they like oral surgery because it’s a really wonderful profession,” said Andrew.

The Aikens’ story begins at UGA. And though they have achieved so much beyond Athens and staked an impressive claim out in the world, it’s clear that the Classic City never left their hearts.

“My time at Georgia was the best four and a half years of my life,” said Andrew. “I met my wife, I met good friends, and I created shared experiences with people that I’m still in touch with 20 years later.”

Celebrating dads while supporting Dawgs

UGA Alumni Association's Luke Massee and sons

Luke and his two sons enjoying a hike together

By Luke Massee, UGA Alumni Association Associate Director of Outreach

Father’s Day (June 21, 2020) is almost here­­ and you need to avoid what happened last year. Remember? You waited until the day before to go shopping and ended up buying the singing wall trout, or the Potty Putter, or that “World’s Greatest Dad” T-shirt. It was not your best moment. Luckily Father’s Day happens every year and 2020 is your chance to right last year’s wrong. This year ­­you can give your dad something that will have him jumping for joy.

Wait … you waited until the day before because you didn’t know where to shop? Don’t worry, friend, we’ve got you covered. Here are 10 amazing gift ideas from UGA alumni-run businesses that will have him high fiving the room and singing “Glory, Glory” the rest of the day. Not only do these businesses have wonderful products, but the UGA graduates who run them are past Bulldog 100 honorees! Look at you … supporting small businesses and your fellow Dawgs and giving a gift that will make you the envy of the virtual family gathering. Talk about going from worst to first!

Congratulations in advance to you and your dad! Now, to the list. Scroll through gift ideas for every type of dad below.

Swipe to view moreswipe left icon

The Fashionable Father

Onward Reserve LogoDid your dad win the “Best Dressed” senior superlative and could easily win it again today? If so, he has probably shopped at Onward Reserve and would love to receive any of their clothing items. Shirts, shorts, pants, shoes, belts … you name it, they have it. Onward Reserve’s motto is “Live authentically” and you will be living authentically as the favorite child if you go this route.

Locations: Athens, GA; 3 locations in Atlanta, GA; Charlotte, NC; Chattanooga, TN; Clemson, SC; Dallas, TX; Nashville, TN; Thomasville, GA; and Washington, DC

Bulldog: TJ Callaway (BBA ’07), Founder/CEO

The Fancy Feet

Sock Fancy LogoThere is a rumor going around that businesses are going to make shoes optional. Sock Fancy products seem to be taking over, and bosses everywhere are asking why you’d ever cover an inch of these suave and durable masterpieces. Would your dad’s feet look and feel great in the latest Sock Fancy styles and colors? Of course they would! Sock Fancy is a subscription service, so your pops’ sock game would be on point every month and he could turn the “no shoes” rumor into reality.

Bulldog: Stefan Lewinger (AB ’11), Co-Founder/CEO

The Whiskey Lover

ASW Distillery Logo

ASW Distillery and their staff are the “Southern Pot-Still Pioneers,” and your father can be a libation legend in his own right. If your dad is the guy who visits Kentucky every other year and sets up quarterly bourbon tastings for the neighborhood, if he is known as the local spirits savant, or if he just wants to do those things, then he would be the perfect recipient of ASW’s Maris Otter Whiskey or Resurgens Rye. Any of their selections would be a welcome addition to his private collection. Cheers to you, your dad, and your amazing gift-giving abilities!

Locations: Two locations in Atlanta, GA

Bulldogs: James Chasteen (BBA ’98), Co-Founder/CEO; Kelly Chasteen (BSED ’00), Head of Retail and Private Events; Justin Manglitz (BBA ’04), Master Distiller; Chad Ralston (BBA ’08), CMO; Charles Thompson (AB ’99, MBA ’03, JD ’03), Co-Founder

The Custom Made Man

Zeus' Closet LogoYour dad is a true trailblazer. Remember when you played rec-league basketball, softball, baseball, etc. and your dad let you put your nickname on the back of your jersey? It didn’t matter that you were terrible as long as “T-Rex,” “Izzy,” or “Mad Max” graced your uniform. You were the coolest, and your dad changed the jersey game forever. So head to Zeus’ Closet to return the favor and spice up his current attire with a custom touch. They can personalize clothing to suit your dad’s unique flare and continue his tradition of changing the fashion landscape.

P.S. – Tell your dad that the 1989 Ninja Turtles T-ball squad and I said, “Thank you for your contribution to sports.”

Locations: Atlanta, GA; Kennesaw, GA

Bulldogs: Ethan King (AB ’99), Co-Founder/CEO; Monica Allen (BBA ’96), Co-Founder/COO

The Sophisticated Nose

EastWest Bottlers Logo

Fathers teach us many lessons. Surprisingly, many of those nuggets of wisdom involve smells. Like that day when your dad handed you your first stick of deodorant and lovingly said, “You stink.” Or the time you returned from soccer practice and threw your half-open gym bag on the floor, filling the room with an odor words can’t describe. Dad just walked over, handed you some Febreze, and smiled. It was a Hallmark moment. He also gave you your first bottle of perfume/cologne followed by the phrase, “Smell good, feel good.” Get the father of fantastic fragrances one of the rustic, natural colognes from EastWest Bottlers. With several different scents to choose from, you can’t go wrong. This gift will show him the student has now become the teacher.

Location: Austin, TX

Bulldogs: Charlie Holderness (BSFCS ’05), Co-Founder; Matt Moore (BBA ’05), Co-Founder; Colin Newberry (AB ’05), Co-Founder

The Sweet Tooth

Southern Baked Pie Company Logo

It was a day that has never been forgotten. You were 14-years-old and decided to make your dad a carrot cake for Father’s Day. You followed the recipe to the letter and could not wait for your dad to taste your culinary masterpiece. With the whole family watching, your dad took a bite and the crunch of some unknown substance was heard ‘round the room. He swallowed that bite after gnawing at it for what felt like an hour. Sadly, nobody else was brave enough to try it. It’s the reason “Maybe [insert your name] can bring dessert,” is followed by an explosion of laughter. Don’t make that mistake again. Put up the mixer and head to Southern Baked Pie Company. With delicious sweet and savory pies, maybe they can help folks forget about the carrot cake incident … but probably not.

Locations: Alpharetta, GA; Atlanta, GA; Gainesville, GA

UGA Bulldog: Amanda Dalton Wilbanks (BBA ’09), Founder

The Health Nut

Georgia Grinders New LogoYour dad finds a way to mix topics like superfoods, hydration, the importance of sleep, and exercising into every conversation. He listens to podcasts about organic foods, currently holds the record for “longest plank” at the neighborhood yoga studio and closing the circles on his Apple watch is the highlight of his day. Binge-watching workout tutorials on YouTube like they’re “Tiger King” is his idea of a good time. This Father’s Day, let Georgia Grinders help you feed his health craze. Their specialty is creating all-natural nut butters, and your dad surely knows the health benefits of nuts like almonds, peanuts and pecans. Give him one of their trio gift boxes, and he might serve something other than kale at the next meal.

Location: Atlanta, GA

Bulldog: Jaime Foster (BSA ’99), Founder/CEO

The Athlete

SculptHouse LogoYour father starts his day with a five-mile jog, a long bike ride, and pilates class all before you’ve had your first cup of coffee. He is a living legend at the local YMCA and goes by the nickname “Buckets.” Sports movies like “Rudy,” “Blue Chips” and “Rocky” are a few of his favorites. He was a tri-state athlete in high school and could hold his own with the young bucks today. If this sounds like your dad, then give him a gift from SculptHouse. They offer fitness classes and athletic wear that will make your dad as happy as the start of Georgia football season. Trust me, it will be a homerun.

Location: Atlanta, GA

Bulldogs: Katherine Mason (ABJ ’12), Co-Founder; Jennifer McKissick (ABJ ’12), Co-Founder

The Coffee Connoisseur

Some guys live for sports or woodworking. Others know all about wines or the latest tech gadget. Your dad’s obsession is coffee. He knows all the baristas at the local coffee shop by name, and they always know his usual. When the family goes on vacation, he gets souvenir mugs to add to his already overflowing collection. His day is planned around his next cup. For these fathers, Rev Coffee Roasters and Three Tree Coffee Roasters will be able to satisfy his cravings. Both offer a variety of coffee blends they can ship and storefronts where you can purchase food and other merchandise.

Rev Coffee Roasters Logo

Location: Smyrna, GA

Bulldog: Jenn Bimmerle (AB ’02), Marketing Director

Three Tree Coffee Roasters Logo

 

Location: Statesboro, GA

Bulldog: Philip Klayman (BSA ’11), Founder

The Gameday Fanatic

Hardy's Peanuts LogoDoes your dad have a tailgating spot that’s been “in the family for generations” (aka since he was in school in ’85)? Does he have four generators, three televisions, a speaker system, and 20 assorted food staples to create the ultimate game day experience? Has he spent a small fortune supporting the Dawgs at away games? Then your pops is the ultimate Georgia fan and knows that game day isn’t complete without boiled peanuts. Show your father you’ve learned a thing or two and give him some delicious boiled peanuts from Hardy Farms Peanuts. He will enjoy the gift of this “country caviar” and might even let you yell the orders at the next tailgate set-up.

Location: Hawkinsville, GA

Bulldogs: Brad Hardy (BSA ’96), President; Ken Hardy (BSA ’93), Co-CEO

There you have it, Dawgs! 10 gift ideas from 11 different businesses that will negate last year’s debacle and put you in your dad’s good graces. Gifts from any of these places are sure to make any father proud to have a child as caring, thoughtful, and all-around awesome as you. Congrats in advance on the gift. You have set yourself up nicely for your next birthday.

Danielle Derkink (MBA ’05) commits to inclusivity, advocacy

Danielle Derkink (MBA ’05) is an enthusiast, whether she’s talking about her extensive experience in hospitality, being an advocate for women and diversity in the workplace, or creating awareness about childhood arthritis.

The daughter of Dutch immigrants, Derkink fell in love with hospitality at a young age through a family friend who was a live-in general manager at a hotel in Houston. She remembers learning about a new area of hospitality each time she visited her friends. She was curious and intrigued by the way a hotel functioned. Forgoing her initial childhood dream of being a female fighter pilot, Derkink embraced the excitement of a hotel management career instead and followed her passion to the Netherlands, where she received her Bachelors of Hospitality Administration at The Hotelschool The Hague.

Moving back to the United States to begin her career in hospitality, Derkink quickly began moving up the ranks as her career aspirations continued to grow. It was at this time she decided to pursue her Masters of Business Administration at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business. Upon completing her degree, she took a promotion to Washington, D.C. and served as a hospitality ambassador for the Terry MBA program in the city.

After a career opportunity in Tampa, FL and the birth of her first child, Elle, Danielle made the move to back to Atlanta and to IHG, a company that has allowed her to live out her other passions – philanthropy and advocacy for women and inclusivity in the workplace.  When Elle was 2 years old, she was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. In search of a support network, Derkink began volunteering with the Arthritis Foundation’s Georgia Chapter, of which she is now acting co-chair of the juvenile arthritis committee. Derkink has partnered with other organizations including the University of Georgia’s Alpha Omicron Pi to raise awareness about the disorder. Each year the Juvenile Arthritis Foundation and the sorority team up to put on the annual 5K “Run for the Roses” as a fundraiser.

Danielle (far right) at a Lean In event with Sheryl Sandberg (second from left) and other Atlanta-based Lean In leaders, Emily Schwarz and Alison Eminger.

Danielle (far right) at a Lean In event with Sheryl Sandberg (second from left) and other Atlanta-based Lean In leaders, Emily Schwarz and Alison Eminger.

IHG has provided Derkink a platform to demonstrate her commitment to women and inclusion in the workplace. For the fifth straight year, IHG has received a perfect score by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI). At IHG headquarters, Derkink has led the Women’s Lean In Group, inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s book. Derkink also actively attends IHG’s representation at the Atlanta Pride Parade annually, bringing her two daughters—and this past year, her mother too—to encourage them to be their authentic self.

In addition to her philanthropy and advocacy, Derkink has engaged with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ newest major Hospitality and Food Industry Management. IHG will sit on the board of the new major, helping to guide curriculum and support students. The University of Georgia is grateful to alumni, like Danielle Derkink, who are making an impact in their workplace and reconnecting with the university.

UGA Young Alumni Night at SweetWater: A timeline

There was excitement in the air. A sea of red and black. Loud voices Calling the Dawgs.

No, it wasn’t a fall Saturday in Athens. It was a hot summer evening in Atlanta. I was at my (ashamedly) very first UGA Young Alumni event. Three years post-graduation and I finally made it!

Here’s my night in review: 

5:05 p.m. Hit the road to Atlanta from Athens where I sing karaoke all the way down 316.

6:30 p.m. Take a power nap because I can’t hang like a college kid any more.

7:00 p.m. Put on my best red and black outfit.

7:30 p.m. Meet up with friends and fellow Dawgs — some of whom I hadn’t seen since English 1001.

8:30 p.m. Request my Uber to SweetWater.

8:31 p.m. Take an Uber selfie.

Uber Selfie
8:55 p.m. Arrive at SweetWater and stop by the registration table to check in. I pat myself on the back for registering early since tickets at the door were more expensive ;)

UGA Young Alumni Night at SweetWater

9:00 p.m. (okay, it was more like 8:56 p.m.) Grab my first beer. Cheers!

9:15 p.m. Catch up with a college friend who recently accepted a new job at Cox Enterprises.

9:30 p.m. Tour SweetWater’s newly renovated taproom and learn that there’s 24 (!) beers on tap. Time to try another!

9:45 p.m. The bartender pours my second local brew.

10:00 p.m. The band starts playing Backstreet Boys so I obviously hit the dance floor.

Atlanta Wedding Band

10:15 p.m. Indulge in some barbecue from SweetWater’s new in-house catering kitchen. It was delicious!

10:30 p.m. Lead a group in Calling the Dawgs! My bark still needs some work before football season begins.

10:45 p.m. Pose with friends and UGA props at the photobooth — no, I’m not sharing those photos.

11:00 p.m. I have another beer … or two.

12:00 p.m. Close down the joint and request another Uber because #responsible.

The Young Alumni Leadership Council meets regularly in Atlanta and hosts events and programs  like this throughout the year. Learn more about getting involved. 

And, be sure to mark your calendar for next year’s UGA Alumni Night at SweetWater. Not only is it an awesome night of reminiscing, drinks and dancing, but a portion of my ticket supported UGA scholarships so I also felt good about giving back to my favorite university.

Five punny reasons you don’t want to miss UGA Young Alumni Night at SweetWater

We know you don’t really need an excuse to go to SweetWaterit kind of sells itself. But indulge us anyway. Here are five reasons missing this annual event would be un-beer-able:    

  1. Don’t worry, beer hoppy. What better way to spend a summer Friday than surrounded by fellow Bulldogs? Reminisce about sunny afternoons on north campus, be grateful you’re not spending your evening cramming in the MLC and count down the days until football season returns ( … it’ll be 64 from Young Alumni Night).

    UGA Young Alumni Night at SweetWater
  2. New taproom? Ale yeah! Did you know that SweetWater recently renovated and reopened its much-anticipated taproom? The new space allows for 24 different beers to be available on tap. Yeah, you read that right. 
  3. Hip hops. A local Atlanta band will be performing some of your favorite songs all night long. Pretend you’re back in Athens at the 40 Watt, Georgia Theatre or Hendershots.

    UGA Young Alumni Night at SweetWater
  4. Pitcher perfect. Take a selfie, pose with friends and make the perfect boomerang glass clink. Your Instagram feed will thank you.

    UGA Young Alumni Night at SweetWater
  5. You’re supporting students – thank brew very much! A portion of your ticket price will help fund UGA student scholarships.  

Bonus reason: FOOD.  

Let’s be honest – you don’t have anything planned for next Friday anyway. Grab a friend (or five), request an Uber/Lyft/Bird/Lime and we’ll see you there. Cheers! 

 June 28
9 p.m. to midnight 

Clementine Creative: Marketing Agency Brings Juicy Storytelling

Clementine

Sometimes big stories start in small places. One of those places: Clementine Creative Agency, a boutique marketing agency based from the first floor of a century-old building on the edge of bustling Marietta Square. Founded in 2015 by Jennifer Minton Nilsson (BBA ’00) and Merissa Corbet Davis (BFA ’03), Clementine Creative has become a wellspring of creative branding, dauntless design and authentic storytelling for a diverse and growing list of clients in the metro Atlanta area and beyond.

The agency initially sprang from the decade-long professional history of its two founding partners who worked together as part of an in-house corporate marketing and creative team for a prominent Atlanta-based homebuilding company. “I was the Vice President of Marketing and Merissa was our Art Director. We were lucky in that the company placed a value on branding and creative visioning that a lot of others may not. We rode out a lot of challenging times in the industry, but we learned a lot in the process too,” says Jennifer. “As we collaborated, we began to focus in on how powerful our craft could be in terms of creating a brand and a vision and then communicating that story in a way that was unique and genuine, something that people could connect with. That kind of storytelling makes things happen. It is not only fulfilling to create, but it makes a real impact on the business, even in the hard times.”

Clementine

“So much of it became about just taking those extra moments to be thoughtful,

Clementine

having the courage to take a step back and think creatively, look for the fresh approach – then the persistence to follow through the details and get it right,” adds Merissa. “Doing what, in a lot of cases, others wouldn’t take the time to do. Ultimately, we knew we wanted to create an environment built around that way of working and really honor the craft with great design that had an impact on people. And that was the seed of Clementine.” As Clementine’s reach has grown, so has its team – currently rounded out by two more UGA alumnae, Rachel Regal Melvin (BBA ’12) who heads up social media and engagement and Emily Noles (AB ’18), the agency’s client account and marketing coordinator.

With a select team for support, Clementine has been busy bringing stories to life from logo and branding packages to websites, social media campaigns, retail experience centers and more.

Clementine Creative

Highlights of Clementine’s recent work include two national award winners: a creative branding implementation (complete with onsite, web and social media components) for Marietta Square Market, the city’s anticipated new food hall destination opening this spring, as well as a brand experience center for Pratt Stacks, a new condominium destination in Atlanta’s Grant Park. Located in The Beacon Atlanta, the center is defined by a full wall mural, commissioned from a local artist, and combines everything from street art to architecture with video and interactive presentations for an immersive lifestyle experience. “We’ve had the opportunity to work with a growing list of clients from all walks and that’s a part of the challenge and the fun for us,” says Rachel. “We get to create these things and then see them come to life out in the world. When our clients see success, we get to celebrate with them. Everyone has a unique story to tell, so there’s always a new creative challenge for the team.”

And, at least for now, that team is red and black through and through. “There’s always room for another Dawg in the office,” jokes Rachel. Emily, the team’s most recent alum, adds, “When you think about it, it’s fun to have this team where you can see all these different facets of UGA working together. Merissa studied on the fine arts side in Lamar Dodd. Jennifer and Rachel both have a background in marketing from Terry. I was in advertising at Grady. We all have a common ground in the Georgia community, but we also all have different training, different specialties, different experiences that we bring to our work as a team and I think that collaboration really shows in the finished work.” Sounds like the makings for a great story.

Want to see more? Get a taste of Clementine’s work on their website at clementinecreativeagency.com.

UGA-RaceTrac partnership creates new career paths for student-athletes

Student-athletes in high-profile college football programs might be thought of as the enviable “big men on campus,” but their positions come with a price measured in hours and minutes.

“During the fall, you have football obligations every day of the week including weekends,” said Daniel Harper (BBA ’18), a University of Georgia football player from 2016-2018. “Spring is a little easier, and by easier I mean you get Sunday off.”

If they’re not in class, they’re at practice. And if they’re not at practice, they’re at weight training. Or in team meetings. Or tutoring. Or volunteering at community events. And with whatever time is left, they try to carve out a personal life.

Those time commitments are more than worthwhile for the lucky few who land a career as a professional athlete, but what about those who will hang up their pads after graduation? Most employers want someone with relevant work experience, and when you only have three weeks a year to yourself, internships are hard to come by.

They used to be, anyway.

 

A NEW KIND OF INTERNSHIP

Last year, UGA’s Corporate and Foundation Relations (CFR) team partnered with RaceTrac and UGA Athletics to develop a new opportunity for football players: two-week “micro-internships” at RaceTrac’s home office in Atlanta.

“The purpose of the micro-internship is twofold,” said Rachel Patton (ABJ ’13), RaceTrac’s university relations specialist. “One, for the student-athletes to gain exposure into the workforce and build their network. Two, for companies to see how transferable student-athletes’ skills are from their sport to a full-time corporate job.”

RaceTrac and UGA have had a fruitful relationship for a number of years—UGA has the highest representation among college alumni at RaceTrac’s home office, known as the Store Support Center—so the door was already open for further collaboration. After a January 2018 conversation between Patton and UGA’s CFR team about RaceTrac’s micro-internship idea, things began to move quickly.

“When CFR reached out about this opportunity, I was excited about the innovative program structure and the possibility of partnering with such a large company,” said Leigh Futch (ABJ ’05), director of student development for the UGA Athletic Association.

Futch created The Georgia Way, a comprehensive career development program aimed at preparing student-athletes for success after athletics, regardless of when that time comes.  An integral part of the program is connecting UGA student-athletes to resources that will enable a smooth transition to the professional world.  RaceTrac’s micro-internships seemed to be a perfect fit.

“We were able to pull this together very quickly. It was truly a team effort,” said Patton. “From the initial conversation with CFR to planning interviews of UGA’s football players in April 2018, we moved fast.”

 

THE FIRST INTERNS

Futch and UGA Athletics worked with RaceTrac to identify upperclassmen football players who were majoring in areas related to four of RaceTrac’s departments: Reporting and Insights, Financial Planning and Analysis, Human Resources and Operations. That list totaled 16 student-athletes—including Harper—who were each interviewed by a panel of RaceTrac senior/executive-level staff.

“It was a little intimidating at first, but they were all so friendly and easygoing,” said Harper. “Later that day, I got a call that I was one of the players selected for the internship.”

Harper and three others became RaceTrac interns, working at the Store Support Center in May 2018. The four UGA student-athletes were joined by six Clemson University student-athletes, and each intern was assigned to one of the aforementioned departments for their two-week stint.

The interns were tasked with projects they’d have to present to RaceTrac staff at the end of the program, and they were immersed in RaceTrac’s corporate environment by way of orientation sessions, networking events, assessment workshops and more.

“I spoke with each player about their experience, and they were all grateful for the opportunity and more confident in their abilities to perform outside of the athletics environment, which was music to my ears,” said Futch.

For one of UGA’s student-athletes, the internship was more than just a valuable learning experience: Daniel Harper is now a full-time operations analyst for RaceTrac.

“I knew if I wanted a career at RaceTrac then I would need to treat my internship as a two-week interview,” said Harper. “I worked my butt off, made connections, and made myself known.”

 

BUILDING ON SUCCESS

Plans are in place to repeat the program with more schools involved and more student-athletes from all sports. Futch is fielding micro-internship inquiries from many of UGA’s athletics programs. And other companies are taking notice of RaceTrac’s creativity.

“RaceTrac has been an engaged and innovative partner,” said Jill Walton (BSA ’99, MPA ’03), UGA’s CFR executive director. “They’ve done things that other companies haven’t done before. They took the lead with micro-internships, and now there are other companies asking about how they can participate.”

The program’s success also speaks to the strength of the RaceTrac-UGA partnership and of UGA’s alumni network. Patton’s relationship with RaceTrac began when a UGA sorority sister made a connection for her at the company, and now, through these micro-internships, she can do the same.

“Working on this program as a UGA graduate means the world to me,” said Patton. “And to be a part of a company like RaceTrac, where our leadership and team members value the type of students that UGA helps to grow, is amazing.”

Harper, too, takes pride in his ability to “pay it forward” by opening doors for UGA alumni in his new position.

“Being a UGA alumnus was a dream of mine for many years, and I am extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to play ball and graduate from such a great school,” said Harper. “The doors that UGA has opened for me are limitless, so it is an honor to represent my school in any capacity. I wear my ‘G’ with pride every day.”