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UGA adopts new plan to enhance diversity and inclusion

The University of Georgia’s Planning Committee on Diversity and Inclusive Excellence has completed its work, establishing a five-year roadmap to advance diversity and inclusion at UGA.

The plan includes 11 university-level goals ranging from increasing the enrollment of underrepresented students to increasing the number of underrepresented faculty and staff as well as increasing institutional visibility in the educational pipeline of underserved communities.

The planning process was led by Michelle Cook, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and strategic university initiatives, and Kyle Tschepikow, special assistant to the president and director for strategy and innovation, and included 21 faculty, staff, students, alumni and local community members.

“I want to thank Dr. Cook, Dr. Tschepikow and the members of the planning committee for their outstanding leadership and service,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead, who charged the planning committee last fall. “The work of the committee provides a clear path forward to create a better, stronger UGA, and I am excited about the positive impact this new plan will make on our university community in the years ahead.”

Each of the 11 goals in the plan includes key performance indicators to measure progress over time as well as institutional actions to be implemented immediately. These include developing pipeline programs with targeted high schools, providing training for search committees and hiring authorities, and establishing scholarships for experiential learning in rural Georgia, among other actions.

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Three UGA faculty members elected to National Academy of Sciences

Three distinguished faculty members at the University of Georgia have received one of the highest honors a scientist can earn, election to the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership and — with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine — provides science, engineering, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

The University of Georgia’s three newest National Academy of Sciences members are:

  • Mary Ann Moran, Regents’ Professor in marine sciences
  • Gregory H. Robinson, UGA Foundation Distinguished Professor of Chemistry
  • Marshall Shepherd, Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Geography and Atmospheric Sciences

“First and foremost, on behalf of the University of Georgia, I want to congratulate Drs. Moran, Robinson and Shepherd on this outstanding achievement,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “This announcement is a clear sign of both their accomplishments as scholars and the growing national reputation of the University of Georgia. To have three faculty members inducted in a single year is truly a proud moment for UGA.”

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UGA's J. Marshall Shepherd elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

The University of Georgia’s J. Marshall Shepherd has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an honorary society that recognizes and celebrates the excellence of its members and is also an independent research center that convenes leaders from across disciplines, professions and perspectives to address significant challenges.

This highly prestigious national honor comes in the same year that Shepherd, the Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Geography and Atmospheric Sciences, was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

A UGA faculty member since 2006, Shepherd is a leading international expert in weather and climate. He directs the university’s Atmospheric Sciences Program and is a professor in the department of geography, part of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

“Dr. Shepherd follows in the great tradition of prolific and talented expositors of science, the scientific method, and the human condition,” said Alan T. Dorsey, dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “With a gift for communicating his significant scientific expertise on climate and weather in an accessible, clear and compelling fashion, he is inspiring a new generation of budding scientists, both at UGA and across the nation.”

The American Academy of Arts and Scientists was founded in 1780, during the American Revolution, by John Adams, John Hancock and 60 other scholar-patriots who understood that a new republic would require institutions able to gather knowledge and advance learning in service to the public good. It honors excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world, and work together “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.”

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Footsteps Award to recognize social justice efforts by alumni

When Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes took their first steps onto the University of Georgia campus in 1961 as UGA’s first enrolled Black students, they opened the way for generations to follow in their footsteps. Mary Frances Early soon followed, becoming the first Black student to graduate from the University of Georgia.

A new UGA award named for those momentous steps, the Footsteps Award, will recognize those UGA alumni who honor the legacy of Hunter-Gault, Holmes and Early through exemplary social justice work.

Members of the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors brought forward the idea for the award in anticipation of the 60th anniversary of desegregation at UGA. They knew of great work being done by UGA alumni, but there was no specific recognition for it. After deliberating on the idea and presenting it to President Morehead, the Footsteps Award was born.

Nominations for the Footsteps Award will open in November and close on Jan. 9, the 61st anniversary of the day Hunter-Gault and Holmes enrolled in classes. The honoree will be a UGA graduate who has made a significant positive impact in human rights, race relations or education in their community. Selected by a committee of UGA faculty, staff and students, the first recipient will be named as part of the 2022 Holmes-Hunter Lecture in February.

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Two UGA undergraduates named Goldwater Scholars

University of Georgia Honors students Claire Bunn and Yoong “Terry” Phang are among 410 undergraduates across the nation to be recognized as Barry Goldwater Scholars in 2021, earning the highest undergraduate award of its type for the fields of the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.

Bunn, from Marion, Arkansas, is a third-year Foundation Fellow and Stamps Scholar majoring in genetics and minoring in statistics. Phang, from Cumming, is a third-year majoring in physics and mathematics with a focus on condensed matter physics. Both are in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Since 1995, 63 UGA students have received the Goldwater Scholarship, which recognizes exceptional sophomores and juniors across the United States.

“The University of Georgia is proud of Claire and Terry for this impressive achievement,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “I am pleased that the significant investments UGA has made, and continues to make, in STEM education are paying dividends for our students and our society.”

“Claire and Terry richly deserve recognition by the Goldwater Foundation for their hard work and research excellence,” said David S. Williams, associate provost and director of the Honors Program. “They have benefited greatly by working with very gifted faculty members. Together, they represent the strength of UGA’s undergraduate research program, including CURO, our Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities.”

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UGA, Chess & Community launch new partnership

The University of Georgia and the local nonprofit Chess & Community have launched a new partnership that uses robotics to enhance STEM education opportunities for promising Clarke County students.

Over the next three years, the university will provide financial assistance and on-campus space to support Pawn Accelerator — a community-centered robotics and chess program that educates students about the foundations of technology and innovation, nurturing skills that they will need for future careers in STEM fields, including literacy in robotics and engineering.

The program has three progressive tiers that ultimately promote design thinking and innovation.  As part of the partnership, the university will make space available for students in locations dedicated to sparking innovation – such as the new Innovation Hub and Studio 225, the home of the UGA Entrepreneurship Program.

Founded in Athens, Chess & Community is dedicated to empowering young leaders in Northeast Georgia. It provides real-world knowledge through positive youth engagement in critical thinking, civic engagement, peer learning and cultural experiences.

The new initiative joins nearly 50 existing UGA programs and partnerships launched in recent years that support the Clarke County School District. 

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UGA to establish national NIH-funded center to fight flu

The National Institutes of Health has awarded the University of Georgia a contract to establish the Center for Influenza Disease and Emergence Research (CIDER). The contract will provide $1 million in first-year funding and is expected to be supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH, for seven years and up to approximately $92 million. Scientists in the multi-institutional center will work to increase understanding of influenza virus emergence and infection in humans and animals while also making preparations to combat future outbreaks or pandemics.

The contract is the university’s second major NIH award for influenza research in less than two years. These two awards represent a potential NIH investment of more than $220 million in UGA’s flu research, which unites scientists from a wide range of disciplines across the university.

In addition to faculty from multiple units across UGA, CIDER will include external partners such as Boston Children’s Hospital, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the University of Rochester and the University of Melbourne. It will be directed by S. Mark Tompkins, professor of infectious diseases in UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and its deputy director will be Pejman Rohani, Regents’ Professor and UGA Athletic Association Professor in Ecology and Infectious Diseases in the Odum School of Ecology and College of Veterinary Medicine.

CIDER becomes part of a national network of Centers of Excellence in Influenza Research and Response established by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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SBDC webinar to provide information on Restaurant Revitalization Fund

The University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center is offering a webinar on April 14 to help explain a new federal program designed to help Georgia restaurants and bars hard hit financially by the pandemic.

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), expected to launch soon, will provide grants to restaurants and bars, with funding based on lost revenue. The RRF is provided through the American Rescue Plan and administered through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

The webinar will be led by a team of experts from the UGA SBDC, who will explain eligibility for the program, how much a business could receive and what documentation is needed for the application.

Additionally, the webinar will cover the implications of applying for the RRF and other SBA relief programs, as access to funds could be impacted through participation in other COVID-19 relief funding programs.

The no cost webinar is scheduled for April 14 from 2-3:30 p.m. and time will be reserved for webinar participants to ask questions. Registration is required.

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Five faculty members named Meigs Professors for teaching excellence

Five faculty members at the University of Georgia have been awarded the institution’s highest teaching honor, the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professorship.

The 2020-2021 Meigs professors are:

  • Joseph Goetz, professor of financial planning in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences
  • John Mativo, associate professor of career and information studies in the Mary Frances Early College of Education
  • Lori A. Ringhand, J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law in the School of Law
  • Jo Smith, associate professor of small animal internal medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Zachary Wood, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

“This year’s Meigs Professorship honorees are exemplary educators who engage students at all levels through innovative instruction and experiential learning,” said S. Jack Hu, the university’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “They are committed to positioning their students for success, not only in the classroom but throughout their lives.”

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UGA hosts national Rural Student Success unConference

University of Georgia’s inaugural Redefining Rural Students’ Success and Wellbeing: An unConference on Practice, Research, and Innovation, held March 19-20, was its first national convening to discuss rural student access into and through American higher education.

The virtual event boasted 156 registrants with representation from 31 states and 70 organizations and institutions. Over two days, attendees listened to three keynote speakers, UGA students from rural areas, and a panel discussion moderated by Beckie Supiano of The Chronicle of Higher Education, with breaks for rich discussions on various subjects related to rural student success and wellbeing.

Now considered a leader in rural student success, UGA invited researchers, practitioners, policymakers, students and the community to join together in a national conversation. In lieu of a traditional conference, it borrowed the concept of the unConference from the technology and business worlds and therefore focused not on formal research presentations but on “roundtable” conversations. 

“Rural students are an integral part of our student body, and we wanted to promote a larger, more robust conversation around their success,” said Rahul Shrivastav, vice president for instruction. “We were pleased to host this conference as an incubation space for national constituents to come together to discuss all aspects of supporting students from rural areas, from recruitment through graduation and beyond.”