UGA Alumni Association:


Mary Charles Howard BLA ’08

Mary Charles HowardMary Charles Howard (BLA ’08) is the founder and owner of The Athens Food Tour Company, which arranges culinary tours in the Athens area.

Growing up on a farm in Sandersville, Ga., Howard’s curiosity for all things homegrown and handmade was nurtured. As the youngest of five daughters, there was no room for her in the kitchen, but there was always room in the garden. Therefore, the young alumna has always rummaged around in the earth – whether it was gardening, playing with her pet pig “Pork Chop” or painting with dirt.

Since a young age, Howard knew she wanted to be a landscape architect. She pursued that dream and graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in landscape architecture in 2008. Upon graduation, she moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., and found a weekend job as a tour guide for a company called Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours. While still pursuing her landscape architecture career, she enjoyed leading food tours and learning about local food, chefs and restaurants.

While working for Taste Carolina, Howard discovered a deep appreciation for the farm to table movement, and the fact that food has a journey to the plate. She eventually quit her day job and moved back to Athens to start a food tour company that actively connected people with locally owned restaurants and locally grown food.

Through Athens Food Tour, Howard hopes to contribute to a more neighborly slow-food community, one bite at a time. Athens Food Tours has quickly become a favorite way for tourists and locals to enjoy the outstanding food culture in Athens, Ga.

In addition to Athens Food Tours, the alumna operates Mary Charles Howard, Inc., a landscape design and installation company.



Rebecca Lang ’99

Rebecca Lang

Rebecca Lang is a food writer, cooking instructor, and a ninth-generation Southerner. Born and raised in South Georgia, she is author of Southern Living’s Around the Southern Table, Quick-Fix Southern, Mary Mac’s Tea Room, and Southern Entertaining for a New Generation.

She has appeared on Fox & Friends Weekend, WGN America’s Midday News, and numerous regional and local networks. Rebecca and her cooking have been featured in more than 50 nationally televised Southern Living food segments and in publications such as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle, Wine Enthusiast,,Glamour and Fitness magazines.

A former assistant food editor at Oxmoor House, she earned an A.B.J. in Journalism, majoring in magazines, from the University of Georgia, a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales University, and apprenticed with Southern cooking legend Nathalie Dupree.

She serves as a contributing editor for Southern Living and, teaches cooking classes across America, and writes a blog at that has been featured on the James Beard Foundation Blog, Delights and Prejudices, and noted in Food News Journal’s Best of the Blogs. Her writing has appeared in many publications including Disney’s Family Fun, Taste of the South, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Flavors magazine, and Edible Atlanta.

She resides in Athens, Georgia, with her husband, Kevin; their children, Camden and Adair; and their snuggly Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Miss Bea.

For more information, visit



Jessica Black ’06

Jessica Black"Dare to Dream take the Journey" is Jessica Black's motto. Jessica dared to dream and took the journey in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2012. She competed against girls from all across the country and was selected to be Miss United States 2010. In 2011, Jessica was featured on national, local and international news stations. After traveling the US and Asia as Miss United States 2010 and completing over 300 service events, Jessica raised over $400K for some 35 charities across the US.

Jessica is a proud graduate of the University of Georgia. As a surprised to most of her pageant supporters, she began her career as an IBM'er with "Big Blue". She now works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Premier Logic, a rapidly growing IT Software and Web development company in Atlanta.

Jessica enjoys traveling the country and doing motivational speaking engagements on "The Power of Words" and health and wellness. She volunteers for Children's Miracle Network, Hands on Atlanta, Golden Soldiers, and Children's Hospital of Atlanta. Jessica is truly addicted to helping others and she enjoys empowering young women all across the United States.


Nicole Pfleger ’05

Nicole PfleberNicole Pfleger, professional school counselor at Nickajack Elementary School, has been named the top counselor in the United States by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). Ms. Pfleger is one of more than 400 applicants nationwide that competed for the award, which honors school counselors who work tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of their students, parents, and communities. ASCA president Alan Burkhard and CCSD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa presented Nicole with the award during a surprise assembly Dec. 8 in the school auditorium with her family, fellow staff and the Nickajack student body! Board of Education member Tim Stultz and members of the District’s leadership team were also on hand for the celebration.

Ms. Pfleger will visit Washington, DC. February 1-3 2012 with five other national finalists, in conjunction with National Counseling Week. The group will represent ASCA in meetings with members of Congress, tour the nation's capital and attend a black-tie awards gala at Union Station.

The School Counselor of the Year award is the highest national honor for professional school counselors. Candidates are judged on a set of criteria that includes creative school counseling innovations, effective programs, leadership skills and contribution to student advancement. Ms. Pfleger was nominated by Anthony Pearson, colleague and school counselor at Sky View Elementary.

A lifelong resident of Cobb County, Nicole Pfleger attended Wheeler High School, East Cobb Middle School, and Sope Creek Elementary School (where her mother Barbara Pfleger is also a teacher). She earned her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Georgia, then went on to complete her master’s studies in School Counseling at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earn an educational specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Lincoln Memorial University. Ms. Pfleger returned to her Cobb roots in 2006, joining Nickajack Elementary as school counselor.

Cobb County Schools will join in the celebration of National School Counseling Week February 6-10, 2012, honoring the contributions of Ms. Pfleger and her 270 fellow school counselors serving Cobb students and families.


Anne Murray Sims ABJ '73, MA '75

Anne Murray SimsAnne Murray Sims had the good fortune to embark on a “second career” when she returned to her home town of Augusta after 25 years of public sector PR and marketing in Atlanta.She’s the director of Public & Customer Relations for ESi, the global leader in crisis information management technology.  ESi pioneered the concept of the "virtual" emergency operations center with WebEOC®, the world's first Internet-enabled crisis information management software. 

Recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America for the past five years, ESi connects crisis response teams and decision makers within and across industries as diverse as government, health care, aviation, utilities and corporations worldwide, providing access to real-time information and a common operating picture during any crisis or daily operation. WebEOC provides situational awareness and a common operating picture during a crisis event or day-to-day operations and is used at many federal government agencies, state agencies in 36 states, county and city level agencies in 43 states, and many agencies around the world.  On the corporate side, customers are found in banking, finance, energy, entertainment, healthcare, manufacturing, telecomm and transportation. WebEOC has been used to manage many disasters, such as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and planned events, including President Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

While in Atlanta, Annedirected federal communications and public affairs programs---first for the U.S. Department of Agriculture food programs in the Southeast Region, then for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nationwide. At CDC, she managed the press office, the federal government’s busiest news operation, which received more than 20,000 press contacts a year, and was public affairs policy advisor to the agency director.  During her tenure she was responsible for press and public information on such high-profile issues as the AIDS epidemic, injury prevention, childhood immunization, emerging infectious diseases including Ebola, Hantavirus, avian flu, and drug-resistant TB, strep and staph.  

She also served a media advisor to the Pan-American Health Organization in Washington, D.C., and to the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.  She represented CDC on the Atlanta Federal Executive Board and the Atlanta Committee for the 1996 Olympic Games. She served as CDC liaison to the National Science Center and to the American Museum of Natural History on the development of health exhibits. She also co-founded the National Public Health Information Coalition, comprising health department PR directors for every state.

Anne owes a great debt to UGA’s Henry Grady College of Journalism. She feels blessed to have been a student during the golden age of the advertising/PR program when the amazing faculty---Frazier Moore, Tom Russell, Ron Lane, George Abney, Beverly Bethune, even Dean Emeritus Drewry---worked directly with the students and ensured that each received thorough and broad preparation for work in the field.  Anne had the opportunity to be involved even further at Grady by working as a graduate assistant for Journalism 101, serving as student representative on the committee that revised the master’s degree requirements, and later returning as a guest lecturer on federal agency public affairs. 

Anne continues to visit Athens often.  She’s been a season-ticket supporter of Bulldog football for the last 31 years and of the Gym Dogs for 15 years.  Her youngest daughter Katherine is a junior at UGA, and fraternal twins Elizabeth and Emily graduated from UGA in 2009.  Back home in Augusta, Anne’s active in her church, the Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce and several local arts organizations.


Lisa Hyde

Lisa Hude

An Atlanta native, Lisa received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business. She serves as Controller and Senior Vice President – Finance and Accounting at Veracity Payment Solutions, a payments processing company headquartered in Atlanta, GA.

Lisa has spent 24 years in private accounting with 15 years in the transaction processing industry. She began her career at HBO and Company and was responsible for accounting and financial management. She joined NOVA Information Systems (Elavon) in February 1996 as Director of Cash Management. In this role Lisa had oversight of the proceeds of an initial public offering as well as various other departments including accounting, treasury, and budgeting. In 2004 she joined the Project Management Office as Program Manager. Lisa had oversight for several bodies of work including launching Nova’s processing platform in Canada, managing multi-currency global releases of industry regulatory requirements and providing financial oversight for domestic and international acquisitions.

In addition to being an active UGA and Terry alumnus, Lisa is also involved with the Atlanta programming committee for Women of UGA. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell, Ga. where she serves on the finance and development committees and has chaired the entertainment committee the past two years for their annual fund raiser “Rockin’ at the River”. Lisa participates in W-Net, an organization for women in transaction processing and has served on the Board of Directors of the University of Georgia Alumni Association and is a past member of the Georgia Society of CPA’s.

Lisa follows golf and enjoys all UGA sports. She is a football season ticket holder and was a participant in the inaugural Gridiron for Girls class of 2003. Lisa and her husband, Warner Head reside in Marietta and enjoy spending time at their home-away-from-home, Amelia Island.


Nancy Whatley


Native to Atlanta, Nancy has a Bachelor of Business Administration in HR Management from the University of Georgia and is an active member of the American Staffing Association and the Georgia Staffing Association, holding several different board of director and committee positions. She is 2009-2010 Chair of the American Staffing Association Information Committee, which was developed to foster better public understanding of the industry and its role in the economy.

Before opening VantagePoint Staffing Solutions, a certified Women’s Business Enterprise, in December of 2006, Nancy spent over 26 years in the staffing business. Joining Georgia-Pacific Corporation in 1987 after spending 6 years with a national staffing company, she was the architect in creating Georgia TEMP, Inc.; a wholly owned subsidiary and in-house staffing company. During her tenure at GP, Nancy became the company’s expert consultant in areas of supplemental staffing and employment. Under her leadership the company grew and assumed additional responsibilities which included acting as the vendor management service (VMS) for all of GP’s IT vendors. She also developed all policies and procedures for the staffing company.

As Chief Executive Officer and Managing Principal for VantagePoint Staffing Solutions, Nancy was a finalist in the NAWBO-Atlanta Women Entrepreneur Awards in the “Rising Star” category for 2008. The Rising Star award represents Women Business Owners who have owned their business for 1-2 years and have achieved exceptional new business start-up results, including projected revenue goals, executing successful marketing awareness, creating business exposure in the market place and demonstrating business leadership in her community.

Nancy is an avid, competitive golfer and is a member of “Women on Course”. She is a member of Vistage, the world’s largest CEO Organization, a member of the Board of Directors for the University of Georgia Alumni Association and has served on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Women Business Owners. She participates on the Ambassador Council at the 191 Club and was instrumental in establishing the Women of UGA organization.


Lauretta Hannon '92


"Lauretta Hannon is the funniest woman in Georgia." -Southern Living. Lauretta Hannon is the author of The Cracker Queen—A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life (Gotham Books, April 2009) and a commentator on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, where her stories reach 25.5 million listeners. Since 2000 she has also been known for her Georgia Public Radio stories, many of which celebrate strong, authentic Southern women (Cracker Queens). Her memoir became a Southern Indie Bestseller three weeks after its release.

Over the years she has contributed pieces to newspapers across the Southeast. Lauretta has also worked as the vice president of an advertising agency, a university executive, a fortune teller, an independent radio producer, a cocktail waitress, and a writing instructor. As a marketing consultant, she has advised clients as diverse as Drexel University and The League of Women Voters.

Throughout her marketing career she was nationally acclaimed as the most award-winning communications expert in higher education and captured more than 200 awards for her work. In the spring of 2009 she left her day job in order to pursue a fulltime writing career. Today she is in-demand as a speaker and performer and offers writing workshops through her Down Home Writing School.

In her town of Powder Springs, Georgia, she has been active with the Seven Springs Historical Society and Museum. As the author of Images of America: Powder Springs (Arcadia, 2004), she documented the vibrant history of a town in the midst of rapid growth and development. In 2009 she received an award from the State Archives for her work documenting the African-American history of the town.

Lauretta is a 1992 Graduate of UGA with a degree in Comparative Literature.


Nikki Rizzi '09


2LT Nikki Rizzi is one of U.S. Army's first female HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) Platoon Leaders currently assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

She leads and maintains her 20 man platoon's readiness to be able to rapidly deploy in support of the 18th Airborne Corps and Special Operations forces' no-notice world-wide contingency operations. She is slated later this year for a combat deployment to Afghanistan.

Ms. Rizzi is a member of the United States Army Field Artillery Association, Women in Defense, and Association of U.S. Army and was recently selected to represent 82nd Airborne Division at a Senior ROTC Outreach at North Carolina State University sponsored by the Hugh Shelton Leadership Center.

Since departing Athens, she has been awarded an Army Achievement Medal, the Global War on Terror Service Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal. She earned her BA in International Studies from UGA in 2009.


Genie Snyder Chamberlain '86 '02

Genie Snyder Chamberlain Photo

Genie Snyder Chamberlin, "The WedDOC," helps brides and their families with the fun of wedding planning. She is highly regarded for her creativity in event design. However, her other specialty is helping people talk about the least fun, but still creative subject of wedding planning --- the costs and budget! WedED is a series of courses in which she and 25 other wedding professionals teach their bridal "students" how to set priorities, negotiate with vendors, and exactly describe expectations to create a day to remember for a lifetime! Most importantly, she helps brides get the most value for their money - whatever their budget!

Genie is a double dawg alumna with a master's and doctorate from UGA. For more than 25 years, Genie has been a wedding and event consultant and designer. She also has over 25 years experience in organizational development, helping companies and organizations strategically plan to realize their visions. WedED is her brainchild combining her broad background. The WedED faculty and staff help brides, grooms and their families walk through the stressful details related to creating the day of their dreams without the nightmare!

Genie will be hosting our Women of UGA WedEd event-Back to School for Brides on May 20th at the 1420 room. To register for the event visit the Alumni Association website at


Laura Loving '93

Laura Loving Photo

Laura Loving was born in Charlotte, N.C., in 1970 and grew up in the Atlanta area. She earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Georgia in 1993. Painting with oil enamel on canvas, Laura has developed a distinctive style consisting of bold lines, dramatic surface patterns and pure color that result in vibrant paintings with strong poetic energy.

Laura describes her work: "I take everyday images and recreate them into my own animated version of the world. I consider my art to be an invention of reality rather than purely an exact imitation. I exaggerate color and shape to create art that is humorous, alive and uplifting. The evolution of my style has its roots in American Folk and Pop Art. Having lived and worked in Nice for two years, the rich artistic heritage of the French Riviera has also had a strong effect on my work."

"I want my art to create a positive bond with the viewer. Without question, making a connection with someone through my paintings is the best part of being an artist."

Laura has exhibited in solo and group shows throughout the United States and abroad. In New York, she has shown at Lincoln Center's Cork Gallery, Pratt Institute, Strut Gallery, Anthem Gallery, and Trunkt Gallery. In 2005, Laura was commissioned to create the artwork for the Fall Cabaret Convention at Jazz at Lincoln Center. In Atlanta, Laura was commissioned to create the official serigraph for the 1998 Music Midtown festival. In 2007 and 2008, her work was featured in Saks Fifth Avenue's Spotlight on Art for emerging southern artists. Laura has also shown with the Wonderwall Gallery in Cirencester, England, and Chaleurs du Sud in Nice, France.

Laura's work hangs in homes and businesses around the world, including Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, King and Spalding, Troutman Sanders, BT Radianz, The NYSE, NASDAQ, D/A Capital and Ash Hollow Winery. Her work has been showcased at the Atlanta Alumni Center and currently has artwork on display at the One Live Oak Center in Buckhead.

Laura also donates her work to charities in New York, North Carolina and Georgia each year. She was recently commissioned by the New York City Parks Department and the Junior League of New York to create two murals for Tony Dapolito Recreation Center in Greenwich Village.

Laura currently resides in New York City with her husband Peter. She finds the energy of the city makes it a dynamic and exciting place to live and work. Check out to see her portfolio, newest additions that include scenes of UGA and Paris France as well as information on future exhibits.


Kim Bearden (BSED '87)

Kimberly Bearden Photo

Since Kim Bearden graduated from UGA's College of Education in 1987, she has been a principal, educator, author, executive director, school board member, language arts teacher, public speaker, mom and co-founder. She has dreamed big and in doing so, has affected the lives of thousands of students and teachers.

In 2000, the alumna met fellow educator Ron Clark when the two were being honored with a Disney American Teacher Award in Los Angeles. They eventually combined forces to build their dream school in Atlanta – The Ron Clark Academy.

Obama on the left, McCain on the right.
We can talk politics all night, and you can vote however you like.
I said, you can vote however you like.

If those lyrics sound familiar, it's probably because 20-plus Ron Clark Academy students performed them on CNN, "Good Morning America," the "Today" show and "ABC World News Tonight," during the 2008 presidential election.

Bearden's creativity in the classroom began while teaching in Cobb County Schools from 1987 to 2000. Her innovative approach led to her earning numerous awards, including the Milken Family Foundation Award for Excellence in Education, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution referred to as "the Oscar of education."

Her first book, "Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me" was released in July by Simon & Schuster, and chronicles the life lessons Bearden has learned during her three decades in education.

Bearden and her husband and daughter reside in Atlanta, where she continues to teach and lead at the Ron Clark Academy.


Kimberly Nungesser '00

Kimberly Nungesser Photo

Kim graduated from UGA in 2000 with a Bachelor's of Business Administration in International Business. She is the Recruiting Coordinator at Dixon Hughes. In her free time, Kim owns and manages Fancy, a gift and stationery business.

In addition to being an active member of the UGA Alumni Association, she is an outstanding Women of UGA volunteer. She hosted Women of UGA lunch groups in downtown Atlanta in February and March. Kim also initiated the Women of UGA group on Linked-In and currently promotes events and helps to recruit new hosts for the lunch groups.


Maxine Clark '71

Maxine Clark Photo

Maxine Clark is one of the true innovators in the retail industry. During her 30-year career, her rare ability to spot emerging retail and merchandising trends and insight into the desires of the American consumer generated growth for retail leaders, including department store, discount and specialty stores. In 1997, she founded Build-A-Bear Workshop, a teddy-bear themed experience retail store. At year end 2006 there were over 300 Build-A-Bear Workshop stores worldwide, including company-owned stores in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom and franchised stores in Europe, Asia and Australia.

Maxine Clark Photo

In 2006 Clark was inducted into the Junior Achievement National Business Hall of Fame and received the 2006 Luminary Award for Entrepreneurial Achievement from the Committee of 200. She was named a Customer-Centered Leader in the 2005 Customer First Awards by Fast Company. Clark was one of the Wonder Women of Toys by Playthings magazine and Women in Toys, and was also one of the National Finalists in Retail for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2004. In 2005, the National Association of Small Business Investment Companies (NASBIC) made Build-A-Bear Workshop Portfolio Company of the Year, it was named one of the International Council of Shopping Centers "Hottest Retailers of 2004" and the Retail Innovator of the Year for 2001 by The National Retail Federation.

Clark is a member of the Board of Directors of The J.C. Penney Company, Inc., and serves on the Board of Trustees of the International Council of Shopping Centers and Washington University in St. Louis. She is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the St. Louis Chapter of Teach for America and a member of the Committee of 200. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia. In 2006, her first book "The Bear Necessities of Business: Building a Company with Heart" was published.

Maxine leads her company and encourages creativity in all aspects of her business. She is a role model to young children, and even includes them as key advisors. She stays close to customers with a "Cub Advisory Board," a group of 20 boys and girls 8-17 years old who review new products and suggest additional ones. It meets with Clark and her team 3-4 times per year. "They are fearless and honest," she says. "If they approve of something, we are pretty certain to have a winner."

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