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International Left-Handers Day

August 13 is International Left-Handers Day. With only 10% of the world’s population being left-handed, it would not be surprising if you were the lone lefty in your class, office or family. But fear not left-handed Bulldogs: you are in good company. To celebrate International Left-Handers Day, we’re listing a few of UGA’s notable lefties:

David Greene (BBA ’04)

Photo from UGA Sports Comm

Though fellow Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray came along and broke it, David Greene once held the SEC record for career passing yards. Greene’s 11,528 yards (compiled between 2001 and 2004) still ranks No. 2 on the SEC’s all-time list. Perhaps even more impressive, Greene finished his college career as the winningest quarterback in Division I history, having earned 42 victories during his time in Athens.

Todd Gurley (M ’16)

Photo from Grady Newsource

Currently playing in the NFL for the Los Angeles Rams, we know him best as Georgia’s star running back, earning All-SEC honors in 2012 and 2013. Gurley was drafted by the St. Louis Rams with the tenth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Despite missing three games due to a torn ACL suffered during his junior year at UGA, Gurley rushed for 1,106 yards in his rookie season and was voted Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press. He was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press following the 2017 season after gaining 19 offensive touchdowns.

Bubba Watson (BSFCS ’08)

Photo from Golf News Net

One of the few left-handed golfers on the PGA tour, he is a multiple major champion, with victories at the Masters Tournament in 2012 and 2014.  Bubba helped lead the Bulldogs to an SEC Championship in 2000. Recognizing his responsibility as a mentor and role model to young kids, in 2008, without telling family or friends, he decided to go back to the UGA and complete his degree.

Michael Stipe (M ’82)

Photo from UGA Today

As the front man for R.E.M., arguably the most important and influential American rock band of the post-punk era, Michael Stipe transformed himself from enigmatic cult hero into mainstream icon. Famed for his confoundingly opaque lyrics and notoriously mumbled delivery, the once-introverted Stipe translated his growing fame into an outlet to champion his social and political concerns, emerging as one of popular music’s most respected figures, as well as the acknowledged forefather of the alternative rock movement. While studying painting and photography at UGA, Stipe formed the Grammy award-winning band R.E.M in 1980 with Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry.

Kim Basinger (M ’75)

Photo from The Red & Black

An actress, singer and former fashion model. Born and raised in Athens, Kim attend UGA before beginning her acting and modeling career in the 1970’s. She starred in famous flicks such as the Charlie’s Angels TV series, James Bond movie Never Say Never Again and the 1989 feature film Batman. She also gave an Oscar-winning performance in the film L.A. Confidential.

Leading the black community in health and business – Dr. JaNaè Taylor (MEd ’03, PhD ’07)

When Dr. JaNaè Taylor (MEd 03, PhD ’07) took an internship during her undergraduate sophomore summer at a Veterans Affairs clinic, she wasn’t sure what would be her next step in pursuing a career in therapy. That summer, she met two doctoral students in the Counseling Psychology Doctoral program at the University of Georgia who shared their experience. They connected her with a student to give her a tour of campus, and this solidified her decision to follow their footsteps and make some of her own. 

Dr. Taylor has been working as a counselor for 16 years. She has worked everywhere from women’s homeless shelters to schools and universities. Her most recent passion is creating a space for connection for the black community in the mental health and business worlds. 

It all started with a counseling center. She and several of her therapist colleagues decided to start their own private practice. She learned through that process that even though they were all women in counseling, she had a different experience in starting her business in regards to marketing and resources.  

“There were differences in the marketing I needed, especially in order to get buy-in from the black community and get resources,” Taylor saidNot only was I getting the experience of creating a mental health agency, but also becoming an entrepreneur at the same time.”  

In addition to her needing to learn how to launch a business, other challenges she faced were a lack of access to capital and isolation within her profession. “People want to sit across from someone who looks like them or reminds them of someone they know,” she said but it was difficult to refer people to other black counseling practices because I didn’t know of any at the time.”  

A year and a half after she started her business she launched her podcast Minding My Black Business. Initially, the podcast was a marketing opportunity but it quickly grew to much more with over 27,000 downloads. 

JaNae Taylor’s recent community event, a meet up for black therapists.

I have completely enjoyed it – it led to me doing some community events,” she said. “Back in May I did a meet up for black therapists and about 20 people showed up, which is great.” “The more I do itthe more I get people opening up to therapy, which is one of my hopes.” 

Dr. Taylor will be honored at UGA’s 40 Under 40 event in Athens in September, check out the other amazing 40 Under 40 honorees. 

Alumni create a theater experience for the deaf and the hearing

This story was written by Heather Skyler and was originally posted to UGA Today on July 8, 2019.

Have you ever watched a movie with subtitles and gotten frustrated by reading lines of dialogue at the bottom of the screen while you’re missing the action above the text? This is somewhat akin to how a deaf person has to watch a live show with a sign language interpreter. Constantly looking off to the side while the drama takes place on stage can ruin the immersive quality of theater.

Two University of Georgia alumni sought to remedy that problem when they founded a theater in Athens called Hands In!, an educational nonprofit that produces original works in American Sign Language (ASL) with a special interest in theater and jukebox musicals.

Here’s how a Hands In! production works: Both Deaf and hearing actors perform, but everyone signs their lines (a capital “D” signifies deaf culture as a whole, rather than the clinical term “deaf”). Voicers offstage speak the lines as they are being signed, so the hearing audience can understand what’s happening as well.

Christopher Carpenter (AB ’16) and Jordan Richey ’19 are both hearing members of the Hands In! cast.

Hands In! isn’t a new idea. The first Deaf theater company, National Theater for the Deaf, was founded in London in 1967 and others exist around the world, but they are not yet on the radar of most theatergoers and Hands In! is the only theater of its kind in Athens.

Haley Beach (BSED ’19) was earning her degree in communication sciences and disorders at UGA when she and UGA alumna Amara Ede (BSA ’14) co-founded the theater company in March 2018. Beach graduated from UGA in May 2019 and is currently pursuing certification to become a sign language interpreter.

In 2017, Beach and Ede put on their first show, which they wrote and directed, at UGA’s Baptist Collegiate Ministries. When the ministries shut down for renovations, Beach and Ede lost the use of their stage. Despite having no budget, they decided to start their own theater company because they had recognized a need that wasn’t being met.

“There was no community for Deaf arts in Athens,” said Beach. “And they really just needed a platform. And I think the hearing community needs this type of theater experience too. The whole point of what we do is to bring ASL awareness to the hearing community and provide a platform for the Deaf community.”

Beach isn’t deaf, but she got interested in ASL when she interpreted for a dinner theater performance of “The Little Mermaid” at the Baptist Collegiate Ministries. “A woman there suggested I be a counselor at Deaf camp. I fell backwards into it really and just fell in love with the language and the culture and the people. I feel privileged to be a part of their community. I took four ASL classes at UGA and joined ASL Dawgs.

Luke Bundrum ’19 is Deaf and is the president of ASL Dawgs, an organization that helps connect UGA students with the Deaf community. He is also an actor in Hands In!’s next show, “Wanderland,” which is based on “Alice in Wonderland.” Luke has two roles: Tommy and the March Hare.

A fourth-year social studies education and history major at UGA, Bundrum helped with the early conception of Hands In! and performed in their first show, “Nottingham.” Bundrum was born deaf and got a cochlear implant at age 3. “Being Deaf is a challenge in life, but with supportive friends and community, I am able to succeed on my own,” he said. “It’s rare for a Deaf student to attend a rigorous liberal four-year college such as UGA, and I have been blessed to get this far in life.”

Most of the performers in Hands In! productions, however, are hearing, such as UGA student Jordan Richey ’19, who got involved when Beach reached out to her about auditioning. After sending Beach videos of past performances, Richey was asked to play the lead, Maid Marian, in the theater’s reinterpretation of “Robin Hood.” She learned ASL while she learned her lines for the show.

Jordan Richey didn’t know ASL when she was cast as the lead in “Nottingham.”

“I would video Haley and Amara doing the signs then I could go home and practice making the shapes,” said Richey. “It was different than how I would normally approach memorizing lines.

“It’s not word-for-word translated to English. A lot of it is context based. For example: ‘Let’s go to the car’ might be changed to be ‘Me, you, go car.’ Four signs. You use your body and face to show the urgency.” She now considers herself conversationally fluent in sign. “By the end I could carry on a conversation with the Deaf kids in the show.”

Richey grew up in Royston, Georgia, and moved to Athens in eighth grade. She began UGA in the vocal performance program at the School of Music but said it wasn’t the right fit for her because she leans toward musical theater.

She switched to the speech therapy program in the College of Education, and realized it was a perfect fit. Currently a senior at UGA, she also teaches voice lessons at Oconee Youth School of Performance.

Hands In! has an ASL consultation board comprised of Deaf members only, and they strive to incorporate Deaf actors in their shows. Their next show, “Wanderland” will play July 11, 12, 13 and 14 at UGA’s Cellar Theater.

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!

Groundbreaking broadcaster Monica Kaufman Pearson delivers 2019 Holmes-Hunter Lecture

Monica Kaufman Pearson

Monica Kaufman Pearson delivers the 2019 Holmes-Hunter Lecture in the Chapel. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

The UGA Chapel was filled with joy, anger, sadness, and, ultimately, hope when the University of Georgia welcomed back alumna Monica Kaufman Pearson (MA ’14) to deliver the annual Holmes-Hunter Signature Lecture on Thursday, Feb. 7.

Named for Dr. Hamilton Holmes (BS ’63) and Charlayne Hunter-Gault (ABJ ’63), UGA’s first African-American students, the lecture series began in 1985 and, each year, invites a distinguished scholar or public figure to speak on race relations, aspects of higher education with implications for race relations and black history.

“We recognize that our collective backgrounds and experiences unite us and they enrich the living and learning environment for our students and for the entire campus community,” said Arthur Tripp, Assistant to the President, introducing Pearson.

“It is our goal to continue to foster a vibrant exchange of ideas by bringing speakers to campus who champion a diversity of thought, ideas and who challenge us to think critically about the pressing issues of the day.”

Pearson’s illustrious career includes being Atlanta’s first woman and first minority to anchor daily news programs. Her reporting has garnered over 30 local and regional Emmys, her long-running “Close-Ups” series has profiled national celebrities and world leaders and she was named a UGA Distinguished Alumni last year, having graduated magna cum laude following her retirement in 2012.

Pearson opened the lecture with several bars of an old spiritual song, then laid bare the history of black oppression in no uncertain terms—a history that stretches into the present day.

“The seed planted was slavery, fertilized by the Civil War, watered during Reconstruction with Jim Crow laws, then pruned and reshaped after the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” said Pearson. “And then finally, with the election of the first black president in 2008, some claimed the roots of racism were uprooted and destroyed. That was a lie.”

Monica Kauffman Pearson with Mary Frances Early

Monica Kaufman Pearson (center) speaks with Mary Frances Early prior to the lecture (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

Pearson documented abuse after abuse, asking “how do the roots of racism continue to grow like kudzu and how do we change that?” At the heart of her solution was action rooted in honesty.

“We must educate people, awaken their sensibilities,” said Pearson. “Speak up, ladies and gentlemen, when you see racism and when you hear racist conversations and you hear horrible jokes from your coworkers, your family and your friends. Speak up.”

Pearson noted that although conversations around race can be uncomfortable, they are necessary. Those in positions of power must examine their prejudices, Pearson said, and those who have been victim to oppression can’t let their ambitions suffer as a result.

“Don’t be afraid to be the first person in your family to do anything,” said Pearson. “Don’t be afraid of being the best you can be. Don’t let other people define you. You define you. Build up your self-esteem. Be the first in your family to go to college, to get a master’s degree, to get a doctorate. Become the first woman president of the University of Georgia.”

Pearson closed with a message of hope, quoting from remarks made by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and positing that prosperity for all relies on intersection, cooperation and communication.

Honored guests at the event included family members of the late Dr. Holmes, UGA’s first African-American graduate, Mary Frances Early, and students from Athens-area and metro Atlanta middle and high schools.

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The hope in Pearson’s message lives at the heart of the Holmes-Hunter Lecture and was the driving force in the creation of the Black Alumni Scholarship Fund. Give today to honor the memory of trailblazers like Early, Holmes, Hunter-Gault and Pearson by opening doors for tomorrow’s scholars.

Holmes and Hunter-Gault: They followed their dreams

Original article posted on Feb. 4, 2019 by Krista Richmond on UGA Today.

This story is part of a series, called Georgia Groundbreakers, that celebrates innovative and visionary faculty, students, alumni and leaders throughout the history of the University of Georgia—and their profound, enduring impact on our state, our nation and the world.

Hamilton Holmes simply wanted to become a doctor. Charlayne Hunter simply wanted to become a journalist. And in doing so, they also became inspirations.

Both agreed that the University of Georgia had the classes they needed to reach those goals. But when they graduated from Henry McNeal Turner High School in Atlanta in 1959—Holmes as valedictorian and Hunter (now Hunter-Gault) as third in their class—it wasn’t quite that simple.

“Pursue your dreams—whatever it takes. Don’t give up despite what might be in your way,” Hunter-Gault said in a recent interview. “It was our determination—mine and Hamilton’s—to follow our dreams at the place that was best suited to help us fulfill them.”

Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes walk up Broad Street in Athens on Jan. 9, 1961, to enter the UGA campus to become the first African Americans to attend the university.

Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes walk up Broad Street in Athens on Jan. 9, 1961, to enter the UGA campus to become the first African Americans to attend the university.

Eventually Hunter and Holmes became the first African American students to attend UGA, but that is just the beginning of their stories. Both went on to have a lasting impact in their chosen career fields and on generations of students.

Their latest legacy: a new endowment, launched by Hunter-Gault and her husband, that inspires UGA students to pursue a more just society.

Desegregating UGA

Both Hunter and Holmes applied to UGA for the fall 1959 quarter but were denied. Holmes was accepted to Morehouse College, and Hunter enrolled at Wayne State University in Detroit, but they continued to submit applications to UGA each quarter.

“You can’t ever take your eyes off the prizes of freedom, justice and equality,” she said.

In September 1960, their legal team filed for an injunction seeking to prohibit UGA from “refusing to consider [Holmes’ and Hunter’s] applications and those of other Negro residents of Georgia for admission to the University.” Their request was refused, but a full trial was later held in Athens in December 1960.

On Jan. 6, 1961, Judge William Bootle issued his ruling, stating that Holmes and Hunter “would have already been admitted had it not been for their race and color,” and they were immediately admitted to UGA. Three days later, they became the first African American students to enroll in classes.

Creating a legacy

Their first steps into the Academic Building left a lasting footprint on the UGA landscape.

That same building now bears their names. It was renamed the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building in their honor to mark the 40th anniversary of UGA’s desegregation. And as part of UGA’s bicentennial in 1985, the university created the annual Holmes-Hunter Lecture, which is sponsored by the Office of the President and focuses on race relations, civil rights and education.

Their influence was felt early on during their time in Athens. Mary Frances Early, a fellow Turner High alumna who knew both Holmes and Hunter, was so inspired by what she saw that she decided to transfer from the University of Michigan to UGA to help them integrate the university. In August 1962, Early became the first African American to graduate from UGA.

A year later, it was their turn to walk across the stage.

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter after they received their diplomas from UGA.

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter after they received their diplomas from UGA.

“He opened the doors not only for African Americans to attend UGA, but also for everyone who wanted to attend,” said Holmes’ son, Hamilton Holmes Jr., who graduated from UGA in 1990. “My father was an excellent student and graduated cum laude while dealing with all of the distractions related to being one of the first two black students to integrate the university. He wasn’t looking for fame. He simply wanted to get the best public education from the flagship university in Georgia.”

In the fall of 1963, Holmes became the first African American student admitted to the Emory University School of Medicine. After starting a residency at Detroit General Hospital and serving in the military, he returned to Emory to complete his residency. Later, he became an assistant professor of orthopedics and served as an associate dean at Emory.

In addition, Holmes also worked as chief of orthopedics at the Veterans Administration hospital in Atlanta, opened a private practice and became medical director and eventually head of orthopedic surgery at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Holmes passed away at his home in Atlanta on Oct. 26, 1995.

As Holmes Jr. pointed out, the path toward their degrees wasn’t always smooth.

On Jan. 11, 1961, two days after they registered for classes, a crowd gathered outside Hunter’s dorm after a basketball game, smashing windows with bottles and bricks. Holmes and Hunter were suspended, and the Georgia State Patrol escorted them back to their homes in Atlanta that night. A new court order was issued, and they returned to campus and resumed their classes.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault in her office at the PBS “MacNeil/Lehrer Report” in 1983.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault in her office at the PBS “MacNeil/Lehrer Report” in 1983.

After Hunter’s graduation in 1963, she took a job as an editorial assistant at The New Yorker, where she eventually became the first African American staff writer. She then worked as a television reporter and evening anchor for the local NBC station in Washington, D.C. She returned to print media in 1968, establishing The New York Times’ Harlem bureau. From 1978 until 1997, she worked for the MacNeil/Lehrer Report, which became PBS NewsHour. In 1997, she became chief correspondent in Africa for National Public Radio. She left NPR in 1999 to join CNN, where she served as bureau chief and correspondent, based in Johannesburg, South Africa, until 2005.

During her career, Hunter received numerous awards, including two National News and Documentary Emmy Awards and two Peabody Awards.

“The view of the world that I developed and refined as a student at UGA helped me become a successful journalist and person,” Hunter-Gault said.

But for both Holmes and Hunter, their legacies go far beyond their time at UGA and their distinguished careers.

“I’m calling for a coalition of generations so that the things that were important achievements in my generation are looked at so that they can be built upon in the next generation,” Hunter-Gault said.

Giving Voice to the Voiceless

At the 2018 Holmes-Hunter Lecture, Hunter-Gault passed the proverbial baton to the next generation.

“It’s truly time for every citizen, no matter your age, to get woke,” she told the crowd. “And that means helping keep our democracy safe, and it means doing the hard work of digging for good information with a variety of sources.”

She spoke about her time at UGA and what students today can learn from it.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault meets with students from Cedar Shoals and Clarke Central high schools outside of the Chapel before delivering the Holmes-Hunter Lecture in February 2018. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Alumna Charlayne Hunter-Gault meaning with a group of local high school students from Cedar Shoals and Clarke Central High School outside of the Chapel before delivering the Holmes-Hunter Lecture.

“I want to share a little of my life with you today in the hope that you will be inspired, or further inspired, to make sure that your armor is fitted and polished so that you can help bind wounds and defeat the kind of divisions that are tearing at the fabric of our nation,” she said to those in attendance, including members of Holmes’ family.

To that end, she and her husband, Ronald Gault, started the Giving Voice to the Voiceless endowment, which provides grants to university students to promote social justice and global understanding.

“I wanted to do something that would help inspire young people,” she said.

The first grant recipients were announced recently, and their projects reflect Hunter-Gault’s legacy of courage, bravery and fearlessness.

Abha Rai, a doctoral candidate in the School of Social Work, received a grant to study domestic violence within South Asian immigrant communities.

“I want to be that voice for my community. I want to understand domestic violence and maybe even someday help end domestic violence,” she said. “This project is the perfect opportunity for my own voice to be heard in an area of research where people are understudied and not much is known about them.”

Steve Armour, an archivist with the University Libraries, received a grant to create an oral history with African American alumni who attended the university in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The interviewer for the project will be a student who will conduct background research on what that time was like at UGA in order to develop the right questions.

“These are students who attended UGA in the years following the desegregation of the university,” Armour said. “We often hear about the experience of Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes, but there are generations of students who followed them that this project is going to focus on.”

For Armour, it’s about continuing the conversation.

“They [Holmes and Hunter-Gault] reached these amazing heights that I think in turn have inspired subsequent generations,” he said.

Kyla Brinkley, who graduated with degrees in public relations and English in May 2018, continues to feel Hunter-Gault’s impact.

“Charlayne Hunter-Gault is a prime example of black excellence and what you can do to have an impact on people around you,” she said. “The fact that she still chooses to give back to students at UGA and continues to fuel minority students to pursue the things that she was able to pursue is really powerful.”

Brinkley was the first Charlayne Hunter-Gault Intern for Chess and Community, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering youth.

For their part, this generation of students and alumni have been an inspiration to Hunter-Gault.

“They are the giants, now, on whose shoulders the next generations will stand,” she said. “Even though they are quite young, they’ve demonstrated that they have a consciousness about the values in our democratic promise. Everywhere I look, I see them working to ensure that.”

Mary Frances Early honored with official UGA portrait

Original article posted on Oct. 11, 2018 by Heather Skyler on UGA Today.

The University of Georgia celebrated the life and achievements of Mary Frances Early the first African American to earn a degree from the University of Georgia, by unveiling her portrait in the Administration Building at a ceremony on Oct. 10.

The portrait, by artist Richard Wilson, was installed in The Gordon Jones Gallery of the Administration Building to honor Early, who went on to become the director of music for Atlanta Public Schools and the first African American president of the Georgia Music Educators Association in 1981.

“Ms. Early is a distinguished educator, and it is clear that she has made a profound impact on the lives of countless individuals,” President Jere W. Morehead said at the ceremony. “Her portrait will serve as a lasting tribute to her dignified courage and her commitment to educational excellence.”

Ms. Early saw the finished portrait for the first time at the ceremony, and she was obviously pleased. “It’s very beautifully done as you can see, because it looks better than me,” she said, drawing appreciative laughter from the audience. “It always means so much to have the support of so many.

The installation of Early’s portrait is part of a series of accolades celebrating her life and career. In January 2018, Early received one of UGA’s highest honors, the President’s Medal. On Sept. 11, the documentary “Mary Frances Early: The Quiet Trailblazer”premiered in Atlanta.

A native of Atlanta, Early came to UGA in the summer of 1961. Earlier that year, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes became the first African American students to enroll at UGA. Early had started postgraduate work at the University of Michigan when she transferred to UGA to complete her studies. She became the first African American to earn a degree from the University of Georgia when she graduated on Aug. 16, 1962, with a master’s degree in music education. She returned in 1964 to continue her education, earning a Specialist in Education degree in 1967.

Early, who was class valedictorian at Henry McNeal Turner High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Clark Atlanta University in 1957, became a music teacher in the Atlanta Public Schools and was eventually promoted to music director of the entire school system. Early worked with teachers in the system’s 100-plus schools, and was in charge of the music curriculum, budget, textbooks and more.

Early retired in 1994 after working for 37 years in public schools. She has since taught at Morehouse College, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University as head of the music department.

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!

DeRetta Cole Rhodes helps women get to the C-Suite

This post was contributed by Bridgette Burton (ABJ ’11, AB ’11), marketing and communications chair for the Black Alumni Leadership Council.

DeRetta Cole Rhodes (BS ’92, PHD ’10), who is past president of the College of Family & Consumer Sciences Alumni Association, delivered a talk at the TEDxUGA event on March 22. Rhodes, who is the chief human resource officer for YMCA of Metro Atlanta, gave a talk titled “From Survive to Thrive: Women of Color in Corporate Leadership.” Prior to joining the YMCA, she held leadership positions at FirstData, Turner Broadcasting, Ernst & Young and ADP.

Rhodes spoke about her experience navigating the corporate ranks as a woman of color. Only 4 percent of C-Suite positions are held by women of color, and Rhodes has dedicated her work to increasing that number. In her TEDx Talk, which is linked below, she talks about giving a voice to underrepresented groups, the importance of mentorship and fighting for equity–from earning her Ph.D. to rising to her current position.

We caught up with Rhodes and asked her a few questions about her favorite things about the University of Georgia.

What made you decide to come to school at the University of Georgia? 

I was excited about UGA and the opportunities. UGA was my first choice.

What was your favorite class at Georgia?

Business Law taught by President Morehead

How did you get involved with the Alumni Association? 

I have always wanted to be connected to UGA, even after graduation and the best way for me to stay connected was to be a part of the Alumni Association.

Describe Athens in three words.  

Quaint, fun, great restaurants (perfect for a foodie)

Describe UGA in three words. 

Inspiring, Insightful, education – continuous learning

What was your most memorable college experience? 

The friendship and relationships that I made while I was there

What do you know for sure?

I know for sure I don’t know everything.

What will you never understand?  

So many things I am still trying to understand, hence the importance of education and what you continue to gain from UGA – continuous learning.

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

Don’t quit and persevere.

Meet TJ Snowden, Vice President of the Black Alumni Leadership Council

In October 2015, the UGA Alumni Association launched the UGA Black Alumni Affinity Group, which is led by the Black Alumni Leadership Council. The council seeks to connect with black alumni and students through shared experiences, and to continue building a welcoming and supporting campus community. TJ Snowden (BSED ’04, EDD ’19) is vice president of the Black Alumni Leadership Council, and we recently interviewed him to learn more about his UGA experience and what drives him to stay connected to the university.

When did you graduate from UGA and what did you do after college?

I graduated from UGA in 2004 with a degree in sports communications. After more than three years of work in retail management and collections, I returned to UGA to work as a financial aid counselor in 2007. In 2012, my wife Lesley and I moved to Washington, D.C. where I continued my career in higher education and graduated with a master’s degree in nonprofit management from Trinity Washington University in 2015. Currently, I am the director of financial aid at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C. and a second-year doctoral student in UGA’s Student Affairs Leadership Program.

How did you get involved with the Alumni Association?

I reconnected with a great group of UGA black alumni in D.C. where I learned that UGA was developing the Black Alumni Affinity Group. As my wife and I were planning to move back to Atlanta in 2016, it just so happened that Realenn Watters (AB ’04), a friend and alumna, was working for the Alumni Association and encouraged me to apply for a position.

Which Black Alumni event are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the work we have been able to do with the Admitted Student Reception. In two years, we have helped move the diversity needle at UGA, bringing in one of the most diverse incoming classes in 2017. Equally as important, the Black Alumni Leadership Council has been able to secure more than 40 black alumni at each of these events to welcome these new students of color to the Bulldog Nation.

 

TJ Snowden

How has serving on the leadership council benefited you?

Participating in the Black Alumni Leadership Council has allowed me tap into a larger network of UGA black alumni to help further our cause of recognizing and supporting black excellence at our alma mater.

What is the most important experience you learned as a student?

Embrace the space, and I mean that metaphorically. UGA is a special place, and a number of my greatest memories as a student came from getting involved on campus. Some 13 years after I graduated from undergrad, I still relish those experiences gained and relationships I cultivated. It was an environment that I was under-prepared for when I entered. Thankfully, I found ways to contribute to the university community, and more importantly, the Black UGA community, as a member of the Zeta Iota chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

What is one piece of advice you would give to UGA students?

Network. There is only so much that a resume, diagnostic test or GPA can tell about your ability to excel at a task or job. Having someone who can vouch for your character and potential speaks volumes. Dawgs take care of Dawgs.

UGA is committed to its students and mission as a land and sea grant university. What is your commitment?

I’m committed to increasing diversity and black philanthropy at UGA. UGA has only been integrated for a little more than 57 years, so there is a need to develop and sustain philanthropic efforts among black students and alumni to aid UGA in its support of students of color.