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UGA researcher leads effort to reduce neural tube defects

A University of Georgia researcher is leading an international effort to reduce neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in developing countries that is backed by a $734,437 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the hosting organization, Nutrition International.

Lynn Bailey, a noted expert in folate research and head of the department of foods and nutrition within the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences, is chair of an expert advisory group assembled last year by Nutrition International to develop a “roadmap for action” for preventing NTDs.

The group is charged with building global capacity for folate testing laboratories in low and middle-income countries along with effective folic acid fortification programs and NTD-surveillance systems to document the effectiveness of these approaches to prevent NTDs. The term of the initial phase of funding is 18 months.

Bailey was chosen to lead the group due to a lifetime of work in the research of folate, an essential B vitamin required for DNA synthesis and normal growth and development.

Maternal folate deficiency within the first month of pregnancy is a major cause of NTDs, with a global estimate of around 260,000 affected pregnancies annually.

The project is the result of a technical consultation also chaired by Bailey and hosted by Nutrition International that began in 2016 and includes global partners like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

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UGA works to tackle Georgia's opioid abuse crisis

Statewide efforts to thwart the opioid epidemic that is ravaging Georgia communities got a boost recently at three conferences that brought together public and private sector leaders to learn more about the problem and how to address it.

The conferences, coordinated by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government for the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, are just one of many ways UGA is helping to address critical challenges facing the state.

Hundreds of counselors, educators, health care providers and social workers attended conferences in Cartersville, Macon and Stone Mountain to better understand addiction from a pharmacological and neurological perspective and learn about medication-assisted treatment. The sessions brought together the people who, in their jobs, are most likely to come in contact with individuals who struggle with opioid misuse.

“The institute played a key role in organizing a way for front-line service providers to learn more about this deadly epidemic and exchange ideas and wisdom,” said Laura Meadows, director of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. “It’s the kind of outreach that’s integral to the institute’s mission of applying UGA’s resources to address a critical issue.”

The institute worked with the Office of Addictive Diseases at DBHDD to organize the training conferences for health professionals and treatment providers, securing expert speakers from the Opioid Treatment Providers of Georgia organization and the UGA College of Pharmacy.

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Denzell Cross awarded Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship

Denzell Cross, a doctoral student in integrative conservation and ecology at the University of Georgia, has been awarded a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship. This highly selective award—approximately 65 were given in 2018—provides three years of support for study in pursuit of a doctorate.

It recognizes academic excellence; promise for future achievement as a scholar, researcher and teacher in higher education; and capacity to use diversity as a resource to enrich the education of all students. Cross is the fourth UGA student to receive the award.

Cross studies the impacts of landscape-scale disturbance on urban watersheds in Georgia using trait-based ecology and historical data. Specifically, he is exploring how the structure and function of communities of macroinvertebrates—small creatures like insects, crayfish and snails—living in streams and rivers change through time in response to increasing urbanization.

“Denzell is a perfect example of the kind of scholar we hope to train in the integrative conservation program,” said Meredith Welch Devine, director of interdisciplinary graduate studies in the UGA Graduate School. “His work has great potential not only to advance our scientific understanding, but also to make a real difference in how we approach conservation in urban contexts. This fellowship from the Ford Foundation is a wonderful recognition of this outstanding scholar.”

The Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship is administered by the Fellowships Office of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

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UGA's 2018 Udall Scholar is focused on sustaining the world's fish populations

University of Georgia junior Guy Eroh has a particular passion for fish, and his focus on the sustainability of these aquatic animals has earned him national recognition as a 2018 Udall Scholar.

He was one of 50 undergraduates from across the nation and U.S. territories selected for the scholarship awarded to sophomores and juniors on the basis of their commitment to careers in the environment, Native health care or tribal public policy.

Eroh, from Portland, Oregon, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in ecology and a master’s degree in forest resources. An Honors student and Foundation Fellow, he intends to earn a doctorate in biological science with an emphasis in molecular genetics and fisheries science, with the long-term goal of improving the recovery and sustainability of the world’s fish populations and their habitats.

With the addition of Eroh, UGA has had 12 Udall Scholars in the past eight years and 17 total since the scholarship was first awarded in 1996.

Through the application of novel, relevant scientific information and technologies, Eroh intends to revolutionize the way fish populations and their ecosystems are managed. He is preparing for a career specific to fish conservation as a researcher for a university or government agency.

He currently conducts research with UGA faculty Cecil Jennings, Robert Bringolf and Jean Williams-Woodward to maximize hatch success of walleye eggs. Eroh also interned for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the Center for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in the UK.

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Office of Research director inducted into College of Fellows

Crystal S. Leach, director of industry collaborations in the Office of Research, has been inducted to the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Leach was nominated, reviewed and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows for outstanding leadership to advance innovative medical technologies and for longstanding commitment to diversity.

Election to the AIMBE College of Fellows is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to a medical and biological engineer.

The College of Fellows is composed of the top 2 percent of medical and biological engineers. College membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to “engineering and medicine research, practice or education” and to “the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of medical and biological engineering or developing/implementing innovative approaches to bioengineering education.”

A formal induction ceremony was held April 9 during the AIMBE annual meeting at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. Leach was inducted along with 156 colleagues who make up the AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2018.

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Denise Spangler named dean of College of Education

Denise A. Spangler, a faculty member and administrator with an exemplary record of collaboration both on campus and off, has been named dean of the University of Georgia College of Education.

Spangler, the Bebe Aderhold Professor in Early Childhood Education, has served as interim dean since March. Her appointment as dean is effective May 1.

Spangler joined the UGA faculty in 1995 and has held a series of leadership positions, from head of the department of mathematics and science education to senior associate dean and, most recently, interim dean.

“Throughout her career, Dr. Spangler’s contributions to her field and to the faculty, staff and students of the UGA College of Education have been numerous and far-reaching,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “She will make an outstanding dean, and I am confident that the future of the college is very bright with her at the helm.”

Spangler’s research has been funded by $4.5 million in grants from organizations such as the National Science Foundation and the Spencer Foundation. She has published approximately 100 scholarly articles, books and book chapters related to STEM education and how elementary education majors learn to teach mathematics. Working with several colleagues across campus, she contributed to the University System of Georgia’s STEM Education Improvement Plan and also served on the President’s Task Force on Undergraduate Education at UGA.

At a national level, she co-directed the Service, Teaching and Research (STaR) Fellows Program of the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators. She also served as a member of the board of directors of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. In Athens, she was an elected member of the Clarke County School District Board of Education for 12 years, including two terms as vice president of the board.

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UGA ranked America's No. 1 public flagship university for Ph.D.s awarded to African-Americans

An increasingly diverse student body and a commitment to student success have made the University of Georgia the nation’s top public flagship university for the number of doctoral degrees it awards to African-Americans.

Over the five-year period covered in the latest National Science Foundation Survey of Earned Doctorates, UGA awarded 143 doctoral degrees to African-Americans, topping the University of Michigan as well as Georgia State University, Auburn, Texas A&M, the University of South Carolina and the University of Florida.

“I am pleased that our efforts to cultivate a vibrant and diverse learning environment have led to this significant achievement,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “I am proud that the University of Georgia is leading the way for flagship institutions in this important measure of student learning and success.”

The advanced skills and knowledge that graduate education provides play a critical role in keeping Georgia and the nation competitive in the modern economy. Over the past several years, UGA has launched new fellowship programs at the master’s and doctoral levels to attract talented students to Georgia while also expanding professional development opportunities. Last fall the university launched an ambitious program known as Double Dawgs that enables students to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in five years or less.

Overall, UGA is ranked 32nd among all U.S. universities in the number of doctoral degrees it awards, up from 36th last year. UGA is second only to Columbia University Teachers College in the number of doctoral degrees in education it awards. It ranks 13th among all universities for doctoral degrees awarded in the life sciences and 20th in psychology and social sciences.

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Mellon grant will expand Global Georgia Initiative

A $500,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will enable the University of Georgia Willson Center for Humanities and Arts to expand its Global Georgia Initiative, a public humanities program in place since 2013.

“As a leading public research university, UGA is appreciative to the Mellon Foundation for supporting the university’s goal of expanding its reach to scholars and community members throughout Georgia,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “We are excited about the opportunity to collaborate with the Mellon Foundation in this manner.”

In its first six years, the Global Georgia Initiative has engaged the humanities and arts in exploring global issues of public concern in a diversity of local contexts, serving audiences at UGA and throughout the Athens community. Programs have featured guests from five continents on topics from Chinese film and literature to journalism in the American South, and from hyperlocal agriculture and manufacturing to pan-African cultural criticism.

The expansion of the initiative focuses on three areas: connecting its visiting speaker programs to curricular and experiential learning activities at UGA; bolstering existing off-campus public humanities collaborations; and instituting a statewide symposium for the humanities.

The programs established around Global Georgia are designed to underpin research and outreach long term. “The grant-funded programs will be embedded into institutional structures that will become more diverse, more collaborative and more intellectually interesting because of them,” said Nicholas Allen, Franklin Professor of English and Willson Center director. “An enhanced Global Georgia Initiative will deepen the foundations of our public humanities projects, with a particular focus on community-driven, project-led research that has an impact on how the humanities relate to diverse communities of inquiry.”

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IMPACT receives top student organization award

IMPACT Service Breaks was named “Organization of the Year” during the 17th Annual H. Gordon and Francis S. Davis Student Organization Achievement and Recognition Awards, given out April 5 at the Tate Student Center. The SOAR Awards celebrate the accomplishments of student organizations at the University of Georgia.

Since its inception in 1994, IMPACT has focused on expanding its influence through 26 service break trips held during fall, spring and summer breaks. The organization’s goal is to create active citizens by engaging students in affordable, substance-free, experiential service-learning projects that encourage an understanding of pressing social issues.

Currently, there are 16 trip foci including LGBTQ awareness and advocacy, food justice and Native American cultural awareness and advocacy. Organizers build a time of reflection into each trip’s schedule to equip the participants with the motivation and knowledge to engage in service and the social issues of their own communities. IMPACT is administered through the Center for Leadership and Service within UGA Student Affairs. 

Other organizations received SOAR Awards in additional categories such as “Outstanding Collaboration” and “Outstanding Service to the Community.” This year, 106 nominations were submitted for 56 unique organizations. A panel of 44 faculty and staff members judged the nominations. There are currently 809 registered student organizations on campus.

The awards are sponsored by the Center for Student Activities and Involvement within the Tate Student Center. For more information, see http://involvement.uga.edu.

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Coca-Cola continues support for first-generation collegians

The University of Georgia hosted the Coca-Cola First Generation Scholars Dinner March 29 at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education & Hotel to recognize nine students who are fourth-year Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship recipients. This highly successful partnership between UGA and The Coca-Cola Foundation has transformed the lives of 151 first-generation students since 2007.

During the event, President Jere W. Morehead welcomed representatives from Coca-Cola, including Kirk Glaze, director of community partnerships for Coca-Cola North America.

“We love supporting the Coca-Cola First Generation Scholars Program and look forward to continuing the relationship with the University of Georgia. The world is now a different place because these Coca-Cola First Generation Scholars came to college,” Glaze said.

The Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship supports academically outstanding students who are the first in their families to attend college. The $5,000 scholarship is available for four years if the recipient maintains certain academic standards. Each scholarship recipient is provided support services through UGA’s Division of Academic Enhancement that help them adjust to college life and helps ensure their academic, cultural and financial success throughout their undergraduate experience. This includes mentoring programs, academic workshops and tutoring services. Students also have access to unique extracurricular experiences such as team building activities, group retreats and field trips.