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The Natural: UGA showed Jackie Mattison new trails to blaze

This story was written by Charles McNair. 

Jackie Mattison (BS ’76) didn’t have a gymnastics team at her school in Covington, Georgia. She simply tumbled around in the gym and in her backyard, head over heels, like any kid.

She didn’t lead cheers on the sidelines in high school either. Instead, she wore a Newton County Rams costume, boosting school spirit as the team mascot.

With this background, what were the chances that Mattison would one day graduate as University of Georgia’s first-ever Black gymnast … and first-ever Black cheerleader?

“I never thought I’d be doing something like that,” she confesses. “There I was at UGA as a student, just enjoying what students do. I didn’t try to become a gymnast and cheerleader on purpose. It just all fell together.”

Tumbled, she might have said.

Her freshman year, 1973, Mattison took Tumbling 101 as a physical education elective. In one class, she practiced forward rolls on a battered wrestling mat. A sharp-eyed coach was passing through the gym.

“You look like you’re light on your feet,” the coach told her. “Why don’t you come try out for the gymnastics team?”

Jackie Mattison performing 1975

Jackie Mattison performing a gymnastics routine in 1975.

That day changed everything.

“If it had not been for the kind, inspiring voice of Melinda Airhart (1973-1976 UGA women’s gymnastics coach), my success as a student at UGA would not have manifested the way it did,” Mattison says. “She saw my little bit of talent and worked with me to make it bigger.”

Every Monday through Friday during summer semesters, Airhart waited for Mattison in the gym at Stegeman Hall. They practiced for two hours every day, one-on-one.

Mattison started team practice in fall 1973, the first year UGA fielded a gymnastics team. Her initial competition came in January 1974. She placed first in the vault in several meets that season.

From its humble beginnings, Georgia’s women gymnasts went on to win 10 NCAA national championships. The team has also claimed 16 Southeastern Conference Championships and 22 NCAA regional titles.

Today, Georgia women’s gymnastics–the Gym Dawgs–are generally recognized as one of the nation’s premier program.

Mattison and her teammates blazed the trail for them.

A vault into cheerleading

As Mattison worked out with the gymnastics team, she began to notice the UGA cheerleaders practicing nearby. Intrigued, she tried out for cheerleading in the spring of 1974.

“I got cut,” she remembers. “That hurt so bad. I remember thinking, ‘I’ll never try that again’.”

But she did. Convinced that her white cheer partner had let her fall on purpose during tryouts, she teamed up with a Black partner, Ricky Bivens. They scored highest of all the competitors in initial competitions, and among the highest in a nerve-wracking second tryout at Stegeman Coliseum.

That fall, Mattison found herself shaking pom-poms on the sidelines of Sanford Stadium. Home game Saturdays, she and her cheer teammates led tens of thousands of Bulldog fans in full-throated support of notable teams fielded by then-Coach Vince Dooley. Mattison even held Uga III’s leash as they ran onto the field for home games.

Jackie Mattison gymnastics team 1976

Jackie Mattison with her gymnastics team in 1976.

At the 1976 Cotton Bowl, UGA vs. Arkansas, she turned after a cheer to find herself face-to-face with Georgia native singer James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. Brown had a recent hit song, “Dooley’s Junkyard Dawgs,” which has the following lyrics:

Uh, ha, Dooley’s junkyard dogs 
Dooley’s junkyard dogs 
They’ll hit ya, they’ll knock ya, ha 
They’ll haul right off and sock ya 
Dooley’s junkyard dogs 
Dooley’s junkyard dogs

As rich as her gymnastics team and cheer team memories are, Mattison holds other moments equally dear. She became one of the very first UGA female student athletes to be awarded a scholarship, thanks to the enactment of a national education amendment, Title IX. And she pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., joining “a sisterhood that still exists today,” she says.

“The camaraderie of Black sororities and fraternities at UGA closely bonded the few minority students,” she says. “Among my best memories are Black student gatherings in the dorms and dining halls, social activities, and greetings as we passed on our way to classes.”

UGA also readied Mattison for life after Athens.

“I feel that the professionalism, support and encouragement of my instructors in the health and physical education department had a major role in my success as a student at UGA,” she says.

“I was motivated by the commitment, energy and excitement in their voices as they taught and engaged students. There was a feeling of a great deal of mutual respect between students and professors. To me, that was a formula for success.”

She took that formula into the world.

Passing it forward

Earning a 1977 master’s degree in health and physical education, Mattison launched a 33-year career as an educator.

She began as a K-5 physical education teacher at Barnett Shoals Elementary School in Athens. She shaped young minds and bodies at subsequent posts in Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland and Tennessee.

Along the way, she and her husband Larry had two sons, Landy and Ryan, and one grandson, Sean.

She spent the last 12 years of her career back home, at Newton High School in Covington, teaching health and physical education. In three decades-plus of education, she coached co-ed cross-country and golf, as well as girls’ softball, tennis, and gymnastics. She retired in 2016, her career distinguished by awards and the achievements of her students.

UGA has been with her along all the trails she blazed.

“I left UGA with confidence that I could make a difference in the lives of students from every walk of life,” Mattison says.

“I followed my heart. To this day, I have no doubt that the major reason I was successful in a career as a health educator, physical educator, and coach for 33 years is because I was prepared for life – and made highly qualified in my field – by the University of Georgia.”

Mistress of Cultural Affairs: Nawanna Miller’s legacy of diversity and inclusion at UGA

This was written by Charles McNair.

In fall 1970, Nawanna Lewis Miller (ABJ ’73) took on a daunting mission: showcasing the traditions of African American culture at UGA. The student body at that time was overwhelmingly white, and Miller remembers—painfully—how some classmates did not welcome Black faces.

Miller and her Black classmates resolved to stand up and stand out.

Bannered under the theme of Pamoja, the Swahili word for togetherness, Miller founded a pantheon of Black cultural organizations unlike anything seen before at UGA.

The Pamoja Dancers daringly expressed the Black experience through artistic motion. (Miller danced completely alone at first.) The Pamoja Singers gave beautiful a cappella concerts on the plaza outside Monument Hall. The Pamoja Drama and Arts troupe recounted Black life in stories. (Again, Miller performed solo shows at first.) Finding still more ways to share the importance of Black culture, Miller launched the landmark Journalism Association for Minorities (JAM), and that group produced Pamoja Newspaper.

The ripples of Miller’s work would spread through the next five decades into currently active UGA groups (The African American Choral Ensemble, the Black Theatrical Ensemble, etc.). Thousands of UGA students have taken part in these performing arts ensembles. A 50th Anniversary of Pamoja event in 2020 commemorated their contributions to UGA.

Miller’s leadership came with a unique title: Mistress of Cultural Affairs.

Nawanna Lewis Miller 1970

Nawanna Lewis Miller in the 1970 Pandora yearbook.

“I didn’t know what it meant. Nobody knew what it meant,” Miller laughs. “I went and typed out a job description and took it from there.”

The Pamoja movement excited Black students and left them optimistic … to a degree.

“We only had a minuscule number of Black students on campus,” Miller says, “but they made for a supportive audience.

“A few white students,” she smiles, “were curiously polite.”

New success against long odds

After earning a broadcast journalism degree in just three years–Miller took 20 hours each semester–Nawanna and husband George C. Miller (her sweetheart since junior high school), moved in 1977 to Washington, D.C. George took a high political post in the United States Department of the Treasury in President Jimmy Carter’s administration.

The Millers started a family, eventually to grow to six children and seven grandsons. Though the home front kept her busy, Miller now set her sights on another lifelong dream–the ministry.

“My first encounter with Jesus Christ came while I was still in a high chair,” she says. “Through my whole life, I have vigorously served in the church.”

It would turn out that becoming a female minister at a time when men dominated the clergy would take more determination than she ever imagined.

“I can say that the physical, mental, and emotional impact of attending UGA as a minority student in those early years of integration was very, very costly,” Miller says. “But I believe it was even harder to be accepted among Black people—men especially—as Black preacher.”

Miller approached her pastor at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington about her yearning. As a first step, she served as director of metropolitan youth ministries, offering spiritual guidance to children in 30 organizations. Then, in 1989, more than a decade after moving to D.C. and over the objections of other pastors, Miller was licensed to preach by Reverend Dr. H.B. Hicks, Jr.

Finally, in 1992, Miller was welcomed fully to the gospel ministry following a substantial public catechism by clergy who “courageously ordained her,” she says.

“The beautiful part is that this revolutionary moment happened in front of about 1,500 people. That was a powerful affirmation.”

She became one of the first female pastors in the Baptist church.

Miller went on to earn a master’s degree in divinity from Howard University. When the Millers returned to the Atlanta area, she founded the Messiah’s Temple Christian Ministries, serving as pastor there until 2016.

The Gospel of Great Health

After a stroke in 2015, Miller reduced her time in the pulpit. She now serves as a personal pastor to people “from all walks of life,” she says, sharing spiritual guidance through The Institute for Christian Fellowship, yet another organization she founded, this one in 1996.

She spends time writing books. She has five titles in all, with a new one, B.O.L.O. – Be On the Look-Out for Satan’s Top Ten Tricks, due in 2021.

Nawanna Miller 2021

Nawanna Miller in 2021.

Doctors gave Miller only a 15% chance of surviving her stroke. Yet, once again, her unbreakable spirit prevailed. Turning the setback into something positive, Miller designed The Gospel of Great Health program, teaching what she calls “supernatural energy techniques for healing and wholeness” to students and churches.

She’s seen many changes since her days at UGA, but Miller insists that one thing in her life has always stayed the same.

“Excellence was our brand for all of the Pamoja groups,” she says. “And I’m grateful to say that’s still the standard I’ve been blessed to attempt in everything I’ve done all these years.”

Vaughn’s Victory: Terry College’s first Black female graduate shares remembrances 

This story was written by Charles McNair. 

Margaret Vaughn (BBA ’70) didn’t realize she was making history.

“I did not set a goal to become the first Black woman to graduate from the Terry College of Business,” she says. “I knew at the time that two Black males had preceded me. But even at graduation, I did not attach any great significance to that moment.”

Vaughn may have been distracted by job offers.

It was 1970, and businesses and the federal government were just waking up to the potential of a diversified professional workforce. Vaughn heard from NASA, the Big 8 accounting firms, the U.S. Department of Labor and others.

“I attribute that attention,” she says modestly, “to the fact that a University of Georgia business degree was highly respected by employers.”

But, hello Houston, there was a problem. The potential employers all wanted Vaughn to relocate–to Texas, New York or New Jersey.

“The U.S. Department of Treasury won out,” Vaughn says, “because the Internal Revenue Service did not require me to leave Georgia.”

In 1970, she started a distinguished career with the IRS, retiring in 2004 after serving in multiple roles with increasing responsibility.

In an unexpected way, Vaughn says, her UGA classroom experience prepared her perfectly for the 1970s business world.

Margaret Vaughn 1970

Margaret Vaughn in the 1970 Pandora yearbook.

“Initially, my work environment was a near mirror image of my environment at UGA,” Vaughn says. “Predominately male and white.”

“I was the only African American and one of only two females in my first tax training class. I was one of only two or three African Americans and the only African American female employed as an IRS field agent in Georgia. I remember being one of only two African Americans in the swearing-in ceremony when I became a certified public accountant.”

“So not only did my UGA experience provide me the technical knowledge to become an expert in my field,” she says, “it also fully prepared me for the environment where I would have to work.”

Roads not taken

Vaughn never plotted to enter the business world.

As a student at Pearl High School in Madison, Georgia, she loved to write. She created the school’s first yearbook and wrote the school’s alma mater. She had her heart set on making a living by the paragraph and page.

That changed in her senior year. The principal of her high school called Vaughn into the office with news.

“You’re going to be the senior class valedictorian,” the principal said. “And you’re going to the University of Georgia. I’ve already talked with your father about it, and he agrees.”

Goodbye Spelman. Goodbye historically Black universities and colleges.

Vaughn, in retrospect, sees two powerful reasons behind that decision made for her.

First, her principal wanted to show that a student from her school could excel at UGA. Second, Vaughn’s dad had come home from the military and had been denied an opportunity to attend UGA. His daughter’s admission would mark an achievement for the Vaughn family. (Margaret would be the first in her immediate family to go to college.)

Dad also had a very practical concern. He felt sure that a business degree could ensure that his brilliant daughter would find a job with steady paychecks and financial security instead of rejection slips and unsold manuscripts.

Taxing times

Vaughn speaks thoughtfully and philosophically about the challenges she faced as a young Black woman in the late ’60s at a newly-integrated Deep South university.

“I entered UGA feeling that a personal sacrifice had been made to enroll,” she says, “but the remaining unanswered question was whether the struggle for representation and inclusion would be worth the sacrifice.”

“Of course, I was also concerned about more immediate matters. What would I face in the classroom? Would I be marginalized? Would I face open hostility? Would I have help in my studies, if I needed it?”

Terry proved an education.

“It felt as though each class held a different UGA experience with different challenges,” she says.

“I specifically remember a speech class. I was the only Black student in a white, predominantly male class, and I was deeply concerned that it would be the worst experience of the quarter.”

“The icebreaker was that I could write. I shared a few of my discarded speech drafts. Contrary to my initial fears, it went exceedingly well. I had initially dreaded the class and my study group, but that was a time I experienced inclusion from fellow students.”

Helping others blaze trails

Solving challenges on her own, class by class, turned out to be an important part of Vaughn’s education.

“UGA showed me in many ways that I was strong and resilient,” she says. “The university taught me that if I want my life to matter, I must live it on my own terms, unselfishly, with responsibility for my own happiness.”

Vaughn often recalls how, in 1966, she felt alone and without support in classrooms. It’s why she is now passionate about giving special attention to small, often unsupported, businesses through her tax consulting practice, Margaret Davis Vaughn, CPA.

She also serves on the boards of organizations that provide guidance to promising young people.

“Being a trailblazer in 1970 meant there were no African American female role models, no mentors, for me at UGA,” Vaughn says. “There was no one to call to ask for directions.

“This is why I am determined to have an impact on the lives of as many students as I possibly can. Just as someone saw a possibility for me, I am certain there are CPAs waiting among the students within my reach.”

40 Under 40 Spotlight: Angela Alfano, champion of the sports industry

Angela Alfano (AB, ABJ ’10), senior director of corporate communications for Major League Soccer, is committed to empowering the next generation of sports executives.

For her personal, professional and philanthropic achievements, Angela ranked among UGA’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2021. The program celebrates young alumni leading the pack in their industries and communities.

Angela being interviewed

Angela being interviewed after the John E. Drewry Young Alumni Awards ceremony at UGA.

Who is Angela Alfano?

Angela graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with a master’s degree in Sports Industry Management and received undergraduate degrees in both public relations and political science from the University of Georgia. Angela started her sports communications career working as a student assistant in UGA’s Sports Information Department.

A strategic young executive, Angela has more than a decade of leadership and innovation in communications.

Since joining Major League Soccer in July of 2018, Angela has been instrumental in garnering positive publicity for the league outside the traditional scope of soccer. She showcases the business behind the brand, finding creative ways to highlight executives in the media and oversee strategies for the league.

UGA Sports Communications-Student Assistants Oct 2009

Angela Alfano (lower left) as a UGA sports communications student assistant in 2009.

What led Angela to Major League Soccer?

Prior to her work at Major League Soccer, Angela spent two years at Tough Mudder’s NYC headquarters in the communications department and six years working in public relations for professional football – both at the National Football League (NFL) headquarters and the Washington Football Team.

Angela oversaw corporate communications for the Washington Football Team where she promoted the team’s community relations and publicized player, coach and ownership initiatives off the field. She also oversaw media credentialing, press box staff supervision and event media coverage recaps for the team.

Angela then moved onto the NFL, where she elevated league initiatives, such as Breast Cancer Awareness, Salute to Service and PLAY 60. She led more than 20 press conferences annually at the Super Bowl and developed public relations campaigns for major league events, such as NFL Kickoff and Draft.

Angela at an MLS All Star Game

Angela working at an MLS All Star Game.

How have Angela’s efforts been recognized?

Angela was honored by PRSA Chicago with a Chicago Skyline Award for “Establishing a New Identity for the NFL Draft” and as one of PR News’ “Rising Stars 30 and Under.” In 2019, she received Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award and currently serves on UGA’s AdPR Executive Advisory Council. Angela was also honored as one of Sigma Kappa’s National Headquarters 35 Under 35.

Watch Grady College salute Angela Alfano: 

Where is Angela now?

Angela currently resides in New York with her husband Michael and dog, Lohi.

Angela dedicates her free time to the next generation of young sports PR executives. She serves as a supportive and accessible mentor to women and men in sports businesses. Passionate about championing a new wave of leadership in the industry, Angela and her husband, Michael O’ Brien, created the “Alfano and O’Brien Sports Communication Award”— an endowment through the Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications to help students pursuing a career in the sports industry.

Checking in with outgoing Alumni Board Member April Crow

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. These spirited Alumni Board members represent the diverse and passionate UGA alumni family and strive to provide feedback, guidance and leadership as the University of Georgia seeks to ensure that its graduates Never Bark Alone. Throughout the year, we’ll get to know these individuals; they hail from various backgrounds and are involved in all corners of campus. Their ultimate goal: to empower the next breed of Bulldog to continue that tradition.

April Crow Headshot

April Crow, an outgoing board member and dedicated alumnus.

Name:

  • April Crow

I live in:

  • Atlanta, GA

Degree:

  • 1995 – BS in Environmental Health (UGA)

I joined the board in:

  • 2015

What makes me proud to be a Georgia Bulldog:

  • The community of fellow Bulldogs around the state and the world that are doing great work in their communities. I love interacting with them both socially and professionally.

Ways I support UGA:

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

My first job after graduation

  • Regulatory Affairs Specialist at Coca-Cola

A moment that stood out as a UGA student was

  • I wanted to take Ballroom Dance for one of my P.E. courses, but you could only sign up with a partner. I recruited a good friend named Brian. Who knew that class would spark a little romance that made him my dance partner for life?

My family includes:

  • Husband, Brian (BSAE ’97)
  • Son, Garner
  • Daughter, Greer
April Crow and family at football game

April cheers on the Dawgs with her husband, Brian, and two children!

A special connection I have to UGA is…

  • Throughout my professional career, I have focused a significant amount of time and personal interest in solving the plastics in the ocean challenge. I connected with Jenna Jambeck, a leading academic researcher on the topic and a UGA professor. I’ve had the opportunity to work and speak with her at events around the world. It is great to see UGA contributing to such an important challenge.

A memory from my acceptance into UGA:

  • I remember answering the phone in our family living room during Spring 1991. Wen Williams, associate dean for academic affairs, congratulated me on being awarded a full tuition scholarship from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

As a student, I was involved in:

  • Zeta Tau Alpha
  • College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences Ambassador
  • Job at the Tate Copy Center
April Crow in Sanford Stadium

April Crow celebrating the Bulldog 100 with her husband in Sanford Stadium.

My favorite place to study on campus was:

  • Science Library

My favorite place to dine on campus:

  • Bolton Dining Hall –– My best friends and I loved making waffles and topping them with ice cream from the UGA Creamery!

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

  • At the Zeta Tau Alpha house getting ready to go downtown!

When I was a student, I lived in:

  • Boggs Hall
  • Zeta Tau Alpha house
  • Apartment at Rivers Edge

My fashion/hair style as a student

  • Floral, puffy sleeves
  • Jumpers for dressing up
  • Sorority/fraternity T-shirts

When in college, I wish I had known that …

  • The time would go by so quickly– I wish I could go back and soak in more of those experiences and meet more people.
April with son and husband

April with her son, Garner, and husband Brian.

The most significant change to campus since I was a student

  • Tate Center expansion!

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

  • “Love Shack” by the B-52’s

My most disliked athletic rival:

  • University of Florida

Favorite alumni-owned restaurant:

  • Condor Chocolates

My dream weekend in Athens includes:

  • Tailgating, seeing friends, enjoying lots of restaurants and shopping downtown.

No. 1 tip to a graduating Bulldog:

  • Learn as much as you can. Meet as many people as possible. Leverage the UGA network and give back financially and by helping other Bulldogs!

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

April’s term on the Alumni Board concluded June 30, but we know this loyal Bulldog will remain involved for years to come. Also, be sure to check out a special story about April and Brian’s financial support for UGA. LINK

Meet Morgan Cook, UGA Young Alumni Leadership Council member

The University of Georgia’s Young Alumni Leadership Council is made of graduates of the past two decades who connect alumni in their age demographic to UGA. Whether that means raising money for Campus Kitchen at UGA through a Cooking Class with Peter Dale (ABJ ’99) or interviewing alums like comedian Mia Jackson (AB ’00), they work to ensure that the 40,000 young alumni living in metro Atlanta are connected to their Bulldog family and that they Never Bark Alone.

We recently chatted with Morgan Cook (BBA ’15, MBA ’19), a member of the Young Alumni Leadership Council, to learn about her role as a project manager at Google and her experience at UGA.

Morgan CookHow did you become a member of the Young Alumni Leadership Council?

I serve on Terry College’s Young Alumni Board, and when I thought I was going to roll off it last year, I explored ways to stay involved at UGA. I had attended some Women of UGA events, and learned that there was also a Young Alumni Leadership Council. Once I applied, I talked to Luke Massee [in the Office of Alumni Relations] about it and then got on it! 

What do you enjoy most about being on the council? 

There are probably two things. One of them is just staying active with UGA. I got so much out of my college experience that I’ve always wanted to give back. Another is just the social interaction and the networking with the council and the alumni relations staff. 

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

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. 

What advice would you give to a UGA student? 

I would say get involved in campus life and organizations because it’s only going to enhance your college experience. 

What’s your favorite UGA memory? 

Probably either the 2013 Georgia vs. LSU football game or running into Miss Sandra on campus. 

 

Spring 2021 Mentorship Mondays to feature lineup of impressive UGA alumnae

The Women of UGA Leadership Council is pleased to announce the upcoming spring 2021 virtual Mentorship Mondays series! Sessions feature an alumna or a panel of alumnae, will last from Noon-1 P.M. and will address career development topics from fighting imposter syndrome to negotiating a promotion. After each session, there is an optional 30-minute breakout portion for participants to share their experiences and network with fellow Bulldogs.

Monday, February 22 – Living Your Authentic Purpose

In a session moderated by Janelle Nicole Christian (BBA ’11), founder of self-care platform Hey J. Nicole, the panelists will discuss values and passions, how those things guided their career and life decisions and how they reflect in their work today. Panelists include Wendi Carpenter (BS ’76), retired Navy Rear Admiral and founder and principal of Gold Star Strategies, and April Crow (BSEH ’95), vice president of external affairs and investor relations at Circulate Capital.

 

Monday, March 22 – You are a Rockstar: Imposter Syndrome and Moving Beyond It

In this session, Suzy Deering (BSFCS ’92), global chief marketing officer of Ford Motor Company, will discuss the internal experience of believing you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. She will discuss where she experienced self-doubt in her career journey and how she overcame it to lead with confidence and determination. Join us as we learn how to rise above our own doubts and support those in our networks struggling with imposter syndrome.

 

Monday, April 19 – Let’s Make a Deal: Job Offer and Promotion Negotiation Best Practices

In a session moderated by UGA professor and owner of Be Inspired Counseling and Consulting Dr. Marian Higgins (PHD ’11), our panelists will discuss best practices and advice in career negotiations. If you’re looking for advice regarding the job negotiation processes, don’t miss this program! Panelists for this session include Katie Comer (BSA ’13), Facebook community development regional manager, and Pam Roper (AB ’94), executive vice president and general counsel at Cousins Properties.

 

Monday, May 17 – Maria Taylor: My Career and the Importance of Mentorship

Maria Taylor (ABJ ’09, MBA ’13) joined ESPN as a college analyst and reporter in 2014. As one of the network’s most versatile commentators, Taylor became the first Black woman to co-host College GameDay in 2017, and was later chosen to be the sideline reporter for ABC Saturday Night Football. Taylor has covered the NBA Countdown, the NBA Draft, College Football Live, Big Monday and the NCAA Women’s Final Four. In the final session of Mentorship Mondays’ spring series, Maria will talk about her career journey, what she learned along the way, the role of mentorship and the importance of giving back.

UGA Alumni Association welcomes new volunteers to board of directors and leadership councils

The University of Georgia Alumni Association Board of Directors recently welcomed Kevin Abernathy, Elliot Marsh, and Charlita Stephens-Walker as new board members. In addition, 16 new alumni volunteers have joined the Black Alumni Leadership Council, Women of UGA Leadership Council, and the Young Alumni Leadership Council. 

“These graduates reflect the characteristics of a true Bulldog: committed, caring and spirited,” said Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of alumni relations. “They are leaders in their communities, and they will bring an important voice to these leadership groups as we seek to foster a supportive and inclusive community for the more than 332,000 living alumni around the world. I’m looking forward to working with each of them.” 

Kevin Abernethy served as president of the Student Government Association before graduating from UGA in 1999. Today, he is an assistant U.S. attorney with the Middle District of Georgia, defending federal agencies and recovering assets for the U.S. Treasury. Abernethy participates in the UGA Mentor Program, was named to UGA’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2013, completed the Harvard Kennedy School’s Emerging Leaders program, is on the School of Public and International Affairs Alumni Board of Directors, and serves on the advisory board for UGA’s vice president of student affairs. 


A Statesboro, Georgia, native, Elliott Marsh earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and a master’s degree in agricultural leadership from UGA. Today, Marsh is a financial advisor with Edward Jones. He has earned several honors, including the J.W. Fanning Distinguished Young Professional Award from the Agricultural Economics Association of Georgia, and was named to the 40 Under 40 lists for both UGA and Georgia Trend Magazine. Marsh is a past president of UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Alumni Association. 



Charlita Stephens-Walker earned an undergraduate degree in public relations from UGA and is now the national director of corporate and cause partnerships for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. She is an Alliance Theatre trustee and is on the board of Women in Film and Television Atlanta. She guides students through the UGA Mentor Program and is a charter member of The 1961 Club, a giving society established by the UGA Black Alumni Leadership Council. She resides in Decatur, Georgia. 


The following alumni will join the leadership councils for the UGA Alumni Association’s three affinity groups that seek to build relationships with specific alumni populations in the metro Atlanta area:   

Black Alumni Leadership Council  


Ashley Noel Carter (BSA ’10), Army National Guard military officer and contractor, U.S. Army, McDonough, Georgia.  


Stacey Chavis (MSL ’19), managing director, Campaign Academy, Brookhaven, Georgia.  


Corinna Ellis (AB ’92), senior mortgage loan officer in the financial services industry, Sandy Springs, Georgia.  


Extriara Gates (MSW ’11), behavioral health and family support manager, Bobby Dodd Institute; owner, Lavender Grove Psychotherapy, Atlanta, Georgia.  


Sara Hall (BSW ’09, MSW ’11), clinical social worker, hematology and bone marrow transplantation, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.  


Shayla Hill (BBA ’08), assistant director of digital strategy, Georgia Institute of Technology, Tucker, Georgia.

Women of UGA Leadership Council  


Kim Eilers (BSED ’95, MED ’97), real estate agent, Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty, Smyrna, Georgia.  


Cecilia Epps (BS ’08), freelance sign language interpreter, Lithonia, Georgia.


Christy Hulsey (ABJ ’97), creative director, Colonial House of Flowers, Marietta, Georgia.  


Crystal Ivey (MBA ’14), brand manager for Diet Coke, The Coca-Cola Company, Conyers, Georgia.  


Stephanie Jackson (BBA ’13, MACC ’14), land finance analyst, Ashton Woods Homes, Brookhaven, Georgia.  

Young Alumni Leadership Council  


John Bowden (BBA ’13, BBA ’13), associate broker, Harry Norman Realtors, Atlanta, Georgia. 


Maranie Brown (BSFCS ’12), digital program manager, You Are Here, Smyrna, Georgia. 


Morgan Cook (BBA ’15, MBA ’19), senior risk analyst, Beecher Carlson, Atlanta, Georgia.   


Maxwell Mitchell (BBA ’12, MACC ’13), mergers and acquisitions manager, Deloitte, Atlanta, Georgia.  


Pierce Persons (ABJ ’14), director of operations, Room 422, Atlanta, Georgia.  


To view the full list of UGA Alumni Association board members visit alumni.uga.edu/board-of-directors and alumni.uga.edu/networks for the complete list of leadership council members.

Chloe Washington (BS ’07) is here to help

Chloe Washington (BS ’07) is a woman filled with passion. She is passionate about her work, passionate about helping children and passionate about the University of Georgia.

As a senior program manager in marketing operations at Mailchimp in Atlanta, she loves working for an organization focuses on helping small businesses be successful, and she enjoys mentoring those early in their career to help them acquire the skills to succeed and find their career passion.

Washington is equally passionate about the University of Georgia. In high school, she wanted to attend a good school with lots of team spirit, and UGA fit the bill. She still gets chills when she heads to Athens because it feels like coming home; she met some of her closest friends at UGA, and she stays in touch with former professors. She graduated in 2007 with a fashion merchandising degree from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and then found her way into project management. There’s been no stopping her since.

She makes it a habit to attend events with several alumni groups, including Women of UGA, UGA Black Alumni and UGA Young Alumni. She participates in UGA’s “Give That Dawg a Bone,” by writing letters to incoming freshmen. She finds it fulfilling to share tips and advice with these new students. She always includes her email address and some of the students keep in touch with her throughout their college career.

Washington’s best advice to college students is to find a balance between freedom and discipline, and to leave space to explore new options.

“There’s nothing wrong with changing course, and being willing to pivot can lead to new opportunities,” Washington says.

In addition to helping college students, Washington is passionate about helping children. She has spent a lot of time volunteering with a nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring joy to children experiencing homelessness through the magic of birthdays. Although the organization is headquartered in Dallas, Washington saw a great need for it in Atlanta, and she was instrumental in helping to get it started there. It is now a regular program at three different shelters in Atlanta.

Washington also has had the opportunity to share her love of the Bulldogs with her cousin and uncle, who also attended UGA.

“Football season is really an exciting time for my family because red and black runs deep in our blood,” Washington says.

At home with the kids this summer?

By Frances Beusse and Jennifer Johnson, UGA Alumni Association

Summer is officially here, but it looks a little different than those past. If your traditional summer plans have been canceled, we’ve put together a few UGA-themed activities to enjoy with your kids instead.

Scroll through each section below (swipe on mobile) and have a wonderful summer, Dawgs!

Head Outdoors

State Botanical Garden of Georgia

Scavenger Hunt

Explore the great outdoors by participating in one of the many scavenger hunts available at the Botanical Gardens of Georgia.

Green Thumb

Plant a garden with tips from UGA Extension Office and 4-H.

Concrete Canvas

Grab some chalk and create your best “Go Dawgs,” Super G or Bulldog driveway art.

Get Active

UGA Cross Country Student Athlete Morgan Green Training

Dancing Shoes

Candace Haynes is teaching virtual dance classes presented by the Black Alumni Leadership Council. Check the alumni events calendar to attend the next one!

Football Ready

Get in football shape! UGA Football Director of Strength and Conditioning Scott Sinclair has posted several workouts on Twitter so you can follow along at home.

Read Together

UGA Alumni Author Books for Kids

Young Adults

Is your older child into the Young Adult Fantasy genre? Check out Rebecca Ross (AB ’12) and Jackson Pearce (AB ’07), authors who both graduated from Franklin College with degrees in English.

The Magician’s Hat

For younger readers, check out “The Magician’s Hat” by former UGA football player and Super Bowl champion, Malcolm Mitchell (AB ’15).

Virtual Camp

In addition to writing children’s books, Malcolm also provides a free summer READCamp for K-12 students through his Share the Magic Foundation.

Be A Star

Rennie Curran (BBA ’17) is a former UGA Football player and Class of 2020 40 Under 40 Honoree. He wrote the children’s book, “What Does It Take To Be A Star?” with his daughter Eleana.

Enjoy the Arts

UGA Student Playing the Trumpet

At Home Museum

Explore the Georgia Museum of Art at Home. Learn more about glass art and oil abstractions—or find toddler activities like swipe art and more.

Concerts

Watch Hodgson at Home presented by the UGA School of Music.

Coloring Time

Uga X Coloring PageGrab your crayons, markers or colored pencils and enjoy these coloring pages from the UGA Alumni Association and UGA Athletic Association—no need to stay in the lines!

Take a Virtual Trip

UGA Sanford Stadium Aerial

Alaska

Learn about Alaskan native culture and traditions by watching 2019 Peabody Nominee Molly of Denali on PBS Kids.

Sanford Stadium

Do your kids like Minecraft? Take a Minecraft virtual tour of Sanford Stadium or check out the 2020 virtual Commencement created by UGA students.

Camp

Virtually visit 4-H summer camps supported by UGA and participate in daily activities ranging from environmental education to livestock judging!

For more information and resources, please visit the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, 4-H or Georgia Public Broadcasting.