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11.19.2015

Alumna recognized by L’Oreal Paris’ Women of Worth Program

In May of 2009, Books for Keeps founder Melaney Smith (BBA ’89) met an Alps Road Elementary second-grader who was disappointed that school was breaking for summer. Why? When school ended, so did her access to books.

Smith wanted to help, and learned that many of the student’s classmates were in a similar situation. Without books, the reading skills some of these second graders had developed during the school year could decline over the summer, a circumstance recognized by educators as “summer slide”.

“I thought, ‘why doesn’t somebody do something about this?’  And then I thought, ‘I am somebody,’” said Smith.

Research led her to Dr. Jennifer Graff, a professor at the University of Georgia College of Education who co-authored a study on the topic.

Adopting the methods used in the study, Smith started Books for Keeps’ primary program: Stop Summer Slide! This flagship initiative provides 12 books to every child in the elementary schools served by Books for Keeps. In 2015, Stop Summer Slide! was offered to students in ten elementary schools, eight in Athens elementary schools and one each in Atlanta and Warrenton.  

At the end of each school year, Books for Keeps hosts mock book fairs where the children come to their respective schools’ media center and select the books they would most like to own.

“If we expect them to read at home during the summer with no encouragement from adults, they have to have something they like to read,” Smith said.

Volunteers help children find the books they want, and ask the students questions to align book-collection needs for the following year. All schools in the program have been designated as Title 1 schools, which means 90 to 100 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch, Smith said.

  

This month, her efforts were rewarded with at $10,000 grant from the L’Oreal Paris’ Women of Worth program. Now Smith is in the running for an additional $25,000 to be determined by public vote and awarded at a ceremony in New York on December 1.

Click here to vote once per day for Smith to help Books for Keeps win $25,000.

Books for Keeps recently completed a plan to expand to all elementary Clarke County schools in Athens and at least five more in Atlanta.

“We don’t add a school until we have community support that we know will last,” she said. “Our expansion funds are seed money, but there has to be community support.”

She hopes exposure from the L’Oreal honor will help spread the word about Books for Keeps, particularly in Atlanta. And she hopes to meet and network with her fellow Women of Worth winners next month in New York.

If you would like to help, consider joining the Books for Keeps initiative by volunteering, donating books, offering a monetary gift, hosting a book drive, or spreading the word through social media and your daily personal interaction with others. Your contributions could make a difference in the life of a child. 

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Recent Entries


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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