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Altizer named interim dean of Odum School of Ecology

Sonia Altizer, an academic leader with an outstanding record of teaching, research and service, has been named interim dean of the Odum School of Ecology, effective July 1, 2021.

Altizer is the Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Ecology and is currently the Odum School’s associate dean for research and operations. From 2012 to 2017, she served as the Odum School’s associate dean of academic affairs.

In her role as associate dean for research and operations, Altizer oversees research facilities and space allocation, faculty-staff communications and served as the school’s liaison to the Office of Research. As associate dean for academic affairs, she oversaw areas such as undergraduate and graduate academic programs, instructional assignments, and developed and implemented policies on academic matters.

Altizer’s research on the ecology of infectious diseases in natural populations has been supported by nearly $5.5 million in funding from agencies such as the National Science Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She is the author or co-author of more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, including in top-tier journals such as Science and Nature, as well as a book, numerous book chapters and other publications.

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Faculty receive Russell Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

Three University of Georgia faculty members have been named recipients of the Richard B. Russell Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, which recognize outstanding instruction by faculty members early in their academic careers.

The Russell Foundation established the Russell Awards during the 1991-1992 academic year. The awards include a $10,000 cash award.

“Recipients of the Russell Awards exemplify the commitment to innovative and engaging instruction that makes the University of Georgia one of America’s leading public universities,” said S. Jack Hu, the university’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “I congratulate this year’s honorees and appreciate their dedication to our students.”

The 2021 Russell Award recipients are:

  • Jennifer Birch, associate professor of anthropology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences;
  • Jonathan Peters, associate professor of journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication with a courtesy appointment in the School of Law; and
  • Emily Sahakian, associate professor of theatre and film studies, and of Romance languages in the Franklin College.

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Lee receives 2021 Richard Reiff Internationalization Award

The Office of Global Engagement announced that David Lee is the winner of the 2021 Richard Reiff Internationalization Award.

The Reiff Award honors a tenured or tenure-track faculty member who has made major contributions to the overall internationalization of the University of Georgia. It is given in honor of Richard Reiff, former executive director of the Office of International Education at the University System of Georgia, former chair of the international committee of the University System of Georgia and past president of NAFSA/Association of International Educators.

Since 2005, Lee has served as vice president of research for the University of Georgia and the executive vice president of the UGA Research Foundation, with an appointment as professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. He has served on multiple boards across the nation and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The focus of his research has been the transformation of normal cells to cancer cells.

During his tenure as vice president of research, Lee advocated for further development of research centers and study of biomedical sciences, allowing UGA to emerge as a national leader in infectious disease research.

“Along with his strong commitment to the international research enterprise of UGA,” said Noel Fallows, associate provost to the Office of Global Engagement, “David has had multiple successes in promoting and advancing global opportunities for both students and faculty.”

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New UGA center to combat global human trafficking

Each year, an estimated 800,000 people are trafficked globally, though the true number may be higher. In a quest to arm officials and stakeholders around the globe with more accurate and trusted data to better understand and address this global problem, the University of Georgia has established a new interdisciplinary center to combat human trafficking through research, programming and policy development.

The Center on Human Trafficking Research and Outreach will be housed in the School of Social Work, and David Okech, an associate professor at the school, will serve as the center’s first director. This collaborative effort aims to identify better ways to measure the prevalence of  trafficking while crafting real-world solutions to best equip nongovernmental organizations and policymakers with the tools and information they need to combat trafficking.

Joining Okech in driving research and program development at the center are Nathan Hansen, a professor of health promotion and behavior at the College of Public Health, Tamora Callands, an assistant professor of health promotion and behavior at the College of Public Health, Jody Clay-Warner, professor in the department of sociology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and Lydia Aletraris, an associate research scientist in the School of Social Work. They have been part of the African Programming and Research Initiative to End Slavery, known as APRIES, which is providing the foundation for the transition into a center.

“Science is always a building block,” Okech said. “You build it up, and sometimes it’s big and sometimes it’s small, but you keep building. Through the center, we want to let the research speak for itself. If particular research or methodologies work, good, and if it doesn’t, then we need to think about what else could work because right now we don’t know what really works well in terms of estimation methods and generating reliable data that can inform anti-trafficking policies and programs.”

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Institute of Government map expanding statewide internet access

Thanks to a groundbreaking map — the first of its kind in the United States — community leaders and telecommunications companies in Georgia can now easily identify broadband dead zones down to a single address and expand access to those areas.

When the state launched the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative (GBDI) in 2018, making access to high-speed internet a priority for all Georgians, it looked to UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government for help. Before the state could go about addressing the issue, it needed to know how big the problem was.

To figure out who had access to broadband internet and who didn’t, the institute’s information technology staff used a geographic information system data set that contained every address in the state — more than 5 million in total — and matched it to locations serviced by the state’s internet service providers.

GBDI Director Deana Perry said the broadband map, providing a location-level perspective of unserved areas in the state, was key to directing the investment in broadband infrastructure to “better serve individuals, families, businesses and other institutions that are essential to the quality of life for Georgia’s residents. This is the most detailed resource to date that illustrates the digital divide in Georgia,” Perry said.

With the granular information from the GIS data in hand, the GBDI team was able to partner with communities and internet service providers to address the gaps in coverage. The General Assembly has budgeted $20 million in this fiscal year, and $10 million next year, to help communities pay for the service. Workshops to help local governments learn how to apply for state grants begin this month.

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President Morehead receives Chief Executive Leadership Award

University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead has been selected as the recipient of the 2021 Chief Executive Leadership Award by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education District III. 

CASE is a global association dedicated to educational advancement, serving professionals in development, alumni relations, and marketing and communications. District III of the association comprises institutions in nine Southeastern states, including Georgia.

“I am honored to receive the Chief Executive Leadership Award from CASE District III,” said Morehead. “This award reflects our community’s unwavering commitment to the University of Georgia’s mission, and I am proud to accept this recognition on behalf of our exceptional faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends.”

Among other criteria, nominees for the award were assessed on leading their institution to higher levels of success. They also were evaluated on how they have increased the stature of their institution and supported institutional advancement.

“As one of the top research institutions in the nation and our state’s land-grant university, UGA sets the pace and profoundly impacts Georgia through its mission of teaching, research and service,” said University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley. “With this as the standard, UGA, by every measure, has become significantly stronger under President Morehead.”

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UGA graduate programs earn several top 10 U.S. News rankings

Several graduate programs in the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs, Mary Frances Early College of Education, and Institute of Higher Education have earned top 10 rankings in the 2022 edition of the U.S. News and World Report Best Graduate Schools.

“The University of Georgia is preparing students for a range of competitive fields through its outstanding graduate programs,” said Ron Walcott, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School. “Our top 10 rankings reflect the quality of our faculty and programs, as well as the successes of our students after graduation.”

The latest rankings from U.S. News and World Report come at a time when UGA continues to expand the support that graduate students receive and the professional development offerings available to them. Earlier this month, UGA President Jere W. Morehead launched a new Graduate Student Degree Accelerator Fund to help students overcome financial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic and complete their degrees. To support graduate student career success beyond academia, the Graduate School offers programs and resources through its Office of Experiential Professional Development.

“Graduate education remains a key priority at the University of Georgia as we work to keep our students and state at the forefront of discovery and innovation,” said S. Jack Hu, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “Our programs prepare students with deep knowledge within disciplines and the ability to incorporate knowledge from across fields to address the grand challenges of our times.”

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Awards recognize efforts to enhance Greek inclusiveness

University of Georgia students who work to advance an inclusive living and learning environment within Greek organizations at UGA could now receive an award for their work, thanks to UGA President Jere W. Morehead, UGA’s Interfraternity Council and the alumnae of the Zeta Psi Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.

At the recommendation of the Presidential Task Force on Race, Ethnicity, and Community, Morehead designated $50,000 from funds provided by the University of Georgia Athletic Association to endow the Greek Life Diversity Award fund so that awards can be given in perpetuity.

Significant commitments followed from the Interfraternity Council and alumnae of the Zeta Psi Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., both in the amount of $25,000. These gifts, alongside the funding designated by Morehead, mean that four awards can be given each year. UGA officials anticipate future private donations to the Greek Life Diversity Award fund, which could increase the size and quantity of awards over time. 

“I appreciate the commitment and support from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and the Interfraternity Council on this important initiative,” said Morehead. “Their gifts help drive our comprehensive strategy to create a more inclusive campus.”

Recipients will be selected by a committee appointed by the vice president for student affairs. The first recipients will be named in the fall 2021 semester.

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Two UGA faculty members named University Professors

Two faculty members at the University of Georgia have been named University Professors, a title bestowed on those who have had a significant impact on the university in addition to fulfilling their regular academic responsibilities.

The 2020-2021 honorees are Timothy Adams Jr., the Mildred Goodrum Heyward Professor in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, and James N. Moore, Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor, Distinguished Research Professor in the department of large animal medicine and director of educational resources in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

The University Professorship recognizes individuals with outstanding records of teaching, scholarship and service whose actions as change-agents have improved the quality with which the university serves its missions.

Adams is a highly accomplished composer, recording artist and author of numerous pedagogical materials. Over the course of his 40-year career as a musician, he has worked with many of the world’s leading musicians, conductors, composers and recording artists. Under his direction, the percussion studio in the Hodgson School has grown in both reputation and achievement to its current status as one of the finest such studios in the nation. 

Moore is an international expert on equine gastrointestinal diseases and endotoxemia, a life-threatening emergency. His research has increased awareness and improved equine endotoxemia treatments and made UGA a global center of excellence for colic research. Moore is also a recognized innovator of new instructional tools in veterinary medicine. He has developed electronic resources that help veterinary students learn anatomy and physiology by turning complex subjects from textbooks into 3D models and animations.

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Ozias-Akins receives SEC Faculty Achievement Award

Peggy Ozias-Akins, D.W. Brooks Professor and Distinguished Research Professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, has been named the University of Georgia’s recipient of the Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award. The honor recognizes professors with outstanding records in teaching and scholarship and is administered by provosts at each of the 14 universities in the conference.

Ozias-Akins is a global leader in the application of biotechnology to the improvement of crops that are a vital source of nutrition for millions of people around the world. In addition to her research accomplishments, she is an innovative instructor and dedicated mentor to students, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Her research focuses on two broad areas that hold significant promise for the sustainability and security of the global food supply: self-reproducing hybrids and peanut improvement using genetic techniques. Her research group discovered the first plant gene associated with apomixis, a process in which seeds germinate into plants that are exact genetic copies of the parent. The creation of self-reproducing hybrids has been referred to as the holy grail for agriculture because it has the potential to enable farmers to save seeds with desirable traits year after year. This is particularly important for small farmers in the developing world, who might not otherwise have access to high-quality hybrid seeds.

In addition to her pioneering research on self-reproducing hybrids, Ozias-Akins is also recognized for her international leadership in peanut genetics, genomics and breeding. She established the first economical genetic marker associations for a trait that has produced multi-million dollar value for peanut growers and has dramatically improved the shelf life of peanuts and peanut products. She also played integral roles in the international teams that sequenced the peanut genome and its wild progenitors. With this information, researchers and plant breeders around the globe are working to develop peanut varieties that are more resilient and productive.