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Campus Kitchen: Feeding seniors across Athens

Five miles doesnt seem like much. It’s a short car ride for some, and a morning jog for others. But for student volunteers in the University of Georgia Campus Kitchen program, 5 miles from the main campus in Athens takes them to Montine Brightwells doorstep to deliver food. The realization that such a vast community need is so close to campus is a wakeup call for students, according to volunteer Allison Vita.

“You dont expect to drive five minutes out and see people living with so much less,” said Vita, a fourth-year health promotion and behavior major in UGAs College of Public Health.

Every two weeks, Campus Kitchen volunteers travel to Brightwells home to deliver a made-from-scratch meal and bag of groceries. The meal is prepared by UGA students using donated food from grocery stores and farmers markets. Students also harvest fresh produce from the UGArden, the university's student farm.

Brightwell is one of many senior adults struggling with food insecurity. According to the Athens Community Council on Aging, one in every five seniors in Athens is classified as food insecure. This means they lack access to healthy, adequate and affordable food. The lack of access is not just a financial barrier but can also be transportation issues that prevent seniors from going shopping or health problems that limit their dietary options.

In 2010, a study by the ACCA and the foods and nutrition department in UGAs College of Family and Consumer Sciences found that 78 percent of grandparents raising grandchildren were struggling to provide food for their families. This began the partnership with the Campus Kitchen Project, a national organization that partners with high schools and colleges across the country to implement food recovery plans and engage students as volunteers to prepare and deliver meals.

UGA’s Campus Kitchen program is based in the Office of Service-Learning, which is jointly supported by the Offices of the Vice President for Instruction and the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach. Campus Kitchen at UGA is unique because it is the first to focus on senior food insecurity, a community-specific need.

In the 2016-2017 school year, students so far have collected more than 42,000 pounds of food and made more than 13,000 meals from scratch. Of the recovered food, 25,000 pounds has been redistributed as is to the program's clients or donated to other local organizations around Athens.

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Economic developer training at UGA gives Georgia advantage in attracting new industry

It didn’t take long for Larry Brooks to connect the dots during one of his Georgia Certified Economic Developer classes. Brooks, executive director of the Walker County Development Authority, already was looking for a site to locate a new industry when he attended a financing course offered by the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government. In the class he learned he could use money from a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax to purchase land and develop it.

Using the SPLOST money allowed Walker County to develop an industrial park, and as a result, Audia International, a plastics manufacturer, nearly doubled the size of the facility it planned for the county. 

“The program happened to be immediately applicable for what we were doing,” Brooks said. Audia is now looking at putting up another building. That means new investments, new jobs, new opportunities that are being developed for citizens. What the class did was open up my eyes to what could be done with the resources we had in hand.

Brooks is the first graduate of the GCED program, developed by the Vinson Institute and launched in 2016. The goal is to provide economic development professionals in Georgia with the education and tools they need to successfully recruit new industries and jobs. Currently 221 people are enrolled, taking courses on critical topics like attracting and growing businesses, workforce development, and financing economic development and deal structuring. To become certified, participants must take 36 hours of core courses, take 24 hours of specialized courses on industry knowledge and leadership, and complete a capstone portfolio project.

The program made Walker County more competitive, which is crucially important for a county that borders two states-Alabama and Tennessee-that are increasingly aggressive in luring business. Brooks said learning about resources available specifically in Georgia has been huge. From guest speakers to classmates, the classes he took exposed him to a plethora of experts. He used contacts he made with the Georgia Department of Labor to help allay workforce development concerns of one prospective company.

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UGA graduation, retention rates reach all-time high

Measures of student success at the University of Georgia are at all-time highs, and ongoing enhancements to the learning environment aim to lift retention and graduation rates to even higher levels in the coming years.

The retention rate—an indicator of student success and satisfaction that quantifies the percentage of incoming students who return for their sophomore yearnow stands at 96 percent, a record that exceeds the 95 percent average retention rate for UGA’s highly selective aspirational institutions. UGAs 96 percent freshman retention rate also exceeds the 90 percent average for UGAs peer institutions and the 88 percent Southeastern Conference average.

“There is no commitment more important at the University of Georgia than our commitment to student learning and success,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. I want to congratulate our outstanding faculty, staff and students. These impressive metrics ultimately reflect their hard work and dedication to academic excellence.

The most recent data show that UGAs four-year and six-year graduation rates remain at record highs, as well. Sixty-six percent of UGA students earned their degrees within four years. For comparison, the average four-year graduation rates for aspirational, peer and SEC institutions are 68, 52 and 45 percent respectively.

Eighty-five percent of UGA students graduate within six years. For comparison, the average six-year graduation rates for aspirational, peer and SEC institutions are 87, 75 and 71 percent, respectively.

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UGA grows the economy, promotes economic prosperity in rural Georgia

In 2005, Colquitt County was experiencing growing pains. Sanderson Farms had announced plans to build a chicken processing plant in the south Georgia community, bringing 1,400 jobs to the area. While the new plant was welcome, it presented challenges. The county had limited sewer capacity, few housing options and no round-the-clock child care, a necessity for parents working overnight shifts.

At the same time, University of Georgia faculty were discussing a new program designed to link the resources of the university to the economic development needs of the state. The program would be based on the Cooperative Extension model, with UGA employees stationed in Georgia communities to help address economic development issues. The new program was named the Archway Partnership, and Colquitt County proved to be the ideal place for a pilot. An Archway Partnership professional was hired to live in Colquitt County and worked with local residents to help them reach consensus on their priorities and address the most critical issues.

Over the next few years, a steady stream of UGA faculty and students flowed through Colquitt County, providing landscaping, researching child care needs, and launching leadership programs—among other efforts.  This work made a positive impact: an analysis completed earlier this year shows that in the years since the Archway Partnership began in 2005, Colquitt County has realized an additional $226.9 million in economic activity.

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Clark Howell Hall renovation enhances UGA learning environment

UGA President Jere W. Morehead, joined by fellow university leaders, dedicated the newly renovated Clark Howell Hall, which offers greater accessibility for the more than 27,500 people who benefit from the Career Center, the Disability Resource Center and University Testing Services each year.

“The renovation of this facility will greatly enhance the world-class learning environment that we are establishing at the University of Georgia. I encourage our students to continue to utilize the outstanding services that will be located at Clark Howell Hall,” Morehead said during the Oct. 23 dedication ceremony.

The 33,000-square-foot building, originally a residence hall, was constructed in 1937 and is named for Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Georgia political leader Clark Howell.

Supported by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and funded by Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia General Assembly, the renovations totaled $6 million—$5 million in state funds appropriated for the project as well as $1 million in institutional funds. The work includes improved accessibility; upgraded mechanical, plumbing, electrical and fire alarm systems; and updated data and audio/video systems, according to Chuck Cartwright, project architect with the Office of University Architects.

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Cordero receives public health service medal

University of Georgia professor Jose F. Cordero has been awarded the 2017 Sedgwick Memorial Medal for Distinguished Service in Public Health, the oldest and most prestigious award bestowed by the American Public Health Association.

An international leader in infant and maternal health, Cordero will be honored for his “remarkable record of service in the advancement of public health knowledge and practice” at the association’s annual meeting in Atlanta on Nov. 7.

Cordero is the Gordhan and Jinx Patel Distinguished Professor of Public Health and head of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics in UGA’s College of Public Health, where he mentors graduate researchers in infectious disease studies and infant and maternal health.

“Dr. Cordero has positively impacted millions over the course of his career not only through his scholarship and practice, but also by teaching and mentoring the next generation of global health practitioners,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “I commend him on his achievements and on his receipt of this singular distinction.”

Originally trained as a pediatrician, Cordero has dedicated his career to addressing maternal and child health as well as minority health and health disparities. His many contributions to public health include identifying nutritional deficiencies of infant formula, advocating for nutrient fortification in corn and flour to prevent neural tube defects in Hispanic children, promoting child immunizations in the U.S. to eliminate measles, mumps and rubella, and championing early diagnosis for children with autism.

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Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation commits $1.5 million to support need-based aid at UGA

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has committed $1.5 million to the University of Georgia to provide need-based aid for students in two program areas. The UGA College of Pharmacy will receive $1 million to support pharmacy students facing financial hardships. A separate $500,000 gift will be matched by the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program and will establish five need-based scholarships benefiting UGA students from Atlanta’s historic Westside neighborhoods.

“I want to thank Arthur Blank and his family for supporting the top priority of the University of Georgias Commit to Georgia campaign,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. These tremendous gifts will make a difference in the lives of so many students and their families for generations to come.

The UGA College of Pharmacy will establish the Molly and Max Blank Student Enrichment Endowment with the $1 million gift from The Molly Blank Fund of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. The Molly Blank Fund was created in 2015 in memory of Arthur Blanks mother, Molly, who committed her time and resources to various community causes and organizations. Molly and her husband, Max, owned a successful pharmacy business in New York.

The Blank Foundation also is committed to creating long-term, positive transformation in Atlantas historic Westside neighborhoods of English Avenue, Vine City and Castleberry Hill. A gift of $500,000 to UGA from the Blank Foundation will create the Angela and Arthur M. Blank Scholarship Fund to support educational opportunities for students residing in the Westside communities. Three first-year students and two additional undergraduates enrolled at the university this fall have been awarded the scholarships.

The Blank Foundations $500,000 gift will be matched by an additional $500,000 from the UGA Foundation through the Georgia Commitment Scholarship Program, which was announced by Morehead in January to increase the number of need-based scholarships available at UGA. Including these five scholarships, the university has established more than 130 Georgia Commitment Scholarships to date.

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New alliance lands $51M grant to improve clinical outcomes

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a new five-year, $51 million grant to a team of Georgia research universities to further advance bench-to-bedside clinical and translational science.

The grant is a renewal of previous funding from the NIH that established the Atlanta Clinical & Translational Science Institute, a 10-year partnership between Emory University, Morehouse School of Medicine and the Georgia Institute of Technology. With the new funding, the University of Georgia joins the existing team, which now plans to expand its focus statewide under the new partnership name, the Georgia Clinical & Translational Science Alliance.

“Continuing such an alliance and involving these leading state institutions is extremely important and in line with Georgia’s goals for the promotion of clinical and translational research, innovation and development,” said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. Having an active Clinical & Translational Science Alliance awardee in Georgia has brought our citizens cutting-edge cures and the latest in clinical and translational research.

The Emory-led Georgia CTSA will use the combined strengths of its academic partners to transform the quality and value of clinical research, and to translate research results into better outcomes for patients. Georgia CTSA is one of only 64 Clinical and Translational Science Alliance awards at major academic medical centers across the country funded by the National Institutes of Healths National Center for Advancing Translational Science. It is currently the only CTSA in Georgia.

This exciting partnership is a great example of how research universities in Georgia can work together to improve lives and communities across the state, said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. As a land-grant institution with a dynamic research enterprise, the University of Georgia is well positioned to help this critical alliance expand its positive impact.

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Turfgrass research is on solid ground

University of Georgia, state and industry leaders cut the ribbon on Sept. 21 signifying the official openings of three new turfgrass research and education facilities on the Griffin, Tifton and Athens campuses. The largest of the facilities is on the UGA Griffin campus, where the ceremony took place.

During the 2014 legislative session, Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia General Assembly appropriated funds for the statewide turfgrass facilities enhancement project.

“The University of Georgia remains very grateful to Gov. Deal, the General Assembly, the chancellor, and the board of regents for their support of this important project,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. The construction of new turfgrass research and education facilities will produce tremendous benefits not only for the university community but also for the agriculture industry, which is central to the state’s economy.

UGA has 22 scientists whose primary responsibilities are related to turfgrass and another eight faculty members who have some involvement in turf-related projects. They support the turfgrass industry by conducting research, educating industry professionals and training students who will become future industry leaders.

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University of Georgia dedicates Center for Molecular Medicine

The University of Georgia’s Center for Molecular Medicine officially has a new home on Riverbend Road, adjacent to the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, where researchers will continue their work to uncover the molecular and cellular basis of human disease.

Dedicated Sept. 20, the 43,000-square-foot facility will house up to 10 research groups. The $25 million project was funded by $17 million in state funds and $8 million in non-state funds. All research conducted through the center will have a connection to one or more human diseases, furthering the universitys efforts to combat threats to human health.

“This world-class facility represents an investment in health care solutions that will improve the lives of millions of individuals around the globe,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. It also symbolizes the great partnership between the state of Georgia and its flagship university–a partnership that is helping to solve the grand challenges of our time and to fuel economic development in this state.

Since its founding in 2012, the center has focused on biomedical research that enhances quality of life in communities around the globe with Stephen Dalton, GRA Eminent Scholar of Molecular Cell Biology, as its founding director. Researchers in the CMM will focus on developing therapies and diagnostics for diseases that currently have no cures, including neurological diseases, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic diseases such as diabetes. The centers researchers also will concentrate on developing new vaccines.

The new facility will promote interdisciplinary collaborations between CMM researchers and investigators from other research centers across campus, including the Center for Drug Discovery, the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, and the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center.