Category: Alumni

'State of the Art' exhibition includes UGA professor, alumni

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crystal-bridges.jpgImagine you're a major research university, with aspirations for rising in the ranks. Everything from your endowment to annual extramural funding dollars can be included in quantifiable metrics you use to measure your progress. But there are other aspects of your impact that can be more difficult to quantify. For example, how good is the history department? How strong is your art school? Clear metrics on those endeavors rarely pop up, but when they do, as in a survey of contemporary artists in a national exhibition, we should take notice:

A national exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, is highlighting the work of two alumni and one faculty member from the University of Georgia's Lamar Dodd School of Art.

"State of the Art : Discovering American Art Now," on view through Jan. 19, features more than 100 American artists selected as the result of over 1,000 studio visits by Crystal Bridges curators who traveled the country seeking to discover artists whose work had not yet been recognized nationally.

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"A large national exhibition featuring 100 prominent working American artists today provides a terrific survey of the creativity and inventiveness from across the country," said Chris Garvin, director of the Lamar Dodd School of Art. "To have three artists and one curator affiliated with UGA as part of this exhibition is a great distinction that places us at the forefront of artistic practice in the United States."

Just so, professor Garvin. What Crystal Bridges is attempting to do is very ambitious - create a national museum of international renown, deep in the heart of Arkansas - but what our art school is doing is no less ambitious. A very important constituent part of the learning environment in a major research university, a thriving art school would be missing if we didn't have one. But we do. 

Educator/alum addresses school reformers

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Some great plain talk on school reform from Franklin College alumnus and Clarke Central High School literature teacher Ian Altman in the Washington Post:

7. Don’t tell us to leave politics out of the classroom. 

Don’t be naïve.  Learning always has some kind of political efficacy. Some opinions are more sensible than others, some arguments stronger than others, some interpretations and theories better supported than others. It is okay to say so out loud.  One need not disparage another to do so, and good teachers do not shy away from it.

For example, the theory of intelligent design made a big splash a few years ago among creationists who insist that evolution is merely an unproven theory on equal footing with other theories in the “marketplace of ideas.” It is very easy to show two vitiating things: there is no contravening scientific evidence against evolution, and intelligent design derives from Aristotle’s teleological argument which was soundly critiqued by David Hume and Immanuel Kant in the 18th Century.

Explaining these things to students will harm one side of the political spectrum more than the other. As far as I’m concerned, that is the fault of the politicians themselves for getting involved in classroom issues that are beyond their legitimate concern as politicians. They can say whatever they want, of course, but it is acceptable academic practice to teach why and how their arguments are strong or weak, and it’s not our fault if that involves politics, too.

Verbal logic and argumentation are the province of English teachers, especially now that under Common Core, we are told we have to teach more non-fiction texts. I expect all my students to learn how to argue sensibly and with decency, seeking the truth rather than just defeating the opposition, and I expect them to push those arguments with each other and with me.  The vitality of my classes depends on it.

Too many people never learn how to discuss and debate sensibly and with decency. Too many people are trained to shy away from controversial ideas for the sake of being polite because confrontation might be considered embarrassing or impolitic. My students will not fall to those trappings if I can help it. I will continue to do everything I can, as a teacher and as a citizen, to disrupt everybody’s settled thoughts.

Stirring comment from one of our nation's very brightest and caring educators. Our public schools are lucky to have faculty like Altman and so many others who, not only understand all of the pieces of the education reform puzzle but arr willing to speak out out about them eleoquently and publicly. Keep it up, Mr. Altman. Read the whole thing.

Summer Kudos

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teamusesnano.jpgWith grants, new research, awards and honors, Franklin College faculty, staff and alumni continue to excel and establish new heights of professional accomplishment. A sampling a recent notable achievements:

UGA geneticist named one of Cell’s 40 under 40 – Robert Schmitz, an assistant professor of genetics, was recently selected by the trade journal as one of the 40 most accomplished young scientists under the age of 40, reports OnlineAthens.com.

“Books to watch out for”The New Yorker reviews “West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776,” by Claudio Saunt, Richard B. Russell Professor of American History at the University of Georgia.

UGA researchers awarded NIH grant – A team of university scientists will use the $1.8 million award to study the deadly diarrheal parasite cryptosporidiosis.  “There is no fully effective drug or vaccine for crypto,” said Boris Striepen in UGA’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Diseases. Athens Banner-Herald, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

UGA was recently awarded a $638,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to further student interest in engineering or physics, reports OnlineAthens.com.

UGA geography professor Marshall Shepherd, immediate past president of the American Meteorological Society, is among those appointed by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to a new Emergency Preparedness and Management Group in the wake of last winter’s snow storms.

UGA alumna Evangeline George (AB ‘08) is named deputy communications director for U.S. Congressional Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.  The Marietta native currently serves as Pelosi’s press secretary.

Best in class: UGA’s Hodgson SingersAJC

UGA partners with State Farm Insurance – The collaboration is to develop the Modeling and Analytics Graduate Network, or MAGNet program for graduate students, reports the Red & Black.

UGA chemistry grad receives awardRobert Gilliard Jr., a 2014 doctoral graduate, has been awarded a UNCF/Merck Foundation Postdoctoral Science Research Fellowship, reports the ABH.  The award provides $92,000.  Gilliard will pursue research projects focused on synthetic chemistry.  

Researchers use nanoparticles to enhance chemotherapy – Three UGA scientists (Shanta Dhar, Rakesh Pathak and Sean Marrache of the department of chemistry) have developed a new formulation of cisplatin, a commonly used chemo drug, that significantly increases the drug’s ability to target and destroy cancerous cells, reports Phys.org.

The New Yorker magazine features trumpeter Philip Smith, who recently retired from the New York Philharmonic, and will join the UGA music faculty this fall.  Smith spent more than 30 years with the ensemble.

The associate dean of the Franklin College of Arts & Sciences, Eileen T. Kraemer, is named director of the School of Computing at Clemson University, reports the Anderson (SC) Independent Mail.

UGA math department receives $2 million grant to attract math researchers – R&B

LDSOA alums in residence at Bemis Center

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Plakas1.jpgCongratulations to Rachel Dubuque (MFA '13) and Justin Plakas (MFA '12) who were selected to live and work at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, NB this summer:

The two are part of an international group of 18 artists who were selected out of a pool of 800, working on individual projects for a funded cycle of three months.

"It has been an amazingly transformative experience," Plakas said.

Art Maymester in NYC

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NYCCOMBO.jpgMore on this soon, but 30 students (graduate and undergraduate) in the Lamar Dodd School of Art enjoyed a great experience on a new Maymester program in the spring - a field study in New York City. Students had the opportunity to visit all the big museums plus a number of galleries throughout the city, interact with many UGA alumni as well as incoming LDSOA director Chris Garvin. Now that's a fun way to learn.

Image collage courtesy of Marni Shindelman.

Franklin alumnus, former POW gives perspective on Bergdahl’s release

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Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 3.36.43 PM.pngA Franklin College alumnus is at the forefront of national news this week, offering a unique perspective on the recent release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from captivity.  Col. Lee Ellis, a UGA history graduate (A.B. ‘65) and retired Air Force Colonel, was a POW during the Vietnam War for five-and-a-half years. In interviews with CBS News and CNN, Ellis recounts his own experience and offers his take on what challenges may lie ahead for Bergdahl.

Ellis, who was held captive alongside others including Senator John McCain during his service in the military, offers sound advice for Bergdahl’s family and friends: 

What helped for Ellis was never giving up hope.

"I think you always survive everything one day at a time. You keep walking forward until you come out the other side. Hope is so important."

He said Bergdahl will also have to find people who understand and can relate to what he's been through.

"Life is not easy for any of us, and he's going to have to work through those experiences also. And that's where he's going to need help, and I would say he's probably going to need some counseling. That would be good for him and helping him because he's probably going to have some degree of PTSD also."

While Ellis was held captive in Vietnam with others, Bergdahl was a lone prisoner, and this could factor into his recovery, Ellis said.

"We had a couple of guys that were in China, held for more than five years and several were in solitary confinement for several years, but they did know there was some support around. I think for Bowe, it's going to be much more difficult because he was so alone, and knowing who to trust, who not to trust and just feeling safe and letting his hair down a little bit - I do think it will complicate it significantly."

Ellis is stepping forward to help the public understand and provide context at a critical moment in history. Another great example of a Franklin College graduate’s contribution to the world. Bravo! You can read more about Ellis here or visit his blog here.

Alums We Love

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chris-bilheimerWe love all of our alums and play no favorites here - and we especially love when our graduates and their exploits find their way into the media, as is the case today with great friend of the blog, Chris Bilheimer:

For more than two decades Chris Bilheimer has designed album covers, concert posters, rock T-shirts and more as art director for R.E.M. and freelancer for other bands, notably Green Day, Widespread Panic and Neutral Milk Hotel. Now he’s entered the fashion realm as the creative force behind Helm Boots’ redesign. This spring, the Austin, Texas-based brand unveiled a new logo, website, packaging, store signage and point-of-sale materials. “The original look had a pretty heavy Americana feel to it, and part of the vision was to move away from beating you over the head that it’s made in America,” said Bilheimer, whose wife, Hillary, is Helm’s brand manager. “With what they plan to do in the future, I tried to give them an identity that has a more modern feel.” Bilheimer studied drawing and painting at University of Georgia in Athens...

It's short, you can read it all. The Lamar Dodd School of Art has brought many great people to Athens and UGA, acted as a petri dish for their talents, and loosened them upon a the wider populace to achieve great success. We're proud of Chris and so many others. The people who come here to live, study and work are what make our town and the university what they are.

A brush with royalty

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matt sellers_PCMarshall Scholar and Franklin College alumnus Matt Sellers (BA ’12) recently attended a reception with Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and Honorary Patron of the Association of Marshall Scholars, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Scholarships.

At the reception, held at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, the Prince of Wales awarded several Marshall Medals to individuals of outstanding achievement. The event also was attended by U.S. Ambassador Matthew Barzun, and guests included current Marshall Scholars, Marshall Scholar Alumni, representatives of both the U.K. and U.S. governments and representatives from a range of British universities.

Marshall Scholarships finance young Americans of high ability to study for a degree in the United Kingdom. Founded by a 1953 Act of Parliament and named in honor of U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the scholarships commemorate the humane ideals of the Marshall Plan and express the continuing gratitude of the British people to their American counterparts. Sellers, who was a Foundation Fellow and Honors student, is the sixth UGA student to receive a Marshall Scholarship. He is pursuing a master of studies program in modern literature followed by a doctor of philosophy program in English language and literature at Oxford University.

To learn more about Marshall Scholarships, see http://www.marshallscholarship.org/.

Image: Prince Charles with Marshall Scholars, including Matt Sellers at left.

Why support Franklin College?

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Privately funded scholarships have a direct and personal impact on UGA students and provide opportunities for them to achieve their dreams. Often the impact is life changing and can best be understood in the words of the students themselves. Below are the words of one of our students, junior psychology major Toni McKoy, whose life has been changed through the generosity of a scholarship donor.

mccoy_toni.jpg

This has been a critical past year for me, I've had to juggle classes, work, and club activities in order to stay on top of classes and financially support myself. After a rough first semester and unfortunate events following, I decided to pursue what I thought would make me a happier person in life. I continued my studies in Japanese and I made a critical decision to switch my major from Animal Science to Psychology. I even decided to become more active in the Japan Club at UGA. I ran and was elected as the advertiser, historian, and dance coordinator for the club. After all of these changes and accomplishments, I decided to further challenge myself. This school year I hope to begin my music minor and join even more clubs and organizations around campus. Next summer I wish to be able to study abroad in Japan to strengthen my language skills.

Now that I have more goals I'll have to try even harder to keep my grades up, stay active in activities and work throughout the year. Last school year I worked at the Georgia Museum of Art as a security guard. While it would be nice to get that position again, I would like to expand my work experience which, at the moment, includes my work as a security guard and as a youth coordinator at a local Atlanta organization called Project South. I've been working for Project South for the last three summers as a coordinator and a team leader of a youth summer program in the Atlanta area. This experience made me realize that I enjoy working in the field, doing research based work, and helping others. This was important to realize, because by pursuing my degree in Psychology, I can work in all three areas. After obtaining my Bachelor's degree, I plan to find a job and begin my Master's degree. After that, I want to be able to do research based work and maybe travel around the country or even the world. At the same time, I still want to be able to enjoy things I love like studying music and the Japanese language and culture.

It is crucial that we continue to offer the opportunity of the UGA experience to the widest possible array of students. Read more stories about what scholarships mean to our students here.

Thinc! Entrepreneurial Week, April 13-17

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thinc-logo.jpgNext Month, UGA will celebrate many Franklin College students, faculty, staff and alumni during Thinc! week - an inititaive to shine the spotlight on entrepreneurs and the spirit that moves them:

UGA started the Thinc. initiative to make sure that the next generation of leaders and innovators learns how to take their ideas from concept to reality. The initiative promotes entrepreneurship and fosters economic development in the region by providing inspiration and advice to those contemplating a plunge into the competitive and exciting world of entrepreneurship.

Thinc. hosts a variety of new and ongoing programs and events to help UGA students, faculty and staff see the world of opportunities both locally and globally, and to start something in response.

"That ‘something' started might be a new for-profit company or a not-for-profit social venture," Lee said. "It might change something in your own neighborhood or community, or it might change the world. The important thing is that you find your passion and act on it."

Thinc. at UGA culminates every year with Thinc. Entrepreneurial Week, a weeklong celebration that includes lectures, workshops, panel discussions, competitions and networking events that promise to engage, inspire and build the confidence that will make participants strong competitors in the modern marketplace.

Each day of Thinc. Entrepreneurial Week, which begins April 13, will feature a signature "Start Something" event, including a hackathon, a Thinc. Prize for Innovation, a panel of top UGA alumni business owners, a business plan competition and events related to social entrepreneurship, the arts and networking. 

Should be very interesting. Great that OVPR and other university leaders are providing support for growing new initiatives like Thinc! and Spotlight on the Arts. The best way to support and inspire our community is to celebrate what supports and inspires us.