The Georgia Trail Summit is excited to announce the schedule for its second annual event, which will take place in Athens, Georgia, June 4-6 at The Graduate. Continue reading to learn more about Georgia Trail Summit's founder, Double Dawg Tracie Sanchez (AB '88, MPA '11), and the inspiration behind this organization.
Josh Collins (BSEH '97, MS '99) is the proud owner of Athen's newest juke-joint style restaurant, Champy's Famous Fried Chicken. Located at 1120 Baxter Steet, Athen, GA, the restarunt stives to bring together traditional, southern-family recipes with an atmosphere that will attract a diverse crowd.
The UGA Alumni Association’s Strategic Communications intern, Emilie Clarke ’15, had the opportunity to catch up with this outstanding alumnus. Read below to find out more about Josh’s entrpreneurial endeavors.
You recently opened Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken, tell me a little bit about the restaurant. What steps did you take to open your own business? What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Champy's was founded in Chattanooga in 2009 by a good friend of ours, Seth Champion, who was raised on the Mississippi Delta. Although Champy's of Athens is the fifth location, which also includes Daphne, Alabaster and Muscle Shoals, AL, we are not a franchise. We refer to ourselves as a "friendchise" between buddies that enjoy great food in a fun atmosphere. The atmosphere is fun for all ages.
My wife, Amy, and I have talked about moving to Athens for the past 10 years and I knew that Athens was a Champy's explosion waiting to happen. We worked on selling the idea of Athens to Seth for over two years then invested everything we had into opening, including having to go all the way to Mississippi to get a business loan because local banks wouldn't work with us. We cashed in our 401Ks, are still living in an RV and continue to invest all of the elbow grease we have every day.
Interior of Chmapy's Famous Fried Chicken
Where do you see the company in five years?
For the Athens Champy's, I can see a destination spot that draws customers from all over Georgia and visiting sports rivals, a thriving catering business for everyone that wants good southern food, and a restaurant full of locals that are drawn to our bluesy atmosphere. As for expansion, I definitely see a second location in five years, maybe an hour or two from Athens.
What chefs or types of cuisines are your biggest food influences?
Flavors from the Deep South - Mississippi Delta hot tamales, fresh fried chicken and homemade sides. Our recipes were handed down from Seth Champion's grandfather over 40 years ago.
How did your time at UGA help you achieve your personal and professional goals? Did you have a favorite professor or class that really stuck with you? Favorite memory from your time at UGA?
My environmental health sciences degree kick-started my corporate career and provided me with 15 years of business experience that I lean on every day to run the restaurant.
I would have to go with two professors, Dr. David MacIntosh and Dean Phil Williams of the Health Science Campus. You didn't ask, but I couldn't forget about Ms. Sandra McPeake who was the department's assistant in the late 1990s. She couldn't always keep me out of trouble, but she tried her best!
Football Saturdays in Athens are my favorite memory. All of them...
What advice would you give to future graduates or young alumni who aspire to own their own business?
Just do it. No one is going to make it happen, but you.
To learn more about Josh Collins (BSEH '97, MS '99) and Champy's Famous Fried Chicken visit ChampysChicken.com.
Former UGA Alumni Association President Carlton Curtis (ABJ '72) has been honored with the 2015 Thad and Alice Eure Ambassador of Hospitality Award. Presented by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), this award goes to an individual who has shown extraordinary achievement and exemplary leadership in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
Curtis spent the past 43 years with the Coca-Cola Company, while volunteering his time, resources and expertise to restaurant operators and retailers around the globe in an effort to raise the stature of the industry. He has served as chairman of the board of the NRAEF, serves on the Board of Directors of the International Franchise Association, is the current chair of IFA's Diversity Institute, and is a member of the Hall of Fame of the Distinguished Restaurants of North America. He serves his alma mater as an emeritus trustee of the UGA Foundation. He will be recognized today at the National Restaurant Association’s Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.
Recently, Executive Director Meredith Gurley Johnson (BSFCS '00) had an opportunity to attend the Shabbat 500 dinner.
Thanks to generous Georgia Fund gifts, University of Georgia student organizations are able to apply for sponsorship dollars from the UGA Alumni Association. This is an important way for alumni to support the diverse student groups on campus, including UGA’s student Jewish center, The Rohr Chabad House.
Since 2011, the UGA Alumni Association has been a proud sponsor of the Shabbat 500, an annual free dinner for UGA’s Jewish community in celebration of Shabbat. As a sponsor of Shabbat 500, we help fund the 500-person event hosted by The Rohr Chabad House.
The Chabad House is located near the Spec Towns Track and is a home-away-from-home for Jewish students that offers fellowship and an opportunity to celebrate the holidays. Rabbi Refson and his wife, Chana, have five children, yet they are still able to provide unparalleled hospitality to UGA students through their work with The Chabad House. Every Friday evening, the couple welcomes approximately 60 students for a free dinner in their home. The UGA community is lucky to have individuals like Rabbi Refsen and Chana who provide such special moments for students to gather and celebrate Judaism.
I was able to attend this year’s Shabbat 500 with UGA Alumni Association Vice President Ruth Bartlett (BBA ’76). I witnessed a number of UGA’s student leaders participate, enjoyed seeing the special connections these students have with one another, and loved hearing the prayers, blessings and singing that took place! The students’ energy reminded me how wonderfully diverse the University of Georgia student body is and it made me proud that the UGA Alumni Association sponsors this program.
I greatly admire Rabbi Refson’s family and appreciate the role they play in building a welcoming community for students on campus. I am proud to call them my friends and hope the entire Athens community knows how lucky we are to have them as a resource for students. I invite students, parents and alumni to investigate Chabad of Georgia and The Chabad House to find their role in supporting Rabbi Refson and this special organization on campus.
Executive Director Meredith Gurley Johnson (BSFCS '00), Student Alumni Council Member Reed Turry '17 and Vice President Ruth Bartlett (BBA '76)
I look forward to our team sponsoring this event, which promotes campus diversity and inclusiveness, again in the future. Thank you to The Chabad House for hosting Ruth and me!
Meredith Gurley Johnson (BSFCS ’00) is the executive director of the UGA Alumni Association.
Since graduating from UGA, Christina Sass (AB ’02) has led a successful career in the for-profit and nonprofit world. Her passion for empowering others inspired her to co-found Andela, a global talent accelerator that produces world-class remote developers and connects them with top employers. Andela finds the brightest young people in Africa and gives them the training and mentorship to thrive as full-time, remote developers for companies around the world.
The UGA Alumni Association’s strategic communications intern, Emilie Clarke ’15, had the opportunity to catch up with this outstanding alumna:
Tell me a little bit about Andela. Where do you see the company in five years?
Andela began as a pilot of a model that I’ve been dreaming about finding for years — a scalable way for brilliant young people living in places where economic opportunities are scarce to receive training and employment that leads to lifelong careers without debt and without leaving home.
At Andela, we find and train these young people - starting in Lagos, Nigeria - to be world-class remote web developers. We are unlocking the world’s untapped human potential and creating a talent pipeline for global industries, most of which struggle to find tech talent. With more than 10,000 applications coming in from across Africa to participate in the program and with 100 percent client retention so far, I'd say we are onto something!
Walking into the Andela office in Lagos, Nigeria and seeing 70 people (25 percent young women) who have a new career path and who feel like a family because of Andela -- that is my proudest career accomplishment.
In five years, we plan to scale, scale, scale. I foresee us having centers in Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and others across Nigeria. I foresee companies viewing us as the go-to place for world-class software developers. They can feel great about hiring through Andela because of the social impact.
Christina Sass (AB '02) at an Andela exposé
How did your time at UGA help you achieve your goals? Did you have a favorite professor or class?
I met a group of friends in Myers Hall that are still some of my closest friends in the world. We all spent the millennium New Year’s Eve together and have spent every single New Years together since 1999. You read that right - 15 years of dear friends who meet annually to watch UGA bowl games and to ring in the New Year together. Individuals from that group are now teaching literature at top high schools. They are teaching media and communications at UNC and philosophy at Purdue. They are city planning for Los Angeles. They are professional musicians who got their start in Athens. They are dear friends who have shaped me personally and professionally since we were all at UGA.
My favorite professors were Dr. Loris Magnani in Astronomy and Physics and Dr. Edward Halper in Ancient Philosophy. Both are still st UGA. If you are a student, stop what you are doing and sign up for their classes immediately. Dr. Magnani's classes left me in awe of the universe. Dr. Halper made Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and Maimonides come alive and showed how their work can guide our everyday lives. Personally, his own life exemplified how unity and purpose in one's thinking and one's action shape a life well-lived.
You are being honored by the New York Business Journal for its Women of Influence Award. Who are some influential figures in your life? Where do you draw inspiration?
My father, Jurgen Peter Sass, is the greatest inspiration in my life. He left post-war Germany at twenty-two with only a suitcase and $200 and built a meaningful life. He instilled in my brother and me, the way that only a German can, that education would be the greatest determining factor of the quality and richness of our lives. We had Aristotle and FDR quotes on our fridge. We debated literature and politics over long dinners. We traveled and studied the geography and history of new places as a family. He fueled my endless curiosity about the world and gave me the initial courage and street smarts to travel everywhere!
I have also had the privilege to meet and work with vibrant young people across the globe who fight to get an education. From my first campers at the YMCA in Athens to my current Fellows at Andela who are teaching me to code, young people who hustle and succeed against all odds inspire me every day. At Andela we call this #allheartallhustle.
What advice would you give to future graduates or young alumni looking to create global impact?
Find the overlap between what you are passionate about and what the world needs most. Start with the Millenium Development Goals or focus on job creation in areas of highest unemployment. Doing what feels good is not enough. Don't side-step the hard work of researching what really works: what is scalable and sustainable, what is safe for local communities, and what is aligned with what local communities need and want. Do the research and then go apprentice with those who are doing it best. Listen when you are out in the field. Have hundreds of cups of tea and just listen. Never stop asking yourself if this is truly the best (most efficient, most effective) way to solve the problem you are trying to solve. And no matter where you go - even to the farthest corners of the earth- never stop loving the Georgia Bulldogs.
The UGA community is proud to call Christina a member of the Bulldog family.
Visit Andela's website to learn more.