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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 Outreach Chair

I transferred to the University of Georgia in 2010, with no idea how the transition would work. I came 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 Outreach Committee Chair for the UGA Young Alumni Leadership Council because I truly believe that although my time at UGA was challenging in many ways, it also helped me grow immensely. I am very thankful for it all.

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

Featured image above by Claire Diana Photography

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.

 

Inside the life of Will Carr (ABJ ’06), an ABC news correspondent

Each year, UGA’s 40 Under 40 program recognizes 40 young alumni who are leaders and change-makers. We spoke with one of this year’s 40 Under 40 honorees, ABC News Correspondent Will Carr (ABJ ’06), to get a look into the high-speed life of a national broadcast journalist.

What has been your career path since graduating from UGA?

I was in Grady’s Newsource 15, and through that program landed my first on-air job in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I was there for about 2.5 years, and then secured a job in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I broke a couple stories at the border, and amazingly, ABC reached out to me. At the same time, FOX News reached out to me as well. In 2012 or 2013, FOX offered me a job as a national correspondent, where I could travel to cover big news stories, so I joined FOX News in their Los Angeles bureau for five years.

At that time, ABC came back on me and said, “we’ve been following your career, we love what you’ve been doing, we’d like to fly you to New York.” Since that’s the place that I’ve always wanted to work, it was like a dream come true. It didn’t happen exactly right when I wanted it to, but ultimately things played out the way they needed to. FOX gave me a lot of experience with national stories that helped me hit the ground running when I got the job at ABC.

When did you realize you wanted to go into news?

During my freshman year at Georgia, I walked on the football team. This was not a big deal because I was basically a tackling dummy. When I realized that my football career had fizzled out, I decided to go into the broadcasting program. I wanted to be an athlete, but I felt like if I can’t keep playing, then I’d like to at least cover sports. 

Newsource 15 forced us to rotate in the position every day. Through that experience, I fell in love with hard news, not even meaning to. From there, sports became sort of entertainment for me and I pursued hard news as my passion professionally.

When asked about your “typical day,” how do you respond?

My day is the antithesis of a nine-to-five. I have four cell phones: my personal phone, two work phones with two different providers in case I don’t have service for one. I also have a satellite phone that I carry with me at all times. Basically, I’m on call 24/7, even if I’m on vacation. 

It’s just the nature of the job. Sometimes you cancel vacations, you work weekends, you work holidays. When the news calls, you go. But there is downtime where you can chill at home, catch up on errands, exercise or knock out anything you need to do when you’re not physically in the city you live. It’s not boring!

What is the most important story you’ve ever covered?

I’ve covered so many, I don’t know that I can name the “most important.” A recent story that jumps out was last year, one one of the more crazy days of my career. I got woken up at 1 a.m. in Los Angeles, and was told, “There’s been a mass shooting at Thousand Oaks,” which is a Los Angeles suburb. We went to the shooting location and worked for eight hours, and then I was called and told, “A massive fire has broken out up north in California.”

So we jumped on a plane and flew to Sacramento, and then drove two hours to Paradise, California. When we arrived, the entire town was burning. It was the most swift-moving wildfire I’d ever seen, and we saw neighborhood after neighborhood just burn to the ground while we were there. 

We ended up staying in Paradise for a week and a half. It is probably the worst devastation I’ve ever seen; the entire city was wiped off the map. It was really something to see and experience. 

How do you stay prepared to travel and break a story?

I have three or four bags packed at all times. I have a large bag that would be checked if I’m covering an international-type story that would keep me on the road for a week or two. You want to take as much as possible since you don’t know exactly what you’re getting into on the ground or what you’ll be up against. 

Other than that, I have a carry-on bag that I keep ready at all times, and also a wildfire bag. That bag contains the gear that you would see firefighters wearing, since basically we are in the fire just like the firefighters. I actually train with them so that we can do our job safely. I have a bag full of miscellaneous items that I can just sort of pick and choose from depending on the situation I’m going into. 

I have three younger sisters, all of whom went to UGA. When I pick them up from the airport, I can never put their bags in my trunk because it’s always full. They’re always frustrated by that, but I think they understand the gig. 

What advice would you give to students who are interested in becoming a news correspondent?

It’s really important to make sure you feel like the news is in your DNA. Of the people that I stay in touch with, a lot have ended up changing professions and/or going into public relations. A lot of people wanted to go into news, but then they realized the grind of it.

I also feel like a lot of people have a passion for the news, but are talked out of going into it because they’re told “you’re not gonna make any money, you’re gonna have to work holidays, weekends, you’re not gonna have a life.” I don’t really feel like that’s fair. People just need to have their eyes wide open about what they’re getting into and ensure that it’s something they’re really passionate about. Because trust me: you don’t want to work weekends, holidays and 20-hour shifts in the worst elements if you don’t really love what you’re doing. 

What were you involved in as a student at UGA?

I think a lot of kids in college have an idea of what they want to do because they’ve been pointed in a certain direction or learned something about themselves along the way that they wanted to do. I needed a major. I knew I needed to do something, and getting into Newsource ignited that passion. That program and the professors I had equipped me with the tools to enter this profession and hit the ground running.

Coming out of Newsource, I felt like I had a jet-pack propulsion device on my back that helped me take off from the beginning It gave me so many amazing tools. We were doing newscasts across Athens, so transitioning into local news wasn’t difficult. 

 

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Which UGA professors influenced you most?

Michael Castengera and Steve Smith, who taught Newsource 15, were like a ying and yang. I felt like they were family, and I’ve stayed in touch with them. They not only had an impact on me while I was at Georgia; they had an impact on me throughout my career. I find it to be rare to stay in touch with two of your college professors so intimately, and I think that’s the beauty of the program at UGA. 

They’ve retired, but the journalism school is run by some top-notch people. Dean Davis is amazing, Parker Middleton in great, Dodie Cantrell does a great job. So I know that even though my mentors have retired, the journalism school is in very good hands. 

What is the most important experience you had as a UGA student?

It was my first day of Newsource, and as I mentioned, I really wanted to cover sports. I talked Castengera into letting me be the sports anchor. Apparently one of the reporters didn’t show up or called in sick, and he said “Well, you know, you can’t do sports. You have to be a reporter.” There was a story about a student living in a house with guys who had overdosed on heroin. One of the professors said, “we want you to go down to the zoning director for the city and ask him how often they enforce the single family housing ordinance where you have to be related to live in a house.”

We sat outside his office for an hour or two, and finally he came out. We went into his office and I pulled out my notepad. I asked the first question. The zoning director had three note cards on his desk. He looked at the first note card and read verbatim off that note card. It had absolutely nothing to do with what I asked him. 

I clerked for my dad, who was an attorney, and so I was in trials a lot. I saw my dad react to people when he felt they were not being truthful on the stand, and I felt a similar feeling in this moment. When I asked him the second question, he went to the second note card and the same thing: nothing to do with what I asked him. I had no idea what I was doing except I felt like this guy was lying to me. I couldn’t figure out why, so I said something to the effect of, “are you going to keep reading off these note cards or are you gonna actually answer any questions?”

He jumped out of his seat, grabbed me by the collar, and dragged me out of the room. He said, “this is over,” and slammed the door. So we went to the professor and I said, “Sorry, I still can’t do the story, I didn’t get any information from him.” My professor said, “No, this is the story.”

We ended up reporting what happened, and the local paper ended up doing an expose on the zoning director. A week or two later, one of the reporters for the newspaper said, “Hey, we saw your story. We’re digging into this guy and he hasn’t been enforcing a lot of things he’s supposed to have been enforcing. Really great job of digging that up.” That was the moment for me where sports became more fun and entertainment, and I fell in love with hard news. 

Do you have any other favorite UGA memories?

I always think about the memories with my close friends, some of whom were in the journalism school, some who weren’t. I’ve stayed in close contact with a lot of them over the years. In college, there were four of us who watched the HBO show called “Entourage,” and we felt like we were our own entourage.

It’s been amazing over the years to see what they’ve done, and several now have families and kids. It’s really cool to have developed strong friendships with people and feel like they were fortified over the years coming out of Georgia. They really have developed into lifelong friendships. 

Finish this statement. I am most proud to be a Bulldawg when ______.

I’m the most proud to be a Bulldog when I see other Bulldogs succeed.

Throughout the years, I’ve had members of the UGA community reach out to me, especially within journalism, and I try to help as much as possible. When you see people from Georgia do well professionally and personally, I love that. I get excited about Georgia because it had such an impact on me. I know it’s had a similar impact on others.

It’s ironic actually: I’m sitting on a patio in Wyoming and there’s a house two doors down with a Bulldog flag outside. I haven’t seen the homeowners yet, but I’m waiting for them to come out so I can give them a big “Go Dawgs.” When you move further and further away, you don’t run into people who went to Georgia very often. So it’s a special moment, like a nice bond. You see each other and want to hug.

International Left-Handers Day

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

David Greene (BBA ’04)

Photo from UGA Sports Comm

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

Todd Gurley (M ’16)

Photo from Grady Newsource

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

Bubba Watson (BSFCS ’08)

Photo from Golf News Net

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

Michael Stipe (M ’82)

Photo from UGA Today

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

Kim Basinger (M ’75)

Photo from The Red & Black

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

20 Questions with ENO’s Parker Browne on National Hammock Day

Parker Browne Fishing

July 22 is National Hammock Day–a day to celebrate the simple art of relaxation in the great outdoors. In honor of this holiday, we checked in with UGA grad Parker Browne (BBA ’08), the international sales manager for Eagles Nest Outfitters, Inc. (ENO) in Asheville, to learn more about him and his path since graduation. Parker is originally from Tifton, Georgia, and earned a bachelor’s degree in management from the Terry College of Business.


Why UGA?

Two reasons:
1) My paternal grandparents met while attending UGA (Billie Gaskins Baker and Louis Davis Browne). So, as many students could say, it runs in the family.
2) The caliber of the school. What better in-state school is there?

Favorite memory as a student?

Sitting on the front porch of the old Jittery Joe’s Roasting Plant, discussing music and books with my close friends.

Parker Browne in Hammock at Jittery Joes

After graduation, what was your first job?

Vail Resorts lift operator, then security.

What has been your career path since that point?

After the seasonal jobs, I got into sales. I started with Grassroots Coffee Company, then Agilum Healthcare Intelligence. After that, I combined my sales experience with my passion for the outdoors, and landed my first professional job in the outdoor industry with YETI.

What is ENO?

Twenty years ago, ENO became the catalyst that sparked the hammocking counter-culture. With the creation of the DoubleNest Hammock, and the first ever hammock suspension system, ENO revolutionized hammocking and cultivated a tribe of nomadic adventurers across the US (and now globally!).

What do you do for ENO?

As the international sales manager, I manage and cultivate the relationships with our international distributors.

What is great about working for ENO?

I have been a fan of their product since my days at UGA. Now I get to sell something I believe in, as well as travel globally and get exposed to different cultures and economies.

Why do you think people enjoy hammocks so much?

As lives have gotten more complicated and connected, we need a way to relax. What better way than in a hammock? ENO made the process of set up and take down easy (less than a minute).

Where is the craziest place you’ve seen someone take a hammock?

One of my recent favorites is a group that built their own hammock stand out of bamboo and slept on a sandbar in the middle of the ocean in Hawaii. I also love all of the epic shots we get from the National Parks, a cause close to the heart of ENO.

What is your favorite ENO product?

It’s still the DoubleNest Hammock and Atlas Straps.

ENO DoubleNest Hammock

OK, so transitioning to a little about UGA and Athens … who is a UGA grad that inspires you?

Alton Brown (AB ’04)

What makes you most proud to be a Georgia Bulldog?

The connections I’ve made with Bulldogs across the U.S.

Have you maintained a connection to UGA since graduation and if so, how?

I come back a few times a year, and try to get home for at least one football game each season.

Favorite place to eat in Athens:

Amici!

Favorite book:

Trout Bum by John Gierach

Favorite movie:

The Big Lebowski

Favorite musician/band:

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit

Favorite podcast:

The Dollop or WTF with Marc Maron

If you had $1 million to donate to UGA, what would you help fund?

Sustainability research in food production/agriculture

If a student was interested in doing something like you in the future, what advice would you give them?

Start in retail. Working for a local business (like Half-Moon Outfitters) will get you exposure to the terminology and ‘feel’ of the outdoor industry. It is also a great way to network with people from the industry, which is the easiest way to get a foot in the door!

Alumni create a theater experience for the deaf and the hearing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UGA Young Alumni Night at SweetWater: A timeline

There was excitement in the air. A sea of red and black. Loud voices Calling the Dawgs.

No, it wasn’t a fall Saturday in Athens. It was a hot summer evening in Atlanta. I was at my (ashamedly) very first UGA Young Alumni event. Three years post-graduation and I finally made it!

Here’s my night in review: 

5:05 p.m. Hit the road to Atlanta from Athens where I sing karaoke all the way down 316.

6:30 p.m. Take a power nap because I can’t hang like a college kid any more.

7:00 p.m. Put on my best red and black outfit.

7:30 p.m. Meet up with friends and fellow Dawgs — some of whom I hadn’t seen since English 1001.

8:30 p.m. Request my Uber to SweetWater.

8:31 p.m. Take an Uber selfie.

Uber Selfie
8:55 p.m. Arrive at SweetWater and stop by the registration table to check in. I pat myself on the back for registering early since tickets at the door were more expensive ;)

UGA Young Alumni Night at SweetWater

9:00 p.m. (okay, it was more like 8:56 p.m.) Grab my first beer. Cheers!

9:15 p.m. Catch up with a college friend who recently accepted a new job at Cox Enterprises.

9:30 p.m. Tour SweetWater’s newly renovated taproom and learn that there’s 24 (!) beers on tap. Time to try another!

9:45 p.m. The bartender pours my second local brew.

10:00 p.m. The band starts playing Backstreet Boys so I obviously hit the dance floor.

Atlanta Wedding Band

10:15 p.m. Indulge in some barbecue from SweetWater’s new in-house catering kitchen. It was delicious!

10:30 p.m. Lead a group in Calling the Dawgs! My bark still needs some work before football season begins.

10:45 p.m. Pose with friends and UGA props at the photobooth — no, I’m not sharing those photos.

11:00 p.m. I have another beer … or two.

12:00 p.m. Close down the joint and request another Uber because #responsible.

The Young Alumni Leadership Council meets regularly in Atlanta and hosts events and programs  like this throughout the year. Learn more about getting involved. 

And, be sure to mark your calendar for next year’s UGA Alumni Night at SweetWater. Not only is it an awesome night of reminiscing, drinks and dancing, but a portion of my ticket supported UGA scholarships so I also felt good about giving back to my favorite university.