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First Lady visits UGA

First Lady of the United States Jill Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona met with local schoolchildren, parents and educators at the University of Georgia’s Ramsey Student Center to learn more about a summer enrichment program offered by Horizons Atlanta.

The six-week learning experience, supported by UGA’s Mary Frances Early College of Education, combines academics with confidence-building activities like swimming, arts and athletics to help build a lifelong passion for learning.

Launched in early 2022, Horizons Atlanta at UGA will serve 270 rising 1st through 9th graders from the Athens area at full enrollment.

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Carmichael named UGA's first director of active learning

The University of Georgia is ramping up its commitment to active learning with its first appointment focused specifically on the instructional method. Leah Carmichael, a lecturer in the School of Public and International Affairs, will take the helm as director of active learning on Aug. 1.

As director of active learning, Carmichael will lead the implementation of a five-year, $6 million campus-wide initiative to promote and enhance the use of active learning strategies in the undergraduate classroom. Active learning moves beyond the standard lecture to engage students in the classroom, encouraging them to be active participants as they work to build knowledge and reflect on the learning process. It includes activities that provide real-time feedback, such as problem solving, in-class group work and reflective writing.

The active learning initiative is the university’s newest quality enhancement plan, which is a plan to enhance student learning developed as part of UGA’s reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of College and Schools (SACSCOC). The plan builds on existing programs, such as the Center for Teaching and Learning’s Active Learning Summer Institute, a three-week intensive program that helps faculty redesign courses using active learning methods, and several rounds of classroom enhancement initiatives aimed at making UGA classrooms more flexible. A SACSCOC committee visited campus in late March to provide feedback on the plan, which is focused on three areas: instructor development, student initiatives and classroom renovations.

“Dr. Leah Carmichael’s appointment as director is the next step in broadening the implementation of active learning at the University of Georgia,” said S. Jack Hu, the university’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “She has a passion for teaching and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in active learning as an instructor and campus collaborator. We are delighted to have her expertise and enthusiasm in this essential position.”

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UGA breaks fundraising record with over $257M in FY22

University of Georgia alumni and friends gave back to UGA at unprecedented levels over the past fiscal year, breaking the university’s fundraising record with over $257.4 million in donations.

“It has been an exceptional year for our university, and the generous contributions provided by UGA alumni and friends have been a major factor in our success,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “I offer sincere thanks to the UGA Foundation Board of Trustees and each and every donor for helping our students turn their dreams into reality, supporting our faculty to advance their teaching and scholarship, and growing our public service and outreach programs that strengthen communities and expand economic development.”

The record-breaking amount came from 71,302 donors. In five of the last six years, UGA’s yearly fundraising total has been over $200 million, and the university’s three-year rolling average, which averages the three most recent years of giving, reached $212.5 million for FY22.

“The remarkable generosity of UGA donors illustrates the strong and distinctive philanthropic culture throughout the UGA community,” said Neal Quirk, chair of the UGA Foundation Board of Trustees. “This record-setting year will benefit our students, our campus and our state long into the future, and our Trustees are extremely grateful to all donors who made this happen.”

Collectively, donors created 116 scholarship funds and 18 endowed faculty positions, bringing the university’s total to 340 endowed faculty positions. Private giving to the university fueled significant progress across all areas of campus.

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If students can't get to the coast, UGA brings the coast to them

For more than 50 years, educators at the University of Georgia’s Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island have hosted pre-K to 12th grade students for hands-on programs about the coastal environment.

This year, those educators are taking the show on the road. With support from Bass Pro Shop, Georgia Power and Friends of the UGA Aquarium, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant staff and volunteers are taking programs into every school in Savannah-Chatham County.

“Classroom outreach brings exciting marine science experiences to students and teachers who don’t have the resources or time in their teaching schedules to visit the aquarium in person,” said Anne Lindsay, associate director of education at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “We don’t want communities whose schools have limited resources to miss out on important learning opportunities.”

The goal of both is to engage students in learning experiences that connect them to the outside world. Since February, the marine education staff has presented the programs to more than 1,000 students in 12 public schools.

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Amstutz named dean of Morehead Honors College

Margaret A. “Meg” Amstutz, an experienced higher education administrator known for guiding significant University of Georgia initiatives, has been named dean of the Jere W. Morehead Honors College, effective August 1.

Since February, Amstutz has led the Morehead Honors College in an interim role, overseeing the operations of the college as well as the campus-wide Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities and the Foundation Fellowship, the university’s top academic scholarship.

“Dr. Amstutz is one of the most talented and student-focused administrators at the University of Georgia, and I am delighted that she has been chosen as the next dean of the Morehead Honors College,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Under her leadership, the Morehead Honors College will continue to ascend the ranks of the best honors colleges in the nation.”

Amstutz previously served as associate provost for academic programs and chief of staff in the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at UGA. A key adviser on administrative and academic affairs, she led university-wide initiatives of the Provost’s Office and worked closely with campus and external stakeholders.

During her career, she has regularly taught Honors seminar courses, led Honors book discussions, and participated on Foundation Fellowship selection committees.

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NSF grant enables UGA to expand statewide STEM program

A highly successful UGA-led statewide alliance has just received a major boost in federal funding to increase participation in STEM fields among students from underrepresented groups.

The National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Georgia $2.5 million to expand the Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) – a coalition of six public colleges and universities in Georgia formed to increase the number of underrepresented students statewide who complete undergraduate and advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

The initiative provides academic enrichment, professional development, financial support, peer and faculty mentoring, and research opportunities for students. Initiatives include summer research programs, GRE test preparation, faculty mentor programs, academic planning and advising seminars, tutoring and K-12 outreach, and STEM career planning.

Faculty, staff and students at UGA are joined in this alliance by their counterparts at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University-Perimeter College, Kennesaw State University and two historically black universities: Fort Valley State University and Savannah State University.

“As Georgia’s flagship public institution, we are proud to lead the Peach State LSAMP, which has created new opportunities for thousands of students statewide,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “We greatly appreciate the National Science Foundation’s continued support of this successful alliance.”

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New site helps locals find access to meals

One of the challenges facing Athens residents with food insecurity during the pandemic was the lack of a directory listing locations and requirements for recipients. Thanks to a website created and operated by the University of Georgia, residents now have direct access to information about dozens of food distribution sites throughout Athens every month.

The Community Food Resources database for Athens-Clarke County is housed on Engage Georgia, a platform the UGA Office of Service-Learning launched for local volunteer opportunities. The site lists the food distribution sites available each day, their addresses, the kind of meal or food offered, and any requirements for recipients. For May, the website listed 108 individual food distributions.

The database and website had been needed for some time, said Josh Podvin, assistant director for community partnerships at the Office of Service-Learning, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit. Previously, individual agencies and organizations were printing lists of their dates and offerings, but those could change as fast as new lists were printed and they were all individual—no one had a comprehensive list. “The more that we can continue to let people know that there’s a central place to find out about distributions, we’re going to try and continue to do that,” Podvin said.

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Student-designed park inspired by area's history

When Hartwell residents turned out in May to install plants at the site of a new downtown park, University of Georgia alumna Elizabeth Crimmins was right there alongside them in the dirt.

Crimmins, a student from Chattanooga who earned her Master of Landscape Architecture from the UGA College of Environment and Design in May, designed the Hartwell Park as part of her work as a graduate assistant with the Archway Partnership.

“The inspiration for Railroad Street Park’s design came from the site’s significant role in Hartwell’s history,” Crimmins said. “Many generations of community members have interacted with this site over time, and I wanted to create a space that allows future generations to feel connected to its history through interpretation and materiality.”

Crimmins is among a steady stream of UGA students who have traveled to Hart County in recent years to help the community with projects designed to boost tourism, increase workforce development and education opportunities, improve residents’ quality of life and prepare for growth.

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New flood maps clarify the risk homeowners face

Flooding in urban areas cost Americans more than $106 billion between 1960 and 2016, damaging property, disrupting businesses and claiming lives in the process. Determining which areas are most likely to flood amid ever-changing land use and shifting rainfall and climate patterns can be expensive and complicated – and past methods of drawing flood maps fail to capture the inherent uncertainty in flood predictions.

Now, new research from the University of Georgia outlines a simplified, cost-effective method for developing flood maps that reflects the uncertainty in flood predictions. Published in the journal Water, the study was led by engineering professor Brian Bledsoe, director of UGA’s Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems (IRIS), and Tim Stephens, a UGA and IRIS alumnus now with Dynamic Solutions LLC, an engineering, planning and research firm that specializes in water resources.

The study offers what the researchers describe as “a practical, simplified approach for quantifying uncertainty in flood hazard estimates” by modeling flooding in two urban watersheds: Proctor Creek in Atlanta and Bronx Wash in Tucson, Arizona.

The new approach introduced by Bledsoe and Stephens uses the concept of confidence intervals, which show the standard of deviation around a specific prediction, to help clarify the flooding risk homeowners face in any given place. This approach differs from traditional flood maps because it captures the variation in potential flooding scenarios for any given spot within the map.

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UGA Foundation elects new trustees, creates scholarships

The University of Georgia Foundation Board of Trustees elected new board members and created a scholarship fund recognizing a UGA staff member at the board’s annual meeting held June 8-10 at UGA’s Delta Hall in Washington, D.C.

Last fall, the board created a Distinguished Service Award recognizing a long-serving UGA employee or volunteer the board deems to have a record of impactful and selfless service to others. The board allocates $100,000 from the foundation’s unrestricted operating surplus to establish a student scholarship in the honoree’s name.

Karin Lichey Usry, director of board relations, was named the Distinguished Service Award winner at the annual meeting. Usry’s need-based scholarship will give preference to students studying entomology, a focus of her family business, Southland Organics.

“The UGA Foundation has soared to new heights across all of its committees, and for years, Karin has played a very significant role in that success while never seeking any credit or recognition,” said UGA Foundation Chairman Neal Quirk. “She represents the true meaning of service to others.”

The new scholarship caps a fiscal year in which the board made significant financial commitments to the university. In addition to the annual support provided by the board for academic operations, trustees allocated over $7 million of unrestricted operating reserved resources to fund student scholarships, faculty professorships, facility projects and more.