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Noel Fallows named associate provost for international education at UGA

Noel Fallows, an administrator with a proven record of fostering international partnerships in research, instruction and outreach, has been named associate provost for international education at the University of Georgia.

Fallows has been serving as interim associate provost for international education since February and was previously associate dean of international and multidisciplinary programs in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

“Throughout his career, Dr. Fallows has forged connections that open doors of discovery and opportunity,” said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten. “I am confident that he will build upon UGA's national leadership in providing study abroad opportunities while continuing to create mutually beneficial partnerships that advance research, scholarship and service.”

Fallows, a Distinguished Research Professor of Spanish in the department of Romance languages, joined the UGA faculty in 1992 as an assistant professor. As associate provost for international education, he oversees nearly 200 university-level partnerships in more than 50 countries, as well as 180 study abroad programs and more than 50 international exchange programs with collective enrollments in excess of 2,500 students per year. UGA's Office of International Education also oversees residential study abroad programs in Cortona, Italy; San Luis de Monteverde, Costa Rica; and Oxford, United Kingdom; as well as immigration services for international students and visiting scholars.

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Researcher receives $5.2 million to develop affordable diagnostic test for Chagas disease

An international team of researchers led by infectious disease experts at the University of Georgia has received $5.2 million from the National Institutes of Health to develop a more accurate, affordable diagnostic test for Chagas disease, a parasitic infection that kills more than 50,000 people each year in Central and South America.

Caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and spread by blood-feeding insects commonly known as “kissing bugs,” Chagas disease is considered by many to be the most neglected of the neglected tropical diseases. While it is endemic to Latin America, Chagas disease is a growing threat in the U.S. and Europe.

Currently, there are only two drug treatments available; however, their usage is limited due to severe adverse reactions and the length of treatment required.

“Fortunately, there are a number of new drug discovery efforts in Chagas disease. But a major limitation is the difficulty in comparing the relative efficacy of current drugs to newly developed ones,” said Rick Tarleton, UGA Athletic Association Distinguished Research Professor of Biological Sciences in the department of cellular biology and Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases. “One simply can't wait for 10 years (as current protocols require) to determine if a new drug is better than the existing ones.”

In Chagas disease, the number of parasites in chronically infected individuals is extremely low, making detection of parasites an unreliable test to determine if an individual is infected. Instead, the researchers have focused on the body’s response to infection by measuring the unique antibodies that the immune system creates in response to exposure to T. cruzi.

Tarleton and his UGA colleagues have already developed a successful multiplex blood test that measures antibodies to multiple T. cruzi proteins. While their test has proven to be useful in the laboratory, it is also expensive.

The primary goal of their current project is to make the test more sensitive by expanding the number of T. cruzi antibodies it can detect. But the researchers are also developing techniques to make the test more affordable so that it can be used in diagnostic centers in endemic countries.

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University of Georgia receives national diversity award for third consecutive year

For the third year in a row, the University of Georgia has received national recognition for its efforts to foster an inclusive, diverse campus.

UGA is one of 83 recipients of the 2016 INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award, the only designation of its kind awarded to institutions that demonstrate outstanding efforts and success in promoting diversity and inclusion throughout their campuses.

“It is a great honor for the University of Georgia to be recognized with the HEED Award for the third consecutive year,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “UGA is strengthened by the contributions of its diverse and outstanding students, faculty and staff. We are committed to fostering the kind of inclusive academic environment that is a hallmark of a leading public university.”

UGA, which first received the recognition in 2014, has implemented several initiatives over the past decade to recruit diverse students, faculty and staff and to improve the graduation rates of underrepresented groups. The university offers myriad diversity related events and curricular offerings.

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Researchers reveal that magnetic rust performs as gold at the nanoscale

Researchers from the University of Georgia are giving new meaning to the phrase “turning rust into gold”—and making the use of gold in research settings and industrial applications far more affordable.

The research is akin to a type of modern-day alchemy, said Simona Hunyadi Murph, adjunct professor in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of physics and astronomy. Researchers combine small amounts of gold nanoparticles with magnetic rust nanoparticles to create a hybrid nanostructure that retains both the properties of gold and rust.

“Medieval alchemists tried to create gold from other metals,” she said. “That's kind of what we did with our research. It's not real alchemy, in the medieval sense, but it is a sort of 21st century version.”

Gold has long been a valuable resource for industry, medicine, dentistry, computers, electronics and aerospace, among others, due to unique physical and chemical properties that make it inert and resistant to oxidation. But because of its high cost and limited supply, large scale projects using gold can be prohibitive. At the nanoscale, however, using a very small amount of gold is far more affordable.

In the new study published this summer in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C, the researchers used solution chemistry to reduce gold ions into a metallic gold structure using sodium citrate. In this process, if other ingredients—rust in this case—are present in the reaction pot during the transformation process, the metallic gold structures nucleate and grow on these “ingredients,” otherwise known as supports.

“We are really excited to share our new discoveries. When researchers are looking at gold as a potential material for research, we talk about how expensive gold is. For the first time ever, we’ve been able to create a new class of cheaper, highly efficient, nontoxic, magnetically reusable hybrid nanomaterials that contain a far more abundant material-rust-than the typical noble metal gold,” said Murph, who is also a principal scientist in the National Security Directorate at the Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, South Carolina.

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Peabody Awards appoints six prestigious new members to its Board of Jurors

The Peabody Awards at the University of Georgia has appointed Marcy Carsey, Herman Gray, Kathy Im, Kim Masters, Mark McKinnon and John Seigenthaler to its Board of Jurors.

The Peabody Board of Jurors is made up of media industry professionals, media scholars, critics and journalists, each appointed by the Peabody director for a renewable three-year term of service. This mix of top-level thought leaders from varied backgrounds, all versed in media excellence, ensures that the list of winning programs will reflect the interest of a broad cross-section of audiences, rather than just media insiders.

The single criteria for receiving a Peabody Award is excellence. Toward that end, jurors ask themselves: Does this story matter? Is this a story that needs telling? Does it inform us as citizens or help us empathize with one another?

The existing Board of Jurors includes Eric Deggans, NPR TV critic; Eddie Garrett (chair), EVP and head of strategy for Weber Shandwick; Jonathan Gray, professor of media and cultural studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison; John Huey, former editor-in-chief of TIME Inc.; Henry Jenkins, professor of communication, journalism, cinematic arts and education at the University of Southern California; Simon Kilmurry, executive director of the International Documentary Association; Martha Nelson, global editor-in-chief of Yahoo Media; Monica Pearson, radio show host, columnist and retired WSB-TV news anchor; Marquita Pool-Eckert, former senior producer of “CBS Sunday Morning;” Naibe Reynoso, host and producer for Ora TV; and Bird Runningwater, director, Native American and Indigenous Program at Sundance Institute.

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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.