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UGA students graduate in record time

An expanded slate of programs at the University of Georgia tailored to the needs and ambitions of students is helping them earn their degrees in record time.

The university’s four-year completion rate has moved up 2 percentage points to reach a record 68 percent, and 75 percent of UGA students earn their degrees in four years plus one semester. For comparison, the average four-year graduation rate at UGA’s highly selective aspirational institutions is 69 percent, while the average four-year graduation rates for peer and SEC institutions are 53 percent and 49 percent, respectively.

The university’s six-year completion rate moved up 1 percentage point to reach a record 86 percent, which is just 1 percentage point shy of the 87 percent six-year completion rate for the university’s aspirational institutions. UGA’s 86 percent six-year completion rate exceeds the 76 percent average for UGA’s peer institutions as well as the 72 percent average for Southeastern Conference institutions.

“It is exciting to see the results of several UGA initiatives to increase student success building on one another to produce record-setting outcomes for our students,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “These achievements also reflect the dedication of faculty and staff across campus to helping our students attain their goals.”

UGA provides a range of programs that promote academic success while building community among students with similar interests and aspirations. Schools and colleges, the Division of Student AffairsPublic Service and Outreach and the Office of Instruction are among the many units that work, often in tandem, to create a learning environment that keeps students on track to graduate while also helping them grow and thrive as individuals.

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Former President Jimmy Carter joins the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame

The most famous peanut farmer in history is now the first president of the United States to be inducted into the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame.

President Jimmy Carter was inducted into the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame, housed at the University of Georgia, on November 9 at the 64th UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Alumni Association Awards.

The Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame was established in 1972 to recognize individuals who made unusual and extraordinary contributions to the agriculture and agribusiness industries in Georgia. The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Alumni Association maintains the Hall of Fame.

“Agriculture is a business, and it’s a way of life but it’s also an act of service to the larger community,” said Sam Pardue, dean, and director of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Georgia’s Agricultural Hall of Fame is filled with individuals whose impact on agriculture has had generational effects that positively impacted the entire state and country.”

Carter’s agricultural background helped shape his public service ethic and drove him to help people, said Abit Massey, former head of the Georgia Poultry Federation and a friend of Carter’s. Having Carter run for statewide office and then his national post made the nation take notice of what was happening in rural Georgia.

“His symbol when he ran for president was the peanut, which people wore on their lapels,” Massey said. “That was an example of what he thought about agriculture. It also indicated to people all over the nation that agriculture was important and that Georgia was an important agriculture state.”

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Callaway gift to make Botanical Garden more accessible

A $1 million gift from the Callaway Foundation will fund a new visitor entrance to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at the University of Georgia, enhancing access to the galleries, classrooms, collections and displays.

The new entrance will be an official gateway to the garden from the parking lots to the Alice Hand Callaway Visitor Center and Conservatory and will include an elevator, which will improve access for individuals in wheelchairs, pushing strollers or who have difficulty maneuvering stairs. Alice Hand Callaway was the daughter of Fuller E. Callaway Jr., who established the foundation in 1943.

“The Callaway Foundation is pleased to be a part of this effort to improve the experience for visitors to the garden,” said Speer Burdette, president of the Callaway Foundation Inc. “Mrs. Callaway loved flowers and plants, and especially the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. Her wish would be that every Georgian could experience the beauty of the garden and discover the many ways it benefits the state, through education and conservation.”

About 230,000 people visit the State Botanical Garden each year and Jennifer Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, believes that number will increase by about 50,000 once the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden is completed later this year. From the new entrance, visitors would be able to see the children’s garden as they wait for the elevator.

Construction of the new garden entrance is expected to begin in 2019. The total cost of the project is $2.01 million.

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UGA establishes Russian Flagship Program

A grant from the U.S. Department of Defense’s National Security Education Program was recently awarded to the University of Georgia to establish the Russian Domestic Undergraduate Flagship Program. The renewable grant brings more than $275,000 to UGA in the first year and is expected to provide more than $1 million, pending congressional approval, during the first full grant cycle.

Language Flagship Programs are administered by the Institute of International Education, which oversees several elite grant programs, such as Fulbright. The Language Flagship currently funds 25 Flagship Centers across the country in languages considered vital to national security and to the challenges of a global society, such as environmental degradation, global disease and hunger and economic pressures.

“Flagship provides students with the resources to sustain and grow their proficiency in Russian throughout their undergraduate studies with generous funding for study abroad scholarships to help students strengthen their language and intercultural skills in professional terms,” said Russian Flagship director Victoria Hasko, an associate professor of world language education in the College of Education’s department of language and literacy education.

With over 150 million speakers, Russian is the eighth most spoken language in the world. As commercial opportunities continue to grow between the United States and Eastern Europe, an increased number of businesses and government agencies are hiring individuals with Russian language skills.

UGA’s Portuguese Flagship was established in 2011, making this the second Language Flagship at the university and the fifth Russian program in the country. The program is open to undergraduate students of all majors and is a collaborative initiative between the College of Education and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, with faculty partners across campus.

“This program is a critical national security initiative, and we want to help UGA Russian Flagship graduates succeed in impactful and prestigious careers nationally and globally,” said Hasko. “This program is a long-term commitment. We are hiring new faculty, building new intensive programming and planning to bring in experts whose work relates to Russia to create an innovative and effective career path for our students.”

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Toby Carr named as UGA's next vice president for government relations

Tobin (Toby) R. Carr, who has served as associate vice president for government relations and director of state relations at the University of Georgia for the past four years, has been selected as the university’s next vice president for government relations. Carr will succeed the current vice president, J. Griffin Doyle, upon his retirement on April 1, 2019.

Carr is an honor graduate of UGA, holding dual degrees in finance and agricultural engineering, and he has more than a decade of experience in Georgia government. Prior to becoming associate vice president, he served as director of planning for the Georgia Department of Transportation for three years. In this role, Carr was instrumental in working with local governments, local planning bodies and the federal government in furthering the transportation improvements that have taken place in Georgia over the past several years. He also worked on the staff of Gov. Nathan Deal in several capacities, and from 2008-09 was an aide to House Majority Whip Jan Jones, who now serves as Speaker Pro Tem.

“I have worked closely with Toby Carr to advance the university’s key priorities with our state leaders,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “He has established strong relationships with the Governor’s Office, the General Assembly, Board of Regents and the University System Chancellor’s Office, as well as Georgia’s federal delegation in Washington, D.C. Perhaps most importantly, he has a unique understanding of the university and its critical role in serving all 159 counties of Georgia. With Toby’s appointment, we will have a seamless transition in expert leadership of our government relations efforts.”

Carr was recommended by a screening committee chaired by UGA General Counsel Mike Raeber. Over the next five months, Carr will continue to work closely with Doyle through the gubernatorial transition, the upcoming Biennial Legislative Conference and the 2019 session of the Georgia General Assembly. When he assumes his new post in April, he will oversee an office that includes three directors who serve as the university’s liaisons at the federal, state and community levels.

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Synovus establishes five scholarships for incoming UGA students

Synovus has established five need-based scholarships for incoming University of Georgia students intending to major in business. Part of the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program, the scholarships will be awarded to students across Georgia beginning in fall 2019.

The Synovus Georgia Commitment Scholarships are renewable for up to four years. Synovus’ commitment to these students will extend beyond financial support, as the company will connect them with possible internships, networking opportunities, mentors in the banking industry and more.

“Synovus is proud to partner with the University of Georgia to support the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program,” said Alison Dowe, chief communications and corporate responsibility officer at Synovus. “We are thrilled that five incoming first-year students from across the state will benefit from Synovus’ scholarships beginning next fall. Our investment in the GCS Program also represents a lasting investment in the state of Georgia, and we look forward to seeing the impact of these scholarships for many years to come.”

Through the GCS Program, the UGA Foundation will match, dollar-for-dollar, each of the five scholarships created by Synovus. Since the launch of this program in January 2017, more than $21 million has been raised to establish 322 new need-based scholarships. As the program continues, the university anticipates that between 400 and 600 new, need-based scholarships will be endowed. Increasing scholarship support for students is a key priority of the university’s Commit to Georgia Campaign.

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Orji named 2018 NCAA Woman of the Year

Georgia track and field legend Keturah Orji has been picked as the 2018 NCAA Woman of the Year. All nine finalists for the award—including three from each NCAA division—demonstrated excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership throughout their collegiate careers.

Orji becomes the first winner from Georgia’s track and field program and the fourth winner overall from the University of Georgia. Swimmers Lisa Coole (1997), Kristy Kowal (2000) and Kim Black (2001) won UGA its first three NCAA Woman of the Year honors. Georgia was also the first school to have more than one winner.

Orji, a former Bulldog team captain, served for three years on the UGAAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, including as vice president during her senior year. A four-year attendee of the Student-Athlete Leadership Academy, she founded Amara’s Pride in 2017, an after-school mentoring program for middle school girls, focusing on self-worth, the importance of education, social media influences and the power of perseverance. Orji also worked with an income tax assistance program and spent time with children whose parents were incarcerated during the holiday season.

A 2018 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar, Orji was a member of Georgia’s Sphinx Club honor society and Blue Key Honor Society. She was named the 2018 Southeastern Conference Women’s Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year, her third honor of this kind, and the university’s Joel Eaves Scholar-Athlete of the Year presented to the female student-athlete who has the highest GPA going into their senior year.

Orji received the SEC’s H. Boyd McWhorter Postgraduate Scholarship, presented to the conference’s top male and female scholar-athletes. She was recognized by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association as the 2017 Indoor and Outdoor National Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year, also giving her three of those honors in her career. She earned her bachelor’s degree in family and consumer sciences and is now pursuing a Master of Science in kinesiology. She also is a volunteer assistant with the Bulldog track and field program.

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UGA wins national award for helping rural community sustain local health care

The University of Georgia has received a national Award of Excellence from the University Economic Development Association for its work in rural Georgia to save a local hospital from closing and to improve medical service for community residents.

The Archway Partnership, a unit of UGA’s Division of Public Service and Outreach, won the top award during the UEDA’s annual summit. Summit participants from across the U.S. cast votes to determine the winners after finalists presented their award entries.

“It is truly an honor to be selected for this national award by a group of our peers,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “This is well-deserved recognition for our public service and outreach faculty and staff, who fulfill this university’s land-grant and sea-grant mission by addressing critical issues across the state.”

Taylor Regional Hospital in Pulaski County, about 50 miles south of Macon, was within days of shutting down in December 2015 because it did not have enough funds to complete a Community Needs Health Assessment of the hospital, as required by the Affordable Care Act. Without the assessment, the hospital would lose its nonprofit status and be forced to close.

The Archway Partnership and the UGA College of Public Health partnered with Taylor Regional Hospital to complete the assessment, with then-CPH doctoral students Ayanna Robinson and Sabrina Tyndal Cherry, helping to define the community and service area, create a community profile, conduct focus groups and administer a survey to residents of the area. The results showed a significant need for the facility and for the addition of a walk-in clinic for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries.

Since Taylor Express, a walk-in clinic next to the hospital, opened in June 2016, traffic in the emergency room has declined by 10 percent, saving the hospital money.

“The work of the Archway Partnership in Pulaski County truly stands out as exceptional,” said Dr. E.R. “Skip” McDannald, who retired as Taylor Regional administrator on Oct. 1. “Our hospital benefited and the outlook improved as a direct result of this partnership with the university and our local stakeholders through the Archway Partnership.”

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$1.7M awarded for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded $1.7 million in support of the University of Georgia Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute (LACSI) to expand research, teaching and public service in Georgia and beyond.

A unit of UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, LACSI has more than 200 faculty affiliates spanning every college and professional school on campus, including 55 language or area studies specialists. The institute is home to the nation’s first and only Department of Defense-funded Portuguese Flagship Program, which promotes Portuguese language acquisition among undergraduate students to advance U.S. strategic interests.

The funding consists of two grants: a four-year grant that renews LACSI’s status as a National Resource Center, a designation reserved for the nation’s most esteemed area studies centers; and a Foreign Language and Area Studies grant, which goes directly to undergraduate and graduate students to provide financial support for students studying Brazilian Portuguese and Quechua, an indigenous language spoken by the Quechua peoples, primarily living in the Andes and highlands of South America. Guaraní, an indigenous language of South America, will also be added soon.

A National Resource Center since 2014, LACSI supports faculty-led initiatives in world-language and area studies education, such as public service, business and public health, as well as in professional fields.

Planned NRC activities include:

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Terry's Executive MBA ranked best in state and a top U.S. program

The Executive MBA Program at the Terry College of Business is ranked among the nation’s best in a global EMBA survey published by the Financial Times.

The program ranks No. 12 among U.S.-based EMBA programs overall and is the highest ranked EMBA program in Georgia. Among U.S. public business schools, the Terry EMBA ranks No. 4.

The Financial Times survey found Terry’s EMBA ranks No. 8 among U.S. programs in terms of percentage salary increase for graduates — at 53 percent more than their pre-EMBA average salary.

“This ranking is a strong indication that our Executive MBA Program offers significant value to graduates in terms of career momentum and return on investment,” said Terry College Dean Benjamin C. Ayers. “Our goal is to help all of our students achieve their potential by challenging them academically, finding opportunities tailored to their interests and connecting them to our alumni network.”

Terry’s Executive MBA is an 18-month degree program geared toward mid- to senior-level professionals, with weekend classes taught at the college’s Executive Education Center in Buckhead.