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UGA jumps to 18th in the U.S. News & World Report ranking

The University of Georgia moved up three spots to No. 18 in the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking of Best Public Universities, released today.

“I am pleased that the University of Georgia continues to be recognized as one of the very best public research universities in the nation,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “I want to thank our outstanding faculty, staff, students, alumni and supporters for this achievement. UGA's upward trajectory is a testament-above all else-to their hard work and dedication to excellence.”

Outstanding performance on key measures of student success contributed to the university’s strong position in the national rankings: UGA’s first-year retention rate increased from 94 percent to a record 95 percent during the rating period, and its six-year graduation rate remained at an all-time high of 85 percent.

Increases in student selectivity measures also led to the top 20 ranking. UGA’s acceptance rate decreased from 56 percent to 53 percent during the rating period; the percentage of students in the top 10 percent of their high school class increased from 52 percent to 53 percent, and test scores for the 25th–75th SAT/ACT percentile increased as well.

These measures reflect the continuing rise in the quality of the student body at UGA as well as a steady increase in the number of applications for admission. This fall marked the fourth consecutive year in which the incoming class of first-year students set a record for academic quality, and applications for fall admission reached an all-time high this year at nearly 23,000, surpassing last year's record total.

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UGA, Forum Institute partner for preconception to infancy public health initiative

The University of Georgia College of Public Health has announced a new strategic partnership with The Forum Institute, an Oregon-based nonprofit think tank, to implement a first-of-its-kind preconception to infancy public health initiative for the state of Georgia.

The Forum Institute will provide $2.4 million in funding to the UGA College of Public Health over two years to support the establishment of the P2i Center of Excellence, the nation's first center focused on preconception to infancy care. Dr. José F. Cordero, Patel Distinguished Professor of Public Health in the College of Public Health, will serve as director of the new center, which will open in Atlanta in early 2017.

The Forum Institute established the Preconception to Infancy initiative, or P2i, on the conviction that existing strong science and clinical practice offer a means of improving outcomes and significantly reducing the incidence of chronic disorders among infants when women reduce exposure to toxins, ensure proper nutrition and maintain optimal health before and during pregnancy. Cordero and the College of Public Health will lead the center’s efforts in developing best practices for preconception care, while expanding current knowledge in the field through clinical research, statistical analysis and the publication and distribution of scientific findings. The college will also collaborate with The Forum Institute in developing curricula for physicians and mothers-to-be in preconception care and related topics.

“We are very pleased to establish this partnership with The Forum Institute to advance the Preconception to Infancy public health initiative,” said Phillip Williams, dean of the College of Public Health. “With Dr. Cordero, we have one of the leading experts in child and maternal health guiding this program. His role places us in an ideal position to implement an outstanding public health program for Georgia residents.”

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UGA, state officials tour agricultural sites, see strength of industry firsthand

The University of Georgia and Georgia Department of Agriculture continue to make Georgia’s No. 1 industry a top priority.

UGA President Jere W. Morehead and Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, along with UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Dean and Director Sam Pardue, headed the fourth annual state agriculture tour, this time through middle and south Georgia, on Sept. 7.

Accompanied by state Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman John Wilkinson, state House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England and state House of Representatives Agriculture Chairman Tom McCall, their objective was to learn more about the state’s top industry and see what makes it an international success.

“We are excited to continue our spirit of cooperation and education with the university through the coordination of our annual farm tour,” Black said. “President Morehead has been extremely responsive with his deep commitment to the agriculture industry, and these tours have been a great opportunity to open the communication channel between our farming community and those who support it.”

From watching how a peach is picked, packaged and delivered, to learning how federal and state regulators ensure that only the highest quality produce is shipped from Georgia, the day covered a wide range of agricultural topics.

“This tour is a great reminder of the strong partnership that exists between the University of Georgia and the agriculture community,” Morehead said. “As a land-grant institution, UGA remains focused on providing research, education and outreach programs to help the state's No. 1 industry continue to thrive.”

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Donor anonymously transformed the lives of UGA students

Cora Nunnally Miller anonymously gave more than $33 million to the University of Georgia Foundation throughout her lifetime and granted permission for the university to share her name only after her death. Her last gift, a bequest of $17 million made at her passing in July 2015, will have a transformational effect across the university.

The Hugh Hodgson School of Music is the major beneficiary of Miller’s bequest and will receive $9 million, the largest gift ever made to the Hugh Hodgson School of Music. Miller, who was a passionate advocate for the arts, was the stepdaughter of Hugh Hodgson, a nationally recognized musician and educator who was the first chair of UGA’s music department and one of the most significant supporters of music and art in the South in the early 20th century.

Miller's contributions to the School of Music were numerous and significant during her lifetime, and the majority of her support went directly to students through scholarships, assistantships and student experiences. Wesley Sumpter, a senior from Lithia Springs, Georgia, received one of these scholarships and said, “As an aspiring musician growing up, I wasn't as fortunate as many other students who took private lessons. We simply couldn't afford it. Being a recipient of this scholarship means that someone believed in me, my talents, and my efforts. Now I get to go to one of the best schools out there.” Sumpter also has been able to travel to Europe and around the U.S. to perform and compete at several music festivals thanks to his scholarship.

Sumpter is not the only student whose life Miller changed. Deborah Stephens, a music student from Hoschton studying vocal performance, said, “I get to do what I love most,” and credited her scholarship with allowing her to “focus on being the best musician and the best student that I can be.” Miller remained fiercely anonymous during her lifetime. She received hundreds of thank you notes addressed to “an anonymous donor,” and although she never met the students whose lives she impacted, she cherished their letters.

“Cora Miller’s gifts have been transformative in countless students’ lives,” said Dale Monson, director of the School of Music. “These students come here with a desire to share their love for music, and she has made that possible. This new gift will nurture the dreams of generations to come.”

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UGA law school names inaugural Philip H. Alston, Jr. Distinguished Law Fellows

The University of Georgia School of Law has named the inaugural class of its Distinguished Law Fellows program. This elite fellowship program offers three law students annually the opportunity to receive a unique legal educational experience that includes domestic and international externships and guided research experiences, opportunities to meet some of the country’s top legal leaders and a full-tuition scholarship.

The fellowship is reserved for students who demonstrate extraordinary academic achievement and exceptional professional promise.

The Distinguished Law Fellows program is modeled after the university’s prestigious Foundation Fellows program for undergraduates. It is a result of a $2 million founding gift from The John N. Goddard Foundation that was facilitated by foundation trustees and UGA alumni Robert G. “Bob” Edge and John G. “Jimmy” Alston Sr. All but one of the trustees of the foundation are children or grandchildren of Elkin Goddard Alston and Philip H. Alston Jr.

The Philip H. Alston, Jr. Distinguished Law Fellows for 2016–17 are first-year law student Lindsey R. Bunting, second-year law student Taryn P. Winston and third-year law student Katherine G. “Kate” Howard.

“These three women, as the inaugural Alston Distinguished Law Fellows, are outstanding students who will receive a premium level of support and unrivaled learning opportunities,” Georgia Law Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said. “The fellowship program is a new phase in legal education and will aid in Georgia Law’s recruitment of the best and brightest students with the potential to lead and serve our state and nation, as exemplified by the career of Philip Alston.”

Benefits of being an Alston Distinguished Law Fellow include:

  • A professional development stipend to be used at the end of the fellow’s first and second years of law school for summer externships, study abroad offerings or research projects.
  • Special travel opportunities to meet some of the nation’s foremost legal advocates and jurists, including U.S. Supreme Court justices. The law school’s dean will serve as the guide for at least one of these trips.
  • A full-tuition scholarship.

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UGA students to cover 2016 Paralympic Games for The Associated Press

Nine students from the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication will cover the 2016 Paralympic Games, which open Sept. 7 in Rio de Janeiro, for The Associated Press.

The students-David Barnes, Jenn Finch, Josh Jones and Casey Sykes (from visual journalism) and Jamie Han, Emily Giambalvo, Emily Greenwood, Kendra Hansey and Kennington Smith (from Grady College’s Sports Media Certificate program)-will be fully credentialed press, producing multimedia content for global distribution by the AP.

“It will be a great experience for the students,” said Michael Giarrusso, the AP's global sports editor, “and a great service to newspapers, broadcasters and digital operations in the U.S. and around the world.”

Two Grady College professors, Vicki Michaelis, director of Grady Sports, and Mark Johnson, head of the college’s visual journalism program, will supervise and edit the students’ work in Rio. Michaelis was the lead Olympics reporter for USA TODAY from 2000–2012. She has covered nine Olympic Games.

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UGA researchers discover a drug for a tropical disease

Researchers at the University of Georgia are working to find the fastest way possible to treat and cure human African trypanosomiasis, long referred to as sleeping sickness. By working to improve chemical entities already tested in human clinical trials, they hope to have a faster route to field studies to treat the disease using drugs that can be administered orally to patients.

The study, "Discovery of Carbazole-Derived Lead Drug for Human African Trypanosomiasis," was published in Scientific Reports Aug. 26.

Human African trypanosomiasis, or HAT, is a tropical disease endemic to some rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa. A vector-borne parasitic disease, existing diagnosis and treatment regimens are complex, especially challenging in some of the world's most poverty-stricken regions.

"There is a significant challenge in terms of trying to find new drugs to control the disease," said Kojo Mensa-Wilmot, professor and head of the department of cellular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "Currently used treatments cannot be given orally and require people to go to a clinic in rural settings, which presents a problem for both health professionals as well as those infected with the disease."

The new paper describes "drug re-purposing" by the UGA-led team, an approach in which drugs developed for one disease are tested for effectiveness against a different disease. As part of a drug discovery initiative funded by the National Institutes of Health, Cleveland Biolabs Inc. synthesized a class of compounds from which the research team selected to test against the parasite. Using an animal model for the disease, the researchers administered the drug orally to and cured the disease in mice.

"Their original goal was to create compounds to cure some types of cancer. From more than 30 compounds screened we found one that cures the disease and two more with potential to eliminate the infection," Mensa-Wilmot said.

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University of Georgia program helps small companies learn how to export goods

Thanks to the University of Georgia, small companies like Commercial Fluid Power in Rome are expanding their markets outside of the U.S.

The company, which manufactures steel tubing and chrome plated bars for mining and construction equipment, began shipping its wares to Chile in 2009 after its managers took a course called ExportGA, offered through UGA's Small Business Development Center.

Commercial Fluid Power saw a 10 percent bump in sales following expansion into that market. Now the company is looking at Colombia as its next destination for exports.

"In 2009, we were looking for new markets and people to sell to and expand," said Gary Majestic, the company's general manager. ExportGA "allowed us to put a focus on (selling internationally) and pursue it intentionally."

The SBDC partners with the UGA Terry College of Business to offer companies traditional workshops, as well as help from international business students. Students attend the workshops and do a lot of the footwork necessary to allow the companies to sell to other countries.

"What's nice is both the student and company are getting classroom instruction from professionals in the various subject areas," said Rick Martin, director of the SBDC's International Trade Division and manager of the ExportGA program. "They're then using that information for a project that has an impact on a company."

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UGA dedicates Exploratory Center

The University of Georgia today dedicated the Exploratory Center, a new resource that provides personalized advising services for students who need help choosing a major, as well as for intended business and journalism majors.

Across UGA, advisors in each school and college assist students with established majors. The 13 advisors in the Exploratory Center, which is located in the heart of campus on the first floor of the Tate Student Center, are specially trained to help students identify a major that aligns with their interests and skills. In addition to housing advisors who work exclusively with students with an unspecified major, the Exploratory Center houses advisors for students who plan to pursue careers in business and journalism.

Led by coordinator Jennifer Eberhart, the advisors also refer students to partner units on campus that can assist them with career assessments, campus engagement and experiential learning opportunities that may help them identify the best academic path.

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UGA creates new fellows programs to attract worlds most promising graduate students

The University of Georgia has created two new graduate fellowship programs to boost the recruitment of students in fields that align with UGA's Signature Research Themes and the needs of Georgia's knowledge-based economy.

At the doctoral level, the university is launching an internationally competitive graduate fellows program known as the Georgia Research Education Award Traineeship. GREAT Fellowships are renewable for up to five years of total support and include a graduate research assistantship with an annual compensation of $27,000 and a tuition waiver. Ten elite Ph.D. students will be named GREAT Fellows annually beginning in fall 2017, and they will work closely with UGA faculty to conduct high-impact research in the university's Signature Research Themes of Inquiring and Innovating to Improve Human Health, Safeguarding and Sustaining Our World, and Changing Lives through the Land-Grant Mission.

At the master's level, UGA is launching the Georgia Impact Now fellows program. GAIN Fellowships are renewable for up to two years of total support and include a graduate research assistantship with an annual compensation of$20,000 and a tuition waiver. Ten GAIN Fellowships will be awarded annually beginning in fall 2017 to outstanding students pursuing degrees in fields that are critical to Georgia's economic vitality.

"These new programs will better position the University of Georgia to attract the best and brightest graduate students to our institution," said Graduate School Dean Suzanne Barbour.

Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten noted that the new fellowship programs are part of a broader initiative to increase the enrollment of talented graduate students at UGA by offering new funding opportunities and interdisciplinary programs as well as a wider array of professional development opportunities.