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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.

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UGA dedicates Science Learning Center

The University of Georgia dedicated its 122,500-square-foot Science Learning Center Aug. 17. An estimated 10,000-12,000 students will utilize the building each day for classes in chemistry, biology, physics, ecology, math, computer science and genetics.

The three-story facility, which opened for fall semester classes last week, aims to enhance a strong foundation in the sciences at UGA. Supported by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and funded by Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia General Assembly, the center cost $48 million and includes 33 instructional labs, two 280-seat lecture halls, two 72-seat SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs) classrooms as well as spaces for informal student collaboration.

"This impressive facility represents a transformation of science education at the University of Georgia," said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. "We are especially grateful to Governor Deal, the General Assembly, and the Board of Regents for their support."

With updated instructional spaces able to facilitate the most effective STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) teaching methods, the Science Learning Center is geared toward retaining and recruiting more STEM majors with the goal of increasing the number of students who pursue careers in these fields.

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Informatics Initiative at UGA brings new faculty, learning opportunities

A new informatics course open to students from across campus is just one sign of a far-reaching initiative to create new learning opportunities related to data analysis and security while building on the University of Georgia's record of using big data to advance knowledge and discovery.

Eight new faculty members will join UGA this year following the completion of the Presidential Informatics Hiring Initiative, and a proposal to create a campus-wide Georgia Informatics Institutes for Research and Education is being submitted to the institution's University Council. On Oct. 11, the university will host its first interdisciplinary informatics workshop, which will include discussions led by UGA faculty members, opportunity for networking among faculty and students across a wide range of disciplines as well as interdisciplinary speakers.

"The explosion of digital information has created new opportunities in so many fields-from the sciences to engineering and the humanities," said Kyle Johnsen, an associate professor of engineering who is directing the campus-wide initiative to establish the GII. "Our goal is to help faculty use informatics as a tool to help answer research questions while making it easier for them to incorporate informatics into their instruction."

The new informatics course, which is listed as special topics in engineering (ENGR 4900) but in the future will be listed under a proposed INFO course prefix, will introduce students to data analysis and help them develop evidence-based decision-making skills that can be applied to any field. The course is the foundation of a proposed undergraduate certificate program in informatics that also would include discipline-specific courses and several electives. Planning for a graduate certificate program in informatics that would have an emphasis on research is currently underway, as well.

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UGA dean wins national tax education award

The American Taxation Association honored Benjamin C. Ayers, dean of the University of Georgia Terry College of Business, with the Ray M. Sommerfeld Outstanding Tax Educator Award during its annual conference in August.

Ayers, who also holds the Earl Davis Chair in Taxation, has been at UGA since 1996, where he has received 11 teaching awards at the school, college and university levels. He is the former director of the J.M. Tull School of Accounting and was recognized as being in the top 5 percent of the most productive accounting researchers over the last 50 years.

Funded by the Ernst & Young Foundation, the Outstanding Tax Educator Award honors superior contributions by a faculty member in tax-related teaching, research and service and is the ATA's highest honor, according to the association's website. The award is named in memory of Ray M. Sommerfeld, a longtime professor at the University of Texas and the first recipient of the award.

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UGAs Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement celebrates its 20th anniversary

The Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, the oldest peer-reviewed interdisciplinary publication on engagement between higher education and communities, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Published by the University of Georgia, JHEOE's first issue of 2016 kicked off the celebration and features 11 articles that have had the greatest impact on the field in the past 20 years, based on a survey of the journal's 37-member editorial board. The articles are reprinted and are followed by responses from their original author(s) or by other eminent scholars.

"This issue is particularly exciting," said Lorilee R. Sandmann, editor of the journal and UGA professor emerita. "As a capstone of the last 20 years, it is a retrospective and prospective about the important work of public scholarship-both theoretically and practically."

The journal was launched in 1996 as the Journal of Public Service and Outreach, and later was renamed the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement.

Eugene Younts, then UGA's vice president for public service, noted the journal's importance as a way to openly exchange ideas that supported the integration of service into the teaching and research missions of the university. Younts also underscored the journal's capacity to reveal how higher education uses its unparalleled expertise to address complex societal problems and the particular obligation of land-grant institutions in advancing modern society.

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UGAs incoming class sets records for academic qualifications, diversity

In addition to being the first class at the University of Georgia to benefit fully from the university's experiential learning initiative, the more than 5,400 students who will begin classes next week are the institution's most academically gifted to date.

The average high school grade point average of first-year students at the nation's first state-chartered university is 3.98, which greatly exceeds last year's average of 3.91. In addition, the average SAT score for the incoming class reached a new high of 1302 this year. The average score for students who took the ACT was 29, which ties last year's record. In 2011, for comparison, the average SAT score for incoming students was 1226, and the average ACT score was 28.

The rigor of students' high school curriculum remains a key factor in admissions decisions, and members of the Class of 2020 enrolled in an average of seven College Board Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses in high school.

Nearly 23,000 students applied for admission into the Class of 2020, an increase of 3 percent over the previous year. UGA attempted to meet this unprecedented demand through a measured increase in the size of the freshman class, which was nearly 5,300 last year. UGA's acceptance rate for fall 2016 was 53 percent, compared to 63 percent in 2011.