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Presidential hiring initiative focuses on student success

The University of Georgia has launched a new presidential hiring initiative to continue to enhance the learning environment for students.

This latest hiring effort, called Investing in the Student Experience, will recruit exceptional faculty members in academic disciplines with majors that are seeing dramatic growth in student demand. Additional academic advisors also will be hired to support undergraduate students pursuing degrees in these high-demand areas.

“At the heart of the University of Georgia is an unrelenting commitment to excellence in teaching and learning–it is our first principle,” said President Jere W. Morehead. This exciting new initiative represents the latest in a series of strategic investments to elevate-even higher-the academic experiences of our students.

Over the past several years, the size of the incoming class of first-year students has steadily increased, while the academic qualifications of entering freshmen continue to rise. The most recent class of first-year students, for example, enrolled with an average GPA of 4.0 and an average ACT score of 30-both record highs.

Shifts in intended majors also are occurring as more students pursue degrees in areas such as computer science, management information systems, finance, financial planning, engineering, statistics, biology, biochemistry/molecular biology, and international affairs/political science.  The Investing in the Student Experience hiring initiative is designed to address these changes in student profile and academic interest.

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Ten UGA students, alumni offered Fulbright awards for 2017-2018

This year, 10 University of Georgia students and alumni were offered grants to take their research and teaching to a global level through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. This marks the fourth straight year-and eighth time in the past nine years-that UGA has achieved a double-digit number of Fulbright offers.

Of the 10, six were able to take advantage of the opportunity. Four received academic grants, and two will be teaching English.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers research, study and teaching opportunities in over 140 countries to recent college graduates and graduate students. As the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, it is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and countries worldwide.

“These prestigious grants are a testament to the exceptional talent of UGA students and UGA’s institutional commitment to international education,” said Maria de Rocher, assistant director of the Honors Program and chair of the Fulbright selection committee at UGA.

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Terry's Business Learning Community continues to grow

The University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business celebrated the expansion of its new home, the state-of-the-art Business Learning Community, with a dedication and groundbreaking ceremony.

“These new facilities for the Terry College of Business are a tremendous investment in our states future,” said Gov. Nathan Deal. Our higher education institutions play an important role in the economic development of our state and local communities. The thousands of students who are educated here will become the business leaders of tomorrow, ensuring prosperous days ahead for all Georgians.

Construction of the complexs second phase, composed of Amos Hall, Benson Hall and Moore-Rooker Hall, was completed in the summer. Students have been attending classes in the buildings since August. Following the dedication, the college ceremonially broke ground on the third and final phase of the Business Learning Community.

Our institutions play a vital role in preparing the workforce, and the University of Georgia is developing the talent needed for the bright future of this state, said University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley. We are grateful for the support of Governor Deal, the State Legislature and alumni and donors who together make it possible for the Terry College of Business to prepare students to compete, innovate and lead in the global economy.

In all, Phase II spans approximately 140,000 gross square feet and includes two large auditoriums, eight classrooms, a capital markets lab, a music business lab, an undergraduate commons, team rooms, and offices for faculty and staff members. Its construction was supported by $49 million in state funds and $14 million in private donations.

Today we are celebrating more than bricks and mortar-we are celebrating the great partnership between the university, our alumni and friends and the state of Georgia, said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. The University of Georgia is grateful for the deep support that exists for our institution and its outstanding Terry College of Business.

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UGA jumps to No. 16 in U.S. News & World Report rankings

The University of Georgia has climbed two spots to No. 16 in the U.S. News & World Report 2018 ranking of best public national universities, the highest ranking in UGA’s history.

“This recognition serves as yet another signal of the rise in stature of the birthplace of public higher education in America,” said President Jere W. Morehead. I want to thank our faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends for their unyielding commitment to academic excellence. They are elevating UGA to heights never before imagined. 

This is the second consecutive year the university has risen in this ranking, and UGA is one of two institutions-along with the Georgia Institute of Technology-to make the top 20 from the state of Georgia. Georgia is one of only three states (including California and Virginia) to have more than one institution in the top 20. In addition, UGA and the University of Florida are the only two institutions from the Southeastern Conference to make the top 20.

Student selectivity was one factor that contributed to the higher ranking. The percentage of incoming freshmen in the top 10 percent of their high school class increased from 53 percent to 55 percent. In addition, the average standardized test scores of incoming freshmen increased.

These metrics reflect the steady rise in the quality of the UGA student body. This fall marked the fifth consecutive year that the freshman class set a record for academic qualification, as the Class of 2021 enrolled with an average high school GPA of 4.0 and a record average ACT score of 30. Applications for admission also have reached an all-time high.

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UGA partner in cell manufacturing research consortium

Steven Stice is leading researchers at the University of Georgia’s Regenerative Bioscience Center in a newly funded research consortium designed to hasten the development of advanced cell therapies for a range of chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

With $20 million in funding from the National Science Foundation, the Engineering Research Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies, dubbed CMaT, will bring together RBC researchers, industry partners, clinicians, engineers, cell biologists and immunologists.

“Partnerships of this nature-that span different universities and sectors-are critical to advancing human health around the world,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead, and I want to congratulate Dr. Stice and his team at the University of Georgia for helping to drive this important research center.

The flow of innovative ideas and techniques from this regional “manufacturing hub” based at the Georgia Institute of Technology could create a pipeline of therapies and lifetime cures for an aging population challenged by escalating chronic diseases.

“We have a richer set of engineering resources to draw on than ever before, due in large part to the incredible talent UGA has been able to attract from across the country and around the world,” said Stice, a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and D.W. Brooks Distinguished Professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Working alongside seasoned veterans like GRA Eminent Scholar Art Edison in the university’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, we can break through manufacturing bottlenecks and bring a new approach in CAR-T cell therapy to treat cancer.”

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UGA breaks ground on Children's Garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia

With the ceremonial turn of red and black spades, University of Georgia officials and dignitaries officially kicked off construction of the $5 million Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia on Sept. 1.

The 2.5 acre, handicap-accessible educational environment will include a canopy walk in the trees, a treehouse, creature habitats, hands-on garden plots, an underground zone, edible landscapes, and a bog garden and pond. One component, an amphitheater in the woods, was completed in 2015. The garden is expected to be open to visitors by early 2019.

The childrens garden will further the universitys mission as a land-grant and sea-grant institution, providing more educational opportunities for teachers and students across the state, said Laura Meadows, interim vice president for public service and outreach.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia plays a critical role in the land-grant mission of the university by fostering appreciation, understanding and stewardship of plants and nature, Meadows said. The 313-acre preserve set aside by UGA in 1968 for the study and enjoyment of plants and nature is truly the states garden.

So far UGA, in partnership with the garden’s board of advisors, has raised more than $4.3 million for the $5 million children’s garden, which includes an initial $1 million from the family of Alice H. Richards, for whom the garden is named. To contribute to the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden through Georgia Funder, click here.

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UGA to lead network for research experiences

Despite a nationwide emphasis on increasing the number of students entering science, technology, engineering and math fields, many leave the disciplines within their first two years. Now a group of institutions led by the University of Georgia will spearhead a new phase of development of a national network to support integration of research experiences into undergraduate life science lab courses.

The network, called “Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences Network,” or CUREnet, was established to broaden the availability of research opportunities for students across the U.S.
 
Supported by a new grant from the National Science Foundation, a large network of institutions, including other institutions in the University System of Georgia and a group of historically black colleges and universities across several states in the southeast and mid-Atlantic, will work with CUREnet to reinvent their life science lab courses to engage undergraduates in research at scale.

There are many research-related careers that we need the workforce for here in the U.S., and if students don’t even know that research exists, they dont know that it is an option for them career-wise, said Erin Dolan, Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Innovative Science Education in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and principal investigator on the new NSF grant.

CUREnet nicely integrates not only research and teaching, but also UGAs service and outreach missions as a land-grant institution. It has the potential to broaden participation in the STEM workforce by opening access to research experiences that are typically unavailable to a broad swath of talented undergraduates, Dolan said.

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UGA receives national diversity award for fourth consecutive year

The University of Georgia’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive campus environment has been recognized for the fourth consecutive year with the 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. UGA is one of 81 institutions nationwide to receive a 2017 HEED Award.

“The University of Georgia is honored to receive this significant recognition for the fourth consecutive year,” said President Jere W. Morehead. Although work certainly remains ahead, the institution is making strides toward becoming an even more connected and welcoming academic community for all of its faculty, staff and students.

The recruitment of a diverse student body is bolstered by range of programs that introduce prospective students to the many learning opportunities that the university offers. High-achieving middle school students from across the state visit campus through Gear Up for College, which is funded by the Goizueta Foundation and administered through the universitys Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. Through a partnership known as Experience UGA, students from all grade levels in the Clarke County School District visit campus to participate in hands-on, curricular based activities.

Programs such as these, combined with the growing demand for a UGA education, have helped increase the number of African-American students at UGA by 33 percent over the past five years. The number of Hispanic students at UGA increased by 21 percent over the same time period.

“The University of Georgia is proud of its many programs and initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion,” said Michelle Garfield Cook, associate provost for institutional diversity. “We have been successful because every sector of the institution is committed to providing access and promoting the success of our students, faculty and staff.”

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UGA's Dr. Christopher Whalen honored with Beckman Award for teaching excellence

For the third time in three years, a University of Georgia professor has been honored with the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award for teaching excellence. Dr. Christopher Whalen in the College of Public Health was one of eight professors nationwide selected for the honor.

The award is given to faculty members who inspire their former students to “make a significant contribution to society,” typically in the form of an organization that substantially benefits their communities.

I commend Dr. Whalen for this achievement and for the lasting impact he has made on global health through his outstanding teaching and mentoring, said UGA President Jere W. Morehead.

Whalen is the Ernest Corn Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology and director of UGA’s Global Health Institute. As a physician-epidemiologist, he is one of the leading international researchers studying HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis transmission in Africa. Joining the faculty at the College of Public Health in 2008, Whalen brought with him a program he established at Case Western Reserve University to train Ugandan health professionals in the scientific disciplines necessary to address the infectious disease crisis in their home country and throughout Africa.

His program continues to thrive at UGA, supported by a $1.9 million grant from the Fogarty Training Center at the National Institutes of Health. Over his career, Whalen has trained more than 75 students who have returned to Uganda and made immediate impacts on the health care system there.

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NIH awards UGA researchers $2.6 million to fight African sleeping sickness

The National Institutes of Health has awarded $2.6 million to University of Georgia researchers to develop new drugs to treat human African Trypanosomiasis, also known as African sleeping sickness.

African Trypanosomiasis, commonly known as HAT, is caused by a single-celled parasite called Trypanosoma brucei, which is transmitted to humans through the bite of a blood-sucking insect called a tsetse fly. Without adequate treatment, the infection is almost invariably fatal.

Rural populations in sub-Saharan Africa that depend on agriculture, fishing, hunting and animal husbandry are most likely to be exposed to the tsetse fly bites, according to the World Health Organization, which has led sustained control efforts to reduce the number of new cases.

“There are immense challenges in understanding trypanosome biology because a significant number of their genes are not found in humans or yeasts, which are more intensely studied,” said Kojo Mensa-Wilmot, professor in the department of cellular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences whose team was awarded the NIH grant. Using chemical biology tools to identify disease-relevant genes in the parasite, we discovered a small-molecule that prevents duplication of the nucleus in a trypanosome, and arrests proliferation of the parasite.

Our goal is to translate this basic science finding into the design of drugs to treat HAT, he said. Using an animal model for the disease, the UGA-led team administered a drug that cured HAT in mice. 

HAT is a disease of poverty, so there is little incentive, understandably, for large pharmaceutical industries to be heavily invested. Two compounds are currently in clinical trial, but the pipeline for new anti-trypanosome drugs needs to be bolstered, said Mensa-Wilmot, who leads a UGA Chemical Biology Group and is a member of the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases.