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Libby Morris tapped as UGA's interim provost

University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead has named Libby V. Morris as interim senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, effective July 16. A seasoned administrator and prolific scholar, Morris directs UGA’s Institute of Higher Education (IHE) and holds the Zell Miller Distinguished Professorship of Higher Education.

“I want to express my deepest gratitude to Dr. Morris for her willingness to serve once again in this critical role,” said Morehead. “The University of Georgia is on a remarkable trajectory to new heights of excellence, and Dr. Morris will help ensure our great momentum continues and our major initiatives move forward during the national search for a permanent provost.”

This marks Morris’ second stint as interim provost. Morehead selected her for the role in July 2013 when he assumed the presidency following a three-year tenure as UGA’s provost. During her first interim assignment, Morris helped to expand interdisciplinary research and education, including overseeing a presidential hiring initiative to recruit more faculty members with interdisciplinary research interests. She also played a major role in launching the Science Learning Center building project.

“My thanks to President Morehead for entrusting me once again with this assignment,” said Morris. “I am honored to step away from IHE for a limited time to provide leadership and support to the university during this important transition.”

From 2010 to 2013, Morris served as vice provost for academic affairs at UGA, in which she coordinated two major hiring initiatives to boost the number of tenure and tenure-track faculty. She also coordinated the launch of the UGA Arts Council in that role and oversaw the council’s first Spotlight on the Arts festival, which has become one of the university’s signature annual events. Morris has been a faculty member in the university’s Institute of Higher Education since 1989 and has served as its director since 2006. She serves as the current editor of Innovative Higher Education, an international journal focused on innovations in post-secondary education.

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Pamela Whitten named president of Kennesaw State University

The Board of Regents named Pamela Whitten president of Kennesaw State University. She will begin her new position July 16.

Whitten has held the position of senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Georgia since 2014.

“Dr. Whitten brings a deep commitment toward building an outstanding academic experience for students, as well as an uncompromising dedication toward quality research and leadership that will serve KSU and its community well,” said University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley. “We are excited about the feedback from students, faculty and staff who participated in Dr. Whitten’s campus visits. I look forward to seeing KSU thrive as she takes this important role.”

As UGA’s chief academic officer, Whitten oversees instruction, research, public service and outreach, student affairs and information technology—a portfolio that includes 17 schools and colleges with 37,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Among other initiatives, during her tenure UGA hired 56 new faculty to reduce class sizes for undergraduates, increased external research support 37 percent, added 30 endowed chairs and professorships and increased summer enrollment by 25 percent. The campus also launched a new learning requirement to give undergraduates out-of-classroom experience through internships, research and other forms of experiential learning.

Prior to joining UGA, Whitten’s career included working as director for telemedicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center before she joined the faculty at Michigan State University, where she worked her way up through the faculty ranks before eventually serving as dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

She is an internationally recognized expert in the field of telemedicine—the remote delivery of health care services and information—and has conducted research with nearly $30 million in funding from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has co-authored two books and published more than 100 peer-reviewed research articles and book chapters.

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UGA partners with food bank to promote healthy eating

Teaching people to grow, cook and eat healthy foods is the key goal of a partnership between the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at the University of Georgia and the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia. 

Camaria Welch, a graduate student in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, has created a curriculum of lesson plans and activities to help people understand the connection between nature and food, and how to develop healthy eating habits.

During a summer camp at the garden, Welch used the curriculum, called Bee Smart Eat Smart, to help 5 to 10 year olds plant seeds, decorate aprons and read books such as “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McCloskey. They also did arts and crafts and participated in theater, acting out skits dressed as fruits and vegetables.

In addition to the camp, Welch is implementing a modified version of Bee Smart Eat Smart at the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia’s site in Clayton, Georgia. She will lead cooking classes for parents and children in the teaching kitchen on the Food Bank site.

In April, State Botanical Garden Education Director Cora Keber and Heather Alley, conservation horticulturist at the garden’s Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Species, planted a pollinator garden at the Clayton food bank site, designed to draw bees, butterflies and other native pollinators to the vegetable and fruits growing outside the facility.

The food bank pollinator garden is part of a State Botanical Garden program called Connect to Protect. So far, more than 20 Connect to Protect gardens have been installed in Athens-Clarke County and surrounding areas, as well as in Macon and Atlanta.

The lesson plans, activities and materials that Welch developed for the Bee Smart Eat Smart program will be distributed to schools where Connect to Protect gardens are planted, and used in the State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s Alice H. Richard Children’s Garden, which is under construction and should open by early 2019.

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UGA is cyber ready to help state fight hacker attacks

Cybercrime takes one of our society’s great strengths—the Internet—and exploits its weaknesses. The threat seems inescapable, no matter where you are.

In 2017, a cyberattack forced the cancellation of thousands of medical operations and appointments at hospitals in the United Kingdom, a blackout in Ukraine was traced to malicious software, and Uber disclosed that hackers had breached a database with personal information of more than 57 million drivers and users. It hit closer home this March when cybercriminals held the City of Atlanta’s municipal network for ransom.

And that doesn’t even include the thousands of attempts per day to steal information and money through people’s personal devices.

According to government estimates, cyberattacks cost the U.S. economy between $50-$100 billion a year, and threats from cyberterrorism could put lives at risk. That’s why advancing cybersecurity is one of the University of Georgia’s great commitments.

In 2016, the university pooled its strengths in this field and formed the Institute of Cybersecurity and Privacy (ICSP), housed in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and part of the Georgia Informatics Institutes. The following year, the university was named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research, a designation that underscores the role UGA plays in strengthening America’s cyber defense capabilities. The institute’s research is funded by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Air Force, Department of Homeland Security, and several corporations.

“The University of Georgia is making great strides and is doing things very systematically to increase our cybersecurity research and engagement with the community, with the federal government, and internally,” says Kyle Johnsen, director of the Georgia Informatics Institutes and an associate professor of engineering.

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School of Law opens Veterans Legal Clinic

Beginning this month, veterans living in Georgia can receive legal assistance they may not otherwise have access to or be able to afford through the University of Georgia School of Law’s new Veterans Legal Clinic.

Georgia has the ninth largest population of veterans in the United States, many of whom return home with service-related disabilities and therefore rely on benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, according to 30-plus-year public service lawyer and educator Alexander W. “Alex” Scherr, who will direct the clinic’s operations.

“Law students will work directly with veterans and their dependents to ensure access to both benefits and services, especially for those with mental or physical disabilities resulting from their time in the military,” he said.

“No veteran should be denied benefits simply because they cannot afford legal assistance. We know that the involvement of an attorney can make a tremendous difference in outcome with regard to denied or deferred claims before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” Scherr said. “Our No. 1 goal is to improve how former servicemen and women receive assistance from the nation they have served.”

The school announced it would open the Veterans Legal Clinic last year after receiving initial funding from renowned trial attorney and 1977 law school alumnus James E. “Jim” Butler Jr. in memory of his father, Lt. Cmdr. James E. Butler Sr., who was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy. Butler Sr. was also the grandfather of James E. “Jeb” Butler III, a 2008 graduate of the law school.

Individuals seeking help from the clinic can call 706-542-6439 or send an email to veteranslegalclinic@uga.edu.

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CAES launches Certificate in Agricultural Data Science

From remote moisture sensors that produce a real-time feed of soil conditions to drones that use optical data to spot plant disease, new streams of data will fuel the next green revolution.

Remote sensing technologies will offer farmers the ability to customize irrigation and fertilizer applications for areas that have unique characteristics within fields, which will reduce ecological impacts and costs. However, putting precision agriculture strategies into practice requires agricultural scientists who are equipped to interpret the data that these sensors generate.

In fall 2018, the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences will launch an Interdisciplinary Certificate in Agricultural Data Science to equip CAES graduate students with the data analysis expertise that they will need to capitalize on this big data revolution.

CAES’ certificate program will be one of the first of its kind in the nation.

Through the certificate, current and future CAES graduate students will plan a schedule of elective and related courses that will complement their agricultural research and expose them to a wide range of principles and practices of data analysis.

“The goal of the graduate certificate is to develop a curriculum that will produce cross-disciplinary and cross-functional, data-smart graduates who can bridge the gaps between the generation, analysis and interpretation of complex data in the agricultural field,” said Harald Scherm, professor and head of UGA’s department of plant pathology. “We’re not looking to train computer scientists, but we want them to be able to discuss data issues and incorporate analysis into their practice.”

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Pulliam family honors patriarch through faculty chair position

To honor his legacy in agricultural education, Dr. Michael and Elaine Pulliam and family have gifted $1 million to create the H.M. (Morris) Pulliam Chair Fund in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

This endowed chair position will be awarded to a currently tenured professor or a tenure-track faculty member. The Pulliam Chair faculty member must have an outstanding record in externally funded research and/or scholarly publications and be engaged in teaching, research and public service.

The decision to fund the endowed chair was fueled by life-saving surgery Elaine Pulliam received at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

“A chair was being created for the surgeon, Andrew Warshaw (at the Institute for Pancreatic Cancer Research), and we helped with that for several years. Once that seed was planted in our minds, we decided to do something that would memorialize my father’s life,” Michael Pulliam said.

A lifelong resident of Newton County, Morris Pulliam loved his family, his community and his students. He became a teacher during the Great Depression to provide a better way of life for rural youth.

Michael Pulliam said his father was a meek man who would not have wanted the recognition of the endowment. “But I recall what my mother once told me,” he said. “The only thing we can carry with us when we leave this world is what we have given to others.”

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UGA and UConn Health researchers discover roles and teamwork of CRISPR-Cas proteins

Recently published research from the University of Georgia and UConn Health provides new insight about the basic biological mechanisms of the RNA-based viral immune system known as CRISPR-Cas.

CRISPR-Cas, short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats/CRISPR-associated, is a defense mechanism that has evolved in bacteria and archaea that these single celled organisms use to ward off attacks from viruses and other invaders. When a bacterium is attacked by a virus, it makes a record of the virus’s DNA by chopping it up into pieces and incorporating a small segment of the invader’s DNA into its own genome. It then uses this DNA to make RNAs that bind with a bacterial protein that then kills the viral DNA.

The system has been studied worldwide in hopes that it can be used to edit genes that predispose humans to countless diseases, such as diabetes and cancer. However, to reach this end goal, scientists must gain further understanding of the basic biological process that leads to successful immunity against the invading virus.


Distinguished Research Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and principal investigator for the project Michael Terns and UGA postdoctoral fellow Masami Shiimori collaborated with Brenton Graveley and Sandra Garrett at UConn Health to sequence millions of genomes to learn more about the process. Graveley is professor and chair of the Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences and associate director of the Institute for Systems Genomics at UConn Health, and Garrett is a postdoctoral fellow in his laboratory.

Previously, researchers did not understand how the cell recognized the virus as an invader, nor which bacterial proteins were necessary for successful integration and immunity.

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UGA alumni chosen for Songwriters Hall of Fame

The Songwriters Hall of Fame has announced its class of 2018, and two Bulldogs are on the list. UGA alumni Bill Anderson ABJ ’59 and Steve Dorff ABJ ’71 are two of the 10 songwriters and musicians to be welcomed into the hall of fame this year, alongside household names like Alan Jackson and John Mellencamp.

The inductees will be celebrated at the Hall of Fame’s 49th annual induction and awards ceremony in New York. Anderson, who grew up outside of Atlanta, is not only an accomplished songwriter but also a world-renowned country singer, earning the famed nickname “Whisperin’Bill” for his soft vocal style. His songwriting credits include collaborations with artists like Conway Twitty, Kenny Chesney, and Brad Paisley. Dorff is a popular songwriter and composer who has written songs for artists like George Strait and Kenny Rogers. His career has included both country and popular music credits, alongside many compositions for film and television. He is a three-time Grammy and six-time Emmy nominee.

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WSB takes an insightful tour of UGA's Cortona campus

Legendary sportscaster Chuck Dowdle visited UGA’s campus in Cortona, Italy, where students gain valuable international learning experiences. He provides an inside look at the city and our satellite campus. This segment aired Saturday, June 2 on WSB-TV. Click here to watch the video.