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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.

Congratulations, 2019 40 Under 40!

40 Under 40 Logo

We’re proud to announce the 40 Under 40 Class of 2019 today! This program, in its ninth year, celebrates the achievements of successful UGA graduates under the age of 40–a set of alumni who are leading the pack in their industries and communities. These young leaders will be recognized during the ninth annual 40 Under 40 Awards Luncheon Sept. 13 in the Tate Student Center on campus. If you’re interested, please join us for this special event.

Each Honoree Stands Out

The 2019 class includes a few names you might recognize:

  • Allison R. Schmitt, a gold medal-winning Olympic swimmer
  • Malcolm Mitchell, Super Bowl champion and children’s author
  • Will Carr, a correspondent for ABC News on a national level

But even if you don’t know the names of everyone on the list, you’ll still be impressed at the caliber of these graduates working in everything from law and politics, to health care, nonprofit and food and beverage. For example, Tim Fleming is Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s chief of staff and Catherine Marti is a cardiologist at Piedmont Heart Institute focused on heart failure and transplant cardiology.

“We are excited to unveil this year’s class of 40 Under 40 and welcome them back home to Athens for the awards luncheon in September,” said Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of alumni relations. “I am always amazed by the excellence of our young alumni. These outstanding individuals exemplify leadership in their industries and communities.”

The Competition

Talk about a competitive selection process: nominations for 40 Under 40 were open from February to April, and more than 400 alumni were nominated for this year’s class. Honorees, of course, must have attended UGA and they have to uphold the Pillars of the Arch: wisdom, justice and moderation. Additional criteria are available on the 40 Under 40 webpage.

“The achievements of our nominated alumni each year make it hard to narrow down the list to just 40 honorees, and this year was no exception,” said Johnson. “We are proud of all of these outstanding young graduates. Their drive and focus inspires the UGA community.”

Ok, Ok, Show Me the List!

This year’s 40 Under 40 honorees, including their city, title and employer, are listed below in alphabetical order:

The Event

As we said earlier, if you’re interested in attending the 2019 40 Under 40 Awards Luncheon in Athens on Friday, September 13, please register today! *If you’re an honoree, please use the registration link provided to you by the Alumni Relations team.

Five punny reasons you don’t want to miss UGA Young Alumni Night at SweetWater

We know you don’t really need an excuse to go to SweetWaterit kind of sells itself. But indulge us anyway. Here are five reasons missing this annual event would be un-beer-able:    

  1. Don’t worry, beer hoppy. What better way to spend a summer Friday than surrounded by fellow Bulldogs? Reminisce about sunny afternoons on north campus, be grateful you’re not spending your evening cramming in the MLC and count down the days until football season returns ( … it’ll be 64 from Young Alumni Night).

    UGA Young Alumni Night at SweetWater
  2. New taproom? Ale yeah! Did you know that SweetWater recently renovated and reopened its much-anticipated taproom? The new space allows for 24 different beers to be available on tap. Yeah, you read that right. 
  3. Hip hops. A local Atlanta band will be performing some of your favorite songs all night long. Pretend you’re back in Athens at the 40 Watt, Georgia Theatre or Hendershots.

    UGA Young Alumni Night at SweetWater
  4. Pitcher perfect. Take a selfie, pose with friends and make the perfect boomerang glass clink. Your Instagram feed will thank you.

    UGA Young Alumni Night at SweetWater
  5. You’re supporting students – thank brew very much! A portion of your ticket price will help fund UGA student scholarships.  

Bonus reason: FOOD.  

Let’s be honest – you don’t have anything planned for next Friday anyway. Grab a friend (or five), request an Uber/Lyft/Bird/Lime and we’ll see you there. Cheers! 

 June 28
9 p.m. to midnight 

First Father’s Day: sharing UGA and Athens with my son

Dear Son,

As Father’s Day approaches, and the reality sets in that I will get to celebrate this year with you, my son, I can’t help but think about how much I’m looking forward to introducing you to everything I love about UGA and Athens. Like…

Walking past the Arch and playing frisbee in the shady grass of North Campus.


Taking you to Sanford Stadium and putting you on my shoulders to see over the crowd to watch the Dawgs run out of the tunnel for the first time.


Tailgating with our family and friends all season long.

Smelling the nutty aroma of coffee and splitting Fruity Pebbles donuts at Ike and Jane.


Playing Connect Four and eating (too many) hot dogs at HiLo.


Ordering the Hermit Crab sandwich at Seabear. Because it’s on the secret menu and that makes me seem like a cool Dad.


Taking you downtown during Twilight to watch the bikes speed by.


Walking fairways at the UGA Golf Course, and teaching you how to stick an iron close.


Taking you to the Farmers Market on Saturday mornings to stand in the Farm Cart line to wait for the best biscuits in town.


Climbing the hill on Baxter to show you Russell Hall – where Dad lived his freshman year. Then over to Gran Ellen where I lived as a junior and senior, just down the street from our favorite spot, Memorial Park and Bear Hollow Zoo.

 

Thanks for making me a father, buddy. You’re a Damn Good Dawg (and son).

 

 

Love, Dad

Alex Bezila (BBA ’10)