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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.

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Research surge continues: UGAs external funding jumps 14 percent in one year

A key indicator of research productivity at the University of Georgia has surged for a second consecutive year to reach a record level.

In fiscal year 2016, research expenditures at UGA increased by 14 percent to reach $175.3 million. UGA's dramatic increase in fiscal year 2016 comes on the heels of a 7 percent increase in fiscal year 2015 for a 21 percent rise over the past two years.

"As the university's research productivity continues to increase, so does our ability to make a positive impact on our state, nation and world," said President Jere W. Morehead. "I am grateful to our outstanding faculty, whose commitment to excellence is helping to strengthen UGA's position among the top public research universities in the country."

Research awards, which indicate future research expenditures and provide another metric of research productivity, have increased by 22 percent over the past two years.

"By any measure, UGA's research enterprise is on a powerful upward trajectory, with increases in funding from industry and nonprofits complementing gains in federal funding," said Vice President for Research David Lee.

The research productivity of existing faculty and investments in new talent through recent Presidential Hiring Initiatives and the sustained recruitment of Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholars have played an important role in advancing UGA's research enterprise. Endowed faculty chairs also help attract and retain top faculty members, and UGA added 16 in FY 2016 to bring the university's total number of endowed chairs to 267.

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Noted researcher Karen Norris named GRA Eminent Scholar

One of the nation's leading infectious disease researchers will join the University of Georgia faculty this fall as its newest Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar.

Karen Norris, currently a professor of immunology at the University of Pittsburgh, will join the faculty of UGA's Department of Infectious Diseases of the College of Veterinary Medicine and the newly developed Center for Vaccines and Immunology on Sept. 1 as the GRA Eminent Scholar in Immunology and Translational Biomedical Research.

The Georgia Research Alliance has partnered with Georgia's research universities to recruit world-class scientists who foster science- and technology-based economic development since 1990. GRA also invests in technology for research labs, helps commercialize university-based inventions and facilitates collaboration among academia, business and government. Norris will be the 16th active GRA Eminent Scholar at UGA.

"I am pleased that Dr. Norris will be joining UGA," said President Jere W. Morehead. "Her innovative work will expand the outstanding infectious disease research already being conducted here and will contribute significantly to the university's efforts to translate research into treatments for some of the world's most deadly diseases."

Norris' research focuses on infectious and chronic diseases, including HIV, pulmonary diseases, inflammatory diseases and diabetes. She has developed a number of highly relevant disease models, which she uses to understand the basic mechanisms of disease susceptibility and progression, and to test interventions that treat or prevent disease.

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UGA launches new Certified Public Manager program

The University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government is launching a new Certified Public Manager program to strengthen leadership skills for local and state government managers in Georgia.

CPM is a 26-day program that engages participants in 300 hours of study focusing on areas such as self-awareness, collaboration and process improvement. The program offers professional development opportunities for local and state public employees while developing more productive staff who are better positioned to serve citizens. UGA is the sole provider of this CPM program in Georgia.

The inaugural class will begin this month with Fulton County. A state program will begin in October 2016. Both programs' classes will take place at the UGA campus in Gwinnett.

"The institute's Certified Public Manager program is filling a gap in training needs for public employees in Georgia," said Institute of Government Director Laura Meadows. "Through these classes, employees can now develop their professional skills so they can serve their communities more effectively."

The CPM program is associated with the National CPM Consortium and is designed to improve the quality and efficiency of government agencies by developing the effectiveness and professionalism of its managers. Individuals completing the program earn the prestigious Certified Public Manager credential from UGA.

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Elevating graduate and professional education

The University of Georgia is rolling out an initiative to increase the enrollment of graduate students by offering new funding opportunities, innovative interdisciplinary programs and a wider array of professional development opportunities.

Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten noted that graduate students are drawn to UGA for the opportunity to be mentored by faculty members who are at the leading edge of their fields, and those same graduate students advance knowledge and discovery through their independent work.

"Extraordinary graduate programs and a thriving research enterprise go hand-in-hand," Whitten said, "and both are on an upward trajectory at UGA."

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UGA ranked among top 100 universities worldwide for U.S. patents

The University of Georgia is ranked among the top 100 universities worldwide for the number of U.S. utility patents granted in 2015, according to a list released this week by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.

The list, based on data obtained from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, recognizes the important role patents play in facilitating the movement of university research discoveries into the marketplace.

The UGA patents issued in 2015 included those covering a potential therapeutic for the gastrointestinal infection Cryptosporidiosis, a candidate antiviral therapeutic for hepatitis B, a wound healing product, engineered bacterial strains that facilitate biofuel production, and novel phosphors that may be used in multiple industrial applications, including the production of enhanced LED lighting.

"Being ranked among the top universities in the world underscores the innovative research being conducted by UGA faculty, staff and students and also highlights our robust technology transfer program," said Derek Eberhart, director of UGA's Innovation Gateway in the Office of the Vice President for Research. "Commercialization of university research to improve lives and promote economic development is integral to UGA's land-grant mission."