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Law school creates Veterans Legal Services Clinic

The University of Georgia School of Law is establishing a Veterans Legal Services Clinic funded by a lead gift from renowned trial attorney and alumnus James E. “Jim” Butler Jr. in memory of his father, Lt. Cmdr. James E. Butler Sr., who was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy. Butler Sr. was also the grandfather of James E. "Jeb" Butler III, a 2008 graduate of the law school.

The new clinic will provide veterans in Georgia with legal assistance they might not otherwise have access to or be able to afford, with particular regard to denied or deferred claims before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It also includes an educational scholarship component.

Overseen by a clinic director serving as a managing attorney, the unit will be staffed by law students who will work directly with veterans and their dependents to ensure access to benefits and services, especially for those with mental or physical disabilities resulting from their time in the military. The students who participate in the clinic will have a tangible impact on the lives of these veterans and their families while receiving real-world experience that will better equip them for their careers.

Four members of the law school’s Board of Visitors have joined Butler in support of the new clinic including Butlers longtime law partner Joel O. Wooten Jr., Kenneth M. Henson Jr., G. Sanders Griffith III and Pete Robinson. Notably, Wooten, Henson and Griffith are UGA School of Law graduates.

The Veterans Legal Services Clinic builds upon the law schools commitment to supporting those who have served our nation, School of Law Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said. I am pleased that funding for the clinic will also provide a $5,000 scholarship match for two veterans studying at the School of Law each year.

This funding will be paired with match money received through the Department of Veterans Affairs Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program.

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Remarkable funding growth drives surge in R&D expenditures

Total research and development expenditures surged for the fourth consecutive year at the University of Georgia to an all-time high of $458 million in fiscal year 2017. The record total represents a 31 percent increase in R&D expenditures since fiscal year 2013.

Remarkable growth in funding from external grants and contracts is driving the surge in overall expenditures. Externally funded research activity has climbed 37 percent over the past three years to $198 million in fiscal year 2017.

“This tremendous growth in productivity reflects the unyielding commitment of UGA faculty to solve the important challenges of our time,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Their dedication, bolstered by major faculty hiring initiatives and strategic investments in research since coming out of the Great Recession seven years ago, is elevating our research enterprise to new heights and expanding the University’s positive impact on lives and communities across this state and beyond.”

UGA’s increase in research spending comes at a time when federal funding of higher education research and development is declining in both current and inflation-adjusted dollars.

“Despite an extraordinarily competitive environment, UGA researchers continue to win a larger share of the federal R&D support budget,” said Vice President for Research David Lee. “In recent years, only a handful out of every 100 grant proposals received from universities all across America is funded by federal agencies. UGA researchers are successfully competing with the very best.”

The university has identified three signature research themes to illustrate the broad impact of the institution’s expanding research enterprise: inquiring and innovating to improve human health; safeguarding and sustaining our world; and changing lives through the land-grant mission.

Each dollar of external research funding is estimated to create two dollars in economic impact, contributing to the broader economic development focus of the university.

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WUGA celebrates 30 years on the air

This fall, WUGA 91.7 and 94.5 FM, the NPR affiliate operated by the University of Georgia, is celebrating 30 years of being on the air. The station first went live on the morning of Aug. 28, 1987, and has been serving the Athens community ever since, offering both national and local programming.

“There is no other radio station in this area that provides the kind of content that this station does,” said Jimmy Sanders, WUGA’s general manager. “The community values this radio station and recognizes how unique it is.”

Several events are planned to commemorate the radio station’s 30th anniversary.

There will be an open house on Aug. 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the radio station, which is located in the Georgia Center for Continuing Education. On Aug. 28, the day the station first went live, there will be an anniversary evening gala featuring Steve Inskeep, the host of “Morning Edition” on NPR. On Aug. 29, GPB’s “On Second Thought” featuring Celeste Headlee will produce a program focused on public media. This show, produced at Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, will be recorded for later broadcast. Later that morning, at 11 a.m., Inskeep will address Grady College students.

Additional information about the events is available here.

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Fundraising skyrockets at UGA

In the first year of the public phase of the Commit to Georgia Campaign, University of Georgia donors set a record in fundraising, contributing $227.8 million in new gifts and pledges.

“When we launched the public phase of the campaign last fall, we called on our alumni and friends to help us expand the impact of this great university on the world,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Clearly, they are answering that call with extraordinary generosity and support, and it is with the deepest sense of gratitude that I say ‘thank you’ for making gifts that are changing lives.”

This marks the fourth consecutive year that UGA donors have set a new record in fundraising and the first time in the university’s long history that the annual total has surpassed $200 million. The unprecedented total represents a 24 percent increase over last year’s record of $183.8 million and nearly doubles the $117.2 million raised in fiscal year 2013, the year prior to Morehead taking office.

The goal of the Commit to Georgia Campaign is to raise $1.2 billion by 2020 to increase scholarship support, to enhance the learning environment, and to solve the grand challenges facing society. More than 68,000 donors contributed this year-another record-to reach an overall total of $827 million toward the campaign goal.

Private giving toward the campaign already is making a difference: 115 need-based endowed scholarships, for example, have been created through the Georgia Commitment Scholarship program since its introduction in January. Most of these new scholarships will be awarded in the fall to incoming first-year students with unmet financial need.

University officials believe that the first year of the public phase will produce the highest annual fundraising total with fluctuations up and down in the years to come. The overarching goal of any campaign is to elevate annual fundraising levels for the long term. That is why officials are tracking the three-year rolling average-which is now 60 percent higher than FY13 at $185.2 million-to provide a better measure of sustained growth over time.

“A successful fundraising year is always exciting, especially one of this magnitude,” said Kelly Kerner, vice president for development and alumni relations and executive director of the UGA Foundation. “But, I’m most proud of the three-year rolling average, which is a clear sign of the culture change we’re seeing around private giving at UGA. Our donors know that we are making a difference every day, and they want to be a part of the long-term impact of this special place.”

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Marine sciences professor named director of UGA Skidaway Institute

Clark Alexander, a scientist with a long history of fostering collaboration and excellence in research, has been named director of the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

Alexander is a professor in the department of marine sciences, part of UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and has served as interim director of the Skidaway Institute for the past year. As director of the Skidaway Institute, he will continue to oversee its personnel, budgets and facilities and report to the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.

“The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography plays a vital role in training scientists and conducting research that address critical economic and environmental issues that affect our state and world,” said Provost Pamela Whitten. “Dr. Alexander’s longstanding commitment to deepening the impact of the institute while building bridges with partners on and off campus makes him uniquely qualified to take on this important leadership role on a permanent basis.”

Alexander’s work has been supported with nearly $6 million in external funding from agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Georgia Coastal Management Program. He has been the recipient of several honors, including the Preservation Achievement Award from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

The UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is a multidisciplinary research and training institution located on a 700-acre campus on Skidaway Island, southeast of downtown Savannah. Its primary goals are to further the understanding of marine and environmental processes, conduct leading-edge research on coastal and marine systems, and train tomorrow’s scientists. For more information on the Skidaway Institute, click here.

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40 Under 40 Class of 2017

The University of Georgia Alumni Association has unveiled the 40 Under 40 Class of 2017. The program began in 2011 and celebrates the personal, professional and philanthropic achievements of UGA graduates who are under the age of 40.

This year's class includes alumni from a variety of industries ranging from law to agriculture. Among the honorees are ESPN's Maria Taylor, Georgia Teacher of the Year Casey M. Bethel, state Rep. Sam Watson, who represents Colquitt, Thomas and Tift counties, and Maritza McClendon, the first woman of color to represent Team USA on the Olympic swim team.

The honorees will be recognized during the seventh annual 40 Under 40 Awards Luncheon on Sept. 14 at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead. Ernie Johnson, a 1978 UGA graduate, will serve as keynote speaker for the event. Johnson is a co-host on TNT's "Inside the NBA" and is the lead announcer for "Major League Baseball on TBS." He delivered UGA's 2017 undergraduate Commencement address in May. Registration will open for the awards luncheon at alumni.uga.edu/40u40 in the coming weeks.

"We are excited about this year's 40 Under 40 class," Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of alumni relations, said. "These young alumni are making a difference in the classroom, boardroom, operating room and everywhere in between."

A list of this year's 40 Under 40 honorees, including their graduation year from UGA, city, title and employer, is available here.

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Georgia Sea Grant funds project to enhance jellyfish industry

A Georgia Sea Grant-funded project will help protect turtles and enable fishermen trawling for cannonball jellyfish to operate more efficiently.

Georgia fishermen recently conducted several 30-hour cannonball jellyfish trawling trips to test the turtle excluder device, which is similar to the TED for shrimpers first developed in 1968.

Cannonball jellyfish, commonly referred to as jellyballs, are the third largest seafood commodity by weight in Georgia. Considered a delicacy in Asian countries, most of the jellyballs caught by Georgia fishermen are exported to Asian markets, where they’re sold in restaurants and grocery stores.

The project to develop a jellyfish TED was proposed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the College of Coastal Georgia, and Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant at the University of Georgia, all of whom recognized the benefits of the commodity to both commercial fishermen and the economy.

“This was a project where we needed to support a developing industry,” said Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “We have to protect our turtle populations, but also need to find a way to support our fishing industries. Much like the shrimping industry and TEDs, we are hoping to find a win-win solution.”

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UGA partners with ACC to educate rather than penalize youth offenders

A partnership between the University of Georgia and Athens-Clarke County is helping young criminal offenders turn something negative into a positive.

Twenty-eight young people from Athens-Clarke County recently graduated from YouthServe, a diversion program offered through the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, Athens-Clarke County Municipal Court, and ACC Probation Services.

The program allowed participants aged 17 to 24 who are on probation for misdemeanor criminal offenses to engage in community service projects and leadership development activities designed to steer them in the right direction. The community service projects enabled the group to apply principles from the leadership curriculum in a real-world setting.

“The goal of the program is to provide the participants with an opportunity to reflect on their actions and think about how they can be better leaders to avoid making poor decisions again,” said Emily Boness, a public service associate with the Fanning Institute.

In the classroom, participants learned about leadership styles, principles of leadership, conflict, values, decision making, goal setting and individual and group communication.

In essays about the program, participants indicated the experience was positive. In one essay, a participant said YouthServe would make them “a better person and a better leader.”

“I have learned so many things and taken so many things from this class,” another participant wrote. “If you were questioning whether or not to continue doing this, I believe that it is very beneficial to the kids who are on probation.”

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Researcher developing coatings that help medical implants resist infection, clotting

Infections acquired in hospitals kill thousands of people in the U.S. each year, and sticky colonies of bacteria known as biofilm that form on medical implants are one of the leading causes of these infections. Thrombosis, or blood clotting, is another potential danger associated with implants.

Now, a University of Georgia scientist is developing a new weapon in the fight against clotting and infections related to medical devices. Hitesh Handa, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering, is designing biocompatible polymer coating that not only prevents biofilm growth but also attacks harmful bacteria by releasing nitric oxide, a naturally occurring gas with potent antimicrobial properties.

Handa’s work recently attracted a four-year, $1.5 million research grant from the National Institutes for Health.

“Current technologies fail to completely address the potentially harmful complications related to medical implants,” Handa said. “Nitric oxide is the focus of this project because it not only serves as an antimicrobial agent, it also can help prevent clotting on the medical implants such as vascular catheters.”

If successful, Handa believes his nitric oxide-releasing coatings will be applicable to a wide range of medical devices and implants including vascular grafts, stents, urinary catheters and endotracheal tubes.

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Educators' gift inspires others to 'pay it forward'

A planned gift from a University of Georgia alumni couple will help first-generation college students become educators.

Created by Johnny Sanders Jr. and Rubye Coleman-Sanders, who both received advanced degrees from the UGA College of Education, the scholarship fund will assist underrepresented students at UGA who wish to teach in communities that typically struggle to retain quality teachers. It’s a way to give back to the university that helped propel the couple to successful careers, they said, and they look forward to helping the next generation do the same.

“We worked in higher education, and we know how difficult it is, especially now, for students to come up with the money to go to school. We wanted to pay it forward,” said Sanders. “We instilled in our son the same values our parents instilled in us-to try and achieve at your highest level, and then give back.”

The couple’s decision comes at a time when UGA is focused on expanding financial assistance for students. In the UGA College of Education, nearly half of undergraduate students face unmet financial needs. This includes not only paying for tuition and fees, but also affording transportation or housing.

“We are humbled by the commitment that Johnny and Rubye have shown to future educators coming to the College of Education,” said Craig H. Kennedy, dean of the college. “This scholarship will change the lives of the students it will serve.”