Posts

Checking in with Alumni Board Member Russ Pennington

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. The UGA Alumni Board of Directors represents UGA’s diverse and passionate alumni family and strives to provide feedback, guidance and leadership as the university seeks to ensure that its graduates Never Bark Alone. Throughout the year, we’ll get to know these spirited graduates who hail from various backgrounds and are involved in all corners of campus.

Their goal: to empower the next breed of Bulldogs to continue that tradition of excellence.

Name:

  • Russ Pennington

I live in:

  • Atlanta, GA

Degree:

  • 2001 – Bachelor of Science in Biological Engineering (UGA)
  • 2006 – Master of Business Administration (UGA)

I joined the board in:

  • 2016

Ways I support UGA:

Russ with interim Uga mascot

Russ with the former mascot Uga IX, also known fondly as “Russ.”

My first job after graduation

If I had $1 million, I would support the _____ fund on campus.

The UGA class that I enjoyed most was

  • A Maymester course called “Geology, Hydrology and Soils of Georgia,” where we spent the term camping around the state and learning about Georgia’s natural resources.
Russ with family a UGA homecoming football game

Russ with his wife, Kelli, and two daughters, Caroline and Eleanor, at a UGA football game.

 A story that stands out as a UGA student was:

  • I remember my first time riding a UGA bus. I jumped on an Orbit bus and after a complete loop around campus, I realized I had no clue where I was going!

My family includes:

  • Wife, Kelli (BBA ’00)
  • Two daughters: Caroline and Eleanor
  • Two dogs: Gertie and Hattie

A special connection I have to UGA is …

  • In May 2014, I had the humbling experience of being the keynote speaker for the College of Engineering’s Convocation. I realized in that moment that my school could give me so much more than I can give it. It also was amazing to see the college grow from where it was when I graduated to where it is now.
Russ delivering convocation speech 2014

Russ delivering his convocation speech to engineering students in 2014.

A memory from my acceptance into UGA:

  • I remember vividly getting the envelope with the red stripe in the mail. I decided to go early and start classes in the summer semester. I never went back home!

As a student, I was involved in:

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

  • Participating in the downtown nightlife!
Russ with wife at football game

Russ and his wife, Kelli, as undergrads.

The most significant change to the physical campus since I was a student:

My favorite tradition at UGA

  • The Battle Hymn trumpet solo

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

  • The Last Resort
Russ Pennington Alumni Weekend photo shoot

Russ participating in a photo shoot to promote Alumni Weekend.

When this song comes on the radio, I think of college:

  • “Babs O’Riley” by The Who

My most disliked athletic rival:

  • The Gators

My dream weekend in Athens includes:

  • When Notre Dame played UGA in 2019— the prime-time kickoff, the flyover, the new LED lights and the victory— it was as good as it gets!

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

  • You really need to understand how much you can get back from your alma mater.  It is easy to move away and forget about the students, but giving back is so rewarding. Everything has changed so much and the direct hand that our alumni have in that change is incredible. Be involved and you will be blown away as to how much you will learn and benefit from the experience.

 

Russ’s support across campus— including being a committed advocate for the College of Engineering— embodies the spirit of UGA. We appreciate his unwavering dedication to his alma matter.

The Delta Air Lines Foundation commits $5 million to UGA Innovation District, Engineering

The University of Georgia will take a major step forward in its Innovation District initiative and enhance the College of Engineering, thanks to a $5 million gift from The Delta Air Lines Foundation.

The Innovation District initiative brings together people, programs and places to foster innovation, entrepreneurship and experiential learning at the University of Georgia. The first step of the initiative established Studio 225, the home of UGA’s thriving Student Center for Entrepreneurship, and The Delta Foundation’s gift catalyzes the next step to grow research commercialization and university-industry collaboration.

“I want to express my deepest appreciation to our loyal friends at The Delta Air Lines Foundation for their ongoing and generous support of the University of Georgia,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “This gift will help us prepare our students to be successful leaders in the knowledge economy while enabling the research discoveries of our faculty to make the greatest impact on society.”

The gift includes $2.5 million to renovate the Spring Street Building, located just off Broad Street in Athens’ downtown area. The facility will provide flexible workspace, conference rooms and presentation areas to support faculty startup companies and enable students and industry partners to collaborate on company-based research and development projects.

“The Delta Air Lines Foundation is pleased to support the University of Georgia Foundation with a grant to promote innovation and entrepreneurship, and foster leadership in collaboration, design and development,” said Tad Hutcheson, senior vice president of The Delta Air Lines Foundation.

The Office of University Experiential Learning will receive $1 million from The Delta Foundation’s gift to launch the Student Industry Fellows Program. Students who participate in this program will complete training to develop innovation competencies, serve as campus ambassadors for the Innovation District and work alongside industry partners to solve real-world business challenges.

The remaining $1.5 million of The Delta Foundation’s gift will support the Student Success Center at Driftmier Engineering Center, home to the UGA College of Engineering. This center will provide space for academic advising, student support offices and experiential learning by way of spaces devoted to team projects and collaboration between students, faculty and industry partners.

The Student Success Center will also house the Emerging Engineers Leadership Development program (EELD). EELD was designed in partnership with the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development to provide undergraduate engineering majors with an opportunity to explore and cultivate leadership skills necessary for success as a professional.

This is the latest in a long line of significant contributions to UGA from The Delta Air Lines Foundation. Alongside this $5 million commitment, The Delta Foundation has pledged another $2.5 million to support UGA Athletics. In 2015, The Delta Foundation committed $5 million to the construction of the UGA Washington Semester Program’s residential facility, Delta Hall. The Willson Center for Humanities & Arts established the Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding thanks to an $800,000 gift in 1997. In recognition of The Delta Foundation’s many gifts and the long-standing relationship between the university and Delta, the airline received the 2018 Friend of UGA Alumni Award.

The Delta Air Lines Foundation’s gift is a significant step in enhancing the learning environment at UGA, a priority of the university’s Commit to Georgia Campaign, a record-breaking fundraising campaign that began in 2012 and will end in June. The campaign surpassed its $1.2 billion goal in 2019 and is now the most successful fundraising effort in UGA history.

Georgia’s “Green Girl” is making recycling more accessible

“Hey, Alexa … can I recycle this?”

Thanks to Katherine Shayne (BSENVE ’16, MS ’18) and her all-female research team at the University of Georgia, recycling really is as easy as asking your Amazon Alexa.

One of the youngest honorees named to the UGA Alumni Association’s 2019 40 Under 40, Katherine is the co-founder of Can I Recycle This, an organization working to clean up recycling by providing localized answers to specific recycling questions.

Katherine’s list of accomplishments doesn’t stop there. Just this month, the alumna spoke at the United Nations and led a team of UGA student researchers to the Dominican Republic to study marine debris. She’s also analyzed over one million pieces of marine debris collected through the Marine Debris Tracker, worked with Australia’s national science agency (CSIRO) and is a proud College of Engineering Double Dawg—all at the age of 26. 

Solving Wicked Problems

Katherine concentrated her undergraduate research and her graduate thesis on the end of life for materials, particularly ocean-bound plastics, working and learning under the expertise of Jenna Jambeck, an associate professor in UGA’s College of Engineering. Jenna is internationally recognized for her research on plastic waste in the ocean and is the other co-founder of CIRT.

“[I chose to study at UGA because] the University of Georgia is one of the top—if not the top—research institution working on this global problem from a waste management perspective,” Katherine said. “We have some of the best researchers here working on this grand challenge of waste management.”

“I’ve had a lot of opportunities here and every single one of them has been an outpouring of support … I think that that’s what is extremely unique to me about the University of Georgia.”

Early Beginnings at UGA

The idea for Can I Recycle This (CIRT) was conceived in 2017 and quickly became a pilot project headquartered in the Driftmier Engineering Building among UGA students.

In May 2018, CIRT went through UGA’s National Science Foundation I-Corps Program, a public-private partnership that aids collegiate innovators and includes an intensive, six-week Accelerator and up to six months of business and product mentoring.

“The program helped us narrow down what our business model was going to be, our customer focus and then how we were going to transition into scaling our model.”

Now, the all-female research team is working to develop this technology into a self-contained app that can answer every day recycling questions without the use of social media.

So, How Does CIRT Work?

It’s simple. First, add @CanIRecycleThis on Snapchat, Facebook or Twitter. Next, send a photo directly to CIRT and voila—you will instantly receive an answer based on your location. Or, simply ask your Amazon Alexa.

“You shouldn’t have to memorize recyclables on a day-to-day basis. We wanted to make it easy and accessible for consumers to utilize,” Katherine says. “Consumers interact with AI where they can ask and get a real-time response.”

When making use of CIRT, you’ll interact with “GG.” The significance of “GG” is two-fold: it’s Katherine’s sister’s nickname and also short for “Green Girl.”

On the Horizon

So, what’s next for CIRT? The team is developing a partnership with an e-commerce giant in order to integrate CIRT into packaging systems.

“Say you get a package from a big e-commerce giant and in that box or shipping confirmation email, it tells you everything in the packaging that’s recyclable and also everything that’s not. That information’s based on location because it’s where it was shipped. So, it just accesses our database and provides consumers with answers.”

As for Katherine, she’s continuing her research on plastic pollution as a researcher at the University of Georgia and is involved with a youth leadership group through the Sustainable Ocean Alliance. The group is drafting a white paper on the dangers of plastic pollution that will be presented to 20 governments around the world.

“Even though we might only make up 25% of the population, we’re definitely 100% of what’s going to be the future,” Katherine notes about the role youth can play in solving the grand challenges of our time.

Katherine will be honored during UGA’s 40 Under 40 Awards Luncheon in Athens this month. Meet her fellow 2019 40 Under 40 honorees.