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UGA receives national diversity award for fifth straight year

Over the past year, University of Georgia students, faculty and staff fanned across the state to help recruit historically underrepresented and first-generation students to the birthplace of public higher education. On campus, new programs were launched to promote the academic success of students from rural areas and to broaden the pipeline of students pursuing advanced STEM degrees.

These efforts, among many others, have been recognized at a national level through the 2018 INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award. The HEED Award is the only national recognition honoring colleges and universities that exhibit outstanding efforts and success in the area of diversity and inclusion, and 2018 marks the fifth consecutive year that UGA has been honored.

“I am proud that the University of Georgia has been recognized nationally for the fifth consecutive year with the HEED Award,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “A diverse and welcoming environment strengthens a university in innumerable ways, and I am grateful to our faculty, staff and students for their ongoing commitment to fostering a more inclusive community.”

“The enthusiasm with which members of the campus community embrace diversity in its many forms is inspiring,” said Michelle Cook, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and strategic university initiatives. “There is a real understanding that each of us plays a role in making this university the very best that it can be.”

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Mary Frances Early honored at documentary premiere

Mary Frances Early, the first African American to receive a degree from the University of Georgia, was honored Sept. 11 at a premiere screening of a documentary featuring her life story.

“Mary Frances Early: The Quiet Trailblazer” was screened at an Atlanta event that included UGA officials, alumni, and friends and family of Early. The film, which is narrated by former WSB-TV Atlanta anchor and UGA alumna Monica Pearson, chronicles Early’s role in opening the door of educational opportunities to African Americans.

Co-executive produced by Maurice Daniels, professor emeritus and dean emeritus of UGA’s School of Social Work, and Michelle Cook, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and strategic university initiatives, the documentary follows Early’s life, using archival materials, personal papers, news coverage and personal interviews.

“Ms. Early has made a profound impact on the lives of countless individuals throughout her life,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “This documentary will continue to honor her pioneering and trailblazing path, which is still being felt across the state of Georgia.”

Early earned a master’s degree in music education from UGA in 1962 and returned in 1964 and earned a specialist in education degree in 1967. Honored repeatedly for her achievements and service, Early was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Georgia in 2013. Five years later, Morehead bestowed the President’s Medal to Early.

Early’s distinguished career includes becoming the first African American president of the Georgia Music Educators Association in 1981 and serving as music director for the entire Atlanta Public Schools system. She also taught at Morehouse College and Spelman College and served as chair of the music department at Clark Atlanta University.

“Mary Frances Early’s story of overcoming obstacles, persevering in the midst of hostility and ultimately accomplishing incredible success both personally and historically is the ultimate American tale,” Cook said. “Unfortunately, this story existed in obscurity for so many years, unknown and unacknowledged. This documentary fills a void in our history and allows us the opportunity to celebrate an amazing unsung hero, who is also one of our own.”

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UGA climbs to 13th in U.S. News & World Report rankings

The University of Georgia jumped three spots to No. 13 in the U.S. News & World Report 2019 ranking of best public national universities, the highest ranking in UGA’s history.

“The University of Georgia is reaching new heights of excellence in virtually every measure, and I am pleased that national recognition of the quality of our academic programs is on the rise,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “I want to commend our faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends for their hard work and dedication in making the University of Georgia, the birthplace of public higher education in America, one of the very best public universities in the nation.”

This is the third consecutive year the university has risen in the U.S. News ranking. A key factor in the improvement was UGA’s lower student-faculty ratio, which dropped from 18:1 to 17:1. An improvement in the subjective category of reputation, as assessed by college presidents, provosts and admissions directors, also factored into the new ranking, as well as the quality and performance of its students.

The university consistently fares well in the quality of its student body, which has been on a steady ascent. This fall marked the sixth consecutive year that the entering first-year class set a record for academic excellence, as the Class of 2022 enrolled with an average high school GPA of 4.04, an average ACT score of 30 and an average SAT score of 1365. Over the past five years, the number of applications for undergraduate admissions has increased nearly 30 percent as demand for a UGA degree has grown.

“The quality of the instruction and mentorship that our faculty members provide sets the University of Georgia apart,” said Interim Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Libby V. Morris. “We continue to enhance the learning environment for our students by providing more individualized attention, making classes smaller, promoting active learning and supporting hands-on, experiential learning opportunities.”

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President's Innovation District Task Force presents recommendations

The University of Georgia’s Innovation District Task Force has delivered its final report to President Jere W. Morehead. The report outlines a strategic vision and corresponding action steps to create a hub—or district—on campus to foster innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity and industry collaboration.

Morehead has endorsed the task force report and assigned a launch team to oversee the initial stages of the innovation district project.

“The future success of this institution—and of all public land-grant universities, for that matter—lies in its ability to find solutions to pressing challenges; to develop new ways of thinking and doing; and to support the jobs, companies and industries of the 21st century,” said Morehead. “Those are the top-line objectives of this important university initiative, and I am excited to get the project underway.”

The 14-person launch team charged by Morehead will be led by Kyle Tschepikow, who assumed the position of special assistant to the president and director for strategy and innovation on Sept. 1. Tschepikow previously served as assistant to the president supporting several strategic university initiatives, including, most recently, the Innovation District Task Force.

The launch team will involve representatives from key units across campus, and its early work will focus on developing a master plan for the district that contemplates programming, business operations and governance, and short- and long-term facilities needs.

The University of Georgia is known nationally for its strong innovation ecosystem, ranking in the top five among all U.S. universities in new products reaching the marketplace and in the top 10 for technology licensing productivity. More than 675 products based on UGA research have been introduced to the marketplace, and more than 160 companies have been started. The university also offers an entrepreneurship certificate as well as a wide range of entrepreneurship programs to equip students with the tools and resources they need to pursue their own startup ventures.

The task force report can be found at https://president.uga.edu/innovation.

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NSF grant to cultivate a diverse, inclusive STEM faculty

The University of Georgia is one of six partner organizations that will receive a total of $10 million over five years from the National Science Foundation to develop bold, new educational models that broaden participation in STEM programs and fields. Awarded under the NSF INCLUDES program, the new initiative will be called the National Alliance for Inclusive and Diverse STEM Faculty, or NAIDSF.

NAIDSF is co-led by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universitiesand the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning, based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Joining the lead institutions and UGA in the new alliance are Iowa State University; the University of California, Los Angeles; and the University of Texas at El Paso.

These universities are partnering with dozens of other universities, two-year colleges and organizations across the country to scale practices aimed at diversifying the nation’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics college educators and grounding them in inclusive teaching practices.

“We are excited and honored to be among the first NSF INCLUDES Alliance awardees,” said UGA Graduate School Dean Suzanne Barbour, who is the UGA principal investigator for the project. “Our project focuses on leadership training for underrepresented STEM faculty, using LEAD 21—an APLU-sponsored leadership and professional development program for faculty—as the model. Through this mechanism, we will train the next generation of diverse academic leaders who will be well-positioned to effect the changes in institutional culture that are necessary to achieve NSF’s goal ‘to create opportunities in STEM for all U.S. residents, ensuring that no matter who they are or where they come from, they have access to education and employment.’”

NAIDSF seeks to attract more underrepresented students—women, members of minority racial and ethnic groups, persons with disabilities, and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds—into STEM college programs, assist them to stay in these programs, and help them graduate and succeed in a modern STEM workforce.

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UGA adds Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship

The University of Georgia will offer a campus-wide graduate certificate program for students to develop skills necessary to launch and grow businesses and social enterprises.

The Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship will be available to all UGA graduate students beginning this fall. The program consists of 12 credit hours with students choosing two entrepreneurship courses from three options—“Introduction to Entrepreneurship,” “Entrepreneurial Finance” and “Managing the Entrepreneurial Venture”—along with two elective courses tailored to their interests and aspirations.

UGA’s Entrepreneurship Program is housed in the Terry College of Business, supported and taught by five lecturers with decades of entrepreneurial experience, including program Director Bob Pinckney.

The graduate certificate builds on the recent success of UGA’s Undergraduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship, established in 2016. More than 80 students have graduated with the certificate since that time, and five times that many UGA students have applied and been accepted to the program in just the past two years.

“Economic development is central to the university’s mission, and a key component of our commitment to support economic growth is teaching and refining the entrepreneurial mindset in students who have that interest and ambition,” said Terry College Dean Benjamin C. Ayers. “We’re very pleased to offer this university-wide certificate to graduate students who want to join the ranks of innovators and inventors whose ideas will propel growth in Georgia and beyond.”

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UGA unveils Sanford Stadium end zone enhancement

The University of Georgia formally unveiled a major enhancement to the west end zone of Sanford Stadium Friday morning as officials from the university and UGA Athletic Association held a ceremony to highlight the updated facilities.

The west end zone enhancement project includes a new locker room, hospitality lounge, larger video board and new upper and lower plazas for fans.

“This extension, renovation, and expansion project has made Sanford Stadium, already one of the finest college football environments, even better,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “It is one more step that the University of Georgia is taking to reach new heights of excellence across all our athletic programs, and I want to thank each and every donor who contributed to this important project.”

The $63 million project, funded largely by donor support, covers 120,000 total square feet of new and updated space. Part of that space is a 10,500-square-foot hospitality lounge that is used for hosting prospective student-athletes and their guests on game days. The lounge is the first of its kind at Sanford Stadium for the Georgia football program.

“We’re very excited to open our new West End Zone facility. I certainly think it’s a first-class facility, best in the country when it comes to hosting student-athletes and prospective-student athletes on game day events,” said head football coach Kirby Smart. “Sanford Stadium is one of our feature showpieces, so to be able to enjoy that environment and have a great place to host them on game day, that’s a great advantage. Downstairs our locker room will give our players a tremendous place to be able to get ready for a game.”

The fan experience also received a major boost with the new plaza replacing all existing entrances in the stadium’s west end. The plaza includes expanded and enhanced concession and restroom facilities as well as a new video board that is 33 percent larger than the previous one.

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Two professors receive award for innovative teaching

Jennifer Elkins, an associate professor in the School of Social Work, and Emma Hetherington, an assistant clinical professor in the School of Law and director of the Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation, or CEASE, Clinic, received the 2018 SAGE/CSWE Award for Innovative Teaching in Social Work Education for their design of a model for teaching trauma-informed courtroom practices to social work and law students. 

The award is given annually by the Council on Social Work Education.

Elkins and Hetherington developed a model for a course that integrates classroom lessons with a mock trial simulation. The course aims to demonstrate how to more effectively advocate for and represent child welfare-involved children and families within the juvenile court system.

The course is the first in Georgia to give social work graduate students and law students exposure to a juvenile court case simulation that incorporates interprofessional practices designed to recognize and prevent trauma. 

In addition to classroom reading material, Elkins and Hetherington also arranged for legal and social work professionals to present guest lectures. The course is part of the Wilbanks CEASE Clinic, which provides direct representation to survivors of child sexual abuse in juvenile court and also serves as a teaching center at the School of Law.

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UGA to help guide development of norovirus vaccine

Researchers from Emory University and the University of Georgia have received a five-year, $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to help guide norovirus vaccine decision-making.

Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States, and it can spread quickly when people are in close quarters. Three out of four outbreaks occur in long-term care facilities like nursing homes. Norovirus is the most common culprit for hospitalizing children with vomiting and diarrhea in the United States.

The grant will support multiscale, mathematical modeling studies, which aim to understand the dynamics of norovirus at the human host, viral and epidemiological levels. The research team plans to conduct a series of studies to address questions like how many strains of norovirus does a vaccine need to protect against, and for how long might protection last.

Specifically, researchers will be monitoring whether the vaccine reduces shedding, the process through which the virus can spread from one person to another.

“When a person sheds less, there’s less potential for transmission,” said grant collaborator Andreas Handel, an epidemiologist at UGA’s College of Public Health. Handel will be applying models to individual-level data collected from the company developing the norovirus vaccine.

“In the end, we want a norovirus vaccine that will be most valuable for public health,” said principal investigator Ben Lopman, a researcher at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. “This research will aim to steer vaccine development and, ultimately, vaccine use in that direction.”

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Health and science education game wins 2018 International Serious Play Award

After helping Cookies, the virtual cat, regain his energy with a diet of healthy foods and exercise, fourth- and fifth-grade “veterinarians” have a new virtual patient on their hands—Crumbles.

By applying what they’ve learned from Cookies’ case, more than 500 students across Georgia are using their knowledge of the body’s organ systems to help treat Crumbles, who has Type 2 diabetes.

Assistant research scientist Georgia Hodges developed the concept for Virtual Vet, an interactive digital learning game for elementary students in 2014. Funded by a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, the game aims to improve students’ knowledge of science by engaging them in a virtual world where they can practice solving real-world problems.

“We have a couple of main goals, but we want kids to have the knowledge to make healthy choices,” said Hodges, who leads a team of researchers in the College of Education’s department of mathematics and science education. “We have them do the things that scientists do—they analyze and interpret data.

Virtual Vet—which was designed and animated by digital specialists Alex Turbyfield and Dave Nix—received the 2018 Bronze Medal from the International Serious Play Award Program for promoting higher-level thinking in elementary students.

Hodges’ game places elementary students right on UGA’s campus. After creating their own in-game characters, students, who play as vet assistants, are presented with the virtual cat’s symptoms in a treatment room modeled after UGA’s vet teaching hospital.