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11.20.2014

Alumna Spotlight: Cheri Leavy (BSED '97)

After a childhood full of frequent visits to Athens, Cheri Harden Leavy (BSED ’97) couldn’t resist the pull of the Classic City. During college, she transferred to UGA from Ole Miss and has been bleeding red and black ever since. Today, she is the founder of Bulldawg Illustrated, Guide2Athens and The Southern Coterie, three publications that encompass various aspects of the modern South.

UGA Alumni Association Asistant Director of Communications Jamie Lewis (AB '12, AB '12) spoke with Cheri about her experiences at the university that now shape her career as a journalist, entrepreneur and publisher.

You started college at Ole Miss. What are your connections to UGA and what made you return to Georgia?

My father, Mac Harden (BBA ’77), graduated from UGA and his mother grew up in Watkinsville - just outside of Athens. We spent a lot of time on the family farm in Oconee when I was growing up, so I have always loved the area and cheered for the Bulldogs. Multi-generations of our family bleed red and black. I loved my time at Ole Miss; my father says I built my resume on classes that were interesting, but didn’t fit a degree (like Anthropology of the Blues and Faulkner Studies). I transferred to UGA and got serious. I stayed on the Dean’s List until I graduated from the College of Education, where I participated in the pilot year of the Collaborative Inquiry Teacher Education Program. I taught high school for several years, then joined The Brunswick News where I launched a Newspaper in Education (NIE) program to showcase local student writing. 

Along with your husband Vance (AB '94), you’ve started Bulldawg Illustrated, Guide2Athens and the Southern Coterie. Explain a little bit about what those are, the inspiration behind them and how your time at UGA prepared you for your entrepreneurial career.

Vance and I created Bulldawg Illustrated, which is a publication that covers UGA sports and the Georgia Bulldog lifestyle. Now in its twelfth year covering the South’s beloved tailgating and football, it is still a ton of fun. Six years ago, we created Guide2Athens. The pocket-sized square book and blog captures the people and businesses that make America’s best college town so culturally rich. We have loved getting involved in the Athens community and have had a home here for the last five years. When Athens isn’t beckoning, you can find us at home in St. Simons with our two golden retrievers.

  

I founded The Southern Coterie with my friend Whitney Long; it is a resource for the entrepreneurial South. Designed to offer a community of passionate business owners the opportunity to connect, collaborate and create, the “Southern C” network is capturing the South’s entrepreneurial renaissance one post at a time. The Southern C Summit brings the online content to life with a unique multi-day conference where attendees network and connect with the best and brightest names in Southern business and branding. 

What is your most memorable UGA experience? Most memorable UGA sports experience?

Meeting Herschel Walker for the first time at Coach Vince Dooley’s home was pretty surreal. The Leavy Family/Brunswick News Publishing endowed a scholarship and we had brunch at the Dooley’s before the game. Vance, his brother, his brother’s wife and I all went on the field that day to be recognized. Since we are all UGA graduates that whole experience was pretty incredible for us all. Herschel was on our Christmas card that year!

Since graduating, you and Vance have stayed involved with the university. Why do you think it’s important for alumni to stay connected to UGA once they’ve graduated?

Staying involved with the university provides you with such an invaluable resource of connections to continue to support your growth personally and professionally.  Vance and I enjoy staying engaged with development and supporting the philanthropic side of UGA. I attended the UGA Studies Abroad Program in Cortona, Italy, and now serve on The Georgia Museum of Art  friend’s board. We also support our vibrant athletics programs.

I have mentors that I share UGA ties with, but I also give back to students that are up-and-coming at the university. We have 15 interns from Grady College. They bring me a tremendous amount of joy and I learn from them as much as I hope they do from me. I give them a great deal of responsibility and I have high expectations, but if they work hard then they can count on me after they have graduated.

I traveled recently to the west coast and to Memphis, where I spent time with former interns. One even visited recently on her “engagement tour,” where she was introducing her future groom to family. We felt honored to be a stop on her travels. They turn into amazing friends as they get older and I couldn’t be prouder of their successes. The internships certainly feed the teacher side of me that was fostered while studying at Aderhold Hall. I may not formally be in education any longer, but I am still using that skillset.

Can you give us a hint of what’s next for you?

Oh my goodness, there is no telling.

  

Vance and Cheri Leavy with Uga IX

Keep telling your stories about our beloved city and school, Cheri! The UGA Alumni Association thanks you for your support and looks forward to your next projects, whatever they may be.

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11.19.2014

From the Desk of Provost Whitten: Food for Thought

Food and food processing are big business in Georgia, so it should come as no surprise that the University of Georgia is using its expertise to strengthen one of the top growth industries in the state.

Recently, UGA broke ground on the UGA Griffin Food Technology Center, a state-of-the-art facility that will house the university’s Food Product Innovation and Commercialization (FoodPIC) Center. FoodPIC is a unit of the university's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences that assists new and existing companies in product development, packaging, food safety, consumer acceptance and marketing. It is staffed by faculty from the department of food science and technology, as well as research chefs from within the university and from private industry.

Food processing is the state’s leading manufacturing sector—with an estimated $3.5 billion in annual wages—and it is a rapidly growing industry. Over the past six years, 7,400 jobs in Georgia were created by new and expanding food processing companies, according to data from Georgia Power’s Community and Economic Development division. Large companies that have moved to Georgia or expanded their operations here include household names such as Kellogg’s and Starbucks, and FoodPIC has helped farmers and small companies produce niche products such as frozen desserts made from Georgia fruits as well as sauces and ethnic foods.

FoodPIC is the only project of its kind in the Southeast, and it is one of many examples of the role that UGA plays in economic development. The UGA Griffin Food Technology Center is strategically located just 30 miles south of the world’s busiest airport, and it will help attract food-related businesses to the nearby Lakes at Green Valley Industrial Park.

The entire campus community is grateful to Governor Nathan Deal, the General Assembly, University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby, the Board of Regents, the Griffin-Spalding Development Authority and the U.S. Economic Development Administration for their support and partnership on this important project.

UGA's faculty in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences have helped make Georgia the nation’s top state for blueberry production, and FoodPIC is putting Georgia on course to become a national leader in food processing.

    

To read Provost Whitten's blog, click here.

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11.18.2014

Classic city sound from television to the silver screen

If you enjoy competition singing shows, you've probably been unknowingly serenaded by Knox Summerour (MM ’06). Summerour is a trumpeter, vocalist and composer whose performance skills have been featured on network hits like Fox’s "American Idol" and NBC’s "The Voice." His work has also been featured on ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth”, CBS’s “Rules of Engagement” and PBS’s documentary,“Pancho Barnes,” which he co-scored and won a Los Angeles Emmy.

Although he occasionally provides background music for television’s hopeful contestants, Summerour is an acclaimed vocalist in his own right. In 2011, Summerour had two of his original songs used in Paramount Beijing’s remake of “What Women Want." His instrumental pieces have been used in both domestic and international films, as well as video games. Most recently, Summerour’s work can be heard in Jeff Dunham’s animated film “Achmed Saves America," released earlier this year.

While at UGA, Summerour trained under the late Fred Mills. Mills’ legacy lives on through the work of incredibly talented students such as Summerour, who take on the world one song at a time. 

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