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UGA gets its highest Fulbright student program ranking

The University of Georgia’s record-breaking number of acceptances for the Fulbright U.S. student program this year earned the university its highest ranking yet on the student list of Fulbright Top Producers. The university tied for 16th—along with Stanford University, University of Virginia, University of Texas at Austin, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Villanova University—in its third time on the student list.

Sixteen UGA students and recent graduates are participating in the 2018-2019 Fulbright U.S. student program. They are teaching English, conducting research and studying in countries spread around the globe.

“I am pleased that the University of Georgia is once again among the top producers of Fulbright students and that our ranking continues to rise,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “UGA is proud of the students and alumni who will represent the university as they pursue their academic and career goals and build relationships with communities around the world.”

“As a top producer, UGA is positioned among an elite group of institutions,” said Maria de Rocher, campus Fulbright U.S. student program adviser and assistant director of the Honors Program. “This is a campus-wide accomplishment. Our 16 Fulbrighters represent a diversity of backgrounds and areas of study, and include undergraduates, both within and outside the Honors Program, and graduate students.”

Seven UGA students and recent alumni received Fulbright academic and creative grants. Nine alumni received Fulbright English teaching assistantship awards. Their names, areas of focus, and host countries are available here.

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UGA achieves 96 percent career outcomes rate

University of Georgia graduates, for the second year in a row, are employed or attending graduate school within six months at a rate of 96 percent—11.7 percent higher than the national average.

Of those students:

  • 63 percent were employed full time;
  • 19 percent were attending graduate school; and
  • Approximately 12 percent were self-employed, interning full time or were employed part time.

“UGA students continue to excel in their post-graduate endeavors, and the consistency of statistics from last year to this year demonstrates that the university is providing career readiness skills through professional programming, academics and experiential learning,” said Scott Williams, executive director of the UGA Career Center.

Nearly 3,000 unique employers hired UGA graduates from business to government, nonprofit to education. Some of the top employers for the Class of 2018 include Amazon, Delta Air Lines, The Home Depot and Teach for America.

Of those full-time professionals, 58 percent were employed before graduation, a 3 percent increase over the Class of 2017, and 98 percent were hired within six months of graduation.

The UGA Career Center calculates the career outcomes rate each January by leveraging information from surveys, phone calls, employer reporting, UGA departmental collaboration, LinkedIn and the National Student Clearinghouse. The preceding data is based on the known career outcomes of 8,130 graduates from the Class of 2018.

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FACS students help rural Georgians file taxes

For more than a decade, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offered through the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences department of financial planning, housing and consumer economics has offered free tax help to Georgians with low-to-moderate incomes, persons with disabilities, the elderly and limited-English-speaking taxpayers.

In 2017, with help from UGA Cooperative Extension, the program expanded to offer online services to reach eligible taxpayers in more rural areas of Georgia.

Joan Koonce, UGA Extension financial planning specialist, is looking forward to watching the program grow again this year after overseeing the progress of the online program with UGA Extension. The program began in 2017 with agents from southwest Georgia and now includes agents from all four districts.

The service benefits both Georgia taxpayers and UGA undergraduate and graduate students, who gain real-world training in addition to the course credit they earn for their participation.

“We have a lot of elderly people who are in the southwest and southeast districts who have retirement income and all kinds of tax-related things going on,” Koonce said. “So the students get to really learn about a variety of tax situations.”

She estimates VITA saves each taxpayer served an average of $300.

The UGA Extension offices in the following counties participate in the VITA program: Appling, Bibb, Clayton, Crisp, Colquitt, Dougherty, Elbert, Lincoln, Morgan, Oconee, Quitman, Richmond, Spalding, Sumter, Tattnall, Tift, Washington and Wilkes. 

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$3 million gift to aid first-generation law students

Thanks to a $3 million gift—the largest outright donation in school history—the University of Georgia School of Law will be able to continue transforming the legal education experience for many of its first-generation college graduates.

The First-Start Scholars Program, created by a lead gift from 1982 alumna Kathelen V. Amos and the Daniel P. Amos Family Foundation, will begin awarding scholarships in the fall of 2019. Students will receive a partial-tuition scholarship as well as a professional development stipend.

“With roughly 15 percent of each entering class representing the first person in his or her family to attend college, this program is a transformational commitment to first-generation college graduates,” School of Law Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said. “At its core, these scholarships provide financial assistance but beyond that tuition aid, they also will give additional support in vital areas such as financial planning advice, network development and acquisition of business attire and bar preparation classes.”

The law school in recent years has placed a strong emphasis on assisting its students who are the first in their families to attend college. With this gift, more than $5 million has been given to the School of Law to assist this cohort throughout their legal education. Concurrent with the creation of the First-Start Scholars Program, the law school will hire an adviser to work exclusively with first-generation students as they embark on their three years of law school.

With continued support from law school graduates and the legal community, the School of Law plans to eventually be able to offer financial aid to 100 percent of its first-generation college graduates, Rutledge said.

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Initiative to create coursework for cell manufacturing

Research teams at the University of Georgia and the University of Pennsylvania, along with four private firms, are taking part in an 18-month federally sponsored project led by the Georgia Institute of Technology that will develop a much-needed curriculum to train workers for the fledgling cell manufacturing industry.

The $1.4 million effort will work to develop training materials for cell and gene therapy manufacturing and cell-based biologics manufacturing. The curriculum development project is part of the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals, or NIIMBL, which the U.S. Department of Commerce is supporting with a five-year, $70 million grant.

The goal of the project is to develop course modules that can be used for certificate or graduate degree programs in biomanufacturing. The modules will give students in traditional classrooms and through distance learning courses instruction on cell processing and culturing as well as quality control and aspects of supply chain logistics. The modules will also train students in best manufacturing practices and regulatory compliance as well as cultural sensitivity and policy awareness.

“The upstream and downstream processing modules will have hands-on training components which will benefit our students who rarely see biomanufacturing operations in a traditional university lab setting,” said David Blum, a co-principal investigator of this project and an associate research scientist and director of the Bioexpression and Fermentation Facility at UGA.

Blum will work with colleagues in UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine Educational Resources group and its Institute for International Biomedical Regulatory Sciences. “We are also excited about the use of virtual reality technology as part of our upstream process module, which will enhance the learning experience and result in more engaging content for students.”

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New initiative helps veterans attending UGA law school

The University of Georgia School of Law announces the Butler Commitment, a new initiative that will guarantee financial aid to 100 percent of veterans who matriculate in the fall 2019 entering class.

“Thanks to the generous support to date, the School of Law has reached the point where every veteran currently enrolled in the entering class will receive financial aid,” School of Law Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said. “I am grateful to renowned trial attorney and 1977 law school alumnus Jim Butler for supporting this initiative. After serving our country, just as Jim’s father did, these men and women are seeking to build their careers. It is an honor to be able to support them in their efforts to become lawyers and to obtain justice for others.”

The number of veterans pursuing a law degree at UGA has increased over the last few years. In 2017 three veterans matriculated and in the fall of 2018 eight veterans enrolled.

“We are on track to exceed our fall 2018 number of enrolled veterans and hope this upward trend will continue,” Rutledge said. “Not only will these service men and women be receiving first-rate legal training, they will also have the opportunity to assist former veterans through work in the Veterans Legal Clinic. The clinic is already having a tremendous impact on the veteran community and on the law students who are learning what it means to serve a client. Thanks to Jim’s generous support, the law school will now build upon this success by guaranteeing financial aid to every veteran who accepts the school’s offer of admission and chooses to attend this fall.”

n June 2018, the law school opened the Veterans Legal Clinic through which veterans living in Georgia can receive legal assistance particularly with claims before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. A lead gift for the clinic was also provided by Butler in memory of his father, Lt. Cmdr. James E. Butler Sr., who was a U.S. Navy fighter pilot as well as the grandfather of James E. “Jeb” Butler III, a 2008 graduate of the law school.

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Marine Institute renews long-term ecological research grant

Georgia Coastal Ecosystems, a research program based at the University of Georgia Marine Institute, has just been renewed for another six years by the National Science Foundation with $6.7 million in funding.

The award marks the third renewal of GCE’s long-term ecological research, or LTER, grant from NSF and ensures that the group’s research will continue into its third decade from its base at the Marine Institute’s headquarters on Sapelo Island, Georgia. Established in 2000, the GCE studies long-term change in coastal ecosystems such as the saltwater marshes that characterize Georgia’s coastline.

According to Merryl Alber, Marine Institute director and professor of marine sciences in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, this next six-year chapter will focus on ecological disturbance—an appropriate theme for GCE-IV, since its home base at Sapelo has been substantially renovated after being flooded by Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

“There’s an irony of being a scientist studying these systems and then being subject to those same forces,” said Alber, who says the theme was nonetheless proposed before Irma did her disrupting last year. “When you look at an ecosystem, you can have a big event like a hurricane or a more local event like a tree falling. It disturbs that area, and then we watch as the area grows back. With global changes, we’re concerned that some of the things that cause these disturbances may be happening more frequently. So we’re trying to understand disturbances in a salt marsh, map them, quantify them, and understand they affect the ecosystem.”

The new GCE grant will comprise 22 investigators from nine institutions, including longtime co-principal investigator and GCE field director Steve Pennings, a professor in the University of Houston Department of Biology and Biochemistry. Alber said the GCE program leverages perhaps six to eight additional research grants each year, trains numerous graduate students and publishes roughly 40 peer-reviewed journal articles.

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University's economic impact across state reaches $6.3 billion

From the mountains to the coast, the University of Georgia reaches each of the state’s 159 counties through its teaching, research and service. The latest study to quantify the dollar value of these interconnected activities estimates that the university’s economic impact on the state of Georgia is now $6.3 billion per year.

“I am proud of the many ways the University of Georgia contributes to the economic development of our home state,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “As the university continues enhancing its learning environment, growing research and innovation, and strengthening partnerships with communities and industries across the state, we can expect our positive impact to expand.”

The study, conducted by UGA economist Jeffrey Dorfman, quantified several variables to arrive at a conservative estimate of the university’s economic impact. The economic benefits of the university’s teaching mission were calculated by assessing the increased earnings that graduates of the university’s schools and colleges receive. The impact of the university’s research mission was assessed by modeling the economic activity generated by federal, foundation and industry grants in fiscal year 2018, as well as revenues from the licensing of university inventions.

The impact of the university’s service mission was assessed by quantifying the increased productivity and job creation that results from the work of UGA Cooperative Extension agents and Public Service and Outreach units such as the Small Business Development Center. 

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2025 Strategic Plan being developed

A campus-wide committee, led by six deans and coordinated jointly by the Office of the President and the Office of the Provost, is developing a new strategic plan for the university.

The plan will guide the institution from 2020, when the current plan expires, to 2025.

Current faculty, staff and students are encouraged to visit the Office of the President website to learn more about the planning process: https://president.uga.edu/2025_plan .

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Four finalists named in UGA provost search

The University of Georgia has narrowed the search for its next senior vice president for academic affairs and provost to four finalists, according to the chairs of the search committee, Dean Ben Ayers of the Terry College of Business and Dean Denise Spangler of the College of Education.

As part of their final interviews, each of the candidates will come to the UGA campus and hold a public presentation on the first day of their visits from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in the Chapel. The presentations will be open to faculty, staff, students and media.

“These four finalists are outstanding scholars and academic leaders,” said University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead. “I look forward to meeting with the finalists and providing the university community with an opportunity to meet them and hear their perspectives on elevating the University of Georgia to an even higher level of academic excellence. I appreciate the excellent work of the search committee in recommending them.”

The finalists, their titles, and the dates of their campus presentations are listed below.

Jack Hu, vice president for research at the University of Michigan, will give his presentation on Feb. 11.

Beate Schmittmann, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State University, will give her presentation on Feb. 7.

Rahul Shrivastav, vice president for instruction at the University of Georgia, will give his presentation on Feb. 5.

Elizabeth Spiller, dean of the College of Letters and Science at the University of California, Davis, will give her presentation on Feb. 13.

For more information, see  https://president.uga.edu/office/provost_search.