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UGA announces $1.2 billion fundraising campaign

The University of Georgia announced an ambitious goal of $1.2 billion for the Commit to Georgia Campaign as well as a lead gift from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation on Nov. 17 at a kickoff event at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.

A commitment to students is at the center of this major fundraising effort, beginning with eliminating financial barriers by increasing support for merit- and need-based financial aid. In recognition of the critical importance of need-based aid, the Woodruff Foundation has made a transformational $30 million gift to the University of Georgia.

"The Woodruff Foundation is pleased to join alumni and friends of the University of Georgia to help expand opportunity for students with financial need," said Russ Hardin, president of the Woodruff Foundation. "We recognize that many bright, hard-working Georgia students face significant financial barriers to attending the university, and that far too many students graduate with burdensome debt. UGA's ambitious campaign will help ensure both the educated workforce and the leadership our state needs to prosper in future years."

In addition to increasing scholarship support for hard-working UGA students, the Commit to Georgia Campaign also will create more opportunities for hands-on learning and mentorship.

Beyond supporting students, the Commit to Georgia Campaign will help faculty and staff address some of the biggest issues facing the state and world. UGA is uniquely positioned to tackle challenges ranging from preventing the spread of infectious diseases like Zika to feeding the world's growing population to spurring economic development in the state. The Commit to Georgia Campaign not only will secure resources for such efforts but also will create more endowed professorships to attract and retain the very best and brightest faculty.

Fundraising for the Commit to Georgia Campaign in the preceding silent phase already has reached more than $680 million, surpassing the total amount raised during UGA's previous major campaign. Last week, the university shared its campaign priorities at a campus event where more than a thousand faculty, staff and students gathered in celebration. The university aims to reach its $1.2 billion goal by 2020.

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UGAs stable isotope lab becomes largest in North America

The Center for Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia is already world-renowned, but the center's role in the scientific community just became even bigger.

Following an expansion of the facility on Riverbend Road and acquisition of new instrumentation, the 24,000-square-foot center is now home to the largest stable isotope lab in North America, surpassing the University of California, Davis, and cementing its position as an industry leader.

Stable isotope analysis, which is the focus of the latest lab expansion, is the measurement of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, deuterium and sulfur isotopic signatures in environmental and biological samples. It can be used to track everything from animal migration patterns and ocean temperatures to helping reconstruct ecosystems, monitoring pollution or testing products.

"We're rebuilding and reimagining this center into something that I believe is truly phenomenal — as a whole, there's no place like this in the entire United States," said Jeff Speakman, director of CAIS. "Many smaller labs struggle because they are not able to reinvest in the latest and greatest technology, so being able to continue to invest into new instrumentation is key to staying ahead of the game."

The center, which operates under the Office of Research, was founded in 1968 and is home to one of the oldest radiocarbon and stable isotope laboratories in the world. Today 12 full-time scientists and 13 technical staff provide analytical services, conduct research and engage in teaching students from a variety of disciplines.

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UGA receives CDC grant to boost prevention efforts in Georgias high obesity counties

The University of Georgia has been awarded a two-year, $1.25 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to boost obesity prevention efforts in Georgia's most impacted rural counties-Calhoun and Taliaferro counties.

There, UGA will work with county leaders and local stakeholders to improve nutrition and increase physical activity.The projects are called Healthier Together Calhoun and Healthier Together Taliaferro.

Land-grant colleges and universities, located in states with counties with an adult obesity prevalence of over 40 percent, were able to apply for the special funding available through the CDC's Programs to Reduce Obesity in High Obesity Areas.

"To have a major impact on obesity, we must involve multiple sectors within communities-elected officials, churches, businesses, grocery stores and local health departments-and use multiple strategies," said Marsha Davis, principal investigator of the project and associate dean of outreach and engagement at the UGA College of Public Health.

The project will be led by the College of Public Health and UGA Cooperative Extension, an outreach unit of the university supported by specialists in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. Additional partners include UGA's J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, a public service and outreach unit; local, district and state UGA Extension offices; local community organizations; and local, district and state public health departments.

The primary goal of the project is to implement environmental changes to promote healthy eating and physical activity in places where children, youth and families spend their time. Proposed interventions involve working with schools, community organizations, local government and businesses to serve healthy food, sell healthy food, and create places to be physically active.

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New center will make UGA a world leader in infectious disease ecology

With the launch of the new Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases, the University of Georgia is poised to become a world leader in the increasingly important field of disease ecology.

"We have a bold mission, but I genuinely believe we can achieve it," said John Drake, a professor in the Odum School of Ecology and the new center's director. "We hope to be the best in the world within five years, and I think that's possible because of the vibrant research community we have here."

Infectious diseases pose a serious threat to human health, causing millions of deaths around the world every year, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. They also take an enormous financial toll in lost productivity as well as costs associated with controlling them.

Because most emerging infectious diseases originate in animals, a purely medical approach is not adequate for combating them; understanding how ecological processes and human impacts on the environment influence the emergence and spread of infectious diseases is critical. Disease ecology provides this kind of insight, exploring interactions between hosts and pathogens and/or parasites within their ecological context.

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Significant donation boosts food scholarship and Student Affairs programs

Like dozens of his fellow University of Georgia students, Kyle McReynolds used to worry about finding enough money for his next meal.

"You want to be engaged in class, engaged in studying, but all you can think about is how you're going to pay for the next thing," said McReynolds, a junior majoring in business management from Warner Robbins.

McReynolds and his classmates are now able to focus on their studies thanks to the Let All the Big Dawgs Eat Food Scholarship. The food scholarship and other programs that support students just got a big boost from University of Georgia graduate Jess Stokely, who is contributing $900,000 to the food scholarship and $1.5 million to general support for students.

Stokely's $2.4 million donation is the largest one-time gift ever made to the university's Division of Student Affairs.

Even with the competitive tuition rates at UGA, more students are finding it difficult to afford a college degree. More than 94 percent of UGA students receive financial aid, such as Pell Grants and the HOPE Scholarship. For some, there is still a gap to cover the full cost of attendance.

College student food insecurity-lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious meals-is increasingly becoming a focus on major college campuses across the country. Food and financial insecurity can impede students in several ways-from financial strain and multiple loans, to time commitment and working multiple jobs, to nutrition quality and wellness.

The food scholarship initiative currently sponsors one-year meal plans in the university's dining halls for 46 students with demonstrated need. That number will grow with additional scholarships being awarded next semester.

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Global Women in STEM Leadership Summit sparks critical conversations

More than 250 people from across the United States and abroad recently gathered in Atlanta for a summit on women's leadership in STEM organized by UGA professor Takoi Hamrita.

The Global Women in STEM Leadership Summit was supported by the Women in Engineering organization of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers as well as the UGA Office of the President, Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost and the College of Engineering. Additional sponsors included AT&T, Cricket Wireless, Baldor, Southern Company and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

"We had an amazing time, and it was a remarkable opportunity for women from all facets of STEM and all paths of life to come together and to connect and share and learn from each other," said Hamrita, a professor of electrical engineering in the College of Engineering. "There was over 3,000 years of collective STEM experience in the room, and that provided for a very deep and enriching experience. I'm very grateful to all who have contributed to the success of this program."

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UGA Small Animal Hospital renamed to memorialize donor

The University of Georgia Veterinary Teaching Hospital has renamed its Small Animal Hospital in honor of Cora Nunnally Miller, a donor who gave more than $13 million to the College of Veterinary Medicine.

The name change was made official Nov. 3 during a dedication ceremony that included the unveiling of a portrait of Miller that was painted when she was a teenager by Lamar Dodd. The portrait was donated to the college as part of Miller's estate and now hangs in the hospital's small animal lobby.

"Cora Miller was a very distinguished woman who sought no recognition for her generosity, taking great satisfaction in simply learning about the impact of her philanthropy," Dean Sheila W. Allen said during the ceremony. "We proudly honor her transformational gifts to the college by naming the Small Animal Hospital the Cora Nunnally Miller Small Animal Teaching Hospital."

Miller, who passed away at her home in July 2015, loved horses, dogs and the field of veterinary medicine. Of her gifts, more than $7 million was designated for building the college's new, state-of-the-art teaching hospital, which opened in March 2015. The remainder of her contributions resulted in several endowed chairs and professorships for the college as well as the Service Animal Fund for animals devoted to serving people such as assistance dogs and military and police dogs.

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Noted parasitologist Dennis Kyle named GRA Eminent Scholar at UGA

Dennis Kyle, one of the nation's leading infectious disease researchers, will join the University of Georgia faculty as its newest Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar.

Kyle, currently a Distinguished Health Professor at the University of South Florida, will join UGA on Jan. 3, 2017, as the GRA Eminent Scholar in Antiparasitic Drug Discovery. He also will serve as the new director of UGA's Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, which Daniel Colley, a professor of microbiology, has led since 2001.

Established in 1998, CTEGD is made up of a wide range of research programs focused on the development of medical and public health interventions for diseases that contribute enormously to global death, disability and instability—including malaria, sleeping sickness, cryptosporidiosis, schistosomiasis and Chagas disease.

"Dr. Kyle is one of the world's foremost authorities on malaria and other parasitic diseases," said President Jere W. Morehead. "I am pleased that he will be joining UGA to advance the worldwide reputation of CTEGD and to strengthen the university's partnerships across GRA institutions in the development of new drug therapies."

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UGA School of Law leads state in bar exam passage rate

The University of Georgia School of Law saw a high percentage of its graduates pass the July 2016 Georgia bar exam.

The passage rate for first-time test takers from Georgia Law was 87.5 percent, 12.2 percentage points higher than the state average of 75.3 percent for ABA-approved law schools. For all Georgia Law graduates who took the July 2016 exam, 86.1 percent passed versus the state average of 71.1 percent.

"Georgia Law is committed to providing our students with the knowledge and skills they need to be well-prepared once they graduate and begin their careers," Georgia Law Dean Peter B. "Bo" Rutledge said. "These exam results show how our faculty's dedication to first-rate legal training-combined with our students' dedication to learning-are making us successful in this endeavor."

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UGAs four-year graduation rates jump to record level

A concerted effort at the University of Georgia to help students earn their degrees in a more timely manner has catapulted the institution's four-year graduation rate to a record level.

Sixty-six percent of UGA students who enrolled as freshmen in the fall of 2012 graduated within four years, a 3 percentage point increase from the previous year.

For comparison, the most recent data available shows an average four-year graduation rate of 49 percent for UGA's peer institutions, 70 percent for its aspirational institutions and 44 percent for Southeastern Conference institutions.

"This outstanding achievement reflects the dedication of many individuals across campus-over many years-to putting students first at the University of Georgia," said President Jere W. Morehead. "While we still have work to do, our progress in this area sends another strong signal of UGA's upward trajectory."

The university's six-year graduation rate remained at its record level of 85 percent, which is 11 percentage points above the average six-year graduation rate of 74 percent for UGA's peer institutions and approaches the 87 percent average graduation rate for its aspirational institutions. UGA's 85 percent six-year graduation rate greatly exceeds the 70 percent average for SEC institutions.