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08.26.2015

Alumna Spotlight: Ailsa Von Dobeneck (BS ’07)

Ailsa Von Dobeneck (BS ’07) has built a career on communications and world travel. She’s traveled to locations such as London, Singapore, and Washington, D.C. for her developing government and international relations career. Most recently, however, Ailsa traveled to Los Angeles to display her passion for cooking on the Fox's MasterChef. 

UGA staff member Erin Miller recently spoke with Ailsa regarding her experience on appearing on MasterChef sixth season, her global travels and memories of UGA. 

What motivated you to pursue cooking as a passion? Have you always spent a lot of time in the kitchen?

You know how there are some people that live to eat and some that eat to live? I am the former, through and through. After graduating, I took a semester off before I pursued a master's degree at King’s College in London and decided to spend the time learning to cook. After all, if you love to eat, it is great to know your way around a kitchen. I enrolled in the advanced beginner’s class at the Le Cordon Bleu in London and learned the basics. I have been experimenting ever since and enjoy traveling in search of new and exciting flavors. My career took me to Singapore, where I worked in shipping, and I was able to travel extensively throughout the region. I now work in government affairs in Washington, D.C. I spend my free time looking through old White House cookbooks at the Library of Congress. It is amazing the kind of gems you find in there. Next month, I will be starting a weekly column on presidential recipes in my blog, The Curious Tastebud, which will run through to the election next year.

On your MasterChef contestant page, you described yourself as a “unicorn” because no other contestant possessed your unique set of skills.  What are some of the unique skills that you acquired at UGA? 

I think UGA was the place where I truly started to learn about myself. I discovered what I’m great at, good at and need to work on. I think the skill that I focused on developing first was time-management. Like in the kitchen, you need to be prepared to pace yourself and use your time wisely at UGA. As an out-of-state student, my experience at UGA encouraged me to put myself out there: to introduce myself to people and take risks.

  

What is a positive MasterChef experience that you’d like to share?

I had so many positive experiences on the show. One of the highlights was getting to prepare a filet for Gordon Ramsay in his own restaurant, Gordon Ramsay Steak, in Las Vegas. I had never been to Vegas and the razzle dazzle of the whole experience was really special. Though my filet didn’t get me to the next round, I was proud of my dish. I also really enjoyed meeting the other talented contestants. One of my favorite fellow contestants went to LSU, so we had some great football banter. Go Dawgs!

You’re an extensive world traveler.  What countries have you visited and would recommend based on their cuisine?

I’ve been lucky with my travel options, as both of my parents are from Europe and I lived in Asia for a time. I am completely in love with Vietnamese cuisine and would recommend a trip to Ho Chi Minh City for anyone who enjoys street food and isn’t afraid to try bold flavors. Italy will always be close to my heart when it comes to edibles. My family spent a lot of time in Venice when I was a kid, where I learned the joy of a big bowl of pasta. For those who aren’t as adventurous, the Italian menu will give you familiar classics made with the best ingredients possible. Gelato anyone?

When you’re at home, what are some of the dishes you like to prepare?

My absolute favorite part of cooking is seeing people enjoy what I have made. I host dinner parties at my house and focus on making dishes you can prepare ahead of time so you have time with your guests. There is nothing worse than an absent hostess. Risotto is a favorite; it is refined and can come in a host of different varieties. I make a gorgeous manchego risotto with chorizo, red peppers and arugula. 

What is your favorite memory of UGA? Are there any places in Athens that you remember?

With enough amazing memories to last a lifetime, I am struggling to pick a “favorite.” Watching the Dawgs win Between the Hedges was always amazing. We won the SEC championship my freshman year against LSU in Atlanta. I remember being over the moon that I had chosen the “best university ever.”

Athens also has so many places that stick out in my mind. The Pi Beta Phi house on Milledge brings back a lot of fun memories, from getting ready for formals to decorating the front porch for every holiday imaginable. If we are talking foodie memories, I still dream about the grits from Last Resort. Hugh Acheson from Five and Ten is a real talent and always dished out the tastiest Southern dishes every season. I ran to the bookstore when Acheson's book, A New Turn in the South, was published. 

Is there anything else regarding your career that you’d like to share?

In both my careers (government relations and cooking), my education at UGA has held in me in amazing stead. My time in Athens gave me access to some of the best and brightest professors and allowed me to really channel my energy in positive ways. It is amazing the amount of UGA alumni I have met across the world. It seems Georgia alumni are all connected by a lifelong love of learning and I am really proud to forever be a Bulldog.

To learn more about Ailsa and to see examples of her culinary work, please visit her blog.

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03.02.2016

Double Dawg Maxine Burton Honored With Her Own Flower

Whenever you go out to look for flowers that can add a pop of color to your home or garden this spring, be sure to keep your eye out for the “Maxine” Dianthus, named after alumna and founder of burton + BURTON, Maxine Burton (BSED ’72, MED ’78).  

In European culture, queens and heads of state have had flowers named after them in their honor. Because of this esteemed tradition, the International Floriculture Exposition (IFE) has only awarded 6 people, including Maxine, with their own flower.

With the help of her family, Maxine and her husband founded their company, burton + BURTON, in 1982. Today, it has grown into one of the largest distributors of balloons and coordinating gifts in the world and has helped the floral industry to flourish as well.

The “Maxine” Dianthus is a fun, solid pink colored dianthus, making it the perfect fit for a bright, go-getter who has dedicated 33 years to the balloon, hard goods, and décor industry.

The award was presented to her at this past year’s International Floriculture Exposition in Chicago. The award was kept a secret in order to surprise her at the exposition.

In light of receiving the award, Burton said, “To be recognized by people with whom I have so much history and so much respect is an incredible honor, not just for me, but for our entire burton + BURTON family.”

Congratulations Maxine on this outstanding honor!

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02.22.2016

Alumna Spotlight: Dr. Kimberly Osborne (PHD '06)

Digital Specialist Jamie Lewis (AB '12, AB '12) recently interviewed alumna Dr. Kim Osborne (PHD '06). Osborne is a professor at Purdue University and was named the inaugural C-SPAN Endowed Chair at Purdue's Brian Lamb School of Communications.

You were named to the C-SPAN Endowed Chair at the Brian Lamb School of Communications at Purdue. Can you tell me a little bit about that position? 

The C-SPAN Chair is a new position at Purdue in 2015-2016, and I am honored to be selected as the inaugural recipient of this prestigious endowment. It is a terrific fit for me because of my background in both public affairs and communication, which are areas central to C-SPAN’s mission. As a scholar, my academic expertise includes cultural studies, program planning, power/hegemony and media literacy.

Before I started at Purdue, I worked for two Cabinet-level federal agencies, in domestic and international roles, and I also have more than two decades of experience with corporations, nonprofits, top PR agencies, and media outlets worldwide helping to shape public opinion and public policy. At Purdue, I speak and teach, I serve on national boards, and I mentor the next generation of public affairs and strategic communications practitioners. It is rewarding to help guide young people whose skill set will impact decision making – from the U.S. Congress to statehouses to corporations nationwide.

Your resume boasts a variety of accomplishments. What are some accomplishments of which you are most proud? 

It seems like I have lived many lifetimes in one, and this has made my life interesting. Professionally, my recent assignment as the Chief Strategic Communications Advisor to the Afghan National Security Forces made me proud. I was the U.S. Department of Defense’s top civilian communications advisor to Afghanistan’s defense ministries in Kabul. In addition to my day-to-day duties mentoring senior leaders in the Afghan Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior, I was tasked with “fixing” the “broken” communications function in the Afghan National Army. (Did I mention that I had never worked in a war zone before?) My plan provided recommendations for major organizational improvements, identified training needs and remediation, and proposed more proactive and strategic messaging focused on the end of Operation Enduring Freedom, the upcoming presidential elections, and other major high-stakes, high-visibility endeavors.

  

Additionally, I guided senior military personnel in the development of the first strategic communications plan for the Afghan National Army, and I led efforts by ISAF’s Ministerial Engagement Team and the U.S. Defense Department’s Ministerial Advisory Group. For my part, the Afghan National Army’s Director of Strategic Communications called me “the best advisor I ever had … in spite of being a woman.”

Personally, I have done a lot of things that make me proud. One of them is saying yes when a woman asked me if I believed in her dreams. She approached me at a speaking engagement in Los Angeles, and she told me she wanted to start a leadership development program to send young adults to Ethiopia to do service work. She asked if I thought she could do it and if I would give her advice. Today, she is the executive director of a start-up nonprofit organization called Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship. In the first year, EDF sent five young people from the Ethiopian diaspora – including one UGA graduate -- to Addis Ababa for six months where they worked with community partners to build capacity in sub-Saharan Africa. In a recent meeting, Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs asked if EDF could expand their program and model to other western nations and bring even more help to Ethiopia. I am officially the organization’s “strategic advisor,” but I am always introduced as the “person who said yes.”

You earned your Ph.D. in adult education at UGA. What attracted you to UGA? Do any particular memories of your time in Athens stand out? 

After I executed the public launch of Kelly Educational Staffing, which became the fastest-growing, most profitable business unit in (Fortune 500 professional services supplier) Kelly Services’ history, I’d become tired of Michigan’s winter weather. UGA’s Office of Public Affairs offered me a job in which I would help elevate the institution’s profile in the national media, and I did not hesitate to move south. In the decade that I worked and studied at UGA, I have more fond memories than I can recount in this space. Academically, I am grateful for the opportunity to study with several of the most esteemed scholars in the field of adult education and to have graduated from the top program in the discipline. Professionally, I enjoyed starting the Amazing Student feature on UGA's website with my colleague, Janet Beckley, because I got to learn about and showcase so many talented Dawgs. I also enjoyed working as the first coordinator of the joint program between UGA’s Office of External Affairs, the Office of the President, and the Athletic Association where we featured UGA’s top teaching, research and service faculty on the field during home football games - which helps remind the Bulldog Nation that there is a university attached to its football team!

  

If you could give one piece of advice to UGA students as they prepare for internships and graduation, what would it be?

Be bold. Dare to dream. Take chances. Live the life you wish for. Think outside the box. Color outside the lines. Blaze new trails. I think back to when I was graduating from college, and I want to take that 22-year-old version of myself and hug her. I want to tell her to worry less and risk more. I want to tell her it will turn out to be more amazing than she can imagine. I want to tell her not to be so concerned about what other people think. And I want to assure her that it’s okay if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. Try one thing, and when it’s time to try something else, then do that. You only have all the answers when you look back at your life, never when you look ahead. It blows my mind to think about what a pivotal and transformational time this is in human history. What incredible opportunities we have to influence the course of events-for ourselves, for other people, for societies and for humankind! Do something positive. Inspire others. Make the world a better place.

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02.17.2016

Alumna Spotlight: Mariah Domenech (BSED ’15)

The UGA Alumni Association welcomes Mariah Domenech (BSED ’15) as today’s guest blogger. Mariah is a Georgia Fund scholarship recipient who studied abroad this past fall in Spain. The Georgia Fund is the annual giving program to support academic and alumni initiatives at UGA. Georgia Fund gifts enrich the lives and experiences of students, faculty and alumni, wherever they are engaged in advancing the University's mission - on campus, around the state or abroad. For Mariah, this trip would not have been possible without generous support from alumni and friends. 

"Teaching in Spain was a lifechanging experience. Being completely submerged in such a different culture was nerve-wracking. I wasn’t sure what mannerisms were appropriate or how to ask for things without coming off as rude; it took a lot of observing my surroundings in order to find out the proper way to interact with others. It also took a lot of me asking my host family a ton of questions whenever I didn’t know or understand something. The school system is so different from what I am used to in the United States. The teachers were more affectionate and open with their students; there was more physical interaction than what I was used to. Seeing new, beautiful landscapes and interacting with new people and gaining such an amazing experience is something I may have never been able to experience if it was not for the OIE - Alumni Association Study Abroad Fellowship. I am beyond thankful for receiving this scholarship that made it possible for me to study abroad in Spain."

In December, Mariah graduated from UGA with a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. She is currently pursuing a graduate degree from the College of Education. To learn more about Mariah’s study abroad experience, click here.

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