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Commencement speakers share lessons with new graduates

A total of 3,202 students — 1,681 undergraduates and 1,521 graduate students — met requirements to walk in the university’s fall Commencement ceremonies. Of the graduate students, 344 were doctoral candidates, and 1,177 received their master’s or specialist degrees. UGA President Jere W. Morehead conferred their degrees during two ceremonies, held Dec. 16.

During the fall 2022 Undergraduate Commencement ceremony, Chris Womack, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power, encouraged the university’s newest alumni to ignite change. He shared some of the lessons he learned growing up in a small town in Alabama, the most important of which was a strong work ethic. He learned what it takes to change conditions that need to change. Additionally, Womack reiterated the importance of defying clichés, breaking down silos and widening one’s circle.

Student speaker Michael Banks, a Jere W. Morehead Honors College student who earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and international affairs, shared some lessons he learned studying Classics before even coming to Athens. He encouraged his classmates to find joy in the everyday work and materials that will move them forward. He reminded them that they have support from “friends and peers who have challenged your perspectives, fostered your learning and nurtured your growth.” He also urged his fellow graduates to give themselves some grace as they transition to what’s next.

During the Graduate Commencement ceremony, Alan Darvill, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and director emeritus of the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, encouraged graduates to continue learning with two questions: “Why is what you’re doing important?” and “Is this something you feel invested in to make a difference?” Darvill shared how those questions, which were asked of him by a mentor when he was a doctoral student, stuck with him and helped him make important decisions about his career and research.

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$3M pledged for UGA Poultry Science Building

The Luther and Susie Harrison Foundation has pledged $3 million in support of the Poultry Science Building project at the University of Georgia. The pledge — the largest single gift to the building to date — will fund the lobby of the Poultry Science Building.

“We deeply appreciate the Luther and Susie Harrison Foundation’s remarkable generosity and the wonderful example they have set for other UGA partners in the agriculture industry,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “Their investment in the new Poultry Science Building will help ensure the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences remains a global leader in poultry science.”

The Luther and Susie Harrison Foundation was established by R. Harold Harrison in 1994 to honor his parents, Luther and Susie Harrison. Luther Harrison, a farmer, and Susie Tanner Harrison, an educator, instilled in their son the importance of education, perseverance and community giving.

R. Harold Harrison, a 1941 CAES graduate, returned from World War II and began selling eggs and chicks in Barrow County. His business grew, and in 1958 he established Harrison Poultry Inc. in Bethlehem, Georgia. Harrison had a collaborative relationship with CAES, extending until his death in 2001. In his will, he made provisions for the Luther and Susie Harrison Foundation to continue supporting many organizations, including CAES. To this day, Harrison Poultry Inc. relies on the collaboration and research of the college.

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Alumna named inaugural Quad Fellow

University of Georgia alumna Kirsten Allen was named a 2023 Quad Fellow, making her one of 100 international applicants in the fellowship’s inaugural cohort. The Quad Fellowship is a scholarship supporting interdisciplinary innovation in science and technology by connecting graduate students from the four Quad countries: Australia, India, Japan and the United States.

More than 3,000 students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics applied for the fellowship, and the 2023 fellows were selected based on written applications and multiple rounds of academic interviews. Only 25 students from each country were selected to receive the $50,000 scholarship.

Allen earned her bachelor’s in pharmaceutical sciences, a minor in plant biology and a certificate in international agriculture from the University of Georgia. She is a fifth-year doctoral candidate at Rutgers University-New Brunswick studying plant biochemistry and the application of secondary metabolites—substances produced by plants that are not used for growth or development—in order to find new uses of plants and plant products.

Allen’s program of study builds on the foundation she created at the University of Georgia, and this fellowship provides additional resources for her graduate education.

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UGA ramps up data science and AI hiring initiative

The University of Georgia is expanding a strategic faculty hiring initiative aimed at attracting leading scholars in the fields of data science and artificial intelligence.

UGA initially planned to recruit 50 faculty members when it launched the Presidential Interdisciplinary Faculty Hiring Initiative in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence in 2021. Now the university is expanding the initiative to include an additional 20 faculty positions in two interdisciplinary areas: (1) computational social sciences and (2) data science, AI and virtual reality in teaching and learning.

Data science and AI are broad fields that involve the generation, storage, processing and analysis of massive data sets. New faculty hired as part of UGA’s initiative will work at the intersection of data science and AI and across a variety of disciplines. The expanded initiative features four multidisciplinary clusters that focus on broad themes: social and behavioral dynamics of health, well-being and security; applied social science interventions for communities; translational education research in health professions; and leveraging data science and AI to advance teaching and learning.

Schools and colleges represented in the new round of hires include the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Public and International Affairs, the College of Public Health, the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, the School of Social Work, the Mary Frances Early College of Education, the College of Pharmacy and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

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UGA sets record with two Marshall Scholars in 2022

For the first time, two University of Georgia students received a prestigious Marshall Scholarship in the same year. Honors seniors Natalie Moss of Norcross and Lauren Wilkes of New Orleans, Louisiana, will continue their studies in the U.K. next year through the award, which is among the most selective graduate scholarships for Americans. 

UGA is the only public institution of higher learning to have multiple recipients this year, along with private Ivy League institutions Harvard, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania.

The Marshall Scholarship—designed to strengthen the enduring relationship between the British and American peoples, their governments and their institutions—funds graduate study in the United Kingdom at any institution and in any field of study. This year, 40 students were named Marshall Scholars.

Moss is majoring in anthropology and geology with a minor in biology, and Wilkes is a Foundation Fellow majoring in data science with a minor in Chinese language and literature. Both are students in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the Morehead Honors College, and both have received funding for their research through UGA’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

“I am very proud of Natalie and Lauren for winning the Marshall and gaining this wonderful post-graduate opportunity to study in the U.K.,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “I know they will make a positive impact in their fields of study.”

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Embark Georgia receives $1.5M to expand program

Funding from two foundations will enable a statewide network housed at the University of Georgia to improve educational outcomes for youth who have experienced foster care and/or homelessness.

Embark Georgia, a program housed at the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, received $800,000 from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and $750,000 from the Joseph B. Whitehead Child Well-Being Fund to strengthen and expand the network’s efforts across the state.

Fewer than 10 percent of youth who have experienced foster care earn a college degree, studies show. As adults, they are paid less than employees with a postsecondary education and are more likely to be unemployed.

Since 2012, Embark Georgia has worked with agencies across Georgia to increase college access and retention for youth who have experienced foster care or homelessness. Through Embark Georgia, each University System of Georgia and Technical College System of Georgia campus has a point of contact to help identify and provide resources to homeless and former foster students who need help.

“By providing leadership skills training, guidance on best practices and available resources, Embark Georgia empowers leaders on campuses around the state to build the collaborations and partnerships necessary to ensure these students receive the support they deserve and need to succeed,” said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute.

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Boons, Ferguson-Noel elected to National Academy of Inventors

University of Georgia professors Naola Ferguson-Noel and Geert-Jan Boons have been elected Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors, becoming the 13th and 14th UGA faculty members to receive this honor.

NAI Fellows must demonstrate a “highly prolific spirit of innovation” in creating or facilitating inventions that make a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and welfare of society. Becoming an NAI Fellow is the highest professional distinction awarded solely to academic inventors.

“Naola Ferguson-Noel and Geert-Jan Boons represent the diversity of biomedical research that exists across UGA,” said Karen Burg, UGA vice president for research. “Dr. Ferguson-Noel’s work in mycoplasma vaccines is not only a vital component of the near $500 billion U.S. poultry market, but has a major impact globally for all countries with an intensive poultry industry.

“Dr. Boons’ glycoscience research produces both potentially lifesaving new vaccines and therapeutics, as well as numerous commercial kits currently on the market for the study and labeling of biological samples. Congratulations to Naola and Geert-Jan on this great accomplishment and well-deserved recognition of their contributions in research and invention.”

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2023 Bulldog 100 businesses revealed

The University of Georgia Alumni Association has announced the 2023 Bulldog 100, a list of the 100 fastest-growing alumni-operated or -owned businesses. The new honorees represent 10 states and two countries, with 86 of the businesses located in Georgia. In total, 129 alumni representing over two dozen industries, including health care, financial services, agriculture and real estate, are being recognized as a part of the 2023 Bulldog 100.

Each year, Bulldog 100 applicants are measured by their business’s compounded annual growth rate during a three-year period. The 2023 Bulldog 100 list is based on submitted financial information for 2019-21.

The UGA Alumni Association will host the annual Bulldog 100 Celebration Feb. 18, 2023, to celebrate these alumni business leaders and count down the ranked list to ultimately reveal the No. 1 fastest-growing business.

“We are proud to recognize our incredible base of alumni who are leaders and innovators in their respective industries,” said Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of the UGA Alumni Association. “These individuals embody the best of what UGA stands for and represent the value of a degree from our university. They set forth an example of leadership for UGA students and alumni, and we are excited to celebrate these business leaders and the work they are doing to build better communities.”

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UGA welcomes legislators for Biennial Institute

The 33rd Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators wrapped up on Tuesday, Dec. 6, with a luncheon at the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education & Hotel in Athens featuring remarks by Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov.-elect Burt Jones.

Hosted by UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the Biennial Institute has been a recognized tradition on the state political calendar since 1958. The three-day event provides legislators valuable time for learning, networking and exploring state issues prior to the convening of the General Assembly. This year, 53 new legislators joined fellow lawmakers for updates on topics such as transportation, electric mobility, mental health, cybersecurity, workforce needs and economic development. The General Assembly will convene on Jan. 9, 2023.

Faculty members from the Institute of Government, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit, moderated sessions with panelists including government agency leaders, elected officials and business executives from across the state.

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UGA earns reaffirmation of SACSCOC accreditation

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) has reaffirmed the University of Georgia’s accreditation, highlighting the university’s commitment to excellence in teaching, research and service.

“The reaffirmation of our accreditation by SACSCOC reflects the University of Georgia’s longstanding commitment to academic excellence and our unwavering focus on student success,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “I extend my deepest thanks to the many faculty, staff, and students across our campus who worked so hard over the last two years to help our university secure this major accomplishment.”

Accreditation validates that the quality of education and facilities at UGA meets 72 standards set by SACSCOC in coordination with the U.S. Department of Education. Accreditation also ensures UGA is eligible to receive federal and state funding to support student financial aid and to transfer academic credits with other institutions. SACSCOC had zero recommendations regarding UGA’s compliance with the commission’s standards, equating to a perfect score in the intensive reaffirmation process.

“To complete a reaffirmation with zero recommendations is a sign of sustained levels of excellence by our faculty, staff and academic leaders across all areas of the campus,” said Meg Amstutz, dean of the Morehead Honors College and UGA’s SACSCOC liaison. “Every day, people across the institution seek to ensure we are fulfilling our missions in instruction, research, and public service and outreach. Our shared commitment to student success across all units was evident to the review team.”