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From the Classic City to country music: Ray Fulcher on his latest release, Love Ya Son, Go Dawgs

“Football at UGA is more than just a game or an event; it’s a lifestyle, it’s family, it’s engrained into our everyday life. This song hopefully captures that.”  – Ray Fulcher (BSED ’08, MED ’10)

When country music singer/songwriter Ray Fulcher (BSED ’08, MED ’10) was majoring in education at UGA, he went to a concert that changed his life. Eric Church performing on the Georgia Theatre stage inspired Ray to pick up a guitar—and he hasn’t looked back. He’s now written four No.1 hits performed by Luke Combs and has released a new song with a nod to his alma mater.

Ray admits choosing a new—and less certain—career path was probably the “dumbest” thing he could do. He also knows that’s what makes it so worthwhile. His advice for students considering a major life change?

“Don’t be afraid to go after it. Know that it won’t be easy and forget the word ‘quit.’”

Ray co-wrote the chart-topping When it Rains, It Pours in 2017. His first call when he found out it hit No. 1 was to his parents. The Double Dawg values his family, who supported his pursuit of a career in music, and his alma mater; both loves are evident in his latest release, Love Ya Son, Go Dawgs. The song highlights the bond between father and son, and while Ray hopes Georgia fans can relate, he believes the song is universal.

When asked if he would take requests from fans to tweak the lyrics to feature other teams, Ray is quick to say, “They can sing whatever version they want, but I don’t think I could ever sing anything but ‘Dawgs.’”

Check out Ray’s new song above and enjoy a few of his favorite college memories from his time in Athens.

Rapid-Fire with Ray Fulcher

  • Top Sanford Stadium moment: 2007 Auburn blackout game
  • Most prized UGA possession: 2005 SEC championship ring (I was a student assistant then a graduate assistant for the football team from 2004-2010) *see photo below!
  • Favorite song in college: Rhett Akins “That Ain’t my Truck”
  • Favorite UGA/Athens musician: Bill Anderson (ABJ ’59)
  • Gameday hype song: The Battle Hymn!
  • Uga X or Hairy Dawg: Uga!
  • Score prediction for UGA vs. Bama: Dawgs on top 37-35

Ray shared a few photos from his time at UGA and on the road performing:

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.

The power of podcasts: inside the minds of UGA alumni and students

Find an escape from your daily routine with these podcasts created by some of the most influential minds (who just happened to attend UGA). Whether you are seeking inspiration, education or entertainment, there’s a reason podcasts are becoming a cultural staple: there’s something for everyone.

Society & Culture

Armchair Expert // Monica & Jess Love Boys
Monica & Jess Love Boys
Image: Monica & Jess Love Boys
Dax Shepard’s podcast, Armchair Expert, is co-created and produced by UGA alumna Monica Padman (AB ’09, AB ’09). It celebrates the “messiness of being human” and has been a popular listen since it premiered in 2018. In mid-February, Armchair Expert began a series called Monica & Jess Love Boys, which follows the dating life of Monica (in the straight community) and Jess (in the gay community). Although they date in different scenes, the pair encounters similar issues in individual and societal patterns.

Therapy for Black Girls
Therapy for Black Girls
Image: Stitcher
Therapy for Black Girls is a weekly chat about mental health, personal development and the decisions we make to become the best versions of ourselves. Host Joy Harden Bradford (PHD ’06) is a licensed psychologist who discusses mental health trends and tips.

The Bitter Southerner Podcast
The Bitter Southerner Podcast
Image: The Bitter Southerner
In each episode, Chuck Reese (ABJ ’94) paints a true picture of the South by exploring Southern culture and the South’s contributions to American life. The podcast tells the stories of people and organizations that don’t fit into Southern stereotypes.

The Melanin Mix
The Melanin Mix
Image: Apple Podcasts
The Melanin Mix is hosted by Amber Broughton (BSHP ’17) and Karly Smith (BBA ’17). Each Monday, they discuss a variety of topics, including adulthood, relationships, social media, beauty standards, and some of their craziest life experiences.

99% Invisible
99% Invisible
Image: Apple Podcasts
Have you ever wondered why there’s so little shade in Los Angeles? Or the origin of the fortune cookie? In 99% Invisible, Roman Mars (M ’96) delves into topics such as design and architecture that largely go unnoticed but have an impact on our world.

Stuff You Should Know
Stuff You Should Know
Image: Apple Podcasts
Co-hosts Chuck Bryant (AB ’95) and Josh Clark know a little about a lot of things. On this podcast, the two get to the bottom of odd questions.

Between The Lines
Between the Lines podcast
Image: Apple Podcasts
On Between the Lines, Lakeshia Poole (ABJ ’05) analyzes the latest reads, news stories, TV, and film.

Sports

The Steam Room
The Steam Room
Image: Apple Podcasts
Ernie Johnson (ABJ ’78) and former NBA great Charles Barkley host The Steam Room, a Turner Sports podcast covering new topics in the NBA as well as current events, pop culture and local news. Johnson is an iconic sports media personality best known as the host of Inside the NBA on TNT. Fun fact: Johnson delivered UGA’s 2017 commencement address.

The Game Changer
The Game Changer
Image: Apple Podcasts
The Game Changer with Rennie Curran (BBA ’17) shares the latest insights on leadership and personal development. Curran’s podcast tells listeners how to take their game to the next level in sports, business and life.

Illegal Motion
Illegal Motion
Image: Apple Podcasts
Illegal Motion is a college football podcast from the perspective of Corey Burton (AB ’06) and two other fellow fans. The trio discusses everything that surrounds the game they love.

33N83W
33N83W
Image: Apple Podcasts
33N83W was created by San Diego Alumni Chapter President Tara Shah (AB ’98) and is named for the coordinates of the UGA campus. The podcast features interviews with alumni, coaches and is perfect for the proud Bulldog fan.

Calling the Dawgs
Calling the Dawgs
Image: Apple Podcasts
Lifelong Georgia fan Patrick Chancy (PHARMD ’17) shares his commentary on UGA football on the podcast Calling the Dawgs.

The Hines Ward Show
The Hines Ward Show
Image: Stitcher
Super Bowl XL MVP and former UGA Bulldog Pittsburgh Steeler, Hines Ward (BSFCS ’98), teams up with Michael O’Neal to host The Hines Ward Show. The pair discusses what it’s like to be a professional athlete and living a celebrity life post-football career.

Punt + Pass
Punt + Pass
Image: Apple Podcasts
On Punt + Pass, former UGA football players Drew Butler (ABJ ’11, MS ’13) and Aaron Murray (BS ’12) break down college football match-ups across the SEC. The podcast brings the pair’s unique perspective and personal stories to the table to give college football fans all they need to know about college football. Each week, the podcast features a special guest.

News and Politics

20/20
20/20
Image: Apple Podcasts
ABC’s 20/20 features “interviews, hard-hitting investigative reports, exclusives, compelling features and medical mysteries.” Amy Robach (ABJ ’95) is the co-anchor of 20/20 and has conducted many headline interviews and reports across ABC News. She is well-known for her role on “Good Morning America.” Fun Fact: Robach delivered UGA’s 2015 commencement address.

Inside Edition
Inside Edition
Image: Apple Podcasts
Award-winning anchor Deborah Norville (ABJ ’79) is the host of  Inside Edition, the longest-running and top-rated daily news magazine audio podcast. Through Inside Edition, Norville exposes the truth with behind-the-scenes coverage of top national stories, human-interest stories, celebrity and pop culture features, exclusive interviews and hard-hitting investigations.

PeachPod
PeachPod
Image: Apple Podcasts
If you’re a Georgia politics junkie, then this is the podcast for you. UGA grads Kyle Hayes (BSED ’12, AB ’12) and Luke Boggs (AB ’15, AB ’15) along with Megan Payne host PeachPod, a Georgia-perspective political podcast that aims to inform people about the world around them. Hayes and Boggs have backgrounds in politics from their studies at UGA and experience in local Georgia politics.

Left Spin Right Spin
Left Spin Right Spin
Image: Left Spin Right Spin
If you’re searching for a way to understand today’s debate from both sides, then consider listening to Jonathan Wetherbee (AB ’12), who explores both sides of the news on Left Spin Right Spin. The podcast helps listeners grasp a more thoughtful understanding of the news.

Words Matter
Words Matter
Image: Apple Podcasts
Katie Barlow (ABJ ’11) is the host of Words Matter, a podcast that covers the changes in American politics and the importance of facts in today’s political arena. Along with co-host Joe Lockhart, Barlow explains recent events in historical context.

Business

Brown Ambition
Brown Ambition
Image: Apple Podcasts
Brown Ambition is a weekly podcast that discusses life, career, and building wealth. It is hosted by Tiffany Aliche and Mandi Woodruff (ABJ ’09), executive editor of MagnifyMoney.com and former personal finance reporter for Yahoo Finance.

The Journey with Blue
The Journey with Blue
Image: The Journey with Blue
On The Journey with Blue, Michelle Blue (BBA ’13) shares inspiring stories of entrepreneurs, including herself. The podcast shares the tools and resources to help grow a business and the importance of wellness as an entrepreneur.

What’s Your Story
What's Your Story
Image: Apple Podcasts
Master storyteller Sally Williamson (ABJ ’83), founder and president of Sally Williamson & Associates, shares stories of lsuccessful business leaders on her podcast, What’s Your Story. The podcast shows how storytelling can be used to motivate, position a brand, and make points that are repeatable and memorable. Fun fact: Williamson’s business has been on the Bulldog 100.

Minding My Black Business
Minding My Black Business
Image: Apple Podcasts
Started by JaNaè Taylor (Med ’03, PhD ’07), Minding My BLACK Business was created for black entrepreneurs and discusses the obstacles they experience on the road to self-employment. This professional and personal podcast creates a space for black entrepreneurs to turn to when they’re experiencing self-doubt, stress and worry. Fun fact: Taylor was a UGA 40 Under 40 honoree in 2018 and has been  featured in Georgia Magazine.

Food

The Alton Browncast
The Alton Browncast
Image: Apple Podcasts
Celebrity chef and TV personality Alton Brown (AB ‘04) hosts The Alton Browncast, which is known for its down-to-earth conversations with famous chefs, authors, scientists and makers.

Entertainment

Skytalkers
Skytalkers
Image: Apple Podcasts
Introducing the Star Wars podcast that you never “Chew” you needed: Skytalkers. Caitlin Plesher (AB ’15, AB ’15) is truly one with the Force. She and co-host Charlotte Errity discuss all things Star Wars on this bi-weekly podcat – from films and TV shows to novels and character analysis.

Bubbly Sesh
The Bubbly Sesh
Image: Apple Podcasts
The Bubbly Sesh is the official Hallmark Channel podcast and is hosted by Jacklyn Collier and Shawlini Manjunath-Holbrook (ABJ ’05). The podcast breaks down Hallmark movies and explores relationships and movie-making.

The Crossover
The Crossover
Image: Apple Podcasts
Chris Brame (ABJ ’98) co-hosts The Crossover, which touches on just about everything in Athens: local and national news, sports, pop culture and more.

Hear-Tell
Hear-Tell podcast
Image: Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication
Hear-Tell is a narrative nonfiction podcast that features writing from UGA students, alumni, faculty and lecturers in Grady’s Low-Residency MFA in Narrative Nonfiction program. André Gallant (MFA ’17) is the host, producer and a graduate of the program.

The Paste Podcast
Paste Podcast
Image: Apple Podcasts
On the Paste Podcast, Josh Jackson (ABJ ’94) and Allison Keene cover movies, TV, music, comedy, games, books, comics, drinks and politics. The podcast features interviews with artists and exclusive live musical performances.

Comedy

FOGO: Fear of Going Outside
FOGO: Fear of Going Outside
Image: FOGO: Fear of Going Outside
FOGO: Fear of Going Outside is a nature show hosted by Ivy Le (AB ’05). She seeks answers to questions about nature through her personal and humorous adventures.

Law

The Great Trials Podcast
Great Trials Podcast
Image: Apple Podcasts
Great Trials Podcast takes listeners behind the scenes of America’s greatest trials with acclaimed trial lawyers Yvonne Godrey (JD ’11) and Steve Lowry. The podcast is a series of laid-back conversations including interviews with top trial lawyers.

Lifestyle

Gals on the Go
Gals on the Go
Image: Apple Podcasts
What’s it like to be a full-time college student and an influencer? Third-year UGA student Danielle Carolan and recent graduate Brooke Miccio (BBA ’19) will give you the inside scoop on Gals on the Go. Carolan has 258,000 Instagram followers and 506,000 subscribers on YouTube. Miccio has 87,000 Instagram followers and 211,000 YouTube subscribers. Their lifestyle podcast covers everything from productivity tips to travel stories.

Unladylike
Unladylike
Image: Apple Podcasts
Join Cristen Conger (ABJ ’06) and Caroline Ervin (ABJ ’06) on Unladylike, a podcast about all things gender-related. These two are paving a path to help women better understand their identities and face the underlying injustices women face.

Grown Ass Dating
Grown Ass Dating Podcast
Image: Apple Podcasts
Rendi Moore (BSW ’05, MSW ’07) and LeShaundra Cordier (BS ’04, MPH ’07) are two complicated, single women who share their truths about dating over 30 on Grown Ass Dating. The two help listeners overcome obstacles, avoid dating pitfalls and find dating inspiration and guidance.

That Sounds Fun
That Sounds Fun
Image: Annie F. Downs
Released on Mondays and Thursdays, That Sounds Fun features discussions about Annie Downs’ (BSED ’02) favorite things, favorite people and anything coming under the umbrella of “that sounds fun.” Downs is a best-selling author and nationally known speaker.

Bulldog Love Stories: 2020 V-Day Edition

We invited the Bulldog Alumni Family to share their Bulldog love stories this year –just in time for Valentine’s Day. Needless to say, we’re in LOVE with each and every story … and we hope everyone reading this has a great time digging into a few tales of romance springing from time spent at UGA.

Alia and Jemir Martinez

Alia and Jemir Martinez || Jemir and I met during grad school at the Terry College of Business in Atlanta. He was the year above me and, like any good Bulldog, offered to help with classes. We bonded over food, family, and Georgia football. Our love took us to NYC where we watched the Dawgs play at American Whiskey (the game-watching bar for the NYC Alumni Chapter) and now, three years later, we are married and live on the other side of the country … but continue to cheer on our Dawgs!

Alicia and Nigel George

Alicia and Nigel George || My husband and I met in Russell Hall in 2007. After graduation, medical school at the UGA/MCG Medical Partnership for my husband, and countless other adventures, we moved back to Athens and welcomed a baby girl to the Bulldog Family in December. She even “attended” every football game this season! This engagement photos was taken on North Campus in 2015.

Amanda Stables and Spencer Woody

Amanda Stables and Spencer Woody || Even though we’re both from the great state of Georgia, we first met 500+ miles away on the campus of our undergrad, Cedarville University. A Bulldog at heart, I enrolled in UGA’s School of Social Work for my master’s degree and Spencer followed me to attend Georgia Law. We’ve stuck together through all these years (and many miles) and we’ve made lots of memories cheering on the Dawgs! We might not be students forever, but we’ll always have our love for each other, Athens, and UGA.

Anne Marie Hozey and Eric Gladden

Anne Marie Hozey and Eric Gladden || We met at a Georgia State Hospital Pharmacy (GSHP) mixer when I was a first-year UGA pharmacy student and he was at the meeting for continuing education. One of Eric’s fraternity brothers had returned to UGA to pursue a PharmD advanced degree and was in my class. This mutual friend invited Eric to the GSHP meeting and that is how we met. I remember thinking he must be a Mercer student since we knew all the UGA pharmacy students. We started talking during that visit and never stopped, dating long-distance until I graduated from pharmacy school. Had it not been for the UGA College of Pharmacy, we would have never met. Eric and I have kept our football season tickets since graduation, which is fortunate since our oldest child is now in the Honors Program at UGA. Will actually lives in Myers Hall, where my mother lived during her first year at UGA.

Bryson Hollomon and Rebecca Barron

Bryson Hollomon and Rebecca Barron || I met the love of my life, Rebecca, during my junior year. I was a goofy guy who loved to make music and she was a beautiful, shy, kind, and thoughtful sophomore. On the day we met, we both happened to be eating alone in Bolton Dining Hall. I remember it like it was yesterday: she was sitting at one of the high top tables at the top of the stairs–radiant with the sun from the windows shining on her, reading a book and eating lunch. I couldn’t help but be drawn to her. I mustered up the courage to sit at the table beside her. After a few minutes of anxiety, I got up the courage to ask her about her book and her day … and she looked at me with the kindest eyes and answered my questions! From there, we talked about everything from our majors (mine advertising, hers entertainment and media studies), our common music interests, and what we liked to do. After an hour of talking, I had to go to class. I dumped my tray and came back to get her number. Thankfully, she gave this lucky guy her digits, accompanied by a pinky handshake (since she was eating an apple at the time). Flash forward three years and we are graduated, living a happy life with fulfilling careers in New York City. Thank you so much, UGA, for providing the space to meet the most amazing lady in my life!

Caitlin Glasscock Conn and Thomas Conn

Caitlin Glasscock and Thomas Conn || We started dating in 2012, before our senior year of high school. We got engaged during our senior year of college on spring break and were married in 2018 at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. We took our engagement, graduation, and wedding photos on campus because we love UGA so much! We chose North Campus for our “first look” because we have always viewed it as the prettiest part of campus. We love the history of this area and its far-reaching association with UGA and Athens. The Chapel Bell is the place to go when you have anything to celebrate. We’ve gone to the bell after football games, at the end of brutal rounds of finals, and even just to celebrate our ability to celebrate. We celebrated our engagement, graduation, and our wedding at the Chapel Bell. We have photos next to the Arch from throughout our years at school, formals, graduation and our wedding. We also finally have that picture of us walking under the Arch after graduation. We did our first look on North Campus specifically to get wedding photos with the Arch and all that it represents. (Photo credit: Blane Marable)

Candice Donaldson Edwards and Terrence Edwards

Candice Donaldson and Terrence Edwards || We didn’t date during our time at UGA, but fate brought us together many years later. We love to reminisce and laugh at all the times that our paths crossed on campus, not knowing of our future together. It’s great to be married to a fellow Bulldog, because only a Bulldog can understand the true love of “Bleeding Red & Black!” ❤️

Caroline Paschal and Mack Hennessey

Caroline Paschal and Mack Hennessey || My mom came in town for graduation when the Ramsey Center hosted a “bring a friend for free” day. Naturally, my mom wanted to go and proceeded to talk to everyone while they were working out. She interrupted a guy doing push-ups to chat while I was hiding from embarrassment across the gym. A month later, I ran into him downtown and my first words to him were, “Do you workout a lot?” Good thing my mom made the first move … because six years later, we are getting married in Athens this June!

Chris Hammond and Crawford Patterson Hammond

Chris and Crawford Patterson Hammond || We met in 1991 in Reed Hall. I told her that I would marry her as soon as we met. Pictured here are our three sons: Champ is a sophomore at UGA, John Henry has been accepted to UGA for Fall 2020, and Reed is named for Reed Hall where this love affair began. Go Dawgs!

Christina Harris Rabinowitz and Kevin Rabinowitz

Christina Harris and Kevin Rabinowitz || Christina and Kevin were both born and raised in the Georgia suburbs and attended UGA from 2003-2007, graduating from the Terry College of Business. Christina started a career in management consulting in Dubai while Kevin went into risk management in New York. They met in NYC in 2010 when Christina was there for a short-term project from abroad. The pair immediately hit it off thanks to their UGA backgrounds. Christina relocated permanently to NYC … where they dated, got engaged, and then married (in Georgia) in 2014. In 2019, Christina and Kevin decided to take a break from their careers in NYC and are now traveling the world. You can follow their travel adventures @seetheworldin2020 and their culinary finds @culinaryitineraries!

Cindy and Roddie Robinett

Cindy and Roddie Robinett || Roddie and I met at UGA cheerleading tryouts in 1986 and became cheer partners in 1987. We began dating soon after and have been married for 27 years. Still Dawg fans!

Corey McArthur Dortch and Amelia Hines Dortch

Amelia Hines and Corey McArthur Dortch || Corey is the type of guy to literally seize the day. On Valentine’s Day 2005, he took his shot when he unexpectedly ran into a pretty undergraduate student in Memorial Hall. Her name was Amelia and he asked her out … on Valentine’s Day. He thought, “Hey, why not?” Fortunately for him, Amelia said yes. They had a great time that evening and throughout the remainder of the semester. Corey graduated from his master’s program and they lost touch. Over the next seven years, they would run in to each other because of mutual friends. Once, during the wedding of another Bulldog couple, they were even partnered as a bridesmaid and groomsman. It wouldn’t be until 2012 that they would really notice each other again. During the co-ed baby shower of the couple whose wedding they were in, they began chatting. Corey took a shot again and asked Amelia, “Hey, do you ever hang out in Atlanta?” Amelia, familiar with Corey’s skill at small talk, replied, “If I ever have reason to.” Corey likes a challenge and seeing this as such, he decided to seriously pursue Amelia. Within two years of dating, on the steps of the UGA Chapel, Corey proposed. Fittingly, they said “I do” on October 25, 2014, (a bye weekend), where they first met in the Classic City. Corey and Amelia live in Atlanta and are the proud parents of a 17-month-old son, James McArthur.

Emma Bryant Bonham and Joseph Trey Bonham

Emma Bryant and Joseph Trey Bonham || Here’s a picture of me and my now hubby, Trey, the last time we watched the Bulldogs play together as students (it was the 2016 G-Day game during my senior year). Trey and I met during our freshman years at UGA and started dating the summer before junior year. Most of my favorite memories from our dating years involve Georgia football, Athens Bagel and meeting at the North Campus fountain between classes. I love UGA for so, so many reasons … but this guy is definitely No. 1! Thanks for the husband, Athens 💕

Heather and Tucker Austin Oliver

Heather and Tucker Austin Oliver || We were set up during fall semester of our sophomore year by mutual friends. He proposed two years later at Lake Herrick. We graduated in May 2019 and now we’re married!

Jasmin Severino Hernandez and Jose Luis Hernandez

Jasmin Severino and Jose Luis Hernandez || Jose and I met when I leased him an apartment off campus. It was my first year at UGA and I worked at River Walk Townhomes. After our first encounter, I started seeing him walk by me every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday near the library. I would sit at the same bench each day, waiting for the North/South bus. He would come off another bus and stare as he walked by. I was determined to say hi one day, but I always chickened out. One day, he stopped and asked, “Do I know you from somewhere?” After months of friendship, we went on our first date to Yoforia on Easter. We endured several long distance periods in our relationship as I left for law school and my master’s degree. We were engaged after 6 years and were married on October 19, 2019 – on UGA Homecoming! Of course, we had a UGA groom’s cake at the wedding. This April marks nine years of being in love!

Jeffrey Brown and Candace Williams-Brown

Jeffrey Brown and Candace Williams-Brown || Candace and I met in the Office of Multicultural Services and Programs in 2005 while she was the editor of Infusion Magazine and I was president of the Black Educational Support Team. At the time, I was a fourth-year international affairs major and she was a third-year publication management major. It was love at first sight because shortly thereafter we started dating and have been inseparable since. We got married in 2007 in Athens, where it all started. We now have two amazing little boys, Xavier (6) and Avery (10 months). Both, of course, will be future Bulldogs!

Karen Davis Kantziper and Glen Kantziper

Karen Davis and Glen Kantziper || Karen and I went to high school together in Savannah. After several attempts at trying to get her to go out with me, Karen finally said “yes” and we dated during our senior year. As (my) luck would have it, we were both accepted into UGA in 1981. It was at UGA where we really connected. I lived in Russell Hall and Karen was in Brumby. From dorm parties and football games, to late night study sessions, we spent a lot of time together. We both graduated in 1985 and went our separate ways for work after graduation – Karen taking a job in Savannah and me in Asheville, North Carolina. After a few years in different cities, but commuting to see each other when we could, Karen accepted my marriage proposal and we made a home together near Greensboro, North Carolina where we live today. I’m a lucky man who found the love of his life at an early age, and I don’t take my good fortune for granted. It was in Athens where it all came together for us and we’ll be forever connected to UGA. Happy Valentines Day, love! Go Dawgs!

Keith J Nesbitt and Talya Vexler Nesbitt

Talya Vexler and Keith J. Nesbitt || The story of when we met has been a debate for years. My version is another Gym Dog introduced us in the Butts-Mehre building in 2000. That meeting, followed by a run-in at Publix after graduation, has defined our lives since. Talya says she knew we would get married since our first date at Mellow Mushroom. It may have taken me a little longer to reach this conclusion, but I cannot adequately express how happy I am that I did. Talya is from Massachusetts and I’m from South Carolina, so when it came time to plan our big day, only one place made sense: Athens. We were married at The Foundry over the 2010 Memorial Day Weekend. We now live in Talya’s hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts, where she runs a gymnastics school. And while I hate the cold and snow, our life is perfect! It’s only gotten better with the recent birth of our son, AJ. Talya is the perfect wife and mother, and not too shabby of a businesswoman either. Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy Birthday! Go Dawgs! #iloveus

LaTosha Dunnigan Wright and Dwayne Cowles Wright

LaTosha Dunnigan and Dwayne Cowles Wright || We met at an off-campus Graduate School party in 2004. I was not in graduate school, but knew the host of the party (I was an RA in Brumby Hall at the time). We both caught each other’s eye and decided to dance. We exchanged numbers and went on our way. He called me that night to say that he was in the Brumby Circle. I peeked out of my window and thank goodness, he was kidding! We didn’t talk for a few weeks after that, but he ended up calling me to have lunch at Wild Wing Cafe for our first date. We lost touch over the years, but reconnected in 2008 and the rest was history! He was living in Ohio at the time and I moved there shortly after we got engaged. We were married on Nassau Beach in the Bahamas in 2009. We have one son, Quince, who is seven.

Leah and Austin Hansen

Leah and Austin Hansen || My husband and I have known each other since elementary school, but didn’t start dating until we both moved to Athens for college. We made it through dorm life in Creswell Hall and adopting our first dog in an apartment that was not pet friendly (totally worth it). My husband proposed to me under the Arch on a warm, spring day. After 7 years of dating, we got married, and now own a house less than a mile from campus. Our house has an entire room dedicated to our love for UGA, which still doesn’t fit all of our UGA memorabilia! We haven’t missed a UGA home game since 2011, have never left a game early (rain or shine), and have traveled far and wide to see the Dawgs play–from the West Coast to northern Indiana. Our next goal is to own a camper van so that we can more easily travel to UGA away games, and eventually see all of the SEC football stadiums!

Liz and Chris Herrin

Liz and Chris Herrin || Chris and I met in Athens in 2012, not long after I moved into Church Hall. We ended up moving to Atlanta together after I graduated. Chris surprised me in 2017 by asking me to marry him at the Founders Garden on North Campus, where we used to spend time together while we were dating. We got married a year later and are excited to see where our lives take us from here. Go Dawgs!

Megan Wilkeson Jones and Colton Perry Jones

Megan Wilkeson and Colton Perry Jones || UGA’s College of Education brought us together, but our story began in Park Hall. I sat up front to not miss a word that Dr. O’Neal said in Short Fiction class; he arrived early and chose a seat in the back corner. When we officially met during our English Education orientation, he knew my name and our mutual class. Sadly, I was oblivious. Fast forward to the Georgia vs. GT game – he asked if I’d be his girlfriend. We graduated and became high school teachers in 2011. We are both faculty members at Veterans High School in Houston County – and we both teach ninth grade literature and composition. He works down the hall from me and, together, we have coached golf and swimming. Students always want to know where we met, and thankfully we can always share the good ol’ days at UGA.

Melissa Smith Elliott and Jeff Elliott

Melissa Smith and Jeff Elliott || We met at UGA over 25 years ago. My sorority sister introduced us as they are both from Athens and attended Clarke Central High School. Our first date was a UGA game. We were married several years later in 1996 and now have a 17-year-old son who also loves the Bulldogs. Here’s a photo from our trip to the epic Rose Bowl Game. Go Dawgs!

Morgan Deegan Smithson and James Smithson

Morgan Deegan and James Smithson || James and I met in 2011 before classes even started thanks to mutual friends, Ciara and Alex Moore (fellow UGA alumni). I was a freshman and James was heading into his senior year. After our introduction, James told Ciara “to bring her blonde friend around more.” For the record, my dad was livid that I had met a boy before classes even started. We had our first real date and the rest became history. For the rest of the year, we had countless date nights, football games, and made memories on campus. After James graduated in 2012, we dated long distance for three years. He headed to dental school at the Ohio State University and I stayed in Athens to finish up at Terry College. For three years, we both made a beaten path between Athens and Columbus, Ohio. We filled those three years with adventures and tons of date nights. After undergrad, I enrolled in grad school at Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business. James and I were finally back in the same college town in a similar situation: I was starting my first year of grad school and James was finishing his last year of dental school. We got engaged after James graduated from dental school in 2016. He planned a trip to Amelia Island and secretly planned for our families to be there when he proposed. I knew immediately we had to travel home to Athens for our engagement pictures–Athens was our place, and still where we call home. We married in 2017 and live in Columbus for James’ residency program. We proudly cheer on the Dawgs from Ohio because Dawgs are always on top! Photo Credit: Katey Penton Photography

Chelsa Byrd and Ray "BJ" Albert

Chelsa Byrd and Ray “BJ” Albert || We met in 2000 on our way to study hall, but our love story didn’t start until after graduation. We reconnected at a birthday get-together for a mutual friend. Little did we know how much we had in common. We decided to “hang out” a week later, which turned into one of the best dates ever! Then she disappeared … After a little chasing and determination, Chelsa decided to take a chance with me, and the rest is history!

Sarah Montgomery and J. Thomas Perdue

Sarah Montgomery and J. Thomas Perdue || We met at a student magazine when I was the magazine manager and he was a writer and editor. I’m the first person in my family to attend UGA, so dating a third-generation Bulldog whose grandfather played for Vince Dooley’s first recruiting class helped me quickly became a die-hard Bulldog. Now that we’ve been dating for over two years and graduated with our bachelors’ degrees, we’ve applied to return to UGA to earn our master’s degrees. We hope to be back in Sanford Stadium this fall to cheer on the Dawgs!

Savannah Richter and Bryan Brinson

Savannah Richter and Bryan Brinson || Bryan and I met in 2012 during my freshman year at Georgia when he was a senior. We were introduced by his sister, who is one of my best friends (and Pi Phi sisters). Every Thursday during my first semester, I would meet her for lunch at Snelling Dining Hall before class. Bryan and his best friend would eat with us. At that time, we were both dating other people and never made a connection. Fast forward to the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville in 2017. I was living in Indianapolis and came down to meet friends for the game (one being his sister). He was living in Panama City Beach and came over to see her and go to the game, too. It just happened to be the right time in our lives to finally make that connection. We’ve been together since, even through the long distance. We both love UGA and enjoyed our second date watching the Bulldogs beat the Sooners to win the Rose Bowl. I eventually moved to Florida to be closer to him and we now live together in Tallahassee and recently adopted a puppy that we named Sony (after Sony Michel, of course)!

Shontel M. and Rodd M. Cargill

Shontel M. and Rodd M. Cargill || Our relationship began in 2006, during our freshman year at UGA. We met playing hide-and-seek in Brumby Hall, and became best friends in the many years thereafter. Who knew we would finally start dating 5.5 years later, be very intentional in our relationship, and then get married in 2019?! Our secret? We attribute most of our success to placing God in the forefront of our lives. We also built our relationship on a solid foundation of friendship, in which we still date, openly communicate, laugh (a lot), surprise each other, and love each other unconditionally. We cannot forget about our shared love for UGA: the university that brought us together in the first place! Of course, couples go through life changes, but we both agreed that we would always choose each other and weather those storms together. Our love is truly everlasting. GO DAWGS!

Suzette Fosha Williams and Jay Williams

Suzette Fosha and Jay Williams || We met at the GA vs. FLA football game in 1985. Two years later, we got engaged in Jacksonville.

 

 

Athens, je t’aime: a UGA love story

Written By: Leigh Raynor Arndt
Photo Credit: Steven Wallace of Steven Wallace Photography

Athens might not be universally known as the “City of Love,” but the Bulldog Nation might have something to say about that. More than 25,000 couples have met and fallen in love at the University of Georgia. And in honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re sharing just one of many love stories that began in our beloved college town.

Coincidentally, Teman Worku (ABJ ’16) and Kevin Steele (AB ’17, AB ’17) both studied in Morocco while students at UGA. But Marrakech can’t lay claim to “Chapter One” of this recently engaged couple’s story. Instead, as Teman tells it, she and Kevin have one thing to thank for their near-at-hand nuptials: an overly air-conditioned UGA bus.

Teman Worku + Kevin Steele Rooftop Engagement

Photo: Steven Wallace of Steven Wallace Photography

Once Upon a Time …

Teman Worku + Kevin Steele with President Morehead

Teman (left) and Kevin (right) with UGA President Jere W. Morehead during a 2015 UGA Student Alumni Council event when they were students. Photo: Christopher Mark Sorrow

On a freezing bus from Athens to Atlanta, Teman and Kevin were headed to the UGA Alumni Association’s 40 Under 40 Awards Luncheon. Both were members of the UGA Student Alumni Council, a group of committed student leaders that organizes events and volunteer opportunities that current students with alumni.

For reasons she’ll “never understand,” the bus’s air conditioner was on full-blast despite the early morning chill. Teman and Kevin shared a blanket to keep warm. They had become friends through their involvement with SAC and the Student Government Association. On this bus ride, their conversation went beyond the passion they shared for these organizations. A deeper connection blossomed.

For Kevin, this opportunity was long in the making. As a first-year student, he was impressed with Teman when she attended an SGA Freshman Board meeting to talk about her semester studying in Morocco. Back then, he doubted that Teman, a third-year Grady College student, would take notice of a freshman like him. Nonetheless, he was soon headed to Morocco on a Maymester program, so he suggested they grab coffee. Unfortunately, before they could nail down a date, Kevin was boarding a plane to Marrakech and their meeting never happened.

Fast forward one year, Teman and Kevin had become an official couple. As college sweethearts do, they planned date nights on a student’s budget. On Wednesdays, it was Amici for 50-cent wings. In the summers, it was Fuzzy’s tacos or a slice at Automatic Pizza after a Saturday spent poolside.

In 2016, Kevin, an international affairs and Arabic double major, spent a semester in Jordan on a Boren Scholarship. Teman met him for a week-long vacation in Bulgaria where their money stretched further. There, they “ate like kings and queens,” said Teman. “We had appetizers, a full meal, and dessert, too!”

One of the most memorable meals during the couple’s first overseas trip together was at a Moroccan restaurant. The dinner brought them full circle to the shared experience and love for travel that initially brought the two together.

From Chapel Bell to Wedding Bells

Today, Teman and Kevin happily live in Arlington, Virginia. Kevin works in national security for the U.S. government. Teman is a video producer for 2U, a company expanding access to higher education through online learning. This past November, they got engaged.

Teman Worku and Kevin Steele at graduation

Kevin and Teman celebrate Kevin’s graduation from UGA in 2017.

It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and Teman was traveling home to Atlanta, where Kevin would join her the next day. As she headed to the Glenn Hotel’s chic rooftop, she was under the impression that she was meeting some close friends and a close friend’s mother. Instead, as the elevator doors opened to a noticeably quiet terrace, Teman found Kevin, calm as can be.

The last time Teman and Kevin stood on this Atlanta rooftop, they joyfully talked about the future on a casual night out. Now, Kevin kneeled before Teman, asking her to put those plans into action. Knowing how much Teman loves a sunset, Kevin timed the proposal to the sky turning pink and orange.

“All of these places that we’ve traveled to—Bulgaria, California, Miami—I’ve always made sure to find a spot where we can enjoy the sunset together,” said Teman. “And Kevin kept that in mind when he planned this amazing proposal. He put a lot of thought into it.”

Afterward, the couple headed to a restaurant where Teman was in for another surprise: their families and friends gathered to celebrate their engagement. Now, Teman and Kevin are beginning to plan an even bigger celebration. With lots of relatives on both sides, they anticipate a well-attended wedding. And though they’ve formed a close network of friends in D.C.—many of whom are also Bulldogs—they’ll recite their vows at home, in the state of Georgia.

Teman Worku and Kevin Steele Rooftop Engagement Photo

Kevin and Teman celebrate their engagement on a rooftop in Atlanta in November 2019. Photo: Steven Wallace of Steven Wallace Photography

UGA alumnus awarded Schwarzman Scholarship

This story was written by Stephanie Schupska and originally ran on UGA Today on December 4, 2019.

University of Georgia alumnus Shaun Kleber (AB ’16, AB ’16, AB ’16) was one of 148 candidates selected internationally as a Schwarzman Scholar, a graduate fellowship designed to prepare the next generation of leaders with an understanding of China’s role in global trends.

Kleber is UGA’s fifth Schwarzman Scholar. The incoming Class of 2021 was narrowed down from a pool of more than 4,700 candidates from China, the U.S. and around the world. It includes students from 41 countries and 108 universities.

Five classes of Schwarzman Scholars have been named since the highly competitive program opened to applicants in 2015. The fully funded, yearlong master’s program in global affairs is offered at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Students live and learn on the Schwarzman College campus and focus their studies on public policy, economics and business, or international studies.

“I am delighted that Shaun has received this prestigious recognition,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “The University of Georgia’s record of success in this international competition is evidence of the outstanding education we provide to our students and how well we prepare them for success beyond graduation.”

Kleber graduated from UGA in 2016 with bachelor’s degrees in international affairs, political science and economics. A Foundation Fellow and Honors Program alumnus, he spent two years with McKinsey & Company as a business analyst before transitioning to work with City Year, an AmeriCorps program, through which he served as a student success coach in Detroit. He is now a team leader with City Year in Boston and supervises student success coaches at UP Academy Boston, developing tailored strategies for student achievement.

After he completes his year as a Schwarzman Scholar, Kleber will attend Harvard Law School. He plans to pursue a career in education policy and public education administration.

“I met Shaun when he was in high school, and I enjoyed getting the chance to work closely with him while he was a student at UGA,” said David S. Williams, associate provost and director of the Honors Program. “It has been clear all along that he is destined to make a very positive impact on society.”

Kleber’s focus is on education, leadership and policy, with the goal of becoming a national leader in public education. In his time with City Year and in his internship while in college with the superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, he confronted issues such as intergenerational poverty, segregated neighborhoods and insufficient access to basic resources.

Currently, he is working to unlock the potential of individuals through education, he said, before ultimately working to unlock the potential of the American South through both public education and public policy.

“The Schwarzman Scholars program prepares and connects future global leaders, and that makes it the perfect fit for Shaun,” said Jessica Hunt, UGA’s major scholarships coordinator. “He made a profound impact on our campus as an undergraduate, and he has already demonstrated a remarkable commitment to building community in Detroit, Atlanta and Boston. He will no doubt do the same during his year in Beijing as a Schwarzman Scholar.”

UGA’s previous Schwarzman Scholars are UGA alumni Torre Lavelle (BS ’16), Elizabeth Hardister (AB ’18, MPH ’18) and Gabrielle Pierre (BSENVE ’17, MEPD ’18) and Swapnil Agrawal (AB ’19, AB ’19).

For more information on Schwarzman Scholars, visit www.schwarzmanscholars.org.

Finding a home as a first-generation student

Written by Jasmin Severino Hernandez (AB ’13, AB ’13), UGA Young Alumni Leadership Council Vice President

I am a first-generation college graduate, born to immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic. Growing up, my family did not have a lot of resources. I grew up in a very low-income household and there were times when my parents would have to decide whether they were going to skip a meal in order to provide for my brother and myself. Growing up as a first generation American, I did not have a family member who could provide me with guidance as to the process of choosing a university or how to pay for college. I was constantly hearing statistics from others regarding the Latino dropout rate and it felt like I was always pressured to do more and be more to succeed and not be another number.

I transferred to the University of Georgia in 2010, with no idea how the transition would work. I transferred from a small liberal arts college, where I felt like I was a big fish in a little pond. At UGA, I felt quite the opposite. I felt like the world was my oyster, but I also felt lost in the sea of people. As a first-generation student, it felt lonely because I was immersed in a new experience with no idea how to navigate it all. I graduated from UGA in 2013, with a degree in political science from SPIA & another in Spanish from Franklin.

I have amazing memories from UGA.

The first was when my roommate convinced me that pageants could teach me how to be confident in myself. With her help, I competed in various pageants throughout undergrad. My greatest memories are from competing in Miss UGA in 2012 and 2013. I was a runner-up in the 2013 competition and it is a moment I will never forget. My mic went out during my talent routine and the audience only heard the last 30 seconds of my song … ironically where I had to sing the highest note. I received a standing ovation before the judges made me do it all over again!

“Some of our greatest memories involve our similar journeys as first-generation students trying to find a home, a voice, and ourselves in a new and unfamiliar place.”

In 2013, I also found my home away from home. I became a sister of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Incorporated, which is an academic sorority. The Delta Alpha Chapter of LTA helped me grow into the professional I am today. The sisters embraced me at a time when I needed support. They taught me the value of hard work and inspired me to always believe in myself and to embrace life’s unexpected twists and turns. I am still very involved with my sorority and I enjoy seeing how our sorority changes the lives of other first-generation Latinas at universities across the country.

Lastly, UGA introduced me to the love of my life. While at UGA, I met a boy who I am lucky enough to now call my husband. For an entire semester, we would casually run into each other on North Campus. One day, we finally spoke, and the rest is history. We took our engagement photos on North Campus, as a sweet nod to the place that sealed our fate. We were married on homecoming day this year, October 19, 2019, and we still enjoy calling the Dawgs on Saturdays. Some of our greatest memories involve UGA and our similar journeys as first-generation students trying to find a home, a voice, and ourselves in a new and unfamiliar place.

Today, I serve as the Vice President for the UGA Young Alumni Leadership Council and I was chosen for the 2020 Class of UGA’s 40 under 40. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined this honor and to be listed alongside some of the smartest, brightest and most innovative of our alumni. Although my time at UGA was challenging in many ways, it also helped me grow immensely. I strive and continue to give back to both the University of Georgia and younger bulldog generations because I truly believe that when you have the opportunity to make it where you want to be in your journey, it is your responsibility to hold the door open for those that come after you. It really is my hope that other students read or hear my story and feel encouraged to push forward and to extend a helping hand whenever they can to those around them.

Somewhere along the way, UGA gave me everything I needed. Somewhere along the way, I found a home.

Q&A With Aaron Luque (MBA ’16)

Aaron Luque (MBA ’16) is the CEO of EnviroSpark Energy Solutions, a company that specializes in the design and installation of electric vehicle charging station solutions. EnviroSpark was honored as a 2019 Bulldog 100 company, and Aaron is visiting campus this week to speak to entrepreneurship and sustainability classes, field questions from students and share his experience in both areas. We spoke with Aaron to learn a little bit more about him, his work, his UGA experience and how those three things intersect.

What made you want to start your own business? And why this particular business?

My work experience had previously always been in what would be considered a “big corporate” environment, complete with inefficiencies and red tape that would make it very difficult for me to best serve my clients. At the end of the day, I just wanted the freedom to be flexible and creative, and “best-fit” solutions for my clients. I wanted to recognize the uniqueness of each and every client and prospect, let them know they were special, and provide services with their needs in mind.

As cheesy as it sounds, I really did choose the sustainability sector out of an innate desire to leave the world a better place for future generations of humans and for life in general. Selling something you believe in is extremely fulfilling and comes easily and naturally, whereas selling something in which you don’t believe is difficult and unsatisfying.

You earned your MBA from UGA in 2016. Why did you choose to pursue that degree, and what impact has it had on your professional path?

Both of my companies had grown to a point where I needed to be thinking about business strategy and finance on deeper levels, and as a result I chose to enroll in the Executive MBA program. As an entrepreneur for the last 12 years, with no aspirations of working for anyone else anytime soon, the program has probably benefited me in different ways than it would for, say, someone who was simply looking to move up the corporate ladder. On a personal level, I’d have to say I personally got the most value from the finance and economic-related portions of the program, and the knowledge gained in those areas has significantly enhanced my ability to run my businesses.

What are you most proud of professionally?

The knowledge that my efforts and those of the teams I have built are having a major impact on the adoption rate and transition towards electric vehicles. EnviroSpark, a company self-funded and organically-grown, is directly responsible for the design and installation of over 10,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the United States and Canada. I cannot count the number of times one of my clients has called me up and told me they couldn’t believe how many people went out and purchased electric cars after we completed an installation at their office, hotel, apartment, condo, convenience store, etc. Knowing that we reached out to these locations, educated them about electric vehicles, designed a charging solution for them, implemented that solution, and then seeing the end result of increased electric vehicle ownership is extremely rewarding.

You’ve said that you’re passionate about sustainability. What do you see as your role—personally, professionally, or both—in creating a more sustainable society?

When I was first considering getting into the electric vehicle space I was thinking to myself “electric vehicles are amazing, why do more people not drive them?” After some research, it became very apparent there were two main reasons for this:

  1. Awareness – People simply didn’t know all the benefits of owning an electric car (I could go on for days on this topic).
  2. Range Anxiety – People were scared they would get stuck somewhere due to a lack of infrastructure (and rightfully so).

With that in mind l founded EnviroSpark with two primary goals:

  1. Learn as much as possible about all of the benefits of electric vehicle ownership and share this with as many people as possible
  2. Design and construct as many charging sites as possible. My hope was that every time someone saw one of our charging stations, they would be a little more comfortable with the idea of switching to an electric car.

If you could give one piece of advice to students, what would it be?

Whatever you do for a living, make sure it’s something you’re passionate about. Work is too much time of your life to be spent doing something you don’t love, and I’d venture to say it’s impossible for your overall quality of life not to be directly influenced by the level of satisfaction you have for your career.

 

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