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Now open: UGA Engagement Center

UGA Engagement Center Grand OpeningInnovation offers experiences for discovery. With extensive planning and partnerships, UGA’s Division of Development and Alumni Relations is discovering ways to expand and increase alumni participation and engagement.

The UGA Engagement Center is a nexus for this initiative. In its new facility located one block east of the Arch, DAR and the Engagement Center work in concert to communicate with alumni and friends about opportunities for support and participation.

By incorporating new digital technologies, the Engagement Center aims to create meaningful conversations between alumni and students, while expanding the scope of texting and video interaction. A team of 80+ student representatives shares updates from campus, opportunities to support UGA initiatives, and information relevant to alumni affinities.

After 25 years of calling alumni, the Engagement Center now offers a modern-day approach to connecting with alumni and utilizing smartphone capabilities. From visual caller ID technology to texting direct links for event registration and gift-giving, Engagement Center student representatives are enhancing UGA’s reach. You may even see a student you spoke with on the phone “face-to-face” in a video message.

The possibilities technology offers are exciting; and the Engagement Center is excited to connect you with UGA in new ways!

Alumnus Kyle Wiley expands technology access for COVID-19 researchers

Kyle Wiley (AB ’11) is the senior advisor to the chief commercialization officer at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and is an integral part of the DOE’s response to COVID-19. Wiley and his team have given researchers access to powerful computing resources, including two of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, to boost research during a period which relies on accelerated timelines and innovation.

Wiley’s role is to offer strategic advice to the CCO, to speak to external parties on behalf of the Office of Technology Transitions, and to engage with the 17 national DOE labs on a variety of initiatives. Like many others, his responsibilities have shifted in the face of a pandemic and Wiley is now a part of the battle against COVID-19.

Kyle Wiley tours a Shell ethane cracker plant in Pennsylvania.

Kyle Wiley tours a Shell ethane cracker plant in Pennsylvania as part of his work with the U.S. Department of Energy.

Wiley and his team prioritized expanding access to resources for public and private researchers across the country. This included providing resources to those looking for innovative ways to combat COVID-19 through the DOE’s Lab Partnering Service and COVID-19 Technical Assistance Program (CTAP). These initiatives give access to vital resources, experienced researchers, and information about facilities that may be useful in fighting the pandemic.

CTAP provides funding to DOE’s national lab system to assist non-DOE entities working to combat the virus. It also allows national researchers to offer assistance to U.S.-based entities facing technical challenges. Their team has seen the most success in two areas: supercomputing (the HPC COVID-19 Consortium) and technical assistance. The HPC COVID-19 Consortium is a private-public partnership between the federal government, industry and academic leaders to provide researchers access to high-performance computing resources. This partnership enables extensive research and modeling to understand COVID-19’s threat and create strategies to address it. The program has several active projects.

Wiley’s office has granted researchers access to the computational capacity to support research programs that are studying the virus. Meanwhile, DOE scientists are studying components of the virus to understand its replication process. Relying on previous experience from modeling of other infectious diseases, they can better understand how COVID-19 might behave and the supercomputers allow for quicker testing and effective drug screening.

Even as Wiley works on projects related to COVID-19, he continues his work with the technology commercialization fund and raises awareness for partnerships among minority business centers. The technology commercialization fund supports programs for applied energy research, technology development, demonstration and commercial application helping to mature promising energy technologies with potential for high impact.

Wiley’s road to the DOE began as a political science student at UGA. With the help of one of his professors, former UGA faculty member Morgan Marietta, he landed an internship with then-Congressman Paul Broun (BS ’67). That work experience, combined with an understanding of political science he gained from his time at UGA, have been instrumental to his career in the nation’s capital.

Prior to joining the DOE, Wiley held a number of positions, including assistant to the president of the Heritage Foundation, a Koch Associate at the Charles Koch Institute, and a specialist in Barnes & Thornburg’s Government Services and Federal Relations practice.

His work just goes to show: Dawgs never hesitate to jump into action, innovating and assisting in times of need.

Bulldogs answer the call for hand sanitizer

Communities everywhere were feeling the panic. Store shelves were stripped bare. Online orders were backlogged. Hand sanitizer was simply not available. That is, until enterprising and altruistic UGA alumni across the state of Georgia took rectifying the shortage into their own paws!

 

Georgia Pharmacists with compounding labs quickly mobilized into whipping up batches of hand sanitizer:

Dean Stone of IHS Pharmacy & Gifts delivers hand sanitizer to Candler County Sheriff John Miles & his team.” (photo provided by Dean Stone)

Dean Stone of IHS Pharmacy & Gifts delivers hand sanitizer to Candler County Sheriff John Miles & his team.” (photo provided by Dean Stone)

 

Distilleries had alcohol, and with that, they started to produce hand sanitizer:

Kelly and Jim Chasteen with hand sanitizer produced at ASW Distillery. (photo provided by Jim Chasteen)

Kelly and Jim Chasteen with hand sanitizer produced at ASW Distillery. (photo provided by Jim Chasteen)

 

Breweries were not to be left out. They, too, are converting their facilities to bottle up hand sanitizer:

Clean Creature hand sanitizer courtesy of Creature Comforts

(Clean Creature hand sanitizer photo courtesy of Creature Comforts Brewing Company)

Tony SIngletary and Tripp Morgan with Pretoria Fields message of hope

Tony Singletary and Tripp Morgan in front of Pretoria Fields Brewery’s message of hope for the community. (photo courtesy of Pretoria Fields Brewery)

 

All around the Bulldog Nation, University of Georgia alumni are answering the call. Share your stories of Dawgs helping Dawgs!

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.

Show off your red and black in style thanks to artist Melissa Mahoney (BFA ’87)

This article was written by Leigh Raynor Arndt.

All Bulldogs know that Saturdays in Athens are not for sweatpants. For those seeking a more refined gameday look, alumna Melissa Mahoney (BFA ’87) has designed a particularly stylish way to don your red and black. Her beautiful silk scarves have landed in the UGA Bookstore and embody Melissa’s love for her alma mater. The scarves’ combined artistry and practicality reflect the story of Melissa’s career–a path she began as a UGA student.

Melissa

Portrait of Melissa Mahoney (BFA ’87)

With several artists in her family, Melissa comes by her creative streak honestly. An Atlanta native, she now lives in Palo Alto, California. She’s led her own graphic design firm, Indigo Creative, since 1993. The success of her business now allows her to spend more time on another passion: painting.

Melissa’s scarf design uses high-energy swirls that run throughout her latest “Vortices” series, which is a collection of paintings and textiles. In addition to designing for UGA, she’s created scarves for Stanford and tech-juggernaut Google. And she’s been her own boss for more than 25 years. She attributes much of this success to the knowledge and skills she gained at UGA.

The Google scarf Melissa designed.

The Google scarf Melissa designed.

 

Melissa’s graphic design major and fine arts minor gave her practical know-how while allowing her to explore her artistic side. “Not all graphic designers can draw and paint, but these are great skills to have,” said Melissa. “They have helped me stand out in my field.”

After graduation, Melissa pursued graduate studies through UGA Cortona, a program that just celebrated its 50th anniversary. In Italy, Melissa was inspired by seeing in person the art that she’d studied for years. The trip also emboldened her. “Going to Italy gave me the courage to try new things and venture out,” said Melissa. Ultimately, her experience abroad led her to follow her dream of living in California.

After a few years working in Atlanta, Melissa packed up her belongings and drove across the country to the West Coast. With no job offer in tow, the move was risky. But the reward for her bravery has been a long career in California, the state that now “feels like home.”

Melissa continues to exhibit the courage she developed at UGA. A cold call and months of determination led to her Google scarf. A scarf for another tech giant will soon be on the way, too.

“There are so many ways to make a living as an artist,” Melissa said. “I’m lucky to do what I love. And I love sharing my passion. Seeing others enjoy my art brings me so much joy.”

UGA scarf

Melissa’s UGA scarf and more will be available at her pop-up shop at the UGA Bookstore in November.

 

Visit Melissa in Athens on November 22 and 23 for a “Scarf Pop-up” at the UGA Bookstore! Learn more.

And on Sunday, October 20, San Francisco Bulldogs can let their creative side loose during a workshop Melissa will lead at the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara.

 

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.”

Katherine Shayne holding phone featuring Can I Recycle This

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.

How Computer Science became one of UGA’s most popular majors

Journalism, business administration, pharmacy, computer science: believe it or not, these majors are in ascending order of total enrollment at the University of Georgia.  

In fact, computer science has the fourth highest enrollment among all majors at UGA. And the graduate degree computer science program is the fastest growing program on campus, having seen a 60 percent enrollment increase from fall 2013 to fall 2018. 

Combine that with the undergraduate program’s 153 percent rise in enrollment in the last five years and you have, undeniably, one of UGA’s most popular departments. We talked with several CS alumni to ask them about their experience and find out more. 

Established in 1984, the Department of Computer Science in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences at UGA has expanded to include more than 195 enrolled graduate students and over 1,100 undergraduates. Lori Kittle (BS ’86) was among the first graduates with a degree in computer science.  

“I simply felt like the future would be all about the computer, although I certainly did not envision all the advances that have occurred,” said Kittle. Along with the coursework, Kittle said, “One of my favorite memories at UGA is making lifelong friendships with my fellow CS classmates.” 

Kittle attributes her successful career, including a stint as the Chief Information Officer at Landry’s, Inc.—a $4 billion restaurant, hospitality, and entertainment businessto her education at UGA. She demonstrated her appreciation of the department when she created a scholarship fund for computer science students. Kittle also serves on the department’s advisory board, which provides industry input that helps guide curriculum for the program.  

Like Kittle, Maja Culum (BS ‘19) chose to study computer science because she knew “coming into the university that technology was becoming prevalent within every field,” and there was no way around interacting with it. Culum, who was hired full-time in the UI/UX department at NCR Corporation, believes studying computer science at UGA allowed her to “choose a role within the tech industry that suited her strengths and interests.” 

“That’s what I like most about Computer Science: it’s never limiting, and there’s so much to choose from,” said Culum. My experience in the Department of Computer Science at UGA was both challenging and incredibly rewarding. The professors are knowledgeable and always willing to help, which encouraged me to stick with the major despite the challenges. 

The comprehensive coursework and faculty expertise Culum credits have also led to the growing recognition of the department. Dr. Thiab Taha, UGA Computer Science department head, believes the diversity in research expertise and the increasing number of courses provides students the opportunity to choose the path they are most interested in.  

Students interested in engaging in technology-centric extracurricular activities can join one of many clubs and groups, including Data Dawgs or UGA Hacks, which hosts a hackathon every spring on campus. The UGA Computer Science department also houses the Institute for Cybersecurity and Privacy, which was designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) through academic year 2022. 

Muhammed Ahmed’s (BS ‘18) passion for problem solving drew him to major in computer science at the University of Georgia, but it was the countless opportunities available within the department that he loved most about his studies.  

“Majoring in computer science helped me secure my dream job,” said Ahmed, a data scientist at Mailchimp. “The program provided me with a strong technical foundation and the soft skills I need to communicate effectively. I had the chance to learn through clubs, research projects, hackathons and many on-campus events.” 

All of the above are reasons a firm like Forrester Research calls Atlanta one of the US’ five elite tech talent markets. As businesses continue to take advantage of this rich market, UGA CS graduates are reaping the benefits, finding positions in global organizations like NCR, The Home Depot and AT&T.  

There appears to be no slowdown in the rise of computer science at UGA, either. Employers and partners of the university are finding new ways to directly engage students through career and internship fairs, UGA Hacks’ hackathon, student organizations and industry panels. And as UGA CS alumni continue their career progression and become the leaders of those employers and UGA partners, UGA’s tech talent pipeline will only become stronger. 

The future of space exploration

This story was written by James Hataway and was originally posted to UGAToday on July 15, 2019. 


Fifty years ago this month, on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin landed on the moon – the first time human beings set foot on another celestial body. As the nation and the world celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, the University of Georgia is taking an in-depth look at this historic milestone and the future of space exploration. 

As people around the world prepare to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the extraordinary technological achievements that made human space exploration possible, one burning question still remains: What is next?

NASA project manager and UGA alumnus Roger Hunter discusses the legacy of the Apollo missions and how the same pioneering spirit that compelled humans to walk on the lunar surface will ultimately drive the next great chapter in human discovery.

Hunter was project manager for NASA’s Kepler mission, which used a space telescope to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars in the Milky Way galaxy. He currently serves as program manager for NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program.

We’re now 50 years out from the moon landing. As you reflect back on that achievement, what strikes you as the most enduring impacts of the Apollo program?

“In my life, I know of two events where time stood still for the human race: Apollo 8 and Apollo 11. I remember how the world seemingly paused from its routine to revel in its imagination; to celebrate, what was once deemed impossible. The ‘Earth-rise’ photo, taken by the Apollo 8 astronauts is reputed to be the most reproduced photograph in human history. My first glimpse of that photo was on a black and white television in my parents’ living room. I was awe-struck even though the image was not in full color. We felt reconnected to the one only planet, so far, of all the ones that we know exists, that harbors life in such abundance and diversity. To date, venturing to the Moon was our greatest adventure; it reminded us of how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go.”

Why do you think it’s important for us to continue to explore space?

“We are, by nature, explorers. We are descended from those who dared to leave the caves, and to see what was beyond the horizon. Our cave-dwelling ancestors painted, among other things from their world, the heavens on their cave walls.  Thousands of years later, our curiosity led us to better understand our world and those points of light in the night sky beyond that graced those crude drawings. Exploring brings out the best in us; it also represents, in my mind, a willingness to leave something behind for our descendants. I recall reading an article by a former NASA administrator who was also answering a similar question. He spoke of ‘deferred gratification’ as a compelling notion that drives exploration. There may not be an instant realization of ‘return on investment’ but the investment, intuitively, answers a call from our nature—to leave behind something better and to advance our civilization.”

 What do you think the future holds for space exploration?

“We’ve come far since 1957, the year many say is when the space age began. Launching satellites is now a routine activity. Once the province of just the two cold-war superpowers, many companies around the world are exploiting space. There are private companies now thinking of extending their operations to the moon, to asteroids, to the planets.

“The future of space exploration is set on the next horizon; to better understanding our solar system; to understanding the many mysteries of the Cosmos that are yet unexplained; to understanding the prevalence of life in our solar system and beyond. The Kepler mission affirmed what many believed: that there are billions and billions of planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. Many of those billions of planets are Earth-size planets and they orbit in the so-called habitable zone of their host stars—where water might pool on the surface of the planet. Some explorations are going to be aimed, with newer breeds of telescopes, at determining the extent of life on those newly discovered worlds.

“The ‘cave wall paintings’ we leave behind for our descendants will be more sophisticated than what our ancestors left us. Yet, we still are faced, despite all of the explorations that we have accomplished, with more unanswered questions than we have answers. So far, we know of only one life-bearing planet, Earth. We still want to know more about how the Universe works. We want to know more about how we got here. We want to know if we are alone. We explore because the next horizon still beckons; the next artists are yet to frame their paintings.”

More about Roger Hunter

Prior to joining NASA, Roger was with the Boeing Company as Site Manager in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In that position, he directed the efforts of over 250 Boeing engineers and technicians in sustaining the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite constellation and the Air Force’s GPS command and control system.

Before joining Boeing, Roger served in the US Air Force, and retired after 22 years of service. Colonel Hunter’s assignments included Commander, 2nd Space Operations Squadron, Deputy Operations Group Commander for the 50th Space Wing, and Program Manager for the XSS-10 microsatellite technology demonstration for Air Force Research Laboratory. He also had assignments with HQ US Air Force Space Command, and HQ US Air Force at the Pentagon.

He holds a bachelor of science in mathematics from the University of Georgia; a master of science in space operations and physics from the US Air Force Institute of Technology; and a master of airpower art and science from the US Air Force School of Advanced Airpower Studies. He is also a graduate of the US Air Force Air War College, and US Air Force Air Command and Staff College.

JIT for Mother’s Day: Alumni-owned Helmsie offers “modern Southern goods for momma and babe”

JIT (just in time) for Mother’s Day, we’re spotlighting Helmsie, a Georgia-based lifestyle brand that offers “nostalgic and Southern goods for momma and babe.”

Helmsie is the dream child of Sarah Howell (MS ’10), who graduated from UGA’s College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences with a degree in biological engineering, and her BFF Karla Pruitt, a licensed wallpaper, fabric and greeting card designer. The pair was interested in merging the South’s “rich, timeless culture” with the “renewed interest of uniquely Southern design.”

Today, their business focuses on being well-designed, yet functional–all in an effort to serve today’s “style-conscious momma.” They pride themselves on producing goods that will “add a little whimsy and joy to your day-to-day.” Here are just a few of the products available at helmsiebaby.com/shop:

Not Your Momma’s Alphabet Cards ($15)

Helmsie-Alphabet-Flash-Cards

Photo: Helmsie

I’m MOMMA Necklace ($30)

Helmsie-Momma-Necklace

Photo: Helmsie

Bee Earrings ($20)

Helmsie-Bee-Earrings

Photo: Helmsie

Enamel Pins

Helmsie-Enamel-Pins

Photo: Helmsie

Pink Bee Poster ($34)

Helmsie-Bee-Poster-Print

Photo: Helmsie

Helmsie-Sarah-Howell-Americas-Mart-Booth

Photo: Helmsie

Sarah graduated from UGA in 2010 with a master’s degree in biological engineering (her undergraduate degree is from Furman University) and is an associate adjunct professor at Ashford University, teaching courses in health care ethics and medical statistics. In 2017, she added co-founder and CEO of Helmsie to her resume. This engineer-turned-entrepreneur manages the business side of house for the brand from her home in Atlanta. The wife and mother of two admits to also being an avid collector of vintage jewelry.

In late 2018, Helmsie announced its wallpaper debut with Hygge & West–another woman-owned business.

 

Interested in supporting this entrepreneurial alumna? Visit helmsiebaby.com to order online or inquire about wholesale purchases. Or follow them on Instagram.

Interested in supporting UGA students seeking to follow in Sarah’s business-running footsteps? Consider making a gift to UGA’s Entrepreneurship Program Support Fund.

National Beer Day: Alumnus brewing for a cause

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

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

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

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

Share a little about the Get Comfortable Campaign.

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

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

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

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

What was your favorite UGA memory?

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

Favorite UGA professor?

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

What are your top three favorite beers?

creature comforts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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