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Active learning impacts campus

Students in active-learning classes at UGA are getting higher grades, spending less time sitting through lectures and getting more feedback from faculty.

It’s all part of the charge to transform courses to actively engage students, and specifically the result of the Center for Teaching and Learning’s Active Learning Summer Institute. Last summer, faculty members participated in the multi-week intensive program to transform courses to include more active learning. They learned how to select interactive classroom and assessment strategies, design learning experiences that are appropriate for the content and level of the students, and even how to evaluate and fine tune their course by collecting data on the impact of their course redesigns.

The 32 faculty members who participated in last summer’s inaugural institute taught a total of 8,643 students this year. After the course redesigns, data from fall semester classes shows there are more discussions on why course material is useful, more opportunities for students to receive feedback on their work before earning a grade, and more faculty using pre-class assignments to make sure students come to class prepared to engage more deeply with the material.

Faculty interest in active learning is also up. There were nearly 70 applications for the 2018 summer institute, and more than 100 applications for the 2019 institute. And while much of the interest in the first session was from STEM disciplines, interest is broader for the 2019 session with applicants from the arts and humanities, social sciences, social work and forestry.

Faculty members from last year’s cohort are expanding the reach of the institute by teaching their colleagues about active learning—giving presentations and sharing the curricula they developed, bringing Center for Teaching and Learning workshops to their departments, and co-teaching classes with colleagues who have not yet gone through the Active Learning Summer Institute. 

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Database offers tool for global health collaborations

As the big data revolution continues to evolve, access to data that cut across many disciplines becomes increasingly valuable. In the field of public health, one barrier to sharing data is the need for users to fully comprehend complex methodological details and data variables in order to properly conduct analyses.

The Clinical Epidemiology Database, ClinEpiDB.org, aims to address these barriers by not only providing access to huge volumes of data, but also providing tools to help interpret complex global epidemiologic research studies. The development of ClinEpiDB has been led by the University of Georgia’s Institute of Bioinformatics, University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences and its Perelman School of Medicine, and the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Integrative Biology.

On March 7, ClinEpiDB released data, methodology and documentation from “The Etiology, Risk Factors, and Interactions of Enteric Infections and Malnutrition and the Consequences for Child Health and Development” (MAL-ED) study. The MAL-ED study represents a nearly decade-long research collaboration between the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, Fogarty International Center, and an international network of investigators.

The MAL-ED study was designed to help identify environmental exposures early in a child’s life that are associated with shortfalls in physical growth, cognitive development, and immunity. The study characterizes gut function biomarkers on the causal pathway from environmental exposure to growth and development deficits and assesses diversity across geographic locations with respect to exposures and child health and development. The MAL-ED consortium has published a significant library of peer-reviewed publications and ClinEpiDB now makes the MAL-ED data highly visible and accessible in new and exciting ways.

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Food2Kids receives top student organization award

Food2Kids was named “Organization of the Year” during the 18th Annual H. Gordon and Francis S. Davis Student Organization Achievement and Recognition Awards, given out April 16 at the Tate Student Center. The SOAR Awards celebrate the accomplishments of student organizations at the University of Georgia.

Food2Kids partners with the Northeast Georgia Food Bank to provide weekend meal packages to children who are facing food insecurity. The packages are used to help eliminate the “hunger gap,” the time between the last meal at school on Fridays and the first meal on Mondays.

The students who work with Food2Kids facilitate the bagging of the meals and also coordinate fundraising efforts for the Food Bank, helping increase the number of children served annually from 80 to more than 650 over the past few years.

Food2Kids Co-President Carly Esposito, a fourth-year exercise and sport science major from Milton, also received the Bulldog Vision award at the ceremony.

Other award categories and their recipients can be seen here.

There are currently 765 registered student organizations on campus. The SOAR awards are sponsored by the Center for Student Activities and Involvement within the Tate Student Center.

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UGA building renovations win awards from Georgia Trust

Three University of Georgia building renovation projects have received statewide awards from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Agricultural Research Building and H.H. Tift Building at the UGA Tifton campus received an Excellence in Rehabilitation award, and the Russell Hall renovation received an award for Excellence in Sustainable Preservation.

“Each of these projects was a team effort and they reflect our shared commitment of preserving our heritage through state stewardship of our cultural resources while incorporating modern features and systems that support the University’s mission,” said University Architect Gwynne Darden.

University Housing’s Russell Hall, which is the residence to about a thousand students, went through a 15-month renovation and reopened in August 2018. At over 230,000 square feet, Russell Hall is the largest comprehensive historic building renovation at the University of Georgia and serves as a model of sustainable historic preservation.

The Agricultural Research Building, which was rededicated in April 2018, is an 81-year-old building that was the second structure built on the UGA Tifton campus. The building houses the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Department of Animal and Dairy Science and Department of Entomology.

Included as part of the same award is the H.H. Tift Building, which was rededicated in September 2016 after its renovation.  The Tift Building complements the campus’s vital research enterprise, which is recognized worldwide for scientific discoveries related to agricultural commodities such as cotton, peanuts, pecans, turf grass and vegetables.

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Scientist Samantha Joye named Regents' Professor

Samantha Joye, an internationally recognized University of Georgia marine scientist who studies the complex interplay between microbes and large-scale ecological processes in the oceans, has been named Regents’ Professor, effective July 1.

Joye is Athletic Association Professor of Arts and Sciences in the department of marine sciences, part of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Regents’ Professorships are bestowed by the Board of Regents on faculty members whose scholarship or creative activity is recognized nationally and internationally as innovative and pace-setting.

Joye’s work explores the deep ocean and the impact of biogeochemical, ecological and environmental factors on microbes and other marine life. She has pioneered new methods of quantifying environmental factors such as microbial metabolism and geochemical signatures in extreme conditions by visiting the deepest parts of the ocean in manned submersible and remotely operated vehicles.

With 160 peer-reviewed publications and 14 book chapters, Joye’s research has been cited more than 10,000 times, placing her among the top researchers in her field, and she has been awarded nearly 40 public and private research grants since 1997. Her current grants include funding from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, the Schmidt Ocean Institute, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

In addition to thousands of press interviews with media outlets from National Geographic to the New York Times, Joye has engaged in various projects with artists to translate science to the public, including a current partnership with painter Rebecca Rutstein that was featured at a recent Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities conference at UGA. Joye recently collaborated with artist Jim Toomey of the popular “Sherman’s Lagoon” comic strip to create an award-winning short film series entitled “The Adventures of Zack and Molly , ” which highlights the importance of healthy oceans. In addition, Joye’s research has been featured in two documentaries, “Black and Blue: Beneath the Gulf Oil Disaster” and “Atlantis Revealed: Where the Oil Went,” and her work has been filmed for the BBC’s “Blue Planet” series.

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Student startups take home $35K in brands competition

Three student startup businesses took home a combined $35,000 from the Collegiate Great Brands Competition, held March 28 in Studio 225 at the University of Georgia.

Celise, a sustainable plastics-alternative company, won $25,000 and a trip to New York to participate in the Consensus Great Brands Show, while two UGA teams—VTasteCakes and Rugged Road Outdoors—each received $5,000 in runner-up prize money.

The contest, which brought the top eight student teams out of a record number of submissions from across the nation to pitch their ventures to entrepreneurial experts, was made possible thanks to sponsorship from Consensus Advisors and Creation Gardens. The Collegiate Great Brands Competition is sponsored by the UGA Entrepreneurship Program, whose mission is to help develop the mindset of future entrepreneurs and prepare students for business leadership roles.

The first-place business, Celise, is headed by American University student Cameron Ross. He had the idea to create biodegradable alternatives to common plastics when he was hiking through West Virginia—just as the problem was attracting renewed national attention.

VTasteCakes, led by UGA alumna Jasmyn Reddicks, makes low-calorie vegan desserts. Last year, the fledging company also won $5,000 for its first place finish in the FABricate entrepreneurial challenge hosted by UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The founder’s plan for growth is to increase online sales and partner with local markets to boost sales.

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UGA Relay for Life raises $242K to fight cancer

As the sun rose over Legion Field on April 13 at UGA Relay for Life’s Night of 2019 event, the student organization announced its 2019 fundraising total of $241,812. Because cancer never sleeps, hundreds of students and community members remained awake at the event from April 12 at 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following morning.

Sarah Henning, executive director of UGA Relay for Life, watched as her mom fighting cancer gave the opening speech. The money raised for research funded by the American Cancer Society will allow them to celebrate both her and her sister’s upcoming graduations. Students’ contributions directly fund life-saving research happening at labs within walking distance right here on campus, Sarah said.

Throughout the year, Relay hosted large-scale fundraising events, such as Nightmare on Clayton Street, Greek Week, a 5k race and their first annual Swing Fore a Cure golf tournament.  Students also sought ways to engage businesses and other students in the fight against cancer through donation matching, percentage nights and fundraising challenges.

Each month this school year, Relay students cooked dinner and spent time with those staying at the Hope Lodge Winn-Dixie Campus in Atlanta, a free housing facility for cancer patients and caregivers living over an hour away from their treatment centers.

“To see a generation of young adults who care about people who have cancer like I do brings me so much hope, one of them might become a doctor, social worker or teacher who supports cancer patients and their families,” said Jill Henning, Sarah’s mom.

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UGA seeks to name College of Education for Mary Frances Early

The University of Georgia College of Education is launching a special initiative to name its college for UGA’s first African American graduate, Mary Frances Early, as the university heads into the final year of its Commit to Georgia capital campaign.

“The proposed naming of the College of Education in honor of Mary Frances Early is a tribute not only to her trailblazing integration of UGA in the 1960s but also to her lifetime of accomplishment and service to others as a music educator,” said College of Education Dean Denise A. Spangler.

Over the course of the next year, gifts benefiting the College of Education may be dedicated in Early’s honor to go toward the proposed naming, which will be subject to approval by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.

“I am deeply honored because I spent my entire career in education, and I never dreamed that I would receive such an incredible recognition from the University of Georgia,” said Early.

A lead gift to the campaign already has been made by UGA President Jere W. Morehead: a designation of $200,000 from the President’s Venture Fund which, when matched by the UGA Foundation, will be used to create four new $100,000 Georgia Commitment Scholarships for students with financial need. These Georgia Commitment Scholarships will be awarded with a preference for students who intend to pursue majors in the College of Education or music education majors in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music.

“I am delighted to join Dean Spangler in kicking off this campaign with a gift that not only honors Mary Frances Early but also that supports public education in Georgia by providing need-based scholarships for students who want to follow in her footsteps,” said Morehead. “She has touched the lives of thousands of students over her long career as an outstanding teacher, and this will enable future generations of students to continue her life’s work.”

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Child welfare expert named Berger Professor

A leading authority on child welfare has been appointed the Pauline M. Berger Professor in Family and Child Welfare in the UGA School of Social Work.

Harold Briggs, a professor at the school, is nationally known for his innovative studies focused on putting families first in child welfare systems of care. He has been instrumental in identifying and describing welfare service areas that need greater coordination and in developing programs that give children, youth and families more voice in the planning and delivery of services.

“Harold Briggs’ scholarly record and passion for reducing health disparities and behavioral health challenges that affect marginalized children, youth and families makes him an excellent fit for this position,” said Anna Scheyett, dean and professor of the school. “As Berger Professor, he will be a powerful advocate for more culturally responsive and evidence-based approaches to serving those populations in Georgia and beyond.”

The holder of the Berger Professorship conducts research on the effects of state and federal policies and legislation on children, youth and families, advocates on their behalf and advances instruction and student understanding of child and family well-being issues.

Prior to earning his doctorate Briggs was a social work practitioner and associate executive director of Habilitative Systems Inc., a Chicago-based nonprofit behavioral and mental health services agency. His firsthand knowledge of the problems that families face has informed his research, which examines, among other things, consumer-friendly practices such as placing different service providers in one location and giving youth a voice in policy development and implementation. 

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NIH provides long-term funding for Escalante lab

The National Institutes of Health announced a Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award granted to UGA Foundation Distinguished Professor Jorge C. Escalante-Semerena of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences microbiology department.

MIRA grants are designed to increase the efficiency of NIH funding by providing investigators with greater stability and flexibility, thereby enhancing scientific productivity and the chances for important breakthroughs. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences program also helps distribute funding more widely among the nation’s highly talented and promising investigators. Escalante’s award is one of three currently active MIRAs at UGA.

Escalante’s research group has made sustained, seminal contributions to the fields of prokaryotic metabolism and physiology. The new MIRA grant complements the long-term support of Escalante’s work in this area of research by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences since 1988. In 2010, his efforts in this field were recognized by a Method to Extend Research in Time Award, which provides 10 years of uninterrupted support.

The title of the Escalante MIRA, “Analysis of Metabolic Capabilties of Prokaryotic Cells,” provides the platform for findings that could be used to advance a range of research areas of great societal interest, such as synthetic biology, antibiotic resistance, bioremediation, drug delivery, renewable energy, metabolic stress responses and microbiome analysis.