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UGA breaks ground on state-of-the-art science facility

In a ceremony that included remarks by state and university leaders, the University of Georgia broke ground Aug. 26 on its newest state-of-the-art learning facility, the 122,500-square-foot Science Learning Center.

The public event was the ceremonial start to work on the learning facility, which will be located at the southwest corner of the D.W. Brooks Mall, adjacent to Pharmacy South and across from the Miller Plant Sciences Building.

UGA President Jere W. Morehead said the Science Learning Center will transform the way faculty members teach and the way students learn in the basic sciences.

"We say on this campus that every decision we make should be for the benefit of our students, that the students should come first," Morehead said. "The Science Learning Center is certainly emblematic of that philosophy."

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UGA professor wins international arboriculture award

University of Georgia professor Kim Coder has been honored with an international arboriculture award for his service and commitment to community forestry.

Coder was presented with the International Society of Arboriculture's Award of Merit on Aug. 3. The Award of Merit is the highest global award the organization confers to arborists and urban foresters.

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UGA Skidaway Institute to study offshore sand resources

Severe beach erosion can be a significant problem for coastal communities affected by hurricanes and tropical storms like Hurricane Sandy. To assist Georgia communities in future recovery efforts, the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography entered into a cooperative agreement with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to evaluate existing data on Georgia's offshore sand resources and identify where more data are needed. This consolidated information will increase knowledge of Georgia's offshore sand resources and contribute to long-term coastal resilience planning.

"Georgia's sand resources are arguably the least well-known of those along the East Coast, and this project will provide critical data and insights to enhance coastal resilience," said UGA Skidaway Institute professor Clark Alexander. "The work is being coordinated closely with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the state geologist to assure that our findings are disseminated rapidly and broadly."

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Third-annual Spotlight on the Arts Festival set for Nov. 6-14

A Tony Award-winning playwright, a Grammy Award-winning soprano, art-making robots and a music composition performed on Google Glass are among the more than 40 events on tap for the University of Georgia's 2014 Spotlight on the Arts festival.

The third annual festival is scheduled for Nov. 6-14 and will feature performances by British baroque quartet Red Priest, the Russian State Symphony Orchestra and Grammy Award-winning soprano Kathleen Battle. The 2014 Spotlight on the Arts festival also includes events featuring Academy and Tony award-winning playwright Alfred Uhry, who will be inducted into the Georgia Writer's Hall of Fame. A University Theatre production of "The Great Gatsby" will run throughout the festival.

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Marshall Shepherd named Captain Planet Protector of the Earth

The University of Georgia's J. Marshall Shepherd is a Captain Planet Protector of the Earth, according to the Captain Planet Foundation, which recently added him to a list of outstanding real-life environmental superheroes.

Shepherd, the UGA Athletic Association Professor in the Social Sciences, will receive the award at the annual Captain Planet Foundation Benefit Gala Dec. 5 in Atlanta. Other 2014 honorees include renowned primatologist Jane Goodall and Carter and Olivia Ries of the non-profit "One More Generation." Larry King will be master of ceremonies.

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UGA first-year students set academic criteria records

The University of Georgia opened its doors this fall to a first-year class that has broken the high ceiling on academic criteria set by previous classes. The 2014 class begins UGA with the highest average GPA to date-3.9 on a 4.0 scale-in the most challenging courses. They also have earned the highest test scores for entering freshmen and continue the upward trajectory in the academic qualifications of students at the nation's first state-chartered university. 

"Our incoming first-year students have broken records across multiple areas and represent the strongest academic class by all standards," said Nancy McDuff, associate vice president for admissions and enrollment management. "We are pleased that these students chose to come to UGA, as most have multiple options for college. Not only do they have the highest grades and test scores, but they also have faced the most rigorous high school curriculum of any prior class. This is a strong predictor that our retention and graduation rates, which are already among the highest in the country, will improve over the long run. More than 94 percent of students return for their second year at UGA, while more than 83 percent of UGA students graduate within six years."

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Georgia Sea Grant helps coastal communities plan for port expansion

As the $706 million Savannah Harbor Expansion Project begins, the University of Georgia and Georgia Sea Grant are poised to help coastal residents adapt to changes that are expected to bring additional jobs and prosperity to their communities. As the country's fourth busiest container port and creator of $18.5 billion annually in personal income from port-related jobs, much is riding on the success of Savannah's port expansion. Plans include dredging 32 miles of the harbor's navigation channel to allow the port to accommodate supersized freighters from Asia and the Pacific coast of Latin America that will come to the east coast through the newly expanded Panama Canal, due to be completed in 2015.

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Kyle Tschepikow appointed assistant to the president at UGA

University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead will welcome Kyle Tschepikow to his staff on Sept. 8 as assistant to the president. Tschepikow is currently the director of student affairs assessment and staff development in the UGA Division of Student Affairs.

"I am very pleased that Dr. Tschepikow will be joining our staff," Morehead said. "His educational background and work experience in higher education have prepared him well for this important position in our administration. He will be a great asset, and we all look forward to working with him."

In his new role as assistant to the president, Tschepikow will focus primarily on speechwriting and coordination of presidential communications. He will provide staff support to the University Cabinet, update content on the Office of the President's website and represent the office as its liaison to the Board of Visitors. He also will plan presidential events and serve as an adviser to the president and chief of staff.

"I am profoundly honored to join the Office of the President at the University of Georgia," Tschepikow said. "I look forward to supporting President Morehead, the administration, faculty, students and other members of the university community in the role of assistant to the president."

Tschepikow came to Athens in 2008 to pursue a doctorate in higher education—a degree he earned from the Institute of Higher Education in August 2012—and joined the Division of Student Affairs the same year as a doctoral intern for assessment. He then became assistant director for assessment in 2009 and was named to his current position as director in 2011.

Prior to joining the staff at UGA, Tschepikow served as director of residence life and chief judicial affairs officer at the University of Charleston in Charleston, West Virginia. He received his bachelor's degree in English literature from Henderson State University in Arkansas in 2003 and his master's degree in the same field from the University of Wales—where his dissertation was awarded distinction—in 2005.

His academic accomplishments include peer-reviewed journal articles, a chapter in a monograph and papers and presentations at various international conferences. He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses on college student outcomes assessment and accreditation, the age of chivalry, medieval literature and Shakespeare and has led study abroad courses in both Italy and England.

Tschepikow will fill the position previously occupied by Chuck Toney, who left the university in May to become a senior strategist for the communications firm Jackson Spalding. He joins Chief of Staff Kathy Pharr and Assistant to the President Matt Winston.

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Researchers receive $1.9 million NIH grant to study pneumonia persistence

Researchers at the University of Georgia have received a five-year, $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the bacterium Mycoplasma pneumoniae, the leading cause of pneumonia in older children and young adults. A fundamental goal of the new research project is to better understand how the bacterium eludes the immune system and common antibiotic treatment, which can often lead to persistent infection or life-altering conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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Parking Services employee receives international honor

The University of Georgia Parking Services recently celebrated a staff award at the annual International Parking Institute Conference and Expo. Wendy Glenn, senior parking services monitor in the South Campus parking deck, was honored with the institute's Staff Member of the Year Award. This award is given each year to a deserving member of the parking industry who exemplifies professionalism and outstanding customer service and who goes above and beyond the duties in his or her job description.