| UGA Today

Journalism graduate publishes first novel

Stacy Willingham credits her time at the University of Georgia with learning how to develop characters.

“Studying journalism helped me realize that everyone has a story to tell, and it’s usually not the one we expect,” she said. “Learning how to interview is a skill I still use, even though I don’t interview people anymore. Understanding how to get past surface-level answers taught me how to find the real meat of a story, which now influences the way I create my characters.”

Willingham’s first published novel, A Flicker in the Dark, was released in January 2022. And on Jan. 30, her novel landed on the New York Times bestseller list—the same day she turned 31. Set in Louisiana, the novel’s lead character explores a tumultuous and sordid family history to discover new secrets that threaten her happiness.

For the 2013 graduate who now lives in Charleston, the process of becoming a published author was a whirlwind affair, one that began on UGA’s campus more than a decade ago. While on campus, Willingham majored in magazines in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and studied abroad twice, in Cortona and London. Her Grady classes that laid the foundation for the transformation of her writing hobby into a career.

Willingham’s second book, All the Dangerous Things, will be released on Jan. 10, 2023.

| UGA Today

Georgia Museum of Art to participate in Blue Star Museums

The Georgia Museum of Art will participate this summer in Blue Star Museums, a program organized by the National Endowment for the Arts that offers free admission and special discounts to military personnel and their families from Armed Forces Day (May 21) through Labor Day (Sept. 5).

Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and museums across the United States. Each summer since 2010, Blue Star Museums have offered free admission to the nation’s active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve.

Although admission to the museum is always free, the Museum Shop is offering a 10% discount for military personnel and their families. The museum’s online exhibition “Recognizing Artist Soldiers in the Permanent Collection” is available on the museum’s website and has been updated with new artists since last summer. The exhibition includes artists who served in conflicts from the Revolutionary War through the Korean War and is organized chronologically. You can find “Recognizing Artist Soldiers” at georgiamuseum.org, under the “online exhibitions” tab.

The Museum Shop discount is available to anyone with a military ID—which includes Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, as well as members of the National Guard and Reserve, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and NOAA Commissioned Corps and their family members.

| UGA Today

UGA, rural communities work on safe walking routes

In many rural Georgia communities, there are few safe routes, away from high-traffic areas, that allow opportunities for physical activity. Without this infrastructure, walking in the community can be unsafe and difficult. 

But now, a team of faculty and students from the University of Georgia are working with rural Georgia communities to create more spaces where everyone can exercise and play safely. Using an innovative mapping tool, the team was able to present recommendations where communities could install sidewalks and bike paths to offer new walking routes to everyday destinations.

Creating areas where it’s safe and easy to be physically active is a primary goal of the Healthier Together program, a CDC-funded interdisciplinary project, which also aims to increase access to healthy food to combat high obesity rates and chronic disease. Making healthy choices that can prevent these diseases can be a challenge in Georgia’s rural communities where easy access to grocery stores and local parks is fairly limited.

Healthier Together is an interdisciplinary collaboration among UGA Extension, the College of Public Health, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the College of Environment and Design and the College of Family and Consumer Science. The program is working in partnership with five rural Georgia counties – Calhoun, Clay, Dooly, Stewart and Taliaferro – to determine sustainable ways to help residents eat better and move more.

| UGA Today

Boren Awards names UGA a top-performing institution

With a record number of eight undergraduates selected as Boren Scholars this spring, the University of Georgia ranks third in the nation on the list of top-performing institutions for Boren Scholarships for 2022. These students will receive funding to study critical languages abroad in exchange for a year of federal service.

UGA has had 89 Boren Scholarship and Fellowship offers to date, and 54 in the last 10 years. The university was also named a top-performing institution for Boren Scholarships in 2021.

“The broad impact of critical language studies has long been felt across our institution, and our students, whether they are learning on campus or studying languages abroad, deepen their global understanding through programs like the Boren Awards,” said Meg Amstutz, interim associate provost and dean of the Morehead Honors College. “We are thankful for the opportunities these awards provide to UGA students.”

In 2022, 208 undergraduates across the country received Boren Scholarships and 121 graduate students received Boren Fellowships. The award is designed to add important international and language components to students’ educations by giving them the opportunity to study overseas in world regions critical to U.S. interests.

| UGA Today

UGA establishes School of Computing

In response to rising student enrollment and the growing role of computing in a range of fields, the University of Georgia has elevated its longstanding department of computer science to a School of Computing.

Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the School of Computing will be jointly administered by the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering. Its creation is effective July 1, 2022.

“The University of Georgia is committed to creating synergies across our campus that foster new opportunities for students and faculty and better serve communities in Georgia and around the world,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “I am excited about the positive impact the School of Computing will have on research and education in the STEM disciplines at UGA.”

Enrollment in computer science courses has grown rapidly in recent years, and the College of Engineering is UGA’s fastest growing college. The School of Computing will administer the university’s bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. programs in computer science as well as the master’s program in cybersecurity and privacy. Its establishment comes at time of high demand for graduates with expertise in computing and related fields.

| UGA Today

The Peabody 30 unveiled

The Peabody Awards Board of Jurorshas unveiled all 30 programs representing the most compelling and empowering stories released in broadcasting and streaming media during 2021.

Of the 30 winners, PBS led with six, followed by HBO/HBO Max with four, Netflix with three, and Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and The New York Times each with two. Additional winning networks and platforms include ABC, FX, KUSA, NBC News, NPR, Peacock, Rumble Strip, and VICE. 

The Peabody Awards are based at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

Chosen unanimously by a board of 19 jurors, the Peabody 30 are the best from over 1,200 entries submitted from television, streaming media and podcasts/radio. Entertainment winners like FX’s “Reservation Dogs,” Peacock’s “We Are Lady Parts,” and HBO Max’s “Sort Of” gave audiences hilarious, artistically evocative and complex experiences of communities historically underrepresented and stereotyped in television.

| UGA Today

Sustainability startup moves into Delta Innovation Hub

The University of Georgia’s Delta Innovation Hub recently welcomed its newest startup tenant: “Can I Recycle This?” or CIRT. CIRT moved into the Hub officially in April 2022, though the company has been making use of its resources since it opened in 2019.

CIRT helps consumers determine the recyclability of products and packaging based on their geospatial location. Founded by Jenna Jambeck and Katherine Shayne, both at the College of Engineering, CIRT aims to keep recoverable materials out of landfills, the environment and the ocean by getting them into a circular management system. The company engages diverse communities in the conversation about designing for recyclability by trying to make recycling accessible and easy for everyone.

The company was born out of Jambeck’s research on plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. Jambeck, Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor in Environmental Engineering, and Shayne, a graduate student at the time, started receiving questions from across the country about what materials are appropriate for recycling. Understanding they had a problem to solve, the pair enrolled in the I-Corps program, where aspiring entrepreneurs can go to begin their customer discovery process.

The Delta Innovation Hub provides CIRT with space for growth as they hire UGA student interns and expand their team. It’s also given them the opportunity to be closer to the resources the Innovation District has to offer.

| UGA Today

Plant biologist nominated for prestigious early career award

University of Georgia faculty member Robert Schmitz was recently chosen as a finalist for a national award for young scientists. The Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists is the world’s largest unrestricted prize honoring early career scientists and engineers.

Schmitz is a plant biologist who performs groundbreaking research on plant epigenetics—the chemical modifications to DNA and associated proteins that alter gene expression—to unlock new methods to increase agricultural sustainability and food security. He found that some plant epigenetic mechanisms differ from those of animals, and that this unique mode of epigenetic modification impacts plant evolution and can inform crop breeding.

His discoveries in the epigenetics of maize offer plant breeders targets in the maize genome to improve crop performance, such as overall yield or resistance to disease. Schmitz’s work, as described in the Blavatnik Awards finalists announcement, has set in motion the discovery and creation of new plant biotechnology that could help feed the world.

From the announced group of finalists, three winners—in life sciences, chemistry, and physical sciences and engineering—will be named on June 29, each receiving $250,000 as a Blavatnik National Awards Laureate.

| UGA Today

Parents Leadership Council celebrates 10th anniversary of grants program

This year, the University of Georgia Parents Leadership Council celebrates the 10th anniversary of its grants program, which has given more than $4.6 million to initiatives across campus and enhanced the college experience of countless UGA students.

The PLC is a service-oriented group of highly engaged parents who provide funding to the university through their annual gifts. Once a year, through the PLC Grants Program, the council awards money to campus organizations that have a commitment to enhancing undergraduate student life.

The PLC Grants Program started with about 150 PLC families who awarded nearly $145,000 to 22 organizations. Today, the council has grown to more than 250 families contributing $5,000 or more each year, increasing the program’s impact exponentially. In total, the council has received roughly 540 grant applications and awarded more than $4.6 million. Many of the recipients have received multiple grants through the years, such as the University Health Center’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services and Campus Kitchen.

“To provide the best learning environment possible, we have to do whatever we can to meet the ongoing needs of our students,” said Victor K. Wilson, vice president for student affairs. “These grants and support from parents have and continue to do so much to change lives, and we’re grateful and encourage more parents to get involved in this impactful initiative.”

| UGA Today

Morehead reappointed president of Southeastern Conference

University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead has been reappointed president of the Southeastern Conference for another year.

The announcement was made June 3 by Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, during the SEC Spring Meetings in Sandestin, Florida.

As president, Morehead will chair the SEC’s Executive Committee, a seven-member panel that approves the SEC operating budget and oversees the conference’s fiscal affairs, among other duties. Morehead served as SEC vice president for two years from 2019-2021 before being named president in 2021.

In August 2020, Morehead was appointed to the NCAA Board of Governors and Division 1 Board of Directors. The NCAA Board of Governors is the highest governance body in the NCAA, tasked with overseeing association-wide issues and ensuring that each division operates in accordance with NCAA policies and principles. The Division 1 Board of Directors, meanwhile, is responsible for overseeing strategy and policy, as well as management of the division. Last August, Morehead was elected as its chair.