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UGA genetics faculty member honored with Presidential Early Career Award

University of Georgia assistant professor Andrea Sweigart is among 102 scientists announced as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, or PECASE, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on scientists and engineers in the early stages of their research careers.

Established in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach. The recipients receive the awards in person each spring at the White House.

Sweigart is an assistant professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of genetics.

"A world-leading evolutionary biologist who has fully integrated her research into her teaching, exposing our students to cutting edge science that addresses evolution and the generation of biodiversity, Andrea exemplifies the outstanding scholarship conducted at UGA," said Allen J. Moore, Distinguished Research Professor and head of the department of genetics. "She is a passionate supporter of diversity at all levels. This is a fabulous recognition of her leadership in 21st century science, and we are all proud to have her as a colleague."

Sweigart joined the UGA faculty in 2011 following postdoctoral positions at the University of Rochester and the University of Montana after completing her Ph.D. at Duke University. Sweigart's research program is focused on understanding how natural populations evolve into reproductively isolated species.

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UGA presents 2017 President’s Fulfilling the Dream Award

The University of Georgia presented awards to four Athens and university community members for exemplary community service Jan. 13 as part of the 14th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Breakfast sponsored by UGA, the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government and the Clarke County School District.

The breakfast commemorates the life of the late civil rights leader. Held at the Grand Hall of the Tate Student Center, the event had a capacity crowd with more than 600 people in attendance

Elizabeth Louis, a doctoral candidate in psychology; Barbara McCaskill, professor of English and co-director of the Civil Rights Digital Library Initiative; and Fred O. Smith and Lee E. Zimmerman Smith, co-founders of the Creative Visions Foundation, received the President's Fulfilling the Dream Award for their efforts to make King's dream of equality and justice a reality.

In addition, Kerry Miller, Mary Diallo and Harold Black, the first African-Americans to enroll at UGA as freshmen, were present at the breakfast and were recognized on the 50th anniversary of their graduation as part of the Class of 1966.

The Rev. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock, senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, was the featured speaker at the event. He encouraged attendees to take on King's unfinished work.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Breakfast and the President's Fulfilling the Dream Awards are coordinated by the UGA Office of Institutional Diversity.

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Researchers receive Moore Foundation grant to study the global ocean microbiome

A $1.3 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation will allow University of Georgia researchers to uncover answers about an important metabolic link that takes place in the Earth's oceans.

Microorganisms in the largest microbial habitat on Earth, the ocean microbiome, function similarly to microorganisms in the human gut; they perform chemical transformations that keep the whole system healthy.

Phytoplankton, the microbial primary producers of the ocean, take up carbon dioxide and provide the building blocks for all marine life, while bacteria use these building blocks to direct the carbon to different functions in the ocean.

With support from the Moore Foundation grant, UGA researchers are working to uncover the details of these metabolic transformations to assess the rates at which metabolites move between microbial primary producers and consumers in the surface ocean.

The research will use lab cultures of bacteria isolated from various locations in the ocean including off the coast of Georgia's Sapelo Island, and field studies with natural microbial communities.

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UGA launches unique MBA-engineering dual degree program

The University of Georgia is launching a new dual degree program that will allow students to earn a bachelor's degree in engineering and an MBA within five years. The program, offered through the university's Terry College of Business and its College of Engineering, is the first and only combined Bachelor of Science and MBA degree offered at an institution in the University System of Georgia.

"We are pleased to add the new engineering and MBA dual degree combination to our innovative educational offerings to provide motivated engineering students with the business skill set that will equip them to excel in today's workforce," said Terry College Dean Benjamin C. Ayers.

Students enrolled in the program will begin with bachelor's degree courses in the College of Engineering during years one through three. In their fourth year, students will continue their engineering coursework while completing statistics and data analytics courses in Terry College. At the end of their fourth year, students will complete an internship in either a business or engineering setting. Students will be fully immersed in Terry's MBA program during year five.

"We try to foster an entrepreneurial spirit in our students as they work to solve problems," said Donald J. Leo, dean of the College of Engineering. "We want them to be able to turn their innovations into products that can have an impact on people's lives, and the partnership with the Terry College will provide them with the business skills they need to do this."

In addition, leaders of the two colleges believe engineering graduates equipped with an MBA will have the technical, analytical and business skills necessary to lead strategic initiatives in high-tech, operations and manufacturing companies.

"Engineering graduates with an MBA will be better able to understand business decisions and transition into management roles earlier in their careers," said Santanu Chatterjee, director of Terry's Full-Time MBA Program.

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UGA to present President’s Medal to Paul Kurtz

The University of Georgia will bestow one of its highest honors on Paul M. Kurtz, retired associate dean and professor in the UGA School of Law, during Founders Day activities on Jan. 23.

The President's Medal recognizes extraordinary contributions of individuals who are not current employees of UGA and who have supported students and academic programs, advanced research and inspired community leaders to enhance the quality of life of citizens in Georgia.

"Paul Kurtz is among the most respected faculty members to have served the University, and he is renowned nationwide for his legal expertise and leadership still today," said President Jere W. Morehead. "We are pleased to recognize his many contributions to strengthening the academic mission of this University and improving the legal system in our state and nation."

Kurtz was a faculty member at the School of Law from 1975 until his retirement in 2013, specializing in criminal law and family law. He served as the law school's associate dean from 1991 until 2013 and was named the J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law in 1994.

Active in law school and university affairs throughout his career, Kurtz was elected by colleagues to three terms of service on the University Council as well as two terms on the board of the Georgia Athletic Association. He is chairing the American Bar Association-Association of American Law Schools Accreditation Site Inspection of the Indiana University-Indianapolis Law School. Kurtz earned his bachelor's and law degrees from Vanderbilt University and his Master of Laws from Harvard University.

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UGA alumna named State Botanical Garden of Georgia director

Jennifer M. Cruse-Sanders, vice president for science and conservation at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, has been named director of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at the University of Georgia, effective Feb. 15.

Cruse-Sanders' senior administrative experience managing botanical garden programming and personnel, her track record of raising funds to support those programs, and her energy and commitment to public gardens, made her the top candidate.

"Jenny's strong record of outstanding leadership at the Atlanta Botanical Garden make her ideally suited to lead Georgia's State Botanical Garden," said Jennifer L. Frum, UGA vice president for Public Service and Outreach, which oversees the garden. "I am confident that working closely with the board of advisors and the Friends of the Garden, she will be in a position to raise the profile of and support for the State Botanical Garden of Georgia throughout the southeast and the country."

Cruse-Sanders has worked at the Atlanta Botanical Garden since 2008. She was director of research and conservation before becoming a vice president. Prior to Atlanta, she spent nine years as a research associate at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. She has an M.S. and a Ph.D. in botany from UGA. She earned her B.A. in biology at Boston University.

The State Botanical Garden serves UGA's teaching, research and outreach missions, and is an extremely popular public garden. More than 235,000 people visit the Garden annually for educational programs, research, special events, and recreation. The 313-acre Garden includes a tropical conservatory/visitor center; a non-denominational chapel; the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies; and a horticulture complex and nursery. The garden contains several theme gardens and five miles of nature trails through deciduous Georgia piedmont forest.

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Worker-owned cooperatives may help address elder care deficit

A growing elder care shortage could be eased by worker-owned cooperatives, a little-used business model that also improves the working conditions and the quality of life for caregivers. That's the conclusion reached by University of Georgia faculty member Rebecca Matthew and Vanessa Bransburg, a cooperative development specialist, in a recent, award-winning case study.

Matthew, an assistant professor at the UGA School of Social Work, and Bransburg, a staff member at Democracy at Work Institute in San Diego, California, looked for a successful system of home-based caring labor that puts equal emphasis on the well-being of both the care recipient and the provider. They examined the most popular forms of paid child care—for-profit and nonprofit services—alongside worker-owned child care cooperatives. The latter system is popular in other parts of the world, but represents a fraction of the caregiving services available in the U.S.

The cooperatives, which give employees greater control over their working conditions and a share in profits, improved the quality of life of both care recipients and providers.

As an example, they cited a case study of the Beyond Care Childcare Cooperative, an organization that provides home-based child care services to the Sunset Park community in Brooklyn, New York. Women who joined the BCCC as worker-owners reported a 58 percent increase in hourly wages. As wages grew, more than half of the employee-owners—primarily immigrant women—were able to reduce their work hours, enabling them to spend more time with their own children and families.

The model could also be applied to the provision of elder care, said Matthew and Bransburg, pointing out that nearly half of people employed in that job sector rely on public benefits such as Medicaid to support themselves and their families. Since home care for the elderly is expected to grow from nearly 40 million jobs now to 73 million by 2030, the potential impact of worker-owned cooperatives could be huge.

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UGA president, Macon mayor discuss collaborations and future partnerships

A meeting with Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert today was an opportunity for University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead to learn more about the assistance the university provided Macon-Bibb before, during and after its government consolidation.

"As a land- and sea-grant university, part of our mission is to connect the resources of the University of Georgia to communities throughout the state," Morehead said. "Through our outreach programs, we help revitalize rural downtowns, develop community leadership pipelines, train local elected officials and help governments, like Macon-Bibb County's, operate more efficiently and effectively. These efforts lead to greater economic vitality for the state as a whole."

Macon and Bibb County officials launched the formal process to consolidate their two governments in 2011, contracting with UGA's Carl Vinson Institute of Government to work with a transition task force to help merge services and policies, set an initial budget and establish a strategic plan. The consolidated government launched on Jan. 1, 2014. In addition, the Vinson Institute provides ongoing training to elected officials and professional staff.

"Macon-Bibb is very thankful for the assistance of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government the past five years as we've built a new government," Reichert said. "Their support, facilitation and expertise have proven invaluable in creating the government our community asked for, and we're delighted to share our-and their-success story with President Morehead."

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Spanish-speaking counselors from UGA help fill community need

A team of counseling psychology graduate students led by a University of Georgia professor is improving the availability of mental health care for the Athens-area Latino population.

Edward Delgado-Romero, a professor in the department of counseling and human development services in the UGA College of Education, recently launched two counseling programs at local clinics. By bringing six bilingual doctoral-level students into the community, dozens of locals have had access to counselors in their native language.

Prior to the programs, Delgado-Romero said, he and one other mental health professional were the only licensed bilingual counselors in the five-county area.

The work allows the graduate students to gain valuable clinical experience, which is a requirement for their degree. While they could choose to earn their hours anywhere, by working with the local Latino population the students are helping an underserved population while gaining valuable real-world experience in a bilingual setting.

Kristi Gilleland, director of whole person care at Mercy Health Center, said the addition of mental health services addresses a need expressed by nearly half of their entire patient population. A 2012 patient survey found that nearly 50 percent of Mercy's patients had a mental health need or diagnosis.

"We've definitely seen an increase in benefits in just the short time we've offered the service," Gilleland added. "The partnership has been incredible, and working with Ed, Linda Campbell and (fellow professor) Bernadette Hickman-they have been instrumental in bringing students here and expanding mental health services for our patients."

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UGA 10th best value in public colleges according to Kiplinger

The University of Georgia moved up two spots to No. 10 on Kiplinger's Personal Finance list of 100 best values among public colleges and universities for 2017.

Kiplinger's quality measures, which are weighted more heavily than cost, include the admission rate, the percentage of students who return for sophomore year, the student-faculty ratio and the four-year graduation rate. Cost criteria include sticker price, financial aid and average debt at graduation.

UGA was only one of two universities from the SEC that made the top 20 (the other being the University of Florida, which ranked at No. 7). The only other school from Georgia in the top 20 was Georgia Tech at No. 9. Georgia is one of only three states with two public schools in the top 10.

"The University of Georgia is committed to providing a world-class education at an affordable cost," said President Jere W. Morehead. "I am pleased that our ongoing efforts were once again recognized by this national ranking."