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Morehead directs $25K to Hunter-Gault endowment

President Jere W. Morehead has directed $25,000 in private discretionary funds to Giving Voice to the Voiceless, an endowment launched by distinguished journalist, author and UGA alumna Charlayne Hunter-Gault and her husband, Ronald Gault.

The new investment of funds will expand a program designed to support and inspire students from across the university to engage in projects that shed light on unattended societal problems and marginalized communities.

“Charlayne and Ron have shown their commitment to the University of Georgia and to amplifying the work of our students through the Giving Voice to the Voiceless fund,” said Morehead. “I hope that this gift inspires others to contribute to this impactful endowment.”

Established in 2018, the Giving Voice to the Voiceless fund is designed to help students amplify the experiences of marginalized communities and to advance social justice, global understanding and human good through creative endeavors. Grants from the fund aid students in seeking out and participating in innovative research projects, internships, study abroad experiences and field studies.

Administered by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Giving Voice to the Voiceless program issues a call for proposals each fall and supports projects that illuminate underserved and underrepresented communities, topics and stories. The program has already catalyzed a range of innovative projects since grants were first issued in January 2019, including the UGA Black Alumni Oral History project, which interviewed and archived the reflections of many of UGA’s first Black students.

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Carmical Sports Media Institute established at UGA

Sports media education, already a signature program at the University of Georgia, is expanding with the establishment of the John Huland Carmical Sports Media Institute in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The Carmical Sports Media Institute is possible because of a generous gift from the Atlanta-based John Huland Carmical Foundation, which now has committed more than $3 million to sports media education at UGA.

With the resources the Carmical Sports Media Institute will provide, plans are underway for a sports media-specific study abroad program, an annual lecture series and periodic symposia. Sports Media Certificate students will receive financial assistance with travel and housing costs related to internships and other experiential learning opportunities.

In addition, the one-off opportunity that saw Grady College students in sports media and visual journalism covering the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games in partnership with The Associated Press will become a perennial offering.

Institute funding also will allow the UGA-Grady High School Sports Broadcast Program to operate in perpetuity. The program, launched in 2019 with funding from UGA’s New Approaches to Diveristy and Inclusion grants program, provides equipment and trains students in underrepresented and/or underserved communities across Georgia to produce live broadcasts of their school’s sports events.

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New program introduces students to industry

The University of Georgia’s brand new Student Industry Fellows Program, supported by funding from The Delta Air Lines Foundation, brings students together from a range of disciplines to solve new and pressing industry-related challenges. 

“The Student Industry Fellows Program is not simply about equipping and empowering students,” said Andrew Potter, UGA’s director of experiential learning and a former industry executive. “The program builds a talent pipeline between communities, government, industry, students, faculty, and facilities at the University of Georgia. Ultimately, the program brings students from a range of disciplines to solve emergent and pressing challenges for their communities and the state of Georgia.”

The program offers hands-on skill development in market research, business modeling, customer segmentation, product prototyping and early-stage development. Courses are taught at the Innovation Hub, which opened in January as the latest part of UGA’s Innovation District. The first course introduces students to design frameworks and has them take on three unique design challenges. As part of a small group, students have to think through a problem, develop a solution, and then present ideas to the class.  The second part of the program begins this fall and will bring students and industry partners together to take on research and design quandaries. 

“This first class has been amazing in helping me understand the problem-solving design process and how it applies to real-world issues,” said Andrew Romanick, a mechanical engineering student who is also pursuing a certificate in entrepreneurship. “It was awesome to work with people outside of my discipline who brought their unique knowledge to our small group work.”

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UGA presidential fund helps grad students complete their degrees

University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead has launched a new fund to help graduate students overcome financial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic and complete their degrees.

The new $250,000 Graduate Student Degree Accelerator Fund will award up to $5,000 to eligible master’s and doctoral degree students to defray expenses associated with their graduate education.

“Graduate education is a vital part of any top-tier research university,” said President Morehead. “The expanding investments we are making in graduate education, exemplified by the creation of this most recent fund, demonstrate our appreciation of the important contributions of our graduate students and our commitment to their success.”

UGA has increased graduate stipends by an average of 2-5% per year in six of the past seven years—no increase was possible in FY21, due to the financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since academic year 2013-14, the fiscal year doctoral and master’s base assistantship rates have both increased, with the doctoral rate increasing by nearly 23%, from $46,062 to $56,613. These past increases have totaled nearly $6 million in additional funding provided directly for the benefit of graduate students.

In addition, President Morehead said he is exploring several options to increase the base assistantship rate for FY22 and is committed to doing so.

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Kannan receives $2M NIH MIRA award

Natarajan Kannan is a recipient of a highly prestigious Maximizing Investigator Research Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The MIRA award provides investigators with greater stability and flexibility in funding to enhance scientific productivity and make important scientific breakthroughs. The program funds research by the nation’s most highly talented and promising investigators.

Kannan, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Bioinformatics, will use the $2 million award over five years to map the complex relationships connecting sequence and function in biomedically important gene families such as protein kinases. Abnormal functioning of these proteins in our cells is causally associated with diseases such as cancer, diabetes and neurological disorders. Kannan’s project will accelerate the targeting of these proteins for drug discovery and personalized medicine.

The MIRA award also provides the flexibility to extend the specialized tools and approaches developed for the study of kinases to other gene families such as glycosyltransferases, which is a major area of focus in the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center at UGA.

“Professor Kannan’s work is so impactful because he is not afraid to tackle the big questions. Furthermore, he freely shares his unique expertise in collaborations that help make for new discoveries in other labs as well,” said Christopher West, professor and head of the department of biochemistry and molecular biology. “He previously received a National Science Foundation CAREER award and the UGA Creative Research Medal in Natural Sciences and Engineering, and the NIH MIRA award is a further tribute to his outstanding contributions. We are lucky to have professor Kannan as part of our scientific community.”

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Kathy Pharr named VP for marketing and communications

Kathy R. Pharr has been named the University of Georgia’s vice president for marketing and communications, UGA President Jere W. Morehead announced Friday. Pharr, chief of staff in the Office of the President, has served as interim vice president for marketing and communications since July 1. With her appointment, Pharr will continue the responsibilities of both Cabinet-level posts on a permanent basis.

“Dr. Pharr is an exceptional administrator with vast experience at the University of Georgia,” said Morehead. “Since July, during a period of great challenge for our institution, Dr. Pharr has provided outstanding leadership over our central marketing and communications area, while remaining a strong manager and trusted advisor in the Office of the President. I know that her dedicated service will continue, and I look forward to all that she and her teams will accomplish in the years ahead.”

As vice president, Pharr will lead the Division of Marketing and Communications, the University of Georgia’s central communications and marketing unit. The division encompasses media communications, strategic marketing, creative services, the UGA Visitors Center, WUGA-FM, and business support functions.

After a six-year stint in broadcast journalism, Pharr began her career at UGA in 1993 as the director of communications and public relations in the School of Law. Since that time, she has fulfilled a variety of key administrative assignments, including assistant to the president, assistant vice president for finance and administration and director of Health Sciences Campus administration, and most recently as chief of staff and associate vice president for institutional affairs. 

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Inaugural Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar named

Anumantha Kanthasamy, an internationally renowned researcher of Parkinson’s disease and related neurodegenerative disorders, has been appointed as the first John H. “Johnny” Isakson Chair and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Parkinson’s Research. He will join UGA in fall 2021.

“I want to express my profound gratitude to the endowment donors and the Georgia Research Alliance, whose generosity made this development possible,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “This is a significant moment for our institution’s research enterprise as we build our scientific capacity to help so many who face Parkinson’s and related conditions.”

Kanthasamy is currently Distinguished Professor and Eugene and Linda Lloyd Endowed Chair and Eminent Scholar in Neurotoxicology at Iowa State University in Ames. He is a prolific researcher whose work ranges from basic neurological science to translational medicine, including the identification of biomarkers for early detection of Parkinson’s and discovery of new drugs for treatment.

At UGA, Kanthasamy will help lead a major investment in brain research. He will establish a new research center for brain science and neurological disorders and will lead a faculty cluster hire to recruit interdisciplinary researchers in areas such as neuroscience, epigenetics and bioinformatics. This new cohort, together with existing UGA faculty, will work toward the common goal of bringing hope to Parkinson’s patients and their families.

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UGA senior earns top Marine officer training award

George “Tripp” Koenig of Atlanta puts boots on the ground when it comes to leading and inspiring. A University of Georgia senior, he spent six weeks over the past two summers in Quantico, Virginia, tackling the task of U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidate School.

He didn’t just survive the process. Koenig thrived, rising to the top of his class and earning the Marine Corps Commandant’s Trophy, an honor presented to the candidate with the highest aggregate score in leadership, academic performance and physical fitness during the six-week Platoon Leaders Class.

On March 12, Koenig brought the Commandant’s Trophy to the University of Georgia—the award is bestowed on both the candidate and the university they attend, for “outstanding preparation of students.” David S. Williams, associate provost and director of the Honors Program, accepted the award on the university’s behalf.

An Honors student, Koenig is majoring in finance and international business in the Terry College of Business.

“The Commandant’s Trophy is definitely one of those awards you can’t win alone,” said Capt. Alicia Chambers, Koenig’s Marine Corps officer recruiter. “Tripp was able to be a selfless leader to help out his peers, to make his entire unit more cohesive as they attacked missions together and accomplished them together.”

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Student Advisory Board to focus on diversity, equity

At the recommendation of the Presidential Task Force on Race, Ethnicity, and Community, the University of Georgia has launched a new student advisory board to share information, build community through conversation, and receive student response regarding the university’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

The university formed the DEI Student Advisory Board in order to increase transparency of institutional policy discussions with students. The board will consist of representatives from DEI-focused groups and organizations across the university.

Vice President for Student Affairs Victor K. Wilson, who chaired the task force, said that he hopes the board assists him and his fellow administrators with learning more about students’ campus and community experiences while providing regular updates from Student Affairs and other campus units. 

Michele Howard, associate vice president for student affairs, will convene and administer the group. “I look forward to meeting with the students on a regular basis to get their responses to the university’s DEI initiatives while continuing to work in solidarity to make UGA more inclusive for all students,” Howard said.

The DEI Student Advisory board will provide insight based on experiences of students at UGA through honest dialogue and civil conversations. The student board members will also serve as a sounding board for new DEI-related initiatives, ideas and solutions, and provide feedback on the collective student perspective of campus opportunities and challenges. Overall, board members will work in partnership with university leaders to make UGA a more inclusive campus for all students.

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UGA's Landon Clark named 2021 Churchill Scholar

University of Georgia senior Landon Clark of Leesburg will continue his studies in the biological sciences this fall through the Churchill Scholarship, which funds American students as they pursue a one-year master’s program at the University of Cambridge in England.

Clark is UGA’s second Churchill Scholar. The scholarship, which was first awarded in 1963, is given to 15 students each year after a rigorous application and interview process. Churchill Scholars attend Churchill College, the only college at the University of Cambridge to specialize in science and technology. The award covers full tuition, a stipend, travel costs and the chance to apply for a $2,000 special research grant.

“The University of Georgia is exceptionally proud of Landon for receiving the Churchill Scholarship,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “We are delighted to have a second UGA student become part of this valuable program that promotes progress in the STEM disciplines and exchange of ideas among American and British scholars.”

An Honors student, CURO Honors Scholar and 2020 Goldwater Scholar, Clark is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology, genetics and biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. He will graduate in May.

After a year at Churchill College earning a master’s degree in biochemistry, Clark will pursue a dual MD/PhD degree at a medical school in the U.S. His goal is to become a physician-scientist specializing in immunology and pathology while teaching in academic medicine. His research will center on the mechanisms and treatment of immune diseases.