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UGA Alumni Association unveils 2016 Bulldog 100 rankings; SMD LLC tops list

The University of Georgia Alumni Association recognized the 100 fastest-growing companies owned or operated by UGA alumni during the seventh annual Bulldog 100 Celebration Jan. 30 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

The 2016 fastest-growing business was SMD LLC, founded by Shane Douthitt and Scott Mondore. Their North Carolina-based talent management and analytics company enables businesses to monetize people management. SMD's patented cloud-based talent software identifies cause-and-effect relationships between talent management and business outcomes and then converts those analytics into actionable results in just four clicks for front-line managers and individual employees. Both Douthitt and Mondore each earned a master's and doctoral degree in applied psychology from the University of Georgia.

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UGA president to chair SEC working group on compliance, enforcement, governance

The Southeastern Conference has appointed nine individuals from campuses across the SEC to form a working group to review and discuss issues concerning compliance with NCAA regulations and effective operation within the NCAA governance process, Commissioner Greg Sankey announced. University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead will serve as chair of the group.

Sankey announced in July 2015 at the SEC's annual Football Media Days that he would convene the SEC Working Group on Compliance, Enforcement and Governance, a collection of campus leaders to review and discuss NCAA issues.

"Compliance with NCAA regulations and the development of processes for effective participation by the SEC in NCAA governance are critical to the future of this Conference," Morehead said. "This working group is a proactive initiative to put the SEC in position to be a leader for many years to come in the development and enforcement of NCAA rules and regulations while solidifying our culture of compliance with those rules."

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UGA professor contributes to new science education guidelines

A new report released this week will give lawmakers, school officials and others specific direction when it comes to supporting and strengthening science teacher learning, says a University of Georgia professor who contributed to the effort.

The report, "Science Teachers' Learning: Enhancing Opportunities, Creating Supportive Contexts," produced by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, assesses and discusses essential learning opportunities for elementary, middle and high school science teachers. The book also recommends new lines of research and steps administrators and lawmakers can take to strengthen science education in the U.S.

"A lot of the time there is inequitable access to professional learning opportunities in science-for example, we're emphasizing mathematics or English and not so much science," said Julie A. Luft, Athletic Association Professor of Science and Mathematics Education in the UGA College of Education, who was one of 16 researchers, educators, scientists and science educators from across the country selected to craft the guidelines. "The recommendations themselves are great because they give policymakers direct suggestions."

The report, released Jan. 20, covers topics such as the state of science instruction, the current teaching workforce and teachers' learning needs, such as professional development. It also suggests research topics that are more in line with the Next Generation Science Standards, announced in 2013, plus specific policy guidelines for lawmakers.

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Law school creates elite fellowship with Goddard Foundation gift

The University of Georgia School of Law has established an elite fellowship program as a result of a $2 million founding gift from The John N. Goddard Foundation. Initially, the program will offer three law school students annually the opportunity to receive an educational experience including domestic and international externships and guided research experiences, opportunities to meet some of the country's top legal leaders and a full tuition scholarship.

"Enhancing graduate and professional education is a priority of the University of Georgia," said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. "The Distinguished Law Fellows program will help us to further this goal while honoring one of our most accomplished alumni. We are grateful to the Goddard Foundation for their support."

Georgia Law Dean Peter B. "Bo" Rutledge said this fellowship program will attract the best and brightest to Athens for law school and will place Georgia Law among a small group of institutions offering full-tuition-plus law school scholarships. "I am thankful to the Goddard Foundation for their generous leadership gift that will make this new level of legal education possible at Georgia Law."

The Distinguished Law Fellows program is modeled after the university's prestigious Foundation Fellows program, which was established in 1972. The initial fellows of the law school's program will be known as Philip H. Alston, Jr. Distinguished Law Fellows and will be announced later this year.

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UGA launches Georgia Certified Economic Developer program

The University of Georgia is launching a certification program for Georgia economic developers, the first of its kind in the state, UGA President Jere W. Morehead announced during his 2016 State of the University address this afternoon. The Georgia Certified Economic Developer program will provide training tailored to meet the unique needs of communities throughout the state.

The Georgia-specific program is offered through the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit. The customized curriculum provides economic development professionals training on practical topics that they can immediately apply within their community to help achieve economic success.

"To expand the university's leadership role in economic development, I am pleased to announce today that the Carl Vinson Institute of Government is launching a new state-wide certification for economic development professionals-called the Georgia Certified Economic Developer program. The new initiative features a three-year curriculum created by experts from across the state who intimately understand Georgia's unique business landscape," Morehead said in his speech. "From this point forward, economic development professionals will be able to stay in this state to receive training in an area so central to the vitality of Georgia's communities. Again, we find the Vinson Institute swiftly adapting to address emerging needs of the state."

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Timothy Burg named director of UGAs Office of STEM Education

The University of Georgia has appointed Timothy Burg, an engineer whose work bridges academia and industry, to direct its Office of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education.

Burg, previously a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Kansas State University, will lead efforts to enhance instruction and learning outcomes in the STEM fields at UGA as well as throughout the state, with partners in K-12 education and at other universities.

"Student interest in STEM has been on an upward trajectory for the past several years, and these fields play a critical role in the economic competitiveness of our state and nation," said Pamela Whitten, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. "Dr. Burg brings an extraordinary set of qualifications to UGA, and he will play a significant leadership role in advancing STEM education across the university and across Georgia."

The Office of STEM Education was founded in 2007 and represents UGA in the University System of Georgia Board of Regents STEM Initiative, the goals of which are to increase the number of K-12 students who are prepared for and interested in majoring in STEM disciplines in college; the success and completion rates of college students majoring in STEM disciplines; and the number of qualified K-12 STEM teachers. UGA's Office of STEM Education awards grants that fund faculty research projects to improve instruction and also supports learning communities consisting of UGA faculty and K-12 teachers who meet regularly to develop and share professional knowledge.

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UGA to present Presidents Medal to Abit Massey, late Jane Willson

The University of Georgia will bestow one of its highest honors on two influential Georgians this year as it presents the UGA President's Medal to Francis "Abit" Massey and the family of the late Jane Seddon Willson during Founders Day activities on Jan. 27.

The President's Medal recognizes extraordinary contributions of individuals who are not current employees of UGA who have supported students and academic programs, advanced research and inspired community leaders to enhance Georgians' quality of life.

"We are honored to recognize two great Georgians for helping to improve our state and strengthen the university," said President Jere W. Morehead. "Through their influential vision and tremendous generosity, both Abit Massey and the late Jane Willson have had a profound impact on UGA, and their contributions will continue to benefit the university for generations to come."

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UGA scientists using $5 million grant to combat invasive week Johnsongrass

A team of researchers led by faculty at the University of Georgia have received a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to find new ways of combating Johnsongrass, one of the most widespread and troublesome agricultural weeds in the world.

Native to the Mediterranean region, Johnsongrass has spread across every continent except Antarctica. It was introduced to the U.S. in the 1800s as a forage crop, but it quickly spread into surrounding farmland and natural environments, where it continues to cause millions of dollars in lost agricultural revenue each year, according to the USDA.

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Gift to UGA leadership initiative named for former gymnastics coach

A $500,000 gift to the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at the University of Georgia will create the Suzanne Yoculan Leebern Fund to support students through the Embark program.

The gift, made by UGA alumnus and University System of Georgia Board of Regents member Don Leebern Jr., specifically will provide support for UGA students who have been orphaned, placed in foster care, are under court protection or legal guardianship, or who are identified as homeless.

"Students in these situations have faced significant obstacles in their lives and, impressively, have attained the academic credentials to attend the University of Georgia," said Suzanne Yoculan Leebern. "We wanted them to have somewhere to turn for help."

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UGAs online programs ranked among the best in nation

The University of Georgia has some of the best online degree programs in the nation, according to the 2016 U.S. News & World Report Best Online Programs Rankings. UGA is ranked No. 3 among all universities for best online graduate programs in education and No. 5 for best online bachelor's programs overall.

"These latest rankings from U.S. News reflect our commitment to delivering a world-class learning experience, whether on our campuses or online," said President Jere W. Morehead. "Through our growing number of online degree programs, working professionals and other nontraditional students have opportunities to advance their careers by earning a degree from Georgia's flagship university."

Administered through UGA's Office of Online Learning, a unit of the Office of the Vice President for Instruction, the online degree programs incorporate new and innovative teaching methods implemented through the pairing of faculty with staff who are formally trained in instructional design and distance education. Over the past three years, UGA has more than doubled its number of online degree and certificate programs to bring the total to 29.